OTHER WORLDS, BETTER LIVES, A Howard Waldrop Reader, by Howard Waldrop. Old Earth Books (www.oldearthbooks.com), 2008, 263 pp., $15.00. ISBN-13: 978-1-882968-38-1
Friend and fellow publisher Michael Walsh from Old Earth Books has assembled a memorable collection of Waldrop stories in OTHER WORLDS, BETTER LIVES. I can only describe the stories that delighted me:
• "Fin de Cycle" is the famous (infamous?) "Velocipede" story, describing a fantasy era in France that could only be called the "Belle Époque." It is a time when bicycles rule the streets and autos are not yet the rage in France at the turn of the last century. There are some colorful characters and even more colorful events, Waldrop-style, that keep the pages turning.
• "You Could Go Home Again." In this tale, World War II is NOT going to happen (Adolf Hitler's power is sorely reduced because of a scandal), the Hindenburg dirigible never blew up (because the companies that make the air-travel behemoths switch quickly to the safer helium), and Fats Weller goes on a dirigible world tour. Also, Thomas Wolfe the writer survives and re-invents his work. Lots of good stuff happening in THIS better world.
• "Flatfeet!" It doesn't matter what is going on in the world - World War I, the rise of communism, world upheaval, sarcophagi from the Far East rising in revenge or revolt - because there is always police work to be done. Forget the rise and fall of civilizations and those complicated but vast implications - because in this story the place is Los Angeles and Captain Teeheczal has a LOT of enforcement to do.
• "The Other Real World." We all know we came dangerously close to World War III during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. And how close was TOO close? And why DIDN'T the war actually start - more importantly, in this story, what if it did? Do you remember when? "Real World" is a great "slice of life" about those times and the realities endured for those who lived through them.
NECROSCOPE: HARRY AND THE PIRATES, and Other Tales from the Lost Years, by Brian Lumley. TOR (www.tor-forge.com), 2009, 189 pp., $23.99. ISBN-13: 978-0-7653-2338-5
Harry Keogh, the necroscope (a being who can "scope out" the minds of the dead - and they know it!) - is featured in three little-known tales in NECROSCOPE.
My favorite is the shortest of the three and the last, "End Piece: Old Man with a Blade." The old man with a blade has spotted a victim - but one, in the end, he knows. How close to death the guy almost came - but not on that day.
DREAMWISH BEASTS AND SNARKS, by Mike Resnick. Golden Gryphon (www.goldengryphon.com), 2009, 281 pp., $24.95. ISBN 1-930846-60-6
Those roaring pulp adventure magazines from the turn of the century right up to the UNKNOWN Magazine edited by John W. Campbell in the 1940s are succeeded by writers such as Resnick, no doubt influenced by the Murray Leinsters and Jack Williamsons (in the early days, anyway) of the world. As a result, we are in happy possession of a collection of "hunting" stories in the best SF traditions.
We begin with:
• "Hunting the Snark" (from ASIMOV'S SF, December 1999). Karamojo Bell, working as a director for the Silinger and Mohr Safari Company, is in charge of the hunting party to the planet Dodgson IV. While anticipating another somewhat predictable venture, along the way the hunting party ends up shooting at what can only be called a Snark - a predator, a bear-like animal who can kill quickly and efficiently. In the end, however, the Snark makes the hunting party the prey, the Snark the hunter. But not all is as it would seem, as one by one the safari members are killed. What exactly IS the Snark and why has it turned on them?
• "Two Hunters In Manhattan" (from the SECRET HISTORY OF VAMPIRES, DAW Books, 2007). Theodore Roosevelt, New York's Commissioner of Police, will stop at nothing to control escalating crime in the city. Roosevelt blackmails two individuals into delivering information - instead, the perpetrators deliver Big D. Big D is not any ordinary crime baron, but one who has existed through the centuries. But has Big D met his nemesis?
• "Safari 2103 A.D" (published in FANTASY AND SF Magazine from October-November 1994). In this future tale, Yellowstone and other natural preserves has few if any existing rare species, as Africa becomes a favorite place for rich tourists. This visit to Olduvai Gorge is via the direction of Kevin Ole Tambake, a young Maasai. What the safari party encounters makes for rich speculative fiction.
• "The Lord of the Jungle" (from ADVENTURES, Signet, 1985). One visit to a secluded jungle and the Right Reverend Honorable Doctor Lucifer Jones meets John Caldwell, Lord Bloomstake - lord of the jungle. Is Bloomstake another Englishman gone crazy and running naked in the jungle, or something else?
• "Bwana" (ASIMOV'S SF, February 1990). Koriba, the mundu-mugu or witch doctor, watches and protects the people of Kirinyaga, which men call Mount Kenya. The tribe attempts to create a utopia - but hyenas have been attacking and killing the domesticated animals and even the village children. When Koriba's powers appear to fail, the village chief, Koinnage, decides to hire a hunter instead - William Sambeke, a Maasai, who arrives in the village with his own agenda. He changes his name, to Bwana. Koriba will eventually tell the tale of the Maasai to the children, and the tale will be the story of the Arrogant Hunter.
• "The Soul Eater" (from THE SOUL EATER, Signet 1981). The quest for a Moby-Dick-like sentient, interstellar wanderer provides an apt challenge for Nicobar Lane ("I kill things") Hellhaven, Northpoint. In the end, is it merely the capture, rather than the kill?
And end with:
•"Nicobar Lane - the Soul Eater's Story" (from OCEAN OF STARS, 2000). The quest, is this case, is examined from the OTHER side - in this case the Dreamwish Beast, who, in flight from Lane, realizes quite a bit about him, feels his loneliness, actually falls in love with him - together their relationship transcends his obsession with capture.
