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Chalker, Jack L. 1944-2005 (Jack Laurence Chalker)

Chalker, Jack L. 1944-2005 (Jack Laurence Chalker)

PERSONAL:

Born December 17, 1944, in Norfolk, VA; died of kidney failure, February 11, 2005, in Baltimore, MD; son of Lloyd Allen, Sr., and Nancy Alice (an artist) Chalker; married Eva C. Whitley, 1978; children: David, Steven. Education: Towson State College, B.S., 1966; Johns Hopkins University, M.L.A., 1969. Hobbies and other interests: Travel (including Europe and Australia), "riding every ferryboat in the world," esoteric high-fidelity audio, art auctioneering, conservation, national parks.

CAREER:

Writer, editor. Mirage Press Ltd., Baltimore, MD, founding editor, 1960-72, editorial and marketing director, beginning 1961. Social science, history, and geography teacher in public schools in Baltimore, MD, 1966-78; lecturer at University of Maryland and Smithsonian Institution; consultant to World Science Fiction Conventions. Military service: U.S. Air Force, air commando with Special Forces, 1968-71; Maryland Air National Guard, 1968-73; became staff sergeant.

MEMBER:

World Science Fiction Society, Science Fiction Writers of America, American Federation of Labor—Congress of Industrial Organizations, Washington Science Fiction Association, New York Science Fiction Society, United Teachers of Baltimore, Pacific Northwest National Parks Association.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Nominated for John W. Campbell Award for best new science fiction writer, by reader vote of World Science Fiction Convention, 1977; Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Award, 1979; Dedalus Award, 1983; Gold Medal of the West Coast Review of Books, 1984; Skylark Award, 1985.

WRITINGS:

SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY NOVELS

A Jungle of Stars, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1976.

Dancers in the Afterglow, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1978.

The Web of the Chosen, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1978.

A War of Shadows, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1979.

And the Devil Will Drag You Under, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1979.

The Devil's Voyage, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1981.

The Identity Matrix, Timescape (New York, NY), 1982.

The Messiah Choice, Bluejay/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1985.

Downtiming the Night Side, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1985.

The Armlet of the Gods, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1986.

(With Mike Resnick and George Alec Effinger) The Red Tape War, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1991.

Priam's Lens, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1999.

The Moreau Factor, Del Rey (New York, NY), 2000.

"WELL WORLD" SERIES

Midnight at the Well of Souls, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1977.

Exiles at the Well of Souls, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1978.

Quest for the Well of Souls, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1978.

The Return of Nathan Brazil, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1979.

Twilight at the Well of Souls: The Legacy of Nathan Brazil, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1980.

Echoes of the Well of Souls (also see below), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1993.

Gods of the Well of Souls (also see below), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1994.

Shadow of the Well of Souls (also see below), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1994.

The Watchers at the Well (contains Echoes of the Well of Souls, Gods of the Well of Souls, and Shadow of the Well of Souls), Science Fiction Book Club (New York, NY), 1994.

The Sea Is Full of Stars, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1999.

Ghost of the Well of Souls, Del Rey (New York, NY), 2000.

"FOUR LORDS OF THE DIAMOND" SERIES

Lilith: A Snake in the Grass (also see below), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1981.

Cerebrus: A Wolf in the Fold (also see below), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1982.

Charon: A Dragon at the Gate (also see below), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1982.

Medusa: A Tiger by the Tail (also see below), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1983.

The Four Lords of the Diamond (contains Lilith: A Snake in the Grass, Cerebrus: A Wolf in the Fold, Charon: A Dragon at the Gate, and Medusa: A Tiger by the Tail), Science Fiction Book Club (New York, NY), 1983.

"SOUL RIDER" SERIES

Spirits of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1984.

Empires of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1984.

Masters of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1985.

The Birth of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1985.

Children of Flux and Anchor, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1986.

"DANCING GODS" SERIES

The River of Dancing Gods (also see below), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1984.

Demons of the Dancing Gods (also see below), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1984.

