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Josephmallozzi's Weblog - Author David Weber Answers Your Questions Jun 2009


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David's Interviews

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

Interview for Polish Sci-Fi Site, Katedra

  • Series: General
  • Date: January 31, 2011

Dear David,

Thank you for finding some time for me. I just hope that this list of questions isn’t too long. For sure you’ve been asked them many times, but I think that there are many people in Poland that would like to know something about you. I personally know few of them.

Despite you being one of the most popular foreign writers in Poland, we don’t know much about you. Surely many people have asked you this, but could you tell us something about beginnings of your career? What inspired you to become a writer, when you wrote your first ever story and what was it about?

I'm fifty-eight years old this year, and to be honest, I can't really remember a time when I didn't enjoy writing. I think most people who become successful professional writers are the sort of people who would write whether they were publishing or not, just for their own pleasure and (possibly) for the "pleasure" of their long-suffering friends. I know that I started writing poetry and short fiction in the fifth grade, when I was about nine or ten years old. I wrote my first "novel" in the eighth grade, with my friend Terry Mauer. I actually found about a hundred pages of it some years ago, and it was pretty bad, but it was fun and it taught me some things that were worth knowing. I started typing quite early for those pre-computer days, when most people (at least here in the United States) didn't actually take typing until the tenth or eleventh grades, and I think that probably also contributed to my interest in writing, because what I produced was actually legible and didn't take as much work as old-fashioned pen and ink. My father was a great science fiction reader (he had E. E. “Doc Ed” Smith's entire works in autographed, numbered copies), and he taught all of us kids (I have two brothers and two sisters) to love reading. My mother had advanced degrees in literature, although she didn't read for pleasure as much as my father did, and after stints as both a high school and a college English teacher, she went into public relations as a (very good) writer of advertising copy. When I was in the eleventh grade, I started writing advertising copy, as well, for my mother who then had her own small ad agency. By the time I finished high school, I'd learned to set type professionally, as well, and I'm actually one of the world's last trained Linotype operators. (A thoroughly useless skill in this era of electronic typesetting.)

            I'd always intended to teach college history and write on the side, but while I was working on my masters degree, I saw a demographic study of the field and discovered that over half of all tenured history positions were held by people who were forty-two years old or younger. That suggested to me that there weren't going to be a great many openings, so I returned to my hometown (Greenville, South Carolina) and took over my mother's small PR firm when she retired to Georgia to live with and care for my grandmother (who lived to be 101). That was in about 1985 or 1986.

            I became interested in wargames (especially for playing games and tabletop miniature historical wargaming) while I was in high school. While I was in college, I got involved in wargame design and development, largely for my own enjoyment and that of my friends but also with the Starfire gaming series from Task Force Games. I mention this because it was Starfire which led to Insurrection, my first (collaborative) novel, written with Steve White in 1987 and sold to Baen Books in 1989. In fact, all the "Starfire universe novels" (Insurrection, Crusade, In Death Ground, and The Shiva Option) came out of the universe I'd "built" for that gaming universe.       

Which authors and books had the greatest influence on you?

I think it's impossible for any writer to really answer that question accurately and definitively, because his estimate of which once had the greatest influence on him is open to change. I think it changes over the duration of his writing career, as he finds himself going in different directions, and I think his estimate probably differs over time depending on his mood and what he happens to be doing at the moment you ask him that question, as well. Different authors and books influence a writer in different ways, which is why what a writer is currently working on could change his estimate of who had the greatest influence on him. For example, when I'm thinking primarily about character development, I'd be inclined to say that Robert Heinlein, Keith Laumer, and Poul Anderson were very powerful influences. When I'm thinking about world building, Anne McCaffrey had a huge effect on me, but from the perspective of the history that goes into them, so did H. Beam Piper and (again) Anderson. For sheer sense of wonder and getting me started as a reader/writer, the young adult novel David and the Phoenix, by Edward Ormondroyd had an enormous impact on me, and Jack Williamson's Legion of Space was the very first science fiction novel I ever read, at age 10. I never really liked Hemingway, but I learned a lot from him about writing, whereas I loved Roger Zelazny as both a writer and a friend, yet I don't think my writing style was that heavily influenced by him, although my love of language and my satisfaction as a reader definitely was. And like anyone who writes heroic fantasy, I couldn't avoid being influenced by J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Howard.

