Newsletter #44

Dear People,

Baen Books sent me copies of WHEN THE TIDE RISES just before newsletter 43 came out, so by now it’s thoroughly on sale. This is the latest RCN (Leary/Mundy) space opera, and it’s a lovely production.

The splendid Steve Hickman painting is complemented by a transparent foil imprinted with a hologram, here showing the actual holographic display of the story. Steve and the cover designer, my friend Jennie Faries, championed the process, and Toni Weisskopf, the Baen publisher, gave it a shot. 

The result was a triumphant success. My bank manager was going through a Barnes and Noble with his four-year-old son. The boy stopped, entranced by the “really cool book!” His father realized he knew the author, which didn’t impress the four-year-old nearly as much as the hologram did.

So go to your local bookstore and look at the cover. Hold it to the light and play with the hologram. The on-line image, though great in itself, can’t give you the full effect.

I haven’t said anything about the contents, have I? A number of people have told me that TIDE is my best book. Personally, I’d say there were a couple scenes in the previous RCN novel, SOME GOLDEN HARBOR, that would be difficult to top. (HARBOR is available in pb, now. Feel free to make your own comparison test.)

It isn’t that a writer is necessarily a bad judge of his/her own work, but the writer is likely to care about different things than the normal reader does. My personal favorite of the Isles series was the fifth book, GODDESS OF THE ICE REALM, but folks who’ve written me would generally pick the third, SERVANT OF THE DRAGON. Again, I’d be delighted if y’all went out and bought the whole set to decide for yourselves. Mostly, though, I mention it to show that tastes differ, and the writer’s tastes are likely to differ from a reader’s.

There is going to be an Easton Press signed, leather-bound, edition of Tide, by the way. This is really very nice, but I’ll bet they won’t have a hologram inlay on the leather.

Speaking of the Isles fantasies, the ninth and final volume of the series, THE GODS RETURN, should be out from Tor in November, 2008. (I’ve gone over the copy-edited manuscript but I haven’t seen proofs yet.). I am amazingly lucky with my covers.

Simultaneously, THE MIRROR OF WORLDS, the eighth Isles fantasy, will be released in pb. The final three books of the series really are a trilogy, so the situations set up in THE FORTRESS OF GLASS are resolved in the two books following. The good guys win and things work out pretty reasonably well for the individuals. In odd ways.

Last I heard, the pb of BALEFIRES, my fantasy/horror collection from Night Shade, was to come out this spring. I figure I’ll learn it’s out when somebody sends me a copy to sign… which could be this afternoon or some time in late July. My bet would be July, but we’ll see. Update: I’ve just been told the pb will be out around May 15. Keep your fingers crossed.

I’m not disturbed, by the way. We at Carcosa (I was a partner) missed our first pub date by a year. Small press publishing is darned hard.

Returning to Baen for a moment, the pb of my (mostly military) collection OTHER TIMES THAN PEACE is scheduled for August, 2008. The cover was actually from Kurt Miller’s portfolio. Jim Baen had him modify the existing painting by adding the alien’s head. Doggone, I miss Jim.

The first hardcover Belisarius volume, THUNDER AT DAWN, is scheduled for September, 2008, release from Baen. I plotted the series as three novels. Eric Flint, who very skillfully wrote them, has a more diffuse style than mine. (Just about everybody has a more diffuse style than mine, which is a problem for me.) The three outlines became six (longish) novels.

Now Baen is bringing the series back in three fat hard hardcovers under the titles I came up with before I actually wrote the outlines. I find that rather funny.

The main thing that’s been happening since the most recent newsletter is, of course, that I’m working on the next RCN novel–IN THE STORMY RED SKY. I’m just under 60K in draft, which is more than far enough for me to be convinced that it’s all complete crap, boring and pointless.

Well, you’ve heard that before. And intellectually, I know that the craftsmanship of my work over the most recent ten years is higher than that of the decade before that–and the decade before that, right back to 1966. I don’t think SKY will embarrass me, but right now I’m just charging ahead in the hope that the guy who made the plan knew what he was doing. The technique didn’t work out real well in Viet Nam in 1970, but this time I wrote the plot.

Barry Malzberg’s sharply written, idiosyncratic view of SF, BREAKFAST IN THE RUINS, is up for a Hugo (for Best Related Book, I believe). It’s a brilliant work. If you’re eligible to vote for it, do so. (I’ll come back to that a little later on.)

Continuing on the subject of books which I’ve prodded Baen into doing, THE BOOKS OF THE WARS by Mark Geston will collect three novels (LORDS OF THE STARSHIP, OUT OF THE MOUTH OF THE DRAGON and THE SIEGE OF WONDER) which blew me away when I was starting to write.

I’ve been rereading them in preparation for doing an introduction to the omnibus, and they’ve amazed me all over again. Geston is a little younger than me, so LORDS was written when he was twenty. I’m not surprised that a twenty-year-old can be erudite (I was amazed at the erudition of my CODEX, written when I was about that age; it isn’t a good story, but it certainly was erudite). I _am_ surprised at Geston’s sophistication, though.

The omnibus is slotted for April, 2009. Look forward to it. Join me in amazement.

Mostly I’ve been working hard on SKY, but I do have another of Ovid’s lyrics up. Even if you’re not interested in urbane wit (these aren’t love poems in any real sense), take a look at the concluding images contrasting the deaths of a soldier or a merchant with that of a lover. Ovid is as good a craftsman as you’ll find, a writer from whom any other writer can learn.

There are also some pictures from (the first) Omegacon up. It was good chatting at length with Ben Bova, who bought three stories (including NATION WITHOUT WALLS) from me at ANALOG, and bought MEN LIKE US for OMNI. The folks running the con were nice people, but they would have to improve a great deal to be described as disorganized.

Maybe next year will be better. I hope any of you who attend will let me know.

I said I was going to talk more about the Hugos. There’s been discussion on Baen’s Bar about the fact that Baen Books gets shorted for awards though the books themselves are successful, and that this is unfair. If more Baen fans (and many of the Barflies are rabid Baen fans) would buy (at least) supporting memberships to Worldcon and vote, this would change.

I had to think about that. I agree in principle, and certainly I would like an award, but–and this is a big but–I don’t as a matter of faith believe that it matters. The books matter, the awards don’t.

I emphasize that this is faith with me, not reality: awards are a quick guide to the ignorant, for example to Hollywood types looking for properties to buy for large sums of money. In that commercial sense, it would be good to have awards.

In former years, awards could delude publishers into spending large sums of money on books which very few people would buy. I know writers whose books (in the early ’80s) sold about the same as (or a little less well than) mine did, but who were paid five times as much. That’s changed since publishing computerized. In the long term this worked to my advantage, since my books were commercial successes whereas theirs were disasters. The few of those cachet writers who are still writing are doing so for much lower advances than I now get. At the time it galled me, but not enough for me to go after awards.

Instead, I decided to believe that awards didn’t matter, knowing intellectually that my belief was in part false. It served me pretty well, though; and I can’t join the chorus on the Bar begging folks to go out and vote for Hugos.

Nonetheless I will mention that my collection BALEFIRES is eligible for a World Fantasy Award. The stories in it were largely written back when I thought that some day I might win an award but never dreamed of being a commercially successful writer. It therefore wouldn’t be completely inconsistent if I said that if BALEFIRES got on the WFA short list, I would be happy about the fact.

Pretty please?

–Dave Drake

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