John Sladek

John Thomas Sladek (December 15, 1937 – March 10, 2000)[1] was an American science fiction author, known for his satirical and surreal novels.

John Thomas Sladek
BornDecember 15, 1937
Waverly, Iowa, US
DiedMarch 10, 2000 (aged 62)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, US
GenreScience fiction
Literary movementNew Wave

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 the magazine 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). 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.

Sladek returned from England to Minneapolis, Minnesota[2] in 1986, where he lived until his death in 2000 from pulmonary fibrosis. He was married twice, to Pamela Sladek, which ended in divorce in 1986, and to Sandra Gunter whom he married in 1994. He had a daughter from his first marriage.[1]


A strict materialist, Sladek subjected the occult and pseudoscience to merciless scrutiny in The New Apocrypha. The book critically examined the claims of dowsing, homeopathy, parapsychology, perpetual motion and Ufology.[3]


Science fiction novels

  • The Reproductive System Gollancz 1968, Equinox/Avon SF Rediscovery 3 1977, Gollancz Classic SF #8 1986; as Mechasm Ace Special 1969, Pocket 1980
  • The Müller-Fokker Effect Hutchinson 1970; William Morrow 1971, Panther 1972, Pocket 1973, Carrol & Graf 1990
  • Roderick Granada 1980; Carroll & Graf 1987
  • Roderick at Random Granada 1983, Carroll & Graf 1988
  • Tik-Tok Gollancz 1983, Corgi 1984, DAW 1985 Gollancz 2001; winner of the British Science Fiction Association Best Novel award in 1984;
  • Love Among the Xoids Chris Drumm (chapbook) 1984;[4]
  • Bugs Macmillan UK 1989, Paladin 1991
  • Blood and Gingerbread Cheap Street (chapbook) 1990;[4]
  • Wholly Smokes Wildside 2003.

Science fiction collections

Omnibus editions

  • The Complete Roderick comprising Roderick and Roderick at Random Gollancz SF Masterworks #45 2001, Overlook Press 2004
  • The Reproductive System / The Müller-Fokker Effect / Tik-Tok Gollancz 2013

Mystery novels and stories

  • The Castle and the Key (as by Cassandra Knye) Paperback Library 1967
  • "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 Jonathan Cape 1974, Panther 1975, 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 Gollancz 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, Panther 1978
  • 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)[5][2]
  • The Book of Clues (1984)[4]

With Thomas M. Disch

  • The House that Fear Built (1966)
  • Black Alice (1968)

Selected short stories


  1. ^ a b Langford, David (April 13, 2000). "Obituary: John Sladek". Retrieved March 1, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Clute, John. "Sladek, John T." The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (3rd ed.). Retrieved March 19, 2017.
  3. ^ Priest, Christopher. (1974). "The New Apocrypha by John Sladek". New Scientist. March 21. p. 770.
  4. ^ a b c d Reginald 1992, p. 905.
  5. ^ Clute 1995, p. 186.
  • Clute, John (1995). Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia. London, New York, Stuttgart: Dorling Kindersley. p. 312. ISBN 978-0-7513-0202-8.
  • 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.

External links

Alpha 6 (Robert Silverberg anthology)

Alpha 6 is a science fiction anthology edited by American writer Robert Silverberg, first published in 1976.

BSFA Award

The BSFA Awards are literary awards presented annually since 1970 by the British Science Fiction Association (BSFA) to honour works in the genre of science fiction. Nominees and winners are chosen based on a vote of BSFA members. More recently, members of the Eastercon convention have also been eligible to vote.

Bananas (literary magazine)

Bananas is a British literary magazine that ran for 25 issues from January 1975 until 1979. It was initially published and edited by the novelist Emma Tennant but later issues were published and edited by the poet Abigail Mozley. Tennant chose to name the magazine after the motion picture Bananas (1971), directed by Woody Allen.

Quality and innovation helped to distinguish Bananas, but the magazine also appeared in an unusual format, that of a tabloid newspaper. Tennant believed this lent Bananas’ literary content more immediacy and addressed the readership’s appetite for culture in a contemporary media form. Tennant has said, “Bananas had a long-term effect on British literary audiences by taking the word ‘Review’ away from the concept of a literary magazine and insisting on original fiction; it insisted too on wit and jokes and irreverence.”

