The Isaac Asimov Blunder That Led To Three New Gene Wolfe Stories

Illustration for article titled The Isaac Asimov Blunder That Led To Three New Gene Wolfe Stories

Most people, having a great honor dangled in their faces and then snatched away, would harbor some unproductive thoughts. Gene Wolfe, apparently, is not most people.


Over at File770, there's a hilariously complete version of a story I'd only seen the outlines of before. At the 1971 Nebula Awards ceremony, toastmaster Isaac Asimov read the wrong result for the short story award: instead of "No Award," the actual winner, Asimov announced the winner was Wolfe's story "The Island of Doctor Death And Other Stories." Wolfe got to bask in being a winner for just a few seconds, until someone corrected Asimov.

Wolfe himself explains what happened next:

A month or so after the banquet I was talking to Joe Hensley, and he joked that I should write "The Death of Doctor Island," saying that everyone felt so sorry for me that it was sure to win. I thought about that when I got home and decided to try, turning things inside out to achieve a different story.

That story did indeed win the Nebula, in 1974. But then Wolfe went on to write "The Doctor of Death Island" and "Death of the Island Doctor." The first three appear in the book The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories, but all four appear in The Wolfe Archipelago.

Read way more of the details over at File770.



Slightly off topic, but did anyone else have trouble reading the Book of the New Sun? A long time ago I got a huge volume of the first four books. I remember trying to read it several times, making it to the end once, and still not having any real idea what I just read. I also remember getting headaches a lot reading the book. I don't remember why I kept trying to read it, but I did.

I do remember hearing a story about how a magazine misheard the title of the fourth book when it was announced and referred to it as "The Citadel of the Otter". Gene Wolfe apparently was so amused he later used that title for another story.