Newsletter #74

NEWSLETTER 74: April 15, 2013

Dear People,

This is a trifle early, but Jo (my wife) and I are going off to Italy at the end of the month for two weeks with a couple we’ve known for about 40 years. If bandwidth and life generally cooperate, I will send a little electronic postcard when we get there.

Further, my webmaster has directed me to get a new home page picture in the course of things. There ought to be something available in Rome or Pompeii or goodness knows where.

Wish me luck, people: I’m not a happy traveller. On January 15, 1971, I walked off the plane from Oakland to Durham and said–I really said this–“I’ll never get on another airplane as long as I live.” Well, I have gotten on planes many times since then, but it’s a strain every time. PTSD is real, people, and it doesn’t go away.

I’ve been chunking away at The Sea without a Shore, the next RCN (Leary/Mundy) space opera. I’m over 75K now, solidly into (beyond) the middle of the book. I’m convinced it’s boring crap, but that doesn’t bother me as much as it usually would because I’m so stressed about the coming weeks of travel. (It’s an ill wind that blows no good.)

In truth, the book is moving along pretty well. I genuinely like what I’m doing–that is, being a writer. The fact that I’m depressed and fearful most of the time shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of a writing career: it’s just how I am, at least since 1970.

On April 9 I went over to the Baen offices in Wake Forest (for the second time in the year!). Baen editor Tony Daniel developed The Heretic (just out) from my outline (in the General series), and we had a signing in Cary that night (there’s a picture on the website, courtesy of Baen editor Laura Haywood-Cory). Tony suggested that I come to the offices and tape a segment for the Baen Free Radio Hour (podcast); and also a writing tip; and also suggest a book to read. Then go to dinner as a group, then do the signing at the Barnes and Noble.

We did that; and let me tell you, it was a full day. Cary is about halfway between the Drake home and Wake Forest, so at least I was closer to home at the end than if it had been the other way around; but I’m not very social.

The podcast involved me with Baen editors Jim Minz, Tony Daniel (who sort of runs the podcasts), and Hank Davis; with Laura popping with the information on who did the art for The Heretic (Alan Pollock). These things (taping and the signing both) make me nervous and uncomfortable, but it all went well. They always go well, and I always worry. It’s about as predictable as the sun coming up in the morning.

The general podcast has been broken into two. I’ve listened to the first half. Tony left the digressions in, so listeners will get a feel for the way I burble when I’m asked a question.

The second half should go up at noon on April 19 (and may be up by the time this newsletter goes out). I suppose the writing tip (on stealing plots, a subject on which I’m an expert) and maybe the book suggestion (Night of Horror, a collection of stories by Joel Townsley Rogers) will go up then also.

There may also be a segment of me telling about Screwing Bloody Dead Bodies, an unpublished entry in the Hammer series. During a break I told a story about the very early days of Baen Books which even Betsy Mitchell finds extremely funny now. I’m not sure that Tony was taping during that; and I’m not absolutely sure that he would want to put it on the air even if he was.

Doggone, I’ve had a lot of fun as a writer. I still do, but I sorta miss the old days with Jim, who didn’t have any more common sense than I do. If all that matters in your job is that you’re collecting a paycheck, you probably ought to be doing something else.

A bunch of things, reprints and The Heretic, have come out recently, but I’ve mentioned them in previous newsletters. You can find them on the website (“Forthcoming and Recent Releases” in the right sidebar). The one thing I may not have mentioned is the mass market edition of Transgalactic, a collection of works by AE van Vogt.

Eric and I are listed as co-editors, but it was his idea and he negotiated with the van Vogt estate. (If there was an editorial payment, he got that too; which is fine.) I wrote the short introduction and chatted with Eric about the contents.)

I mention it (it’s not a big deal commercially, obviously) because it contains the original versions of what as the novel Mission to the Stars shares the honor of being the first SF book I bought. (I ordered it and Andre Norton’s The Stars Are Ours at the same time.) It was a good choice.

Van Vogt does a better job than anybody else I can think of in showing that there’s more going on in the story universe than you’ll find in the story. It’s a huge, wonderful world out there–and you’re getting just a peek through a window. That is what ‘Sense of Wonder’ means to me.

I don’t know how well I do in conveying that in my own fiction. I don’t make it a priority, and perhaps I should. There are hints of it in the RCN series, though, and I plan to continue dropping those hints.

And I guess that’s the thought I’ll go out with this time: it really is a wonderful universe. There are wonderful things to see and do and dream. Sure, there’s a lot of crap; and if you listen to the news a lot, you’ll find yourself convinced that it’s all crap.

No, it’s not all crap. Looking back over my own life–as I was doing above–I’m reminded of how much fun I’ve had and how much neat history I’ve been a part of. I expect that Italy, for all my dread, will bring more wonder and more good times with old friends.

Go thou and do likewise!

–Dave Drake

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