Who is Eric?

Hi, I’m Eric Flint, a writer of science fiction and fantasy. My “official” writing career began with the publication in 1993 of a short story entitled “Entropy, and the Strangler.” That story won first place in the Winter 1992 Writers of the Future contest, which was founded by L. Ron Hubbard. The coordinator of the contest in 1992 was Dave Wolverton, and the panel of judges consisted of Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Algys Budrys. The story was published in the 1993 anthology, which the contest puts out on an annual basis. However, I’ve been writing off and on most of my life. But this was my first sale, and led me to the point where I am now a full-time author. “Entropy, and the Strangler” was a small piece of a major fantasy series which I’ve been working on since 1969, some of the books in collaboration with a friend of mine by the name of Richard Roach. I didn’t really buckle down and start writing seriously, however, until 1992. By then I was 45 years old, and realized that if I was ever going to write seriously, I’d better get cracking.

By early 1993, Richard and I had finished one volume in this fantasy series, a novel entitled Forward the Mage, and I’d written a large part of the novel which would eventually become titled The Philosophical Strangler (which was published by Baen Books in May, 2001). A rewritten version of “Entropy, and the Strangler” now serves as the Prologue to that novel.

The universe in which The Philosophical Strangler and Forward the Mage are set is something which Richard and I, perhaps for lack of a better term, simply call “Joe’s World.” For better or worse, the novels (of which there are at least five either written or partially written) don’t fit all that neatly within the normal parameters of the fantasy genre. As I soon discovered when I started piling up rejection slips…

At that point, I realized I’d do better to concentrate, at least for a while, on writing what you might call more “straightforward” science fiction or fantasy. So, toward the end of 1993, I wrote the novel Mother of Demons. That novel was eventually bought by Baen Books and was my first published novel, appearing in September of 1993.

Although I started Mother of Demons mainly for the crude practical purpose of getting established as an author, I soon discovered that I enjoyed writing science fiction stories as much as I did comic fantasy. So when Jim Baen asked me if I’d like to collaborate with David Drake on a series of alternate history/military SF novels based on the historical figure of Belisarius, I readily agreed.

I spent most of 1997, 1998, and a good chunk of 1999 writing the first four books in the Belisarius series (An Oblique Approach, In the Heart of Darkness, Destiny’s Shield and Fortune’s Stroke). Looking back on it, I think of that period as my “apprenticeship” as a writer. As I’ll discuss in more detail in the “Frequently Asked Questions” of this web page, once it gets set up, collaborations vary from one set of authors to another. My collaborations with David Drake take a simple form: He develops the story and the plot; I write ‘em. But what Dave also does is work with me closely throughout the writing, and, over that period of three years (and still to this day) has served me in the same way that a master craftsman trains an apprentice. Dave and I write very differently, in many ways. But as time went on I found myself absorbing and internalizing from Dave what I think of as the craftsmanship of being an author: such things as plotting, handling viewpoints, direct vs. indirect discourse, etc. Between Dave and Jim Baen and Baen’s executive editor Toni Weisskopf, I went through as good a training school as anyone could ask for.

By early 1999, I felt I was ready to tackle another solo novel again, and so I sent in the proposal for what became the novel 1632 to Baen Books. Jim bought it immediately, and I wrote the novel in the summer of 1999. 1632 came out in February of 2000 and has since sold very well. Well enough, in fact, that what I had originally intended to be a stand-alone novel (and does work as such) has now become a burgeoning series. Later this year, I will be writing two sequels to the book — entitled 1633 and 1634 – the first of them in collaboration with David Weber. And there will probably be others coming after that, as well as at least one spin-off alternate history entitled 1781.

In the meantime, in the course of various chats and arguments in Baen’s Bar, I had run across a South African author by the name of Dave Freer, who had recently published his first novel The Forlorn through Baen Books. (It appeared in September of 1999.) In the course of an email correspondence, Dave and I became friends and decided that we would enjoy collaborating together. The first product of that collaboration was the novel Rats, Bats & Vats, which was published in September of 2000. Our second collaboration, Pyramid Scheme, will be coming out in October of this year.

That collaboration, in turn, led to a three-way collaboration between Dave and myself and Mercedes (“Misty”) Lackey. The three of us are working on a four-volume fantasy/alternate history series (“Heirs of Alexandria”), the first volume of which is entitled The Shadow of the Lion and is nearing completion.

My — pardon me if I pat myself on the back for a moment — patient and systematic approach to becoming a writer also eventually paid off in terms of my comic fantasies series. Baen Books bought The Philosophical Strangler and it will be published this spring. Then, some time later, I signed a contract for another four volumes in the Joe’s World series. Two of those volumes — Forward the Mage and Sword on Canvas – I’m writing in collaboration with my friend Richard. (Forward the Mage is finished but needs a rewrite, which I’m working on right now; Sword on Canvas is about half-written at the moment.) The other two I will be writing as solo novels.

