(urth) Predictions Re: The Politics Of Gene Wolfe

Ryan Dunn ryan at liftingfaces.com
Wed Aug 1 11:15:51 PDT 2012


Thanks for the response. I just wanted to call out one bit...

YOU WROTE: "I'm very inclined to agree with you, but at the same time it seems valid to wonder exactly how self-aware on this point a man in his 80s can be."

I'm not sure if you have ever had the good fortune to hold a conversation with Mr. Wolfe, but as of last year, I found him to be the type of conversationalist that always to seem to be two steps ahead of you, ready with a quip, eager for an anecdote, anxious to counter point your point, in a wry, light-hearted, jovial manner.

And that LAUGH! Equal parts genuine and sinister; the type of laugh to comfort you at the same time it sets you on edge.

Not sure if any of that translates to acutely self-aware, but his opinions and outlook seems very grounded in relevant, present-day culture and not a paranoid Cold War outlook or anything to that extent.

Just wanted to add that piece of perspective. I would be curious to any others who have gotten to know Mr. Wolfe how they compare my assessment, or if I am speaking from the minority on the matter.


On Aug 1, 2012, at 2:04 PM, DAVID STOCKHOFF wrote:
> From: Ryan Dunn <ryan at liftingfaces.com>
> To: The Urth Mailing List <urth at lists.urth.net> 
> Sent: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 9:18 AM
> Subject: Re: (urth) Predictions Re: The Politics Of Gene Wolfe
> On Aug 1, 2012, at 8:55 AM, David Stockhoff <dstockhoff at verizon.net> wrote:
> >>> Sure, of course it was a lark. And yes, one could easily interpret each one as /half /true. Where does that get us?
> >>> 
> >>> As clarification, I didn't mean Wolfe /intended/ to predict
> >>> 
> >>> "what cranky, ill-informed old people will believe/fear/desire in 2012."
> >>> 
> >>> And yet he succeeded---in my estimation, by /more than/ half. That must mean something.
> >>> 
> >>> BTW, literacy paranoia has been in vogue in the US since at least the 1960s.
> >> Since a few posters were giving varying amounts of weight to these predictions and letting it color their impression of him, the place my observation was hoping to get us was actually out of such a lofty critique of what I took to be a half joke blip of Mr. Wolfe's musings.
> >> 
> >> ...ryan
> > Understood. But what's "lofty" about making an observation about the written word---or trying to make sense of another reader's observation?
> > 
> > One could easily write whole books of criticism about the paranoid style in Gene Wolfe, and in dystopian SF in general (as someone has already noted). I don't know what they would conclude, but I'd be interested in reading them.
> > 
> > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Paranoid_Style_in_American_Politics
> Dave,
> I was not inferring your critique was lofty, in case I gave you that impression. I was referring more to the earlier passion on this thread, and felt that we (as a collective of readers with a shared interest on a common mailing list) may have been taking his written word a bit seriously.
> My point is that he seems to be a bit flippant, half smiling, and not all together serious in these predictions. So when someone takes "a great interest in predictions and what they reveal," for instance, I would hope that Mr. Wolfe's five fingered prediction would have revealed that he is indeed a sly, shifty, elusive prankster, even when portending to dole out 25 year predictions.
> I got the vibe that it was not being interpreted with as light a hand as that, however. In fact, I got the impression they were used to support a feeling of disenchantment with him as a man, which may have gotten me riled a little bit. While he may write from an extreme, and detailed perspective on society, he does not seem at all to be a dystopian, right-wing loon who is increasingly using his prose to somehow push a conservative, anti-socialist agenda (which was also inferred on this and other threads recently).
> Hope that clarifies my points on this matter a little bit better.
> ...ryan
> Yes it does, thanks!
> Of course, in order to reach a conclusion that Wolfe was playing specifically with "right-wing loon"-ness, one must first agree that he came off a little "right-wing loon"-y. If you think he wasn't doing that, there is still that cast or quality to explain. I'm very inclined to agree with you, but at the same time it seems valid to wonder exactly how self-aware on this point a man in his 80s can be. 
> Ultimately, there's plenty of room between raising that question and suggesting a conscious agenda. And I see no reflection on the man himself---he's probably way more together than Heinlein was in his later years. Gwern may choose to speak on that point, or not. 
> In fact, the question tends to weaken the suggestion of an agenda, which I find quite un-Wolfe-like. Much more likely that he was not trying to be loon-y at all, in his own mind, just playing along in his provocative way. But people do get set in their mental pathways with age, and maybe these moments of candor can be revealing. As a frinstance, my dad is also in his eighties and still very liberal in outlook, but even he passes along silly emails that reflect a certain, er, something. (No, setting fires out West would not be a clever way for a terrorist to create terror. It would require a lot of work by a lot of people and they'd get caught. And so on.)
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