(1931-2019) US author, born in New York, raised in Texas, long resident in Illinois. He served in the Korean War; his experiences there, which haunted his depictions of War over the decades of his active career, are recorded in the correspondence with his mother between 1952 and 1954 assembled as Letters Home (coll 1991). He graduated in mechanical engineering from the University of Houston and worked in engineering until becoming an editor of a trade periodical, Plant Engineering, in 1972. After retiring from that post in 1984, he wrote full-time. Though never the most popular with readers, nor the most influential on other professionals in the sf field, Wolfe remains quite possibly sf's most important author qua author, both for the intense literary achievement of his best work, and for the very considerable volume of work of high quality he produced from the beginning of his active career in 1965. From that point, and with a prolific output that did not begin to ebb until around 2010, he created texts which – almost uniquely – marry Modernism and Genre SF, rather than fixing them into rhetorical opposition; his ultimate importance to Fantastika as a whole and to world literature in general derives from the success of that theoretically precarious marriage. Though they never explicitly disassociate themselves from the devouring furnace of twentieth-century art (see Postmodernism and SF), they are not in fact propagandistic: his greatest texts are Modernist in a central understanding of the term: they are at one and the same time utterly present and implacably remote; and although they manifestly represent the world as enormously hard to embed in words, they retain a central Modernist faith that there is a world to limn, however difficult the task: a conviction that makes it plausible for him to unpack his dark-hewed Catholicism in the form of story. There is no gaming of Equipoise in his relationship to the SF Megatext; a reverence for what may be said within the frame of fantastika governs every word, a forbidding "silence" incompossible with flirtation: a deep auctorial silence about what any story might mean to say. Only the story speaks: Wolfe never does.
Unfortunately the taxing reticences of presentation that monitor access to his core meanings make his work very nearly opaque to the simplistic discourse-criticism whose dominant position in sf academic work may only now be fading, giving some hope that younger critics will feel free to examine this elephant in the kitchen (see Critical and Historical Works About SF; SF in the Classroom). On the other hand, as far as non-sf critics are concerned, his extensive use of Genre SF patterns of trope and topos inevitably ensured that any response to his work on their part of non-sf critics has been poverty-stricken. Furthermore, his relatively uneasy treatment of women tended justly to ensure a reserved treatment of his work on the part of Feminist critics.
Wolfe's literary influences are hard to trace – his own acknowledgement of Robert A Heinlein works better as homage than as literary criticism – though he clearly shares with Jorge Luis Borges (an undoubted influence) a love for such writers as G K Chesterton and Rudyard Kipling. But excepting mainly these three figures his implicit borrowings are mostly from American sf, the most frequently instanced underlier being Jack Vance, whose work clearly helps shape some of the Dying Earth figurations of Wolfe's masterpiece, The Book of the New Sun (see below). Some of the concerns of the Scientific Romance may surface, and some of its typical remoteness; but Wolfe's complexities of recursion (see also Recursive SF) are very distant from the fidgety discomfort with the storyable that seems typical of the Scientific Romance, with the exception of H G Wells, whose bent towards reductive clarity is illuminatingly the reverse of Wolfe's dark dubiety about the efficacy of "explanations". A Wolfe story always knows more than it says, and can almost never be fully grasped on a first-time reading.
He started writing early, but his first published story, "The Case of the Vanishing Ghost" in The Commentator for November 1951, did not lead directly to a career, which did not effectively commence until the publication of "The Dead Man" (October 1965 Sir!), years after he had begun privately to create fiction of some distinction; this material has been assembled as Young Wolfe: A Collection of Early Stories (coll 2002). In the early years of his full career, much of his best work tended to appear in various volumes of Damon Knight's Orbit anthologies, starting with "Trip, Trap" (in Orbit 2, anth 1967, ed Damon Knight) and climaxing with the superb Kafka-esque allegory, "Forlesen" (in Orbit 14, anth 1974, ed Damon Knight). In the middle of the series came "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories" (in Orbit 7, anth 1970, ed Damon Knight), which was assembled – along with The Death of Doctor Island (in Universe 3, anth 1973, ed Terry Carr; 1990 chap dos), "The Doctor of Death Island" (in Immortal, anth 1978, ed Jack Dann), and "Death of the Island Doctor" (original to the coll) – as The Wolfe Archipelago (coll 1983) (see Archipelago). These four stories, each fully autonomous though each mirroring the others' structural and thematic patterns, comprise an intensely interesting cubist portrayal of the mortal trap (or coffin) of Identity, a problem of ontology written in terms that are explicitly and unrelentingly sf.
