Gene Wolfe (1931-2019), author of several science fiction novels and short stories, including “The Book of the New Sun,” interviewed by Richard Wolinsky, Lawrence Davidson and Richard A. Lupoff at Bay Con, Thanksgiving weekend, 1982.
The noted fantasy and science fiction writer Gene Wolfe died on April 14, 2019, one month shy of his 88th birthday. By the time of his death, he’d achieved a lifetime achievement award from the World Fantasy Convention, he’d been acclaimed a science fiction Grand Master from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, had won several awards from various organizations in the field, and was considered a writer’s writer.
That last designation is important because unlike writers like Ursula K. LeGuin or Isaac Asimov or Stephen King or Terry Pratchett, Wolfe’s fame never spread beyond these genres, despite writing in a literary style, and focusing on philosophical and moral issues in his work.
Wolfe started publishing late in life. His first novel, Operation Ares, was published just before his fortieth birthday, in 1970. But after that, his collection of short stories, The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories, and other Stories, and his multi-volume Book of the New Sun skyrocketed his career inside the science fiction fantasy field.
By 1982, his reputation had sufficiently cemented to be named a Guest of Honor at the first Bay Con convention over Thanksgiving weekend, 1982, and it’s there that Richard A. Lupoff, Lawrence Davidson and Richard Wolinsky had a chance to interview him about his work and career. The first two of the four volume Book of the New Sun – The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator had been published to great critical acclaim, and it seemed he was on the verge of a super-stardom that never moved outside his chosen field.
The next two volumes of Book of the New Sun, The Sword of the Lictor and The Citadel of the Autarch were published in 1983 and 1984. A fifth book, The Urth of the New Sun, was published in 1987, and a collection of essays about the series, The Castle of the Otter, was published by a small press shortly after this interview was recorded. He would go on to write several multi-book novels, including The Book of the Long Sun, The Book of the Short Sun and The Wizard Knight, along with other novels, short stories, and essay collections. His last novel, A Borrowed Man, was published in 2015. A film version of The Death of Doctor Island was partially filmed in 2008 but has never been released. There’s also a short called Doctor island from 1999 that may or may not be the same film.
Digitizing, remastering & re-editing by Richard Wolinsky in 2019. Sound quality is variable.