Vengeance of the Dancing Gods (also see below), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1985.

Songs of the Dancing Gods (also see below), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1990.

Horrors of the Dancing Gods, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1995.

The Dancing Gods: Part One (contains The River of the Dancing Gods and Demons of the Dancing Gods), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1995.

The Dancing Gods II (contains Vengeance of the Dancing Gods and Songs of the Dancing Gods), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1996.

"RINGS OF THE MASTERS" SERIES

Lords of the Middle Dark, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1986.

Pirates of the Thunder, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1987.

Warriors of the Storm, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1987.

Masks of the Martyrs, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1988.

"CHANGEWINDS" SERIES

When the Changewinds Blow (also see below), Ace Books (New York, NY), 1987.

Riders of the Winds (also see below), Ace Books (New York, NY), 1988.

War of the Maelstrom (also see below), Ace Books (New York, NY), 1988.

Changewinds (contains When the Changewinds Blow, Riders of the Winds, and War of the Maelstrom), Baen (Riverdale, NY), 1996.

"QUINTARA MARATHON" SERIES

The Demons at Rainbow Bridge, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1989.

The Run to Chaos Keep, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1992.

The Ninety Trillion Fausts, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1992.

"G.O.D., INC." SERIES

The Labyrinth of Dreams, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1987.

The Shadow Dancers, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1992.

The Maze in the Mirror, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1992.

"WONDERLAND GAMBIT" SERIES

The Cybernetic Walrus, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1995.

The March Hare Network, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1996.

The Hot-Wired Dodo, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1997.

"TALES OF THE THREE KINGS" SERIES

Balshazzar's Serpent, Baen (Riverdale NY), 2000.

Melchior's Fire, Baen (Riverdale, NY), 2001.

Kaspar's Box, Baen (Riverdale, NY), 2003.

OTHER

The New H.P. Lovecraft Bibliography, Mirage Press (Baltimore, MD), 1961, revised edition with Mark Owings published as The Revised H.P. Lovecraft Bibliography, 1973.

(Editor) In Memoriam: Clark Ashton Smith, Mirage Press (Baltimore, MD), 1963.

(Editor) Mirage on Lovecraft, Mirage Press (Baltimore, MD), 1964.

(With Mark Owings) Index to the Science-Fantasy Publishers, Mirage Press (Baltimore, MD), 1966, revised edition published as Index to the SF Publishers, 1979.

(With Mark Owings) The Necronomicon: A Study, Mirage Press (Baltimore, MD), 1968.

An Informal Biography of Scrooge McDuck, Mirage Press (Baltimore, MD), 1974.

(Contributor) Best SF 1979, DAW (New York, NY), 1979, reprinted as Best SF 4, 1987.

(Contributor) Whispers II, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1979.

Jack Chalker (autobiography), Tor Books (New York, NY), 1985.

Dance Band on the Titanic (short stories), Del Rey (New York, NY), 1988.

(Contributor) Alternate Presidents, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1992.

(Editor) Hotel Andromeda, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1994.

Contributor of stories to Analog and Stellar Three. Editor, Mirage magazine, beginning 1961. Columnist, Fantasy Review.

SIDELIGHTS:

Jack L. Chalker, considered one of the major science-fiction authors of the twentieth century, left a legacy of over sixty science fiction and fantasy books. Best known for his "Well World" series, Chalker began writing in his teens, when, in Baltimore, Maryland, he founded the magazine Mirage, and a publishing house of the same name, devoted to an analysis of the works of his favorite author, H.P. Lovecraft. By the mid-1970s Chalker had turned from nonfiction to writing science fiction, a career he pursued for the next thirty years, until his death from kidney failure in 2005.

