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From: "James Wynn" 
Subject: (urth) Gene Wolfe Chat
Date: Fri, 4 Apr 2003 10:01:56 -0600

The following is the text of the Gene Wolfe Chat on Sci-Fi.com last night.
I've edited it for readability:

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*** -                  WELCOME TO IRC.SCIFI.COM
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*** Topic for #auditorium: Chat w/ master science fiction writer Gene Wolfe

Hi everybody, thanks for joining us. I'm Ben Trumble for SCIFI.
Gene Wolfe began writing science fiction in the 1950s and sold his first
story, "The Dead Man," to Sir in 1965. Since then he's written over 20
novels and nearly 250 short stories.
  From his Nebula Award-winning The Island of Dr. Death and Other Stories to
his acclaimed Sun series to his numerous short stories.  Along the way he's
earned a reputation as perhaps the best living writer of literary science
fiction. Brief word about the drill.   This is a moderated chat -- please
send your questions for our guest to ChatMod, as private messages.

Will there ever be another Sun series?

I don't plan one at this time. But never is a long time and I CAN'T answer

After the experience of working on "A Walking Tour Of The Shambles" with
Neil Gaiman, would you ever consider co-writing a novel with him.  Or with
anyone for that matter?

Certainly. He was a joy to work with. I would certainly consider it.

Gene, is going to college a necessary step in becoming a good writer?

GeneWolfe: No Of course not. I believe that Pred Pohl is the only well-known
writer who didn't finish high school. But college isn't absolutely

Many writers call you a writers writer. What does that mean?

Well, some people say I've influenced them. But I honestly can't always see
it. I assume if they mention me they liked my work.

When can we expect the first volume of The Wizard Knight to see print?

I'm told...in January...But understand publishers make predictions, not
promises. But I think it will likely be January.

The Knight first, and then The Wizard to follow?

Correct. My inkling is the second book will follow the first by a year with
a story collection in between.

I'm almost finished with with 'Hamlet's Mill'. I really enjoyed it, and I
have to thank for [you for] it largely because I wouldn't have read it
normally except because you indirectly recommended it. (Same for Brazillian
Adventure). You have a lot of references to alchemy in your works. What is
your favorite source on the subject?

I don't know that I've refered to a source. And I'm not very current on it.
I've read a few books and articles but I don't have a favorite source.

Your writing seems to blur the distinction between "the others" and "us" so
we can't tell who is friend or foe.  Is this something that comes from
experiences in the military?

Well, it comes from experience. But not the military per se. People do
change sides. And people do play one side against the other. When you hold a
mirror up to life you have to show that.

Was there ever an intentional connection between the goddess Scylla on the
Whorl, and the monster Scylla who is contemporaneous with Erebus and Abaia?

Yes. Certainly. I tried to make that clear in the last book. I don't mean
they were the same person. They were not. But there was a connection.

Gene, what's the process for you as you start work on a new novel? How do
you know it's going to be a novel vs. a short story?

GeneWolfe: It's never a question that comes up. It's generally clear to me
which it's going to be. Though I've been sadly deceived by Shadow of the
Torturer. That was to be a novella. But when I reached the end I wasn't
finished and carried it
forward. So maybe sometimes I don't know


Gene, what's the process for you as you start work on a new novel? How do
you know it's going to be a novel vs. a short story?]

RE:"the others" and "us" -- but "identity" and it's definition seems to be a
theme that keeps popping up in your writings. Care to explain your interest
in this theme?]

I think that identity and memory are the fascinating themes of
life.  That and our relationship with God. These are the major, major themes
through fiction and myth. I'm sure if we could trace back far enough we'd
find they are inherant in the huiman consition. It would be interesting to
know if they are equally important to an alien race. We can speculate but we
can't answer that.

When you wrote Urth Of The New Sun, among other things was it intended to be
bridge between New Sun and Long Sun?

It was to be a capstone to Book of the New Sun. People though it was
incomplete. when I began New Sun I intended to show the rise of a boy to the
throne. But some people felt without the New Sun itself I hadn't finished
telling the story. So it wasn't a bridge.

How did you get started as a writer?

I started writing to please my college roommate. He was an illustrator. He
needed stories to illustrate. I wrote some ghost stories. Much later I found
myself married and living in two rooms and we wanted money to buy furniture
and rent a house. I though maybe I could earn some money writing. So I did.
It didn't exactly work out. It took me six years to begin to sell, more or
less. It's not the best way to but furniture, depending on your time scale.

Gene, you are a remarkable and remarkably prolific writer. Have you ever
been blocked, or gone through unproductive times?

GeneWolfe: Yes but only for brief periods. I think Writers Block is a
disorder embraced by its victims. I know how to end block, and I do that.
Some writers seem to have no interest in ending it. So it goes on and on. It
results from fatigue in the part of the mind that deals with language. So
stay away from language. Paint the house. Walk the dog. Don't read. Or
write. Or talk. Rest the language centers. Thomas Wolfe would go on long
midnight walks through Brooklynn at midnight. He was doing the same thing.

