Newsletter #86

NEWSLETTER 86: May 5, 2015

Dear People,

Death’s Bright Day, the next RCN space opera, is chunking along. I’m at 37.4K this morning (but am taking a break to write this newsletter). I trimmed the plot before I started; now I’m wondering if I’ve still got too much material.

And in a couple weeks I may worry that I’m not doing enough development and the book’s going to seem short and dashed off.

Well, if there’s a problem, I’ll fix it. But until I finish, I’ll worry; and I guess I’m okay with that. When I start thinking that I’m perfect and don’t have to sweat things, I suspect that the books will be less good.

There is action in it. I had a section to read at Millennicon in March, and I believe I have a different section to read at Libertycon in June.

In a way that’s the only exciting thing that’s happened during the past two months, but it’s probably more exciting to me than to anybody else. The thing is, once I really get stuck into a book (as I now am on this one) it pretty much runs to the end. I’ve been making steady progress for over a month, and I expect that to continue henceforward till I’m through. (With the proviso that some day I will die, and that since I ride a motorcycle that could be sooner rather than later.)

There’s a picture of the three Drakes on May 2, 2015. Jonathan’s comment (in the caption) sums it up.

Baen Books is publishing a tribute book–a Festschrift if I were an academic–in conjunction with World Fantasy Con in November. (I’ll have just turned 70.) I mentioned this in passing a couple newsletters ago when I did my two stories for it. My friend Mark Van Name came up with the idea and is editing it.

A number of stories have come in. The only ones I can swear to are mine and those of a few friends who sent them to me directly: John Lambshead, Cecelia Holland, and Barry Malzberg. And Toni Weisskopf did an essay which makes me feel very honored.

I am confident that there are also stories by Eric Flint, Larry Correia, and Eric S Brown, as well something by Mark’s daughter Sarah Van Name (though this may be an essay instead of fiction; I haven’t seen it). I’m pretty sure that there are even more stories and essays, but the table of contents isn’t final as of April 30.

The cover art (not the cover) is final, however, and it’s a wonderful painting by Donato. Truly wonderful. Ignore the names on the cover (except for what I’ve said above), but do look at the art.

The art led to the next item. Tony Daniel (Baen editor) told me Toni (Baen publisher) wanted me to come to the office in mid-March. I said okay, wondering why. (I learned later that Toni had told Tony to make up a story, but I just agreed.) Tony asked me to record a martial poem while I was there, and I agreed to that also.

So when I got there, I was presented with ‘the new cover treatment for the tribute book’ (at the bottom of the same web page). There are pictures on the Baen facebook site of me laughing, but I don’t think Tony was taping yet so you won’t have the sound of me laughing. It was pretty loud, trust me.

I like the folks at Baen Books. And I’m pleased that they like me enough to do things like this for me.

While I was there I did read a poem–by Marcus Valerius Martialis, which wasn’t what Tony had expected, but I figured ‘Why not?’ I first read the poem (Book 4, #18) and then my translation. The texts are on the website with a link to the recording of the March 20, 2015, podcast (at 42′ 54″).

Being familiar with Latin is occasionally useful, and it’s always fun. This chance to make a bilingual pun was particularly fun.

The only thing I can recall coming out since the most recent newsletter is the mass market edition of The Savior, which Tony Daniel developed from my outline. This is the most recent and thus far last novel in The General series, which Jim Baen came up with in the late ’80s. Jim had a lot of good ideas; this was one of the best.

Doggone, I miss him. Well, I’ve said that before. But (see above), I’ve still got Baen Books and they’ve got me.

Speaking of Latin, I continue to chunk away at Ovid’s Remedia Amoris. It’s about 800 lines, so it’ll be a while before it goes up on the website. I’m having fun, though I wouldn’t say it was the best-structured of Ovid’s works. (The Metamorphoses is brilliantly structured, though you won’t see that in the fragments I’m putting on the website. I’m not quite screwy enough to do a complete translation, at least not while I’ve got novels under contract.) (Many novels, I’m happy to say.)

I normally end these newsletters with little essays on something I’ve been musing about. This time it’s the World Fantasy Award statuette, a Gahan Wilson caricature of HP Lovecraft. (Supposedly it called ‘the Howie’ but I’ve always heard people refer to them as ‘the World Fantasy Award’.) I got one many years ago as a partner in Carcosa, a small-press fantasy publisher.

Initially I couldn’t understand the flap about it (though I won’t pretend I was paying a lot of attention). I’ve come to realize that the problem is that Lovecraft said a lot of racist things about Jews and Italians and blacks.

That’s absolutely true, and I don’t consider it much of a defense of his character that ‘everybody in his day held those views’. (Which I don’t believe is true, but that’s a different question which I’m willing to beg for this purpose.)

But though true, it’s also beside the point: Lovecraft wasn’t chosen for the statuette because of his philosophy, he was chosen for his writing. There are lots of degraded, even sub-human, characters in his fiction, but all those I can recall are of English or Dutch ancestry. (Well, and there’s Arthur Jermyn, but he isn’t descended from African savages.)

Lovecraft is a joke as a thinker. He was a high-school drop-out, idiosyncratically self-educated with a focus on the past. In the past his family had been well off instead of scrabbling for enough food to eat as he was, which makes his fixation understandable. He imagined he would have been a gentleman.

There’s no reason to take more interest in HPL’s childish philosophy than there is in the philosophy of his grocer. But–

His stories were brilliant. I didn’t get the full impact until I read (reprints of) the early issues of Weird Tales and saw them in context. Dagon was the first, a very minor Lovecraft story, but it shone like a beacon amidst the sludge that filled most of those early issues.

So I’m quite pleased that the only literary award I have (or am likely to have; and notice it’s not for writing) is modeled on HPL. In the fantasy field, he’s the right choice.

Go be nice to other people, folks. And I’ll get back to a space opera.

–Dave Drake

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