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Creator / Jack Chalker

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Jack Laurence Chalker (December 17, 1944 — February 11, 2005) was a prolific American science fiction and fantasy author of over 60 works. He's best known for his larger serial works, particularly the Well World (SF) and Dancing Gods (Fantasy) sagas, although he also wrote several standalone books and nonfiction works including a definitive biography of H.P. Lovecraft and a huge and comprehensive history of Science Fiction and Fantasy publishing.

Today Chalker is most famous (indeed notorious) for the sheer amount of Author Appeal packed into his works, exceeded perhaps only by Piers Anthony in this regard. Chalker probably struggled with body dysmorphia, which wasn’t well understood or diagnosed in his lifetime. A typical character in a Chalker book can expect to undergo at least one Forced Transformation and/or Gender Bender. (And, seeing as it is a Chalker book, quite lucky if that's the worst thing that happens to them.) His characters were often brainwashed or had their personality altered thanks to the body they were given.

Chalker also wrote a number of books in which characters do not undergo horrible transformations, as well as books that contain transformation that are anything but horrible. But since one person's Body Horror is often another person's fetish, those aren't the works he tends to be remembered for.

Works by Jack Chalker with their own trope pages include:

Other works by Jack Chalker include examples of:

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The series consists of four books: When the Changewinds Blow, Riders of the Winds, War of the Maelstrom, and Changewinds.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: Boday the mad artist is forceably given a love potion to make her fall for the protagonist and switches from being an antagonist to a helper at that point. Nobody has any serious problem with this.
  • Cloudcuckoolanguage: The Eccentric Artist Boday always refers to herself in the third person, and uses expressions like "Moonstones and little fishes" in place of curse words.
  • Mad Artist: Boday turns girls into living pieces of art for rich clients. It's somewhat a stretch to call her evil (she travels with the main characters, and becomes more of a good-natured Eccentric Artist by the end of the series), but she's still quite insane.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: The ba'ahdon look more like a cross between a chalicothere and a pygmy elephant from the waist down.
  • Speak of the Devil: The Changewinds begins with the female protagonists learning that they are being threatened by an evil wizard. A mercenary entrusted with the girls' safety decides that the villain is likely to pay better and attempts to attract his attention by saying his name now and then. The girls, discovering this, try to call on the wizard who brought them to this world by saying his name over and over. Of course, with a name like "Boolean", the girls just wound up giggling after a while. It should be noted that neither wizard was summoned, no matter how much their names were dropped.
  • Third-Person Person: The artist Boday. In her case it's due to quirkiness bordering on insanity.

    And the Devil Will Drag You Under 
  • Someone Has to Do It: A magic gem is guarded by the ghost of the last person who tried to steal it. The ghost is substantial enough to hold and use a sword, but not substantial enough to be hurt by one. He stands guard until the next thief arrives — and then he kills the thief, freeing himself and recruiting his replacement.