How does your usual work day looks? Can you sit down in front of computer and write a number of chapters at once, or do you need some time for inspiration to come?

When I'm in "deadline mode," I may spend as much as fourteen or fifteen hours a day in front of the computer. I generally know pretty much what I want to do when I sit down, and I always start by going back over whatever I've done in the last couple of days, tweaking and editing. This has the advantage of allowing me to polish what I've already done at least a couple of times before I get to the end of the first draft, and it also "jump-starts me" by getting my mind back into what I'd been doing when I stopped the previous day. I typically write about five thousand words a day, although I have (on one memorable occasion) written as many as 32,000 words in a day. (I basically slept for about fourteen hours after that one! J) Five thousand words quite often works out to be a comfortable chapter length for me, so in a lot of ways I'm a "chapter-a-day" kind of guy.

The writer Louis l'Amour once said he could write under just about any circumstances. I believe his exact words were "temperamental I am not." I'm not quite that bold, but I will say that I'm very seldom deadlocked. There are days when because of a combination of fatigue, migraine headaches (to which I'm susceptible), or other factors I can't write new material, but even then I can edit and polish what I've been working on in the current book or project. I do find, however, that I can only work efficiently on a single project at a time, that I need undisturbed blocks of time in which to write (preferably a minimum of several hours without distractions or disturbances), and that it takes me longer to get back into something I was working on after I've been pulled away from it than it did for me to get started before the interruption. When those conditions are met, I usually don't have very much trouble getting at least five thousand words a day written.

During your career you’ve worked with a number of other writers. Could you compare working in a duet to working alone?

When you work alone, you have more freedom in almost every respect. You have solo control of where the storyline, the characters, and the literary universe are going. You have control of the pace at which you write. And you have a unity of vision that I think sometimes allows you to focus more intensely on aspects of your writing or the particular story which are of special interest or importance to you.

When you work with a collaborator, you give up at least some of that freedom, but you gain in other areas. I won't work with a collaborator just to increase output. I'll only work with a collaborator because I expect to enjoy working with him or her, because he or she is someone whose work I respect (and hope he or she respects mine), and because I believe that the final outcome will be better than either of us might produce alone. Now, from a writer's perspective, "better" can simply equate to "Gosh, I never even thought about going there!" What I mean is that a reader who loves a particular writer's style or is following a particular series by an author may not always agree with the author in question that a collaboration was "better" because he worked with another writer. But the writers involved, being aware of the synthesis where their differing styles and viewpoints have come together and strengthened the framework of the book, their perspective on the characters, and the literary universe itself, often recognize additional strengths that aren't apparent to the reader on the surface but contribute to what I think of as the reader's "subliminal awareness" of the universe's texture. I may have wandered a bit afield here, but trying to wrap words around a creative process that doesn't really lend itself to deliberate analysis is always difficult.

Collaborations can be written by coequal partners, but in my experience there's usually been what could be thought of as a senior and junior partner. That doesn't necessarily mean that the "senior" partner is always the better writer, and collaborators working in more than one literary universe may change off the senior and junior roles. For example, when I work in Eric Flint's 1632 universe, he's clearly the senior partner; when he works in the Honorverse, I'm the senior partner. Even in instances in which "ownership" of the literary universe is less clear-cut, however, one partner is usually responsible for the final edit. In any collaborative effort, though, a smart writer is always aware that he has the best possible editor available to him: a fellow writer whose work he respects (since he probably wouldn't be writing with him if he didn't), who's just as deeply immersed in the current book as he is, with whom he's discussed exactly where they both want to go, and who's been given a greater degree of insight into "his" characters than anyone else could possibly have. If you're not able and willing to learn and gain from that sort of a situation, then you probably shouldn't be writing in the first place.

