Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

All reviews copyright 1984-2012 Evelyn C. Leeper.


A BETTER WORLD'S IN BIRTH! by Howard Waldrop:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 09/26/2003]

The "something new" was Howard Waldrop's A BETTER WORLD'S IN BIRTH! (The exclamation point is part of the title.) The premise of this alternate history is that Communism takes hold in Europe in 1848 rather than later. As usual, Waldrop manages to write something good, but based on history so obscure that most readers won't follow it, and then publish it in a chapbook where most who could won't find it.

To order A Better World's in Birth! from amazon.com, click here.


CUSTER'S LAST JUMP by Howard Waldrop et al:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 09/22/2006]

CUSTER'S LAST JUMP by Howard Waldrop and a variety of co-authors (ISBN 1-930846-13-4) is a collection of Waldrop's collaborations with other authors. They are in general good, though I prefer Waldrop's solo works as being having more of that distinctive Waldrop style.

To order Custer's Last Jump from amazon.com, click here.


DREAM FACTORIES AND RADIO PICTURES by Howard Waldrop:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/16/2008]

DREAM FACTORIES AND RADIO PICTURES by Howard Waldrop (ISBN-13 978-0-972-05474-4, ISBN-10 0-972-05474-X) is a collection of Waldrop's stories about movies and television. Waldrop once responded to Barry Malzberg's comment that Malzberg's early ambition was to make a living as a science fiction writer--and he failed. Waldrop said, "I'll go him one better. I tried to make a living in science fiction writing short stories." As a short story writer, Waldrop is first-rate; it is just the economics of the market that keep him (or almost anyone) from making a living at it.

To order Dream Factories and Radio Pictures from amazon.com, click here.


GOING HOME AGAIN by Howard Waldrop (St. Martin's, ISBN 0-312-18589-8, 1998, 223pp)

Back in 1979, Baird Searles and friends wrote a book titled A Reader's Guide to Science Fiction, the main part of which consisted of short biographies/descriptions of science fiction writers, each ending with a paragraph saying, "If you like [this writer], you should also try [these other writers]." At the end of R. A. Lafferty's section, they said, "There is no one who writes like R. A. Lafferty, so if you like one of his books find some more." If Howard Waldrop had been included in that volume, that's what they would have said about him as well.

For example, "El Castillo de la Perseverancia" is about Mexican masked wrestlers. (Note: It was written three years before Jesse "The Body" Ventura put wrestling on the front pages.)

"Flatfeet!" has the Keystone Kops careening through the major events of the twentieth century, perfectly oblivious to them. Even his "straight" alternate history stories ("You Could Go Home Again," "Household Words; Or, the Powers-That-Be," "The Effects of Alienation") focus on people like Thomas Wolfe, Charles Dickens, or Peter Lorre rather than Hirohito or Hitler.

"The Sawing Boys" is Waldrop's retelling of the Grimms' Brementown Musicians, a story that goes nowhere. "Why Did?" has its source in the "Little Moron" jokes that used to make the rounds, not exactly obvious material for a science fiction story. "Occam's Ducks" is about shooting "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" as a race film. (I suppose I should say that "race film" here means an all-black film for black audiences, of the sort produced into 1920s and 1930s, and not a film about horses. With Waldrop you could never be sure.) And lastly is "Scientifiction," which I am at a loss to describe.

Waldrop also includes lengthy afterwords for each story, and a complete bibliography of his work. He writes an introduction which follows one by Lucius Shepard. Even if you had all the stories (and given that one appeared in a World Fantasy program book and another is original to this book, that is unlikely), the book would be worth it for the supplementary material.

I have no idea why this got its first publication in Australia, but now that it's available in the United States, Waldrop fans here have no excuse for not buying it.

To order Going Home Again from amazon.com, click here.


HEART OF WHITENESSE by Howard Waldrop:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 09/30/2005]

HEART OF WHITENESSE by Howard Waldrop (ISBN 1-59606-018-2) is a limited edition collection of Waldrop's recent stories (1997-2003). Waldrop is one of my favorite authors, but his stories are hard to find (although recently scifi.com is a fairly reliable source for them). So this is a particularly welcome collection, even if a bit pricey at $40. (Luckily, my library seems to have decided it was worth getting a copy.) Without giving too much away, I can say that the first story, "The Dynasters", could be considered a companion piece to his classic "The Ugly Chickens". The second, "Mr. Goober's Show", uses a classic Waldrop theme, childhood pop culture. Then there's a Christopher Marlowe story, and an alternate Charles Lindbergh story. In fact, in some sense all of the stories posit an alternate world to ours in one way or another. There's no author quite like Howard Waldrop, just as there's no author quite like Jorge Luis Borges. (Not that they are similar, although there's something slightly Waldropian about "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote".) In addition to the stories, Waldrop gives lengthy afterwords for each in which he talks about the writing of them or some of the ideas in them. Highly recommended if you can find it.

To order Heart of Whitenesse from amazon.com, click here.


"The King of Where-I-Go" by Howard Waldrop:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 05/19/2006]

"The King of Where-I-Go" by Howard Waldrop (SCI FICTION, Dec 7, 2005) is one of the last stories published on that web site before the Sci-Fi Channel shut it down (right after Ellen Datlow won a Hugo for editing it--go figure). It has all of Waldrop's usual pop culture references, but none of the convoluted weirdness or literary history aspects of a lot of his work. It is just a pretty straightforward time-travel story, with a lot of fishing thrown in.


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