    The Four Lords of the Diamond 
The series consists of four books: Lilith: A Snake in the Grass, Cerberus: A Wolf in the Fold, Charon: A Dragon at the Gate, and Medusa: A Tiger by the Tail.
  • The Alcatraz: The Warden Diamond is a solar system with four habitable planets infested by a microrganism that kills anyone who tries to leave, making for one huge, seemingly inescapable prison colony.
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Humanity discovers a solar system with four Earthlike planets — completely unheard of. It's only at the end of the series that they discover that the four planets were artificially constructed by an alien race as nurseries for their young.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: Lilith: A Snake in the Grass features the sudden arrival of troops supposed to aid the witches in their attack on the protagonist's enemy, only for both defenders and cavalry to turn on the witches, the protagonist realizing he'd been an Unwitting Pawn in a plan to get rid of the witches.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The antagonist had captured one of the four mental clones (mind-wiped criminals with the agent's personality and memory imprinted on them) of the agent sent to stop him and had changed him into a female sex-slave. He brings her to a face to face meeting with the agent in order to gloat... only for the agent to utter a trigger phrase that causes her to assassinate the villain.
  • Gender Bender Angst: The main character has his brain pattern imprinted on four prisoners, each being sent to a different planet in the Warden Diamond Penal Colony. One of the prisoners is female. Fortunately for the protagonist, this particular iteration of him is going to a planet that has the strange property of switching the minds of two people when they sleep with each other (in the literal sense). He jumps at the first opportunity to get himself back into a male body, and never looks back — even though this inevitably blows his cover.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Each volume features a different one of the four worlds of the Warden Diamond, on which the protagonist must find and either kill or subvert the Lord of that world, as well as investigating his particular piece of the overall puzzle.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each book in the quartet is titled using the pattern of [Mythical Monster]: A [X] in/at/by the [Y].
  • Klingon Promotion: This is common on most of the planets of the Warden Diamond, as they're a dumping ground for all the sociopaths, criminals, scum, villainy, and political opponents that the interstellar human empire decided weren't worth killing (or mindwiping). On the one planet where this is frowned on, it still happens if you can frame or con someone higher up the chain of command to make them look bad so they get jailed, demoted or transferred for being stupid enough to fall for it.
  • Penal Colony: The books feature four planets which serve as penal colonies, each with a unique cutthroat society.
  • Psycho Psychologist: Referenced when one of the protagonists meets a psychiatrist who wears glasses as an affectation, on a world where all health issues are instantly fixed, including imperfect eyesight. He thinks to himself that he has yet to meet a shrink who didn't need to see a shrink.

    G.O.D. Inc. 
The series consists of three books: The Labyrinth of Dreams, The Shadow Dancers, and The Maze in the Mirror.

    A Jungle of Stars 
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: A Jungle of Stars has the galaxy fighting a civil war brought about by the two remaining members of a race that had Ascended. One of them stayed behind to rule, and one was left behind to thwart him. The fact that both claim to be the guardian is only part of the problem.

    Quintara Marathon 
The series consists of three books: The Demons at Rainbow Bridge, The Run to Chaos Keep, and The Ninety Trillion Fausts.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: The three empires demonstrate this, at least in terms of the humans who are represented in all three. The Exchange is a free-market free-for-all with the most personal freedom, but minimal social safety nets and an underbelly of corruption and unofficial slavery (in the form of genetically engineered intelligent beings considered as property). The Mizlaplan control a rigid theocracy where they are unquestionably the rulers (and effective gods), inquisitors and priest can use whatever methods they feel are necessary, sexual discrimination against women is part of the system, and where brainwashing into absolute obedience is commonly used, but where most people live peaceful, safe lives without concern about hunger, crime, or actually being personally oppressed. The Mychol Empire is a dog-eat-dog vicious society with oppression, slavery, and a great deal of violence, but where everyone has the opportunity to rise if they are smart enough.
  • Planet of Steves: There is an alien species whose every member is named Durquist, which also serves as the species' own name. When one of the main characters asks their Durquist friend how the race can tell each other apart (they all look the same, too) the Durquist responds to the effect of "we just can".
  • Starfish Aliens: The colorful collection of aliens, particularly an actual race of Starfish Aliens, the Durquist.