Though very little of his work was Young Adult, or designed with younger readers even remotely in mind, Children – as very often in his larger tales – tend to be the viewpoint characters in the Archipelago stories, giving the texts a supremely deceptive air of clarity: for although the surface is nearly always described with precision in a Wolfe tale, the true story within is generally conveyed by indirection, revealing itself through the reader's ultimate decipherment and comprehension of the proper and hierarchical sorting of its parts. Contained within metaphorically fecund Island contexts, the Archipelago tales are particularly intricate. The first treats with assurance the shifting line that divides fantasy and reality as a young boy retreats from a harsh adult environment into the more clear-cut world generated by a Pulp magazine. "The Death of Doctor Island" expands and reverses this theme in describing the treatment of a psychologically disturbed child constrained to an artificial environment (see Zoo; Prisons) which responds to his state of mind. In "The Doctor of Death Island" a cryogenically frozen prisoner (see Cryonics) is awakened to find that his bound isolation has been hardened into Immortality. All three main protagonists must attempt – it is a compulsion that Wolfe would inflict upon many of his characters – to decipher and to penetrate the stories that tell them, and by so doing to leap free, perhaps. He won a Nebula for "The Death of Doctor Island".
During the 1970s, Wolfe continued to publish short stories at a considerable rate, at least 70 reaching print before the end of the decade; in the 1980s, as he concentrated more and more fully on novels, this production decreased markedly; but from the beginning of the 1990s his output increased again, and he eventually published over 200 stories. His short work has been assembled in various collections, beginning with The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories (coll 1980) and Gene Wolfe's Book of Days (coll 1981; exp vt as Castle of Days with other material 1992); towards the end of his career appeared The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of his Finest Short Fiction (coll 2009; rev vt The Very Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of his Finest Short Fiction 2009), which assembles much of his best work, though mostly from the first half of his career; a second volume may be under contemplation.
Short stories and novellas of particular interest include "Three Million Square Miles" (in The Ruins of Earth, anth 1971, ed Thomas M Disch), "Feather Tigers" (Fall 1973 Edge), "La Befana" (January 1973 Galaxy), The Hero as Werwolf (in The New Improved Sun, anth 1975, ed Thomas M Disch; 1991 chap), "Tracking Song" (in In the Wake of Man, anth 1975, ed Roger Elwood), "The Eyeflash Miracles" (in Future Power, anth 1976, ed Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann), Seven American Nights (in Orbit 20, anth 1978, ed Damon Knight; 1989 chap dos), "War Beneath the Tree" (December 1979 Omni) (see Toys in SF) and "The Detective of Dreams" (in Dark Forces, anth 1980, ed Kirby McCauley). In the 1980s Wolfe was increasingly inclined, in short forms, to restrict his energies to the composition of oneiric jeux d'esprit. More recent stories of interest include "The Ziggurat" (in Full Spectrum 5, anth 1995, edited by Jennifer Hersh, Tom Dupree and Janna Silverstein), a complex meditation on Aliens and alienation, and "Memorare" (April 2007 F&SF), a singular novella set in a sequence of funerary memorial sites scattered across the far reaches of the solar system, where Satire of modern media obsessions darkens into a death-haunted labyrinth-channeled meditation on death. In these late novellas, a further specific American influence may be detected, the work of Algis Budrys, who may be Wolfe's most significant precursor as far as the "deep structure" of story goes: for both create labyrinthine works which it is dangerous, for both protagonists and (aesthetically) for readers, to enter.
