Other Worlds, Better Lives: Selected Long Fiction, 1989-2003

Tue 29 Apr 2014 - Filed under: Books | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

April 2014 · ebook · $9.95 · 9781618730800

Available in trade cloth and trade paper from Old Earth Books.

Seven novellas that cover ground the way that only Waldrop can featuring Wagner, Fats Waller, Picasso, Thomas Wolfe, and more.

In 2007, Old Earth Books, an independent press located in Baltimore, Maryland, brought out Things Will Never Be the Same: A Howard Waldrop Reader, a comprehensive volume that features selected short fiction from 1980-2005 by the Nebula Award-winning and often anthologized writer. This is a book that belongs on the shelves of anyone interested in science-fictional and fantastic short fiction at its best. Old Earth has now followed that earlier and welcome volume with an equally fine companion, Other Worlds, Better Lives, which features longer stories written between 1989 and 2003 and displays Waldrop s mastery of the novella form.

Among the stories here is “You Could Go Home Again,” in which Thomas Wolfe, having survived the brain disease that killed him in our world, returns from the 1940 Tokyo Olympics, aboard an airship where fellow voyager Fats Waller provides musical interludes, to a U.S. governed by technocrats. “Fin de Cyclé” is the story of how a movie made by Georges Méliès, assisted by Alfred Jarry, Marcel Proust, and Pablo Picasso, rouses the French public to demand justice in the case of Captain Alfred Dreyfus and helps to free him from Devil’s Island. Various young characters from late 1950s and early 1960s TV programs and science fiction movies confront the Cuban missile crisis in “The Other Real World,” while Richard Wagner abandons his operatic ambitions to become one of the forefathers of the Peoples Federated States of Europe in “A Better World s in Birth!” “Flatfeet!” combines reflections on Osvald Spengler’s classic The Decline of the West and American artist Thomas Cole’s series of paintings titled The Course of Empire with a number of historical parallels and Keystone Kops-style antics in what the author calls in his afterword “one of the most jam-packed stories I ever wrote.” In “Major Spacer in the 21st Century” Waldrop manages to cover the history of much of twentieth century communications technology in realistic detail.

The longest story in the collection is “A Dozen Tough Jobs,” a Nebula and World Fantasy Award finalist; here, Waldrop takes the mythological figure of Hercules and sets him down in early twentieth-century Mississippi along with an African-American sidekick appropriately named I.O. Lace. Readers unfamiliar with Greek mythology (although even the completely uninformed might still have been viewers of the 1990s TV series featuring Kevin Sorbo as Hercules) can read this novella straight as a tale of race relations, rural poverty, and class distinctions centered on the convict Houlka Lee; those who know the old myths will delight in the meticulously worked-out parallels between Waldrop s story and the fabled Twelve Labours of Hercules.

“If Philip K. Dick is our homegrown Borges (as Ursula K. Le Guin once said), then Waldrop is our very American magic-realist, as imaginative and playful as early Garcia Marquez or, better yet, Italo Calvino.”
— Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

“One trap in writing alternative histories is the gratuitous story, the what if Attila the Hun had howitzers kind of tale. A somewhat better alternative, in an age when ignorance of history abounds, is concentrating on major historical figures and events, ones familiar to most people, or at least likely to be known about by many readers. Howard Waldrop usually ignores these alternatives in favor of focusing on more obscure, although still important and influential, cultural figures and social movements. In the process, he offers insight into some of history s more overlooked streams and also manages to draw parallels between his imagined worlds and reality, while capturing both the undertone of regret and the sense of precariousness that seem essential elements of alternate history.”
— Pamela Sargent, SciFi Weekly

Howard Waldrop, born in Mississippi and now living in Austin, Texas, is an American iconoclast. His books include Howard Who? and Horse of a Different Color. He won the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards for his novelette “The Ugly Chickens.”

Things Will Never Be the Same: A Howard Waldrop Reader: Selected Short Fiction 1980-2005

Tue 29 Apr 2014 - Filed under: Books | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

April 2014 · ebook · $9.95 · 9781618730794

Available in trade cloth and trade paper from Old Earth Books.

