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Gene Wolfe: Suggested Authors/Works

This is an introductory guide to the works of American science fiction author Gene Wolfe, for interested readers and researchers

Gene Wolfe steeps his writing in various genres and traditions. Most obviously, he draws from the science fiction and fantasy genre. But it's immediately clear in his work that his prose is highly literary, loaded with subtle allusions both stylistic and content-related. 

Clark Ashton Smith, 1893-1961

Although he isn't as well known as his friend H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith is a crucial figure in the genre of Weird Fiction. His style is more poetic and graceful than Lovecraft's, though their subject matter often overlaps. This is an excellent introductory collection, and the influence on Gene Wolfe's use of language, word choice, and setting is apparent.

Jack Vance, 1916-2013

The 'Dying Earth' Subgenre

"There is an entire subgenre of far-future dying-world stories, in which barbaric remnants of humanity encounter wizards wielding forgotten high-tech devices. Clark Ashton Smith and Jack Vance pioneered this form; Gene Wolfe (in “The Book of the New Sun” [1980–83]), Elizabeth Hand (in her “Winterlong” trilogy [1988–93]), Terry Dowling (in the Tom Rynosseros stories of a future Australia [1990–2007]), and many others have found this kind of fantastically shaded SF artistically congenial. Most of these varieties of science fantasy operate under a single mantra: Arthur C. Clarke’s famous comment that '[a]‌ny sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.'"

Latham, R., & Attebery, B. (2014-11-01). The Fantastic. In The Oxford Handbook of Science Fiction. : Oxford University Press,. Retrieved 5 Jun.2019, 

 

Jorge Luis Borges, 1899-1986

The world renowned Argentinean writer, with his metafictional, often baroque style, use of symbols and literary allusion, is one of the most easily recognizable influences on Gene Wolfe. 

G.K. Chesterton, 1874-1936

A literary hero of Borges' as well as Wolfe's, these two G.K. Chesterton selections are representative of his fiction. That said, he was also a prolific essayist and nonfiction writer. Wolfe, in addition to being influenced by his fiction, was also influenced by his religious writings as well. 

This character trope of the 'clergyman detective,' was utilized by Wolfe in his The Book of the Long Sun--a spiritual sequel to The Book of the New Sun. While these sequels are not covered in this guide, you can find their catalog entries here.

Proust

Wolfe was vocal about Proust's influence on his writing style and themes (see below, and this article, written in response to Wolfe's death in May, 2019). Compare the first few pages of Swann's Way, the first volume of Proust's monumental 'In Search of Lost Time,' to the first chapter of Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus, or The Shadow of the Torturer. 

Wolfe on his Influences

"Proust, Dickens, Borges, H.G. Wells. Proust, of course, was obsessed with some of the same things I deal with in The Book of the New Sun--memory and the way memory affects us--except that he was writing his remarkable works 80 years before I was." 

McCaffery, L., & Gene Wolfe. (1988). On Encompassing the Entire Universe: An Interview with Gene WolfeScience Fiction Studies, 15(3), 334-355. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4239902