I read my first-ever Gene Wolfe story last night. I picked up his collection The Best of Gene Wolfe: A Definitive Retrospective of His Finest Short Fiction for the Kindle App. Science fiction writer Fabio Fernandes recommended three stories to start with. The book had two of the three and I chose “A Cabin in the Coast” as the one I’d read. I chose that one, in all honesty, because it was the last one in the collection and I’ve been brainwashed to believe that the last story in a collection or anthology is always the strongest.
While I’d never read a Gene Wolfe story until last night, I knew who is was, of course. He’s one of those writers almost universally described as the best living science fiction or fantasy writer around. People say his writing is dense, rich, can be read on many levels. So naturally I was curious as to what I was missing.
I wasn’t disappointed. I thought that “A Cabin in the Coast” was a delightfully dark story with the kind of cruel twist at the end that you sometimes find in Asimov’s “Azazel” stories. But Wolfe reads nothing like Asimov. Indeed, in reading “A Cabin in the Coast” I was reminded most strongly of Harlan Ellison’s writing, particularly later stories like “Susan” or “The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore.” There were layers to “A Cabin in the Coast” that I’m sure I won’t find until I go through it on a second reading.
Also recommended was “Seven American Nights” which is in the collection, and which I may get to this weekend. And Scott Edelman recommended “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” and “The Death of Doctor Island.” I’m halfway through the former, which is an example of the right way to tell a story in second person.
So now I can at least claim that I have read some Gene Wolfe stories and not feel as much out of place at conventions like Readercon. But clearly, I still have a lot of catching up to do.