In this Locus Award finalist, Howard Waldrop selects sixteen of his own short stories (with help from Michael Walsh and Jonathan Strahan). At some point Hollywood will discover the one and only culture mashup genius brain of Howard Waldrop. He’s their biggest fan and movies will be made . . . get in on the ground floor! From the extinct to the pinpoint of the zeitgeist, Waldrop mixes and matches pop culture until you’re never sure if it’s history or fiction you’re reading. Either way, the deeper you delve, the better it gets.

Waldrop’s unique introduction (“Welcome to the shattered remnants of what I laughingly refer to as my career.”) and afterwords (“You can imagine my horror and intellectual fear when a fantasy story came to me.”) give naked insights into his life as a writer: from living on $7,000 (on a good year) to killing magazines — including his “pride and joy? I killed Amazing. TWICE!!”

“The 16 stories in this retrospective volume from World Fantasy Award–winner Waldrop tend to be more sober and less zany than those in his previous collection, Heart of Whitenesse (2005). Highlights include “The Lions Are Asleep This Night,” a touching alternate history of a would-be playwright set in Africa; “French Scenes,” in which Francophiles make movies using computers; and “Household Words or the Powers That Be,” a tale Dickens fans are sure to love.”
Publishers Weekly

“Waldrop has chosen 16 of his best short stories and written a new afterword to each. The book opens with the multiple award-winner “The Ugly Chickens,” in which a chance remark on a bus leads a young researcher into backwoods Mississippi to discover the real fate of the dodo. It closes with a tale of alternate realities, “The King of Where-I-Go,” somehow combining the polio epidemic of the early 1950s, the famous ESP experiments at Duke, and a man’s love for H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine. . . . The best Waldrops tend to mix the humorous and wistful. What if robotic versions of Mickey, Donald and Goofy, designed for an amusement park, were the last creatures on Earth? What if the Martians landed in Pachuco County, Tex., back in the late 19th century, and a kind of Slim Pickens character was the sheriff in charge of keeping the peace?”
— Michael Dirda, Washington Post Book World

Table of Contents

The Ugly Chickens
Flying Saucer Rock and Roll
Heirs of the Perisphere
The Lions Are Asleep This Night
Night of the Cooters
Do Ya, Do Ya, Wanna Dance?
Wild, Wild Horses
French Scenes
Household Words; or, The Powers-That-Be
The Sawing Boys
Heart of Whitenesse
Mr. Goober’s Show
The Dynasters
Calling Your Name
King of Where-I-Go

“Howard Waldrop is the Studebaker Golden Hawk of genre fiction, a classic of structure and design. His unique stories autopsy the entrails of our eccentric past and reveal, often in oracular fashion, insanities to come.”
— Lucius Shepard

“The only problem with THINGS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME is that it’s not nearly long enough. Sure, sure, it’s chock full of great stories by the best short fiction writer of his generation, modern classics like “The Ugly Chickens” and “Flying Saucer Rock n Roll” and “Heart of Whitenesse” and many more . . . but there are two or three times as many terrific Waldrop stories, equally good and sometimes even better, that have been left out for want of space. There’s only one solution. Read this book . . . and then go out and track down all of Waldrop’s other collections and read them too.”
— George R. R. Martin

“Howard Waldrop doesn’t have e-mail. He doesn’t have a word processor. He doesn’t surf the Internet. I guess that means he spends most of his time writing. From my point of view as a devoted Waldrop reader, I’m eternally grateful to the Luddite in him.”
— Janis Ian

“You want funny? Howard’s got funny. You want weird? Howard’s got weird. You want mind-bending? You’re about to get it.”
— Cory Doctorow

“There’s no better writer alive than Howard Waldrop, and here are all his best stories, with funny and fascinating afterwords — you need this book.”
— Tim Powers

