James P. Blaylock is an American fantasy author. He is a friend of the authors K. W. Jeter and Tim Powers, and shares with Powers a Creator In-Joke involving the poet William Ashbless.
Recurring characters in his works include the Victorian gentleman adventurer Langdon St. Ives and the villainous Ignacio Narbondo.
Works by this author include examples of:
- Creator In-Joke: When Powers and Blaylock were in college together, they invented a fake poet named "William Ashbless" to satirize the quality of their college's literary magazine. He ended up appearing as a character in both of their novels, entirely independently, featuring in Blaylock's novel The Digging Leviathan.
- Evil Cripple: The villainous Ignacio Narbondo is a crippled hunchback due to a childhood illness. Played with in Lord Kelvin's Machine, wherein a time-traveller visits his child self and treats him with medicine from the future. Result: in the present, Narbondo is now no longer crippled, nor ever has been... but he's still just as evil.
- Food Pills: Langdon St. Ives invents coffee pills decades before (and much, much better than) instant coffee was developed in Real Life. On several occasions in Lord Kelvin's Machine, he uses them to bribe coffee-loving Obstructive Bureaucrat or Mook characters for favors.
- Helium Speech: In Homunculus, the oxygenator device spews out blasts of helium and chlorophyll whenever it's activated. Willis Pule mistakes it for another MacGuffin and steals it, only to be hit in the face by one of these blasts when he tries to open it, freaking out when he hears his own altered voice.
- The Igor: Subverted in Homunculus, where the hunchback creeping around the spooky laboratory actually is the Mad Scientist, Ignacio Narbondo.
- Incredible Shrinking Man: People who visit future worlds via the mystical Solstice in Land of Dreams emerge into a later era to find themselves much smaller relative to things around them. Human beings gradually "acclimate" and expand to an appropriate size for humans in the world they're visiting, but their clothes stay small; when Jack and Skeezix travel into future Rio Dell, they're forced to borrow some dolls' dresses or else go naked when they outgrow the garments they'd arrived in.
- Klatchian Coffee: In The Disappearing Dwarf, there is a scene on a riverboat where the coffee comes from an urn which has been brewing continuously for 13 years. The urn is never emptied. Water and coffee are added as needed. One of the passengers makes the mistake of having a third cup. The coffee is so strong that he starts hallucinating.
- Our Homunculi Are Different: The title creature in Homunculus is not a synthetic creation at all, but rather a tiny alien.
- Pocket Protector: In Homunculus, Bill Kraken is shot at point-blank range and survives because the bullet is blocked by the book of philosophical anecdotes he's been reading. He takes it from his jacket and checks what phrase the bullet failed to penetrate, but to his disappointment, the quotation doesn't seem pertinent.
- Satchel Switcheroo: In Homunculus, four of Keeble's mechanical boxes are eagerly sought by the heroes and by several different villains. In this case, all of them have value to somebody, but characters in search of a particular box's contents (an emerald, an oxygen-maker, a perpetual-motion device, and the title creature) keep snatching the wrong one.
- Steampunk: Blaylock's works such as Homunculus and Lord Kelvin's Machine were among the type samples K. W. Jeter had in mind when he coined the term.
- The Unreveal: In Homunculus, a strange mechanical gadget called a Marseilles Pinkle is left at the site of a kidnapping. A worldly character implies that it has some perverse erotic function, but the viewpoint character is too naive even to guess what that might be, and the Pinkle's description certainly doesn't sound like a sex toy, leaving the reader in the dark as well.
- Waking Up at the Morgue: In Homunculus, Willis Pule is knocked unconscious during a scuffle with zombies, then hauled away with the bodies left behind when they de-animate. Pule's skin had been stained pale green in an earlier incident, so whoever collected the bodies can't be wholly blamed for mistaking him for yet another corpse.