The Dragon Lord

THE DRAGON LORD was my first novel. There was a heroic fantasy boom in the latter ’70s. andy offutt (as he then styled himself) had a contract with Zebra Books to write novels about the Robert E. Howard character Cormac mac Art. Because andy found plotting difficult, in 1977 he asked me and at least one other newbie writer to plot novels for him. No terms were discussed, but I expected to get a few hundred dollars (and no credit).

I took the offer because I desperately wanted to learn how to write a novel. I’d been trying to do that at least since 1972 and probably before. I figured by watching andy develop my outline, I’d learn how to write a novel myself.

I dived into the research, among other things reading the complete Histories of Procopius (knowledge which stood me in good stead later). I set the plot in the court of King Arthur, because I wasn’t in the least interested in Arthurian fantasy and therefore wouldn’t be depressed to have to turn my work over to somebody else.

Funny thing about that: when you spend six months immersed in a subject, you come to love it. (Hmm; plotting as a special case of Stockholm Syndrome?). I created an enormously detailed 16,000 word plot which I hated to turn over to andy. Still, a deal is a deal. I sent him the plot.

andy rejected it. His reasons were partly personal, partly due to business difficulties with Zebra. He offered a kill fee, but I couldn’t have been happier to turn the outline into a novel myself.

I did so, eliminating all characters from Howard or andy’s text. Dave Hartwell was the second editor to see The Dragon Lord (the first one, Nansy Neiman, asked me to turn it into a trilogy and she’d look at it again. I blanched). Dave bought it but wanted changes before the climax and asked me to drop the epilogue. I obeyed, though Dave had left Putnam’s before I turned in the revised novel. (Dave is editor on my Tor fantasy series now; it’s a small world.)

The Dragon Lord pbDave’s successor John Silbersack became my editor, but when John was forced out the ninnie who replaced him (actually, she was really good at office politics, so perhaps ninnie is unfair) shelved the paperback version of the book. I reverted it (to her surprise; her assistant told me the contract didn’t permit that. The assistant wasn’t a lawyer and I, for my sins, am). Jim Baen bought the rights for Tor’s brand new line.

Jim wanted changes. He wouldn’t have forced me, but I laughed when I heard and did what he wanted. Basically, that was to change the novel back to the way I’d written it the first time before I made the changes for Dave. The hardcover and pb versions of The Dragon Lord are significantly different.

I had things to learn about plotting, but there’s a lot of neat stuff in this book.

Dave Drake

The Dragon Lord. 1979, New York, NY: Berkley Pub. Corp. : distributed by Putnam. 286 p. 0399123806 (hc). (This edition varies from the following paperback editions.)
————– 1982, New York, NY: Tor. 320 p. 0523485522 (pb). $2.95.
————– 1989, New York, NY: Tor. 320 p. 0812536053 (pb). $3.95.
————– 1994, New York, NY: Tor. 320 p. 0812536053 (pb). $4.99.
————– 1998, Riverdale, NY: Baen. 284 p. 0671878905 (pb). $5.99.