Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Chalker, Jack L

(1944-    ) US writer and editor who has written much fantasy, though best-known for his early sf. He began writing with several books on writers central to US fantasy and Horror, including H P LovecraftThe New H.P. Lovecraft Bibliography (1962 chap; rev vt The Revised H. P. Lovecraft Bibliography 1974 chap) with Mark Owings (1945-    ), The Necronomicon: A Study (1967 chap), with Owings, and Mirage on Lovecraft (1965 chap) – and Clark Ashton Smith, with In Memoriam: Clark Ashton Smith (anth 1963 chap). An Informal Biography of $crooge McDuck (1971 Markings; 1974 chap) is enjoyable, and The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographical History (1991; rev 1992, with subsequent undated revs), along with The Science-Fantasy Publishers: Supplement One, July 1991-June 1992 (1992), remains a vital tool for the study of specialized US small-press publishers.

After successful sf novels like A Jungle of Stars (1976) and series like the Well World sequence, JLC shifted gradually towards Science Fantasy. His sequences include: Soul RiderSpirits of Flux and Anchor (1984), Empires of Flux and Anchor (1984), Masters of Flux and Anchor (1985), The Birth of Flux and Anchor (1985), which is a prequel, and Children of Flux and Anchor (1986) – Dancing GodsThe River of Dancing Gods (1984), Demons of the Dancing Gods (1984), Vengeance of the Dancing Gods (1985) and Songs of the Dancing Gods (1990) – Rings of the MasterLords of the Middle Dark (1986), Pirates of the Thunder (1987), Warriors of the Storm (1987) and Masks of the Martyrs (1988) – and Changewinds, which makes up a single long novel – When the Changewinds Blow (1987), Riders of the Winds (1988) and War of the Maelstrom (1988). Not every volume or sequence follows the same schema; but the underlying pattern is that protagonists are dislocated from their normal environment or world and cast into a Wonderland environment whose rules (always arbitrary, and humiliating to women in particular) seem generated as part of a Godgame by semi-divine manipulators. Again and again, JLC protagonists suffer grotesque Metamorphoses in their attempts to escape their fates.

Singletons of fantasy interest include And the Devil Will Drag You Under (1979), about a Quest through Alternate Worlds for five magic jewels. The title story of Dance Band on the Titanic (coll 1988) features a ferry at the heart of a kind of Crosshatch vortex. JLC's work always threatens to be more interesting than it is. Unfortunately, prolixity and an inclination to escape conclusions by extending his tales into interminable Heroic-Fantasy sequences have tended to vitiate the intensity of his basic premises. JLC's reputation has faded somewhat: with one tale told at the pitch he managed earlier, this could change in a moment. [JC]

other works: Hotel Andromeda (anth 1994).

Jack Laurence Chalker


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.