R.I.P., Catholic sci-fi legend Gene Wolfe (1931-2019)
Gene Wolfe, sci-fi author’s sci-fi author, inventor of the machine that makes Pringles, and Catholic convert, passed away at the age of 87 on Sunday. While not well-known to the general public, Wolfe’s admirers have included some of the most famous names in speculative fiction, such as Neil Gaiman, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Harlan Ellison, many of whom considered him not only the best science fiction author, but the best fiction author in America during his lifetime.
His most notable work is the four-volume Book of the New Sun (1980-1983). Many have discussed the mystifying and esoteric aspects of this notoriously multi-layered series, but it is also an entertaining read on the surface level: one Wolfe fan has described it as something like “a Star Wars–style space opera penned by G. K. Chesterton in the throes of a religious conversion.” There is a good appreciation of New Sun at The Augustine Institute’s Faith & Culture journal.
Wolfe’s Catholicism permeated his writing. When I first started The Catholic Culture Podcast, a young priest emailed me to suggest that I interview Wolfe: a capital idea, but I felt I would need to spend a great deal more time with his work before I could conduct an interview. Since that will never happen, I’m glad that others took the opportunity to ask him about his Catholicism in relation to his fiction (of which this interview may be the most extensive discussion). And I am even gladder, since he has gone to face his judgment, to hear those who met him say he was a kind, warm and gentle man. May he go swiftly to God’s kingdom.
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