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Frequently Asked Questions

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 faq@davidweber.net. Responses will be posted if and when David can get to them. We'd love to hear from you! 

Series Question Posted
General How do I set up my e-reader to get electronic books from Baen? June 2011

David's releases from Tor and Baen can be purchased from amazon.com in the Kindle store as well as other websites that host e-reader downloadable formats.

 

You can actually buy all of David’s books from Baen Books in Kindle friendly, downloadable formats, as well as download from the Baen Free Library. Go to:

 

http://www.baenebooks.com/t-ereaderinstructions.aspx

 

for complete information on how to download books to your e-reader.

General Would you be willing to read the fan-fic I've written? Can I post it to the forums? January 2011

From David, posted to a forum:

Fanfic poses all sorts of problems for an author, and not just of the "how dare you publish in MY universe" sort of hurt feelings.

   As Mike pointed out in his post, it leads to a situation in which an author can be accused of "ripping off" someone else's idea, which can both impugn his/her honesty and even lead to ugly courtroom scenes as some non-pro attempts to sue because his or her original idea was "stolen" by a pro. (This has actually happened.) It would also be possible for a pro actually TO rip off an idea, perhaps without even realizing that he or she has done so. (I have never seen any actual documentation of such an event, but I HAVE seen a couple of stories, by authors who shall remain nameless, in which I personally suspect that that is precisely what happened.)

   Even more importantly, the publication (even in electronic form) of fiction based on a writer's work, without the specific, documented permission of said writer (on a case-by-case basis) can void the writer's copyright. This has actually happened, and does not represent mere paranoid fantasy on my part. Nor am I the only writer concerned about it. Misty Lackey, for example, has a legal contract form drawn up which anyone publishing fanfic in her universe(s) is required to sign and return to her before they may use any of her material. (I have a copy of it thumbtacked to my wall for use as a model if I ever decide to go that way.) Anyone who publishes WITHOUT said signed contract is in violation of her copyright and she will, if it comes to her attention, take legal action against them. (Mind, I suspect many authors in such a position might take some pains to avoid having the unapproved fanfic come to his/her attention if he/she believes the fans' intentions were pure, but there is a limit to how many times someone can look the other way and still convince a judge, at need, that his/her ignorance was genuine.)

   I deeply regret that this should be the case, as fanfic is often at least as imaginative and enjoyable as anything the writer who created the character/universe/whatever is likely to turn out. It is also rather flattering to an author to know that other people want to come over and play at his house, as it were. Unfortunately, the situation has become such that a writer cannot allow the free use of his universe without risking the loss of his own rights to it, and so I must regretfully ask that no fanfic appear on this group. Should that happen, I would have only two choices: (a) to take legal action (which I would hate to do and would endeavor to make as painless as possible for all concerned), or (b) leave the group and not return, as the only way I could avoid taking legal action NOW and still be in a position to defend my copyright down the road at need would be to avoid learning that the fiction was being published, electronically or otherwise. Since I would like to lurk and keep an eye on what's happening whenever projects (and things like weddings and house buying expeditions) allow me the time, I would very much appreciate it if it didn't happen here.

   Again, my sincere regrets at having to take this position. I checked with my attorney when the matter first came up for me a couple of years ago, however, and he confirms what Baen, Misty, Roger Zelazny, Fred Saberhagen, and several other pros had all told me on previous occasions. With that much experienced opinion on one side of the question, I see no choice but to believe they know what they're talking about.

   Take Care,
   David

General Okay, we love David's work and we would like to invite him to be our guest at a Sci-Fi Con/Book Fair/Writing Conference/etc. What do we need to know and who do we need to talk to? January 2010

Due to David's writing schedule and having 3 kids, he is only able to do about 5-6 events a year, including the events that his publisher requests. We are always glad to consider your convention, but currently we are booking about two years ahead for cons. E-mail  duckk@davidweber.net with all of the pertinent information, and we'll get back to you as soon as possible!

