John Lange was a prolific author who rose to prominence in the 1970s with science fiction stories that pushed the boundaries of the field. It’s just that he didn’t always push them in the same direction.
On the one hand, John Lange wrote thrillers using cutting-edge science as the launching point for extrapolations into societal development, then imagined what could go wrong. On the other hand, he wrote about a world on the other side of the sun that would send kidnapping parties to abduct women from the Earth (always fairly well-to-do white American women) who would learn to love a society based heavily upon sexual slavery.
People in the publishing industry were confused, naturally. Which was the real John Lange? And the answer: both.
John Lange was a pseudonym used by Michael Crichton for his earliest novels. As a student in med school, Crichton wanted to make some money, he wanted to get published… and he didn’t want too much attention. He was proud of his books, but there can be issues with having a doctor who writes pulpy action-thrillers. A person looking to open their own practice some day was well advised to put some distance between their two professions.
Only after his success as a novelist and as a screenwriter did he abandon the pseudonym and start using his actual name. But by then, the damage had been done… to John Lange.
John Lange was a young English professor who’d submitted a novel to Ballantine Books. To his delight, they accepted it. There was quite a bit of editing which needed to be done, but with work and polishing a successful trilogy was made of the Gor novels, which focused on very Barsoom-style adventures of an Earth man on a distant, barbaric planet.
In the Gor novels, however, unlike the Edgar Rice Burroughs ones, there was sex.
It was not explicit, but the implications were designed to be very obvious. And in the late 1960s, the combination of action/adventure and sexuality was a successful one. The Gor novels were a success, selling strongly through the 1970s and into the 1980s, and even spawning two movies.
Unfortunately for Lange, he couldn’t use his own name, because Crichton had gotten there first. Instead, he was forced into a pseudonym of his own: John Norman.
So John Lange was not John Lange, it was Michael Crichton. John Norman was John Lange. And science fiction trivia was born.
Question of the night: What is your favorite science fiction novel?