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The Sleeper Awakens

February 6, 2024 at 9:06 am
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Exciting news for all the Wild Cards fans out there.  Today is the publication day for the newest Wild Cards hardcover from Bantam, the thirty-third volume in the overall series… but no, you do not need to have read the first thirty-two to enjoy this book.

SLEEPER STRADDLE is the title.   And yes, as our long-time readers will no doubt guess, this one features a character who has been around since the first Wild Cards Day (September 15, 1946 — the day  Howard Waldrop was born):  the Sleeper, created by the late great Roger Zelazny.

In poker, a sleeper straddle is a blind raise, made from a position other than the player “under the gun.”  Sleepers are often considered illegal out-of-turn play and are commonly disallowed.   In Wild Cards, the Sleeper is Croyd Crenson, who was a high school freshman on his way home from school when the virus was released over Manhattan.  From that day on, Croyd has been continuously reinfected by the virus whenever he sleeps, his body reshaping itself into a myriad of new shapes and forms.  Each time he wakes, he is changed.   Sometimes he wakes as an ace, with astonishing new superpowers, different every time.   Other times he wakes as a joker, malformed and hideous.  He lives in terror of the day he draws the black queen, and does not wake at all.   Croyd can sleep for days, weeks, even months, but when awake he does all he can to keep sleep at bay.  Unable to hold a normal job or have a normal relationship, he lives on the margins of society; he has been a bodyguard, a thief, a mercenary, a con man, a hero for hire… whatever it takes to survive.  Everyone knows Croyd, and no one really knows Croyd.

You never know what you are going to get when the Sleeper wakes.   He is the ultimate wild card… and our most iconic character.   It is long past time he had a book of his own.

The lineup this time around:

“Days Go By,” by Carrie Vaughn,
 “The Hit Parade,” by Cherie Priest ,
 “Yin-Yang Split,” from William F. Wu,
 “Semiotics of the Strong Man,” by Walter Jon Williams,
 “Party Like It’s 1999,” from Stephen Leigh,
 “The Bloody Eagle,” by Mary Anne Mohanraj,
 “The Boy Who Would Be Croyd,” from Max Gladstone.

The stories will be tied together by “Swimmer, Flier, Felon, Spy” from Christopher Rowe, featuring his enigmatic investigator Tesla.   Other featured characters will include old favorites like Golden Boy, Oddity, Lazy Dragon, and Ramshead, along with some great new aces and a colorful assortment of jokers and jacks.

Ye editor is hardly objective, of course, but I have to confess, I have always loved Croyd, and it was great to see him in action again, in tales that spanned the decades, from the Fifties to the present day.    Those of you who are already Sleeper fans will be delighted, I think, and as for all the readers out there who have yet to meet Mr. Crenson… you have a treat in store.

Roger would have loved this book, I like to think.   I hope you will as well.

Come to the Pulls

February 3, 2024 at 3:04 pm
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Howard Waldrop had a new book out last year:  H’ARD STARTS: THE EARLY WALDROP, from Subterranean Press.   Brad Denton and I put it together.  It was a collection of Howard’s earliest work — the stories he wrote for comic book fanzines in the 60s and early 70s, some plays from college, con reports, articles from CRAWDADDY, a sketch he wrote for Red Skelton (Red passed), sword and sorcery in the mode of Robert E. Howard, science fiction in the mode of Cordwainer Smith, and his earliest pro work, including his first sale, one of the last stories bought by John W. Campbell Jr.  Plus the never-published “Davy Crockett Shoots the Moon,” a story purely in the mode of Howard Waldrop.  All of it tied together by a series of interviews done by Brad Denton, wherein H’ard told the stories behind the stories, and how all this came to be.

It’s a swell book, if I do say so myself.   Howard liked it too.  If you missed it, you can still grab a copy from SubPress, autographed by me, Brad, and Howard himself.

Howard also had a movie out last year… well, actually the year before, but overlapping.   NIGHT OF THE COOTERS, an adaptation of his novelette of the same name, debuted at the LA Shorts Film Festival, where it won the award for Best Sci-Fi.  Scripted by Joe Lansdale, directed and starring Vincent d’Onofrio, produced by the sfx wizards at Trioscope, it spent most of the year on the festival circuit, screening at the Atlanta Film Festival, the Dubuque Film Festival,  FilmQuest in Provo, Utah, the New York Shorts Film Festival, Midwest WeirdFest in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and the Santa Fe International Film Festival, winning several additional awards along the way.

Howard liked it too.

COOTERS was just the beginning, though.  Only the first of a series of short films — and one full-length feature, we hope — we have been making, based on some of Howard’s astonishing, and unique, stories.   He wrote so many, it was hard to know where to start, but start we did, and I am pleased to say that we have three more Waldrop movies filmed and in the can, in various stages of post production.   Some of you — the lucky ones — will get a chance to see them this year, at a film festival near you.  As with COOTERS, we’re taking them out on the festival circuit.

First one out of the chute will be MARY-MARGARET ROAD GRADER.   We were able to screen a rough cut for Howard just a few days before his death.  I am so so so glad we did.   And I am thrilled to be able to report that he loved it.

We can’t show it to the world yet.   But here’s a trailer, to give you all a taste.

MARY-MARGARET was adapted and directed by Steven Paul Judd, and features an all-indigenous cast, with Crystal Lightning as Mary-Margaret and  Martin Sensemeier as Billy-Bob Chevrolet.  The tractors are all by our friends at Trioscope.

I will be sure to let you know where the movie will be appearing just as soon as we hear back from some of those film festivals.

And there’s more coming after that.  Next up will be THE UGLY CHICKENS, Howard’s most famous story, which won the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award (and should have won the Hugo too, if you ask me).   That one is almost done, and I hope to have a trailer for you soon.   Further down the pike is the film we’re calling FRIENDS FOREVER (that will not be the final title), which should be ready in another four-five months.

And after that, we hope we hope, will come the feature, a full length adaptation of A DOZEN TOUGH JOBS.   Have not started filming on that yet, but the deals are in place.   The amazing Joe Lansdale adapted the novella, and Howard loved the script.

I wish he was here to see the movies.  To see all the movies.

Howard’s gone.   But his genius lives on.

Current Mood: pleased pleased