Women play a lot of important roles in your books. They often find themselves inside masculine, militaristic reality. Why do you do that? To see how masculine world will react to strong woman, and what will come out from potential conflict?

I've been asked why I write about strong female characters really ever since I started publishing, and I've never really been able to answer the question to my own satisfaction. I just like strong-willed, confident, capable women. I'm comfortable around them. For example, most people who meet me for the first time assume that my viewpoint character in Insurrection was Ladislaus Skjorning, but the truth is that it was Li-Han. Of course, it might be more accurate to say that I like strong-willed, confident, capable people, and that at least fifty percent of the human race happens to be female, so I'm going to prefer strong-willed, confident, capable women to the classic "Oh, save me!" heroine whose function is basically to flail her dainty feet while waiting for the strong-thewed hero to rescue her.

Having said that, I know I do take a certain pleasure out of putting female characters into what have been traditionally masculine roles. I suppose there's a certain amount of the contrarian in me, and I enjoy cutting against the grain of stereotypes, but I don't feel I'm a crusader in that regard. I do think that one of the reasons I write about the women I write about is also to cut against the grain of the more recent female stereotype of the military or "action" heroine who has to "out-testosterone" the male characters around her, however. Modern Western literature and movies have suffered from a scarcity of templates for female characters in those types of stories.

The notion of woman as warrior wasn't exactly in style for a long time, both in literature and in actual society. As a result, we have an incredible number of literary and actual historical templates of men in military situations, men in command roles, men as decision-makers, but it's only relatively recently that we've started building our library of women in those same situations and roles. A female writer has been able to go to that library of male templates to write about men; neither a female writer nor a male writer has been able to go to a library of female templates for those more competent, capable, and decisive roles. I think because of that a lot of the people trying to create female military characters have felt that they had to cram their women into masculine roles if they were going to do a traditionally "masculine" job. My feeling, on the other hand, is that women in command roles will find their own ways to exercise command, just as men in command roles learn to exercise command in the ways that work best for them.

 Who you are, what you are, and how well you do what you do don't depend on how your chromosomes are arranged. There are going to be instances where physical size and bodily strength, endurance, toughness, all come into play, but those are only some of the factors which go into what makes up a human being and who that human being is, and I think one of the reasons I write about female characters in "masculine roles" is because I believe that so strongly. It's not about feminism for me; it's about humanism and the universal strengths of human beings who are whoever and whatever they need to be.

I’ve heard that fans are important for you, and that you take their opinions into consideration. Does fan's views help you to improve some of your ideas or maybe give you some new ones?

Fans are important to me because they've paid me the ultimate compliment of actually reading and (in at least some cases) liking my work. I think an important distinction in my mind is that I don't think of myself as primarily an author; I think of myself as primarily a storyteller who happens to tell his stories through the medium of the written word. The reason I make that distinction is that my writing as an art form is far less important to me than my writing as a medium to bring other people enjoyment, entertainment, sometimes tears, and above all a sense of involvement. My job — my goal — is to invite the reader into a world I've created for him where he can meet people (good and bad) who are doing things, accomplishing things, experiencing things. In some ways, it's the same job as a good games master in a role-playing game, in that I'm trying to create a situation which engages and challenges and is hopefully emotionally satisfying to the reader. I love words, and there are passages of which I'm very proud as a writer, but the ultimate purpose is to tell the story.

