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Three Hoarsemen Interview with David Weber and Joelle Presby Feb 2016


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David's Interviews

A collection of David's interviews, reprinted with permission.

The Author Hour Interview

  • Series: General
  • Date: February 28, 2010

Note: The following interview, which aired on 01/07/2010, has been transcribed from The Author Hour radio show.

Interview with David Weber

Matthew Peterson: Hello there and welcome to The Author Hour: Your Guide to Fantastic Fiction, which can be found at I’m your host, Matthew Peterson, author of Paraworld Zero. Last episode I had Kate DiCamillo, Bruce Coville, Tony Abbott, Diane Duane and Peter Morwood. This episode is devoted to military and hard science fiction with David Weber, David Drake, Ben Bova, and Joe Haldeman.

My next guest is David Weber, New York Times bestselling author of fantasy and science fiction. His books range from epic fantasy (including Oath of Swords and The War God's Own) to space opera (including Path of the Fury and The Armageddon Inheritance) to alternate history (including the 1632 series with Eric Flint) to military science fiction, which includes the widely popular Honor Harrington series. Welcome to the show, David.

David Weber: Thank you.

Matthew Peterson: Now your most popular books would have to be the Honor Harrington series. So far there’s 14 in the series with more to come. For those people out there not familiar with the Honorverse, tell us a little bit about the series.

David Weber: Well, the focal character in the series is obviously Honor Harrington, who is a 6'2" female Urasian martial artist starship captain.

Matthew Peterson: Okay.

David Weber: Just thought I’d, you know, put a lot of qualities together for her.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

David Weber: And basically the books are about a war which has been ongoing for I guess 25 years now in the Honorverse, but they’re not really in my opinion about the war. What they’re really about is about the people caught up in the war, fighting the war, on both sides. I have people who read them for the hardware-heavy battle scenes and for the political conflicts and everything else, but I think really when it comes right down to it what I’m examining is how do people react to the responsibilities and the demands and the costs of fighting a war over that long a period?

Matthew Peterson: And one of the traits that you’re really known for is putting your lead female characters in traditionally male roles.

David Weber: I think part of it actually is... somebody once called me a post-feminist science fiction writer.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

David Weber: And I really do think that part of it is that my judgement is that if we’re on the right track with notions of equality, whether they’re gender oriented or race oriented or whatever, that by the time we reach Honor Harrington’s period in the 40th Century, it’s going to be a done deal.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, yeah.

David Weber: And that really is kind of the point in my not having my female characters confronting the classic glass ceiling issues. That what I’m saying to you is, “Look, men are smart enough. They’re finally getting it and women are capable enough. They’re not going to put up with this nonsense.” And that by the time we reach Honor Harrington’s time period the whole question is going to have been settled so long that, as I like to say at science fiction conventions, it’s going to have all of the burning significance to someone in the 40th Century that Pharaoh’s policy towards the Hitites has for us.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. So it’s not even an issue. Yeah. And you have a lot of naval military themes as well, which I find very interesting, ‘cause I don’t get that as much reading a lot of fantasy and science fiction. What’s your reason for doing a lot of naval military?

David Weber: I’m a military and diplomatic historian by training. And I’ve always been especially fascinated by naval history because I think in part, because it’s so poorly understood by so many people. Even today 90 plus percent of all commerce in the world travels in ships. And yet we don’t think about that a whole lot in most areas in the United States and in our society. We tend to think of armies which can occupy capitols as being the decisive military forces in play. When in many respects naval forces have consistently throughout history trumped land forces.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah.

David Weber: Now the reverse has been true too, of course. And I think that one reason that I tend to use it in my novels is because, especially when I’m writing science fiction, naval history provides a much better model for space travel and interstellar political and military affairs than land warfare does.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. I think one of the reasons why, at least I forget, you know, it takes months to cross the sea, and I forget that we have posts in islands--in Hawaii and other places--that are closer, and those ships can really travel fast. You’ve got aircraft on top of those ships, and so all that plays a role.

David Weber: Well, I’ve got, in the Safehold series that I’m doing with Tor right now, I have a planet that is sort of, kind of, in about a late 18th, early 19th century level of technology, but my protagonist is from a very, very, very, very, very advanced technological culture and has like a mach 7 spacecraft--mach 7 in atmosphere spacecraft--at her disposal. And yet you have people on these sailing ships making 4,000 mile voyages and taking two months to make the crossing, and I think that kind of underscores the shear distances involved, but it’s also, as you say, it’s a measure of the technology involved as to how big a barrier an ocean is. That’s one of the reasons that I said that naval history translates so well to space warfare, because it’s going to take months even with the best faster-than-light drive we could possibly imagine right now. It’s going to take months or years or decades or even, like in Joe Haldeman’s Forever Wars, centuries to cross between stars.

Matthew Peterson: That makes sense and your last book, Torch of Freedom, the most recent Honor Harrington, what’s different with that book?