Wolfe's first novel, Operation ARES (1970), where a twenty-first-century America which has turned its back on Technological advance is propagandized and benignly infiltrated by its abandoned Martian colony, was heavily cut by the publisher, and reads as apprentice work. Nevertheless it is very characteristic of Wolfe that his protagonist, having pretended membership of the pro-Mars underground called ARES, should unwillingly become its effective leader. His next, The Fifth Head of Cerberus (fixup 1972), comprises three separate tales, the title story previously published (in Orbit 10, anth 1972, ed Damon Knight) and the others original to the book, but all so closely linked as to be significantly less effective in isolation; the book as a whole could technically be described as a collection of linked stories; but that would be misleadingly simple. Set on a distant two-planet system colonized by settlers of French origin, the book combines Aliens, Anthropology, Clones and other elements in a richly imaginative exploration of the nature of Identity and individuality. It was the first significant demonstration of the great difficulty of reading Wolfe without constant attention to the almost subliminal – but in retrospect or after rereading almost invariably lucid and inevitable – clues laid down in the text to govern its comprehension. As with all his most important work to date, the protagonist (in this case there is also a more elusively presented second protagonist) narrates the story of his own childhood, in the first person, from a conceptual and/or temporal remove, a formalizing of the confessional mode whose truth value is unrelentingly put under the question, and whose Conceptual Breakthroughs, which might better be called recognitions, are almost invariably disguised. The parenthood of the Clone who narrates the first part of the novel is problematical – or concealed – as is usual in Wolfe's work; questions of Identity are poignantly intensified as it becomes clear – perhaps only upon a second reading – that, before the main action of the tale has begun, a Shapeshifting alien (the second protagonist) from the oppressed second planet has taken on the identity of a visiting anthropologist, the evidence for the transfer (as very frequently in Wolfe) being extractable through an examination of the manuscript that tells the story (his greatest novels tend to be couched as written narratives somehow made available to the reader). By the end of the novel, both protagonists – one a clone engineered into repeating previous identities, the other an impostor caught in the coffin of his fake self and literally imprisoned as well – have come to represent a singularly rich, singularly bleak vision of the shaping of a conscious life through time. As in all of Wolfe's greatest works, faces are masques.
Peace (1975), a Posthumous Fantasy [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] set in the contemporary middle America, is perhaps Wolfe's most intricate and personal work; though not sf, and being a singleton without possibility of sequel, it is central to any full attempt to understand his other novels; his sense of the great painfulness of any shaped life, of the huge cost (in this case) of a life so insufficiently shaped that it cannot truly be told, even to save a soul; or his methods in general. The protagonist of the book – who tells the story of his childhood and young manhood, all unknowingly, from beyond the grave – is both a self-portrait of the artist as a teller of stories (though significantly none that the protagonist tells are finished) and a convincingly savage murderer in his own right. The Devil in a Forest (1976), a juvenile set at the time of King Wenceslas, with little or no fantasy element, shares some of the lightness of tone of the later Pandora by Holly Hollander (1990) (which some critics feel may have been written around this time), a non-fantastic detective novel which might also be described as a juvenile of sorts. Wolfe then focused most of his energy on multi-volume novels and series, a focus that continued into the twenty-first century.
Wolfe's next and most ambitious work – the overall Books of the Sun sequences comprising three multi-volume novels and other work – occupied much of Wolfe's energy between 1980 and 2000, and finally brought him to a wide audience. Each of these novels is presented as a manuscript written down and presented to us by the protagonist of the tale, or a figure whose relationship to the protagonist is intimate; it is a structure of unreliable Recursive retrospect, as noted above, that Wolfe has employed for almost all his major book-length texts. The first (and the most highly esteemed) instalment of the long project is the Book of the New Sun sequence, which may be thought of as a single sustained four-volume novel, The Book of the New Sun (1980-1983 4vols), broken into four parts for commercial reasons and published as The Shadow of the Torturer (1980), The Claw of the Conciliator (1981), The Sword of the Lictor (1982) and The Citadel of the Autarch (1983). The first pair was assembled as The Book of the New Sun, Volumes I and II (omni 1983; vt Shadow and Claw 1994), and the second pair as The Book of the New Sun, Volumes III and IV (omni 1985; vt Sword and Citadel 1994). The whole novel was finally published in one volume as Severian of the Guild (omni 2007). Essays and tales in explanation of The Book of the New Sun were assembled as The Castle of the Otter (coll dated 1982 but 1983); tales supposedly extracted from one of the seminal books carried throughout his travels by Severian, the protagonist of the Book of the New Sun, were published as The Boy who Hooked the Sun: A Tale from the Book of Wonders of Urth and Sky (1985 chap) and Empires of Foliage and Flower: A Tale from the Book of Wonders of Urth and Sky (1987 chap); "A Solar Labyrinth" (April 1983 F&SF) is a metafiction about the entire Book; and the whole edifice was sequeled in The Urth of the New Sun (1987). The first volume gained a World Fantasy Award and the second a Nebula.
