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Dave Freer
conducted by Toni Weisskopf
 
May 2005

Writers often have varied resumes, but I think Dave Freer is probably the only writer who can claim his career started in an outhouse. "My career was born in an outhouse. Yes, I mean an outhouse. No, I did not write on the walls.... While I was working as a fisheries scientist on the commercial shark fishery I spent time at sea on a lot very dubious little boats. I picked up amoebic dysentery on one of them, at the time when my oldest son was a few months old. Rather than risk exposing him to this I 'camped' in a prefab building which had little in it except a bathroom. I had a ton of maths-stats to do (that's what fisheries is) so I had my computer there, and a lot of rehydration fluid and a mattress. The fact that I was mildly delirious did not help the stats, but did start me writing. Five days later and much thinner, I had written a 25 thousand word novella, and realized that I could write, and moreover, loved doing so. I had told my English teacher that I wanted to be a writer. He laughed at me. Did it need any more?"

Baen's Bar at the Baen Books website played a part in Freer's evolution as a writer, too. Although Dave asks, "Don't you mean devolution? I was a lofty lit'ry monkey working on a script for Hamlet (typed blindfolded with my feet) before I ventured onto the Bar and was led astray by evil companions. I only got the Internet after I'd sold my first book [The Forlorn, available now on the Baen Free Library]. It was in the youngish Bar (which was a very friendly, fairly small community in these long and far-off days) that the Bear (Eric Flint) and I met and promptly started insulting each other. The rest, as they say, is history (much to the relief of anyone who got caught in the coconut and roadkill crossfire). Eric, of course, had a huge effect on my writing. While I seldom visit any other part of the Bar but Dr Monkey these days [the section devoted to Dave's writing and interests], I'm always there, and it has been where I've met some of my most valuable 'sources' and first readers."

But Flint is not alone in molding the author Freer. "I owe a deep vote of thanks to South African defense force as wonderful teaching tool, if absolutely nothing else. My life seems to have been shaped by a combination of obstinacy and random disasters, from rock climbing to marine biology, all of which shaped my writing. On the writing side Zelazny, Pratchett and EFR (if you have to ask, then it's not worth answering) remain major SF/fantasy influences." [For those who hate puzzles, EFR=Eric Frank Russell.]

For Dave, the best perks of being an SF writer are: "Oh, the money, the fame, the adulation in all the mainstream newspapers, the fawning critics... and being able to use my imagination. In reality, it's probably the most flexible area for that imagination (if not the fame and fortune) available to any intelligent person. It lets me read a lot of fascinating research I would never touch otherwise, and allows me to work at a desk surrounded by my dogs, occasional cats on the keyboard, and strange worlds creeping out of my head to surround me. Does anything else offer that?"

Dave considers "the rogues with attitude" as some of his favorite characters in his own work: "Cair inA Mankind Witch, Benito in This Rough Magic andThe Shadow of the Lion, Bes (and the dragons) in Pyramid Scheme, and (though I am hard-put to choose a favorite here) Fat Fal and Fluff in Rats, Bats & Vats, and the Leewit in The Wizard of Karres."

Blue World by Jack Vance was the first SF Freer ever read. "You know the one about the water-world and the Kraken, where the humans have no resources and are in dire trouble? It's both a problem-solving novel (pitting the intellect against the environment) and a satire (which floated way above my tiny head). I then read L. Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall, which pits 'Mouse' Padway against history (odds on history's side, but Padway has brains, which history is rather short of). Once again problem-solving and satire. I was, I think, about eight. Did it shape me? You tell me." Oh yeah, it did.

Tom Sharpe, author of Indecent Exposure, The Throwback and many more, heads the list of Freer's favorite non-SF authors. "Any man who can have exploding ostriches running wild in the streets of Pietermaritzburg deserves respect. Seriously, I love the way that no sacred cow is anything but a source of prime beef to his quill-sword. He had a gift for showing up the ridiculous."

Second in line is Georgette Heyer, famed for her witty regency romances. Should an SF author be influenced by the softer side? "Yeah. Historical romance. Want to make something of it? I started on these on a wet long-weekend having read everything else in the house. She wrote the best and funniest repartee-dialogue of any contemporary author." Amen.

Finally, Freer lists Gerry Durrell, author of My Family and Other Animals and Birds, Beasts and Other Relatives, possibly for partisan reasons. "His prose is lyrical and he's funny. And he was a zoologist." Those zoologists stick together.

When asked about his writing habits, Freer confesses that he's "a SLOW writer. Therefore I start at about 4 AM in summer and late as the dogs let me sleep in winter. I write until I hit my daily minimum wordcount or (if I'm on a run) until I stop. That's usually late afternoon. I then do at least another hour after supper. I try for a minimum of 2000 words a day. Sometimes I toss them the next day."

If Dave controlled the universe, he'd like to see the development of FTL travel in his lifetime. Failing that, "I'd like to see a 'Slowtrain' habitat built. A space elevator..."

As for going back in history, Dave refuses to be a spectator: "Ask me what incident I'd like to go and participate in (and maybe change) and I've got a list as long as long as the perpendicular of the Gizeh Pyramid, in 9 point print." Monkeys just like to make trouble….

For more information please go to: http://www.davefreer.com/.

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