General Why is David split between 2 publishers? (Asked Sat Sep 03, 2011) December 2013

Baen pays me just fine, thank you. [G] The problem was that at the moment I needed to get some cash in the door, Jim Baen was already about as committed to DMW as he could get. I have (literally) a couple of dozen books currently under contract to Baen, which is a really nice situation to be in. Most authors aren't fortunate enough to have that sort of job sewcurity! But when the Tor deal came up, Jim Baen actually played rabbi with Tom Doherty for me to make the deal work. This was in no wise a case of Tor buying me away from Baen; it was a case of my finding two publishing houses that I can work with simultaneously without anyone stepping on anyone's toes.

General Why do you write so much about empires or monarchies? (Asked Wed Sep 04, 2013) December 2013

I've had people comment on this before. There are several reasons I tend to write about empires and kingdoms, but please note that even most of the monarchies I write about (at least approvingly) have both input from those governed (which may or may not be called a parliament) and a means whereby an incompetent/corrupt monarch may be removed. I also write about monarchies/empires in transition towards other forms of government quite a lot, as well.

Historically, monarchy has a much longer track record than democracy, and outside a high-bandwidth society, real participatory government on a nationstate level is pretty thoroughly impractical. Note that in this case I'm using "bandwidth" in a rather sweeping sense which doesn't necessarily have anything to do with electronics. Electronic communication interfaces are good, but what I'm really speaking of here is a broad-based educational system and widespread news availability. Obviously it's possible for people to vote without possessing --- or availing themselves of --- either of the above (as some recent US elections demonstrate, whichever side of the political aisle one might be on), but the intelligent, effective use of the franchise means that the voters have to be at least reasonably well-informed upon the issues facing them (in a direct democracy) or their elected representatives (in a representative democracy). You don't get that sort of voters if the information they need isn't available to them, and that requires both sufficient education to access information and set it in a coherent context and avenues by which that information can reach them in the first place. While I can get seriously pissed off with the gentleman (and gentlewomen) of the Fourth Estate, widespread, open, and at least reasonably honest news reportage is essential to a functioning elective form of government.

Direct democracy begins to break down very rapidly once one gets beyond purely local government. Athens, so frequently referred to as the mother of democracy, had a very limited franchise and was not a very large social entity, whether in terms of population or geographic extent, compared to the vast majority of modern nationstates. In addition, whatever their other advantages (and I grant that the advantages are legion), elective forms of government tend to be less efficient in the face of an emergency than monarchial ones. Mind you, there's something to be said for governmental inefficiency under normal circumstances, given that government inevitably accrues all of the power it can. This isn't necessarily because the government in question is inherently evil, either. A government's job — its entire reason for being — is to govern, and it seeks the tools and authority it needs in order to accomplish that task. (The fact that governments tend to be made up of fallible, corruptible, and often corrupted human beings who seek power for reasons of ego, personal wealth, or any number of other regrettable motivations only makes a potentially bad situation worse in that respect.) However that may be, in times of great emergency, successful democratic/representative governments tend to adopt rules and procedures which vest enormous power in the state's executive with the understanding (or at least the hope) that the power in question will be returned to the electorate and/or its representatives once the emergency passes. And the reason they do that is because there isn't time for reasoned debate and to seek parliament/congress' approval of every decision or action.

One-person rule is more efficient (note that I did not say it was necessarily better) than a representative democracy, and a representative democracy is more efficient than a pure democracy. I think it should be evident that the empires and monarchies of which I write approvingly are generally constitutional monarchies with a powerful representative element. It should also be noted that I also write rather approvingly of representative democracy in general. The restored Peoples' Republic of Haven in the Honorverse is one example of that, I would say. So are quite a lot of the system and planetary governments in the Honorverse. Both the Protectorate of Grayson and the Star Kingdom of Manticore became monarchies for quite different reasons, but the trend even in both of those star nations is towards increasing representation. The Solarian League, on the other hand, is an example of one type of façade democracy, while several of the pre-annexation governments in the Talbott Cluster were examples of other sorts of façade democracy is.

From a literary perspective, there are some significant advantages in writing about monarchial governments, of course. It allows the writer to focus more directly on individual strong characters whose decisions have immediate impact and who become personally responsible for the outcomes of those decisions. It's clearly not impossible to come up with characters and situations where both that focus and that responsibility can also be achieved in non-monarchial systems, and I've done that, too. For example, Eloise Pritchart in the Republic of Haven has to work within the constraints of a representative democracy. It's easier and "cleaner" (at least in my opinion and experience) to work with someone who is expected by both his/her fellow citizens and by the reader to be able to make, implement, and "own" critical decisions of state quickly and on his/her own recognizance, however.

