The Hero as Werwolf • 1975 • posthumanity SF short story by Gene Wolfe


Meta: isfdb. This SF short story by Gene Wolfe was published 1975 in Thomas Disch’s The New Improved Sun. I read it as part of the collection The Best of Gene Wolfe.


It the late 21st century, humanity has evolved into a master race with some people left behind. Those sorry, savage people have nothing to eat and so they went cannibalic. Protagonist Paul is on the hunt for a pair of masters when he meets a father with his nearly bestial but beautiful daughter. Later on, he proposes for marriage.


The setting nearly vanishes behind some harsh, nearly horror tropes involving lots of bloods and guts. Carefully read, a complete futuristic and evolved world building shines through with conscious animals, a terraformed moon, luminous trees, non-currency economy, superhuman powers versus bestial state.

I liked the story because of its strong human elements which where hidden behind the superficially cruel story – a kind of inverted „I am Legend“:  A father loves his daughter, although she is retarded, nearly a beast. And vice versa the savage daughter loving and rescuing her husband. It shows that love can overcome huge differences – a very Catholic subtext that shows in a lot of allegories in this short story. For example, Paul’s initial innocence when he sits with his knees together, and ending in Janey’s crying over Paul which resembles Mary Magdalen washing the feet.

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