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August 5, 2011 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Renowned Science Fiction author William Sleator has passed away at the age of 66.

He started writing as a child, to entertain his siblings.

Author and XYZZY award-winner Adam Cadre reviews some of his works.
posted by griphus (40 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, what a bummer. Interstellar Pig is still one of my favorite books of all time. I will re-read it for the 80th time in his honor this weekend.

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posted by something something at 7:44 AM on August 5, 2011


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Loved his first book The Curse. Sad that he died, sad that I had never heard of him until now.
posted by Fizz at 7:44 AM on August 5, 2011


House of Stairs will haunt me until the day I die.

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posted by dersins at 7:48 AM on August 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm just going to take one hot second out of EDITORIAL OBJECTIVITIY here to fucking gush about William Sleator. I got Interstellar Pig in 7th grade through one of those school book club things where you order a bunch of books and they show up to your class a few months later. It was one of the few things my mother would always be willing to spend money on without even asking a question. After I read that one, I demolished my library's collection of his stuff, just one after the other: House of Stairs, Singularity, The Duplicate, The Boy Who Reversed Himself, The Green Futures of Tycho, and probably a bunch of others I'm forgetting.

The one thing that I just absolutely loved was that his protagonists, all just slightly older than me, were free. They made the choices, and they suffered the consequences and when shit went down, it was up to them and not the Auhorities to sort it all out. As a kid who was pretty much kept under a microscope, I got to imagine a very near future of independence and adventure.

Thank you, William Sleator.

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posted by griphus at 7:49 AM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 7:50 AM on August 5, 2011


I first read House of Stairs when I was in 5th or 6th grade, over 30 years ago. It's been more than 20 years since the last time I read it, and yet images from the book still creep me out today.

Mr. Sleator, you will be missed. And I'll make sure my kids read your work.
posted by hanov3r at 7:51 AM on August 5, 2011


House of Stairs is probably the most common answer to "what was this book I read as a child?": AskMe

It's even right sometimes.
posted by smackfu at 7:53 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel the same way about House of Stairs. What an amazing book.

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posted by grouse at 7:53 AM on August 5, 2011


Oh, no. Reading The Boy Who Reversed Himself as a kid was my first introduction to the mindblowing concept of other spatial dimensions, and Singularity was just a wonderfully creepy little tale. Looks like I should add House of Stairs to the pile too, it sounds positively Borgesian.

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posted by Rhaomi at 7:56 AM on August 5, 2011


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(And to those who haven't had the joy of reading Sleator's works, even if you're an adult, go to the YA section of your local public library and check some out today. You won't regret it.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:08 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Among the Dolls was terrifying. I still have nightmares about this book, so many years later. Sleator was a brilliant, incredibly inventive writer. Anyone who hasn't read his work, read it now. They're fast reads but they stick with you long afterward.

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posted by silverstatue at 8:10 AM on August 5, 2011


House of Stairs, Singularity, The Duplicate, The Boy Who Reversed Himself, The Green Futures of Tycho

I think I did an middle school book report on every single one of those.

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posted by theodolite at 8:12 AM on August 5, 2011


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posted by Faint of Butt at 8:14 AM on August 5, 2011


Man. Subject of my first post five years ago.

Who's going to carry on his mission? Who will bring consequential, character-oriented SF to those young readers who are sick of vampires and not quite ready for Chiang?

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posted by Iridic at 8:14 AM on August 5, 2011


Intersteller Pig and House of Stairs were so creepy.

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posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:22 AM on August 5, 2011


House of Stairs has stuck with me for over 40 years (in fact, better than some of the "golden age" sf classics by Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, et al., that I was also reading around the same time).

I saw people enthusing about the title Interstellar Pig upthread and wondered why I'd never heard of that one. Then looked it up and realized it was published my senior year of college; I'm glad Sleator had such a long career, though I'm sorry to see he died so (relatively) young.
posted by aught at 8:30 AM on August 5, 2011


I am sad that I have no idea who this guy is. I read a lot of genre fiction and always have and the first time I hear about this guy is when he dies?

Does he have books for adults or is he primarily a YA author?
posted by cjorgensen at 8:32 AM on August 5, 2011


I've read plenty of his fiction in my childhood. I don't remember some of them but he was one of those authors you would consistently seek out at the library. I also enjoyed Oddballs, such a ..different.. family.

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posted by Seboshin at 8:36 AM on August 5, 2011


. <--- (Let's just imagine this is a singularity)
posted by BrashTech at 8:36 AM on August 5, 2011


I only post this here because it's a memorial thread. Apparently Bubba Smith (Hightower via Police Academy) died this past week, is there a thread? I'm not finding one.
posted by Fizz at 8:37 AM on August 5, 2011


Sleator has been compared to young-adult horror writer R. L. Stine.