In a more general sense, I tend to believe that the jury is still out on the longevity, effectiveness, and universality of representative/democratic government. I happen to think that that type of government offers the greatest opportunities politically, economically, and in terms of "quality of life" to its citizens, but monarchies and empires of one sort or another have been around far longer and one need not look far to find autocracies masquerading as democracies all over the world today. I'm inclined to think that if/when we finally do get to the stars, effectively monarchial governments are likely to reemerge, although in the Honorverse I've tried to present specific reasons for their reemergence. In the case of Manticore, as a deliberate move by the original colonists to conserve their political power in a star nation which of necessity was about to absorb a huge influx of newcomers. In the case of Grayson, as a response to the critical survival imperatives of a rather intensely hostile environment. There could be any number of other "legitimate" reasons for that sort of transformation, and there could also be an even greater number of "illegitimate" reasons, including an unscrupulous political leader who seizes absolute power and makes it stand up. Four or five generations later, the descendents of even the most unscrupulous political leader imaginable may actually have become enlightened rulers with the best interests of their subjects in mind, whereas after the same time period, the descendents of even the most enlightened ruler can have become despots concerned only with their own self-interest and the preservation of their own power. Which way it goes in a specific literary universe depends on the story the writer wants to tell. In real life, the reasons and the consequences can be far messier and more painful.

I expect that most people have a tendency to subconsciously assume that the form of government under which they were born and raised is the inevitable, default form of government. We assume the permanence of what are actually transitory, perpetually evolving forms of government. Someone living in the United States of 1800 would be shocked by the power of the central government in the United States of 2000. For that matter, the changes in power structures, centers of authority, and routine government interference (for good or ill) in the personal lives of US citizens between 1950 and 2000 are enormous. They've happened so gradually, however, that the majority of American citizens take them for granted without ever really thinking about how transformative they've actually been. I try in my writing to show that evolutionary process in progress, and the truth is that most of the forms of government — and most of the specific governments — I write about are constantly in the process of becoming something else.

Empire of Man Is David ever going to give John Ringo the outline for the next Empire of Man book? In an interview a while back, John Ringo said he had been waiting for a while and was looking forward to writing the next book. July 2009

First, and this is really the point that is holding up both of them, is the fact that David and John Ringo both have several contracted books that they are due to write and they honestly haven't had a break in their writing schedules for quite a while. When they both have a break together, David will prepare an outline, and (since you have read David's work, I'm sure you can understand this) David never does anything short...In fact he has written short stories that have managed to grow into a full novels! So, yes, David does have to do an outline for John to work from, but it isn't something he can just sit down and write out at breakfast. David assures me that it is a story he wants to continue, but he won't be continuing the Prince Roger storyline, rather he will be going back and telling the prequel story of Miranda McClintock, the founder of the Empire of Man. So, David says there will definitely, definitely be a continuation of the story, but he's not sure of exactly when!

Honorverse Who is Honor Harrington? May 2009

Honor Harrington is a 6'2" (187.96 cm) tall Eurasian, female starship commander in the service of the Star Kingdom of Manticore who rises eventually to very senior flag rank, not to mention becoming a knight of the realm, a steadholder (think a ruling princess within an empire), a duchess, and general all-round avatar of the war goddess.

Obviously, that's just a tad simplified and just a mite flippant, but it's also true.

I think, though, that the real core of Honor's personality, and what makes her resonate with her readers, is the fact that she's one of those responsibility-takers I write about. She doesn't waffle. If there's a problem to be solved, a job to be undertaken, she simply goes ahead and does it rather than worrying about whether or not it's her fault, or her responsibility, or whether or not it's going to make problems for her down the road.

