Jack L. Chalker

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Jack Laurence Chalker
Jack L Chalker.jpg
Chalker in 2003
Born(1944-12-17)December 17, 1944
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
DiedFebruary 11, 2005(2005-02-11) (aged 60)
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Education Towson University
Johns Hopkins University
OccupationScience fiction author, writer
Spouse(s)Eva C. Whitley
ChildrenDavid W. Chalker, Steven L. Chalker

Jack Laurence Chalker (December 17, 1944 – February 11, 2005) was an American science fiction author. Chalker was also a Baltimore City Schools history teacher in Maryland for 12 years, retiring during 1978 to write full-time. He also was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society.

Maryland State of the United States of America

Maryland is a state in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east. The state's largest city is Baltimore, and its capital is Annapolis. Among its occasional nicknames are Old Line State, the Free State, and the Chesapeake Bay State. It is named after the English queen Henrietta Maria, known in England as Queen Mary.

The Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA) is the oldest science fiction club in the Washington, D.C. area. It is also one of the oldest science fiction clubs, founded in 1947 by seven fans who met at that year's Worldcon in Philadelphia, the fifth Worldcon held.

Baltimore Science Fiction Society

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society is a literary organization focusing on science fiction, fantasy and related genres. A 501c3 literary society based in Baltimore, Maryland, the BSFS sponsors Balticon, the Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention.


Career and family life

Chalker was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. Some of his books said that he was born in Norfolk, Virginia although he later claimed that was a mistake; he attended high school at the Baltimore City College. Chalker earned a BA degree in English from Towson University in Towson, Maryland, where he was a theater critic for the school newspaper, The Towerlight. During 2003, Towson University named Chalker their Liberal Arts Alumnus of the Year. He received a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Norfolk, Virginia Independent city in Virginia, United States

Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 242,803; in 2017, the population was estimated to be 244,703 making it the second-most populous city in Virginia after neighboring Virginia Beach.

Virginia State of the United States of America

Virginia, officially the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a state in the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States located between the Atlantic Coast and the Appalachian Mountains. The geography and climate of the Commonwealth are shaped by the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Chesapeake Bay, which provide habitat for much of its flora and fauna. The capital of the Commonwealth is Richmond; Virginia Beach is the most populous city, and Fairfax County is the most populous political subdivision. The Commonwealth's estimated population as of 2018 is over 8.5 million.

The Baltimore City College, known colloquially as City, City College, B.C.C. and nicknamed "The Castle on the Hill" is a public magnet high school in Baltimore, Maryland, United States. Established and authorized by resolution in March 1839 by the Baltimore City Council, signed / approved by the 10th Mayor, Sheppard C. Leakin (1838-1840), and opened in October 1839 as "The High School", "City" is the third oldest active public high school in the US. A citywide college preparatory school with a liberal arts focus, The Baltimore City College has selective admissions criteria based on entrance exams and middle school grades. The four-year City College curriculum includes the IB Middle Years Programme and the IB Diploma Programme of the International Baccalaureate curriculums since the mid 1980s.

Chalker intended to become a lawyer, but financial problems caused him to become a teacher instead. He taught history and geography in the Baltimore City Public Schools from 1966 to 1978, most notably at Baltimore City College and the now defunct Southwest Senior High School. Chalker lectured on science fiction and technology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and numerous universities.

Baltimore City Public Schools system of schools administered by the Baltimore City Government

Baltimore City Public Schools, also referred to as Baltimore City Public School System, BCPSS, BCPS and City Schools, is a public school district in the city of Baltimore, state of Maryland, United States. It serves the youth for Baltimore City. Traditionally however, the Baltimore City Public Schools system has usually never referred to itself as a "district," as the operation of the schools was synonymous with the city of Baltimore. Its headquarters are located on 200 East North Avenue at North Calvert Street in the "Dr. Alice G. Pinderhughes Administration Building".

Southwestern Senior High School was a public high school located in Baltimore, Maryland. Ruff Endz band members David Chance and Dante Jordan attended. Current Engineering Education leader, Clifton Martin also attended this great institution. Southwestern Senior High School opened in September 1971 and closed in June 2007. The building sat vacant for one year before the city leased the school to the SEED School of Maryland boarding school. The main classroom building was torn down along with the library and cafeteria. The building has been replaced with dorms and portable classrooms.

Science fiction Genre of speculative fiction

Science fiction is a genre of speculative fiction that has been called the "literature of ideas". It typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, time travel, parallel universes, fictional worlds, space exploration, and extraterrestrial life. Science fiction often explores the potential consequences of scientific innovations.

Chalker was married in 1978 and had two children, David, a game designer, and Samantha, a computer security consultant.

Chalker's hobbies included esoteric audio, travel, and working on science-fiction convention committees. He also had a great interest in ferryboats; at his fiancee's suggestion, their marriage was performed on the Roaring Bull boat, part of the Millersburg Ferry, in the middle of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania.

Millersburg Ferry

The Millersburg Ferry, also known as the Crow's Ferry, is the last operating ferry on the Susquehanna River. It crosses the river between Millersburg in Dauphin County and Buffalo Township in Perry County, Pennsylvania in the United States. The ferry was established in the early 19th century. The Millersburg Ferry crossing was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006. Its ferry boat is believed to be the last "wooden double stern-wheel paddle boat" to be operating in the United States. It is owned by the Millersburg Chamber of Commerce and operated by the Millersburg Ferryboat Association from May until October when water levels permit.

Susquehanna River river in the northeastern United States

The Susquehanna River is a major river located in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States. At 464 miles (747 km) long, it is the longest river on the East Coast of the United States that drains into the Atlantic Ocean. With its watershed, it is the 16th-largest river in the United States, and the longest river in the early 21st-century continental United States without commercial boat traffic.

Pennsylvania State of the United States of America

Pennsylvania, officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a state located in the northeastern, Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The Appalachian Mountains run through its middle. The Commonwealth is bordered by Delaware to the southeast, Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, Lake Erie and the Canadian province of Ontario to the northwest, New York to the north, and New Jersey to the east.

Science fiction

Chalker joined the Washington Science Fiction Association during 1958, and during 1963 he and two friends founded the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. Chalker attended every World Science Fiction Convention, except one, from 1965 until 2004. He published an amateur SF journal, Mirage, from 1960 to 1971 (a Hugo nominee during 1963 for Best Fanzine), [1] producing ten issues. Another journal, Interjection, was published 1968–1987 in association with the Fantasy Amateur Press Association. Chalker also initiated a publishing house, Mirage Press, Ltd., for releasing nonfiction and bibliographic works concerning science fiction and fantasy.

The Fantasy Amateur Press Association or FAPA ("FAP-uh") is science fiction fandom's longest-established amateur press association ("apa"). It was founded in 1937 by Donald A. Wollheim and John B. Michel. They were inspired to create FAPA by their memberships in some of the non-science fiction amateur press associations, which they learned about from H. P. Lovecraft.

Chalker's awards included the Daedalus Award (1983), The Gold Medal of the West Coast Review of Books (1984), Skylark Award (1980), and the Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Award (1979). He was a nominee for the John W. Campbell Award twice and for the Hugo Award twice. Chalker was posthumously awarded the Phoenix Award by the Southern Fandom Confederation on April 9, 2005.

Daedalus Greek mythological figure

In Greek mythology, Daedalus was a skillful craftsman and artist, and was seen as a symbol of wisdom, knowledge, and power. He is the father of Icarus, the uncle of Perdix, and possibly also the father of Iapyx, although this is unclear. He invented and built the labyrinth for king Minos of Crete, but shortly after finishing it king Minos had Daedalus imprisoned within the labyrinth. He and his son Icarus devised a plan to escape by using wings made of wax that Daedalus had invented. They escaped, but sadly Icarus did not heed his father's warnings and flew too close to the sun. The wax melted and Icarus fell to his death. This left Daedalus heartbroken, but instead of giving up he flew to the island of Sicily.

Hugo Award Literary awards for science fiction or fantasy

The Hugo Awards are a set of literary awards given annually for the best science fiction or fantasy works and achievements of the previous year. The awards are named after Hugo Gernsback, the founder of the pioneering science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. Organized and overseen by the World Science Fiction Society, the awards are given each year at the annual World Science Fiction Convention as the central focus of the event. They were first given in 1953 at the 11th World Science Fiction Convention, and have been awarded every year since 1955. Over the years that the award has been given, the categories presented have changed; currently the award is given in more than a dozen categories and includes both written and dramatic works of various types. The Hugos are widely considered the premier award in science fiction.

The Phoenix Award is a lifetime achievement award for a science fiction professional "who has done a great deal for Southern Fandom." The Phoenix is given annually by DeepSouthCon, a bidded convention held in different states of the former Confederacy.

Chalker was a three-term treasurer of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Chalker was also the co-author (with Mark Owings [2] ) of The Science Fantasy Publishers (third edition during 1991, updated annually), published by Mirage Press, Ltd, [3] a bibliographic guide to genre small press publishers which was a Hugo Award nominee during 1992. The Maryland Young Writers Contest, sponsored by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, was renamed "'The Jack L. Chalker Young Writers Contest" effective April 8, 2006.


Chalker is best known for his Well World series of novels, but he also wrote many other novels (most, but not all, part of a series, or large novels which were split into 'series' by the publishers), and at least nine short stories.

Many of Chalker's works involve some physical transformation of the main characters. For instance, in the Well World novels, immigrants to the Well World are transformed from their original form to become a member of one of the 1,560 sentient species that inhabit that artificial planet. Another example would be that the Wonderland Gambit series resembles traditional Buddhist jataka-type reincarnation stories set in a science fiction environment. Steven Chalker announced that Wonderland Gambit might be made into a movie, but supposedly its close resemblance to The Matrix resulted in the project being canceled. [4]

At the time of his death, Chalker left one unfinished novel, Chameleon. He was planning to write another novel, Ripsaw, after Chameleon.

Illness and death

On September 18, 2003, during Hurricane Isabel, Chalker passed out and was rushed to the hospital with a diagnosis of a coronary occlusion. He was later released, but was severely weakened. On December 6, 2004, he was again rushed to hospital with breathing problems and disorientation, and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and a pneumothorax. Chalker was hospitalized in critical condition, then upgraded to stable condition on December 9, though he did not regain consciousness until December 15. After several more weeks in deteriorating condition and in a persistent vegetative state, with several transfers to different hospitals, Chalker died on February 11, 2005, of kidney failure and sepsis at Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

Some of Chalker's remains are interred in the family plot at Loudon Park Cemetery [5] in Baltimore. The remainder were distributed off a ferry near Hong Kong, the ferry between Hainan Island and the Chinese mainland, a ferry in Vietnam, White's Ferry on the Potomac River in Virginia on Father's Day 2007, and on author H. P. Lovecraft's grave in Providence, Rhode Island on December 17, 2005.


The Saga of the Well World series

The Watchers at the Well series

The Four Lords of the Diamond series

The Dancing Gods series

The Soul Rider series

The Rings of the Master series

The G.O.D. Inc series

The Changewinds series

The Quintara Marathon series

The Wonderland Gambit series

The Three Kings series

Stand-alone novels

Collection and anthology

Besides the short stories included in Dance Band on the Titanic, Chalker wrote at least one other short story:


See also

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  1. Best Fanzine:Mirage ed. by Jack L. Chalker 1963 Hugo Awards - The Hugo Awards
  2. Of the family for whom Owings Mills, Maryland, is named.
  3. "The Mirage Press Ltd". 2004. Archived from the original on 4 April 2005. Retrieved 2006-03-05.
  4. "Meteorologist Life". Archived from the original on 2005-04-03. Retrieved 2006-03-05.
  5. "Jack L. Chalker". Find a Grave.