Newsletter #80

NEWSLETTER 80: May 2, 2014

Dear People,

Air and Darkness, the last of the four Books of the Elements fantasies for Tor, proceeds. As usual, it isn’t rocketing along, but I’m making steady progress. And grumping a lot because I’m not making faster progress steadily, but that too is normal.

Part of the problem at the moment is that there’s a lot of pollen. I don’t mind sneezing, but pollen becomes a foreign protein in my body, to which I react as I would to a virus (also a foreign protein).

At one point that meant my anger would spike unreasonably. That is, I wouldn’t get mad at nothing, but I would get extremely mad at things which didn’t deserve that degree of anger.

Since I wrote Redliners, my anger has been shifting farther into the background. Sure, it’s still there, but I really have become a kinder, gentler person. Most of what pollen does to me now is aches in joints and muscles (which I’d have anyway; I do heavy yard work for exercise), and a lack of focus. I get the work done, but keeping at it is just harder than it would be if I weren’t working outdoors in springtime, downwind of a grove of oaks and hickories.

That said, I really like springtime and the hardwood grove. And the book’s getting done.

The Sea Without a Shore, the latest RCN (Leary/Mundy) space opera, is (or will momentarily be) out from Baen Books! Baen did a banner ad for Baker and Taylor, which I’m running (well, my webmaster Karen is running) on the home page and on the RCN page also.

I’m very determinedly not trying to sell books on my website, but I decided that the ad is neat and it’s therefore news. That’s my justification, anyway.

Understand, I really do want you to buy my books, but I figure I’m better off presenting myself as courteous and interesting than I am by coming across like a pitchman on late-night television. I’m happier doing that, anyway.

The third omnitrade two-book bindings of the General Series, Hope Renewed, will be out in July. This pairs the last of the General Series proper with The Chosen, a stand-alone follow-up novel. Both were written from my outlines by Steve Stirling.

In The Chosen, I decided to turn Steve’s Draka Series sort of upside down. The result was interesting, to me at least, and provided a number of problems for me and Steve both. Read it and you’ll see what I mean.

Speaking of the website (as I did a moment ago), I’ve got a new home page image. This is me under a magnolia in Louisville (KY), reading The Doings of Raffles Haw by Arthur Conan Doyle on my Kindle.

I’d never heard of the book before I got and read it. It’s genuinely SF, though the focus is economics (which is true of SF generally before the 1920s) instead of space or time travel. The characterizations are good enough to make me think I’d been undervaluing Doyle as a writer, but I’m not recommending the book very hard. (The core idea is transmutation of lead into gold scientifically.)

There are other new pictures from Louisville (at Conglomeration; it was fun): a couple from Falls of the Ohio State Park (I particularly recommend the mounted skeleton of the Columbian Mammoth, a much bigger animal than the common Wooly Mammoth), and a toy submersible from a display of military miniatures in the Frazier History Museum. There was no information with the sub, which must have been an extremely expensive toy from about 1930. If anyone can give me data on it, please let me know.

At the con I was interviewed live for what I thought was local radio, WRLR. It is local, but it’s local to Lake County, IL–NW of Chicago. The podcast is up. (I still don’t know what they were doing at Conglomeration.)

The radio crew was very excited about it, saying that I was ‘remarkably forthcoming.’ I’ll accept that as a fact because I regularly get some version of that after interviews (“open;” “direct;” “left frank behind on a fast train”), but I don’t understand why I’m unusual. It’s a lot easier to tell the truth than to make up stories, and if you focus on not saying the wrong thing, you’re going to come over like a crooked politician. (“Crooked politician” isn’t redundant. Quite.)

If people ask me questions, I answer them honestly to the best of my ability. Occasionally that makes somebody unhappy. I recall being accurately quoted by a Washington Post reporter who’d asked about the limited partnership set up to advertise Newt Gingrich’s first book, Window of Opportunity. It was completely open and above board: the money was spent on advertising, as decided by Jim Baen and Tom Doherty, who signed every check from the account.

When I said, “As it turned out, they might as well have burned the money in the parking lot so far as the effect on sales went,” I was being completely truthful (I got royalty statements as co-author). I’m told that Newt wasn’t best pleased, but given that the Democrats were trying to make him a crook, it seemed to me that my honesty was really the best policy for everybody.

I prefer people of whom I can say, “What you see is what you get.” I try to be that way myself.

There is an interview on about The Sea Without a Shore. There was a problem with this one in that the equipment was new and I wasn’t able to hear Tony Daniel and Toni Weisskopf well over the phone line. (I could barely hear Toni at all.) As a result, I may have been non-responsive or just sound like a churlish brute who talks over the other people in the conversation. Cut me some slack if either of those things seems to be the case.

Though pollen doesn’t do anything for my productivity, it has caused me to muse about things. I’ve been watching David Dimbleby’s series, A Picture of Britain. He discusses the death of Charles Gough in 1805 as one of the starting points for British romanticism. A 21-year-old artist fell off a cliff while walking with his dog. His body–his scattered bones–were found three months later. The dog was there, in good health and having whelped a puppy. Quite obviously the dog had eaten her master’s body, though an alternative explanation is that ravens had picked the flesh. (That doesn’t explain how the ravens ate the body with the dog standing guard, nor what the dog was eating to stay healthy itself.)

Gough became a romantic icon, with the dog guarding or nuzzling the sprawled body. What strikes me as interesting is that it would have been equally romantic (consider Fuseli) to go for the macabre, with Foxy eating her master’s body–perhaps starting while the crippled man is still alive. Both versions would be creations, works of art.

So what do you choose to create from your raw material? I certainly choose in retailing what I learned from Nam. The things that happened to me weren’t unusual and weren’t particularly awful for the time and place. Bad luck for me, sure; but there were 529K troops in country when I was there, and two and a half million served in the course of the war. Tim O’Brian (from a not dissimilar background) reacted in one way, I reacted in another. We each have our truth, but it isn’t The Truth of the war or of war.

Ah, well. I have a novel to finish. I hope you all are well and that winter is finally over, even if spring brings pollen.

–Dave Drake

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