Newsletter #8.1 mailed out 3 December 2001
[Newsletter 8 never made it through the mail queue.]
I started the first iteration of this newsletter by saying that I didn't plan to say much about September 11. At this point I'm going to say a little more, but I'll repeat my two points from the first version:
First, I don't know that we're good in the absolute sense--I certainly didn't feel that what I was doing in Viet-Nam was good--but I'm as certain as I can be that the other side in this one is evil.
Second, I'm proud as I never have been before of having served in the US armed forces. Thomas E. White, the Secretary of the Army, has said that the professionalism and camaraderie the 11 ACR when he served with the unit in Viet-Nam (before I was there in 1970) was the turning point of his life. I guess I echo his sentiments.
I'm going to say a bit more because of the following exchange through the website's Frequently Asked Questions form. This is the full text, unedited:
name: Malcolm Duncan
question: While I "volunteered"for the draft in 1970 I never served in Vietnam.I have read many of your books,mostly the"Bolo"series.My question is what is your personal opinion of the current war against terrorism?Do you feel that it is a just war?A winnable war?Are we able to trade-off freedoms for security?Is America in any danger of becoming as evil as our enemies?Your thoughts are very important to me.
Dear Mr Duncan, I think we can and should bring down the Taliban regime, given that they're harboring terrorists. Doing so will cause great harm to a lot of ordinary Afghans who only want to be allowed to grow their opium in peace. Tough. I don't think we're going at the job the right way, because we're too afraid of second order consequences when we should be focused on the primary objective (see above).
Sincerely, Dave Drake
I'm sorry I asked,you heartless,bloodthirsty bastard.I guess that your bloodlust wasn't satisfied by killing all those innocents in Vietnam,now you want to kill them in Afganistan,too.It will be my distinct please never to read one of your books again........and may you get a fan letter laced with anthrax.
To be more specific about my belief, I think that when you're fighting a war you need to deal with first things first. Instead we dicked around for three weeks, bombing infrastructure targets (which in Afghanistan is a grim joke) and Taliban training camps (which were either empty or misidentified villages). We avoided bombing Taliban concentrations facing the Northern Alliance because the NA are bad people and we wanted to create a broad-based Afghan government instead of putting thugs like Rashid Dostum back in power. When we did bomb Taliban positions, we attacked only foreign units--not units of native Afghans.
The result of this was that we did no good and killed a fair number of civilians in error. (Mixing cluster bombs and similarly-colored food packets was a particularly graphic example of what happens when you try to fight a war nicely. War isn't nice.) The Afghan Taliban had no reason to defect, and the foreigners couldn't defect--they have no place to go.
We finally started bombing the hell out of the thickest Taliban concentrations, targeting Afghans as well as foreigners. Taliban resistance collapsed, primarily because most of those fighters who could defect, did. (I've seen both an Arc Light and a Daisycutter go off. Trust me: nobody who's seen either of those wants to be under the next one.)
I wish we'd done it three weeks sooner and avoided the extra civilian casualties, but I'll take the present result. I sincerely hope a broad-based democratic government takes root in Afghanistan, but I'm not holding my breath: The region's written history goes back to Alexander the Great, and it hasn't ever in the past had such a government.
On a more personal note--I ride a motorcycle. I don't expect to die of anthrax in a fan letter.
Our previous webhost, Invite Internet Services, moved its operations from Baltimore to Denver. The process wasn't seamless--the site was down for several days and e-mail through the site out for longer than that--and Invite's new software was different, complex, and without good on-site instructions. On the credit side, the support staff was unfailingly responsive, though sometimes the response was, "Sorry, we lost your files."
We--me and my wonderful webmaster, Karen Zimmerman--intended to stay with Invite. That changed when we tried to send out the first version of this newsletter. Invite had introduced a scripting error in Majordomo which made this impossible.
We--Karen--talked to them. They stopped being responsive or even particularly polite. They still haven't fixed the error which they gratuitously created. I don't like either stupid people or incompetents, and Invite seems to have rather more than its share of both.
david-drake.com is now hosted by Pair.com.
The book tour on Mistress of the Catacombs is over and I survived. So did everybody in contact with me, though there were a couple times I was thankful for having developed a great deal of control over the past several decades.
