Sunday, April 25, 2010

“The Real Martian Chronicles,” a new short story of high silliness by John Sladek

The May/June 2010 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction includes “The Real Martian Chronicles,” a previously unpublished short story written by the late American science fiction author John Sladek (1937-2000) that was discovered in his papers. A piece of near future “high silliness” that chronicles the first week of a British family’s new home on a populated Mars, here are the opening lines:


We spent the whole day unpacking our tea chests. Everyone seems to have suffered some loss: Edna found her grandmother's teapot smashed. I noticed that my musical saw was missing -- no doubt stolen by the so-called workers of Botmore's Interplanetary Removals, PLC. Peregrine, our oldest, missed his acne medicine and his collection of early Bananarama records. The twins, Mandy and Jason, accuse me of having packed only one of the table tennis paddles. By the end of the day, we were all in a bad mood, discouraged. What a way to start off in our new home ....

Apparently, John Sladek was “one of the greatest parodists ever to work in the SF field” and, “with apologies to George and Weedon Grossmith,” his “The Real Martian Chronicles” is, presumably, a parody of the pompous banality of late 20th-century British life. As if to illustrate the point, in March 2010 the esteemed literary critic Sir David Langford wrote:
Of all the insanely labour-intensive sf projects on which I've worked, I am proudest of Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek (2002; reprinted 2003). But now -- look on my works, ye mighty, and despair -- it's about to become a tiny bit obsolete. I tried to assemble all the great John Sladek's uncollected fiction (and poetry), but little did I know that there was an actual unpublished Sladek typescript hidden beneath dense verbiage in John Clute's cellar. Wearing his agent's hat, Chris Priest scanned this and cleaned it up; I proofread it; Gordon Van Gelder bought it for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The May/June 2010 issue will thus contain "The Real Martian Chronicles" by John Sladek, which might be described as "Mr Pooter [of Diary of a Nobody fame] Colonizes Mars". This has been an unsolicited plug.
If you thought Pamela Sargent’s Nebula Award-winning novelette “Danny Goes to Mars” (1992) was a real hoot, you’ll probably enjoy “The Real Martian Chronicles.”

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