There’s been a long tradition in the field of honoring outstanding authors with an anthology. Sometimes the anthology comes after they’ve passed on, but usually the anthology is published while the authors are still with us. Such is the case with David Drake. He’s a giant whose works have changed the genre, and for the better I might add. It’s good to see this tribute to him, especially as he’s still with us to appreciate it.
Onward, Drake! contains both original fiction as well as essays in honor of Drake. There’s a pretty wide range of stuff here. Although David Drake built his reputation with his military science fiction, particularly the Hammer’s Slammers series, he’s written in a wide variety of subgenres: epic fantasy, dark fantasy and horror, space opera, and humor. As if that weren’t enough, he’s also been an editor and historian of the field with a great appreciation of the pulp writers. I’ve enjoyed pretty much everything I’ve read by him
The highlights of the anthology are two new stories by Drake himself.
The first is “The Great Wizard, Cabbage”. It’s a humorous fantasy set in the days of the Roman Empire. This is an era on which Drake is an expert, and his knowledge comes through as he relates the misadventures of Cabbage, an apprentice who is more than anyone suspects, including himself.
The concluding story is the first new Hammer’s Slammers story in over a decade, “Save What You Can”. A sergeant does what she can to save innocent lives when a small group of Slammers are forced to hold off an enemy force until the rest of the Slammers can land and provide backup.
But that’s not the only Slammer related story. Larry Correia shows what happens when you decide not to hire the Slammers, and the other side does, putting you on “The Losing Side.” Barry N. Malzberg tells a tale from Hammer’s perspective in “Swimming From Joe”.
When a ruler commissions an ode to himself, the results aren’t what he expected in “A Flat Affect” by Eric Flint.
Hank Davis explains “The Trouble with Telepaths”, one of my favorite stories in the collection not written by Drake or Correia.
Dave himself is a character in stories by Sarah Van Name (“The Village of Yesteryear”) and Sarah A. Hoyt (A Cog in time”).
Tony Daniel gives us a dark Southern fantasy tribute with “Hell Hounds”.
There are other stories (the ones I’ve mentioned are the ones that stuck with me the most), but some pieces that are nonfiction tributes and memories. All of the stories have an afterward in which the author explains how David Drake has impacted his/her career. Many of the contributors speak of Drake’s generosity and mentoring. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting David Drake at three (maybe four) conventions, all over a decade or more ago. He was always accessible and friendly, and I envy the those who are able to spend time with him on a regular basis. Time and geography have cut back on my convention attendance in the last few years, but if David Drake is at a nearby (< 6 hr drive), I’m going to make every effort to attend.
David Drake is a giant in the field, worthy of taking up the mantle of Heinlein, Asimov, and Herbert, someone who has left his mark on the field with both his fiction and his presence. Onward, Drake! is a worthy tribute.