Newsletter #5 mailed out 31 May 2001

Dear People,

The period between this and the immediately previous newsletter has been... interesting. The big one is that my Dad, Earle Charles Drake, died after a very abrupt decline. Heíd have been 87 on July 5.

Dad was a good and gentle man; I, though Iím not gentle and donít claim to be good, was very fortunate to have been raised by him. His college degree was in chemistry, but his job all his life was making things, mostly production lines, function. As an adult I realized when I watched him work that heíd formed my own work habits: an enormous litter of parts and tools around him, and a creation of meticulous craftsmanship in the middle. My tools are photos and reference books, but I work in the same mess and have the same love of my craft as Dad did of his.

Thereís an SF link of sorts to Dad. He couldnít get into the military because his astigmatism was so bad so he spent during WW II as a civilian employee of the Navy, installing radar on sub-chasers at Boca Raton. Isaac Asimov was also a civilian Navy employee (a chemist at the Philadelphia Navy Yard). In Asimovís memoir, he mentions with pride being promoted from classification P2 to classification P3.

Out of curiosity I asked Dad what his classification was. Chuckling, he told me: P8. He was the Navyís highest rated civilian employee on the East Coast during the war. The country and the free world were lucky to have Dad and men like him; and I was very lucky indeed. May he find peace with the God he always believed in.

Iím 30K into the second novella for the Hammer volume thatíll be my next book. Iíd hoped to have finished it by this time, but life intervened. The novellaís moving pretty well, though.

At the moment Iíve halted to read the proofs of Mistress of the Catacombs. These are very clean-- a wonderful contrast with the way Servant of the Dragon was butchered. Iíd really like to be writing instead of reading the proofs, but I figure itís my job to make each work as smooth as I can. It occurs to me, however, that with the two books of mine which were worst harmed by production departments--Servant, as I mentioned, and The Tank Lords--the production people ignored my corrections also.

I donít go to many conventions; Iím generally most comfortable when Iím sitting in front of my word processor or reading a book. Therefore when I say that I had an enormously good time at Libertycon in Chattanooga over Memorial Day weekend, it means something. I relaxed for the first time in a month (mind, itíd been an exceptionally bad month).

While Libertycon isnít a literary convention in the sense that youíll hear papers on The Five Levels of Discourse in the Novels of Julian May (no, Iím not making that up), the fans who come to it are overwhelmingly readers of prose SF and fantasy. In the two hours following the opening ceremonies, I signed more books than I ever before have done in a single period. Some of that was a simple result of having written a lot of books (one fellow had three boxes, which was fine with me), but there were also a whole lot of people in line.

A particularly nice aspect of Libertycon was meeting Eric Flint and Gary Ruddell for the first time. Garyís first cover for a book of mine was Dagger in 1988. (I sent a photo of the Damascus-bladed dagger I used as the model for the one in the novel, and Gary painted it with a slight embellishment on the ricasso.) Jim Baenís present to me in 1996 (when he came to Kiplingís house in Vermont to celebrate my birthday) was Garyís cover for Redliners. And the cover Gary did for The Enchanted Bunny is in many ways the most wonderful piece of art associated with any work of mine (he painted it on a board to get a proper 14th century feel).

As for Eric--well, Iíve collaborated in many different fashions with different people. Some experiences were good, some were not. Iíve never had a collaborator who made the experience happier than Eric does, every single book.

In addition to normal convention activities--all of which were fun and well handled; Tim Bolgeo and his crew are very experienced in running cons--there was an hour of talk radio with Eric and Gary. The host--whose name I donít recall; the show was Fred, because heíd been told he needed to name his show--was excellent, a real craftsman with a wide knowledge base, and we had a good time.

We then went to a pistol range where a number of the organizers supplied guns for those of us whoíd flown in and therefore couldnít bring our own. I hadnít done any centerfire shooting in far too long, and a number of the guests had no experience with guns at all. The instruction for newbies was friendly and helpful, the variety of weapons was interesting (Iíd never fired a .44 Magnum before. It wasnít unpleasant--but let me tell you, being beside somebody firing a ported .44 Magnum was damned unpleasant), and the event a lot of fun for all concerned.

Later on long-time Southern fan Hank Reinhardt, the founder of Museum Replicas (and the intended of Toni Weisskopf, Executive Editor of Baen Books), gave a demonstration of what swords really do. He first whacked at a steel helmet, then used the same blade on fresh pork shoulders with and without mail coverings. Hit cleanly, the sword sheared through the bone. (I should mention that Hank, though 67, is also one strong son-of-a-bitch.) I got a chance to whack also. This was a very informative experience.

A group of us visited the Chickamauga Battlefield Sunday afternoon. To me the most striking realization was that though thereís a large cleared stretch the length of the park with many contemporary guns set up facing one another across it, the scrub forest behind the displays probably closely resembles the actual terrain in which the battle was fought. You basically canít see ten yards into it. Having spent some time in a war zone with similarly short sight distances myself, I can appreciate how confused the conditions were--and how utterly horrible it was for the poor bastards involved in it. Not that I can think of any wars that I wouldnít describe as horrible.

Thanks to my skilled webmaster, Karen Zimmerman, there are pictures of most of these events up on david-drake.com (linked from the news page). It was a genuinely fun weekend. (http://david-drake.com/libcon.html)

Foreign Legions,The Tide of Victory (a Belisarius novel written by Eric from my outline), and the paperback of Lt. Leary, Commanding are out. The new edition of Ranks of Bronze should be out within the month. And Mistress of the Catacombs chugs happily toward its September release by Tor. Now, if I can just get my life back to normal for a while so that I can finish the Hammer book and start the next Isles volume....

Till next time, be well.
--Dave Drake

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