REAWAKENED WORLDS: Vintage Dystopian and Sci-fi Stories by a Master Storyteller, Volume One, by John Hayden Howard is now available in paperback, hardcover, and ebook! The stories in this collection were compiled and introduced by author and editor Laurie Winslow Sargent who answered some questions for us! Read on to learn more.
What was your relationship with John Hayden Howard?
I knew him for 25 years as “Jack” or Jack Howard. We met when I was 32 years old, when he married my widowed mother, Jill. Yup! Jack and Jill.
Mom met Jack three years after my dad had died in a tragic traffic accident, before my children were born. He became a truly great friend and writing mentor to me, and Grandpa Jack to my kids from toddlerhood through young adulthood. I was honored, when he was still alive, when he asked me to be his estate trustee. Thankfully this gives me the ability to republish his work after his passing, to now honor him.
So you consider this book a labor of love?
It started that way—going through musty old manuscripts. To be honest, I’m an objective and a savvy writer, reader, and sometimes-editor. I’m working on a new book of my own, as well: a 1920s historical narrative NF. So if Hayden’s stories hadn’t grabbed me, this hiccup in my own work would not have happened. I’d have simply scanned his stories for the grandkids and tossed the manuscripts.
But after realizing how popular his work was in the 1960s, then reading his stories, I was hooked! I fell in love with his thought-provoking stories, fun characters, unique wordplay, and quirky sense of humor. From 40 manuscripts, I chose 16 favorites to compile and edit into two books: eight in Vol 1, another eight for Vol 2.
I’m thrilled to now hold the finished book, which WildBlue Press brilliantly titled REAWAKENED WORLDS: Vintage Dystopian and Sci-Fi Stories from a Master Storyteller. Now only three days since its release, I’m thrilled to see it listed on Amazon as the #1 New Release in Classic Science Fiction eBooks. It’s also #9 in Classic Science Fiction eBooks overall, #16 in Classic Short Stories, and #29 in Science Fiction Anthologies (Kindle Store.) It’s available (in English) in 12 countries.
Last night, I read the hardcover edition—the whole thing--just as entranced by the stories as I was when I first found them. Of course I’ve read the stories multiple times in the editing process. Yet even now unusual phrases or word choices jump out at me which I hadn’t noticed before.
In the story Mutiny in the Orbit of Uranus, a space explorer sees “beautiful green lakes freckled with tiny wooded islands.” I thought, “Oooh, that’s good! Freckled! I never would have thought to use that word!” Some of his funny lines made me laugh for the umpteenth time. I believe reading his work will make me a better writer—more inclined to find juicy words instead of lazy ones.
My labor of love turned into a true love of his work.
Is your writing style similar or different from his?
Remarkably different. I never personally write on dark themes, as he often did. Yet his plots bring home that things can go disastrously wrong when people try to play God or manipulate other human beings, so are thought-provoking.
In the story The Tragedy of Henry Diddoh, a reawakened cadaver manipulated by Henry becomes the personality of Hank. It’s distressing to me when Hank kills, in self-defense, a scientist experimenting on him. Yet Hank passionately loves his wife and unborn child, worries about Henry, and desperately wants to find meaning in his own life apart from Henry, so I find myself attracted to his character and sad when he dies.
One thing I was glad we had in common was Hayden’s avoidance of profanity, etc. in his writing. His stories are clean enough for me to feel comfortable compiling them. There are three single sentences (in the entire book) with female-body-part innuendos. But those lines are humorous and subtle enough to go over many people’s heads. Blink and you may miss them. Notice them and they’re quite funny.
Example: to illustrate intercultural misunderstandings, a Martian tells an Earthman a story of a poet-taxonomist, “who collided with a young earth woman in the dark and gleefully exclaimed, ‘Betannon! I have discovered a two-nosed Archinor.’’ That’s about as racy as Hayden gets.
I also appreciate that he had a strong female lead in a story he wrote in the mid 1950s: the Navigator (top flight officer) in Mutiny in the Orbit of Uranus. In real life, thirty years later, I saw his great admiration of women including my mother as an entrepreneur and adventurer.
What I cared about most for this book was in choosing stories with strong take-away messages: cautionary tales we can all learn from. Much like the take-aways in those old Twilight Zone episodes.
So you’re a big science fiction fan?
Previously I hadn’t read much science fiction, but since immersing myself in Hayden’s work I’m reading and watching more. I lean most toward dystopian, what-if themes, as opposed to science fiction with highly detailed other worlds. The sci-fi stories of Hayden’s I chose because of his focus on great characters, relationships, and action. I’m a big fan of great storytelling, no matter what setting.
I believe readers of Reawakened Worlds will find a favorite character, setting or story. But I hope they’ll enjoy the surprise endings in all of Hayden Howard’s stories. Often the very last line is the real kicker!
I’d say I’m more of a history buff than a typical sci-fi buff. What especially grabbed me in Hayden’s stories was immersion in 1950s & 1960s lingo, objects, and ways of thinking. He wove historical details in naturally, including a woody station wagon and felt college athletic pennants hanging on a character’s wall. He wrote those details because he lived around them, in real time.
Readers may need to look up a few 60-year-old references, but that can make reading fun. Wonder what a “bluebook” was? -- a small notebook college students wrote essays in at exam time. How about a “hasher”? -- a college student working part-time in a sorority or frat house kitchen.
Also fun historically is seeing in Hayden’s 1950s to 1960s stories is the idea that 1990 was the high-tech future. Some technology arrived 20-30 years late: but he was pretty much on target. I joke in the Foreword of the book that Jack may himself have been a time traveler. He was amazingly certain in 1960 about the future practical use of solar panels, electric cars, and video phones. He passed away before being able to Skype with his great-grandkids. He would have loved that.