A note on the passing of David Drake, from Baen Publisher Toni Weisskopf:
Dave Drake was my friend, and my colleague, for more than three decades. He passed away peacefully this weekend, on Sunday, in fact. If he were here, I’d be tempted to tell him that he took that whole “day of rest” thing a little too far. . . . He was appreciative of gallows humor; we published two volumes of his humorous stories at Baen starting with All the Way to the Gallows. Of course, that wasn’t what he was best known for. The modern subgenre of military science fiction accreted around the core of Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers stories, those that Jim Baen first published in Galaxy magazine, and then at Ace, with an introduction by Jerry Pournelle. Jim continued to publish Dave everywhere he went: first Ace, then Tor, then Baen. The two of them made a great team.
I enjoyed everything Dave wrote, from his chatty reports on foreign travels, to his thoughtful Christmas cards. Still, I had my favorites among his literary works. The standalone novel Starliner was one of them, pure adventure science fiction and as light and carefree as Dave ever got. Redliners, another; the quintessential volume of military SF, and Dave in a very different mode. If you want to read one book to get a feel for his work, this is it. I loved the RCN series, buddy stories loosely inspired by Jim Baen’s favorite Napoleonic naval novels by Patrick O’Brien, written after Redliners, and thus after some demons had been, if not laid to rest, at least come to terms with. His Old Nathan fantasy stories, so evocative of the place he’d come to live, and inspired by his friend Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John stories. The Lord of the Isles series with the great brother and sister team of Cashel and Ilna. His two Belisarius-inspired series with both S.M. Stirling and Eric Flint (and later Tony Daniel). The Lacey SF stories. The Vettius Roman fantasy stories. From his start writing horror and dark fantasy short stories, to the last far-future Arthurian novels of The Spark, The Storm and The Serpent, he remained a fascinating storyteller.
He was an incredibly talented writer, and game for anything. He considered himself a craftsman, and consistently downplayed his talents and contributions, but they were many and his works will last—they already have. But not the least of his contributions to the field was his generosity to his fellow writers—and editors, like me--through collaborations, short stories in anthologies, and time spent sharing his knowledge of the field. And he always delivered.
Dave was a collector and fan of pulp magazines, and he helped keep the pulps alive not only with his own small press with his friend Karl Edward Wagner, Carcosa, but also through his advocacy of such stories with Jim Baen. So, too, Rudyard Kipling, which resulted in two Kipling-centric volumes. And he translated Latin for fun (for examples of which, see his website: https://david-drake.com/).
He was a man of honor, and sometimes that made him prickly. But he was also decent and kind down to his bones, and you will see many, many examples of this in the testimonies pouring forth on social media. But I am very glad that his good friend Mark Van Name made sure that he understood he was appreciated before he died when he put together the festschrift Onward, Drake! https://www.baen.com/onward-drake.html. He appeared many times on the Baen Free Radio Hour podcast, as an interviewee, and even reading poetry, and we’ll do a roundtable retrospective of his career in January.
More can and will undoubtedly be written about Dave, but I’ll close this short appreciation of him and his life with words he often used to end telephone conversations: Go do good things!