As a synthesizing work of fiction – a type of creation which tends to come, for obvious reasons, late in the period or genre it transmutes – The Book of the New Sun owes clear debts to the sf and fantasy world in general, and in particular (as noted above) to the Dying-Earth (see Far Future) category of Planetary Romance initiated by Jack Vance. Though it is a full-blown tale of cosmogony (see Cosmology), the entire story is set on Urth, aeons hence, a world so impacted with the relics of humanity's long residence that archaeology and geology have become, in a way, the same science: that of plumbing the body of the planet for messages which have become inextricably intermingled over the innumerable years (see Ruins and Futurity). The world into which Severian is born has indeed become so choked with formula and ritual that early readers of The Shadow of the Torturer could be perhaps forgiven for identifying the text as Sword and Sorcery, though hints that the book was in fact fully arguable in sf terms were – in the usual Wolfe manner – abundant. Apparently an orphan, Severian is raised as an apprentice Torturer (see Crime and Punishment) in the Matachin Tower which nests among other similar towers in the Citadel compound of the capital city of Nessus, somewhere in the southern hemisphere (one of the easier tasks of decipherment Wolfe imposes is that of understanding that the Towers are in fact ancient Spaceships). Severian grows to young adulthood, falls into too intimate a concourse with the imprisoned Thecla, an exultant (an aristocrat bred through Genetic Engineering) who is due to be tortured to death; he is banished, travels through the land, becomes involved in a war to the far north where he meets – not for the first time – the old Autarch who dominates the world and who recognizes in Severian his appointed heir, and whose memories (which include the memories of previous Autarchs) he ingests, just as he has previously ingested Thecla. He then himself becomes Autarch and in a memorable Slingshot Ending announces his intention to bring the New Sun.
It is a classic plot [for Hidden Monarch and linked motifs see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], and superficially unproblematic. But Severian himself is very distant in conception from the normal sf or Science-Fantasy hero he seems, at some moments, to resemble. In narrating the story of his childhood and early youth from a period some years later, in a tone deceptively serene, he makes it clear that he has an infallible Memory (which does not mean that he is incapable of lying); he also makes it clear that he has known from an early age that he is (or has been, or will be) the reborn manifestation of the Conciliator – a Messiah figure from a previous, or through Time Paradoxes, a possibly concurrent reality – whose rebirth is for the purpose of bringing the New Sun to Urth. At this point, sf and Catholicism breed together, for the New Sun is both White Hole and Revelation. The imagery and structure of The Book of the New Sun make it explicitly clear that Severian himself combines aspects of both Apollo and Christ, and that the story of his life is a secular rendering of the parousia, or Second Coming. His cruelty to himself and others is the cruelty of the Universe itself; and his reverence for the world constitutes no simple blessing. His family is a Holy Family, lowly and anonymous, but ever-present; and their absence from any "starring" role – Wolfe refuses in the text specifically to identify any of them – has religious implications as well as aesthetic. (Much attention, some of it approaching the Talmudical, has been spent on identifying this Family, which does clearly include: Dorcas, Severian's paternal grandmother; his unnamed though Charonian paternal grandfather; his father Ouen; his mother Katherine; and – almost certainly – a sibling, who may be an encountered member of the witches' guild or may be the homunculus found in a jar in The Citadel of the Autarch, or not.) The sequel, The Urth of the New Sun, takes Severian through reality levels of the Universe to the point – ambiguous in time and space, though related to the Omega Point posited by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) – where he will be judged as to his Autarchal fitness to bring the New Sun home. By this point, having now died at least once, he is a Shadow inhabiting an entity; he is in more than one time at once; he is both human and (in Teilhardian terms) Posthuman. As foreordained, this Creature passes the test. Urth is drowned in the floods that mark the coming of the White Hole, the rebirth of light. Some survive, to begin again; or to continue in their ways.