The way a tour works is as follows: I flew to a place. A media escort picked me up at the airport and took me to where I was supposed to be. Sometimes this was to a hotel, but I might go directly to a formal signing or we might stop off to do stock signings. That is, we'd go into a bookstore. Generally the escort would have contacted the manager to see if they had copies of my books (realistically, every general bookstore in the country has something of mine). Occasionally we simply saw a store as we were driving past and stopped in.
Apparently not all writers are willing to sign paperbacks, and some writers insist that the store have enough of their books 'to make it worth their time'. I figured that the only reason I was going on this trek was to make store managers happy, and it sure was more worthwhile to sign a few books than to sit in my hotel room wishing I were home or dead, either one. Most stores had at least twenty individual titles and most of the staff I came in contact with were really happy to have me come by.
My preferred technique is to sit on the floor in the SF section signing madly while the escort puts 'Signed copy' stickers on the books. Managers generally wanted me to sit in the cafe and have the staff carry books to me. I avoided that where possible. In the first place, it isn't an efficient way of doing the job. Second, it feeds into the notion that 'I'm special,' which isn't true and which I've seen destroy some talented people--my friend Karl Wagner among them. And third, while I'm sitting on the floor in the section I've got a good opportunity to sell books to people who are likely to be interested in them (given that they're there to begin with).
A number of the escorts came from marketing backgrounds. I was pleased that they universally volunteered that I was an amazing salesman. It doesn't come naturally to me, but I figure it's my job at these things; and I've always tried to do my job the best way I could.
Stock signings generally require the help of the escort since I don't know where the stores are (though I did drop in on a Borders I saw across the street when I was on my own in DC). Most of my escorts were really wonderful: pleasant, competent, and prepared. And I should add that Tor put me up in luxury hotels, most of which were as comfortable as I'm likely to be away from home.
That isn't, unfortunately, very comfortable. Once I was given the choice of a smoking room or waiting for a non-smoking room to be cleaned. I wanted a place to dump my gear and rinse off immediately before going to a signing, so I took the smoking room. I regretted my choice for the next couple days of sniffling, but it was my choice. And there were oddities like the hotel in Nashville where there was country music everywhere, including a CD going in my room when I arrived. (A note told me I could take the CD and have the price added to my bill; not bloody likely!) There were benches around the fountain out front, however, and the sound of plashing water covered the music playing under the porte cochere behind me as I finished editing Neck or Nothing on hardcopy. And in Cleveland, when I ate in the hotel restaurant (as usual; I don't care much about food and the last thing I wanted to do was spend effort going out to eat) the dinner was excellent but the whole process took two hours. (No, they weren't busy. But as my friend Mark says, not everybody is competent.)
Considered as an alternative to jungle busting on a tank, this was idyllic. Considered as an alternative to being home with my family, friends, and books... well, it's over.
I did two radio interviews on the tour. The lady in Columbia, SC, arrived late for a live interview and had lost her briefing notes. Fortunately I'd picked up the sellzine Explorations while doing a stock signing in a Barnes and Noble. She used the review therein as briefing notes and it went pretty well. The guy in Cincinnati was absolutely first rate and had even read most of Mistress before the taped interview. His show also airs in Fayetteville, NC--Ft Bragg, the 82nd Airborne, and the place I did my basic training, so we talked about the Hammer series and military SF part of the time.
The formal signings were a mixed bag. For the most part the store staff had done their jobs, though the woman in the Davis-Kidd in Memphis put me in the garden section to cold sell and had only one copy of Lord of the Isles in the store. (The other seven had sold in the past week and she hadn't bothered to reorder ahead of my arrival). She and the first staff member I talked to when dropping in on the B&N in Charlottesville--who was just short of discourteous--were the only bookstore people I'd rather not have dealt with.
Some times it just didn't work out, though. This was a tough period to get people to go out to book signings, even when the store really tried. In those cases I signed a lot of stock and generally met a fan or two who'd gone to considerable effort to get there. (In Jackson, TN, a fellow had driven from Memphis to see me. He hadn't known about the earlier Memphis signing, which didn't surprise me.)
But there were good numbers at many of the superstores, and it genuinely is a pleasure to answer fans' questions. Mall stores invariably sat me at a table to cold sell (a sit and sell), and thanks to experience and the bookmarks Tor provided me with I do that well too.
