Let me briefly slip into something clichéd and comfortable for you. Oooh: soft, silky, trope-y…that’s better.
Howard Waldop is a National TreasureTM.
You agree, right? I mean, who doesn’t love them some Howard?
Howard who? you ask.
(Four of you are slapping your arthritic knees with laughter right now. ‘Cause Waldrop’s first, spectacular story collection was called Howard Who? and… never mind.)
Waldrop is no secret in genre circles, though (tragically) I’d bet cash money that his entire output hasn’t sold as many copies as George RR Martin’s lavishly illustrated, pop-up recipe book of dragon piss cocktails. That’s no reflection on Waldrop (or Martin, whose ‘Sandkings’ might have made this list on a different day), but rather on all of you who don’t own any of his books. Shame on you, you bastards.
Waldrop is probably best known for ‘The Ugly Chickens’ – I see you rolling your eyes at each other, so stop it now – a spectacular tale about the not-quite-extinct dodo that could have been named here. There’s his short novel, A Dozen Tough Jobs, which is awfully like the Coens’ O Brother Where Art Thou, but written about ten years earlier (no plagiarism is remotely suggested, my learned friends…). Waldrop specialises in kind-of-obscure alternate history tales underpinned by years – no kidding – of research. He has a voice and a sense of humour and a playfulness which is singular and delightful.
‘Do Ya, Do Ya’ isn’t alternate history, but it is very much about ghosts of the past. About things lost and found again, and it is just magical. Maybe it doesn’t feature sentient, robot Disney characters in a post-apocalyptic future (see Waldop’s ‘Heirs of the Perisphere’ for that) but it is awfully human and awfully wonderful.
Buy one of his fucking books, for the love of Mickey!
First published in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Aug 1988, and collected in Waldrop’s Night of the Cooters, Ursus Imprints and Mark V Ziesing, 1990