John Griffith "Jack" London (born John Griffith Chaney, January 12, 1876 November 22, 1916) was an American author best known for his adventure novels and short stories. He was also one of the first Americans to make a lucrative career exclusively from writing. Twice (in 1901 and 1905) he ran for mayor of Oakland, CA, as a Socialist. When he was 21 he went to the Yukon Territory to prospect for gold during the Klondike Gold Rush; this served as inspiration for some of his most famous works, such as "To Build a Fire" and The Call of the Wild. He also worked as a journalist, writing news articles about the Klondike and the Russo-Japanese War, and penning a memorable eyewitness account of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.
He credited Oakland poet and librarian Ina Coolbrith with first putting books in his hands as a young child. He was a huge fan of Ouida and said her book Signa was one of the eight reasons behind his literary success. He was an extremely prolific author, releasing dozens and dozens of novels, stories, short story collections, and poems over a 20-year career.
London died of kidney failure, with morphine addiction and severe alcoholism as contributory causes, in 1916.
London's best known works include:
- The Call of the Wild (1903, novel)
- The Sea Wolf (1904, novel)
- White Fang (1906, novel)
- "To Build a Fire" (1902, short story)
- The Iron Heel (1908, novel), a dystopia work which documents the rise of fascism in the United States.
- John Barleycorn (1913, memoir) A confessional autobiography about his lifetime as an alcoholic. One of the first memoirs to paint the subject in a negative, as opposed to a heroic light. Trope Namer for Pink Elephants, not only in this Wiki, but in Real Life too.
Tropes Appearing in Jack London's other works:
- After the End: "The Scarlet Plague" takes place long after a global disease outbreak and hardly anyone remembers the times before.
- Based on a True Story: The main character of "The Mexican" is based on a boxer who took the pseudonym "Joe Rivers" and used his winnings to help finance a group supporting the Mexican Revolution.
- China Takes Over the World: The Unparalleled Invasion has a slow (and very racist — it is a perfect example of the Yellow Peril concept, though not of the trope) version: a modernized Imperial China (it was written in 1910, literally a year before the Qing fell) expanding by having its growing population constantly move into bordering regions. Outnumber the natives, officially annex the place, start moving into the new bordering regions... ultimately, they're stopped by an international coalition using biological warfare to exterminate the Chinese population (the Unparalleled Invasion the title references). This is portrayed as a good thing.
- Fictional Color: One of the competing students in "The Shadow and the Flash" turns himself invisible by discovering a color that is so dark it can't be seen by the human eye.
- Fountain of Youth: In "The Rejuvenation of Major Rathbone" the main character's friend devises a serum that can regress aging.
- Invisibility: The two rival friends in The Shadow and the Flash find different ways to turn to do this but with this same result.
- Invisibility Ink: Or paint in this case; two different versions of it.
- The Plague: "The Scarlet Plague" and "The Unparalleled Invasion."
- Rambling Old Man Monologue: How the old man in "The Scarlet Plague" relates the story of the destruction of civilization.
- Sibling Rivalry: In "The Shadow and the Flash."
- Wooden Ships and Iron Men: "Mutiny On The Elsinore" (1914). Those fitting the trope are Captain West and his officers - plus the narrator, who Takes A Level In Badass by the end to quell the mutiny. The crew are made up of all sorts of bandits and other wicked people. This caused a pretty racist description from the narrator well before any sort of violence begun.