With the Lightnings

Cover art: David Mattingly

The question I’m most often asked about WITH THE LIGHTNINGS is, ‘Who the hell is Cassian’? Cassian is a mistake; or rather, a series of mistakes.

I used ‘Leary Daniels’ as the name of the hero of my untitled novel and was proceeding happily with the writing until Jim Baen called. He very strongly didn’t like the name Leary.

We had a discussion. I did like the name Leary Daniels, but I need a better reason than that before I go to the wall with my publisher, editor, and friend.

The discussion then turned to alternatives. Between us we came up with ‘Cassian Daniels’, which neither of us liked but both figured would do. I had a novel to write and I wanted to get back to it.

I finished the book, by now titled With the Lightnings, and sent it to Jim as disk copy. A little while later he called again. He’d been thinking about the name. He still didn’t like Leary Daniels, but he liked Daniel Leary a lot better than he did Cassian Daniels. So did I. (Mind you, I liked Leary Daniels even better, but that may be just stubbornness.) Jim said he’d do a global search and replace on his electronic copy, and I figured I’d catch any glitches when I did the page proofs.

A few months later Jim asked me to do flap copy for With the Lightnings. (I usually do the copy for my Baen titles; Jim correctly believes that the author knows best what the book is supposed to be about.) The covers were duly and very attractively printed. I still hadn’t seen page proofs.

The proofs came, but instead of the usual loose sheets I received one of the Advance Reading Copies, the perfect-bound ‘book’ which went out to reviewers in the same mail. I opened it and found that Jim had sent the wrong electronic text to the typesetter. In this version the hero’s name was still Cassian Daniels. I called and told Jim what had happened.

This was not a fun phone call for either of us. Because the covers were already printed, we didn’t have the option of leaving the hero ‘Cassian Daniels’, so the typesetter had to do the global search and replace–and neither I nor the reviewers saw the results. All things considered, the typesetter did an excellent job; but one ‘Cassian’ got through, and all the reviews had the hero’s name wrong. (Including the reviews quoted as cover copy on the paperback. Sigh.)

Welcome to the high-tech world of publishing, my friends.

A question that I get less often than ‘Who the hell is Cassian’? is, ‘Have you read Patrick O’Brian?’ Darn right I have: I’ve read Patrick O’Brian’s novels and I love them. Some reviews have referred to my Leary/Mundy series as an SF version of Hornblower. That’s not correct; I did an SF version of the Aubrey/Maturin series, Patrick O’Brian’s superb knockoff of Forester’s Hornblower. (If you want an SF version of Hornblower, Dave Weber and David Feintuch both do excellent but conceptually distinct takes on that paradigm.)

I write a lot of military SF. With the Lightnings is something quite different: space opera. When I was 13 I encountered Poul Anderson’s Flandry series which started in the pulps. Those tales and not, say, Starship Troopers and Dorsai! stood as godparents to With the Lightnings.

It was marvelous fun to write. I’ve done a sequel (Lt Leary, Commanding) and hope to do many more. I hope Patrick O’Brian would have approved.

Dave Drake

With the Lightnings. RCN Series. 1998, Riverdale, NY: Baen. 323 p. 0671878816. $22.00.
————– 1999, Riverdale, NY: Baen. 400 p. 0671578189 (pb). $6.99.
————– 2000, Riverdale, NY: Baen. 323 p. 0671878863. $6.99.
————– 2008, Newark, NJ: Audible Frontiers [Audiobook]. 13 hours 44 mins.
[Available for download from Audible.com]