Perhaps it is because of the nature of the books that David writes, perhaps it is because David Weber's fans are unusually dedicated and inquisitive... but it seems that everyone has a question! Here are a few that David finds he gets asked most often.
If you have a question that you would like to see considered as a FAQ, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Responses will be posted if and when David can get to them. We'd love to hear from you!
|General||What advice would you give to someone who wanted to write?||May 2009|
As I have said before, the very best and most fundamental piece of advice, I think, is to write what you enjoy reading. In addition to the reasons for that which I gave above, there's also this: if you enjoy reading it, the odds are someone else will, too. In other words, there's going to be a market for it somewhere. It's important to remember that publishers are in the business of publishing, which means that they need writers. So if what you produce is of marketable quality, sooner or later an editor somewhere will probably recognize that and buy it.
Mind you, it may take some time for that to happen. Want-to-be writers tend to collect a lot of rejection letters. For most of us, that's part of paying our dues. Rejection letters have to be something that you are able to take in stride and continue submitting, and sometimes that's hard for people to accept.
It's my opinion, for whatever it's worth, that no one can teach you to be a storyteller. Obviously, there are some exceptions to that statement, and most of us who become storytellers learn from watching others in action, or from the traditions of the stories we were told. But that's not the same thing as going to a creative writing seminar and having someone teach you how to be a storyteller. It's something that you absorb through your pores, and that experience has to find something inside you that moves you to tell stories, as well.
Now, you can be taught to be a better storyteller, just as you can be taught to be a better writer. I'm not trying to make some sort of mystery process out of this, I'm just saying that successful writers have to develop their own style of storytelling -- their own voices as writers. A weak story, well told, will be far more successful than a strong story which is weakly told, both in terms of the amount of entertainment it will provide for your audience and also for the ultimate marketability of your work.
People have often asked me how I "learned to write." My response is to ask them how they learned to walk. Again, this isn't an attempt to imbue my craft as a writer was some sort of undeserved mystique. Instead, what I'm trying to explain to them is that I've been doing this for so long that I really don't remember how I learned to do it in the first place, any more than I remember how I learned to walk in the first place. The best I've ever been able to do is to point out to them that when they were learning to walk, they fell down a lot. When you're learning to write, you wind up throwing a lot of things into trash cans. That's your "falling down" process, and I don't think anyone's ever come up with a way to avoid it.
But just like you fall down a lot when you're learning to walk and get steadily better in the process, you get steadily better by exercising your writing, as well. In the process, hopefully, you learn to become your own best editor. You watch what you're doing, you try to learn from your own mistakes, and you begin to develop an ear for verb choices, adjectives, adverbs, ways to describe action sequences.
So my advice to someone who wants to write is, first, write a lot, even if you're not sure you'll ever actually submit any of it for publication. Find out whether or not this is something you really enjoy doing, and whether or not you're able to gradually improve both your storytelling skills and your "literary tools."
When you write a lot, write what you enjoy reading.
When you get ready to begin submitting stuff, look for somebody who publishes the kind of stuff you're submitting. Sounds like a "d'oh!" but it's amazing how many people overlook that simple preliminary step.
If you get rejection letters, don't give up. If you actually get a letter -- one which explains why they didn't buy your book, rather than simply a form letter-- read it carefully. Think about what it says. But don't make the mistake of accepting everything in it as gospel. For one thing, the person writing the letter may or may not have had time to carefully read, and so may or may not have misinterpreted or misconstrued something. Secondly, some editors simply don't like some kinds of stories, and while most of them try very hard to be professional, they may come down harder on one of the "I don't like this kind of story" submissions than they would on one of the "Boy, I really like this kind of story!" submissions. (The caveat to the above is that if the editor tells you "Change this the way I'm asking you to, and I'll buy it," then you should listen very, very, very carefully to that editor! [G])
If you get a rejection letter that suggests what's wrong with your story and it makes sense to you, then by all means treat it as a highly experienced critique which can point you towards improvements in your writing style.
And, finally, never forget that confidence is an enormous factor in how well you succeed in this field. Obviously, confidence in your ability to trust your own judgment, or in your ability to continue submitting because you're sure that what you've done is publishable, is hugely important, but there's another kind of confidence. I'm pretty sure that I could have been published at least 10 years before I actually was if only I'd had the confidence in my own work to begin submitting them. I wouldn't have been the writer that I was when I actually sold my first novel (in collaboration with Steve White), but I'm still pretty sure that I could have sold my work. The problem was that, like quite a lot of us who dream of being published writers, I was afraid to reach out for the dream for fear I would find out that a dream was all it had ever been. As long as you haven't submitted your work and been rejected, then you can still say to yourself "I can be a writer someday." If you submit, and you get rejected over and over again, until you finally accept that this isn't really what you were born to do, and that "someday" goes away, and most of us don't want to risk that. But if you're never willing to risk having "someday" go away, then the dream will never happen. That's the one and only thing you can always count on, because if you never take that first step of actually submitting your work to someone, no one will ever even know it was out there to be purchased in the first place.
|General||What would you recommend it as a first novel for someone who has never read your books?||May 2009|
As a general rule, I think probably In Fury Born (which is the original Path of the Fury novel and its prequel bound into a single set of covers) is the best place to start if you've never read any of my books. It's one of the few standalone novels I've written which actually stayed a standalone (sort of), and a lot of people who tell me they enjoy my work started with it.
|General||Why do you write about so many female protagonists?||May 2009|
I get asked this question a lot, and I've never really come up with a satisfactory answer. The one thing I know with a relative degree of certainty is that it was never a "marketing" or demographic decision on my part. I never really thought of it as a "selling point" for a novel. In that regard, it genuinely is something that just happened.