One thing that I think a lot of readers have missed about Honor, though, is that Hamish Alexander was completely correct when he told her that she had "the vices of her virtues." There have been many instances in the series where Honor has made what was, at best, a suboptimal choice, yet because the readers liked her so much, and because they were "inside her head" when she did it, they give her a pass on it . . . if they ever notice it in the first place. One rather famous incident, for example, comes when she smacks Reginald Houseman. Sure, he deserved it; on the other hand, as a serving officer in the Royal Manticoran Navy, Honor had no business giving it to him the way that she did. Again, in the same book, she almost shoots a POW out of hand. Again, he had it coming; on the other hand, he hadn't been tried, he hadn't been sentenced, and what she intended to do -- what, in some ways, she actually did do, since she pulled the trigger -- would quite rightly have been regarded as an act of murder. Once again, in In Enemy Hands, she makes a seriously flawed decision, although not this time because she loses her temper. In this instance, a bunch of her subordinate officers and her Grayson armsmen have given their lives rescuing her, and by this time she is not simply a captain in the Royal Manticoran Navy -- she's a flag officer, and a steadholder, with all of the duties and responsibilities of a ruling head of state. So, it's clearly her duty to carry through with her escape, not to mention the fact that if she doesn't, then all of the people who have already died will have died in vain. Yet when her last armsman is wounded and knocked unconscious, she runs right back into the crossfire to save him, and comes within inches of getting both of them killed.

There are a lot of other instances in the books where she makes decisions based in large part on who she is -- what makes her who she is -- rather than on a proper analysis of the situation. I think part of the problem is that when a competent person makes a mistake, it's usually a competent mistake, and it's usually not made for stupid reasons, which means that when Honor makes a mistake, the readers generally don't beat up on her for it.

Honorverse Honor Harrington novels have included covers by several different artists. Which depiction of Honor do you find most accurate? May 2009

We've been through a total of 3 artists on the HH covers. Actually, I tend to think that the shape of her face and her eyes are closest to correct on the cover of On Basilisk Station, although Nimitz is not at all how I envision him and there are major problems with the uniform. The same artist did the next 2 covers, and somehow Honor started morphing until we wound up with the The Short Victorious War and someone who, frankly, looks more like my viewpoint character (Li Han) from Insurrection. We changed artists for Field of Dishonor, and while I feel the cover was effective in a marketing sense, I felt that Michael Jackson was considerably \prettier" than Honor. The same artist did Flag in Exile, and (I felt) gave us someone who looked much more like Lt. Dax from DS9 but without the tasteful body decals. (The 2 things that bugged me most about this cover were that I had carefully described the Grayson sword as having a "western style hilt"--and got katanas--and that I had specified that the planet on the Grayson flag was actually Grayson, and not Old Terra.) With In Enemy Hands we shifted to David Mattingly and, despite a few continuing problems, I am more content with his covers than with anyone else's to date. I think Honor looks a teeny bit too old on In Enemy Hands, but I believe part of this is the lighting, which comes up from below and "loses" the line of her chin against the flesh tones of her throat. (Of course, if he'd included the white turtle neck blouse, this would not have happened, but--hey! He got every other detail of the uniform perfect, which no one had previously managed.) As far as the shapes of the ships are concerned, those seem to be the hull forms for Mattingly space craft. I do not know whether he has read the books or is working from a synopsis provided by Baen. More to the point, perhaps, I don't really care. While I would be eternally grateful to get the ships right, I am already eternally grateful for the improvements in (and consistency of) Honor's appearance from book to book.

(BTW, I have a way to describe Honor which seems to work for everyone except artists. I describe her as a slightly taller Eurasian Sigourney Weaver from the original Alien movie with Linda Hamilton's physique from T2. Works for me, anyway. Also BTW, on the casting question, I do indeed agree that what is needed for an actress to portray Honor is less someone who matches her physical description as closely as possible as someone who can properly portray her character and make the transition from wallflower to beautiful [but not "pretty"] person between installments. [Of course I want sequels, you sillies!] I think someone with, say, Meryl Streep's ability [and a similarly unique facial structure, perhaps a bit more like Honor's] but physically younger would be ideal. Of course, where do I find a treasure like that? Sigh.)