The second sequence/novel, The Book of the Long Sun – comprising Nightside the Long Sun (1993) and Lake of the Long Sun (1994), both assembled as Litany of the Long Sun (omni 1994), plus Caldé of the Long Sun (1994) and Exodus from the Long Sun (1996), both assembled as Epiphany of the Long Sun (omni 1997) – seems to have its roots some thousands of years earlier, and shares much of the large-scale sf mythopoeisis that so profoundly characterizes the earlier novel. Like Book of the New Sun, The Book of the Long Sun is a single narrative, written down this time by a disciple of its protagonist, and this Book, like its predecessor, is a book that must be deciphered. The entire tale is set within a vast Generation Starship (of sufficient immensity to be experienced by readers as a World Ship), a closed universe called the Whorl; the protagonist, Patera Silk – having had a vast Infodump of Memories too deep for tears inscribed epiphanically into his mind on the first page of the story by a god or AI who seems to be the avatar of some figure from Urth, and perhaps a proclaimer of Christ – gradually becomes a central figure in the destiny of the decaying cultures of the ship. Eventually it becomes clear that the Whorl has reached its destination, a two-planet system which will be the main venue of the Book of the Short Sun, and that the disturbances to life within the Whorl have been generated by a Secret Master pantheon of gods (and/or AIs dwelling in the Whorl's "Mainframe") which has ruled the world for centuries. It becomes equally clear that Silk is a Moses figure: he is destined to point his migrant folk to the Promised Land, but himself never to enter there.
The final novel, the Book of the Short Sun – comprising On Blue's Waters (1999), In Green's Jungles (2000) and Return to the Whorl (2001), all three assembled as The Book of the Short Sun (omni 2001) – offers perhaps the greatest challenges to decipherment of any of Wolfe's larger works. The manuscript or book which constitutes this Book is a kind of continuation of the disciple Horn's life of his master, Patera Silk, who does not seem himself to become manifest in the text until the final volume, though in fact (in a way not entirely dissimilar to the assumption/ingestion of another's body and self in The Fifth Head of Cerberus, which Wolfe has stated is not set in the solar system that dominates this final Book, though both feature twinned planets) it seems that it is Silk, or an incarnation of Horn and Silk conjoined in Silk's body, who is ultimately writing the tale down.
Having been asked to return to the Whorl in an attempt to persuade Silk to visit his troubled colonizing folk and save them from fatal dissension, Horn undertakes a kind of Fantastic Voyage through the planets Blue and Green, visiting various Cities and societies, some being Utopias and some Dystopias, and eventually seems to liberate Silk (or himself) from the literal blindnesses that afflict the final volume (see Perception). In the meantime, readers' suspicions are confirmed that time-dilation (see Relativity) effects within the Whorl suggest that all three Books take place at the same Urth time. Indeed, Horn/Silk travels back to Urth and visit(s) the young Severian, who says that Horn/Silk is too extraordinary for him ever to mention (see Mysterious Stranger) in the confession which comprises the first Book. In the end, Silk (perhaps wholly himself at last) travels into interstellar space, where – in a Slingshot Ending that echoes and amplifies that which closes The Book of the New Sun – he will fish (again see Christ) for men.
Wolfe's concurrent novels of the 1980s and 1990s were very various, and usually fantasy. Free Live Free (1984) is a Time-Travel tale, extremely complex to parse, through which shines a retelling of L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). There Are Doors (1988), set in a bleak Parallel World redolent of America during the Depression, most ambivalently depicts a man's life-threatening exogamous passion for a goddess. Castleview (1990) implants very nearly the entirety of the Arthurian Cycle [for Arthur and Matter see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below] in contemporary Illinois, where a new Arthur is recruited for the long battle.
More interesting perhaps is the Latro sequence, comprising Soldier of the Mist (1986), Soldier of Arete (1989) and Soldier of Sidon (2006), with further volumes theoretically possible (but no posthumous continuation has been announced). Set in ancient Greece about 500 BCE, and somewhat later in northern Africa, it is narrated in short chapters that each represent a day's written-down recollections on the part of Latro, a soldier whom a goddess or some other being has punished by removing his capacity to remember anything for more than 24 hours (see Memory Edit), so that any confessions he embarks upon may never be effective in giving him release from bondage. The sequence thus works, on every possible level, as a mirror image of The Book of the New Sun, with Latro's memory-loss reversing Severian's inability to forget, with ancient Greece reversing Urth – being at the start rather than the end of things – and with the series as a whole being conspicuously open-ended rather than shaped inexorably around Severian's Coming. The Wizard Knight – another single novel broken into two on initial publication and comprising The Knight (2004) and The Wizard (2004), both assembled as The Wizard Knight (omni 2005) – is again fantasy set in a matryoshka-like set of world-spheres enclosing world-spheres, all ontologically and theologically ordained, and featuring another Arthur figure.