Having said that, I also have to say that I've known a lot of strong women in my life, starting with my mother and certainly including my wife Sharon, and that I'm comfortable with them. That I prefer strong people to weak people, whatever their chromosome balance may be, and that I prefer strong protagonists to weak protagonists. It's not exactly as if I don't have strong male characters and protagonists, either. Colin MacIntyre in the Dahak books, for example, or Bahzell in the Norfressa novels. And there have always been strong male characters in the books which do have female protagonists.
I'm inclined to think that there is a little quirk in my gallop which enjoys putting women into traditionally "male" occupations and positions. To be honest, I quite frequently end up literally flipping a coin to decide whether a new character is going to be male or female, but there does appear to be a significant bias towards female commanders and authority figures generally in quite a lot of my work.
I suspect that part of that stems from my own belief, on the one hand, that we're on the right track in terms of gender equality, coupled, on the other hand, with my distaste for the more strident forms of feminism. Mind you, if I were female myself, my tolerance for "feminism" might well be significantly higher than it is under the actually obtaining circumstances. I'm certainly well aware of that. However, it's always bugged me when I read a novel or short story set hundreds or even thousands of years in the future in which the female characters are experiencing exactly the same sorts of problems and prejudices which women have faced in Western society over the last hundred years or so. My own feeling is that if we're on the right track here (and I clearly think we are), then by the time we get a few centuries down the road the question of whether or not women ought to have exactly the same opportunities, receive exactly the same compensation, find themselves being promoted in step with their male compatriots, etc., is going to be a done deal. It's going to have about as much burning significance as a topic for debate as the moral rectitude of the African slave trade does for 21st-century Americans. And by the time you get a couple of centuries beyond that, the significance is going to have dropped to about that of Pharaoh's policy towards the Hittites.
If you look at the universe of Honor Harrington, or of Alicia DeVries, or of Li Han, the question of whether or not a woman ought to be doing what they're doing simply doesn't arise except under very special circumstances (like pre-alliance Grayson). In that sense, I suppose one might call me a post-feminist science fiction writer, but I think that what I write is actually a healthy manifestation of feminism. My female characters posit societies in which the relationships between beings have advanced (or, as I prefer to think of it, matured) to a point at which attitudes which have victimized so many people for so long have simply died. And I also think that my female characters and their societies recognize the fundamental strength of women -- the fact that when half the human race puts its formidable intelligence, abilities, and determination to work to achieve complete equality, it's going to happen and anybody who thinks he can turn back that particular clock probably likes standing directly in front of speeding locomotives, too.
|General||Why did you choose to write military-political science fiction?||May 2009|
In a lot of ways, the answer to this one is the same as the answer to why I decided to write science fiction at all. My academic training is as a historian with special emphasis in military, diplomatic, and political history. That gave me a pretty good background in what human beings have already tried when it comes both the politics and to killing one another in the names of various disagreements, and one of my own favorite authors when I was younger [he still is one of my favorite authors, he just hasn't been around to write any new books in entirely too long] was H. Beam Piper. Anyone who's read his stuff knows how much history went into it -- and not just into his maritime stories. That was a large shaping factor on my own view of what science fiction was and certainly on what it was that I liked to read.
In addition to the "this is what I enjoy reading and writing" factor, though, there's the fact that approaching the kind of story I'm most comfortable telling from a military and/or political perspective provides me with all sorts of source material. That may sound a bit peculiar when we're talking about writing science fiction, since science fiction is the literature of the future, after all. But if you really think about it, people are going to be pretty much people until we evolve into something we won't really recognize anymore. That means that looking at the way people have responded to certain types of pressures in the past ought to provide a pretty reliable template for how people would be likely to respond to those types of pressures in the future, as well. And that, in turn, means that it provides a science fiction writer with both examples and also with responses most readers are going to find plausible.
|General||What made you choose to write sci-fi?||May 2009|
I think the best advice any perspective author can be given is that he should write what he likes to read. There are a lot of reasons for giving that particular piece of advice, beyond the mere fact that it will be a lot more fun. There's also the fact that you'll probably do a better job of writing something you enjoy reading than you would of writing something simply because you might be able to sell it.
In my own case, I've enjoyed reading science fiction since I was about 10 years old, although I didn't get around to figuring out why I enjoyed it until much later in my reading career, of course. When I started writing, the fact that I'd already been reading science fiction for the better part of 30 years before I sold the first novel made the genre a natural fit for me.
That's why I chose to start writing science fiction. The reason that I've continued to write it instead of some other genre [and there are other genres I'd like to write in, including historical fiction and fantasy] is that I've continued to enjoy it a great deal and the stories have succeeded rather better in many cases than I'd ever anticipated when I first started out.