John Sladek

John Sladek

John Thomas Sladek (December 15, 1937 – March 10, 2000) was an American science fiction author, known for his satirical and surreal novels.

Life and work

Born in Waverly, Iowa in 1937, Sladek was in England in the 1960s for the New Wave movement. His first 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 "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.

A strict materialist, Sladek subjected dubious science and the occult to merciless scrutiny in "The New Apocrypha". Under the name 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. He also co-wrote two pseudonymous novels with his friend Thomas M. Disch, the Gothic "The House that Fear Built" (as Cassandra Knye) and the satirical thriller "Black Alice" (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.

Sladek returned from England to Minnesota in 1986, where he lived until his death in 2000 from pulmonary fibrosis.


cience 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;
*"Bugs" (1989).

cience fiction collections

*"The Steam-Driven Boy" (1973);
*"Keep the Giraffe Burning" (1977);
*"Alien Accounts" (1982);
*"The Lunatics of Terra" (1984);
*"Maps", edited by David Langford (2002).

hort stories

*"The Happy Breed"
*"Elephant With Wooden Leg"

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.


*"The New Apocrypha" (1973);
*"Arachne Rising" (1977) (as James Vogh);
*"The Cosmic Factor" (1978) (as James Vogh).


*cite book
last = Stephensen-Payne
first = Phil
authorlink =
coauthors = Drumm, Chris
title = John T. Sladek Steam-Driven Satirist
publisher = Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader
date = 1998
location =
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 1871133505

External links

* [ An interview with John Sladek]
* [,3604,178818,00.html Guardian newspaper obituary]

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