Two of the foreign editions of Honor books are the UK edition of Honor Among Enemies and the German edition of On Basilisk Station. The British Honor Among Enemies uses a cover by someone named "Buggy G. Riphead" (and I'm sorry, but that name always makes me think of purple hair and safety pins in navels) which does, indeed, make Honor look a lot more Afroasian than Eurasian, and also I'd guess five years or so younger than I visualize her looking. The German edition of On Basilisk Station uses the cover art from the US edition of Honor Among Enemies, but with one cuff ring removed to get her down to commander's rank. (Unfortunately, the other rank indications--like her shoulder boards and collar insignia--were not changed, but at least their hearts were in the right place. Please note that it was not until Mr. Mattingly appeared on the scene that we ever got her into a uniform of the proper rank.)

Honorverse How did you come up with the idea for the Honor Harrington series? May 2009

Well, it's been about 15 years, you understand, so some of the details have gotten blurred, I'm sure. Basically, though, what happened was that Jim Baen called me up and pointed out to me that, as he put it, my books were "spawning" again. The problem was that when I did what was supposed to be a stand-alone book, I kept thinking about other things that could be played with, or other points that I thought needed more attention, and so I kept on writing sequels. As Jim pointed out, this meant that any fact I was producing a whole bunch of small series, and he suggested that if I was going to do that anyway, I should probably come up with an idea for a series that was designed from the get-go as such. I think what he was thinking about was that if I did that, I would start putting all of the building blocks in place in an orderly fashion from the outset rather than having to go back and think about back story I hadn't considered with the first novel of an unintentional series. And, I think, there was the notion that if readers knew from the outset that it was going to be an ongoing series, they would be more willing to make the emotional commitment in the protagonist and in the series generally. Not to mention (we are talking about Jim Baen here, after all, bless him) the fact that he felt there would be all sorts of marketing potentials.

          So I sat down and thought up 10 potential series concepts and sent all of them to him. One of them became Honor Harrington; one of them became the Safehold series I'm currently doing with Tor Books; and one of them became the multiverse or Hell's Gate series.

          What I didn't know when I pitched the ideas to Jim was that he had been looking for someone to write an interstellar Horatio Hornblower series for the better part of 20 years. As soon as he read the first sentence of the proposal -- "Honor Harrington is a 6'2" female, Eurasian starship captain in the service of the Star Kingdom of Manticore" -- he basically told Toni Weisskopff "Write him a contract. No, make it two contracts! No! Make it four contracts!" I don't know for certain that he ever read all of the other proposals at all . . . and given the Honorverse's success, I'm not going to complain if he didn't!

          As for the reasoning process that led me to create this particular literary universe, I knew that I wanted to do a military novel, that I wanted it to be about a very long running war, that I wanted to have "good guys" on both sides, and that I wanted it to be of a naval character. I actually started out looking at the Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage, but I decided that the naval aspects of those wars were too limited. Seapower in those wars was really primarily logistical -- transporting armies and keeping them supplied -- rather than the sort of "command of the sea" warfare in the tradition of Alfred Thayer Mahan that I really wanted to write about. Which, of course, caused me to turn to the wars that Mahan had actually analyzed -- the Napoleonic Wars between the British Empire and Revolutionary and later Imperial France.

          Once I'd chosen my historical template, I sat down and constructed the basic universe: political units, available technologies, naval strategic and tactical doctrines, historical evolution, etc... And, I will confess, I deliberately constructed my navel technological toolbox in a way which would create something with clear parallels between three-dimensional space-going warfare and the two-dimensional broadside warfare of the eighteenth century.

          At any rate, that's how I came up with the idea.

          It would, however, be a mistake to read too much parallelism into the "Honorverse." There are obvious resonances, but although there are some distinct similarities between the People's Republic of Haven and Revolutionary France (and especially between the Jacobins and the Havenite Committee of Public Safety under one Rob S. Pierre), France was never the actual template upon which the People's Republic had been imposed. Mind you, I did my very best to fling out as many red herrings as possible to convince readers that it was, because I didn't want them to see where I really meant to go with the political developments in the series. By making Haven look like Revolutionary France (hence the French names, calling the capital "Nouveau Paris," and a few other minor things of that nature), I conditioned readers who'd picked up on it and who knew their history to expect me to eventually produce the Havenite equivalent of Emperor Napoleon, when in fact I had absolutely no intention of doing anything of the sort.

          In fact, one of the underlying "themes" of the novel is that the Bad Guys™ at the outset of the series never set out to become the Omnivoracity of Evil and never actually thought of themselves that way, either. Besides, I knew they weren't going to be the Bad Guys™ for the entire series, so I was going to have to "redeem" them in the readers' eyes eventually.

