[bksvol-discuss] OT: Jack Chalker, science fiction author, dies

  • From: Cindy <popularplace@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: bookshare-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, bksvol-discuss@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2005 11:35:52 -0800 (PST)

The following obit was sent to me by someone who
thought those of you who are science-fiction fans
might find it interesting. Three of his books are in
our collection: Downtiming the Night Side, Four Lords
of the Diamond, and A War of Shadows. From reading
this obit, it sounds as if some of the others, if
obrtainable, might be good additions to the

> "In person, in his prime, Chalker was a burly,
> gemütlich individual easily mistaken for a redneck
by those insufficiently familiar with the complicated
richness of mid-American life a few decades ago."
>  From The Independent ~
> Prolific author of sci-fi 'escape' fiction [died]
> 18 February 2005

> Until he became too ill to travel, Jack Chalker
> remained a
> figure of high visibility in the American
> science-fiction
> world. Manoeuvring his powered wheelchair into
> elevators
> with a grimace and a grin, he endured with
> good-humour and
> in public the exact slings and arrows of our mortal
> coil
> that his many heroes and heroines managed to escape,
> though
> never quite scot-free.
> They always paid to get free, but the ordeals to
> which
> Chalker submitted them had their own romantic
> allure. In the
> end, it was almost always fun to imagine being a
> Chalker
> protagonist; he was perhaps the most successful (and
> sophisticated) author of escape fiction the
> science-fiction
> field had ever seen.
> Jack Laurence Chalker was born and grew up in
> Baltimore,
> Maryland, and was educated there, taking a BS from
> Towson
> State College and a graduate degree from Johns
> Hopkins
> University. He spent the rest of his life in touch
> with
> these roots, working at first as a lecturer in
> history at
> high school and college level, with stints at the
> Smithsonian Institution in nearby Washington, DC.
> He was early active as a science-fiction fan, and
> founded
> the Mirage Press (which still exists) in order to
> publish
> various non-fiction works on the genre, including
> The
> Necronomicon (1967) on H.P. Lovecraft; An Informal
> Biography
> of Scrooge McDuck (1974), for which he enlisted the
> help of
> the then unknown Carl Barks, who had anonymously
> created,
> and subsequently both scripted and drew, the
> Disney-owned
> McDuck; and most importantly the various editions of
> The
> Science-Fantasy Publishers: a bibliographical and
> critical
> history (1991 onwards).
> This massive enterprise in hands-on scholarship
> gives an
> indispensable insight into the depth and complexity
> of the
> fan subculture which, only half-secretly, shaped the
> genre
> of science fiction between 1945 and 1960.
>  From 1976 on, however, Chalker worked primarily as
> a
> novelist, publishing some 65 books before illness
> stopped
> him in 2003. Many of these volumes were in fact
> parts of
> extremely long single novels broken into marketable
> portions
> by his publishers, and it is hard to say how many
> individual
> tales he told. In all, he published nine
> multi-volume
> series, of which the first and longest-lasting, the
> Well of
> Souls sequence published between 1977 and 2000, was
> the
> finest, and probably the most successful with his
> readers,
> with whom he maintained close ties through fanzines,
> convention appearances and websites; the sequence
> was
> published in mass paperback format. From the first,
> as Well
> of Souls demonstrates, Chalker focused his energies
> on the
> large non-"literary" readership base, which
> reciprocated his
> loyalty, for many of his books remain in print,
> despite
> quarrels with various publishers.
> The heart of Well of Souls, and of his other
> sequences, is
> transformation. Typically a human being - possibly
> on the
> run, possibly quite badly overweight or socially
> inept -
> will find himself or herself cast into an
> otherworld,
> transformed into a new body, frequently naked. This
> world
> will be governed according to seemingly arbitrary
> rules by
> godlike figures, not necessarily seen. After many
> tribulations, some of them sexually arousing, the
> protagonist will work out the rules of the game, and
> escape - into the next volume, or some happy vale.
> Later sequences may have repeated this pattern until
> it
> became formulaic; but Chalker series from the 1970s
> and
> 1980s convey their messages of release with an
> elated
> intensity.
> Chalker's best novels are probably two or three
> singletons
> from his early years. The most sustained of these is
> Dancers
> in the Afterglow (1978), set on a colony planet
> where the
> enabling transformations are forms of torture, and
> death
> comes as the end. Sadly, this novel and two other
> fine
> singletons, A Jungle of Stars (1976) and The Web of
> the
> Chozen (1978), have been long out of print.
> In person, in his prime, Chalker was a burly,
> gemütlich
> individual easily mistaken for a redneck by those
> insufficiently familiar with the complicated
> richness of
> mid-American life a few decades ago. He was a
> Kentucky
> Colonel, an Honorary Mayor of Baton Rouge, a life
> member of
> the Sierra Club, and a Democrat. Like the 1960s fan
> culture
> he served so well, he was deeply American.
> John Clute

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