William Sleator

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
William Sleator
Born(1945-02-13)February 13, 1945
Havre de Grace, Maryland, U.S.
DiedAugust 3, 2011(2011-08-03) (aged 66)
Bua Chet, Thailand
Alma materHarvard University
GenreScience fiction

William Warner Sleator III (February 13, 1945 – August 3, 2011),[1][2] known as William Sleator, was an American science fiction author who wrote primarily young adult novels but also wrote for younger readers. His books typically deal with adolescents coming across a peculiar phenomenon related to an element of theoretical science, then trying to deal with the situation. The theme of family relationships, especially between siblings, is frequently intertwined with the science fiction plotline.

Due to the suspenseful and often eerie nature of some of his works, Sleator has been compared to young-adult horror writer R. L. Stine[citation needed] (who has identified himself as a fan of Sleator's work).[3] Others cite a strong resemblance to the paranoid, dream-like style of Franz Kafka, which is most notable in House of Stairs, one of Sleator's more popular novels.[citation needed]


Early life, family and education[edit]

Sleator, the oldest of four siblings, was born in Havre de Grace, Maryland, to William Warner Sleator, Jr., a professor of physiology and biophysics, and Esther Kaplan Sleator, a pediatrician who did pioneering research on attention deficit disorder (ADD).[1] The Sleator family moved to University City, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, when Billy (as the family called him) was three. His younger siblings are Vicky Wald, Tycho (Associate Professor of Physics at NYU), and Daniel (Professor of Computer Science at CMU). He attended University City High School, where he was known as a composer who wrote scores for school plays[4] and the orchestra. He graduated in 1963.

He graduated from Harvard University[4] with a degree in English[1] in 1967.


After college, Sleator moved to England, earning money by playing music in ballet schools.[1][3] Eventually, Sleator returned to the United States to write his first novel, Blackbriar, eventually published in 1972, which was based on real life experiences.[4] His first published book was a children's story called The Angry Moon, released in 1970. It won a Caldecott Honor citation.[3]

Sleator's writing style has been described as clean and simple. His characters are reluctant teenage heroes, and Sleator's younger siblings and friends have often found themselves being written into his prose,[1] as in the semi-autobiographical story collection Oddballs.[5]

Unlike the 'Golden Age' science fiction future-oriented model (one of Buck Rogers tomorrowlands), Sleator's work often includes a morbid or negative fixation on the past or includes visions of dystopian[3] or alternate worlds (future or otherwise) in which something has gone wrong. For example, Sleator's The Green Futures of Tycho takes place in the past in addition to the future; the world outside his House of Stairs is hinted to be dystopic; Interstellar Pig draws upon the supposed insanity of a long-dead prisoner.

Elements of Thai culture also occasionally turn up in his stories. His 2009 short story "Fingernail" appears in the anthology How Beautiful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity and is from a young gay Thai man's perspective.

Personal life[edit]

Sleator struggled with alcoholism.[1]

He split his time between homes in Boston, Massachusetts, and a small village in rural Thailand.[5] His companion Siang Chitsa-Ard had died in 2008, and his preceding partner Paul Peter Rhode had died in 1999.[1] He died on August 3, 2011,[2] in Bua Chet, Thailand.[3]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Fox, Margalit (August 6, 2011). "William Sleator, Fantasy Writer for Young Adults, Dies at 66". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  2. ^ a b Publishers Weekly [@PublishersWkly] (August 3, 2011). "Sad news: William Sleator, author of 'Interstellar Pig' and many other books for teens, died yesterday in Thailand, at age 66" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  3. ^ a b c d e Barack, Lauren (August 4, 2011). "Science-Fiction Master William Sleator: 1945-2011". SchoolLibraryJournal.com. Archived from the original on September 2, 2012. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c Sleator, William (2000). "Bio". Penguin Books USA. Archived from the original on April 3, 2012. Retrieved March 13, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Meet The Authors and Illustrators: William Sleator". rif.org. Reading is Fundamental. Archived from the original on June 10, 2009.

External links[edit]