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John Thomas Sladek

John Thomas Sladek
Born (1937-12-15)15 December 1937
Waverly, Iowa, US
Died 10 March 2000(2000-03-10) (aged 62)
Minneapolis, Minnesota, US
Occupation Novelist
Nationality American
Period 1966–2000
Genre Science fiction
Literary movement New Wave

John Thomas Sladek (December 15, 1937 – March 10, 2000)[1] 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 and published his first story in 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).

A strict materialist, Sladek subjected dubious science and the occult to merciless scrutiny in The New Apocrypha. 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 who he married in 1994. He had a daughter from the first relationship.[1]


Science fiction novels

Science fiction collections

Selected short stories

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. Both Phin novels are locked room mysteries.


  • The New Apocrypha: a Guide to Strange Science and Occult Beliefs Stein and Day (1973)
  • 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)[4][5]


  1. ^ a b Langford, David (April 13, 2000). "Obituary: John Sladek". Retrieved 2015-03-01.
  2. ^ Clute and Nicholls 1995, pp. 1113.
  3. ^ a b c d Reginald 1992, p. 905.
  4. ^ Clute 1995, p. 186.
  5. ^ Clute and Nicholls 1995, pp. 1114.

External links

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