Wholly Smokes was the last book to be completed by John Sladek, one of the most unusual and talented American writers of the 20th century. Ansible's online version of this novella was the first edition in the world, which we followed with the first print edition. We have also reissued all four of the story collections he published in his lifetime: see below.
John Sladek was born in the USA in 1937, but from 1966 until the mid-1980s he lived in London. He soon became identified with the "new wave", then taking the science fiction world by storm, but in truth Sladek's work has always been uniquely uncategorizable. His work is humorous, satirical, often melancholy and occasionally surprisingly passionate. He is always highly readable and entertaining. His best novels include The Reproductive System (1968), Black Alice, a collaboration with Thomas M. Disch (1968), and Roderick (1980). All his novels can be recommended, but some of his best work is found in his non-fiction and short stories.
His most significant work of non-fiction is The New Apocrypha (1973) a scathing examination of pseudoscience and cult religions. See the Sladek links page for "Science Fiction and Pseudoscience", a speech he delivered while preparing this book; this outlines several of its themes with characteristic wit. His story collections are The Steam-Driven Boy (1973), containing most of his celebrated parodies of science fiction authors, Keep the Giraffe Burning (1978), Alien Accounts (1982), The Lunatics of Terra (1984), and a posthumous collection edited by Ansible's David Langford, Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek (2002). Towards the end of his life, Sladek remarried and returned to the USA, to live in Minnesota.
Like many of Sladek's books, Wholly Smokes is almost impossible to categorize, other than to say it is the fictionalized history of a tobacco company, one which seems to have been present at, or had bizarre influence on, many of the great moments of history. We can safely claim that you will never have read anything like it before.
Ansible's e-book of Wholly Smokes has been fully authorized by John Sladek's estate, in the person of his widow Sandy, who has helped ensure that the text is complete and accurate, and presented in the form Sladek intended. This includes his own indescribable illustrations, most of them cheekily adapted from clip-art originals.
Latest news, 2019: David Langford has compiled a successor collection to Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. The working title is New Maps: More Uncollected John Sladek (click link for descriptive page).