What that means is that the fans, the readers, are the end objective of what I do, which automatically makes them of great importance to me. I don't agree with some writers who believe that listening to fans is the worst thing a writer can do, because if he starts allowing himself to be guided by what they want, he's going to lose his own voice and that's what attracted them to him and to his work in the first place. Those writers feel an author has to maintain his separation from them if he's going to continue to produce the best work that he can. Now, there's some truth in that. The last thing you want is to hand the steering wheel over to someone who thinks you should make a side trip that's going to distract you from an important journey, I think that a storyteller has to have the confidence that he can maintain his story, going where he believes it needs to go, even if he listens to fans and considers their views, suggestions, and opinions, but it's those views, suggestions, and opinions which tell him how well he's achieving his goal. That's why I think a storyteller should always listen to his fans' views; the important thing is to avoid taking their directions.

Worlds you’ve created are large, rich, with lots of characters. But they also have rich physics, and often detailed if it comes to technical means. Is it hard to keep so high level of plausibility and details, both psychical, if it comes to many characters occurring in your novels, and technical?

I think it was Poul Anderson who said something along the lines of "Perfect consistency is possible only for the Almighty, and a close reading of Scripture will indicate that even He didn't manage it all the time." If Poul didn't actually say it, he should have (or someone should have), because it's true. It is difficult to keep everything straight and to try to make everything plausible to the reader. The key, though, I think is to try to come as close to perfect consistency as you can, even though you know you're not quite going to attain it.

 For example, when you build in technical systems or political structures you need to build in and understand what the limitations are, and then you need to be consistent about observing them. You can't just create a magical new isotope when you discover that you've painted yourself into a literary corner. You have to give your characters limited tool boxes and then require them to solve their problems from the tools they've brought along with them instead of slipping them new ones no one knew anything about. And the same thing is true about characters. There are things a good writer knows a given character simply won't/can't do just as there are certain things a given character will/must do, and you can't suddenly violate a character's limitations just because the plot demands that you do so. There has to be a legitimate reason for anything a character does, even if what he's doing is making a mistake. Smart, capable people have to make smart, capable mistakes, they can't just suddenly wake up one morning and decide to be stupid. For technical systems and background "furniture" (like political and social structures, philosophies and religions, "history," etc.), I think any series writer has to have a tech bible in which all of this stuff is written down and can be consulted in order to keep details straight. I don't think you can do the same thing with characters. Characters you simply have to know, and all the notes in the world won't help you do that.

Did you ever find yourself lost in all the events and details you wrote about in Starfire,  Honorverse and other your books?

My wife Sharon sometimes gently points out to me that I can recall the character names, literary settings, plot details, and outcomes of other people's stories better than I can remember birthdays and anniversary dates. She generally then whacks me over the head for whatever it is I've forgotten this time. J

            There some truth to her charge, but that's probably because this is what I do. I spend more time in front of the computer working in fictional universes than I do going places in my physical universe. In that sense, I'm no different from anyone else because all of us commit more time — more focused time — to whatever it is we do for a living than almost anything else. And if we're professionals, we're supposed to command the skills, the knowledge set, and the details of our profession. That's how I think about the events and the details in my books. I'm supposed to know this stuff, and by and large, I do. Does that mean I never forget a detail? Or that I never inadvertently contradict myself? No, of course it doesn't. I make mistakes from time to time. On at least a couple of occasions, I've misplaced decimal points in thinking about numbers or velocities, and those errors have made it past me, past the copy editor, past the proofreader, and into print. I think when that happens and someone notices, a writer has a responsibility to own up and admit it was an "oopsie." Yet there are also times when a mistake actually becomes an opportunity by forcing you to figure out how to turn it into something that isn't a mistake without violating the parameters you've already established for your universe.

            As I say, I'm supposed to know all of these details, but the only way to be sure I do is to actually write them down somewhere so I can go back and check them. Because most of the mistakes you make aren't going to be because of things you don't remember but because of things you do remember . . . but remember them wrongly.

Aren’t you afraid that somewhere during creation of these long series quantity can take place of quality?