“It always feels like Christmas when a new Howard Waldrop collection arrives, and this one is as crammed with wonderful presents as Santa’s sack.  This is even better than getting a BB gun!”
— Connie Willis

“You don’t have to know a lot to read Howard Waldrop’s fiction, but it helps. His stories are packed with inside jokes, allusions, historic and pop-cultural references which sometimes leave you wondering if you got everything out of it he put into it. That’s why this collection of his short fiction is such a treasure: each story has an afterword written by Howard himself explaining (some of) the punch lines you may have missed, the premise he based it on, the circumstances under which he wrote, and anything else he felt his readers should know. (The continuing saga of how he single-handedly shut down a number of publications just by having a story accepted is truly amazing.)”
— Judy Newton, SFRevu

— “Enthusiastically recommended for science fiction and fantasy buffs everywhere.”
Midwest Book Review

Reading like its 1971

Wed 16 Apr 2014 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Emma Tupper’s Diary cover - click to view full sizeI turned one in 1971 and while I like to think I was enjoying some pretty great books (who can tell, they’ve all been eaten by me, my siblings, and time) I know of one good book that came out that year that I didn’t read: Peter Dickinson’s Emma Tupper’s Diary.

I don’t think I even read this book growing up*, which is a shame, as from the age of 9 or 10 on up it would have been a scarily good fit: I lived in the West Coast of Scotland among beautiful hills and lochs and would have eaten up a novel about an odd family (cough) whose cousin comes to visit from Botswana (we had cousins come from South Africa . . .). The only parts that are missing are

  1. the family business — teaching vs. their McAndrew’s Infallible Liniment
  2. the family minisubmarine — my family’s lack, that is, as far as I know . . .
  3. my father (sadly) did not go off abroad leaving us nominally looked after by a beautiful kleptomaniacal governess while we gallivanted about, pulled the wool over the eyes of the BBC, etc. (Also, my mother, unlike in many books for kids, is still alive. And still a great reader!)
  4. and, lastly, despite our searching, no proof of any monsters in any of the local lochs.

I am still sometimes confused by Lee S Rosen Etsy that time only seems to move in one way. I certainly feel different ages a lot of the time (although happily not 1-year-old) but I don’t seem to be able to go back in time and hand me this book. Shame! But at least since we reprinted it, it has been finding new readers:

Gayle Surette at SFRevu writes: “a great adventure story with characters that seem very real and as relatable today as there were then. It’s got a great location, adventure, great by-play and witty conversations, as well as an ecological and humanitarian conundrum with real implications for the future of the area and its denizens.”

and the Midwest Book Review notes that it is “Updated with a new cover and illustrations, this remains a great, now classic, summer read.”

Kathleen Jennings provided us with that new great cover of Emma writing her diary with a certain something in the background and we also got to use her sketches throughout the book.

Emma Tupper’s Diary is full of prickly people who rub each other the wrong way. Oh how I do wish I’d read it when I was a kid! But at least Kelly had it when I met her and eventually I got to read it and at some point we realized it would be a whole lot of fun to re-release this book back into the world. It’s a book that’s paced differently from many books for kids (aka readers of all ages!) and as noted by the Midwest Book Review, it also hearkens back to summer holidays when kids (of a certain class and in certain places) got bored and sometimes ran around and did stuff. In that way it is mildly, mildly reminiscent of another classic children’s book that will whisk you away on a summer’s day: Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, which, happily, the fine folk at Godine always have in print.

More suggestions of mucking around in summer books welcome. Especially as we woke up to snow and a reminder from Mother Nature that she’s the one who decides when spring comes, ok? Ok!

Get Emma Tupper’s Diary here and the ebook here.

* I’m not one of those people who can remember every book they’re read. I know (barely**) what I’m reading now and the last two books I read. But, before that? Erm. And what was I reading in 1980? Um. All I can say is lots and lots. Anything, everything. I was often the kid who got to pick the books from the mobile library for the school library refresh. You know, one of those. Inject your own tales of biblioscarcity and scavenging here!

** I was asked this morning and could not remember the title. Um.