Wednesday, January 17, 2024

quoting Howard Waldrop

Who just died a couple days ago, a science fiction writer of an unsurpassed combination of erudition and weirdness, author most notably of "The Ugly Chickens," surely one of the greatest SF stories ever, and surely the greatest ever in which the science was ornithology, and a story with an unforgettable bite in its ending.

I heard him read stories a couple of times, but only personally met him once, when we discussed the merits of hot pickled okra over the con suite buffet at the Austin Corflu in 2007. Not the sort of conversation I have every day though perhaps Howard did.

Curious readers can find a sampling of his nonfiction in the form of his columns preserved in the archives of Infinite Matrix.

When Barack Obama faced Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries, I found myself with appropriate quotes for both of them. For Obama, I had Mike Royko telling his readers to calm down and not quiver and quake at the prospect that Harold Washington would be elected Mayor of Chicago. And for Clinton, this by Howard Waldrop from another strange future-apocalyptic reversion-to-stereotypical-tribal-behavior story:
"My brothers!" he began, so I figured he would be at it for a long time. "We seem to spend all our time in Council, rather than having fun like we should. It is not good, it makes my heart bitter.
"The idea that a woman can get a hearing at Council revolts me. Were this a young man not yet proven, or an Elder who had been given his Service feather, I would not object. But, brothers, this is a woman!" His voice came falsetto now, and he began to chant:
"I have seen the dawn of bad days, brothers.
But never worse than this.
A woman enters our camp, brothers!
A woman! A woman!"
He sat down and said no more in the conference.
It was my turn.
"Hear me, Pullers and Stealers!" I said. "You know me. I am a man of my word and a man of my deeds. As are you all. But the time has come for deeds alone. Words must be put away. We must decide whether a woman can be as good as a man. We cannot be afraid of a woman! Or can some of us be?"
They all howled and grumbled just like I wanted them to. You can't suggest men in Council are afraid of anything.
Of course, we voted to let her in the contest, like I knew we would.
Changes in history come easy, you know?
- Howard Waldrop, "Mary Margaret Road-Grader", 1976

No comments:

Post a Comment