Chalker once told CA: "As a trained historian, I am almost unique in writing science fiction. My concerns are not basically new technology or applications, but their effects on mankind. I see a certain historical universality in human nature which is essentially pessimistic, however; in my futures man is still going and still expanding—although the more things change the more they stay the same. My works strongly attack authoritarianism, elitism, and dogmatic ideas whether they be political or otherwise. My general humanistic themes are contemporary; the translation to an exotic (and, of course, technically accurate) science fictional background makes it easier to illustrate and explore the human condition, for the contrast of human beings with exotic backgrounds tends to isolate the universals I wish to address. Individual themes concern alienation, loneliness, and the increasing dehumanization of people by the technology and fast changes that grow around them. The strong individual's attempt to maintain sanity and balance in such a dehumanized society (which is, after all, a reflection of trends I see today) and the social and psychological price that must be paid are common to my works."

Chalker's novels, which are often set within alien societies or against the backdrop of strange and exotic locales, are mostly grouped into series, including the popular "Well World," "Wonderland Gambit," and "Changewinds" series. The expanded boundaries of a series allows the author to reveal multi-dimensional worlds and themes, while attracting fans who become familiar with the characters and their dilemmas from book to book. Though Orson Scott Card, writing in the Washington Post Book World, complained that Chalker's prose is "workmanlike, unmusical, [and] often annoyingly wrong," he was quick to point out that the author "spins a tale that strikes at the root of human identity…. Chalker is a powerful story teller." In works such as the "Well World" series, Chalker blends science with deeply rooted religious concepts, revealing his interest in faith and morality. His series characters, such as Nathan Brazil in "Well World" and Cory Maddox in "The Wonderland Gambit" series, often assume heroic proportions against nearly insurmountable odds. To quote Carl Hays in a Booklist review of Gods of the Well of Souls, Chalker "is a marvel at skillfully confronting his protagonists with almost impossible challenges and then ingeniously resolving the conflicts." Reviewing the Shadow of the Well of Souls in Booklist, Hays further commented: "Without hindering the action, Chalker excels in providing richly imagined surroundings and anthropological detail for the Well World's many creatures."

The majority of Chalker's work explores the concept of body-switching: his characters undergo startling physical changes, or are mentally transplanted into a body of a different gender or species. Though this idea is addressed in one form or another in nearly all of his works, most critics agree that it is most successfully presented in 1982's The Identity Matrix, in which the psyche of the male protagonist is transferred through the course of the novel into the minds of several female characters. "The handling of the male narrator's reactions and adjustments to the female bodies he inhabits seem very real and are certainly superior to anything [Robert] Heinlein has done along similar lines," lauded a Science Fiction Review critic. Fredrica Bartz, writing in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review, also considered The Identity Matrix to be among the author's best work: "Chalker works with several themes, all of them well developed and interesting: the dependence of the senses on the body, mass paranoia, psychological barriers, relations between the sexes, and mind theory. The latter theme makes the book well worth reading." Bartz concluded that the "strong element of intellect" present in The Identity Matrix makes the novel "what SF should be, a fiction of ideas, not just one of setting and action."

In his "Tales of the Three Kings" series, Chalker creates an era of space exploration where travelers, once aided by a wormhole, have been cut off from their homelands when the wormhole collapsed. Now, generations later, the travelers have divided into two groups: the religious and the pirates, both seeking three planets called the Three Kings, said to be rich in treasure and artifacts. In the first book of the series, Balshazzar's Serpent, a group of missionaries discovers a clue that leads them to Balshazzar, one of the fabled planets. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Balshazzar's Serpent "nothing to get excited about," pointing out that "the book does contain some unusual theological explorations but, overall, its intelligence outshines its narrative prowess." However, Jackie Cassada, writing for Library Journal, called it "inventive and surprising in concept and execution," and praised Chalker's "characteristically fresh approach to standard sf themes."

The "Tales of the Three Kings" series continues with Melchior's Fire and Kaspar's Box. In the former title, the planet Melchior is featured, which, once reached by the star travelers, is found to be "swarming with alien races," as a reviewer for Publishers Weekly noted. The same reviewer felt that Chalker devotes too much of the novel to the set up, and after the planet is discovered, the "action slams to a cliffhanger ending." Ginger Armstrong, writing in Kliatt, had, however, a higher assessment of Melchior's Fire, noting, "This novel provides the reader with a wild ride and a delightfully fast read." In Kaspar's Box the action shifts to the third planet of the Three Kings, one covered in ice. Armstrong, again writing in Kliatt, felt "Chalker provides the reader with enjoyable characters and a fun read."

