Shadows of the New Sun

Shadows of the New Sun book coverShadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe is a collection of short stories by various authors who have been influenced, professionally or personally, by the literary master that is Gene Wolfe. The collection also includes two short stories not previously published by Gene Wolfe himself. This collection was released in 2013 and several of those who contributed are authors I really enjoy, and there were many I had never read before but will likely look into their work after reading their stories in this collection.

What I really enjoyed about this collection, ironically enough, were the unintended stories. Each author who contributed a short story also provided a short commentary about Gene himself, which really gave this collection its intended purpose. Yes, each story was inspired by or related to Gene’s work with several even taking place within a world Gene created or included characters he imagined, but it was amazing to see how Gene influenced each storyteller. Many knew Gene personally and had fun stories to tell about him or something he did whereas a few had never met him in person but had an anecdote to share nonetheless.

To my knowledge, there currently are no biographies about Gene Wolfe, though I hope one does come out as I would love to know more about him. Gene passed away in 2019 at the age of 87. I wish I had discovered his work before his passing, but that is the great thing about books. You can discover and be greatly influenced by works written years, decades, or even centuries before. Some say history has a way of filtering the mass amounts of art and only allow the best to persist through the ages. I would not be surprised if Gene Wolfe is read for centuries to come. His work has found me and will persist at least throughout my lifetime as I will continue to read everything of his I can find. I chanced upon this collection at my local library’s annual book sale. Some of the best books are those you find by chance. In fact, many authors in this collection found Gene’s work by chance, and they recognized it as uniquely masterful upon discovery. I had the same experience and his books quickly became treasured tomes on my shelf.

If you have yet to find Gene’s work, perhaps this can be your reason to give it a chance. I hope you like it if you do.

Happy Reading.

8 More Short Story Collections

I recently started a short story collection and thought it might be a good time to provide a list of several collections I’ve enjoyed over the years. I’m not sure why, but with fall coming up, I feel like it is a good time for short stories. Perhaps it is because I am starting my final few classes of (probably) my final academic degree, and short story collections are excellent for busier times. You can focus on coursework, or work-work if your job gets busier this time of year, but still fit in some reading and try new stories. They are also great because you can pick them up and put them down easily without losing your place. You can slowly go through a collection over months or years, or read them all in a weekend. You may love some but not like others, but there always another new one on the next page. So here is a shoutout to an underappreciated form with several collections I enjoy.

This is “eight more” list because I posted “8 Short Story Collections” earlier last year. Feel free to look at that list as well.

Shadows of the New Sun book coverFirst, the collection I just started is Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe. I found this gem at my library’s annual book sale having never known it existed before. I am a big fan of Gene Wolfe and this collection features two short stories of his and stories written by other writers who were influenced or had personally known Gene Wolfe. Each story has a short description of how the author knew Gene and how he influenced their writing careers or personal lives. I’m only a few stories in, but several other authors I like have stories in this collection including Neil Gaiman, Joe Haldeman, and Timothy Zahn to name a few.

Neil GaimanSpeaking of Neil Gaiman, who has several collections of stories, he also had The Neil Gaiman Reader come out roughly a year ago which contains many of his shorter works and excerpts of several of his novels. It is a great collection especially for those who have not yet read his work and want to try it out.

Stories of Your LifeNext, and I’m sure I’ve recommended this before, is The Story of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. Chiang has become one of my favorite, recent science fiction writers. As far as I am aware, he only has two short fiction collections currently published, but I eagerly look forward to more of his work.

Philip K Dick Classic StoriesI feel somewhat obliged to add Philip K. Dick in this list as well since I’ve read several collections of short stories by him. Some are absolutely absurd and others fall more into classic pulp fiction, but many are fantastic and make you think of the world in a different light. For this one, I will choose The Eye of the Sybil and Other Classic Stories

Cathedral book coverNext is another author known more for his short fiction than his other work, Raymond Carver. Though I really like “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” which is the title story of a collection, I’ve already recommended that collection before, so I’m recommending the collection Cathedral whose title story is also a great read.

In the Garden of North American Martyrs book coverAlso known for his shorter form is Tobias Wolff, who is one of my favorite short story writers. I am recommending his collection In the Garden of North American Martyrs. I like almost every story by Wolff and the title story of this collection is definitely near the top of the list if I had to rank his stories in order.

Interpreter of Maladies book coverThe Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri is the next in the list. It has a been a long time since I’ve read this collection and my memory does not serve me well outside of the fact that it was a great read. I am even beginning to doubt I finished the entire collection but that only means I need to re-read it soon to better appreciate it.

The Best of Gene Wolfe Book CoverLastly, and returning to Gene Wolfe, is The Best of Gene Wolfe which is a great collection that exhibits many of his “best” works. I enjoyed most of these stories and it was definitely fun to read more of his work.

I hope that you give some of these a chance if you are not a regular short story reader. At the very least, I hope you go out and read a short story sometime soon. You can find many online for free, including my own which you can find here on my blog (I recommend Children of Changyang Mountain).

On Gene Wolfe

Gene WolfeI first discovered Gene Wolfe through one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, who wrote about Gene in a collection of nonfiction called A View From the Cheap Seats. I had not yet read any of Gene’s work when he passed away in 2019. His passing prompted me to finally read his work and I started with his more popular work The Book of the New SunIt was through this four book saga that I grew to love his writing. I later picked up a collection of short fiction title The Best of Gene Wolfe and I knew that he was going to become a favorite of mine.

