I am going to weep when Gene Wolfe dies. And bawl. And tear my hair out.
I know he’s mostly known for the Urth books, but I simply adore his shorter works. The subtle brilliance. Someone might read and go “eh,” or just not get it, but anyone who knows stuff about writing will marvel, and if you know stuff about Christianity and history and science, you marvel more.
He’s old and full of years now, and God will eventually call him home,–one hopes not too soon–but what a loss it will be. A guy gets luminaries and bestsellers of speculative fiction calling him a treasure and a master and “the finest living male American writer of SF and fantasy – possibly the finest living American writer”–that’s not easily ignored by lovers of literature and fans of the genre.
Anyway, if you want to learn how to make a story so rich, so deep, that it works on your brain even as you sleep and when you THINK you had the story down, it pops out with new surprises–even days later–read Wolfe. If I could write like that, I’d die with a smile. No, a big ole grin. And a jig. A deathgrinning jig.
A couple holiday reads from Grandmaster Wolfe:
I read two of his holiday stories this month–One a reread for like the 4th or 6th time–“And When They Appear”–which is a tragedy in a futuristic Christmas where the world kinda of comes to an end as we know it. It’s NOT happy. It’s painful beyond imagining in places, particularly the finale, but it’s profound. And for Christians, it leaves no doubt that there is more to Christmas than parties and myths, although parties and myths have meaning, too.
The one I hadn’t read before, “Christmas Inn,” will doubtless turn off the squeakiestest of readers who object to anything with a whiff of sexuality for some bits of randiness –not graphic. Get over it. Read it. It’s just a fun romp of references and subtext. It’s delightful and deep and honors Jesus in a marvelously strange speculative way as unfolds. It has a good heart. A warm Christmas heart. And a happy ending, really. Allusions to things Biblical and holidayish abound. I guarantee you will miss some. And if you get to the end and know the answer to the riddle and to all the subtle and not-subtle double meanings–Even the title has more than one reading–you win a gold star. The one on top of the tree, even.
Wolfe can be lauded in secular spec circles, win awards, delight readers–and still get away with blatant Christian theology in his works. We who fall into the Christian Fiction camp can learn from this. And anyone can learn from him. Period. Anyone.
So, for any writer of speculative fiction who wants to see how deceptively brilliant and layered a story can be and tell the TRUTH about Christmas (ie, it’s all about God’s son and incarnation) then read either of these tales. And reread them. And reread them again. And let your brain amaze you at what you discover.
Get Wolfed. It will make you a better reader and writer. And it’s just entertaining as heck, too.
You’ll find the first story, “And When They Appear” (the tragedy), in THE BEST OF GENE WOLFE. HIghly recommended (Also contains “La Befana,” another Christmas-related story.)
You’ll not likely be able to buy the books that originally had “Christmas Inn” (one a chapbook and one the UK version of TBoGW). But, lucky you, this story (with the happy ending) is found in THE NEBULA AWARDS SHOWCASE 2014, and you get many other fine works along with it. Bonus!