Appreciation #7

“Gene Wolfe” by Robin Wyatt Dunn



“Cry Wolfe”

Gene Wolfe, the old fat man, we’ll sing for him—though it be wrong.

How many men will write the etymology of their own name and admit what it makes them? (Wolfe did in his story “Wolfer”).

Gene Wolfe fought in the Korean War, helping the pedophiles who run the United States Government get little children to eat, and all it taught him was “you need to keep shooting.”

Still, he is one of our best writers. Like the Russian writers, who all come out of the Caucasus, feasting on human flesh, and ready to spill blood onto the page.

Though he is a conservative, honored by some of the most conservative bodies here in North America, the golden fascists of the Science Fiction Writers of America—shouldn’t he be honored more greatly, and given the same laurels as Barry Obama?

I love Gene Wolfe; I’ve written about my love for him before, in a piece for Black Heart Magazine, which they later deleted, without comment. I only said I wanted to kiss him on the mouth.

Our Wolfe is howling, and we cannot know why.

Though he began on territory similar to the alt-right “Sad Puppies,” his first novel (he admits himself) prenticework attacking liberals in government, he matured in his work to be one of the few American writers, as David Lynch is one of the few American filmmakers, to use surrealism in his mainstream narrative work, without a second thought, without irony, without compunction, to find the truth.

In his search for the truth, like Kurosawa, he was forced to use dreams. Unlike Kurosawa, there is a bloody spirit in Wolfe, always hunting fresh meat, wherever he may find it.

Today it strikes me that honoring writers is a very tedious business, but this is only because I am a writer longing for honor. Perhaps I should have been killing more children in Asia.

What does it mean that we have Wolfe? Grand Master of Science Fiction: ensconced! Ennobled! Beloved. And we do love him. So much.

Wolfe is not prepared for the end of America; he is sentimental. He shoveled the corpses into its maw, and in his fiction, like all great American writers, he examined the psyche of the psychopath, in Severian from The Urth of the New Sun, in Patera Silk (another child eater) of The Book of the Long Sun, and he also sought and found the little psychopath lurking inside all of us, only awaiting the right circumstances to bring it out.

Like Asimov, Wolfe is a humanist. Unlike Asimov, Wolfe understands how monstrous a thing that is.
Robin Dunn’s last story for us was “Travelogue.” Find his books here.

Four More Tournament Selections


The #2 Bracket Seeds

These four literary giants are very different from one another in style, voice, background, and ideology. What they have in common is the expression of American striving.

scott and zelda

A.)  F. Scott Fitzgerald. The writer as myth. The most glamorous of all literary stars, Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the American Dream and lived it. With Fitzgerald the case to be made is why he isn’t a #1 seed. For two reasons. First, he didn’t influence and express the American voice to the same extent as our first four tourney candidates. Nobody talks like Fitzgerald or writes like him. Being the best means being unique– and he’s the best American writer, the best stylist, if not the most important. Second, Fitzgerald has never been as big on a world scale as the others. Other cultures never quite “got” him– a sign of how truly American Fitzgerald is. Still, he’s never been more appreciated– the artistic failure of the most recent “Gatsby” movie notwithstanding. Fitzgerald’s works– all his works– contain special magic, part of his uniquely American vision, which can’t be adequately translated to more superficial vehicles like movies and television.

Ayn Rand
B.) Ayn Rand. The literary world for seventy years has refused to acknowledge this person, but it’s like trying to ignore the sun or the moon. Her influence on America is bigger than what has become quite a tiny literary world. Rand’s ideas and analysis are the world we live in now. America, with its oversized strengths and flaws, its egoism and materialism, is a Randian world. If we as advocates of literature ask literature to be a living part of the civilization, a necessary part of the argument, then Ayn Rand, more than any American writer, past or present, fulfills that role. The Reagan era took its ideas from her. The Tea Party of more recent years was part Jefferson, part Jesus, and part Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged alone sells half-a-million copies a year. Added note for the p.c. crowd: Ayn Rand was a feminist before there was feminism.

But, the writing? What about the writing? Despite the ostensible logic she claimed to express, Ayn Rand’s novels– even their ideas– are illusion. Her books are very much creative works of art. Passionate works, which is why they appeal to so many individuals. Flawed Atlas Shrugged is one of the most artistically ambitious American novels ever written. Her earlier masterwork The Fountainhead is one of the most accomplished– also one of the most overlooked, because the extreme ideology in the later novel infuriates so many establishment intellectuals, never more than in the present time. (New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul put Rand’s novels at the top of her “Hate Reading” list.)

I’ll address Ayn Rand and her work further in a separate post.

