"You seem to think that the only genuine existence evil can have is conscious existence - that no one is evil unless he admits it to himself. I disagree." -- Gene Wolfe
Gene Wolfe (born May 7, 1931) is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He is noted for his dense, allusive prose as well as the strong influence of his Catholic faith, to which he converted after marrying a Catholic. He is a prolific short story writer and a novelist, and has won many awards in the field.
Wolfe was born in New York. While attending Texas A&M University, he published his first speculative fiction in The Commentator, a student literary journal. Wolfe dropped out during his junior year, and was drafted to fight in the Korean War. After returning to the United States he earned a degree from the University of Houston and became an industrial engineer. He edited the journal Plant Engineering for many years before retiring to write full-time, but his most famous professional engineering achievement is a contribution to the machine used to make Pringles potato chips. He now lives in Barrington, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, with his wife Rosemary.
Wolfe underwent double bypass surgery on April 24, 2010.
"A youthful American voice isn't particularly challenging - I've been a young American, and they're all around me. I can walk from my house to Barrington High School.""Ambiguity is necessary in some of my stories, not in all. In those, it certainly contributes to the richness of the story. I doubt that thematic closure is never attainable.""He's not rewarding us by talking to us. He's talking to us because He has something to say to us directly, as opposed to the things He says to all humanity.""I don't think anyone is more intrinsically holy. People experience God in many ways; and it seems to me that God does what the rest of us do: He chooses the means that best gets His message across.""I have read only the first 'Harry Potter' book. I thought it excellent, perhaps the best thing written for older children since The Hobbit. I wish the books had been around when my kids were the right age for them.""Knowledge is soon changed, then lost in the mist, an echo half-heard.""My whole life experience feeds into my writing. I think that must be true for every writer. Clearly the Army and combat were major influences; just the same, you need to understand that many of the writers we have now couldn't load a revolver.""Online publication is fine with me, in part because I hope to collect those stories later.""Whether the medium is ready for consumers is better judged by those consumers. I sometimes read online - but not often. The stigma is attached to pay scales. Much online publication is no pay or small pay."
Wolfe's best-known and most highly regarded work is the multi-volume novel The Book of the New Sun. Set in a bleak, distant future influenced by Jack Vance's Dying Earth series, the story details the life of Severian, a journeyman torturer, exiled from his guild for showing compassion to one of the condemned. The novel is composed of the volumes The Shadow of the Torturer (1980), The Claw of the Conciliator (1981), winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novel, The Sword of the Lictor (1982), and The Citadel of the Autarch (1983). A coda, The Urth of the New Sun (1987), wraps up some loose ends but is generally considered a separate work. Several Wolfe essays about the writing of The Book of the New Sun were published in The Castle of the Otter (1982; the title refers to a misprint of the fourth book's title in Locus magazine).
In the 1990s, Wolfe published two more works in the same universe as The Book of the New Sun. The first, The Book of the Long Sun, consists of the novels Nightside the Long Sun (1993), Lake of the Long Sun (1994), Caldé of the Long Sun (1994), and Exodus From the Long Sun (1996). These books follow the priest of a small parish as he becomes wrapped up in political intrigue and revolution in his city-state. Wolfe then wrote a sequel, The Book of the Short Sun, composed of On Blue's Waters (1999), In Green's Jungles (2000) and Return to the Whorl (2001), dealing with colonists who have arrived on the sister planets Blue and Green. The three Sun works (The Book of the New Sun, The Book of the Long Sun, and The Book of the Short Sun) are often referred to collectively as the "Solar Cycle."
Wolfe has also written many stand-alone books. His first novel, Operation Ares, was published by Berkley Books in 1970 and was unsuccessful. He subsequently wrote two novels held in particularly high esteem, Peace and The Fifth Head of Cerberus. The first is the seemingly-rambling narrative of Alden Dennis Weer, a man of many secrets who reviews his life under mysterious circumstances. The Fifth Head of Cerberus is either a collection of three novellas, or a novel in three parts, dealing with colonialism, memory, and the nature of personal identity. The first story, which gives the book its name, was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novella.
Wolfe does not generally follow genre conventions. He frequently relies on the first-person perspectives of unreliable narrators. He says: "Real people really are unreliable narrators all the time, even if they try to be reliable narrators." The causes for the unreliability of his characters vary. Some are naive, as in Pandora by Holly Hollander or The Knight; others are not particularly intelligent (There Are Doors); Severian, from The Book of the New Sun, is not always truthful; and Latro of the Soldier series suffers from recurrent amnesia. The cause aside, this can make Wolfe confusing or disconcerting for the new reader, but some find this "difficulty" rewarding. Wolfe said, in a letter to Neil Gaiman: "My definition of good literature is that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure." In that spirit, Wolfe also leaves subtle hints and lacunae which may never be explicitly referred to in the text. For example, a backyard full of morning glories is an intentional foreshadowing of events in Free Live Free, but is only apparent to a reader with a horticultural background, and a story-within-the-story provides a clue to understanding Peace.