I’ve also written a few shorter pieces designed for various anthologies. One of them, a short novel entitled “From the Highlands,”is coming out in March 2001 as part of the third anthology of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, Changer of Worlds. Another, a novella set in David Drake’s Ranks of Bronze universe, is coming out in June in Dave’s new anthology Foreign Legions.

In addition to my own writing, I’ve also been working as an editor for the past couple of years, bringing back into print what I consider the best works of some of the great writers in science fiction’s past. In collaboration with Guy Gordon, I’ve been editing the major re-issue which Baen is producing of the writings of James H. Schmitz. The first three volumes of that re-issue are now in print — Telzey Amberdon, TnT: Telzey and Trigger Together and Trigger & Friends – and there are at least three more in the works. Those are The Hub: Dangerous Territory, which will complete all of Schmitz’s Hub stories; a re-issue of the four Agent of Vega stories along with seven other of Schmitz’s stories; and a re-issue of his novel The Witches of Karres.

Recently, I’ve begun editing a major reissue of the writings of Keith Laumer, of which at least three volumes will be produced by Baen Books. One of the volumes will consist of Retief stories, the other two will consist of other writings by Laumer which I think are among his best stories.

Beyond that, I’m under contract for a number of novels, some of them solos and some of them collaborations. In short, I’m busy. Too busy, I sometimes think — but then, when I grumble to my friend Dave Drake about it, he laughs and reminds me of the most fundamental piece of wisdom for an author: There are only two states of existence for a freelance fiction writer — too much work, or too little. Which would you prefer?

Well… when you put it that way…

I’ve also recently become involved in a project called Read Assist, as a result of my stance on the future of electronic publishing. You can read my opinions on this topic by going to www.baen.com and clicking on “Introducing the Baen Free Library.” This has led to the formation of a group of Barflies (science fiction readers who “hang out” at Baen’s Bar) who are helping a disabled science fiction reader by the name of Jimmy to stay connected to life. Jimmy can’t even hold a book in order to read. Check out the website at www.ReadAssist.org for the latest information.

I suppose I should include some of my personal history.

I was born in southern California in 1947, and then spent five years (from the ages of five to ten) living in France because of my father’s business. As a teenager, I lived a good part of the time in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, not too far from the city of Fresno.

I finished high school in Los Angeles and eventually completed my bachelor’s degree at UCLA, graduating in 1968 summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. (Which was undoubtedly the high point of my respectability in modern society. From there… well, you’ll see.)

I then spent three years at UCLA working toward a Ph.D. in history, my specialization being the history of southern Africa in the 18th and early 19th centuries. My very first publication actually dates from that period. I wrote an article with the suitably academic title of “Trade and Politics in Barotseland During the Kololo Period,” which was published in the Journal of African History in 1970 (Volume XI:1). A perhaps arcane little piece of my history — but, oddly enough, I wound up using episodes from the history of the southern Bantu in the early 19th century as the model for various parts of Mother of Demons. I’ve always suspected that the old saw “waste not, want not” was first coined by a freelance writer (or, more likely, a bard — same thing, different era).

It was also during that period, from the fall of 1969 through the summer of 1970, that I started writing the Joe’s World series.

By the summer of 1971, I decided to leave the academic world. The reason, in a nutshell, was that after years of being politically active (mainly in the civil rights movement and the anti-Vietnam war movement) I had become a socialist. And the truth is that I didn’t have much use — still don’t — for academic socialists. It seemed to me then — still does — that a socialist political activist belongs on the shop floors of American industry and in its union halls, not in the ivory tower.

So I packed up my bags and went to work as a longshoreman and then a truck driver, working mainly out of union hiring halls. By 1974, needing more stable employment, I became a machinist’s apprentice and wound up spending most of the next quarter of a century working as a machinist. At various times, however, I also worked as a meatpacker, auto forge worker, glassblower — quite a few things. During most of those years I was a member of the Socialist Workers Party, and, as is generally true of members of that organization — whose traditions go back to the footloose Wobblies — I kicked around the country a lot. At various times I lived and worked and was politically active in California, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, West Virginia and Alabama. (I ran for Birmingham City Council when I lived in Alabama back in 1979.) (No, I didn’t win the election.)

By 1992, to bring this little story back to its origins, I decided it was time to forgo my political activity and try my hand at writing. After more than 25 years as a political activist, I figured I’d paid my dues and I could in good conscience spend the rest of my life trying to see if I could succeed at what at been my original daydream as a young man — write science fiction and fantasy.

And then… so far, so good. We’ll see what comes next.

Today, I live in the industrial center called “Northwest Indiana,” just across the state line from Chicago. We moved here from Chicago because my wife Lucille worked in one of the area’s large steel mills. Like myself, Lu was a political activist. When she retired from political activity, a short time after I did, she became a licensed clinical social worker and remains active in that profession today.

