[A version of the following appeared as the introduction to The Very Best of Gene Wolfe from PS Publishing in 2011.—the eds.]
Once there was a boy named Gene Wolfe who loved to read, who was sick fairly often, whose mother read to him and with him. Then the boy grew up and was drafted into the army and was sent to fight in a war.
It’s a cliché in our culture to say that while Vietnam veterans suffered on TV and came back to America and dealt with their demons very publicly, the Korean war veterans returned and went into the gray ranks of 1950s commerce and started families and didn’t say much about what had happened to them. Wolfe both fits and doesn’t fit this image. He did return home to live an outwardly conventional life, but his fiction, which is a kind of speaking out, has often been very concerned with war and is particularly good at describing prolonged murky bitter little wars; they recur in many of his novels, including The Book of the New Sun, The Book of the Long Sun, and The Book of the Short Sun, where the depiction of war and the battlefield in the aftermath is particularly intense and horrible. So the matter has remained with him throughout his career.