Newsletter #91

Drake Newsletter #91: 6 April, 2016

Dear People,

You know, one of the things I’ve told myself for the past few years on New Year’s Eve is, “Well, nobody close to me died this year.” Then this January David Hartwell, whom I’ve known since 1974 (and who’s been one of my editors for the past 20 years) died; and last week Dorothy Day, who’s been storing my texts and helping with data for my writing since the ’90s, died also.

Neither was a huge surprise. Certainly not Dorothy, who’s been fighting cancer for a decade. She was a good, really smart, really helpful person. I miss her. The world is less good for her absence.

Work, on the other hand, is going very well. I’d expected Reconquest, the new Tor novel, to crawl along. It’s a wholly new setting in which I have to create virtually all the background.

It turns out that I’m getting daily wordage comparable to the rate I expected ten years ago, rather than the recent reduced level which I suggested in Newsletter #87 might be because I’m not depressed the way I’d  been ever since I got back to the World in 1971. And I haven’t become depressed again, if you’re wondering.

I’m hanged if I know what it means. I like what I’m writing, but it’s really different. I hope other folks will like it too, but who knows?

Incidentally, I did decide to do it in first person as I suggested I might in Newsletter #89. I’m at over 52K.

I finished the RCN story, Cadet Cruise, for It will come out shortly before the release of Death’s Bright Day, the next RCN, novel–which Amazon just told me will occur on June 7. I’ve wound up doing more short fiction recently than has been the case in many years. That’s neat; I started writing professionally with short stories, and it was about twelve years before I managed to write a real novel.

Death’s Bright Day climaxes with a (relatively) large-scale action, by the way. I thought as I finished The Sea without a Shore that it’d been a while since I’d described a full-scale naval battle. There’s lots of ways to have action in a book; I don’t think that many of those who read Sea found it flat. Still, Day has something a little different.

At the beginning of July Baen Books is bringing out a 20th anniversary edition of Redliners, this time as a trade paperback. The book was a watershed for me, lifting me out of the anger that had been eating at me for twenty-five years. I haven’t been a perky little bluebird in the years since, but at least I haven’t been so dangerously angry.

If you or a friend have been in hard places that’ve led to floods of anger and depression, you might take a look at Redliners. It isn’t a gentle book, but if you’re in the place I was before I wrote it, you’re not looking for gentle–you just want a way out. Redliners was my way out.

I’ve been working for a long while on translating Ovid’s Remedia Amoris. The problem is that it’s a work of over 600 lines, and I got bogged down. These translations are meant to be fun and a break; Remedia was becoming a burden.

So I switched back to lyrics. One of these is up on the website now and I’ve got another in process. (Actually, it’d probably be done now except that I’m writing this newsletter instead.) Ovid is a marvelous craftsman, and the process of translating him requires a rigorous study of his technique. That makes me a better craftsman too.

My wife Jo and I are going to Greece with our friends the Knights in May. (In 2013 we all went to Italy, which you can read about here.) I’d worn my wonderful Gokey Oxfords in Italy, but some of the Greek sites are supposed to be extremely slippery, so I got a pair of Vasque day-hikers for this trip.

My other preparations have involved getting a translation of Pausanias’ Guide to Greece for my Kindle, saving me the bulk of two fat Penguin volumes, and trying to decide what hardcopy book I want to carry for situations where I can’t or don’t want to use the Kindle.

In Italy I carried The Idylls of the King, which provided the impetus for the novel I’m writing now. My first thought for Greece was a comparable volume of Longfellow. I picked one up, but it’s a trade paperback and too large for the smallish cargo pockets of my travel slacks.

I then thought of the Kalevala. (Longfellow used the Kalevala‘s verse forms as the model for Hiawatha.) I have a one-volume edition of it which some Finnish fans sent me decades ago (I think after they’d read Northworld). I’d never really looked at it because I’d already read the poem in a two-volume Everyman edition in Nam in 1970. It’s a very fat paperback, though technically of mass-market size. It’ll fit one pair of travel trousers but it’ll be really tight in the other.

Alternatively, I could carry only the first of the Everyman volumes… or something else. These are the sorts of questions which exercise me–when I’m not worrying about missing connecting flights.

Travel is not a happy thought for me. I do, however, expect to see lots of neat things and to get lots of material for books (as I certainly did in Italy).

I don’t normally talk about politics. I’m going to kinda do that here, but it’s really about a hot-button issue for me. Everybody should vote his or her conscience, as I will.

Ms Clinton has stated with pride that Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s Secretary of State, is her friend and her mentor on foreign policy. Kissinger was responsible for the official US invasion of Cambodia in 1970, an operation he later dismissed as a sideshow.

It wasn’t a sideshow for the Cambodians: it broke a rickety but working system of government and led directly to the Cambodian Genocide. Somewhere over a million (possibly several million) people died.

And it wasn’t a sideshow for me either. I was one of those US soldiers whom Kissinger’s exercise in Machtpolitik sent across the border.

I learned a lot in 1970. One of the things I learned was to loathe leaders to whom casual slaughter is merely a means to a greater end; merely a sideshow.

Ms Clinton got the US into one wholly unnecessary war, Libya, when she was Secretary of State. (Yes, I know the President could have stopped her; but she claimed credit for US intervention and nobody argued against her claim.) I would expect similar decisions of her as President.

Now–absolutely vote your own conscience. Cambodia is a hot button for me, but I don’t expect that to be true for many other people. For myself, though, I had no hesitation at all in voting in the primary for Bernie Sanders.

I expect that come November I’ll be faced with a very difficult decision when I vote for president. I will vote, though: too many citizens over the centuries have paid for that right for me not to use it.

Myself included. In Cambodia.

I wish the best of luck to all of us. And the best of luck to our military-aged children and grandchildren also.

–Dave Drake

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