Hammer's Slammers

Contents of HAMMER'S SLAMMERS, with note as to which omnibus volume holds the material now.

HAMMER'S SLAMMERS is a short story collection, not a novel, and my first book. It made it possible for me to become a full-time writer, though I didn't realize it at the time.

I'd sold a story as an undergraduate, another story after I started law school, and even one while I was in Nam. After I came back I continued writing at a faster rate, in part because I became friends with two writers in the Triangle area: Manly Wade Wellman and Karl Edward Wagner. Manly and Karl suggested that I use Southeast Asian settings instead of writing historical fantasies. I wrote a fantasy, Arclight, and an SF story, Contact! and both sold. These were set in Nam (come to think, both were based on things that happened in Cambodia), but there was no military theme to the stories.

Then I wrote The Butcher's Bill: an sf story about soldiers and war rather than an sf story with soldiers as characters. It didn't sell to quite a number of markets. One of the editors rejecting it was Fred Pohl who said it required too sophisticated a knowledge of the military for the entry-level anthology he was buying for. I immediately wrote Under the Hammer in which the reader could view the milieu through the eyes of a young recruit who got on-the-job training in somewhat the same fashion as I did in Cambodia.

Fred rejected that one also; but pretty much by chance I'd used the same unit, Hammer's Slammers, as the setting for both stories even though I was only trying to sell the second story at the time. I had a series.

Jim Baen bought those two stories for Galaxy and another in the series besides. He rejected two more, but when he took over as sf editor of Ace Books he asked my agent for a collection of Hammer stories which would include the five already written and additional wordage to bring the book up to length.

All that was important, but the stories were more important to me as self-therapy than they were as the start of a career. They gave me a chance to write about what I'd seen and heard; about the men I'd served with and person I'd become in that time. Being able to get that out on paper helped me keep it between the ditches and (from what they've told me) helped other veterans by showing them that they weren't alone.

At one point I hoped the stories would help civilians understand also. I don't think that can happen. It's nobody's fault, it's just a matter of people not having the background to hear what the words mean to people who've been there.

That's OK. I've still been able to do something for myself and my people.

--Dave Drake

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