DRIFT, by Sharon Carter Rogers. Howard Books/Simon and Schuster (www.howardpublishing.com), 2010, 320 pp., $13.99. ISBN 978-14-165-66533
In the novel DRIFT, the woman named Baby Doll, whose identity has been taken from her, becomes attached to a Drifter, known only as Boy. Baby Doll is caught up in a deadly game - and Boy could literally turn out to be her guardian angel.
"Souls flow through history like a river in time," he has said to me. "And you, well, you are lost in the drifts." It was he who first called me a drifter, and how I first came to think of myself as such."
Drifters are souls tethered to living human beings. These guardian angels, of a sort, have limited physical, real-world powers.
We soon learn in DRIFT that Boy is a man named William Finger. Baby Doll is a portion of a ruthless crime syndicate chasing after an object that falls into Baby Doll's possession - and will not stop until they recover it.
The novel, at times mawkish and dull, does have its moments.
THE AUTHORIZED ENDER COMPANION, written by Jake Black. TOR, 2009, 432 pp., $27.99. ISBN 978-0-7653-2062-9
The ENDER COMPANION is a fully documented compendium of all that is known about Andrew "Ender" Thomas Wiggin (Polish name, Andrzej Tomasz) and the world created by Orson Scott Card.
I read the story in its original form in 1977, about the brilliant Battle School child wonder whose talent destroys a major enemy of the International Fleet and Earth - the Formics.
This compendium provides a family history, timeline, and definitions of all of Enders' universe - a useful guide in light of the impending feature film.
NEW GENRE Issue 6 (www.new-genre.com), summer 2009, 116 pp., $5.50.
I liked the following in this issue of NEW GENRE:
"A Sing Economy" by Adam Golaski explores poetry writing and publishing in the time of the Great Recession, and what tactics publishers could use to draw readers back to this taken-for-granted art. Golaski ruminates about how to bring poetry to the people - and how poets should remain, above all, true to their art and themselves.
"Lonegan's Luck" by Stephen Graham Jones. Lonegan, traveling in the West across the Arizona Territories, makes his way finally to Gultree, a town filled with fierce conditions and even nastier individuals - some (or many) of them the undead. He's gotten good, perhaps too good, at dispensing with the undead - but it is his job.
A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM: THE LIFE OF EDGAR ALLAN POE, by Nigel Barnes. Peter Owen Publishers, distributed by Dufour Editions (www.dufoureditions.com), 2009, 348 pp., $29.95. ISBN 978-0-7206-1322-3
In celebration of the 200th year of Poe, DREAM WITHIN A DREAM is not unlike the other Poe biographies that are as common as state maps. This one provides more of the dirt-and-bones approach to describing Poe's life. He lived a very grim one - more grim than many people could have imagined.
Raised as a foster child all his life, trying to survive as a poet, struggling to make his mark as a major publisher, suffering from demons caused by a multitude of things (did Poe perhaps die of rabies?), one thing is certain: Poe lived in a radically different era. Back then, there was no welfare, no unemployment checks, no social programs, and very little to fall back on. Most of the time in Poe's life, he was completely, financially bankrupt. For what he was able to do, payment was not well. Poe would have to beg and borrow to fulfill his dreams as a writer and publisher.
It's a thorough biography and well worth the read.
CYBERABAD DAYS, by Ian McDonald. Pyr/Prometheus (www.prometheusbooks.com), 2009, 279 pp., $15.00. ISBN 978-1-59102-699-0
Seven stories in CYBERABAD DAYS are set in the year 2047 in India, including a Hugo Award winner and nominee.
THE THIRD SIGN, by Gregory A. Wilson. Five Star/Gale Cengage Learning (www.gale.cengage.com), 2009, 351 pp., $25.95. ISBN 978-1-59414-765-4
Calen Gollnet, resident of the country of Klune, watches as his world goes to war, as the peace made by the king and the arlics has become tenuous at best. But the armies are the least of his concern, as the Soul Wall appears. Prophecies are coming true - and what will the latest portend?
BY BLOOD WE LIVE, ed. by John Joseph Adams. Night Shade Books (www.nightshadebooks.com), 2009, 485 pp., $15.95. ISBN 978-1-59780-156-0
There is a strange craving for these types of stories, felt by mostly teenage girls suddenly feeling the throngs of post-puberty. And there are plenty of authors to accommodate this strangeness, indeed.
TWO EXCELLENT TACHYON ANTHOLOGIES:
THE SECRET HISTORY OF SCIENCE FICTION, ed. by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel. Tachyon (www.tachyonpublications.com), 2009, 381 pp., $14.95. ISBN 978-1-892391-93-3
I remember reading most of these SF classics when they were first published, with seminal work by Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. LeGuin, Lucius Shepard, Connie Willis, Gene Wolfe, James Patrick Kelly, and many others.
THE VERY BEST OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, 60th Anniversary Anthology, ed. by Gordon Van Gelder. Tachyon (www.tachyonpublications.com), 2009, 475 pp., $15.95. ISBN 978-1-892391-91-9
Many of these I read collected in other anthologies, and some I read in the magazine itself. (I have subscribed to F&SF regularly from 1977-2007, and off and on since 2008.) Included are works by Ray Bradbury, Alfred Bester, Theodore Sturgeon, Kurt Vonnegut, Harlan Ellison, Damon Knight, Ursula K. LeGuin, Neil Gaiman, Ted Chiang, and others).