Gene Wolfe (1931-2019)

Grand Master Gene Wolfe, 87, died April 14, 2019 after a long struggle with heart disease. Wolfe was famed for his ambitious, challenging, and enthralling novels and stories, most famously the Book of the New Sun series.

Gene Rodman Wolfe was born May 7, 1931 in Brooklyn NY and grew up in Texas, where he attended Texas A&M and the University of Houston, graduating from the latter in 1956 with a BS in mechanical engineering. (His most famous engineering feat is helping to create the machine that makes Pringles potato chips.) Wolfe served in the US Army in Korea from 1952-54 and received the Combat Infantry Badge, was a project engineer for Procter and Gamble from 1956-72, and a senior editor of Plant Engineering from 1972-84, when he left to become a full-time writer. He lived in Barrington IL with his family until relocating to Peoria IL in 2013.

Wolfe’s first published story was “The Case of the Vanishing Ghost” (1951) in student magazine The Commentator (1951). His first professionally published story was “The Dead Man” for erotica magazine Sir (1965), and most of his early SF stories appeared in the Orbit anthology series. He went on to publish scores of stories in magazines and anthologies, notably Nebula Award winner and Hugo Award finalist “The Death of Doctor Island” (1973; Nebula Awards finalists “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” (1970), “Against the Lafayette Escadrille” (1972), “How I Lost the Second World War and Helped Turn Back the German Invasion”, “The Eyeflash Miracles” (1976), “War Beneath the Tree” (1979), and “A Cabin on the Coast” (1984); Hugo Award finalists “The Woman the Unicorn Loved” (1981) and “No Planets Strike” (1997);  Hugo and Nebula Award finalists “The Fifth Head of Cerberus” (1972), “Seven American Nights” (1978), and “Memorare” (2007); World Fantasy Award finalists “In the House of Gingerbread” (1987) and “Golden City Far” (2004); and Sturgeon Award finalist “The Lost Pilgrim” (2004). His stories have been collected in many volumes, including The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories (1980), World Fantasy Award winner Storeys from the Old Hotel (1988), Endangered Species (1989), Castle of Days (1992), Strange Travelers (2002), Innocents Aboard (2004), Starwater Strains (2005), and The Best of Gene Wolfe (2009).

Wolfe began publishing novels in 1970 with Operation Ares. His most ambitious and acclaimed works are the 12 books and assorted stories that take place in the Urth universe: the Book of the New Sun sequence (World Fantasy Award winner The Shadow of the Torturer, 1980; Nebula Award winner The Claw of the Conciliator, 1981; The Sword of the Lictor, 1981; John W. Campbell Memorial Award winner The Citadel of the Autarch, 1982; and coda The Urth of the New Sun, 1987); the Book of the Long Sun (Nightside the Long Sun, 1993; Lake of the Long Sun, Tor 1994l; Caldé of the Long Sun, 1994; and Exodus from the Long Sun, 1996), and sequel trilogy Book of the Short Sun (On Blue’s Waters, 1999; In Green’s Jungles, 2000; and Return to the Whorl, 2001).

Other books include The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972); Peace (1975); The Devil in a Forest (1976); Latro books Soldier of the Mist (1986), Soldier of Arete (1989), and Soldier of Sidon (2006); Free Live Free (1984); There Are Doors (1988); Castleview (1990), Pandora by Holly Hollander (1990); The Wizard Knight duology, The Knight (2004) and The Wizard (2004); Pirate Freedom (2007); An Evil Guest (2008); The Sorcerer’s House (2010); Home Fires (2011); World Fantasy Award nominee The Land Across (2013); and A Borrowed Man (2015).

Wolfe was honored with a World Fantasy Life Achievement Award in 1996, was made a living inductee of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007, and was named the 29th SFWA Grand Master in 2012. He married Rosemary Frances Dietsch in 1956; she predeceased him in 2013. His son Roy also predeceased him. Wolfe is survived by two daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

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