Wolfe's comments from the Introduction to Storeys from the Old Hotel

"In 1982, Ed Bryant, Michael Bishop, and I taught a three-week course in science fiction and fantasy writing at Portland State University's Haystack Summer Program in the Arts. We had a grand total of four students, but I'm happy to say that one of the four, David Zindell, is rapidly becoming a very well-known author. During my week, I did the exercises I assigned to the doughty four. One was to write a science-fiction story about a blocked writer; 'Alphabet' was my own homework."


A being stranded on a primitive alien planet talks about writing, addressing an indigenous being he considers a pet. He humours the pet as it develops simple notions of alphabetic representation. He dispiritedly takes his own life, but it is apparent that the pet is more intelligent and thoughtful than he gave it credit, and it expects to use its alphabetic understanding to achieve great things.


  • The pet seems analogous with primitive humanity. The presence of a snake and the offer of a red fruit suggest a distorted Eden: the being has set the pet a poor example of how to use power.

Unresolved Questions

  • What does the being mean when he refers to "his love of the myriad others who had been his brother-sisters, his thoughts of Koneel, the circular marching of joy"?
  • What is the "pink flaw" that has stranded him on the planet? Perhaps some kind "rip in the fabric" of space-time?

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