Gene Wolfe

From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search
Gene Wolfe

Gene Wolfe (born May 7, 1931) is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. He is noted for his dense, allusive prose as well as the strong influence of his Catholic faith. He has won many awards in the field, and is hailed by prominent critics and writers as one of the best and most important living science fiction authors.

See also: The Book of the New Sun.

Fiction[edit]

  • When a tree is very old, yet still lives, sometimes the limbs are strangely twisted.
    • "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories" (1970), Orbit 7, ed. Damon Knight[1][2][3]
  • No man has a home unless he is master of a place where he must please no one—a place where he can go and lock the door behind him.
    • "Slaves of Silver", Galaxy, 1971[4]
  • A child, not knowing what is extraordinary and what is commonplace, usually lights midway between the two, finds interest in incidents adults consider beneath notice, and calmly accepts the most improbable occurrences.
    • "The Fifth Head of Cerberus", Orbit 10 (1972), ed. Damon Knight[5][3]
  • It doesn't move because he has fastened it in place until he finds out why it doesn't move.
    • "The Fifth Head of Cerberus", Orbit 10 (1972), ed. Damon Knight[5][3]
  • One of the questions whose answers we seek is why we seek.
    • "The Fifth Head of Cerberus", Orbit 10 (1972), ed. Damon Knight[5][3]
  • Now I must, I suppose, explain why I have been writing this account. [...] I have written to disclose myself to myself, and I am writing now because I will, I know, sometime read what I am now writing and wonder. Perhaps by the time I do, I will have solved the mystery of myself, or perhaps I will no longer care to know the solution.
    • "The Fifth Head of Cerberus", Orbit 10 (1972), ed. Damon Knight[5][3]
  • Evolution teaches us the original purpose of language was to ritualize men's threats and curses, his spells to compel the gods; communication came later.
    • "The Death of Doctor Island", Universe 3 (1973), ed. Terry Carr[1][2][3]
  • Of the nature of Death and the Dead we may enumerate twelve kinds. First there are those who become new gods, for whom new universes are born. Second those who praise. Third those who fight as soldiers in the unending war with evil. Fourth those who amuse themselves among flowers and sweet springs with sports. Fifth those who dwell in gardens of bliss, or are tortured. Sixth those who continue as in life. Seventh those who turn the wheel of the universe. Eighth those who find in their graves their mothers' wombs and in one life circle forever. Ninth ghosts. Tenth those born again as men in their grandsons' time. Eleventh those who return as beasts or trees. And last those who sleep.
    • "Forlesen", Orbit 14 (1974), ed. Damon Knight[6][7][3]
  • "What I would like to know is what I should be doing."
    "I see what you mean," Freeling said, "but I'm afraid I can't tell you. If you were a lathe operator I'd say make that part, but you're a part of management, and you can't treat managerial people that way."
    "Go ahead," Forlesen told him. "I won't mind."
    [...] "What I meant was that if I knew what you ought to be doing I'd hire a clerk to do it. You're where you are because we feel—rightly or wrongly—that you can find your own work, recognize it when you see it, and do it or get somebody else to. Just make damn sure you don't step on anybody's toes while you're doing it, and don't make more trouble than you fix. [...] Don't come running to me with complaints, and don't let me get any complaints about you. Now what was it you wanted to see me about?"
    "I don't," Forlesen said. "You said you wanted to see me."
    "Oh. Well, I'm through."
    • "Forlesen", Orbit 14 (1974), ed. Damon Knight[6][7][3]
  • They based their extrapolations on numbers. That worked as long as money, which is easily measured numerically, was the principle motivating force in human affairs. But as time progressed, human actions became responsive instead to a multitude of incommensurable vectors.
    • "The Marvelous Brass Chessplaying Automaton", Universe 7 (1977), ed. Terry Carr[4][3]
  • An exaggerated and solemn respect always indicates a loss of faith.
    • "Seven American Nights", Orbit 20 (1978), ed. Damon Knight[1][3]
  • Time passed, slipping through the waist of the universe's great hourglass like the eroded soil of this continent slipping down her rivers to the seas.
    • "Seven American Nights", Orbit 20 (1978), ed. Damon Knight[1][3]
  • She often spoke of marryin' a butcher or a sausage maker, having a liking for those trades, as she said, for they knew you couldn't never get all the stains from their aprons, and didn't demand it.
    • "Our Neighbor by David Copperfield", Future Tense (1978), ed. Lee Harding[8]
  • We can dive to the bottom of the sea and some say NASA will fly us to the stars, and I have known men to plunge into the past—or the future—and drown. But there's one place where we can't go. We can't go where we are already. We can't go home, because our minds, and our hearts, and our immortal souls are already there there.
    • "Kevin Malone", New Terrors (1980), ed. Ramsey Campbell[8][3]
  • The only actors who can really do justice to their parts are the ones who don't know what they are.
    • "Kevin Malone", New Terrors (1980), ed. Ramsey Campbell[8][3]
  • In the marketplace he told of honor, and how it is a higher law than any law.
    At the crossroads he talked of freedom, the freedom of the wind and clouds, and freedom that loves all things and is without guilt.
    Beside the city gates he told stories of the forgotten cities that were and of the forgotten cities that might be, if only men would forget them.
    • "The God and His Man", Asimov's Science Fiction, 1980[8][3]
  • Nobody bothers crazy people. [...] In the end, maybe it's the crazy people who win after all.
    • "The Adopted Father", Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (1980) [6][7]
  • Very small, child, are the flying days of love, and men and women must catch them when they can, if they are to know love at all.
    • "Empires of Foliage and Flower" (1987), first appeared as a limited edition chapbook from Cheap Street[9]
  • He was proud, like all lonely men. Lonely men must be proud or die.
    • "The Arimaspin Legacy" (1987), first appeared as a Winter Solstice chapbook from Cheap Street[9]
  • "Prince of parable, I desire to see those gardens of lasting delight which Allah—the Creator! the Ever Beneficent!—reserves for the faithful. How am I to do so if I tell lies?"
    "By lying to Allah, I suppose."
    • "The Tale of the Rose and the Nightingale (and What Came of It)", Arabesques (1988), ed. Susan Schwartz.[8]
  • People who wish to be lost always get their way.
    • "The Sailor Who Sailed After the Sun", Grails, Quests, Visitations, and Other Occurrences (1992), ed. Richard Gilliam, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Edward E. Kramer[10]
  • A hundred wise men have said in various ways that love transcends the power of death, and millions of fools have supposed that they meant nothing by it. At this late hour in my life I have learned what they meant. They meant that love transcends death. They are correct.
    • "Bed and Breakfast", Dante's Disciples (1995), ed. Edward E. Kramer[11][3]
  • I have never in my whole life had a fight with a smart person or even seen anybody else have one either. That is because then the fight starts the smart people are not there anymore. They have gone off someplace else, and when it is over they come back and tell you how much they did in the fight, only it is all lies.
    • "Has Anybody Seen Junie Moon?", Moon Shots (1999), ed. Peter Crowther[9][3]
  • Every theory is true in some discipline.
    The beauty of this is that it carries its own confirmation.
    • "In Glory like Their Star", The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, October/November 2001[9]
  • People who get eyeball arthritis see only what they're supposed to see, like that TV screen.
    • "Hunter Lake", The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, October/November 2003[9]
  • People who fear death live no longer than those who don't, and live scared.
    • The Wizard Knight (2004), Volume 1: The Knight, Ch. 62
  • There is no human quality more attractive than the courage of the weak.
    • Home Fires (2011), Reflection 1
  • "God is love"
    "Love is blind"
    If these be true, then God is blind: Simple logic would appear to have escaped the theologians. Res ipsa loquitur, love is not blind, neither God's love nor man's, though we all wish at times to escape God's eye, and though it must at times appear that the lover cannot see what we see—unless, of course, we are ourselves that lover.
    Like God, the lover sees but forgives.
    • Home Fires (2011), Reflection 2

