Howard Who?

Howard Waldrop often disappoints me.

Here’s a Raw Feed of his first collection, another in my newest alternate history series.

Raw Feed (1987): Howard Who?, Howard Waldrop, 1986.howard-who

“Howard Who?”, George R. R. Martin — Interesting bio material on Waldrop and some on Martin.

The Ugly Chickens” — Interesting story but hardly award caliber (unless competition was weak). Still I liked idea of man searching for dodo. Best element was story of Faulkner-like family. Suspect part of attraction of story (for others) was sadness at dodo’s and other species extinction. I don’t think that emotion developed enough. Waldrop seems to like destiny of lives hanging on very small events — like car breaking down.

Der Untergang des Abendlandesmenschen” — Great story. Loved combination of Nazis, B silent westerns, horror movies, and vampires. Ending was disturbing, especially given light (and authentic given subjects) treatment. Much humor. Only fault was not enough development in writing story like silent Expressionistic movie. Still, a delightful example of inspired juxtapositioning.

Ike at the Mike” — Waldrop seems to evoke, in his stories of alternate history (especially this one), sadness by juxtaposing fictional character’s lives with what they did in history. Patton dies a sick, destitute, forgotten Jazz drummer, Elvis Presley a senator deeply sad at not pursing music. On the other hand, Boris Karloff’s life works out better. Best evocation of emotion I’ve read in Waldrop story. Liked story and milieu of jazz subculture. [What was I thinking!? I don’t even like jazz.]  Continue reading


Once upon a time, I was rather a fan of George R. R. Martin’s (I’m told now the world’s most famous writer) science fiction short stories. Unfortunately, this is the only collection I made notes on.

(And, no, I have no plan to read or watch The Game of Thrones.)

Raw Feed (1995): Sandkings, George R. R. Martin, 1981.Sandkings

The Way of Cross and Dragon” — An interesting story with a distinctly mediaeval flavor. This is part of Martin’s loosely connected Commonwealth series and features an Inquisitor of the Order of the Knights of Jesus Christ dispatched to put an end to a particularly intriguing heresy (the best and most inventive part of the story), namely the Order of Saint Judas Iscariot. The heresy is based on a lively mishmash and confusion of myth and history (with the cover of divine curses having altered memories). Judas starts out as an ambitious youth and child prostitute and then becomes a necromancer, sole tamer of dragons, and lord of Babylon. Then he moves to mutilator of Christ and, via repentance, an apostle. After the crucifixion, he angrily kills Peter and is rebuked by Christ upon his resurrection. (Peter is resurrected). Judas has his gifts of tongues and healing removed and is told by Christ he will forever be remember as the Betrayer. Eventually, after living more than a 1,000 years, he finds favor with Christ again. He consents to have Judas’ true history remembered by a few. As entertaining as this heresy is, it’s just a frame to hang a philosophical tale about the attraction beautiful lies have be they political ideologies or religions. Only a few can stare at the true universe which has no afterlife, no Creator, no purpose for human life, and no chance for the human race to leave a permanent memorial. (Martin once described his stories as being search-and-destroy missions against romance.) One of those few is the inventor of the heresy who cheerfully admits he made the whole thing up (including forging supporting historical documents and altering others). He belongs to a conspiracy of Liars, a very long-lived group who takes it upon themselves to invent beautiful lies (including, perhaps, Christianity) for those who can not gaze upon the truth of the universe like they can.

Bitterblooms” — A story exhibiting Martin’s lyrical, fantasy flavored prose. Essentially this is a story of a woman abducted – at least it seemed to me – by a stranded space traveler and forced into a love affair (a lesbian one) but this is very matter-of-fact and not salaciously played up. She escapes but develops a permanent taste for travel and, in her dying moments, thinks fondly of her time on the spaceship. This is part of Martin’s loose Avalon series. Continue reading

Science Fictional Olympics

Another retro review and, oddly, a relatively popular one.

This one is from September 24, 2000.

My older, wiser self would no longer say 1984 was “the height of the Cold War”. Better candidates would be the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 or 1983 when Yuri Andropov almost nuked us because of, among other things, activity in meat packing plants.

And wrestling promoters did start their own football league — the short-lived XFL.

Review: Science Fictional Olympics: Asimov’s Wonderful Worlds of Science Fiction #2: , eds. Isaac Asimov, Martin H. Greenberg, and Charles Waugh, 1984.

Olympic contests between the Soviet bloc and America were often exploited for propaganda purposes, the outcome of an athletic event supposedly saying something significant about the victor’s country. This 1984 anthology, from the height of the Cold War, has several stories built around that notion.Science Fictional Olympics

Tom Sullivan’s “The Mickey Mouse Olympics” and Nicholas V. Yermakov’s “A Glint of Gold” both feature Soviet and American Olympic athletes genetically modified for their events. Sullivan plays the notion for genuine laughs. Yermakov’s story is much more serious and shows the price the competitors pay as propaganda pawns. He also works in a defection subplot. Continue reading