Toni-Morrison 2
C.) Toni Morrison.  Did we include Toni Morrison as a #2 seed in the brackets to confound skeptics on both the Left and the Right? Perhaps. Toni Morrison was an essential writer to include in the tourney, not for America Future, but for America NOW.

Morrison allows us to bring American literature to its varied present while at the same time strengthening its tie to the past. Morrison has a unique voice– a big, loud, American voice– which at the same time is inextricably linked to founding American authors like Herman Melville and Harriet Beecher Stowe. If Ayn Rand’s viewpoint is part of the contemporary American argument, then so is Morrison’s. Her emergence as an author marked recognition of what had always been present; the contribution to American letters– to the creation of a unique American literature– of the African-American voice.

Our literature is NOT simply a transplant of European sensibilities onto this continent, but a fusion of many influences, many voices. From the nation’s beginnings, the black voice, which includes African folk tales, black music, black humor, has been an underground current seeping into other currents. A voice which was absorbed and changed itself by other voices. Those writers influenced by the black experience of America range from Joel Chandler to Carson McCullers to William Faulkner to the Beats. To even our verbose tourney friend Norman Mailer.

Here in this country, in this event, there’s no “white” literature or “black” literature, or this division or that one. There’s only American literature. One of the goals of the Tournament is to show that.

Besides, Toni Morrison isn’t just a renowned novelist. She’s also a dominating essayist, and has written the libretto for an opera– “Margaret Garner”– which is quite good.

Kerouac w cigarette talking

D.) Jack Kerouac. As dynamic a persona, as mythic a person, and as American a voice as anyone. On the Road, his most influential book, is quintessentially American. As much as any work of literature, it captures and defines this country, which has always, always, been about the open road– the impulse toward freedom, the need to travel ever farther. Where, we’re not always sure. Fitzgerald called it a green light. Kerouac expressed the driving and striving on a more visceral level.

We at New Pop Lit believe in the American experiment– in Gatsby’s “green light.”


Fun Pop Poetry #26


“Americans” by Ellsworth B. Smith

America in armed camps
We say to that, “No thanks!”
We’ll pitch our tent between them,
Can love ’em or can leave ’em;

We treat each person just the same
Was once the American dream
to be color-blind and free
To fearlessly have your honest say,
open to all you see;

Now hysteria rules the day
Hot-head crowds do stomp and bray
Shutting down displeasing speech
They fill the streets with clamor loud
Good will dismissed;
We’d like to flee to closest cloud!

Call us idealistic
Tell us we’re naive
to think we’re all one nation,
black, white, red or green,
Doesn’t make us racist
(or sexist, phobic
Despite what Khmer boys
trapped in ideology
would try with schooled minds to believe;

America the beautiful,
America the free;
Let’s get beyond our different flaws
Each one of us with unique cause
And say with ONE voice united, strong:
“Can’t we all just get along?”

(Send your rhymin’ or stylin’ poems to

Fun Pop Poetry #25


“Hallelujah Trail” by David Lohrey

People brag about the religious experiences.
They feel something, they tell us,
When they’re taking a crap. But
They won’t go to church.

Baseball, they say, is a kind of religion.
They are believers. Some are truer
Than others; they tell us that, too.
Why can’t they just use the toilet?

Others like to fornicate in the pews.
They’re in search of religion, they
Tell us. They don’t find it when
Praying, but they are true believers.
Call them devout. Their theatre
Is the Broadway musical. The priest:
Al Jolson. Last year: Bette Midler.
Now: Lady Gaga.

They’re gamblers. They don’t like
Religion, they tell us. Spirituality,
Yes, that. They’re very spiritual,
Especially when their stocks
Are rising. They’re very spiritual
But they love money.

They don’t like the institution. They
Like to sleep around, too. They’re
Against marriage, but they’re
Into true love. They prefer it free
Since it’s so valuable. If they
Can’t have it, they’ll take it.
They’ll give it away, often
To the highest bidder.
This generation of malcontents and
Rebels will say anything to feel better.
They’d learn to play the xylophone if they
Could play stoned. They’re stumbling
Through grad school and got low marks
In 3rd grade. They’re catching up
Now but never studied Latin.

They walk around with their
Mouths hanging open.
They complain a lot, especially
When their coffee isn’t hot.
They pride themselves on their
Needs. When they’re passed over
At the audition, they storm out,
Cursing. They’ll never sing again.

They threaten now to take
Their grievances to the street.
It’s high noon. The kids without a future
Hope to be noticed. The entire world
Is like Schwab’s Drug Store.
Maybe they’ll be seen crying at
The counter and be cast as
Zombies in next year’s
Blockbuster. They have lots of
Experience. They can play the part.
All they have to do is look



(Send your provocative and/or fun poetry to