            I think that's something any storyteller has to worry about, especially when he does link the series, and to be honest, there are books, or passages in books, with which I'm less than totally satisfied. Again, I think that's something that's going to be true for most storytellers. One of the authors I most admire is Patricia McKillip. I first encountered her with the Riddle Master of Hed, which led me to one of my all-time favorite trilogies, and I have to say that I've never been able to find a passage in one of her books with which I'd be less than totally satisfied if I were she. They're gorgeous, perfectly fitted together, and polished till they gleam. I love them . . . and I'm not that kind of writer. I've got this story inside me that needs to come out, that's a great big story, that I'm excited and bouncy and shiny-eyed about. Everything that happens in it suggests something else to me that I really, really want to tell you about right now! I do need to switch gears, to move from one universe to another so that when I come back to any given story line it's fresh for me again, and the places where I think quantity has come closest to taking the place of quality have usually occurred when I couldn't get that break between projects in a specific literary universe.


You have few projects going on. But are you planning on creating something new or of writing new book in one of the worlds from older novels?

I've got too many projects going on, actually. It's part of the problem of the kind of storyteller I am. I've always got some other story I need to be telling, and all of my books seem to just naturally spawn sequels. At the moment, I've got at least two series in which I really need to go back to and do additional books that I just can't find the time to write, and I've just (sort of inadvertently) launched yet another new series.

In the Honorverse, I made the decision when I did On Basilisk Station that there would never be an Honor Harrington novel set earlier than that book. The reason for that is that I expected for Honor to grow and become increasingly detailed and developed and I felt there would be a literary "jar "or hiccup if I went back and wrote a novel chronologically earlier than Basilisk Station that had that more detailed and developed Honor in it. That's the main reason that I've used novellas and short stories to cover episodes from Honor's earlier career. That doesn't mean I'll never go back and write novels set earlier in the Honorverse, however. In fact, I've recently completed the first young adult Honorverse novel, which I believe Baen Books will be releasing in October 2011, which is an expansion of the short story/novella "A Beautiful Friendship," and is set about four hundred years before Honor's birth. There's a lot of room in the Honorverse for those sorts of projects because I've had to develop so much back story along the way. The problem, again, is that any new project is going to be a distraction from all of the current projects I haven't finished up yet.


While reading your books it is easy to notice, that honour, honesty, courage and friendship are very important for your heroes. Are there as important for you too?

I'm a historian, a father, and a romantic. Of course those qualities are important to me!

Actually, though, I think all of those qualities or characteristics are subsumed in the one quality I think is the most vital and important element of any truly adult human being: responsibility. We have a responsibility to be honest; to treat other human beings, our world, and ourselves honorably; and to never — ever — betray a friend or a loved one. I believe that very firmly, just as I believe there truly are objective standards of "good" and "evil." I believe that relativism is the mortal enemy of responsible humanity and I believe Edmund Burke was correct when he said that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

I'm a Methodist lay speaker and I also happen to believe deeply in God, which probably helps to explain a lot of the rest of my value system, but I have friends who are agnostics or even atheists who value the same qualities, so I don't think religious faith is the only way to acquire them. I just think it's impossible to have a genuine religious faith without acquiring them. And I think the reason so many people empathize with a character like Honor Harrington is that they value those same qualities and we're told over and over again that they don't really exist. I believe they do really exist, and I think that one of the places we find a way to understand them — and an example to incorporate them into our own lives — is in the sorts of stories that deal with those kinds of choices. I'm a storyteller, not a proselytizer, but I think that the fact that I don't shy away from showing those kinds of choices is one reason I appeal so strongly to the readers I appeal to . . . and the reason that readers who have a more dystopic view of the universe don't read and enjoy my books.

Sometimes books represents its writer’s beliefs and stances. If this is truth for you, then economical liberalism and personal freedoms seems to be very close to your heart. Is this true? Are they, in your opinion, essential for country’s existence?

I think I sort of inadvertently answered a lot of this question above. I think personal freedoms are probably at the core of all of my political and economic beliefs. I think the function of political institutions ought to be to maximize freedoms and opportunities, not to guarantee privileges and entitlements.