          It would also be a mistake to regard the Star Kingdom of Manticore as simply the Kingdom of Great Britain transported into the far reaches of space. Again, there are obvious and clear resonances -- partly as a result of the template I'd used, partly as another example of my intention to focus the readers' attention on one anticipated direction while I actually went in another, and partly because I was interested in playing against the tendency to view republics as the good guys and empires or kingdoms as the bad guys. But there are actually rather more differences between the actual Kingdom of Great Britain and the Star Kingdom of Manticore than there are similarities. Elizabeth III, for example, has far more actual power than any British king since George III (at the very best), if not William and Mary. Or, for that matter, probably since Charles I. In addition, the Star Kingdom was a well-developed constitutional monarchy -- although with significant differences from its British model -- from the moment it came into existence. As a result, most of the political conflict between the various branches and organs of government has taken place in a nonmilitary, purely political arena. In other words, there's never been a Manticoran Civil War to establish where authority truly lies. Moreover, you'd have to go back to a time well before the British Reform Act of 1832 to find a British House of Lords with the sort of power that was deliberately reserved to the Manticoran House of Lords when the Star Kingdom's Constitution was written. For example, the provision that the Prime Minister must come from the House of Lords, rather than the House of Commons, and that the House of Lords is the branch of Parliament which actually holds the power of the purse, is quite different from the model which evolved in Britain following the English Civil War. So, in a functional sense, the Star Kingdom is distinctly different from Great Britain, even if a sort of vague concept of Great Britain which existed only in the minds of the Star Kingdom's Constitution writers did play a significant part in their final product.

Honorverse How close are the parallels between the politics in the Honorverse and our present-day politics? May 2009

This one is something of a toughie.

          As I have explained, the parallels between Revolutionary France and the British Empire, on the one hand, and the Republic of Haven and the Star Kingdom of Manticore, on the other, are (deliberately) far from a perfect match. On the other hand, this question is about present-day politics, which is another kettle of fish entirely.

          Basically, the People's Republic of Haven was actually the United States of America after a cynical deal had been struck between a political elite and the "machine bosses" who were able to deliver bloc votes on a dependable, reliable basis. The people who became the Legislaturalists deliberately set out to create a situation in which there would be an enormous underclass completely dependent upon the state for its support and upkeep. What had begun as a principled effort to provide the best possible life for all of the Republic's citizens under the Legislaturalists' predecessors became, in effect, a means of permanently institutionalizing graft and corruption in a way which would keep the Legislaturalists (and their descendents) in power. What we see beginning to happen in the Republic after Theisman overthrows Oscar Saint-Just and the Committee of Public Safety is a restoration of the Old Republic, under the original constitution (which happens to bear a strong relationship to that of the United States), and a regeneration of the concept of civic responsibility, personal responsibility, and honest government.

          Readers are, of course, free to make their own judgments as to how this parallels the experience of the United States over the last century or so, and what it may or may not imply for the future. While they're doing that, however, they should bear in mind that although every writer's personal beliefs and politics infuse anything that that writer writes, the primary function of the Republic of Haven -- and of everything that happens in it, around it, and to it -- in the Honorverse is to provide the basis and framework for the stories I want to tell. In other words, while no writer can avoid stepping up onto a soap box, whether he wants to or not, when he starts writing military or political fiction, I am perfectly willing to subordinate my personal views on many of these questions to the strength of the storyline I'm working with.

          I think that readers should also note that my personal sympathies clearly lie with the responsibility-taking moderates in both the Star Kingdom and the Republic of Haven, not to mention the Protectorate of Grayson. I beat up on the extreme left in the form of the Star Kingdom's old Liberal party; I beat up on the notion of economic redistribution (and the cynicism which can be inherent in it) in the People's Republic of Haven; I beat up on extreme conservatism and aristocratic abuses of power in the Star Kingdom's Conservative Association; and I beat up on religious reactionaries in the Protectorate of Grayson. I also try to show the plus sides of most flavors and brands of ideology and religious belief, along the way, and I'm sure that most of my readers can think of characters who cover that entire spectrum.