Jack L. Chalker

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Jack Laurence Chalker
Jack L Chalker.jpg
Chalker in 2003
Born(1944-12-17)December 17, 1944
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
DiedFebruary 11, 2005(2005-02-11) (aged 60)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
EducationTowson University
Johns Hopkins University
OccupationScience fiction author, writer
Spouse(s)Eva C. Whitley

Jack Laurence Chalker (December 17, 1944 – February 11, 2005) was an American science fiction author. Chalker was also a Baltimore City Schools history teacher in Maryland for 12 years, retiring during 1978 to write full-time. He also was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.

Career and family life[edit]

Chalker was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Some of his books said that he was born in Norfolk, Virginia although he later claimed that was a mistake; he attended high school at the Baltimore City College. Chalker earned a BA degree in English from Towson University in Towson, Maryland, where he was a theater critic for the school newspaper, The Towerlight. During 2003, Towson University named Chalker their Liberal Arts Alumnus of the Year. He received a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Chalker intended to become a lawyer, but financial problems caused him to become a teacher instead. He taught history and geography in the Baltimore City Public Schools from 1966 to 1978, most notably at Baltimore City College and the now defunct Southwest Senior High School. Chalker lectured on science fiction and technology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and numerous universities.

Chalker was married in 1978 and had two children, David, a game designer, and Samantha, a computer security consultant.

Chalker's hobbies included esoteric audio, travel, and working on science-fiction convention committees. He also had a great interest in ferryboats; at his fiancée's suggestion, their marriage was performed on the Roaring Bull boat, part of the Millersburg Ferry, in the middle of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.

Science fiction[edit]

Chalker joined the Washington Science Fiction Association during 1958, and during 1963 he and two friends founded the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Chalker attended every World Science Fiction Convention, except one, from 1965 until 2004. He published an amateur SF journal, Mirage, from 1960 to 1971 (a Hugo nominee during 1963 for Best Fanzine),[1] producing ten issues. Another journal, Interjection, was published 1968–1987 in association with the Fantasy Amateur Press Association. Chalker also initiated a publishing house, Mirage Press, Ltd., for releasing nonfiction and bibliographic works concerning science fiction and fantasy.

Chalker's awards included the Daedalus Award (1983), The Gold Medal of the West Coast Review of Books (1984), Skylark Award (1980), and the Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Award (1979). He was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award twice and for the Hugo Award twice. Chalker was posthumously awarded the Phoenix Award by the Southern Fandom Confederation on April 9, 2005.

Chalker was a three-term treasurer of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Chalker was also the co-author (with Mark Owings[2]) of The Science Fantasy Publishers (third edition during 1991, updated annually), published by Mirage Press, Ltd,[3] a bibliographic guide to genre small press publishers which was a Hugo Award nominee during 1992. The Maryland Young Writers Contest, sponsored by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, was renamed "'The Jack L. Chalker Young Writers Contest" effective April 8, 2006.


Chalker is best known for his Well World series of novels, but he also wrote many other novels (most, but not all, part of a series, or large novels which were split into 'series' by the publishers), and at least nine short stories.

Many of Chalker's works involve some physical transformation of the main characters. For instance, in the Well World novels, immigrants to the Well World are transformed from their original form to become a member of one of the 1,560 sentient species that inhabit that artificial planet. Another example would be that the Wonderland Gambit series resembles traditional Buddhist jataka-type reincarnation stories set in a science fiction environment. Samantha Chalker announced that Wonderland Gambit might be made into a movie, but supposedly its close resemblance to The Matrix resulted in the project being canceled.[4]

At the time of his death, Chalker left one unfinished novel, Chameleon. He was planning to write another novel, Ripsaw, after Chameleon.

Illness and death[edit]

On September 18, 2003, during Hurricane Isabel, Chalker passed out and was rushed to the hospital with a diagnosis of a coronary occlusion. He was later released, but was severely weakened. On December 6, 2004, he was again rushed to hospital with breathing problems and disorientation, and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a pneumothorax. Chalker was hospitalized in critical condition, then upgraded to stable condition on December 9, though he did not regain consciousness until December 15. After several more weeks in deteriorating condition and in a persistent vegetative state, with several transfers to different hospitals, Chalker died on February 11, 2005, of kidney failure and sepsis at Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

Some of Chalker's remains are interred in the family plot at Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore. The remainder were distributed off a ferry near Hong Kong, the ferry between Hainan Island and the Chinese mainland, a ferry in Vietnam, White's Ferry on the Potomac River in Virginia on Father's Day 2007, and on author H. P. Lovecraft's grave in Providence, Rhode Island on December 17, 2005.[citation needed]


