Posted 26 July:
Note: Return e-mail addresses will be posted only if you include it in your closing, or your subject matter specifically requests some sort of response; otherwise it will be omitted. Letters may be edited for length.
Note: a daily journal by Odyssey Workshop student Sarah Totton is online at http://www.geocities.com/bronymor/odyssey.html. Gene Wolfe's participation is described beginning on Day 29.
Support for Gene Wolfe
Dear Locus ,
I taught at the Odyssey workshop. Once. Gene is far far milder, much much more gentlemanly, far far less determinedly confrontational and merciless than I was ... than I would be. Jeanne Cavelos is a dear woman, and a helluva editor, but I got the distinct impression during my term there, that she was nervous about how "tough" I would be on the gang. And there were those whose noses swung out of joint; though, overall, all but a few of the students have told me then, and in years since that it was a "good week" for them. Yet we had one student who was a poseur, a blowhard who lied about himself and his background, and who got caught out by me on my first evening there, even before my week of teaching started. He bolted, literally fled in the night, never returned, and no one felt badly about it.
But this brouhaha with Gene is unconscionable. Jeanne should not have let him leave, should not have let the little gargoyles take command of the asylum. That Gene opted to do so, to spare Jeanne any embarrassment or hard choices, is further testament to his chivalry and decency. I would have dragged the little fuckers out of their mosquito-infested nests at midnight and browbeaten them into a gelatinous gestalt that understood a GOOD workshop is not one that lets you indulge your delicate amateur umbrages, but one that slaps you around, treats you like an adult, honors what potential you have, gives you your money's worth, does not play to your country-hick paranoias and uneducated ruminations/mythology about what it takes to be a professional, gives you a sense of what true (and truly talented) professionals think of your self-aggrandizing amateur efforts.
This is infamous. I'm calling Gene posthaste. Spread the word; get the straight stuff out there, on website, on Odyssey site, to the newszines.
Dear Locus Online,
Obviously, it's a little hard to comment on this without hearing both sides of the story, but if the matter is as Gene reports it, then it's hard to feel a great deal of sympathy for the students involved.
Gene says: "I was said to have judged manuscripts in accordance with my own beliefs."
What's going to happen when the harsh day dawns and Dozois, Van Gelder and company judge submissions from these students in accordance with their own beliefs? Are we going to see a wave of aspiring writers claiming that editors have unfairly rejected them? Are we going to see, say, Asimov's getting sued because they turned someone down?
I don't know how Odyssey is organized, but usually you go to a workshop to grit your teeth and learn from the best, not to have your fragile ego boosted. It's a tough industry I should know, I make my living from it. If aspiring writers can't take the heat at this stage, then better they bail out now and take up an alternative career. I've noticed, from the various message boards throughout the genre, that this is something that a number of people don't seem prepared to hear. It is, alas, the cold reality and if people won't face it, then they're doomed to a short and embittered life in the field, I'm afraid.
Dear Locus Online,
I have had the extreme privilege to be critiqued by Gene Wolfe, and found him to be incisive, knowledgeable, and fair, but most of all, real. If he likes something he says so, and his praise is unstinting. If he doesn't like something he says so, and gives excellent reasons why. He does not attack, or in any way make a writer sorry to have submitted that particular story. If some of the attendees were unhappy that all stories were not being critiqued equally, it's possible they were not ready for a workshop at this level. All stories are not equal. And damned few workshop instructors are Gene Wolfe's equal.
Scorpius Digital Publishing - http://scorpiusdigital.com/
New Albion Press - http://newalbionpress.com/
Crow Street Press - http://crowstreetpress.com/
Dear Locus ,
I was saddened to read of Mr. Wolfe's treatment at the Odyssey Workshop. As a teacher of writing myself, I was appalled that his students were so thin-skinned that they could not accept the criticism of so talented and accomplished a writer. It is unfortunate that they were able to force him to leave. It was a great honor to have Mr. Wolfe read their manuscripts; clearly they were not worthy of his sincere efforts to improve their craft.
I hope you will pass on to Mr. Wolfe my support (even of the comment, "Come on!," which to me is the best response for the entire brouhaha). He deserved better.
Paula A. Berman
To Gene Wolfe & To All The Writers Who Teach--,
Teaching has to be the most thankless job on the planet. Please don't let one bad egg set you back. You're the expert. You're the published author. You're the one getting paid to have an opinion, and that opinion counts more than you can ever imagine. Even if your words hurt, good students will recognize the pain of the crucible. You make us better. You make us stronger. You pass along the gift of the craft.
Please don't ever stop. We need you. Speculative fiction needs you.
Dear Locus Online,
I'm sure, from the support and outrage I've seen amongst my friends and acquaintances, that you've received several letters showing support for Gene Wolfe and condemnation for the chuckleheaded students at the Odyssey workshop who took the chance of a lifetime and threw it into the toilet.
I just wanted to add one more voice to what I hope is a deafening chorus from everyone in the SF community who has read Mr. Wolfe's work, seen him speak, had the chance to shake the man's hand. This is the kind of behavior, this collective tantrum gone unchecked by the Odyssey administration, this pouty self-serving, shortsighted, senseless show of juvenilia directed so spitefully at one of our genre's greats, sickens and saddens me. Mr. Wolfe, you surely deserved better than you got, and we barely deserve what you've given. To those students -- sadly few if Mr. Wolfe's list is complete -- who stood by the man while he was faced with this indignity: Good on you.
May your careers flourish and your joy in the craft remain ever hearty. To those students who didn't: You degraded one of our best and brightest for a few moments of smug, unwarranted self-esteem. I'd keep your involvement in this to yourself and pray nobody ever finds out who you are. Wolfe has friends who bite.
Similar support for Gene Wolfe was received from Ron Horsley, Mark Walsh, Gary A. Braunbeck, Steve Dooner, and James A. Hartley.
Dear Locus Online,
The story Christine Dinga is referring to seems to me to be "Divine Madness" by Roger Zelazny, which begins:
He blew smoke through the cigarette and it grew longer.
I first read it in the Terry Carr anthology New Worlds of Fantasy. Though the story is longer than two pages, the plot is identical.
He glanced at the clock and realized that its hands were moving backwards.
The clock told him it was 10:33, going on 10:32 in the P.M.
Then came the thing like despair, for he knew there was not a thing he could do about it. He was trapped, moving in reverse through the sequence of actions past.
Science Fiction Weekly
SCI FI Magazine