His writing is unique in a way that seems to tell a story that is just a glimpse into a larger universe vastly different from our own (or perhaps in a very different time than our own). The Fifth Head of Cerberus is a great example of this and is a short story that can be found in the collection mentioned above or in other collections. Though this is something that I really enjoy about his writing, I can see how it could put others off of it because there are many instances where the reader may feel like they don’t know much of what is happening though the characters do because they are inhabitants of that universe. Much is inferred from his prose and perhaps that is one aspect that draws me to it. There is a mystery that can unravel the more attention to give it, but it will never quite reveal itself to you in its entirety.

As a gift to myself (as a reward for losing weight and getting healthier0, I recently purchased a Folio Society print of The Book of the New Sun which is a beautiful edition and includes an introduction by Neil Gaiman himself.

It’s a little difficult to discuss how his work has impacted me because, much like his stories, it touches on aspects that I am not overtly certain of myself. I don’t have any personal stories in relation to him or his work like other authors in this series. I simply enjoy his work. I wish I had known about him and his work earlier then perhaps I would have such stories. From what little I do know, he seemed like a down-to-earth guy who enjoyed life and sharing joy. I will likely learn much more about him as an author the more I delve into his stories. All I can really say is that I look forward to reading more of his work and likely rereading it for his work has aspects that I hope to one day instill in my own writing.

The Parable of the Sower

The Parable of the Sower book coverI have been meaning to read Octavia Butler for some time. She is an author who I have heard about from several sources and I finally got around to reading one of her books. I started with The Parable of the Sower. I had no idea what it was really about, and I’m sure if I had known, I would probably not have read it at this time. Though I really did enjoy the book despite my reasons for saying I would have put it off a bit longer.

The Parable of the Sower is basically a pre-apocalyptic novel. The events of the story show a fairly realistic degradation of society into the fairly popular apocalyptic scenarios we see today with such shows as The Walking Dead or Mad Max (they did make a new one) or what have you. I honestly envisioned the events of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road taking place a decade or two after this story. But this book isn’t all doom and gloom. It definitely doesn’t shy away from darker material, but uses it only in a realistic way. It doesn’t contain anything simply for shock value and it is overall a compelling read that is excellently written. I kept picking it up despite the need to decompress at times.

This book is part one of a duology titled The Books of Earthseed. Though we see the world slide into chaos through young Lauren’s eyes, we see a resilient character build a community around her beliefs that may shape the future of humanity. The story begins in 2024 and spans about 4 years. This book was published in 1993 when 2024 seemed a long way off. Now, here at the start of 2021, we are close enough that the events of the book seem near impossible (but not entirely, unfortunately). Though the dates within the book began as a solemn foretelling of a potential future, it will soon become a (hopefully) alternate timeline story of what may have been. A future I hope we all avoid. Except, of course, for the part where we have settlements on the moon and Mars.

The second book is titled The Parable of the Talents. I will not be reading the sequel right away for two reasons. The first is that this first book wraps up well and can be read as a standalone novel. The second is that I hope to read something a bit more uplifting before returning to this story. Again, I really did enjoy this book despite the subject matter. I don’t often read end-of-the-world type books though I have read a few and enjoyed them. This one was no exception. If anything, it has encouraged me to read more by Octavia Butler. Her novel Kindred is more well-known and I may try it some time this year.

If you are a fan of these types of books, such as Wanderers by Chuck Wendig or Stephen King’s The Stand, then you will likely enjoy this book as well. If you have never read Octavia Butler, like I had not until now, I suggest trying her books even if you don’t choose to start with this one. I look forward to reading more by her myself.

Happy Reading.

The Best of Gene Wolfe

The Best of Gene Wolfe Book CoverI began The Best of Gene Wolfe a few months ago thinking a book of short stories was the perfect way to keep reading habits while attending a graduate program. I enjoy short story collections and it was a great way to fit in some reading between coursework. This was also a great way to experience more of Wolfe’s work.

I first read Gene Wolfe at the beginning of the year when I read his series The Book of the New Sun, which may be his best known work. His writing is oddly compelling and you get the sense of an entire universe just beyond the words on the page. His writing is unique though I have compared it to writers such as Philip K Dick insofar as his stories leave you with things to think about. His writing, though science/speculative fiction, is incomparable from any I have read (unless I discover a new author whose work can be considered near Wolfe’s).

There are 31 stories in this collection taking up roughly 480 pages. A few run longer at around 40 pages, but most are about 10-15 pages. I enjoyed most of these stories. Some I absolutely loved while others I found a bit underwhelming. My favorite by far is “The Fifth Head of Cerberus” which was reminiscent of the New Sun series.

Each story contains an afterword, just a paragraph, where Gene discusses the story you just read and something about it like how he came up with the idea or how the story influenced his career. One I remember was simply him discussing a view alongside a road and that was one of the main prompts for the story. These afterwords are fun because they are little commentaries by the author that often add a little bit to the story itself even if it ends up being unrelated to the subject matter.

Overall, I enjoyed the collection and I actually read through it a little quicker than I typically do for short story collections of this length. Since this gave me more insight into Wolfe’s work, I feel I can say with more certainty that I am a fan and will continue to read more. If you have yet to discover Wolfe, this may be a great way to determine if you like his style.

Happy Reading.