cover image H’ard Starts: The Early Waldrop

H’ard Starts: The Early Waldrop

Howard Waldrop, edited By George R.R. Martin and Bradley Denton. Subterranean, $50 (370p) ISBN 978-1-64524-116-4

Many will agree with World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award winner Waldrop’s comment in his preface to this collection that this volume should have been subtitled What I Wrote Before I Could Write. Indeed, the editors adopt such a kitchen sink approach to collecting Waldrop’s early work that it’s unclear if anything at all was deemed unfit for publication: among these 21 stories, four interviews, and assorted oddities are “The Pizza,” an unfunny sketch the 20-year-old Waldrop wrote for CBS’s Red Skelton Show in the 1960s, along with the rejection letter he received in response, and a mild discussion about the writing of it. Other entries are similarly unappealing. For example, “Davy Crockett Shoots the Moon” is a bare-bones alternate history in which the legendary frontiersman does not fight at the Alamo, and the fallout from that choice is conveyed in choppy, unenlightening passages that skim over character development in favor of sweeping summary. (“The War for the Union, when it finally came, was long and bloody, and lasted nine years. It took another ten to recover.”) Extended anecdotes about sci-fi conventions and Waldrop’s first encounters with Martin don’t have much meat on their bones, either. Only the most die-hard of Waldrop fans need bother with this. (June)