Freedom is messy, and it's always going to be accompanied by squabbling, by fighting over questions of public policy and the purpose and function of the authority of the state. And freedom, by its very nature, is the enemy of efficiency in the sense of smooth and orderly functionality. I think that's the reason that virtually every government promptly sets about encroaching upon the personal freedoms of its citizens. Not because government is inherently evil or because the men and women making decisions and regulations are inherently corrupt, but because a government's function is to accomplish certain things as effectively as it can and that means removing obstacles to its effectiveness. And sometimes those obstacles happen to be those irritating, niggling little things like unalienable rights. I think it's essential to remember that rights and freedoms are never granted to you by the state; they can only be guaranteed by the state, and their survival ultimately depends upon their protection from the state. A country or a nation can exist without personal freedom, but in my opinion that country or that nation has no legitimate reason to exist and it — or at least its current system of government — ought to be demolished as quickly as humanly possible.


Religion is also noticeable in your writings. Characters created by you can find help and consolation in religion, but it can also be used in a bad cause. Are you trying to show both aspects of beliefs, good and potentially evil? How important is religion in your life?

As I said above, I'm a Methodist lay speaker, a lay minister, and religion and a belief in God (which aren't always the same thing) are very important to me, to my wife, and to our children. I'm also a historian, however, and while it's my belief that the good in human beings vastly outweighs the evil, any reading of history will show you that any institution, philosophy, belief, or religion can be used for evil as well as good. Indeed, in many ways it's easier to use human beings' good impulses to accomplish evil ends by convincing them that this is what God truly wants or that "the end justifies the means." Bad people don't obligingly label their regimes "The Omnivoracity of Evil," and totalitarian regimes don't announce that the reason for their existence is to exterminate all possible resistance to the personal power of the totalitarians. They cloak their objectives in the stolen and perverted trappings of good rather than riding out boldly in their black armor and proclaiming their true intent where you can see them coming and take steps against them.

Even worse, people can genuinely convince themselves that they can — indeed, that they must — do terrible things because their motives are so good. We must torture the heretics to death so that by the mortification of their bodies they can expiate their sin. We must exterminate the Albigensians because they will lead so many of God's children into disbelief and damnation. We must wipe out the Jewish Bolshevik threat to the volk before it annihilates our children and our culture. We must forcibly relocate the peasants and the ethnic groups, we must wage the cultural revolution, we must kill any apostate who converts from the true religion. The list goes on and on, and however deeply I believe in God, however deeply and sincerely I believe – as I do believe — that religion has done far more good than it has evil, it’s my responsibility precisely because I believe in God and my religion to acknowledge the ways in which it can be used for evil ends. It's my responsibility to stand watch and prevent my religion from doing great harm in God's name but in the service of human prejudice and smallmindedness, and that's something I deliberately try to deal with in my books.

There are various references to the history in your books and history, specifically military and political, seems to be your passion. But which periods of history do you like most and which historical characters?

Oh, my. I like pretty much all history, although my real favorite is obviously naval history. I think for just about any Western naval historian the period between, say, 1600 and the first decade or so of the twentieth century has to be the most exciting and interesting, but I can get just as excited about Roman and Carthaginian quinqueremes or the Battle of Lepanto or the Siege of Malta. I'm fascinated, as I suspect my books indicate, by the evolution of military technology and technique, and in some ways I think military history offers the clearest and cleanest examples of both the heights to which humans can rise and the depths to which they can descend. Yet what most fascinates me about military history is the way in which it defends, confirms, or denies nonmilitary history. I think a strong case can be made for economic or political or social developments having more to do with the advancement of human society, but all of those other advances are either protected and nurtured by military power — the physical defense of that which one holds dear — or threatened and destroyed by it. It's been said that those who do not study history are condemned to repeat it. It's my belief that those who do not study military history and don't (or refuse to) recognize that an effective military is essential are ultimately condemned to discover that they were wrong.