    Rings of the Master 
The series consists of four books: Lords of the Middle Dark, Pirates of the Thunder, Warriors of the Storm, and Masks of the Martyrs.
  • Baby Factory: Song Ching was specifically engineered for the seemingly mutually exclusive roles of physical and mental paragon and baby factory through the simple expedient of modifying her endocrine system to make her rationality dependent upon pregnancy hormones, giving her full use of her brilliant, cold and rational mind when she is pregnant but making her extremely distracted, horny and suggestible when she is not, effectively programming her to do anything to get pregnant as soon as possible after giving birth. This challenges her fellow Phlebotinum Rebels to plan their operations around the periods when she is functional, "service" her when she is not and care for her ever-growing family as she does not normally have the mindset that makes for a good mother. Hormone treatments are considered but discarded as they don't want to risk damaging her brilliant mind and she feels the need to say "screw you Dad" by bearing all the heirs her father expected her to produce for him in the service of the rebellion. The real kicker? Left to her own devices, she prefers women.
  • Black Speech: Played with. An evil space pirate speaks a language that is described as sounding evil, guttural and disgusting. It turns out to be English (the viewpoint character was Asian and not an English speaker).
  • Deus Est Machina: The AI "Master System". The AI was created at a point in Earth's future history when humanity was on the brink of self-destructive nuclear war, ostensibly to run the military of one side of the conflict. The programmers secretly subverted it, however, deliberately programming it to rebel and take over the world in order to prevent that very war from happening. It's thousands of years later when the series begins and Master System has kept humanity under an iron fist since then, forcing most of the population to live in a "safe" low technology state. It doesn't claim to be a god, per se, but it might as well be to most people.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each book in the quartet is titled using the pattern of [Plural X] of the [Y].
  • Mile-Long Ship: The Thunder, the base ship for the small band of rebels who oppose Master System, is a former colony ship that's fourteen kilometers long.
  • Robot War: The premise of the series is a rebellion against the master computer that was created to conquer its creator's enemies and ended up conquering the entire human race to save them from themselves.
  • Starfish Aliens: A Skynet-like AI has conquered humanity and used genetically modified humans to colonize the galaxy. Even though they are technically human, some of them get very weird, including elk- and cattle-like people that grow horns and become quadrupedal when pregnant to protect their stomachs.
  • Vichy Earth: Master System is a supercomputer that was built with the order to keep humanity safe. It calculates the best to do this is to scatter the human race throughout the stars so that destruction of any one planet won't kill everyone, but keep the humans on each individual planet confined to ethnically partitioned zones with no technology beyond subsistence farming, to prevent them from warring with each other. The result is an enforced Vichy Galaxy.

    The Web of the Chozen 
  • Metamorphosis: A human hero is transformed by an alien virus into an alien creature. One attempt at getting help from his superiors is enough to convince him to abandon humanity in favor of his new species.
  • Mister Seahorse: Female choz lay six eggs and both males and females incubate them in brood pouches. The sex of the offspring is determined by the sex of the incubating parent with the normal ratio being two males to four females. The hero of the story is the only male choz who produces female offspring.

    The Wonderland Gambit 
The series consists of three books: The Cybernetic Walrus, The March Hare Network, and The Hot-Wired Dodo.
  • Arc Words: "Everything you think you know is wrong".
  • Digitized Hacker: It's rumored that this is what happened to VR genius Matthew Brand.
  • Driving Question: What happened to Matthew Brand?
  • Flying Saucer: Small aliens with flying saucers periodically pop up, even in worlds where they have no business existing. Some of the characters theorize that they've figured out how to punch through the barriers between virtual realities. In reality, they're the answer to where Matthew Brand disappeared to.
  • Inside a Computer System: The trilogy features people who have been inside the machine so long they've created thousands of alternate universes — all of which keep running after they're gone.
  • Like Reality, Unless Noted: Used in-universe. To save computational space, all elements of reality not explicitly changed by the premise are Like Reality Unless Noted — but if magic exists or people are unisex centaurs, an awful lot of Reality may be Noted.
  • Ontological Mystery: The characters are trying to discover the nature of the virtual reality environment they're sealed in, so that they can find a way to escape the endless reincarnation and return to the real world.
  • Past-Life Memories: People who cross from one world to another while alive are reincarnated with all their previous memories intact. Those who died in the previous world still get a new life, but with no memories and a Gender Flip.
  • Pinball Protagonist: Cory Maddox spends much of the trilogy in this state, more often acted on than acting, and only occasionally able to bring serious power to bear. This turns out to have a reason. In the original group that went into the virtual reality, Cory was just a minor admin who was bringing lunch to her spouse when things went haywire. The computer placed her in the hierarchy as a low-ranking player with power to match, normally only able to act when paired up with someone higher up. Cory's realization of this helps her subvert the trope and figure out the key to the situation.
  • Reincarnation: Standard operating procedure for the main characters every time a world is changed. If you're killed off before the world changes, you also get a Gender Flip.
  • Shameful Strip: In the second book, Cory's current (female) identity is made to strip naked by a doctor to keep her from escaping.

Alternative Title(s): Jack L Chalker, Lilith A Snake In The Grass, The Four Lords Of The Diamond