Howard Waldrop: Horse of a Different Color

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24979-coverYou’ve probably read a Howard Waldrop story and don’t realize it.

Have you ever remembered how the last flock of dodo birds met their end in a 1920s backyard barbeque over 200 years after the dodo was declared extinct? Have you ever recalled that a small band of the Lakota people and a Tyrannosaurus Rex defeated Union soldiers during the Civil War? Have you marveled that woolly mammoths are using humans to get through the interglacial period? Have you contemplated the conditions under which Alcatraz couldn’t hold a werewolf? Have you wondered how much truth there was to the stories of Ann Darrow after she returned from King Kong’s Skull Island?

Does any of this ring a bell? If so, you’ve been Howard Waldrop’d. He’s a master of the short story format. Waldrop has been writing weird, wonderful, well-researched stories for a long time. So far, Waldrop’s work has garnered him a Nebula Award, a World Fantasy Award and numerous Hugo nominations.

Waldrop’s latest collection, Horse of a Different Color, just came out. It includes ten of Waldrop’s best stories published in as many years. In addition to some of the stories above, you’ll find the piece that lent the collection its name and includes the line, “You were going to tell me about the Vatican’s and Mussolini’s interest in vaudeville horse-suit acts.” Add a sprinkling of time or history distortion, and that line sums up the Waldrop genre. “The King of Where-I-Go,” which was nominated for a Hugo Award, was the story I most enjoyed in Horse of a Different Color. I challenge any author to write a better tale about time travel, polio, siblings and the exact working of a linotype machine.

Waldrop’s encyclopedic knowledge of odd things was on display at Capclave 2013, the Washington Science Fiction Association’s annual convention. Waldrop was the Special Guest. He participated in panels like “A Survey of Kickass Animals that Probably Don’t Exist” and “Any Resemblance to Real People is Intentional.” Often, Waldrop let the extroverts talk, but he occasionally broke in with something compelling offered in his soft southern accent. During an hour-long, one-on-one interview before an audience of hundreds, Waldrop told stories, cracked jokes and talked about writing, reading and the challenges of life. Among other things, Waldrop recommended everyone go home and write a thank-you letter to their favorite character actor.

Waldrop is a most interesting character himself. His latest collection is worth a read. You might also want to check out Howard Who, an earlier collection similarly filled with great stories, some of which were mentioned above.

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