Jack L. Chalker was born on December 17, 1944 and died on February 11, 2005.
Although Chalker may be best known for his Well of Souls series of novels, his only Hugo Award nominations were for his amateur magazine, Mirage, in 1963 and his non-fiction book The Science Fantasy Publishers: A Critical and Bibliographic History: Third Edition, co-written with Mark Owings. The book also won the Readercon Award in 1992. Chalker was a two-time nominee for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. In 1980 he received the Skylark Award from NESFA, and in 2005 he posthumously received the Phoenix Award from DeepSouthCon.
Chalker wrote “Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night” for Mike Resnick’s 1992 anthology Alternate Presidents. The story has never been reprinted. It was his last published piece of short fiction, although Chalker continued to publish novels and non-fiction.
Set in a rooming house in Albany, New York, “Now Falls the Cold, Cold Night” takes place in a world in which following James Buchanan’s death during the election of 1856, Millard Fillmore is able to capture a second term on the Know-Nothing ticket. Fully embracing his anti-immigration stance, Fillmore is in thrall to the Southerners who helped elect him and promotes pro-slavery policies, including the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act passed during his first term in 1850. His policies have caused unrest in New England, resulting in a second Boston Massacre when troops opened fire on citizens trying to stop a runaway slave from being taken back to the South.
The rooming house is a collection of men who have business with the New York state legislature, although one of them, Mr. Green, keeps to himself, leading another, Mr. Morgan, to question his purpose. The two play a cat and mouse game revealing that they actually have been aware of each other for quite some time. While both claim, like all the men in the rooming house, to oppose Fillmore’s agenda, they have very different methods of fighting for what they believe is right.