That's some bullshit there. Wikipedia best watch its mouth.
posted by Iridic at 8:39 AM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I ran across Interstellar Pig when I was 9-10ish and it terrified me. I do not remember ever having been more scared by a book. I eventually reread it, but it took me a long time to be willing to do so. (I would totally be willing to play the board game.)

I thought House of Stairs was great, too, and I loved The Boy Who Reversed Himself (magic ketchup!) though it does not really hold up well as an adult.

This is such a loss.
posted by jeather at 9:02 AM on August 5, 2011


Apparently Bubba Smith (Hightower via Police Academy) died this past week, is there a thread? I'm not finding one.

There was, but it was not well-received and the poster apparently asked for it to be taken down.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:04 AM on August 5, 2011


magic ketchup

Where did I leave my keys? Shrug. Did I reply to that important email? Maybe. Is it my grandmother's birthday? Who the fuck knows.

What did William Sleator call the extra two spatial directions in that book? Ana and kata.
posted by griphus at 9:07 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


griphus: " What did William Sleator call the extra two spatial directions in that book? Ana and kata."

So cool! "Anaside-kata" is my sadly neglected term for when things are being turned ways far stranger than upside-down. (Though the terms were actually coined by Charles Howard Hinton, who also gave us the tesseract.)
posted by Rhaomi at 9:28 AM on August 5, 2011


I immediately think of House of Stairs whenever habits and training people to perform meaningless tasks come up in conversation.

And I'm still creeped out by the approaching thing in Singularity, years and years later.

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posted by cadge at 9:44 AM on August 5, 2011


Interstellar Pig! *sniff*

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posted by Lynsey at 10:41 AM on August 5, 2011


Damn. Just read "The Boxes" a couple of weeks ago. The kind of writer I'd like my students to read more often (along with Daniel Pinkwater). Snf.
posted by Peach at 10:52 AM on August 5, 2011


All his books were memorable but I think it's The Green Futures of Tycho that left the deepest mark on me over the years. I think Tycho's fascination with the egg thingy holds the same place for me that the lure of the One Ring does for other childhood sf readers.





posted by hattifattener at 11:46 AM on August 5, 2011


A friend just a few weeks ago drew this House of Stairs-inspired portrait of me, upon learning it was one of my favorite books as a child.
posted by dmd at 11:51 AM on August 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


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(Just gave Interstellar Pig to my best friend's son a month or so ago.)
posted by newdaddy at 12:26 PM on August 5, 2011


Damn. I checked out Singularity as a sixth-grader from the school library, kept it way past its due date. To this day it's the only book I wish I had stolen from a library, because sometimes you need to have the exact copy where you first stumbled onto this little world.

Wherever that copy is today, it's still got a lot of well-loved creases and dog-ears from me.
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:04 PM on August 5, 2011


Does he have books for adults or is he primarily a YA author?

They're all YA books, but the earlier ones work for adults as well. Try the ones recommended above, in particular House of Stairs which is one of the most psychologically eviscerating things I've ever read. Sleator understood how natural cruelty is to kids' lives, and how much the "loving" sibling dynamic has opportunistic resentment bubbling just below the surface. His YA books from the '90s onward were still good, but more Y than A.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:03 PM on August 5, 2011


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posted by LobsterMitten at 3:46 PM on August 5, 2011


One of my closest friends while growing up (and still close, though not geographically) is a huge fan of The Green Futures of Tycho: tycho.org is his (charmingly old-school) tribute to Sleator and TGFoT. Not surprisingly, I heard about Sleator's death through him first.
posted by djwudi at 5:30 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow. I have little to add except to second what everybody (ok, what everybody over 35) said about House of Stairs and The Green Futures of Tycho. It was like somebody had snuck these sickening, terrifying, mind-expanding things into the children's library that was otherwise dedicated to teaching me about science and Great Americans and how kids could all get along if they respected one another's differences.
posted by escabeche at 6:28 PM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, this is awful.

I loved The Green Futures of Tycho so crazy much. I found it at the library was I was about twelve, and it felt like a lifeline.

And Oddballs is an absolute gem. I didn't read it until I was around thirty, but I wish to heaven I'd had it as a kid. I can't imagine how he managed to cram so much love, brightness, and matter-of-fact absurdity into such a tiny, tiny book.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 6:43 PM on August 5, 2011


I'll always remember uh... I think it's The Boy Who Reversed Himself, the one with the different dimensions? Strange but interesting. That was him in general.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:25 PM on August 5, 2011


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Interstellar Pig scared the allholy CRAP out of me as a kid... I think it was the first YA book I'd ever read where the stakes were truly high and you got the sense that everything would *not* be happy ever after, that the protagonist was really damaged by his experience.

Also, sentient slug for a tongue = AWESOME.
posted by speedlime at 5:04 PM on August 6, 2011


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posted by Zozo at 12:43 PM on August 9, 2011


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