Do you believe, that we are learning from our own history, to not to make the same mistakes twice? Or, on the other hand, that science fiction can predict and help to deal with some of the future’s problems?

I'd like to think we're learning from our own history not to make the same mistakes twice. There are two problems with that, though. First, we're not studying it as a species well enough to learn the lessons. Second, we seem to be very good at figuring out how to make the same mistakes in a different guise.

It's my belief (and I'm willing to admit it could also be called my prejudice) that those who don't study history don't really understand who they themselves are. We tend to think of human existence as a snapshot, a picture frozen and bounded by the horizons we can see from where we stand at a given moment. Instead, history is a movie, and what we can see at any given moment is a single frame in the film. If we haven't seen the frames that came before, we don't know how the story advanced to where it is right now, and that leaves us in an extremely weak position for understanding where it's going to go next.

Yet far worse than that are the people who without studying history at all think they know it. The phrase "everyone knows that" represents the most deadly threat imaginable to rational decision-making, because it's almost certain that if "everyone knows" something, then "everyone" is wrong. The true study of history requires the ability to think critically, to recognize patterns, and to understand that human nature doesn't change however much human technology may. I've always thought of science fiction stories as fulfilling the same function for a technical society that fairytales provided for a pre-technic society. That is, they not only entertain, they also explain, inspire, teach, and warn using the intellectual "furniture" of their audience. I don't see myself as some prophet speaking to the masses, but I think that it's possible even in an entertainment medium to say something worth saying, and if I can encourage someone to look at something in a light which might not have occurred to him otherwise, so much the better.


Obviously, politics are also very important in your works. When I’m reading your books I often think, that many of politicians you’ve created seems to be romantics. I’m thinking about Queen Elisabeth, Eloise Pritchard and so on. They are idealists, they feel strong obligation for guiding their countries and have strong moral sense. Did you create them like that on purpose, perhaps to show how modern politics should look like?

As I said, I'm a romantic.

I think political leaders are human beings, and some of them — the best of them in my admittedly prejudiced opinion — are going to be idealistic responsibility-takers. That doesn't mean they're always going to agree with each other about what ought to be done, and I think that's something we tend to lose track of in the heat and fury of political debate. I think it's important for us to be willing to accept that someone can simply be wrong. That the mere fact that they disagree with us doesn't necessarily make them evil, or dishonest, or self-serving, or unscrupulous. Demonizing those we don't agree with is the best possible way of ensuring that we never learn anything from those we don't agree with.

 I believe that there are good and decent political leaders in most societies and nations. I believe there are also self-serving, ambitious narcissists, and I see effective government in a pluralistic society as a struggle between the two groups in which the narcissists usually have the tactical advantage of not giving a damn about the morality of their tactics but their opponents have the strategic advantage of being able to call upon the voters when it comes time for life-threatening decisions for the state. The real danger comes when the narcissists and the power-seekers find a way to appeal to the self-interest of the governed, which is where our failure to study history comes in. Over and over again, a citizenry succumbs to exactly the same sorts of lies and false promises to which scores of other citizenries have succumbed over the generations.

If you look at my political villains, you'll find they come basically in three flavors. One is the unscrupulous power monger who will do anything for personal power and to protect his personal privilege or advantage. The other is the ideologue who is so bound up in the demands of his ideology that he's prepared to sacrifice everything else to its attainment and doesn't really care — or is literally incapable of telling — if his ideology is actually rational in the first place. And then there's a sort of hybrid of those two forms of villainy in the most dangerous narcissist of all: the one who's managed to convince himself that he supports an ideology or a religion for all the best reasons when in fact he supports it because it gives him an excuse to acquire and wield power.

My political heroes are the converse of my villains, and I sometimes think that makes them seem more idealistic to my readers than they seem to me. At the same time, I think that one reason my characters resonate the way they do with so many of my readers is because they're the kind of political leaders those readers want. That they not only want to have leading them, but the kind of political leaders they want to believe truly exist somewhere.

I just have to ask few questions about Honor’s universe. Currently you are working on few books. Soon a new anthology should be in stores. You are also working on a novel with Stephanie Harrington, and A Rising Thunder. Could you tell something about them?

The Stephanie Harrington novel, A Beautiful Friendship, is an expansion (and in some ways an integrated sequel) of the short story of the same name. Hopefully, it's the beginning of at least a short young adult series set in the Honorverse, although I imagine that eventually there will be "adult" novels about Stephanie as she moves from being an adolescent into a young but mature woman. A Rising Thunder's been turned in, but after discussing it with Toni Weisskopff, who's not just the publisher at Baen Books but who's been my editor there from the very beginning, we're going to be doing some fairly radical revision to it. Actually, what we're going to do is to divide it into two books, which is why the e-arc isn't available from Baen at this time. I've got to finish my current project for Tor before I can go back and work on that one some more.

Are you planning on continuing writing Saganami and Wages of Sin series, just like recently, to fill and show main story from different perspectives?

The "Saganami series" and the Crown of Slaves series (which is how Eric and I think of the Victor Cachat/Anton Zilwicki-centered books) are being interwoven directly into the main story. There's not as clear a delineation between them as some people seem to think, since events are occurring in them which are every bit as much a part of the main story as anything that happens to Honor Harrington herself. The short answer to your question is that I anticipate that there will be quite a few additional books which fall into those two categories, at least in the readers' minds. In my mind, they're all part of the same series at this point, just concentrating on different aspects of the main story because those aspects are so widely separated in space and time that it's difficult to incorporate them all into a single book. That's actually the reason we're dividing Rising Thunder, when it comes down to it. The Honorverse is so big and so complex, and there's so much going on in it, that neat divisions into separate "series" are becoming increasingly difficult.


Do you have any plan, or idea, how many books you have to write to end Honor's story?

I'm really not sure. "Honor's story" is part of a story which extends well beyond her at this point. She's clearly the signature character and the "focusing lens" of the series and of the storyline as a whole, but there are bunches and bunches of things happening. Exactly how many books it's going to take for me to get all of those "happenings" taken care of is more than I'd be prepared to guess at this moment.


Some time ago there were rumours that Honor Harrington will become TV series and computer game. Now it seems that both projects didn’t work or are in stagnation. Are these productions still alive, or maybe there are new ones under construction?

We thought for quite a while that the massive multiplayer online game was going to go, and the people involved in it worked very hard at it. I was only peripherally involved in a lot of what they were doing, and I'm not fully conversant with the problems they encountered. Despite that, most of the existing Honor Harrington movie, television, and computer projects have been terminated, but we have several new possibilities looming on the horizon. Exactly where it's going to go in the end, I don't know, but I have the feeling that eventually something's going to come over that horizon and actually arrive.


One last question. Which one of your books is your favourite?

Can't answer it.

That's sort of like asking a parent which is his favorite child. At any given moment, one of them is going to have really ticked him off, but that doesn't mean that won't be the child who comes and gives him the great big hug later that afternoon or the next day. Which book is a writer's favorite usually depends on the mood he's in that day. In fact, I think it's usually easier for a writer to tell you which of his books he's least satisfied with, rather than the one which is his favorite. I'd have to say that the book I usually recommend to people who have not yet read any of my stuff is Path of the Fury or In Fury Born. I think it's entirely possible that Bahzell Bahnakson is my favorite among my characters, although obviously Honor and he would be pretty much in a dead heat, and I think I could make a case for Oath of Swords being my favorite book, but I'm also inclined to put Off Armageddon Reef into that category, and I have huge soft spots in my writer's heart of hearts for both The Apocalypse Troll and Mutineers' Moon.

But if you come back and ask me next Tuesday, all of the above is subject to change. J

Well, that's all...Thank you for all the answers.

I wish you and your family Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Michal Adamczyk