Aleb: There are various commentaries about your writing on the internet.  Do
you feel people tend to read too much into particular words and phrases that
you choose?  Or, not enough? :)

GeneWolfe: Both. Depending. Some people skip lightly over what I might think
is important. Other people grab a word and blow it way out of proportion. I
don't read a great deal of the commentary.  I've been surprised and shocked
by some of it While some has been very insightful. I don't make a hobby of
myself. I don't collect my own books. I'm not interested in me per se.

Mr. Wolfe, will you write any more about me? I can't seem to remember the
end of my story.

GeneWolfe: I can't either... Seriously, I'm trying to write a new Latro
novel. Can't promise to finish. It's in the early stages, but I'm trying.

Gene, do you have a favorite supernatural Issac Bashevis Singer story?

No.  I've read some Singer, but I don't think I've read him in many years or
can remember the stories well

How do you work.  How many stories are you working on now?

That varies.  Between one and three. Too often I'm working on a novel, but
I've promised somebody a story. So then I have a lot of chainsaws in the

JudiR: How does a writer of your experience best help a new writer?

GeneWolfe: It's very difficult. It depends on how far along that writer is,
and what that writer requires. It has be tailored to the student. I start by
reading several short stories, then I have an idea where to begin coaching.
The pleasure of all teaching depends on the students and how eager they are
to learn. When the students are eager I enjoy teaching. I was at an art
college in Savannah and I talked to several classes. There was one man in
every class who fell asleep each time in 5 minutes. He needed the rest.

Do you feel trapped by the Sci-fi genre and what publishers and readers
expect of you?

Not really. I write whatever I want to write and try to find a market.
Sometimes I don't find a market but it's a very broad genre. Obviously the
market is so much more inclusive now. Listen to the definitions of science
fiction over the years. Even the naysayers of ten years ago embrace
materials now they once excluded. Along that line, I wrote a novel called
Free Live Free with a witch and PI in it. I was told by a number of people
that I couldn't have a detective and a witch in the same book. I pointed out
that both could be found in the yellow pages, but to no avail. It's a time
travel novel. It worked and it's still in print.

Thoughts on newly released Latro in the Mist.

I think it was a good move.  My wife just read it in the combined volume. I
like that

Aleb: What motivates you to write?  BTW, I appreciate the humor in some of
your answers tonight.

I don't have a good answer. Sure, there are things I want to say. I want to
talk and I want to listen, like my grand daughter does.

Did you write Wizard Knight  as a single work?

GeneWolfe: Yes I saw it as one novel. But when I finished the very long
first draft I realized that some sections were sketchy. Doing it as a single
book would have been impossibly lengthy.

What comes after The Wizard Knight? Anything definite you will be working on

GeneWolfe: The third Latro book I mentioned and the short story collection.

Would you ever give permission to a movie studio to do a movie on one of
your works? If not, why?

GeneWolfe> Certainly I would if I reached agreement with the studio.

If your next Latro novel is ever finished, do you plan to wrap it up? In
reading the second volume, I kind of expected him to go to India, Central
America, and Britain before he got home.

I've felt the same way. I don't think the third will end with a wrap up.
It's laid in Egy[pt during the Persian occupation.

I'm new to your writing. so I apologize if you have had to answer this too
many times before. Is Gene Wolfe your real name? Do the shape-shifting
characters in your books stem in part from your name or is it the other way

I suppose it does stem from my name. As a small boy I was interested in
wolves and wolf lore. The kind of things we read as children crop up in our
work. Gaiman and I talk about this and agree on that.

archtelamon: What was your definitive/favorite book you've written?

GeneWolfe: That varies according to my mood. Probably...There are Doors more
than any other. I think because there is a great deal in it, and it turned
out very as I had hoped it would when I started it.

Would you prefer to write a movie script for one of your books yourself or
let someone else do it?

GeneWolfe: No, I'm a book person. I don'tlive in LA and I'm not fascinated
with film. Children's book writers love to write for children. Film writers
love to write film. I love books.

Gene, which of your books was the hardest to write?

Probably Peace, because I had a very poor idea of where the book was going
I began it, and it was so fertile inproducing new characters and situations

James-Wynn: I'm sure you are obligated to read a lot of books as a writer
and teacher, but when you walk through a bookstore, what sort of books catch
your eye? What sections do you go to first?

That depends on what I'm writing. Usually I'm looking for books that will
help me with a [story]. Probably Space travel, Ancient Greece, Fairy lore;
whatever I need.

Do you tend to plan things out meticulously before you write, or do you try
and see where the I try to know the end of the story when I begin Kate
Wilhelm is the only write I know who plots meticulously. She only writes
after she's bored with the story. That's not the way I work


dulac: Do you find the many plot connections and themes coming together

GeneWolfe: Absolutely.

We're about out of time

Thanks for coming and talking with me. I appreciate it. Good night.


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