August 3, 2011

Remembering William Sleator

William Sleator, author of dozens of science fiction novels for kids and teens, died yesterday. When I was young, I read every book of his that my library had, often more than once. That was in the late 1980s. I see that his list of works continued to grow steadily in the decades since then. I'm going to have to catch up.

In most of Sleator's books, regular kids encounter some science fictional phenomenon or artifact that messes with their life. The stories were often scary in the same way as my nightmares about infinite numbers. I still get chills thinking of SINGULARITY, in which twin brothers find a room where time passes much faster than outside and one twin makes himself older so that he can overpower his dominant brother. Maybe I have unusual fears. William Sleator clearly had similar ideas about what was creepy.

Sleator once paid a visit to my middle school, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to meet one of my favorite authors. He told us some amazing true stories from his life. The one that made the biggest impression on me was about the manuscript of THE GREEN FUTURES OF TYCHO that he submitted to his editor. In the published book, there's an early scene where Tycho's siblings torment him. In the draft that Sleator submitted, during that scene, the siblings tie Tycho to a tree, put kindling underneath, and threaten to set him on fire. Sleator's editor said he had to tone that down because it wasn't believable for kids to be that cruel. Sleator disagreed, since it was an event taken directly from his real childhood. Nonetheless, the scene was changed. Reality can be less credible than fiction.

Thank you, William Sleator, for filling my early reading years with wonder and terror.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Becky Levine offers advice on Creating Space for the Lightbulb Moments: "I do believe inspiration exists. I also believe there are things we can do to help it along."

→ Darryl Campbell suggests Book Review Clich├ęs I’d Like To See: "Borrow Buzzwords From Other Industries: For example, turn bestsellers into 'results-driven novels,' and debut authors into 'entrepreneurial writers.'" (Thanks, The Millions!)


Becky Levine said...

Hey, Lisa--Thanks for the link. And I'm sorry about William Sleator. I hadn't read his books, but I know how it feels when a childhood favorite author dies. I read all of Phyllis Whitney's young-adult mysteries when I was young, and when she did (at 103!), I felt a huge loss. Plus I hadn't gotten my mystery done/published in time to dedicate it to her. :)

Lisa Eckstein said...

Thanks, Becky. What's particularly sad is that Sleator was only 66, so he could have had much more life and writing ahead of him.

Anna Scott Graham said...

Amazing how an author can shape our world. So wonderful you got to meet him. A lovely post...

laurenhat said...

Wow, I somehow never ran across him, but it sounds like I would have loved his work. Maybe I'll have to do some catching up on his work, too! I'm sorry to hear that he's gone.

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