Newsletter #94

DRAKE NEWSLETTER 94: November, 2016

Dear People,

Usually my big news is what’s happening with my current work. This time the big news is what happened to my most recent work, the novel I completed for Tor. It will instead be coming out from Baen, under the title THE SPARK.

This is not a bad thing or a crisis or anything like that, but it was a hell of a shock. Basically my new editor (not Jen Gunnels as I announced in Newsletter 93, but the just-hired Diana Gill) and Tom Doherty, the publisher and my long-time friend, read it and decided that they couldn’t describe it to the sales force in a fashion that made it sound different from the Books of the Elements which Tor had just published. The Books of the Elements did poorly for Tor, and the sales force wouldn’t want more of the same.

Tor didn’t reject the book–they’d have published it and paid me the remainder of the advance. On the other hand, if the sales force is convinced they’ve been handed a loser, it’s going to be a loser. After a clear and direct (but friendly) chat with Tom, I withdrew the book from Tor and repaid the advance. I then resold it to Toni at Baen for more money and better terms.

I’d expected Toni to simply accept The Spark for one of the open contracts I’ve already got with Baen (eight or nine, I think). Instead Toni wrote a new contract and rushed me a check, which considerably more than replaced the repayment I’d just made to Tor.

As I say, this isn’t a bad thing–but for 35 years, as long as there’s been Tor Books, I’ve had books under contract with Tor. I no longer do and I don’t really expect to in the future. Tom would be happy to see something new from me that they could market as military SF. I intend to continue writing such books, but I’ll be writing them for Baen (as I have been since 1983). I want to do different things also, and Toni–Baen–is happy for me to mix those different things among my space opera/military SF.

This is really a win, people. But I’m sad about it nonetheless.

I mentioned Military SF and space opera (adventure SF). I’ve been urging people to vote for their choice of the best story in the second edition of the Baen best MSF and space opera volume. It’s a genuine reader’s choice award, and Toni provides not only a plaque for the winner but $500 in cash.

I didn’t tell people to vote for my story in the collection, but a sizeable plurality of readers did. Thank you, everybody who voted; and thank you, Toni, for coming up with an award I could believe in. I am pleased and proud.

My family relationship with Baen isn’t entirely one-sided. I passed on the chance to do a story for an in-house Baen anthology; the subject wasn’t the sort of thing I ordinarily did and I didn’t feel like it. The editors came back to me six months later and asked me as a favor to do one: they needed a headliner. I still didn’t feel like it, but of course I did one under those circumstances. I found a way to do a story I could be good at. (It’s basically a story that would’ve been comfortable in Galaxy in the ’50s–Superweapon.)

Incidentally I don’t know what the anthology’s final title will turn out to be. The theme is really big warships. (One of the ideas I toyed with was doing a story about the 40-banked siege galleys of the Hellenistic period. I couldn’t find anything interesting for them to do, which seems also to have been a problem for the Ptolemies.)

My heroic fantasy novelet Up from Hell is available (free) on I’m proud of the way the idea came out. Now I’m toying with the notion of a story using classical mythology in a pre-classical setting (sort of a less-twee Thomas Burnett Swann story). In both cases, I’m trying to get in touch with my innocent youth before I became the Dean of Military SF.

I’m back from World Fantasy Con in Columbus. All went well (or better than that) and I met a lot of old friends. That’s good, but sometimes I would recall how long it’s been since we first met. I chatted with Misty Lackey about meeting her at a Boskone at which she was so broke that CJ Cherryh bought her a sandwich to keep her from fainting from lack of food, for example.

I didn’t take any pictures at the con, though I got some of the Ohio Statehouse (designed by Thomas Cole) and also of the really neat garden which creates a topiary version of Seurat’s Afternoon on the Isle of Grande Jatte. (It’s possible that my new home page image will be from that visit too.)

I mentioned in newsletter 93 that the new edition of Patriots would be out. It now is. There are Baen podcasts for both Patriots and (which I may have forgotten to mention earlier) for the new edition of Redliners.

In a group of my fans, there’s a good likelihood of finding veterans and people who are close to veterans. The VA has hired some folks who really have made signing up for medical benefits a snap. I’m going to link here to a friend’s description of the process. If you know (or are) somebody who needs help, please (get them to) try this. Of course you/they don’t believe it, but try: an investment of a few minutes could make up for an awful lot of hours of past bullshit.

This newsletter comes out just before voting day. Maybe you’ve voted early–great. I’m a traditionalist and intend to vote on the 8th. That’s fine too, but vote. A lot of people have paid for your right to cast a ballot. You owe it to them to use what they won for you.

This year isn’t unusual in causing me to vote (particularly for president) for the lesser of two evils. I think the year is unusual, however, in that so many people are rabidly opposed to one candidate or the other–far more than are rabidly committed to the candidate they’re voting for. That’s okay: the system works that way too.

But–the system is more important than the candidate, winning or losing. Vote your conscience and accept the result of other people voting their consciences. I can pretty well guarantee that the winner won’t be somebody I would willingly invite to dinner, but that winner is going to be my president regardless.

I went to SE Asia and fought, because the system sent me there. I thought the government that sent me was screwed up horribly and had made the wrong decision–a whole string of wrong decisions. I was absolutely right about that.

But I was also right to go. Whatever it cost me and hundreds of thousands of other draftees personally, the US system of government is worth the sacrifice. That will be equally true on November 9 this year.

Best of luck to all of us, people.

–Dave Drake

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