Attending Daedalus: Gene Wolfe, Artifice and the Reader

Attending Daedalus: Gene Wolfe, Artifice and the Reader

Attending Daedalus: Gene Wolfe, Artifice and the Reader

Attending Daedalus: Gene Wolfe, Artifice and the Reader

Excerpt

Gene Wolfe has written a distinguished body of science fiction, fantasy and science fantasy that has been widely reviewed and admired. To date, he has published 20 novels, a collection of wartime letters, a volume of poetry and over 100 short stories. In view of his critical success, his reputation, and his considerable canon, it may seem remarkable that this is only the second book-length study of his fiction and the first to address any material published after 1983.

However, as the majority of critics and reviewers who have approached his oeuvre would admit, Gene Wolfe is a complex and wily writer, ambiguous, subtle and playful. His fiction is intricately wrought, densely allusive, and conceptually elusive; it encourages misreadings, demands thoughtful reflection, and is able to involve the reader in labyrinthine possibilities for interpretation. The elaborate and puzzling nature of Wolfe's writing, together with the fact that Wolfe works in a popular cultural form, seems to explain his critical neglect.

Confronted, then, with the magnitude and range of Wolfe's output and the paucity of detailed analyses available, it seemed critically advantageous to concentrate the focus of the present volume on the conceptual and thematic centre of Wolfe's corpus, the four-volume The Book of the New Sun and its coda, The Urth of the New Sun. For a variety of reasons, Attending Daedalus has taken an unusually long time from submission to publication. The manuscript was delivered in 1999, before Tor published On Blue's Waters, the first volume of Wolfe's The Book of the Short Sun. When I was sent proofs in June 2003, it was tempting to rewrite the concluding chapter to include a discussion of The Book of the Short Sun. I resisted that temptation, primarily because I felt I had little to add to my treatment of The Book of the New Sun and its sequel. Any consideration of The Book of the Short Sun would certainly have lengthened my argument, but I doubted that it would have developed or deepened it to any meaningful extent. Secondly, Attending Daedalus was always intended to encourage others to write about Gene Wolfe, whose work deserves more attention than it has yet received, despite the efforts of many perceptive, dedicated and enthusiastic Wolfe scholars to foster dialogue and debate. It seemed appropriate, therefore, to leave The Book of the Short Sun as comparatively virgin territory for other writers to explore. And thirdly, if I had succumbed to the . . .

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