What Distant Deeps

What Distant Deeps

Cover art: Steve Hickman

I’ll start out with what in my days as a lawyer we would call boilerplate: I use both English and Metric weights and measures in the RCN series to suggest the range of diversity which I believe would exist in a galaxy-spanning civilization. I do not, however, expect either actual system to be in use in three thousand years. Kilogram and inch (etcetera) should be taken as translations of future measurement systems, just as I’ve translated the spoken language.

I really wish I didn’t have to say that. I’ve learned that I do.

The situation on which I based the plot of What Distant Deeps is the crisis that overtook but did not–quite–overwhelm the Roman Empire in the 3d century AD. The extremities of the empire went through striking (and strikingly different) convulsions. For the action of this novel I’m particularly indebted to what happened in the East, but there is by no means a direct correspondence between this fiction and historical reality (even to the extent that we know the reality).

I write fiction to entertain, not to educate; but Aristophanes proved it was possible to do both, and on a good day a reader might learn something from me as well. Empires have generally used proxies to fight wars on their borders. The problem–as Rome learned with the Oasis of Palmyra–is that the proxies have policies of their own. Not infrequently, things go wrong for the principal when the proxy decides to implement its separate policies.

For a recent example, in the 1970s the US hired a battalion of troops from Argentina, called them “the Contras” and employed them to fight the socialist government of Nicaragua. The military dictatorship running Argentina at the time was more than happy to support the US effort.

Unfortunately for everybody (except ultimately the Argentine people), General Galtieri and his cronies (some of whom, amazingly, were even stupider and more brutal than he was) decided that their secret help to the US meant that the US would protect them from Britain when they invaded the Falklands and subjected the islands’ English-speaking residents to what passed for government in Argentina. Galtieri was wrong–the tail didn’t wag the dog during the Falklands War–and Argentina ousted the military junta as a result of its humiliation by Britain; but there might not have been a Falklands War if the US had not used Argentina as a military proxy in Nicaragua.

I could mention cases where US proxy involvements have led to even worse results. If the shoe fits, wear it.

Finally, a word about the dedication (“To Jason Williams and Jeremy Lassen of Night Shade Books”). I could simply let it stand (I’ve many times dedicated a book to an editor or publisher), but there’s an aspect to this one that won’t be obvious to anyone outside my head (including Jason and Jeremy).

I came back to the World in 1971 and began writing the Hammer stories as a way of dealing with my experiences in Viet Nam and Cambodia. The stories were successful, but they made me a pariah to a number of very vocal people.

Jason took me aback when he approached me about putting the series in limited-edition hardcovers. Nobody had ever suggested the stories were worthy of that before. Indeed, the people who said anything were likely to be protesting them being in print at all, even in mass market editions.

When I opened the box that contained the beautifully produced Complete Hammer’s Slammers, Volume 1, I had an unexpected emotional reaction: I’d finally come home to the America which sent me to Nam in 1970. It was something that I didn’t know I’d been missing until Night Shade Books gave it to me.

–Dave Drake


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