Who Are the Great Readers of Science Fiction?

(Originally Posted Thursday, October 18, 2007)

The above title is not a rhetorical question. At Capclave I attended a reading by Andy Duncan of his wonderfully demented new story, “Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse” (Eclipse 1, Night Shade Books, edited by Jonathan Strahan and due out in earliest November) and it seemed to me that he clearly belonged somewhere on the list of Ten Best Readers-Aloud of Their Own Fiction in the Mingled Genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror. Only I’m not quite sure who else ought to be on that list.

Howard Waldrop, of course. By universal acclaim, H’ard gets the number one spot on the list. I’m pretty sure I belong somewhere on it – at least when I’m on my game. I did a reading of “Radio Waves” at Temple University for Samuel R. Delany’s students and got a standing ovation at the end, and that wasn’t even my single best rendition of that story. (The one I did in Seattle was.) And then there’s Andy.

Andy has a lovely Southern accent and I realize that to those who know accents that says nothing, but what can I do? I’m a Philadelphian, I don’t know from accents. It’s probably something like Western-Alabaman-Lower-Beluthahatchie-County-South-Slope- of-Possum-Grits-Mountain-Wrong-Side-of-Town but it’s odds-on that I haven’t even gotten the state right, so don’t listen to me. The thing is that when he reads a story, particularly one which is derived from Southern culture, the accent grows stronger and adds to the experience enormously. You can provide the voice for his more elaborate sentences on your own, but you’ve got to hear the man in order to appreciate the spin he puts on a simple, “He blinked” or “No way.” Anybody can add an extra syllable or three to a word. But it takes a real story-reader to add a half-syllable. Andy Duncan can do that.

I’m waiting for Andy to get famous as a reader so I can buy a CD of him reading his stories. It’s probably too much to hope for that he’d get so well known as to justify a disc of him reading classic Southern stories by Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, Truman Capote . . . Ah, well.

So that’s two for the list and maybe three if you’re willing to take my word on myself, as most wouldn’t and nobody can blame them for that. But who else?

Why not tell me who you’d put on the list? I’d love to know.

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