Newsletter #93

NEWSLETTER 93: August 4, 2016

Dear People,

I’m not exactly back to normal from our trip to Greece, but I’m getting there. Still no trip report, but that will come.

I did do the absolute top priority, though: finish Reconquest, the new novel for Tor. My new editor, Jen Gunnels, instantly acknowledged receipt (on Saturday, at a convention) but I don’t have a substantive response yet. I don’t expect one so soon–and I repeat, Jen responded instantly, which her predecessor never did.

The thing is (and I sometimes doubt that editors understand this), writers (even very experienced writers, which I am by this time) are fragile creatures who desperately crave reassurance. It simply isn’t true that ‘of course I know the book’s fine.’ I don’t.

And in this case I’ve done something extremely different. Different for me, different from the run of the field. The folks–friends of one sort and another–who’ve read it already like and (and some like it a lot; but they’re my friends), but that doesn’t mean that that it’s saleable by a major house in today’s market. I think it can be commercial (or I wouldn’t have written it), but that’s me.

Lest anybody misunderstand what I just said, I don’t choose to write things because they’re commercial. I will very rarely write something which I believe to be non-commercial, however. I did that with Old Nathan,  an homage to my friend Manly Wade Wellman; and recently I did it with a heroic fantasy novelet which to my amazement sold to for the highest word rate I’ve ever gotten. (They haven’t published the story yet, but my check was prompt and cleared very usefully.)

I should know by next newsletter what Jen (and/or Tom Doherty) thinks of the book. In an even better world, I’ll know before this newsletter goes out; but Tor won’t be remiss to let me wait another month.

I’d started working on my trip report on Greece, but I got sidetracked on a new project. World Fantasy Con 2015 was supposed to provide a souvenir book as well as the program book.

No such book has appeared, a fact that I hadn’t noticed until the con chair asked me (as a Special Guest in 2015) for a submission–either fiction or non-fiction. Last year’s and this year’s WFCs are going to bring out a joint book. I thought about it and decided that the perfect subject for me was a report on the first WFC, back in 1975.

This was possible because back in 1975(6) I was assistant editor of Whispers magazine . Stu Schiff, the editor/publisher (and my friend), asked me to do a con report for the magazine. I did so, and I therefore had notes to which I could refer in 2016.

That said, there are things in the new essay which I’ve never put in writing before. And indeed, a great deal that I haven’t thought about in over 40 years. I expect to put it up on my website after the book appears, though goodness knows what that will be. (They haven’t acknowledged receipt.)

Parts of the past are very still vivid to me. Not just Viet Nam, though parts of that period too. I have no serial memory about a lot of things–that is, when they occurred–but memories of the things themselves. For example, I clearly remembered one of the panels at WFC75–but thought it had been the next year, until I saw my original notes.

The 20th anniversary edition of Redliners is out. Gosh, the twenty years after I wrote that one have been a better place in my head than the twenty-five before I did. A lot of people have told me that the book has helped them with their PTSD (or in understanding their dads or the like) (some of those notes are excerpted at the back of this new edition) and that’s good; but it didn’t help anybody more than it helped me, believe me.

The new edition is a trade paperback with a new intro and the excerpted comments added to the original edition. The (reduced) cover art is the same wonderful Gary Ruddell painting. The painting, which Jim Baen gave me for my 51st birthday, perfectly captures the point and feel of the book.

I’m very proud of Redliners. I was writing way, way over my head.

The new edition of Patriots, packaged as a YA trade paperback, will be out in September. It has a new Tom Kidd cover with an airship (both Tom and I like airships).

For a while it looked like the book was going to be retitled to keep it from being confused with a political tract. (I guess it kind of is a political tract, but not in current partisan terms.) I’m just as glad Toni decided to keep the title as it was.

I finished the novel I was working on, so it probably won’t be a huge surprise to learn that I’ve started–just barely started–plotting the next one, an RCN space opera. I’m shaking things up quite a bit for this one. Still, early days. Though I know how I’ll start and where I’m going, I still have to figure out how I’ll get there.