Contributors to Bananas included Angela Carter (who originally wrote the short story "The Company of Wolves" for the magazine), Heathcote Williams, Ruth Fainlight and Ted Hughes. Work by Claud Cockburn, Beryl Bainbridge, Harold Pinter, Sara Maitland, Bruce Chatwin, Peter Wollen and Philip Roth also featured. Several writers strongly associated with the speculative fiction magazine New Worlds found themselves welcomed to Bananas’ convention-challenging approach. Tom Disch and John Sladek were among these and J. G. Ballard was both a contributing editor and a constant presence, providing a short story for each issue.

The design of the magazine was created by Julian Rothenstein (subsequently founder of the art book publishing company Redstone Press) and was a considerable part of its character. One influence on Bananas’ format was Interview, the New York City magazine founded by Andy Warhol. In 1979 Emma Tennant’s nephew, Charles Tennant, was inspired by both publications to launch a short-lived literary nightlife tabloid entitled Chelsea Scoop.

The editorial office of Bananas was 2 Blenheim Crescent in Notting Hill Gate. In the 1970s this address was at the hub of much of London’s alternative and radical literary activity. Adjacent offices to Bananas housed the team that created An Index of Possibilities (a UK response to the American Whole Earth Catalogue), Frendz magazine, International Times (IT) and The Open Head Press. Michael Moorcock, editor of New Worlds, was also a neighbour.The history of Bananas is related in Tennant’s 1999 autobiographical book, Burnt Diaries. In this, the magazine’s struggles and successes are set in the context of Notting Hill Gate’s most prolific literary bohemian and countercultural era and against the background of Tennant’s relationship with Ted Hughes.

An anthology of work from the magazine, also titled Bananas, was published in 1977.

Black Alice

Black Alice may refer to:

Black Alice (comics), a DC Comics character

Black Alice (novel), a novel by Thomas M. Disch and John Sladek under the pseudonym Thom Demijohn

Black Alice, one of two musical alter-egos of the Japanese group Ali Project

Black Alice (film), a 1975 Hong Kong film

Black Alice, a character in the sci-fi cult film Sons of Steel portrayed by Perth-based singer Rob Hartley

Black Alice (novel)

Black Alice is a novel by Thomas M. Disch and John Sladek (writing as Thom Demijohn), published in 1968.

Cheap Street

Cheap Street Press was a small publishing company started up and operated by the husband-wife duo, George and Jan O'Nale, in their rural home near New Castle, Virginia. Cheap Street concentrated on publishing limited edition books, signed and numbered, of science fiction and fantasy works. Their books were renowned as excellent examples of the book-making arts, having been hand-printed letterpress by George on fine (often handmade) paper and hand-bound in fine cloth and leather with matching drop-back boxes.

Their books were typically issued in editions of 50 to 200 copies, and sold for up to $250 each. They approached primarily only authors who they identified for excellence in writing quality.

George and Jan O'Nale were hermitic in their habits, living in a fairly unpopulated area in the Virginian countryside. They were eccentric and irascible, and were known to suddenly and arbitrarily fall into contention with individuals with which they came in contact.

In 2002, the O'Nales donated their collection of books and press materials to Tulane University, and then committed suicide in the spring of 2003, citing increasing health problems.

A sampling of books published by Cheap Street Press:

At the Double Solstice by Gregory Benford

Paperjack by Charles de Lint

Torturing Mr. Amberwell by Thomas M. Disch

The Adventures of Cobble's Rune by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ervool by Fritz Leiber

The Girl Who Heard Dragons by Anne McCaffrey

Red Noise by John Sladek

Flying Saucer Rock and Roll by Howard Waldrop

The Arimaspian Legacy by Gene Wolfe

On Saint Hubert's Thing by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

A Rhapsody in Amber by Roger ZelaznyOther items published by Cheap Street Press:

Pamphlet: The Complete Twelve Hours of the Night by "William Ashbless" (William Ashbless is actually a pen name for James P. Blaylock & Tim Powers.)

