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Attending DaedalusGene Wolfe, Artifice and the Reader$
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Peter Wright

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780853238188

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780853238188.001.0001

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‘The Last Thrilling Wonder Story’? Intergeneric Operations

‘The Last Thrilling Wonder Story’? Intergeneric Operations

(p.86) 6. ‘The Last Thrilling Wonder Story’? Intergeneric Operations
Attending Daedalus

Peter Wright


This chapter demonstrates how Wolfe disguises The Urth Cycle, a work of science fiction, as fantasy by recontextualizing genre conventions that encourage critical misreadings. It considers how the novels are designed in part to substantiate Wolfe's definition of science fantasy as ‘a science fiction story told with the outlook, the flavour of fantasy’ whilst constituting a slyly deceptive conflation of the two frequently discrete genres. Drawing on the work of Brian Attebery, Michael McClintock, Colin Greenland, and Carl Malmgren, it reads The Urth Cycle as a science fantasy about science fantasy. It frames the cycle as an historical megatext responding to, and embracing aspects of, the ‘dying sun’ tradition in science fiction. As such, it explores connections between The Urth Cycle and its literary antecedents: Wells’ The Time Machine, Hodgson's The Night Land, Smith's Zothique stories, and Vance's The Dying Earth. It assesses its analogical historicity and concludes that Wolfe's narrative is a means of encouraging the reader to reflect on how meaning is ascribed to a text as a consequence of its generic, or apparent generic, conventions. It reveals how that process of ascription can be manipulated to elicit conclusions contrary to those pertinent to the texts at hand.

Keywords:   Gene Wolfe, Urth Cycle, Genre, Dying sun, Dying earth, Science fantasy, Science fiction, Fantasy, Megatext

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