The Urth of the New Sun (1987)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition, first printing, published by Tor Books in September, 1988
  • “You’re a poet too, aren’t you? And a good liar, I bet.”
    “I was the Autarch of Urth; that required a little lying, if you like. We called it diplomacy.”
    • Chapter 3, "The Cabin" (p. 20)
  • I was the core of the universe, as we always are to ourselves.
    • Chapter 6, "A Death and the Dark" (p. 38)
  • The most trivial skirmish is not trivial to those who die in it, and so should not be trivial in any ultimate sense to us.
    • Chapter 13, "The Battles" (p. 95)
  • Those who have never fought suppose that the deserter who flies the field is consumed by shame. He is not, or he would not desert; with only trifling exceptions, battles are fought by cowards afraid to run.
    • Chapter 16, "The Epitome" (p. 114)
  • “I pledged myself to show you wonders.”
    I drew her farther from the building. “I’m not ready to see wonders. Yours, or any other woman’s.”
    • Chapter 19, "Silence" (p. 132)
  • “Yours is a race of pawns,” Tzadkiel told me. “You move forward only, unless we move you back to begin the game again. But not all the pieces on the board are pawns.”
    • Chapter 24, "The Captain" (p. 176)
  • Until we reach the end of time, we don’t know whether something’s been good or bad; we can only judge the intentions of those who acted.
    • Chapter 33, "Aboard the Alcyone" (p. 237)
  • “You’re called a holy man,” she said. “I see you’re wholly deranged.”
    • Chapter 36, "The Citadel Again" (p. 255)
  • It’s easy—very easy—to slay a ruler. But it’s very difficult to prevent a worse one from coming to his place.
    • Chapter 39, "The Claw of the Conciliator Again" (p. 278)
  • What is perceived is dictated by the instrument. If you had other eyes, or another mind, you would see all things otherwise.
    • Chapter 40, "The Brook Beyond Briah" (p. 285)
  • He is indeed a creature of evil; but so are you, and so am I.
    • Chapter 43, "The Evening Tide" (p. 303)
  • We never really got married. When we both wanted to we never had the money, somehow. And when we had the money, there was always some kind of quarrel. After a couple of years everybody thought we were married anyway.
    • Chapter 46, "The Runaway" (p. 326)
  • “We can only hope.”
    “That’s like the frog said when he seen the stork.”
    • Chapter 46, "The Runaway (p. 328)