Wolfe's final novels are singletons. Pirate Freedom (2007) is a Timeslip tale; a priest in an Alternate World version of our own near future writes down his seventeenth-century experiences as a pirate. It is yet another confession, though more defiant than usual. Home Fires (2011), set in an energy-impoverished punitively Dystopian Near Future America, is told through the viewpoint of the husband of a soldier whose tours of duty on distant planets fighting Aliens have through time dilation (see Time Distortion) compromised her Identity. The highly coloured adventure sequences that dramatize their attempts to make sense of things do not much obscure the underlying, prophetic darkness of this example of Wolfe's later work. A Borrowed Man (2015) is set in a significantly emptied distant Near Future America whose government applies Eugenic principles to its radically diminished population; its protagonist, a Clone who bears the personality of a long-dead author, is in legal terms a book in a Library who/which can be borrowed, and burnt. In a sense A Borrowed Man climaxes Wolfe's career-long focus on carceral interplays between medium and message (see Prisons): for in this case the medium and the message are identical; a sequel was at least partly written by the end of 2015.
It may be that Wolfe has never had an original sf idea, or never a significant one, certainly none of the calibre of those generated by writers like Larry Niven or Greg Bear. His importance does not reside in that kind of originality. Setting aside for an instant his control of language, however florid it may seem, and his intensely applied control over structure in general and the paced revelation of story in particular, it is possible to claim that Wolfe's importance for the field lay in a spongelike ability to assimilate generic models and devices, and in the quality of the transformations he effected upon that material. Wolfe's actual language is at times visibly parodic, and many of his short stories may be designed deliberately and intricately to echo earlier models, from the whole pantheon of Genre SF; but the relationship between current and previous texts is not only in the "music" of the words themselves. A further musical analogy might be the Baroque technique of the Parody cantata, in which a secular composition is transformed by reverent transfigurations (some recondite) into a sacred work (or vice versa); such parodies, in the case of the greater composers, can often only be deciphered after long study. Wolfe's importance has been, therefore, twofold: as argued above, the inherent stature of his work is deeply impressive, and as already noted he wears the fictional worlds of sf like a coat of many colours: the polychromatic density of his greatest stories seems revelatory: there is much yet to discover. An homage assembly, Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe (anth 2013) edited by Bill Fawcett and J E Mooney, amply registers the range of his influence on other writers.
In 1996 Wolfe was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007 and again honoured for life achievement with the SFWA Grand Master Award for 2012. [JC]
see also: BSFA Award; Chess; Colonization of Other Worlds; ESP; Fabulation; Fantasy; Gods and Demons; Gothic SF; GURPS; Hornblower in Space; Identity Transfer; John W Campbell Memorial Award; Linguistics; Metaphysics; Mythology; Optimism and Pessimism; Pocket Universe; Rays; Series; Skylark Award; Sun; Timescape Books; Werewolves; Writers of the Future Contest.
