John Thomas Sladek
|John Thomas Sladek|
15 December 1937|
Waverly, Iowa, United States
|Died||10 March 2000
Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States
Life and work
Born in Waverly, Iowa in 1937, Sladek was in England in the 1960s for the New Wave movement and published his first story in New Worlds. His first science fiction novel, published in London by Gollancz as The Reproductive System and in the United States as Mechasm, dealt with a project to build machines that build copies of themselves, a process that gets out of hand and threatens to destroy humanity. In The Müller-Fokker Effect, an attempt to preserve human personality on tape likewise goes awry, giving the author a chance to satirize big business, big religion, superpatriotism, and men's magazines, among other things. Roderick and Roderick at Random offer the traditional satirical approach of looking at the world through the eyes of an innocent, in this case a robot. Sladek revisited robots from a darker point of view in the BSFA Award winning novel Tik-Tok, featuring a sociopathic robot who lacks any moral "asimov circuits", and Bugs, a wide-ranging satire in which a hapless technical writer (a job Sladek held for many years) helps to create a robot who quickly goes insane.
Sladek was also known for his parodies of other science fiction writers, such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Cordwainer Smith. These were collected in The Steam-Driven Boy and other Strangers (1973).
A strict materialist, Sladek subjected dubious science and the occult to merciless scrutiny in The New Apocrypha. Under the pseudonym of "James Vogh", Sladek wrote Arachne Rising, which purports to be a nonfiction account of a thirteenth sign of the zodiac suppressed by the scientific establishment, in an attempt to demonstrate that people will believe anything. In the 1960s he also co-wrote two pseudonymous novels with his friend Thomas M. Disch, the Gothic The House that Fear Built (1966; as "Cassandra Knye") and the satirical thriller Black Alice (1968; as "Thom Demijohn").
Another of Sladek's notable parodies is of the anti-Stratfordian citation of the hapax legomenon in Love's Labour's Lost "honorificabilitudinitatibus" as an anagram of hi ludi, F. Baconis nati, tuiti orbi, Latin for "these plays, F. Bacon's offspring, are preserved for the world", "proving" that Francis Bacon wrote the play. Sladek noted that "honorificabilitudinitatibus" was also an anagram for I, B. Ionsonii, uurit [writ] a lift'd batch, thus "proving" that Shakespeare's works were written by Ben Jonson.
Science fiction novels
- The Reproductive System (a.k.a. Mechasm) (1968);
- The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970);
- Roderick (1980);
- Roderick at Random (1983) (the Roderick series was also published in a three-volume edition with different volume divisions, and both have been reprinted together in one volume by Overlook Press);
- Tik-Tok (1983), winner of the British Science Fiction Association Best Novel award in 1984;
- Love Among the Xoids (1984);
- Bugs (1989);
- Blood and Gingerbread (1990);
- Wholly Smokes (2003).
Science fiction collections
- The Steam-Driven Boy and other Strangers (1973)
- Keep the Giraffe Burning (1977)
- The Best of John Sladek (1981)
- Alien Accounts (1982)
- The Lunatics of Terra (1984)
- The Book of Clues (1984)
- Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek, edited by David Langford (2002).
Selected short stories
Mystery novels and stories
- "By an Unknown Hand", the first story featuring the detective Thackeray Phin, which was awarded the first prize in The Times Detective Story Competition in 1972, and published in The Times Anthology of Detective Stories (now included in the collection Maps, edited by David Langford (2002));
- Black Aura (1974), a Phin novel;
- "It Takes Your Breath Away", a Phin short story, originally printed in theatre programmes for a London play, 1974 (now included in Maps);
- Invisible Green (1977) the second Phin novel. Both Phin novels are locked room mysteries.
- The New Apocrypha: a Guide to Strange Science and Occult Beliefs Stein and Day (1973)
- Arachne Rising: The Search for the Thirteenth Sign of the Zodiac (1977) (as James Vogh)
- The Cosmic Factor (1978) (as James Vogh)
- Judgement of Jupiter (1980) (as Richard A. Tilms)
- Clute and Nicholls 1995, pp. 1113.
- Reginald 1992, p. 905.
- Clute 1995, p. 186.
- Clute and Nicholls 1995, pp. 1114.
- Clute, John (1995). Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia. London, New York, Stuttgart: Dorling Kindersley. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-7513-0202-8.
- Clute, John; Peter Nicholls (1993 (2nd ed. 1995)). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 1386. ISBN 978-0-312-13486-0.
- Reginald, Robert (1992). Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, 1975-1991. Detroit, Washington DC, London: Gale Research, Inc. p. 1512. ISBN 978-0-8103-1825-0.
- Stephensen-Payne, Phil; Chris Drumm (1998). John T. Sladek Steam-Driven Satirist. Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader. ISBN 1-871133-50-5.
- An interview with John Sladek
- Guardian newspaper obituary
- John Sladek at Ansible Editions
- John Sladek at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database