Newsletter #100

NEWSLETTER #100: November 9, 2017

Dear People,

This is late because I’m just back from World Fantasy Con. I think it was the 43d WFC, and I was at the first one. (More proof if such were needed that I’m old.)

I have mixed feelings about the con. On the one hand, I’m on friendly terms with a lot of the folks at WFC. I walked into the dealers’ room and immediately was in a conversation about John Keir Cross and Sarban. There are very few places in the world where I could expect to do that.

Lovecraft was conspicuous by his absence, but the Robert E Howard Foundation had a table. They’re bringing out Howard material which hasn’t seen the light of day since the ’70s–and some that’s never been published before. Pretty dreadful, much of it (and openly so: one volume is titled The Bottom of the Trunk or words to that effect), but I’ve been a Howard fan since I read Conan the Conqueror when I was about 13.

I bought a couple of hundred dollars worth of new books, all of it of limited interest to general readers. But that’s the point: I’m not a general reader.

There were two major new-book dealers, and one had copies of The Spark–just out. I signed store stock and during the con personalized a few copies. It’s a lovely physical object, and I’m very proud of the contents as well.

Last year at WFC Jim Minz (a Baen editor) joked to me that now that I’m doing fantasy for Baen, Baen was going to have to take a table for the WFC banquet. (This happened once in the past, but Toni–who is first and foremost a fan–doesn’t really like WFC, which trades heavily on a snootier-than-thou attitude.)

I assumed Jim was making a joke (The Spark isn’t exactly a fantasy, but it has that feel), but damned if Baen didn’t take a table. I normally have sat with Tor, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen in 2017 because I’m not working for Tor any more.

To my surprise and distress, there wasn’t a Tor table. Tom Doherty normally attends along with a number of Tor editors, and for the past many years there have been three Tor tables at the banquet. Neither he nor his editors were present.

There were editors and staff from, however; a pointedly separate on-line presence, owned by the same parent company. They had a table at the banquet, but they didn’t offer seats to in-print Tor authors like Lee Modesitt.

The world is changing, people. That’s not a bad thing in itself, but it makes me uncomfortable… and it seems to me that there’s unnecessary nastiness directed at those seen as members of the old guard (see the mention of Lee Modesitt above). I guess this is a normal part of human nature (Raphael, surely one of the finest graphic artists of all time, demonstrated the same attitude toward artists of former days), but I regret it a lot.

I suppose I should be happy that I got out of Tor and to a safe harbor before I was dumped in the trash; and I am happy about that. But I’m not happy about the situation. I want the world to be a kinder, gentler place than the world has ever been interested in becoming.

The podcast on The Spark is up. I haven’t listened to it yet. Tony Daniel does a very good job of cleaning these things up for publication–posting?–so even if I screwed up, I can hope that it will sound professional.

I’m working on the sequel to The Spark and have the draft up over 30K words. It isn’t that I intended The Spark to be a stand-alone (as I did Redliners), but that I wasn’t sure that I could bring it off. I did, so I’m now working on another novel in the same universe.

I’m worried that this one isn’t going to be up to the standards of the previous one (it probably won’t; The Spark is me at the top of my game) but that’s an ordinary fear. When I started The Spark, I was afraid that I simply wasn’t going to be able to handle so different and complex a milieu. When that worked out, I wanted to try the milieu and the character again. Toni was happy with that.

Apart from work, things have been pretty quiet. For a variety of reasons I’ve been thinking a lot about my military service and about Viet Nam more generally. That’s partly because of the Ken Burns documentary, which I’ve started to watch; but also because of a lot of other things including the fact that I’m old enough to think a lot about dying.

There were many veterans when I was growing up–teachers, parents of friends. It bothered my dad a lot that his serious astigmatism had kept him out of uniformed service. He worked for the Navy, using his expertise as a ham radio operator to install radar in sub chasers during the Battle of the Atlantic. He knew this was a valuable skill–he was the Navy’s highest-ranking civilian employee on the East Coast–but in his heart he didn’t think he was doing his part.

I couldn’t understand dad’s attitude at the time. Dad was clearly contributing to the war effort to a much greater degree than he would have been swabbing latrines on a warship. Now, well, I kinda understand. (He was still wrong, of course.)

The Viet Nam War was an ill-conceived mistake. The US effort was run badly at every level–so badly that I’m told that its major value in Command and General Staff School is to provide examples to avoid. My own involvement didn’t require exceptional courage or exceptional anything.

But I was there, wearing a Blackhorse patch at the times when I was wearing a shirt. At this point in my life, I’m glad to be able to say that.

Go out and be nice to others, people.

–Dave Drake

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