"Science fiction, long the stepchild of literature, has, I believe, come of age," Chalker once told CA. "In no other form of literature may serious questions be addressed as freely and serious issues isolated more clearly. I am, however, a strong believer in verisimilitude in creating societies and backgrounds, and a believer in the strong surface plot, often intricate, through which the themes are woven rather than dominating the work. One need not be a bore to address serious themes."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Chalker, Jack L. Jack Chalker, Tor Books (New York, NY), 1985.

Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1991.

PERIODICALS

Analog, May, 1991, review of The Red Tape War, p. 178.

Booklist, January 1, 1994, Carl Hays, review of Shadow of the Well of Souls, p. 810; October 1, 1994, Carl Hays, review of Gods of the Well of Souls, p. 245; November 1, 1995, Carl Hays, review of The Wonderland Gambit, pp. 458, 461; May 15, 1996, review of The Wonderland Gambit, p. 1580.

Bookwatch, July, 2005, review of The Return of Nathan Brazil.

Christian Science Monitor, August 7, 1987, review of Pirates of the Thunder, p. B6.

Fantasy Review, May, 1987, review of Pirates of the Thunder, p. 38.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1993, review of Shadow of the Well of Souls, p. 1493; September 15, 1995, review of The Cybernetic Walrus, p. 1316.

Kliatt, September, 2003, Ginger Armstrong, review of Melchior's Fire, p. 24; January, 2005, Ginger Armstrong, review of Kaspar's Box, p. 19.

Library Journal, February 15, 1994, Jackie Cassada, review of Shadow of the Well of Souls, p. 188; February 15, 1997, Susan Hamburger, review of The Hot-Wired Dodo, p. 165; July, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of Balshazzar's Serpent, p. 147.

Locus, December, 1993, review of The Science Fiction Fantasy Publishers, p. 48; March, 1994, review of Hotel Andromeda, p. 53.

MBR Bookwatch, January, 2006, Diane C. Donovan, review of Twilight at the Well of Souls: The Legacy of Nathan Brazil.

Publishers Weekly, March 29, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Run to Chaos Keep, p. 81; September 20, 1991, review of The Ninety Trillion Fausts, p. 123; August 7, 2000, review of Balshazzar's Serpent, p. 80; May 21, 2001, review of Melchior's Fire, p. 86.

Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review, April, 1982, review of Cerberus, p. 16; October, 1982, Fredrica Bartz, review of The Identity Matrix p. 15; July, 1983, review of Cerberus, p. 28.

Science Fiction Chronicle, May, 1985, review of Masters of Flux and Anchor, p. 36; December, 1985, review of The Messiah Choice, p. 42; February, 1986, review of Downtiming the Night Side, p. 32; December, 1995, review of The Cybernetic Walrus, p. 59.

Science Fiction Review, May, 1982, review of Lilith: A Snake in the Grass, p. 54; November, 1982, review of The Identity Matrix, p. 15; May, 1983, review of Charon: A Dragon at the Gate, p. 52; May, 1984, review of Spirits of Flux and Anchor, p. 23; February, 1985, review of Demons of the Dancing Gods, p. 47; August, 1985, review of Downtiming the Night Side, p. 17.

Washington Post Book World, October 25, 1987, Orson Scott Card, "The Pirates of Fantasy," p. 6.

ONLINE

Jack L. Chalker Web site,http://www.jackchalker.com (February 28, 2007).

OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES

PERIODICALS

Independent (London, England), February 18, 2005, p. 40.

Los Angeles Times, February 17, 2005, p. B10.

Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), February 15, 2005, p. 63.

Washington Post, February 20, 2005, p. C9.

ONLINE

SFWA,http://www.sfwa.org/ (February 11, 2005), "Jack L. Chalker (1944-2005)."

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