Conte cruel

The conte cruel is, as The A to Z of Fantasy Literature by Brian Stableford states, a "short-story genre that takes its name from an 1883 collection by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, although previous examples had been provided by such writers as Edgar Allan Poe. Some critics use the label to refer only to non-supernatural horror stories, especially those that have nasty climactic twists, but it is applicable to any story whose conclusion exploits the cruel aspects of the 'irony of fate.' The collection from which the short-story genre of the conte cruel takes its name is Contes cruels (1883, tr. Sardonic Tales, 1927) by Villiers de l'Isle-Adam. Also taking its name from this collection is Contes cruels ("Cruel Tales"), a two-volume set of about 150 tales and short stories by the 19th-century French writer Octave Mirbeau, collected and edited by Pierre Michel and Jean-François Nivet and published in two volumes in 1990 by Librairie Séguier.

Some noted writers in the conte cruel genre are Charles Birkin, Maurice Level, Patricia Highsmith and Roald Dahl, the latter of whom originated Tales of the Unexpected. H. P. Lovecraft observed of Level's fiction in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature (1927): "This type, however, is less a part of the weird tradition than a class peculiar to itself—the so-called conte cruel, in which the wrenching of the emotions is accomplished through dramatic tantalizations, frustrations, and gruesome physical horrors".Brian M. Stableford has observed that, by the 1980s, the conte cruel was the standard narrative form of soft science fiction, in particular the works of Thomas M. Disch and John Sladek.

Keep the Giraffe Burning

Keep the Giraffe Burning was a science fiction short story collection by John Sladek, published in 1977.


Orbitsville is a science fiction novel by British writer Bob Shaw, published in book formin 1975. It is about the discovery of a Dyson sphere-like artefact surrounding a star.

The novel had previously appeared in three instalments in Galaxy Science Fiction, in June, July and August 1974. After its publication as a book it won the British Science Fiction Award for the best novel in 1976.

Shaw wrote two sequels, Orbitsville Departure (ISBN 0-671-69831-1), published in 1983, and Orbitsville Judgement, published in 1990.

Pyramids (novel)

Pyramids is a fantasy novel by British writer Terry Pratchett, published in 1989, the seventh book in his Discworld series. It won the BSFA Awards in 1989.

Roderick (novel)

Roderick, or The Education of a Young Machine is a 1980 science fiction novel by American writer John Sladek. It was followed in 1983 by Roderick at Random, or Further Education of a Young Machine. The two books were originally intended as a single longer novel, and were finally reissued together in 2001 as The Complete Roderick. It was included in David Pringle's book Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels.

Sensory leakage

Sensory leakage is a term used to refer to information that transferred to a person by conventional means (other than Psi) during an experiment into Psi.For example, where the subject in an ESP experiment receives a visual cue — the reflection of a Zener card in the holder's glasses — sensory leakage can be said to have occurred.

Tales of the Unanticipated

Tales of the Unanticipated, known as TOTU, is a semiprozine that was founded under the auspices of the Minnesota Science Fiction Society (known as Mn-STF or Minn-STF), and has since become independent. Like contemporaries such as Crank! and Century, Tales of the Unanticipated strove from its inception to showcase fiction, poetry and articles that are ostensibly speculative fiction.

The Great Wall of Mexico (short story)

"The Great Wall of Mexico" is a science fiction short story by John Sladek. It was first published in the 1973 anthology Bad Moon Rising: An Anthology of Political Forebodings edited by Thomas M. Disch. It was also published in Sladek's 1977 collection Keep the Giraffe Burning and uploaded to the online science fiction magazine Sci Fiction on December 21, 2005.

The Happy Breed

"The Happy Breed" is a short story by John Sladek from Harlan Ellison's Dangerous Visions (1967). It is Sladek's first published story.

The Müller-Fokker Effect

The Müller-Fokker Effect is a satirical science fiction novel written by John Sladek in 1970. It has long been out of print in the United States, having come out in a Pocket Books edition in 1973. A reprint was done in 1990 by Carroll & Graf. The title is a pun with the insult motherfucker, and the book itself is suffused with wordplay of all stripes.

The Steam-Driven Boy and other Strangers

The Steam-Driven Boy and other strangers is a science fiction short story collection by John Sladek, published in 1973.

Tik-Tok (novel)

Tik-Tok is a 1983 science fiction novel by John Sladek. It received a 1983 British Science Fiction Association Award.

White Fang Goes Dingo

White Fang Goes Dingo and Other Funny SF Stories is a collection of science fiction stories by American writer Thomas M. Disch. It was first published by Compact Books in 1971. Many of the stories originally appeared in the magazines Fantastic, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, Amazing Stories, New Worlds, Galaxy Science Fiction, Mademoiselle and If.

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