From Soraya: Interview with Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe during the Nebula Awards weekend in Chicago, April 2005.

Today I have another interview from my friend, Soraya Murillo Hernandez, from Spain. Soraya speaks Spanish, and I only speak English, so our friendship has leaned heavily on technology and Google Translate.

Soraya has so many incredible interviews that I’ve created a category for her work. This time she shares her interview with Gene Wolfe, 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.

He is a prolific short-story writer and novelist and has won many science fiction and fantasy literary awards. Wolfe is most famous for The Book of the New Sun (four volumes, 1980–83), the first part of his Solar Cycle. In 1998, Locus magazine ranked it third-best fantasy novel before 1990 (after The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) based on a poll of subscribers that considered it and several other series as single entries.

You can find all of Soraya’s interviews here.


Soraya—Your novel, “The Shadow of the Torturer,” was once voted one of the best fantasy novels. What did it mean for you?

Gene Wolfe—I was pleased of course. Still awards and so forth are not what it’s about. Readers are the only thing that matters in the long run.

Soraya—Your prose is very good, but is usual to find on it a strong catholic influence. Why?

Gene Wolfe—I’m tempted to say it’s because I’m a strong Catholic. The truth is that I’m no better than average, if that. The writer’s personality always gets into the writing, save for very bad writing – sometimes.

Soraya—Your books have been published almost only in paper. What is your opinion about the electronic book? Do you think it can finish with paper editions?

Gene Wolfe—In brief, no. The electronic book is replacing the mass market paperback, the smallish Pocket Books, Bantam Books, etc. It cannot replace trade paperbacks and hardcovers. There are writers who are terrified by the electronic book, I know. Like so much terror, this is foolish.

Soraya—As the great writer of science fiction you are, how do you see the space travels in future?

Gene Wolfe—I wish I knew. Eventually, it may be far less costly than it is now. We can only hope.

Soraya—What was your inspiration for the novel “The Wizard Knight?”

Gene Wolfe—My inspiration? I really can’t say.

Soraya—Why do you think that some of your readers complain about ambiguity in some of your stories?

Gene Wolfe—They complain because they’re allergic to ambiguity, I suppose. Alas, life is full of it.

Soraya—You have written about 250 short stories, however some are almost unknown. Do you think for short stories is harder to reach the readers than long novels?

Gene Wolfe—Long ago I heard a wise old writer say that writing short stories was like dropping rose petals into the Grand Canyon. He was right.

Soraya—What do you remember about when great Isaac Asimov announced “The Island of Doctor Death” and other stories as the winner, when it wasn’t? Do you remember any anecdote about that great event?

Gene Wolfe—Of course I do. Thereafter Isaac apologized every time we met. I was never angry because there was no reason to be angry, as I told him over and over. God rest his soul!

Soraya—What authors does Gene Wolfe read?

Gene Wolfe—As many as I can find time – and now, eyes – for.

Soraya—Your novel “Soldier of the Mist” is, for many people, a contemporary classic, a mixture of ancient Mediterranean history. It is supposed to speak about the homeland of the Spartans. It’s obvious that you are a writer who documents your writings. How long does it take you to gather research?

Gene Wolfe—I can’t answer this. I start writing, and when I need a fact I stop and hunt it up. (One of the hardest was finding out what ancient Greeks ate for breakfast. The answer is nothing.)


Soraya Murillo Hernandez

From  Soraya Murillo Hernandez: I am an early reader, I started reading very soon and I was interested in terror, I liked to look for monsters and ghosts in the stories. Then I knew that the greatest terror came from humans. I am a book reviewer in Spain, I do it free to help its authors to know their works.

Soy una lectora precoz, comencé muy pronto a leer y me interese por el terror, me gustaba buscar monstruos y fantasmas en las historias. Luego supe que el mayor terror venia de los humanos . Soy reseñadora de libros en España, lo hago gratis para ayudar a sus autores a conocer sus obras.

About Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith's work has been published in several print and online publications, including the “Horror Writers Association's Poetry Showcase” vols. 2-4, “Christmas Lites” vols. 1-6 and the “Where the Stars Rise: Asian Science Fiction and Fantasy” anthology. She has nearly 20 books of speculative fiction and poetry for adults, YAs and children. Her first collection of poetry, “In Favor of Pain,” was nominated for an 2017 Elgin Award.
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2 Responses to From Soraya: Interview with Gene Wolfe

  1. Marge Simon says:

    I will remember that. Ancient Greeks ate no breakfast. hmmm thanks for sharing this, Angela!

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