Too religious, too difficult

This article on Gene Wolfe summarizes the current problem of traditional SF/F publishing. If the man who is widely considered to be among the greatest living SF writers could not get published today, then it should be entirely apparent that there is a serious problem in the industry:

Lots of novel readers—from the highest brow to the lowest—nod politely when the science-fiction writer Gene Wolfe is mentioned. But even among science-fiction fans, one gets the sense that they’re saying, “Yes, yes, we know how good he is, but we’d rather talk about such bestselling authors as Neil Gaiman or Robert Jordan, Laurel Hamilton or Neal Stephenson.” As Glenn Reynolds, the inveterate science-fiction enthusiast and popular blogger of, recently wrote, “Gene Wolfe is a superb writer, but I’m not crazy about his storytelling.” I recently asked a veteran New York editor whether Wolfe could find a publisher today if he were just coming along as a young writer. “Probably not,” she admitted. His writing is too religious, too difficult, and too strange.

I think one could quite reasonably question if JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis, or HP Lovecraft could get published today. Tolkien might well be accounted too difficult, Lovecraft too strange, and Lewis is more openly religious than Wolfe. It’s fascinating, too, to note that Wolfe appears to have anticipated my own argument that the philosophical problem of evil and suffering is not a problem for Christianity.

It is a familiar charge of modern atheism that the existence of pain argues against the existence of God. “For some time it has seemed to me,” Wolfe insists, “that it would be even easier to maintain the position that pain proves or tends to prove God’s reality.”

Pain necessarily implies pleasure just as shadow implies light and evil implies good. The opposite of pain is not pleasure, but rather insensate nothingness, the gray, unfeeling goo of the no-believers.