Gene Rodman Wolfe
born New York: 7 May 1931
died Peoria, Illinois: 14 April 2019
Books of the Sun
Book of the New Sun
- The Shadow of the Torturer (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980) [Book of the New Sun: hb/Don Maitz]
- The Claw of the Conciliator (New York: Simon and Schuster/Timescape Books, 1981) [Book of the New Sun: hb/Don Maitz]
- The Sword of the Lictor (New York: Simon and Schuster/Timescape Books, 1982) [Book of the New Sun: hb/Don Maitz]
- The Citadel of the Autarch (New York: Simon and Schuster/Timescape Books, 1983) [book dated 1982: Book of the New Sun: hb/Don Maitz]
- The Castle of the Otter: A Book About The Book of the New Sun (Willimantic, Connecticut: Ziesing Brothers, 1983) [coll: book is dated 1982: Book of the New Sun: hb/Stephen Fabian]
- The Boy Who Hooked the Sun: A Tale from the Book of the Wonders of Urth and Sky (New Castle, Virginia: Cheap Street, 1985) [story: chap: Book of the New Sun: pb/Judy King-Rieniets]
- The Urth of the New Sun (London: Victor Gollancz, 1987) [Book of the New Sun: hb/Peter Goodfellow]
- Empires of Foliage and Flower: A Tale from the Book of the Wonders of Urth and Sky (New Castle, Virginia: Cheap Street, 1987) [story: chap: Book of the New Sun: pb/Judy King-Rieniets]
Book of the Long Sun
Book of the Short Sun
- Operation ARES (New York: Berkley Books, 1970) [pb/uncredited]
- The Fifth Head of Cerberus (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972) [fixup: first part appeared in Orbit 10 (anth 1972) edited by Damon Knight: hb/Nicholas Gaetano]
- Peace (New York: Harper and Row, 1975) [hb/nonpictorial]
- The Devil in a Forest (New York: Follett Publishing Company, 1976) [hb/David Palladini]
- Free Live Free (Willimantic, Connecticut: Mark V Ziesing, 1984) [hb/Carl Lundgren]
- There Are Doors (New York: Tor, 1988) [hb/Richard Bober]
- Castleview (New York: Tor, 1990) [hb/Richard Bober]
- Pandora by Holly Hollander (New York: Tor, 1990) [hb/Richard Bober]
- Pirate Freedom (New York: Tor, 2007) [hb/David Grove]
- An Evil Guest (New York: Tor, 2008) [hb/Scott Fischer]
- The Sorcerer's House (New York: Tor, 2010) [hb/Cliff Nielsen]
- Home Fires (New York: Tor, 2011) [hb/Brandon Herman]
- The Land Across (New York: Tor, 2013) [hb/Stephen Carroll]
- A Borrowed Man (New York: Tor, 2015) [hb/Fort]
collections and stories
- The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories (New York: Pocket Books, 1980) [coll: pb/Don Maitz]
- Gene Wolfe's Book of Days (Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1981) [coll: hb/Lawrence Ratzkin]
- Castle of Days (New York: Tor, 1992) [omni of the above plus The Castle of the Otter plus other material: hb/Richard Bober]
- The Wolfe Archipelago (Willimantic, Connecticut: Ziesing Brothers, 1983) [coll: hb/Carl Lundgren]
- At the Point of Capricorn (New Castle, Virginia: Cheap Street, 1987) [story: chap: pb/]
- Bibliomen: Twenty Characters Waiting for a Book (New Castle, Virginia: Cheap Street, 1984) [coll of linked stories: chap: hb/Judy King-Rieniets]
- Plan[e]t Engineering (Framingham, Massachusetts: The NESFA Press, 1984) [coll: hb/Vincent Di Fate]
- The Arimaspian Legacy (New Castle, Virginia: Cheap Street, 1987) [story: chap: pb/Judy King-Rieniets]
- Storeys from the Old Hotel (Worcester Park, Surrey: Kerosina Books, 1988) [coll: hb/Pete Lyon, wrongly credited as Pete Lion]
- For Rosemary (Worcester Park, Surrey: Kerosina Books, 1988) [poetry: coll: chap: hb/nonpictorial]
- Endangered Species (New York: Tor, 1989) [coll: hb/uncredited]
- Seven American Nights (New York: Tor, 1989) [story: chap: dos: pb/Bryn Barnard]
- The Death of Doctor Island (New York: Tor, 1990) [story: chap: dos: pb/Ron Walotsky]
- Slow Children at Play (New Castle, Virginia: Cheap Street, 1989) [story: chap: pb/Judy King-Rieniets]
- The Hero as Werwolf (Eugene, Oregon: Pulphouse Publishing, 1991) [story: chap: pb/Gregorio Montejo]
- The Old Woman Whose Rolling Pin is the Sun (New Castle, Virginia: Cheap Street, 1991) [story: chap: pb/]
