(urth) The Distant Suns of Gene Wolfe

Daniel D Jones ddjones at riddlemaster.org
Fri Jun 1 18:11:39 PDT 2007

On Friday 01 June 2007 08:33, Recursive Loop wrote:
> Now, **this** is funny:
> "I recently asked a veteran New York editor whether Wolfe could find a
> publisher today if he were just coming along as a young writer. “Probably
> not,” she admitted. His writing is too religious, too difficult, and too
> strange."
> Heaven forbid that we request readers to actually **think**, now!
> Why didn't she just say "He's conservative, I'm a hip left-leaning NY
> publisher and I can't see past the end of my viewpoint!"

Because that has nothing to do with it.

The world today is very different from what it used to be.  Publishing today 
is a business, and solely a business.  Publishers publish books because they 
think they can sell enough of them to turn a profit.  Artistic considerations 
play little or no role in the decision of whom to publish.  There may be a 
few small exceptions out there, but they aren't significant in the publishing 

It's not an insult to Wolfe to say that Wolfe does not have mainstream appeal.  
Even with the fact that he's been publishing for years and has a loyal, 
devoted and vocal fan club, his books don't do particularly well from the 
perspective of a publisher's bottom line.  Without the reputation he's built 
over the years, his books would sell even fewer copies.  How many people here 
can honestly say they'd have bought a copy of The Wizard and The Knight if 
they'd never heard of Wolfe and stumbled upon a blurb on Amazon or seen the 
book sitting in a bookstore?  I think it's doubtful that I would have.

I suspect that, even among Wolfe's fans, very few would describe one of his 
books as a fun read.  It's an intense, rewarding and often illuminating 
experience, but it's seldom enjoyable in the same sense as reading, say, 
George R R Martin or even fluff like David Eddings.  And reading today 
competes with video games and reality television and Ultimate Fighting 
matches for attention.  

If you wish to lament what the editor's comments say about the world we live 
in, I'll add my voice to the chorus.  But if you want to pretend it isn't 
accurate because you dislike those implications, I'll have to disagree.

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