Read Gene Wolfe!
“Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language alive today. Let me repeat that: Gene Wolfe is the greatest writer in the English language alive today! I mean it. Shakespeare was a better stylist, Melville was more important to American letters, and Charles Dickens had a defter hand at creating characters. But among living writers, there is nobody who can even approach Gene Wolfe for brilliance of prose, clarity of thought, and depth in meaning.” – Michael Swanwick
Here’s him talking about stuff:
I particularly recommend The Book of the New Sun series. But really, you can’t go wrong where Wolfe is concerned. (Click to read a more eloquent paean to, and recommendation of, Wolfe than I could hope to write. Excerpted below.)
“Most popular art tells us what we want to hear, appeases us, entertains us with cotton candy notions which go down easy and will never disturb our most unconscious and unexamined values, as well as our most dearly held prejudices. Wolfe forces us to look at the unthinkable. His work is never simply comforting, never simply amazing. It does that rare challenging thing: holds up a mirror and dares us to see ourselves in it. Under the Gee-whiz special effects of speculation, under the impressive virtuoso techniques, and still under the deep and rich and satisfying pleasures of a sublime fiction narrative, Wolfe is playing for higher stakes. He is daring us to examine our lives. Or do we think he is talking about dragons and aliens, witches and demons?
This is the ineffable shape of the hidden book in every Gene Wolfe Story. It is risky stuff, for like any true work of art it carries the promise of catharsis, and it hides the virus of change: the chance to enlarge ourselves. His work demands a response so different than tears or laughter, surprise or contemplation–it requires neither an audience or a critic. It requires a soul reaction.
This is why I believe that his work, while resembling other fictions of various genres and often crazy quilting a pastiche of tried and true forms, is a new thing in and of itself. He is creating original experiences you cannot get in any other medium while masquerading under the guise of speculative fiction.”