David Weber: Well, the main thing that’s different with that book is that it is only the second Honorverse novel that is a collaboration and an immediate prequel to this one. Crown of Slaves was also a collaboration with Eric Flint, my collaborator on Torch. And basically the Honorverse has split into sort of advancing on a three book front now. Originally I was going to have three separate sub-series in the series, but it didn’t work out that way. Instead, events are weaving back and forth between the three of them.

And Torch actually advances a major plot arc very, very, very considerably. It’s got daring, it’s got secret agents, it’s got genetic slaves fighting for freedom, it’s got deep space battle, it’s got all that stuff people look for in the Honorverse, including I think one of the most touching decisions that anybody has made in the Honorverse. But its main function in the series, as opposed to standing on its own as a story, is to advance one of the story arcs that’s been there from the very beginning of the series but is only just now starting to come into view for the reader.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, okay. You know, you mentioned that the last two books you’ve been collaborating. That is one thing I’ve noticed with a lot of military science fiction authors; they tend to co-author books. Is that something that your publishers encourage? Or is that something that you guys just get together and say, “Hey, let’s write a book.”

David Weber: Well, actually, I think that collaborations are becoming increasingly frequent in pretty much all genres and sub-genres. Some collaborations are acknowledged and some are not. Some have co-writers and researchers and so forth who do a lot of the work behind the scenes. By and large, I’ll only do one if I expect the final book to be better in significantly different ways than either my collaborator or I would produce together or if I expect to learn something from working with the other writer, which is usually the case. Or sometimes I’ll have a chance to show them something that they haven’t come across yet. But I think one of the reasons that collaborations are becoming more common is because of the internet, email and electronic editing. Used to be that you had to pretty much live in the same house with somebody if you were going to do an effective collaboration.

Matthew Peterson: Oh, yeah.

David Weber: Because you were restricted to hard copy and you had to physically pass the manuscript back and forth. You had to comment on it, write on it, then re-type it, etc. Now if I’m collaborating with Eric [Flint], he can send me a chapter, I can read it, I can annotate the file, and highlight it in color and bang it back to him... have the whole thing done in 30 minutes. And he can respond to me at the same rate. It really, really, really makes co-writing a lot easier to have that kind of access and speed of communication. My first novel was a collaboration with Steve White, which was military science fiction, and it would take as much as ten days for a chapter to make the round trip between Greenville, South Carolina and Charlottesville, Virginia. I look back at that now and feel like I must have been Daniel Defoe using a quill pen. . .

Matthew Peterson: [laughs] Yeah.

David Weber: . . . compared to where we are now.

Matthew Peterson: I can’t even imagine. I told my wife many times, you know, if I didn’t have a computer at my disposal, there’s no way I could end up writing a book. I really have to hand it to the people back in the olden days with just pen and paper.

David Weber: Well, nine years ago, maybe ten, I broke my right wrist into 57 pieces.

Matthew Peterson: Ohhh.

David Weber: And it got put back together again with plates and wires and screws and everything else. And it now has bone spurs and early onset arthritis and the right hand is developing arthritis. So keyboarding for me is nowhere near as easy and fun as it used to be. Which is why I’ve been using voice activated software . . .

Matthew Peterson: Ahh.

David Weber: . . . ever since I broke the wrist. And that is a tremendous change for somebody who learned to write with a keyboard, when he was in the 5th grade... a very depressing number of years ago.

Matthew Peterson: [laughs]

David Weber: And I can type fast and dirty at somewhere around 100-110 words a minute. I can dictate at 250 words a minute.

Matthew Peterson: Wow.

David Weber: Now I have to spend a lot more time correcting the voice activated because of voice activated generated errors: homonyms, misunderstandings. And it can be frustrating sometimes, but it also can be much, much faster, and is I think yet another example of how we’re evolving steadily away from that quill pen.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Things that you just can’t even imagine years ago are happening today. So when you’re doing research like... you know, your next book that’s coming out, A Mighty Fortress, that’s the next one in the Safehold series, how careful are you at making sure that what you’re writing is timeless, that it’s not going to be something that ten years later, twenty years later someone’s going to read it and say, “Ah, that was . . . ” You know, you got the room full of computers, where it’s just nowadays... it’s just in a handheld.

David Weber: Well, I think you got to pay your money and take your chances. I think that we have an advantage over people writing in the 50's and the 60's in one sense in that we have seen such rapid technological change. I think we are more aware of the potential for things changing out from under us than a lot of earlier writers were.

Matthew Peterson: Yeah. Well, I’ve been speaking with David Weber, New York Times bestselling author of science fiction and fantasy. Thank you so much for being on the show today, David.

David Weber: Oh, thank you for having me.

Matthew Peterson: Okay, don’t forget to visit to listen to all the bonus questions that didn’t air on the live show. There’s actually quite a lot of bonus material for this episode. Up next is David Drake, Ben Bova, and Joe Haldeman, so don’t go away.