- Young Wolfe: A Collection of Early Stories (Weston, Ontario: United Mythologies Press, 1992) [coll: hb/]
- Orbital Thoughts (Weston, Ontario: United Mythologies Press, 1992) [coll: chap: excerpts from stories originally published in the Orbit sequence: selected by Rosemary Wolfe: pb/]
- Strange Travelers (New York: Tor, 2000) [coll: hb/Giorgio de Chirico]
- A Walking Tour of the Shambles: Little Walks for Sightseers #16 (Woodstock, Illinois: American Fantasy Press, 2002) with Neil Gaiman [coll: chap: pb/Gahan Wilson]
- Talk of Mandrakes (Albany, California: Sirius Fiction, 2003) [story: chap: pb/]
- Innocents Aboard (New York: Tor, 2004) [coll: hb/from René Magritte]
- Starwater Strains (New York: Tor, 2005) [coll: hb/Joseph Van Os]
- Strange Birds (Minneapolis, Minnesota: DreamHaven Books, 2006) [coll: chap: pb/Lisa Snellings-Clark]
- Christmas Inn (Hornsea, East Yorkshire: PS Publishing, 2006) [story: chap: hb/James Hannah]
- Memorare (Stirling, New Jersey: Wyrm Publishing, 2008) [novella: chap: first appeared April 2007 F&SF: hb/Bob Eggleton]
- The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of his Finest Short Fiction (New York: Tor, 2009) [coll: hb/StockPhoto.com]
- Constipating Science Fiction (Chicago, Illinois: Chicago in 2012 WorldCon Bid, 2009) [story: chap: pb/Deb Kosiba]
- Letters Home (Weston, Ontario: United Mythologies Press, 1991) [nonfiction: coll: pb/]
about the author
- Joan Gordon. Gene Wolfe (Mercer Island, Washington: Starmont House, 1986) [nonfiction: pb/Stephen Fabian]
- Christopher P Stephens. A Checklist of Gene Wolfe (Hastings-on-Hudson, New York: Ultramarine, 1991) [bibliography: chap: third edition: pb/]
- Gordon Benson Jr and Phil Stephensen-Payne. Gene Wolfe: Urth-Man Extraordinary: A Working Bibliography (Leeds, West Yorkshire: Galactic Central Publications, 1991) [bibliography: chap: in the publisher's Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series: pb/nonpictorial]
- Michael Andre-Driussi. Lexicon Urthus: A Dictionary for the Urth Cycle (Albany, California: Sirius Fiction, 1994) [nonfiction: see author's entry for addenda: Book of the New Sun: hb/Dave Granvold]
- Michael Andre-Driussi. The Quick & Dirty Guide to the Long Sun Whorl (Albany, California: Sirius Fiction, 1997) [nonfiction: chap: Book of the Long Sun: pb/]
- Doug Eigsti. Peace Indexicon: Dedicated to Gene Wolfe's Novel Peace (Albany, California: Sirius Fiction, 2000) [nonfiction: chap: pb/]
- Michael Andre-Driussi and Robert Borski. Cicerone Sinister: A Guide to Gene Wolfe's The Fifth Head of Cerberus (Albany, California: Sirius Fiction, 2001) [nonfiction: chap: pb/uncredited]
- Peter Wright. Attending Daedalus: Gene Wolfe, Artifice and the Reader (Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 2003) [nonfiction: hb/Bruce Pennington]
- Robert Borski. Solar Labyrinth: Exploring Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun (New York: iUniverse, Inc, 2004) [nonfiction: Book of the New Sun: hb/Robert Borski]
- Robert Borski. The Long and the Short of It: More Essays on the Fiction of Gene Wolfe (New York: iUniverse, Inc, 2006) [nonfiction: hb/Robert Borski]
- Peter Wright, editor. Shadows of the New Sun: Wolfe on Writing / Writers on Wolfe (Liverpool, England: Liverpool University Press, 2007) [nonfiction: anth: hb/Bruce Pennington]
- Michael Andre-Driussi. Gate of Horn, Book of Silk: A Guide to Gene Wolfe's The Book of the Long Sun and The Book of the Short Sun (Albany, California: Sirius Fiction, 2012) [nonfiction: hugely expanded from previous pamphlets: Book of the Long Sun and Book of the Short Sun: hb/Miroslav Boskov]
- Valya Dudycz Lupescu, editor. The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Presents An Evening to Honor Gene Wolfe (Chicago, Illinois: The Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2014) [nonfiction: anth: chap: pb/uncredited]
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