Wolfe's language can also be a subject of confusion for the new reader. In the appendix to The Shadow of the Torturer, he says:
In rendering this book—originally composed in a tongue that has not achieved existence—into English, I might easily have saved myself a great deal of labor by having recourse to invented terms; in no case have I done so. Thus in many instances I have been forced to replace yet undiscovered concepts by their closest twentieth-century equivalents. Such words as peltast, androgyn, and exultant are substitutions of this kind, and are intended to be suggestive rather than definitive.
Though this is in character as the "translator" of his novel, it provides a useful insight into the writing: all of Wolfe's terms (fuligin, carnifex, thaumaturge, etc.) are real words, but their meaning should be implied by context. Knowing the words, or re-reading with a copy of an English dictionary at hand, can offer further insight into the story.
Although not a best-selling author, Wolfe is highly regarded by criticsSuch as John Clute; his The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction writes: “Though neither the most popular nor the most influential author in the sf field, Gene Wolfe is today quite possibly the most important. The inherent stature of his work is deeply impressive and he wears the fictional worlds of sf like a coat of many colors.” and fellow writers, and considered by many to be one of the best living science fiction authors. Indeed, he has sometimes been called the best living American writer regardless of genre. Award-winning science fiction author Michael Swanwick has said: "Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language alive today. Let me repeat that: Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language alive today! I mean it. Shakespeare was a better stylist, Melville was more important to American letters, and Charles Dickens had a defter hand at creating characters. But among living writers, there is nobody who can even approach Gene Wolfe for brilliance of prose, clarity of thought, and depth in meaning."
Among others, writers Neil Gaiman and Patrick O'Leary have credited Wolfe for inspiration. O'Leary has said: "Forget 'Speculative Fiction'. Gene Wolfe is the best writer alive. Period. And as Wolfe once said (in reference to Gaiman), 'All novels are fantasies. Some are more honest about it.' No comparison. Nobody — I mean nobody — comes close to what this artist does." O'Leary also wrote an extensive essay concerning the nature of Wolfe's artistry, entitled "If Ever A Wiz There Was", found both in his collection Other Voices, Other Doors, and on his webpage.  Ursula Le Guin is frequently quoted on the jackets of Wolfe's books as having said "Wolfe is our Melville."
Wolfe's fans regard him with considerable dedication, and one Internet mailing list (begun in November 1996) dedicated to his works has amassed over ten years and thousands of pages of discussion and explication. Similarly, much analysis and exegesis has been published in fanzine and small-press form (e. g. Lexicon Urthus ISBN 0964279592).
When asked the "Most overrated" and "Most underrated" authors, Thomas Disch identified Isaac Asimov and Gene Wolfe, respectively, writing: "...all too many have already gone into a decline after carrying home some trophies. The one exception is Gene Wolfe...Between 1980 and 1982 he published The Book of the New Sun, a tetralogy of couth, intelligence, and suavity that is also written in VistaVision with Dolby Sound. Imagine a Star Wars-style space opera penned by G. K. Chesterton in the throes of a religious conversion. Wolfe has continued in full diapason ever since, and a crossover success is long overdue."
Early in his writing career, Wolfe exchanged correspondence with J.R.R. Tolkien.
Wolfe has won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award (or "Skylark"), and is a member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He was Guest of Honor at Aussiecon Two, the 1985 World Science Fiction Convention. In addition, he has won many awards for individual works; they are listed below.
He has also compiled a long list of nominations in years when he did not win, including sixteen Nebula award nominations and eight Hugo award nominations. 
The Urth of the New Sun (1987) Hugo, Nebula, and Locus SF Awards nominee, 1988
The Soldier series
Soldier of the Mist (1986) Locus Fantasy winner, WFA nominee, 1987; Nebula nominee 1988
Soldier of Arete (1989) Locus Fantasy and WFA nominee, 1990
Soldier of Sidon (2006) World Fantasy Award winner, Locus Fantasy Award nominee, 2007
There Are Doors (1988) Locus Fantasy nominee, 1989
Pandora, By Holly Hollander (1990)
The Book of the Long Sun
Nightside the Long Sun (1993) Nebula nominee, 1994
Lake of the Long Sun (1994)
Caldé of the Long Sun (1994) Nebula nominee, 1996
Exodus From the Long Sun (1996)
The Book of the Short Sun
On Blue's Waters (1999)
In Green's Jungles (2000) Locus SF nominee, 2001
Return to the Whorl (2001) Locus SF nominee, 2002
Latro in the Mist (2003) - omnibus collection of Soldier of the Mist and Soldier of Arete
The Wizard Knight
The Knight (2004) Nebula nominee, 2005
The Wizard (2004) Locus Fantasy and World Fantasy Award nominated, 2005
Pirate Freedom (2007) Locus Fantasy Award nominee, 2008
An Evil Guest (2008)
The Sorcerer's House (2010)
Home Fires (forthcoming, 2011)
The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories (1980) (Not an error but a literary joke; the title story is "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories". Among others, the collection also includes "The Death of Dr. Island" and "The Doctor of Death Island." "The Death of Dr. Island" won the Nebula Award for Best Novella.)