The Book of the Long Sun (1993–1996)[edit]

  • Men build scales, but the gods blow upon the lighter pan.
    • Volume 1: Nightside the Long Sun (1993), Ch. 1
  • The gods smile on us, my son, or so it is written. It's a wonder they don't laugh aloud.
    • Volume 1, Ch. 2
  • You have need of learning, children, in order that the whorl will someday have need of you.
    • Volume 1, Ch. 2
  • Any representation of a god is ultimately a lie, Silk explained. It may be a convenient lie, and it may even be a reverent one; but it's ultimately false. ... Neither image would be more nearly true than the other, or more true than any other—merely more appropriate.
    • Volume 1, Ch. 11
  • The best way to be thought honest is to be honest.
    • Volume 1, Ch. 12
  • As you intend to live hereafter, it is in your power to live here.
    • Volume 2: Lake of the Long Sun (1994), Ch. 1
  • Action, you see, is the end that thought achieves. Action is its only purpose. What else is it good for? If we don't act, it's worthless.
    • Volume 2, Ch. 1
  • There is more to be learned from any good teacher than the subject taught.
    • Volume 2, Ch. 1
  • Everyone who is grieved at anything, or discontented, is like a pig for sacrifice, kicking and squealing. Like a dove for sacrifice is he who laments in silence. Our one distinction is that it is given to us to consent, if we will, to the necessity imposed upon us.
    • Volume 2, Ch. 2
  • When we're young, we notice things that are young, like ourselves. New grass on old graves. New leaves on old trees
    • Volume 3: Caldé of the Long Sun (1994), Ch. 1
  • The jokes of the gods are long in the telling.
    • Volume 3, Ch. 1
  • What little I have learned in the course of a long life, regarding the gods, I have tried to forget.
    • Volume 3, Ch. 4
  • There are people who love birds so much they free them. There are others who love them so much they cage them.
    • Volume 3, Ch. 4
  • A trooper fights for honor ... or from loyalty. Or for loot sometimes. But he waits for pay. He will not wait without it, because when there is no fighting there is no honor to win, no flag to die for, no loot to gain.
    • Volume 4: Exodus from the Long Sun (1996), Ch. 9
  • He is not mad. He is only more clever than you. It is not the same.
    • Volume 4, Ch. 10
  • When neither our fellows nor our gods spoil our plans, we spoil them ourselves.
    • Volume 4, Ch. 15

The Book of the Short Sun (1999–2001)[edit]