There’s a new Ovid lyric up. (Indeed, it’s just possible that I’ll have polished another one before this newsletter goes out.) I haven’t gotten very far in my Greek travelogue, though. I’ll get there!

I mentioned in Newsletter #92 that Toni Weisskopf had set up a cash award for the readers’ choice of the best story in Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF. The online voting site is here.

Read! Vote! (But particularly read.)

I guess I’ll say something about the Orlando shootings. I’ve got strong feelings about this and I’m biased. I’m speaking as a layman: I’ve never been a policeman. The standard police motto is “Preserve and Protect.”

What I am is a veteran. My unit, the Blackhorse, had an unofficial motto given it by George H Patton III when he took over the regiment in Viet Nam: “Find the bastards, then pile on.”

The horrible death toll has caused a lot of folks to say the problem is gun control or Muslims or even gays–since the shooter appears to have been a self-hating gay. All those things have some bearing on what happened.

I personally don’t need or have a 20-round magazine, and the British didn’t need registration to collect guns in Northern Ireland–any more than we did in Nam. Cordon and Search works just fine. I don’t think limited gun control is a bad thing, any more than reasonable regulation on what you can drive on the street is a bad thing–but neither do I think lack of it is the real problem.

Some Muslims are nuts. Some of any ethnic group are nuts. Goodness knows, there were enough warning signs (viewed after the fact) to have warranted closer scrutiny of the Orlando shooter… but everybody’s busy, everybody’s got too much on their plates, and things get missed with tragic results. I regret that, but I’m human too.

I do think that if we had better (which means more expensive) mental health care, some recent incidents could have been avoided. I don’t know that this applies to Orlando, though.

With as much prejudice as there is against gays, it’s inevitable that some gays will come to share it. How they react then depends on the individual. I’m certainly in favor of stamping out prejudice (if you want to believe that I’m a bleeding heart liberal, feel free to do so), but I don’t think this is going to have much effect on the son of a foreign-born Muslim whose father is screaming at him that he’s damned to eternity in Hell because he’s homosexual.

At about the same time, a gay from Indiana started driving to a gay pride parade in San Francisco with a trunk full of weapons and explosives. That business didn’t lead to headlines because the fellow’s boy friend alerted the authorities and the fellow was stopped before anything happened.

In Orlando, the shooter’s father and ex-wife certainly had reason to expect what happened. They did not alert anybody. Maybe cultural differences, maybe just individual differences. Thank goodness for the boyfriend in Indiana, though.

Every group has nuts in it. Gays too.

All those things were factors in what happened. The thing that bothered me and which was completely controllable was the lack of police response. The Orlando police arrived in force and then gave the shooter three hours to walk from room to room, killing people.

For that matter, there was an armed policeman on duty at the club when the shooter entered. The cop exchanged shots with the shooter and missed; then stood around, waiting for somebody to tell him what to do.

The excuse the SWAT team gave for sitting on its collective hands while the shooter made a leisurely pass through the building, killing unarmed civilians, is that they didn’t know what was going on inside.

What they did know was that there was an active shooter in a building full of unarmed civilians, killing them. What the hell more do you need to know?

It would have been very dangerous to charge into a building where you know there’s a shooter. That’s the decision you make when you’re issued a badge. Hell, it was made for me when they issued me jungle fatigues! None of us were in the least in doubt about that.

If I were the city manager of Orlando, the first thing I would have done was to direct the chief of police to fire the commander of the SWAT team. The second thing would have been to fire the chief of police.

And third, I’d have resigned. Because I sure hadn’t been doing my job to let something like that happen.

I would like to think that if I’d been the cop on duty at the club, I’d have called in, “Active shooter at [location]. Send back-up. I’m going in.”

And I’m pretty sure that any of the folks I served with in 1970 would have done the same.

Oh, well. That’s just my opinion. But it’s a very strongly held opinion, people.

Now, go out and be nice to other folks. It’s the only thing we can do that guarantees the world becomes a better place.

–Dave Drake

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