Gene Wolfe's Book of Days (1981)
The Wolfe Archipelago (1983), consisting of:
"Death of the Island Doctor" (1983)
"The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories" (1970)
"The Death of Dr. Island" (1973)
"The Doctor of Death Island" (1978)
Plan(e)t Engineering (1984)
Storeys from the Old Hotel (1988) [winner of the World Fantasy Award for best collection]
Endangered Species (1989)
Castle of Days (1992)
The Young Wolfe (1992)
Strange Travelers (2000)
Innocents Aboard (2004)
Starwater Strains (2005)
The Best of Gene Wolfe (2009)
Wolfe has published a number of short chapbooks, many published in very small quantities by Cheap Street. Some of these have been reprinted in his collections, as when Starwater Strains reprinted "Empires of Foliage and Flower".
At the Point of Capricorn (1983)
The Boy Who Hooked the Sun (1985)
Empires of Foliage and Flower: A Tale From the Book of the Wonders of Urth and Sky (1987)
The Arimaspian Legacy (1988)
Slow Children at Play (1989)
The Old Woman Whose Rolling Pin is the Sun (1991)
The Case of the Vanishing Ghost (1991) The Pretentious Press
The Grave Secret (1991) The Pretentious Press
Talk of Mandrakes (2003)
Christmas Inn (2005)
Strange Birds (2006)
Memorare (2008) (novella, first published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2007, as a signed limited edition hardcover in 2008)
The Castle of the Otter (1982) (a companion to The Book of the New Sun, later collected into Castle of Days)
Letters Home (1991) (collection of letters Wolfe sent home to his mother while he was fighting in the Korean War)
Introduction to Neil Gaiman's Sandman: Fables and Reflections
"Flash Company" (1997) short story in The Horns of Elfland (ed. Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and Donald G. Keller)
A Walking Tour of the Shambles (with Neil Gaiman) (2002)
Introduction to Vera Nazarian's Salt of the Air (2006)
Shadows of the New Sun: Essays (2007)
Books by others about Gene Wolfe
The Wizard Knight Companion: A Lexicon for Gene Wolfe's The Knight and The Wizard: Michael Andre-Driussi (Sirius Fiction, 2009, ISBN 978-0964279537), a dictionary of words and names from Wolfe's Wizard Knight novels
Lexicon Urthus: Michael Andre-Druissi (Sirius Fiction, 1994, ISBN 0-9642795-9-2), a dictionary of the archaic words used by Wolfe in The Book of the New Sun
The Long and the Short of It: More Essays on the Fiction of Gene Wolfe: Robert Borski (iUniverse, Inc., 2006, ISBN 978-0595386451)
Solar Labyrinth: Exploring Gene Wolfe's "Book of the New Sun": Robert Borski (iUniverse, Inc., 2004, ISBN 978-0595317295)
Gene Wolfe, Artifice, and the Reader: Peter Wright (Liverpool University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-85323-818-9): Study of The Book of the New Sun and The Urth of the New Sun
Shadows of the New Sun: Wolfe on Writing / Writers on Wolfe: Peter Wright (Liverpool University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-1846310584)
Strokes: John Clute (Serconia Press, 1988, ISBN 0-934933-03-0)
Interviews with Wolfe
Interview in Science Fiction Studies in 1988 by Larry McCaffery
A long 2002 interview at Scifi.com
"Suns New, Long, and Short: An Interview with Gene Wolfe", conducted by Lawrence Person in Nova Express Volume 5 Number 1 (Fall/Winter 1998)
2002 interview by Neil Gaiman in Locus magazine (excerpt)
Patrick O'Leary interview in which he expounds at length on Gene Wolfe
PDF file of a scanned 1993 Barrington Courier-Review, under the letter W
Page with a Wolfe audio interview from World Fantasy Convention 1993 by Dave Romm
Interview by Jeremy L. C. Jones in Clarkesworld Magazine, August 2008
Audio interview with Wolfe at National Review Online
Wizard/Knight interview at Balticon 40
Works available online
The Case of the Vanishing Ghost
The Best Introduction to the Mountains
The Arimaspian Legacy
" The Tree Is My Hat" an audio play, adapted by Lawrence Santoro