  • Perhaps I need to begin before I can think clearly about the task. The chief thing is to begin, after all—after which the chief thing is to finish.
    • Volume 1: On Blue's Waters (1999), Ch. 1
  • Be careful about extending credit, too, and doubly careful about refusing to extend it.
    • Volume 1, Ch. 1
  • Paradoxes explain everything. Since they do, they cannot be explained.
    • Volume 1, Ch. 9
  • It is well not to spend one's symbols improvidently.
    • Volume 1, Ch. 9
  • Experience is a wonderful teacher, but one whose lessons come too late.
    • Volume 2: In Green's Jungles (2000), Ch. 1
  • We're going to fight to the end. But it's better if you fight to somebody else's end.
    • Volume 2, Ch. 2
  • Whenever a man and a woman come to words or blows, fools are quick to attribute it to the differences between the sexes. The sexes differ much less than they wish to believe, and such differences as are real tend less to promote strife than to prevent it.
    • Volume 2, Ch. 23
  • Adolescents are simply those people who haven't as yet chosen between childhood and adulthood. For as long as anyone tries to hold on to the advantages of childhood—the freedom from responsibility, principally—while seeking to lay claim to the best parts of adulthood, such as independence, he is an adolescent. [...] Eventually most people choose to be adults, or are forced into it. A very few retreat into childhood and never leave it again. A large number remain adolescents for life.
    • Volume 2, Ch. 23
  • Do you know the story about the farmer who complained all his life about getting too much rain or too little, about the soil and the winds and so on? [...] The farmer died and went to Mainframe, and was soon called to the magnificent chamber in which Pas holds court. Pas said to him, "I understand you feel that I botched certain aspects of the job when I built the Whorl; and the farmer admitted it was so, saying, "Well, sir, pretty often I thought I could have made it better." To which Pas replied, "Yes, that's what I wanted you to do."
    • Volume 3: Return to the Whorl (2001), Ch. 6
  • We don't harm the gods when we mingle their names with our curses and obscenities. We harm ourselves. I said that I didn't regard most gods as holy, but they don't have to be for our malice and mockery to recoil upon ourselves.
    • Volume 3, Ch. 10
  • You have a walking stick. Suppose it could walk by itself, and that it chose to walk away from you. [...] It would no longer be a walking stick at all, only a stick that walked.
    • Volume 3, Ch. 13
  • If you rob someone who would help you if you needed help you only rob yourself. [...] Do you imagine you can be cruel without teaching others to be cruel to you?
    • Volume 3, Ch. 17

Nonfiction[edit]

