Friday, July 13, 2012

Short Review of The Ugly Chickens, Howard Waldrop

Thanks to John O'Neill, editor of the fantastic (in every sense of the word) Black Gate Magazine, I ran across a gem of a short story called "The Ugly Chickens" by Howard Waldrop. Mr. Waldrop won the Nebula award for best novelette with this story of a man who learns that the dodo did not quite go extinct quite as early as the histories indicate. This is the kind of prose you can expect from this fast-paced yet ruminative tale:

Think of the dodo as a baby harp seal with feathers. I know that's not even close, but it saves time.
Waldrop's tale is very straight forward and depends on the lightest touch of alternate history or might-have-happened to produce his effects. "The Ugly Chickens" might fit loosely alongside Ballard's Drowned Giant. Combined with the very slight tone of humor and the headlong pathos of the narrator, the reader is left to ponder the many slight revelations along the way, somehow coming away with a sense of distant sadness exactly appropriate to its subject. Masterful.

Read it online here for free.  (Update:  looks like the folks took the page down; no doubt the volume of estimable readers of Black Gate swamped them!  Unfortunately, can't find it anywhere else.  Given the subject matter of the short story, I suppose it is ironically appropriate).


Jake Shore said...

Wow. That's not much to go on, but it sounds interesting. By the way, I think that link might be broken.

Unknown said...

Yeah, the link rotted.

Anyway .... Small Beer reprinted "Howard Who?" which contains "The Ugly Chickens". An I reprinted it in Howard's "Things Will Never Be The Same: Selected Short Fiction, 1980 - 2005"

Both books contain great Waldrop stories - do yourself a favor and read more Waldrop!

And since Howard doesn't do email or anything else replated to computers, it would only be appropriate to read in the dead tree version, no?

-- Michael Walsh

Jason Campbell said...

Michael, thanks for the comment, and too for the book pointers. I had on my list to go chase down more of his fiction, you've saved me a lot of reading between the lines on Amazon reviews. After a quick re-read of the story I find I really love his prose style. What kind of range does he have?

Unknown said...

Howard writes pretty much just short fiction. He never repeats himself, no series or sequels. Michael Dirda commented "You never know what he'll come up with next, but somehow it's always a Waldrop story. Read the work of this wonderful writer, a man who has devoted his life to his art -- and to fishing."

Check out the loooong review "Things Will Never Be The Same" by Michael Dirda - it's reprinted in the Amazon listing for the book. It was a full page review in the Washington Post Book World.

Ad if you like longer stories, I also published "Other Worlds, Better Lives: Selected Long Fiction, 1989-2003". Howard wanted "The Other Real World" included and I wanted "You Could Go Home Again". The other stories are real good too!

As a reward for publishing these two volumes I won a World Fantasy Award.

Ralf said...

you can read it here:

Sit back and enjoy !

Anonymous said...

By all means, read more Waldrop! It just will get better and better. Try "Heirs of the Perisphere." You won't regret it.

-- Tom Rogers