I mostly flew from city to city. This wasn't any more fun than you'd think, especially since I was on one-way tickets which meant I and my carry-on baggage were sometimes handsearched. US Airways cancelled a flight without telling me or the travel agent; that was a glitch, but I got there. And I'm home now. (I keep coming back to that, don't I?)
I had free time, and some of the escorts were great local guides. I've now seen the chipped walls of the SC Statehouse, damaged by Sherman's shelling, and the burial place of Governor Wade Hampton for whom my friend Manly Wade Hampton Wellman was named. ('Manly' came from the name of the uncle who rode under General Hampton in the Civil War.) I've seen the Nashville Parthenon (which I've wanted to see for thirty years or more) and the Opryland Hotel which was unexpectedly amazing. I saw James Madison's house and 2700-acre estate near Charlottesville. I visited the Phillips (where I saw Renoir's The Boating Party, a wonderful piece) and Corcoran museums in DC (and was amused at the latter to see an exhibition of nature photographs, some of whose 'artists' chose to deliberately distort their work so that they wouldn't be compared to somebody like Ansel Adams who was a good photographer. One woman actually photographed islands with her lens underwater.)
And while I was in Ohio, my friend John Squires took me to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Museum. There I found myself oddly nostalgic, both over the wonder weapons of my childhood (for example the Matador cruise missile of 1955) and Vietnam Era hardware. The oddest of the latter was the Daisycutter, a 15,000 pound jungle clearing bomb which really got our attention when one unexpectedly went off nearby in War Zone C a long time ago. (I note with amusement that Daisycutters have recently made headlines when a few were dropped for psychological purposes in Afghanistan. If you want to see what one looks like, check http://david-drake.com/album.html)
Was it worthwhile? Well, it's always worthwhile to help people sell my books. Furthermore, I told Tor that I would do anything they wanted me to do to help them, and of course I'm going to do what I said I would. It wasn't in the main a whole lot of fun, but I've had worse experiences.
While on the tour, I finished editing the last section of Paying the Piper, a Hammer book tentatively scheduled as a Baen hardcover for July, 2002. The first two sections, Choosing Sides and The Political Process, have been up consecutively on the website; the third, Neck or Nothing, is now up.
Eric Flint has completed The Tyrant, the sequel to The Reformer which Steve Stirling did from the first half of my outline. It's good that he's nearing completion, because Baen Books has it scheduled as an April, 2002, hardcover. (I don't know why they did things in that order; they just did.)
Dogs of War, a reprint military SF anthology which I edited with Marty Greenberg doing the business side, will be a January, 2002, pb release from Warner Aspect. I clarified some things in my own head while writing the introduction and notes for the volume; for that at least it was a worthwhile project for me.
I've used Latin to settle and center me ever since I was a freshman in college. This past year has been a pretty disorienting one in many fashions (not all of them bad; but as a friend once said, good stress is still stress). I've been reading Ovid, mostly his lyrics (which are manageably short sections); and this time I've been doing written translations to keep myself honest. I've shown the translations to a few close friends, some of whom have suggested that I put them up on the website. For the heck of it, I'm doing so now. (http://david-drake.com/ovid.html)
My birthday is September 24, and I normally have a pig-picking to celebrate sometime close to that date. This year because of the tour the party was late--October 21--but the weather couldn't have been nicer or the pig more tasty.
I thought as I listened to about fifty people sing 'Happy Birthday' that I'm incredibly lucky to have a lot of friends. There are other ways to be, but this is the one that works for me. There are some pictures up on the website, and there may be more shortly as my friend Ken Warren has sent those he took.
And thanks to the generosity of my extended family, I now have a complete set of Amazing. As my friend Mark says, "You have to know something about collecting to realize how difficult this is to achieve, and possibly how stupid it is."
Now that I've caught my breath, I'm starting on the fifth book in the Isles series. The present working title is CAVERNS OF THE ICE QUEEN, but that may change. (It's accurate, though; I know where I'm going with this one, although I'm still trying to work out the route.)
Forward, and best to all of you!
To subscribe, unsubscribe or change your e-mail address, e-mail email@example.com