Science Fiction & Fantasy

Transcendent Annual Series

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Author Spotlight: Howard Waldrop

Thank you for taking some time to chat about your story, “All About Strange Monsters of the Recent Past.” Growing up in New England, I spent every Saturday morning glued to the television watching Creature Double Feature, which aired monster movies from the 1930s through the 1960s, so I really enjoyed reading this story. Can you elaborate on the origins of this story?

My first story, “Lunchbox”, Analog, May ’72, was accepted my fourth day in the US Army (a draftee) in October 1970. I got to enjoy the sale about four minutes after mail call ’til I had to go back to doing pushups.

I realized, the eighteen months I was in the Army, that if there was an East Coast Monster Emergency, I would be one of the guys sent out to stop the Rhodosaurus (or whatever). Hence, the deep origin of the story.

It was originally accepted by David Gerrold, for one of his Dell anthologies (“AASMOTRPast” was my second story sale, although others were written before, later sold.)

Bad things happened at Dell: Gerrold had to turn three anthologies into two, or one, and my (and a dozen other writers’ stories) shook loose.

After I got out of the army, I sent this story everywhere with no dice.

Eventually this may have sold to Chacal, the precursor to Shayol (Arnie Fenner was co-editor of Chacal), but when that died and he and Pat Cadigan began Shayol, they wanted it from me (I may have sold an intervening story to them somewhere in there.)

If I’m not mistaken, it was one of the five stories that premiered (in different venues) at Mid-American in KC in 1976 (Shayol, Nickelodeon, Faster Than Light, Orbit 18, and something else—all appeared at various dealer tables at the con.) I believe I had Pat and Arnie bring the money in cash, as I knew I’d need it to eat (The Pioneer Grill) at the convention.

Glory days . . .

Your work is varied, sometimes combining alternate history and popular culture, and has been described as distinctive, unique, quirky, and unclassifiable, among other things. What advice would you give to aspiring writers trying to find their own unique voice?

If I knew how to tell writers how have a unique voice, I’d be a rich man and out of business.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about “All About Strange Monsters of the Recent Past”? What’s next for you?

As soon as the eye surgeries are over, it’s back to The Moone World (a short novel) and The Search for Tom Purdue (ditto.) Wish me luck.

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Kevin McNeil

Kevin McNeil is a physical therapist, sports fanatic, and volunteer coach for the Special Olympics. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and The Center for the Study of Science Fiction’s Intensive Novel Workshop, led by Kij Johnson. His fiction has appeared in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, Every Day Fiction, and The Dark. His short story, “The Ghost of You Lingers,” earned an honorable mention in The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Eight, edited by Ellen Datlow. Kevin is a New Englander currently living in California. Find him on Twitter @realkevinmcneil.