  • Just as mainstream literature shows us how our contemporaries view the present, and historical fiction shows us how they view the past (not, of course, what the present or the past were actually like), so speculative fiction shows us how they view the future. I happen to believe that my contemporaries' view of the past is not very important; but their view of the present is quite definitely important, and their view of the future is vital.
    • "The Right of Things to Come", presentation for the Science Fiction Research Association (1978), as published in Castle of Days (1992)
  • My definition of a great story has nothing to do with "a varied and interesting background." It is: One that can be read with pleasure by a cultivated reader and reread with increasing pleasure. The business about a varied and interesting background belongs to my definition of a good story.
  • Does anyone know an effective way of keeping rabbits out of a garden that does not involve building a fence? I have tried that already, but the rabbit will not sit still long enough for me to get the fence all the way around him.
  • The slight criticism of evolution I offer should not be taken as evidence that I do not believe in evolution; I do. Let's not blame God for everything. I also believe in Lamarckism, as it was put forward by Lamarck. (The Lamarckism presented in standard textbooks is actually Lysenkoism, a straw man set up by the opponents of Lamarckism, palpably false and easily disproved.) There is no paradox in that: Lamarckism and Darwinism are not mutually exclusive, except politically.
    • "Sun of Helioscope", in Castle of the Otter (1982) [7]
  • Most Christians know next to nothing about the life and teachings of Christ and are afraid to learn, sensing that the knowledge will upset their preconceptions.
    • "Sun of Helioscope", in Castle of the Otter (1982) [7]
  • PARADOX: A statement that reduces the matter at hand to complete obscurity while clarifying it. [...] Paradoxes are sensitive and can be routed by sneering.
    • "Words Weird and Wonderful", in Castle of the Otter (1982) [7]
  • I have called these animals destriers, borrowing an old word for war-horses. I've given them clawed feet instead of hoofs because I think the genetic engineers will give them claws too. The horse's hoofs seem to be an evolutionary mistake. To speak in Lamarckian terms, the horse has lengthened its legs by standing on its toes until it has ended up standing on one toenail. [...] Cheetahs, wolves, and greyhounds all have nonretractile claws that serve them as their spikes serve runners and baseball players. Racehorses could not run as fast as they do if they did not wear aluminum or magnesium shoes.
    • "Cavalry in the Age of the Autarch", in Castle of the Otter (1982)[7]
  • The Falklands War continues to fascinate me. What a conflict! What an unlikely pair of antagonists! The British have always fought, to be sure. No nation on Earth can be taken seriously in historical circles unless it has had at least one war with the British; it's like not having an American Express card. And yet the very idea of Britain in a contemporary war is a shock. Britain, one feels, fights in history books and not on TV.
    • "A Few Points About Knife Throwing", Fantasy Newsletter (1983) [7]
  • It will come as no surprise to those of you in the book trade when I say that although books do not cause cancer, books in general do not sell as well as cigarettes.
  • Here in two flat sentences are the best things I can say about our field on American television: Dr. Who is sometimes aired. Sometimes Battlestar Galactica is not.
    • Guest of Honor speech at Aussiecon Two (August 1985), as published in Castle of Days (1992)
  • If those who despise us stone us as prophets, they must listen to us as prophets. If they curse us as sorcerers, they must learn to curse from us, as sorcerers.
    Let us enlighten the young, and let us be condemned for corrupting the young, like Socrates. Let us awaken the old before they sleep forever, though they must read us in secret like the Kabbalah. [...] The difficulties and successes of our books and magazines, and the rejection and misinterpretation of the films made from our ideas—are the flounderings of the human mind upon the Paleozoic shore. We are the sand in its gills; let's not lose our grit.
    • Guest of Honor speech at Aussiecon Two (August 1985), as published in Castle of Days (1992)
  • This, then, is the new illiteracy, the illiteracy of those who can read but don't. [...] This new illiteracy is more pernicious than the old, because unlike the old illiteracy it does not debar its victims from power and influence, although like the old illiteracy it disqualifies them for it. Those long-dead men and women who learned to read so that they might read the Bible and John Bunyan would tell us that pride is the greatest of all sins, the father of sin. And the victims of the new illiteracy are proud of it. If you don't believe me, talk to them and see with what pride they trumpet their utter ignorance of any book you care to name.
    • "From a house on the Borderland", Horrorstruck (1987)[7]
  • The same critics who spend hundreds of pages discussing various peculiarities of the author's supposed nature often devote none to that much more significant person, the reader for whom he wrote. [...] It is a failure that disqualifies a great deal of head-scratching and hypothesizing. It amounts to saying that the letter is more important than its recipient, the signal more important than the changing image created from it, the bait more important than the fish.
    • Endangered Species (1989), Introduction
  • We may be damned at last, by God or our consciences; and though I've met a good many people who profess to credit no God, I've never met one who believed he had no conscience—this though he could no more produce it for my inspection than I could point out the God he demanded to see.
  • The true dawn of adulthood, of intellectual maturity, if you like, is the realization that adults are all fools.
    • "The Pirates of Florida and Other Impossibilities", speech at the Conference on the Fantastic (1991), as published in Castle of Days (1992)
  • Almost any interesting work of art comes close to saying the opposite of what it really says.
    • "What I Know About Writing (in no particular order)", as quoted in Michael Swanwick, "The Wolf in the Labyrinth", Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 2007
  • Some are haunted by ghosts. I am haunted by stories.
    • The Best of Gene Wolfe (2009), afterword to "Kevin Malone", p. 355
  • Every so often I get optimistic and explain the best method of learning to write for students. I don't believe any of them has ever tried it.
    • The Best of Gene Wolfe (2009), afterword to "The Boy Who Hooked the Sun", p. 381
  • Animals in zoos (we are told) believe that their bars protect them. We Americans have forged our own bars, built our own cage, and live in it more or less content as long as someone feeds us.
    • The Best of Gene Wolfe (2009), afterword to "Petting Zoo", p. 432

Quotes about Gene Wolfe[edit]

  • Reading Gene Wolfe is dangerous work. It's a knife-throwing act, and like all good knife-throwing acts, you may lose fingers, toes, earlobes or eyes in the process. Gene doesn't mind. Gene is throwing the knives.

References[edit]

  1. a b c d Reprinted in Gene Wolfe, The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories (1980)
  2. a b Reprinted in Gene Wolfe, The Wolfe Archipelago (1983)
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Reprinted in Gene Wolfe, The Best of Gene Wolfe (2009)
  4. a b Reprinted in Gene Wolfe, Storeys from the Old Hotel (1988)
  5. a b c d Reprinted in a set of three novellas, The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972)
  6. a b c Reprinted in Gene Wolfe, Gene Wolfe's Book of Days (1981)
  7. a b c d e f g h i j Reprinted in Gene Wolfe, Castle of Days (1992)
  8. a b c d e Reprinted in Gene Wolfe, Endangered Species (1989)
  9. a b c d e Reprinted in Gene Wolfe, Starwater Strains (2005)
  10. Reprinted in Gene Wolfe, Innocents Aboard (2004)
  11. Reprinted in Gene Wolfe, Strange Travelers (2000)

External links[edit]

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about: