- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Jack L. Chalker, 60, science fiction writer

BALTIMORE (AP) ” Jack L. Chalker, who wrote more than 60 science fiction and fantasy novels, died of kidney failure Feb. 11 in Baltimore. He was 60.

A Uniontown resident, Mr. Chalker was one of Maryland’s most prolific authors and won numerous awards during a career that began in his early teens. His 1977 novel “Midnight at the Well of Souls,” about a walking, talking plant with brains in its feet, sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

“He was one of the greats in our field,” said Catherine Asaro, of Columbia, Md., president of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America Inc. “He always had something provocative to say, his creativity in imagining different universes.”

When Mr. Chalker was a teen, he started a literary magazine, Mirage, that he produced on an electric mimeograph machine and assembled with friends in his home.



“He would write famous authors and see if they wanted to write free nonfiction pieces for his magazine, and a surprising number did,” said his wife, Eva C. Whitley.

The magazine earned the 14-year-old Mr. Chalker a nomination for the Hugo Award, the genre’s highest honor, presented by the World Science Fiction Society. Mr. Chalker would be nominated for three more Hugos in his career.

Mrs. Whitley’s favorite book was 1979’s “And the Devil Will Drag You Under.”

“His most memorable scene had two giant King Kongs on the Empire State Building, battling for control of the universe,” said Mrs. Whitley, who married Mr. Chalker in 1978 aboard a ferryboat on the Susquehanna River.

Mr. Chalker was 13 when he took a bus from Baltimore to the District for his first science fiction meeting. He was hooked. Several years later, he and a high school friend founded the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, holding regular meetings in friends’ homes.

Mr. Chalker later organized the society’s first Balticon, an annual conference, now in its 39th year, that has grown from a few dozen attendees to as many as 2,000.

“It’s a relatively small field, and because science fiction has so many conventions, it’s very hard not to meet 90 percent of the writers,” author Mike Resnick said.

Mr. Chalker traveled as far as Australia for conventions, and on his Web site he proclaimed plans to attend this year’s World Science Fiction Society convention in Scotland.

He received hundreds of letters and e-mails every year, and he used to respond to all of them, his wife said.

“He just never forgot that he was once a little teenage boy running around science fiction conventions, and he always tried to make it a good experience for others,” she said.

Mr. Chalker also wrote several books about the writer H.P. Lovecraft and owned a publishing company, Mirage Press.

A funeral service is planned for Monday, Feb. 21, at Marzullo Funeral Chapel in Baltimore.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, David Whitley Chalker and Steven Lloyd Chalker, both of Uniontown.

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