Jack the Ripper

Tagged: Theme

This notorious nineteenth-century UK serial killer and mutilator – usually of female prostitutes – operated in the Whitechapel region of London, committing five murders in 1888 and perhaps others before and after, to a possible total of eleven. Never identified, the Ripper became and still remains gaslight-era London's major Icon of fear. The related literature of analysis and speculation ("Ripperology") is immense; we record only selected appearances of Jack the Ripper in works by sf authors. The best-known story is probably Robert Bloch's Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper (July 1943 Weird Tales as "Yours Truly – Jack the Ripper"; 1991 chap); Bloch revisited the character in "A Toy for Juliette" (in Dangerous Visions, anth 1967, ed Harlan Ellison), sequelled by Harlan Ellison with "The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World" (in Dangerous Visions, anth 1967, ed Harlan Ellison). Ellery Queen and Paul W Fairman set Sherlock Holmes to investigate the Ripper murders in the film tie A Study in Terror (1966; vt Sherlock Holmes Versus Jack the Ripper 1967) as by Queen alone. Iain Sinclair develops Ripperology into a kind of mystic maze (including acrostic clues in the victims' names) in White Chappell, Scarlet Tracings (1987). The centenary of the five "canonical" killings was marked by the sf/fantasy anthology Ripper! (anth 1988; vt Jack the Ripper 1988) edited by Gardner Dozois and Susan Casper. Alan Moore explores the theme in chilling depth in From Hell (graph 1991); prior Comics appearances presumably inspired by the centenary are Gotham by Gaslight (graph 1989) by Brian Augustyn and Mike {MIGNOLA}, featuring a clash with Batman, and Bruce Balfour's Jack the Ripper (October 1989-February 1990 Eternity Comics; graph 1990). Roger Zelazny's fantasy A Night in the Lonesome October (1993) has the Ripper as a major character and is narrated by his dog Snuff. An occult Ripper figure – a methodological imitator rather than the original – murderously stalks modern London in Paul Cornell's urban fantasy The Severed Streets (2014).

Sf media appearances of Jack the Ripper include the Star Trek episode "Wolf in the Fold" (1967), scripted by Robert Bloch and featuring an Alien inhabiting successive hosts and making them into serial killers; Time After Time (1979), in which – as in the novel version Time After Time (1979) by Karl Alexander – the Ripper steals H G Wells's Time Machine; the final episode of Voyagers (1982-1983); the Babylon 5 episode "Comes the Inquisitor" (1995), in which the original Jack was abducted by alien Vorlons in 1888 and kept for centuries in a Stasis Field except when needed as a useful Torturer; and The Outer Limits episode "Ripper" (1999), with innocent Jack blamed for the doings of a parasite (see Parasitism and Symbiosis) which causes Ripperesque mutilations as it erupts from victims' bodies. [DRL]

see also: Philip José Farmer; Katsuo Jinka; Robert Lees.

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