Gene Wolfe was one of the most respected writers in science fiction. On their podcast Rereading Wolfehosts James Wynn and Craig Brewer analyze Wolfe’s masterpiece in detail. Book of the New Sun.
“You should be talking about the Gene Wolfe story after you’ve read it,” Wynn says in episode 535 of the series. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “There’s a reason why it’s called Rereading Wolfe. There is a statement John Clutewho said “You can’t read a Gene Wolfe story, you can only reread a Gene Wolfe story.” So you have to read it and then re-read it, and then you still want to talk to someone about it.”
Book of the New Sun it is a dense, allusive work that is initially sword and sorcery, slowly unfolding as a planetary romance, and then increasingly focused on theology and metaphysics. The book’s rambling plot and fairy tale logic can make it a challenge for beginners. “Wulf breaks every rule you’ll be told in any literary seminar,” says Brewer. “If you’re just jumping around thinking, ‘Oh, people say this is a good book,’ and you’re not ready for it, it’s like reading James Joyce or something where someone says “Oh, Ulysses it is important. I think I should go and read this,” and they’re like, “What the hell?”
Woolf fans have spent four decades debating the meaning Book of the New Sun, yet many of the story’s major plot points remain controversial. “When we were doing this podcast, I really realized that there is no consensus on these books,” Wynn says. “There is one little scene at the beginning Reconciler’s Claw where Northerners executes a woman, and when we got through it, we said what we thought people wrote to us. In the end, it turned out that there are probably at least four groups of theories about what happens in this event. And I changed my mind after talking about what’s going on.”
Brewer hopes that Wolfe’s papers donated Northern Illinois University, will give an additional insight into the work of the author. “One thing I’m really looking forward to is what his sketches were like,” he says. “When you look at a story outline, does it start out a lot easier and then it gets more complicated over time? Or is it really so strange at the very beginning, and then maybe he tries to figure out how to do something afterwards? I just do not know. But it’s something that I hope at some point will show us the opportunity to really dive into his papers.”
Listen to the full interview with James Wynn and Craig Brewer in episode 535 of the series. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (higher). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
James Wynn on the discovery of Gene Wolfe:
I read [Book of the New Sun] and I really just pushed through. My wife said, “You must have been reading these books for a long time.” I said yes. She said, “Well, okay?” “I’m not sure.” “Then why are you reading this?” I said, “Well, I have to find out how it ends.” I pushed through and then found that there really was no end, and that bothered me. I told my friend that I think this Wolfe guy is a so-so writer, but he’s an amazing world maker. And it really wasn’t until I read Fifth head of Cerberus what i got Book of the New Sun. And then I said, “Oh, now I understand. He is the greatest science fiction writer that ever lived.” And that’s literally what I told people after that.
James Wynn on Gene Wolfe’s interpretation:
The fact is that Wulf is very verbose. So it is very difficult to tell where the text ends and where the allusion begins. Obviously there are references to the life of Christ in Book of the New Sun. You must catch it. god of the incas Inti or Apu-punchau is the key aspect. And when you look at the mythology of Apu-Punchau, you will begin to understand: “Wow, there is some connection between this fellow Severian and this sun god in Inca mythology.” You can’t just read this story deductively, and it’s kind of like a little drum that I’m beating all the time. You must read this inductively. You are encouraged to unwind the story to connect the dots, because honestly there aren’t enough dots to just eliminate all the “impossible” and get only the “right”.
We talk to people all the time who say “I’ve listened to all the other podcasts and I’m glad you guys started too because now I can go on another one” and we still find new, different things, to say. We all have different approaches. Soup Alzabo the guys held hands without spoilers during your first reading Book of the New Sun. Now they’re going Book of the Long Sun.. And Literary podcast by Gene Wolf guys go through their entire careers in chronological order. They began with his first stories and are still in the middle of his novel. Peace now. And then we came in and said, “No, we’re going to pretend that you’ve heard and read all of this a bunch of times, and we’re going to dig deep into the weeds. “We didn’t know if we would have 10 people interested, and so the fact that we have so many people who are still interested is mind blowing.
Craig Brewer on weird fantasy:
I have often thought that Wolfe is actually a strange writer. And when you read weird fiction, you begin to understand that its surrealism and strangeness must be taken at face value. It has to be something like this – yes, you’re racking your brains, thinking about what the consequences of this are – but with strange spelling, you don’t get upset if the answer doesn’t immediately clear up. I think that’s one of the problems people sometimes have, they’re like, “Well, Wolfe, if he’s writing science fiction, okay, I need an explanation. At the end of the day, I need to know how everything lines up perfectly so I can go back and display everything there.” And I’m not sure it’s there, like this. The answers you are looking for may be thematic or more metaphorical.