In his worldwide hit “American Pie” from 1971 singer and songwriter Don McLean sang of “the day the music died”, refering to the death of rock’n’roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa, in 1959.
April 19th, 2019 could justly be called “the day science fiction died”. With the passing of Gene Wolfe the last of a great influential generation of science fiction writers born in the 1920ies and 1930ies has gone and a founding and shaping era of the genre has finally ended.
The last decade has seen the death of a number of great science fiction writers, among them Brian W. Aldiss, J.G. Ballard, Thomas M. Disch and Ursula K. LeGuin. Gene Wolfe was, in my humble opinion, the greatest of them all, a subtle and refined artist that I admire like no other writer in science fiction and fantasy.
Gene was what you call a writer’s writer, far too little know to a wider audience but revered by a devoted circle of readers and, even more, by his peers who may learn for decades to come from the literary skills that he displayed in his two most important masterpieces, The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972) and the four volume The Book of the New Sun (1980-1983).
It will be hard to fill the gap that these writers and especially Gene Wolfe have left. The world of imaginative fiction is poorer without him.