Howard Waldrop died on January 14 in Texas, of a stroke. He was 77 years old. (Two years my senior, barely).
The world got a little darker then.
I learned of Howard’s passing through a phone call from a mutual friend. I was away from home when it happened, out of the country, with no email and no internet, else I would have posted something here much sooner.
Howard and I never lived in the same city, nor the same state, but we had been friends for a long long time. When we first “met” — via comic fandom and the US mail — John F. Kennedy was in the White House and both of us were in high school, Howard in Texas and me in New Jersey. I had just bought a comic book from him. BRAVE & BOLD #28, as it happened. Starro the Conquerer. Howard charged me a quarter. When he sent the comic, he backed it up with a nice drawing of a barbarian on stiff cardboard, and a friendly letter asking me if I liked Conan. We struck up a correspondence that lasted more than half a century. We finally met in person in 1972, at MidAmerican Con in Kansas City. He was my oldest friend from the SF community… the kindest, brightest, funniest man you could meet… and one of the greatest writers of his generation.
He was one of a kind. There will never be another like him. But he only wrote one-and-a-half novels, so he never got the acclaim (or the money) that he deserved. These days, short story writers get little respect (’twas not always so, at least in SF and fantasy) and less money. And Howard Waldrop was among the very best short story writers ever to work in our genre.
And certainly the most original.
I last spoke to Howard less than a week before his death. He has been living in an assisted living hotel in Austin for the past few years. We have been adapting a few of Howard’s classic stories into short films, and our mutual friend Robert Taylor had just screened a rough cut of MARY-MARGARET ROAD GRADER for him on his laptop. (Howard did not use a computer and had no truck with email, texts, or social media). I was calling to ask if he liked it. He did, I am pleased to say… and I am so so so happy that he got to see the film before he left us. He was not entirely happy when we spoke… he had fallen out of bed a few days before, and had required help to get back up. That made him grouchy. Howard gave good grouchy. But talking about the film cheered him up. That was good to hear. He was laughing by the time we ended the call.
We are making a couple of other Waldrop adaptations as well, and I promised him I’d get him a cut of those as well before the end of January. I never dreamed when hanging up that we would never speak again.
There’s so much more I could say about Howard… and I will, I will. But not today. This would turn into a novel if I told all my stories in one long post. So many memories. So much laughter. So much love.
I still cannot believe he is gone. I want to call him up right now, and hear him laugh again.
Current Mood: gloomy