Neil Gaiman presents Gene Wolfe with the first Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Fuller Award, March 2012

Prolific grand master science fiction novelist Gene Rodman Wolfe has died at the age of 87, after a long fight against cardiovascular disease.  His publisher Tor notes that he was a “beloved icon” of the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre, producing more than 30 books since his first was published in 1970.  Among his works is “The Book of the New Sun” series, ranked by a 1998 reader poll in Locus Magazine as the third-best fantasy novel published before 1990 (with series considered as single entries), beaten only by The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Wolfe had a talent for drawing on his varied life experiences for his deeply thoughtful, intelligent, and innovative stories.  He was born in Brooklyn, had polio as a small child, was educated in Texas, and was drafted into the service of his country during the Korean War. When he returned to the States, he earned his degree in Industrial Engineering, and although he eventually chose to write full-time, his most famous professional engineering achievement was a contribution to the design of the machine used to make Pringles potato chips.

Among his many awards, The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named him its 29th SFWA Grand Master in December 2012.  His work also earned him two Nebula Awards, six Locus Awards, a Campbell Award, and four World Fantasy Awards, plus nominations for sixteen additional Nebulas and eight Hugos.  Held in high esteem by fellow authors, including Neil Gaiman and Harlan Ellison,  perhaps the quintessential words of praise came from Ursula K. Le Guin, who said, “Wolfe is our (Herman) Melville.”

Gene Wolfe’s full bibliography, including poems, essays, and various translations of his works, can be accessed here.


Ellen McMicking
Ellen McMicking