The Saga of the Well World series[edit]

  • Midnight at the Well of Souls, Del Rey, 1977 (ISBN 0-7434-3522-2)
  • Exiles at the Well of Souls, Del Rey, 1978 (ISBN 0-7434-3603-2)
  • Quest for the Well of Souls, Del Rey, 1978 (ISBN 0-7434-7153-9)
  • The Return of Nathan Brazil, Del Rey, 1980 (ISBN 0-345-28367-8)
  • Twilight at the Well of Souls, Del Rey, 1980 (ISBN 0-345-28368-6)
  • The Sea is Full of Stars, December 1999 (ISBN 0-345-39486-0)
  • Ghost of the Well of Souls, 2000 (ISBN 0-345-39485-2)

The Watchers at the Well series[edit]

The Four Lords of the Diamond series[edit]

The Dancing Gods series[edit]

  • The River of Dancing Gods, Del Rey, 1984 (ISBN 0-345-30892-1)
  • Demons of the Dancing Gods, Del Rey, 1984 (ISBN 0-345-30893-X)
  • Vengeance of the Dancing Gods, Del Rey, July 1985 (ISBN 0-345-31549-9)
  • Songs of the Dancing Gods, Del Rey, August 1990 (ISBN 0-345-34799-4)
  • Horrors of the Dancing Gods, 1994 (ISBN 0-345-37692-7)
  • The Dancing Gods: Part One, Del Rey, November 1995 (ISBN 0-345-40246-4). This is an omnibus volume containing The River of Dancing Gods and Demons of the Dancing Gods
  • The Dancing Gods II, Del Rey, September 1996 (ISBN 0-345-40771-7). This is an omnibus volume containing Vengeance of the Dancing Gods and Songs of the Dancing Gods

The Soul Rider series[edit]

  • Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books, 1984 (ISBN 0-8125-3320-8) 2nd in Chronology
  • Empires of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books, 1984 (ISBN 0-8125-3329-1) 3rd in Chronology
  • Masters of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books, January 1985 (ISBN 0-8125-3281-3) 4th in Chronology
  • The Birth of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books, 1985 (ISBN 0-8125-2292-3) 1st in Chronology
  • Children of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books, September 1986 (ISBN 0-8125-2340-7) 5th in Chronology

The Rings of the Master series[edit]

The G.O.D. Inc series[edit]

The Changewinds series[edit]

  • When the Changewinds Blow, Ace-Putnam's, September 1987
  • Riders of the Winds, Ace Books, May 1988
  • War of the Maelstrom, Ace-Putnam's, October 1988 (ISBN 0-441-10268-9)
  • Changewinds, Baen (omnibus edition), August 1996

The Quintara Marathon series[edit]

  • The Demons at Rainbow Bridge, Ace-Putnam's, hardcover, September 1989 (ISBN 0-441-69992-8)
  • The Run to Chaos Keep, Ace-Putnam's, May 1991 (ISBN 0-441-69348-2)
  • The Ninety Trillion Fausts (a.k.a. 90 Trillion Fausts), Ace-Putnam's, October 1991 (ISBN 0-441-58103-X)

The Wonderland Gambit series[edit]

  • The Cybernetic Walrus, Del Rey, trade pb in November 1995
  • The March Hare Network, 1996
  • The Hot-Wired Dodo, Del Rey, Feb. 1997

The Three Kings series[edit]

  • Balshazzar's Serpent, Baen Books 1999
  • Melchior's Fire, Baen Books, 2001
  • Kaspar's Box, 2003

Stand-alone novels[edit]

Collections and anthologies[edit]

  • Dance Band on the Titanic, Del Rey Books, July 1988 (short stories)
  • Hotel Andromeda (editor), Ace, 1994 (ISBN 0-441-00010-X)

Besides the short stories included in Dance Band on the Titanic, Chalker wrote at least one other short story:


  • An Informal Biography of Scrooge McDuck, Mirage, 1974.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Best Fanzine:Mirage ed. by Jack L. Chalker 1963 Hugo Awards - The Hugo Awards
  2. ^ Of the family for whom Owings Mills, Maryland, is named.
  3. ^ "The Mirage Press Ltd". 2004. Archived from the original on 4 April 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-05.
  4. ^ "Meteorologist Life". Archived from the original on 2005-04-03. Retrieved 2006-03-05.

External links[edit]