As of the summer of 1999, I’ve been making my living as a full time writer and was able to quit my factory job. My daughter Elizabeth and her husband Donald are both high school teachers for the Chicago public school system and live not far from us. Lu and I now have two grand-children, Zachary and Lucy.

It’s an odd world. Between my creeping age — not much in the way of gray hair but I need glasses now — grandfatherly status, and what seems to be considerable success at the (comparatively) reputable trade of writing science fiction and fantasy, it seems that the social respectability which I cheerfully pitched overboard thirty years ago may be returning to haunt me. On the other hand… One of my socialist mentors as a young man was a tough, canny old machinist named Morris Chertov. Who, till the day he died in his seventies, always kept his tool box. “You never know, Eric, when the bastards will make you go back to work.” It seemed a good philosophy of life to me then, and it still does. So my tool box is sitting in the basement, just in case.

And I think I’ll stop here. While I’m still more or less ahead.

Eric Flint (February 2012)

30 Responses to Who is Eric?

  1. guy Williams says:

    Your books are great. I have all the 1632 series.
    I may be missing 2 of the gazzettes. I can not wait for the baltic
    war to come out. Is their a way to buy a signed copy from you?
    So many books but none signed by you. It is just not right. I need
    to fix that.

    Thank you kind sir,
    Guy Williams

  2. Michael Gale says:

    Hello Eric (or his loyal minions).
    I just read “Books: The Opaque Market”. I am a walking example of the value
    of Baen’s library. I am a Honor Harrington fan and a computer geek. The CD
    in the back of one of the hardbacks sent me to baen.com and websubscriptions.
    Baen’s free library introduced me to John Ringo via “A Hymn …” and you via 1632.
    I now own several of each of your books in hardback and all of those series via
    websubscriptions. Not only that but now part of my selection process for choosing
    new authors, my small attempt at piercing the opacity, is I first look to Baen,
    then if someone else catches my eye I look to see if they or their publisher
    also supports online sales. If for no other reason than the fact that I can
    carry more books in a couple of 1GB memory cards than I can carry in my 40 foot
    school bus/RV. Handy if I should ever run into an Assiti shard. :)
    I hope to meet you at Archon/NSFWC where I’ll be running a couple of D&D games.
    I’ll be one of the people trying to figure out how to get some of my favorite authors
    to sign digital editions. :)

    Thank you for your work.
    Michael

  3. NewAgeOfPower says:

    I have purchased 1634: The Baltic War on Thursday. I have to say, this is incredibly well written, ‘realistic’, coherent, and imaginative.

    Well Done!

    James

    P.S. I find the notion of marrying off a 7 year old highly disturbing, even in the 17th century.

    • Eric Flint says:

      As disturbing as it may be, it was a reality of the time. Age, relational status — those all got pretty short shrift when dynastic considerations came into play. To give an example that has already figured prominently in the series (mostly in 1634: THE BAVARIAN CRISIS), we had the Austrian arch-duchess Maria Anna escape Maximilian and marry Dom Fernando. To put it another way, she fled an uncle in order to marry a cousin. But in real history, she did marry her uncle Maximilian and they had two children together.

      I have to include such things at least on occasion or the realism of the series will start getting pretty strained.

  4. In most cases a product’s rating went down, expanding the range between highest and lowest rated.Unlike Kaspersky, Symantec provides Norton users with little explanation of its features or settings, either in the configuration settings or on its technical support section. Also we don’t like Norton’s dependency on Internet Explorer to explain Help items or services provided by Symantec (windows pop up in IE even when Firefox is your default browser), or that fee-based services have once again crept into the technical support section. Having improved a lot
    last year in Symantec’s flagship antivirus product, it makes sense we’d see more modest enhancements for this year’s Norton AntiVirus 2008. While Norton
    AntiVirus.

  5. Kirby says:

    Hi,
    I’ve read all the 163x books. When is a new one coming out and what will it be called? Will you be the main author? I like all of them.
    Sincerely,
    Tim Kirby

  6. DS Baker says:

    Mr Flint,

    As a former IBEW LU-357 Inside Journeyman Wireman and part time Organizer, I would like to thank you for your post script at the end of 1632. It is so very nice to see “working class” Americans portrayed as the quality human beings that did so much to help build our nation. Even more importantly to me,-That they are intelligent well thought out individuals and not money grubbing neanderthals, that operate in an excursionist work environment.
    I have been meaning to tell you for quite some time that I love the whole Ring of Fire series. Often times, I feel like I am reading a really entertaining primer on the Thirty Years War. It allows a great romp through history while at the same time subtly throwing back the argument that, in these trying times America should become as you described it-Festung America.
    It is in our acceptance and inclusion that has made the United States a great country to live in. I hope that your readers will remember that as they play in your literary playground.
    All my best!
    DS Baker

  7. I always prefer to use Kasperky over Avast or McAfee. Kaspersky is much better in detecting new viruses and it does not consume too much resources on your dektop PC…~

  8. Klaus says:

    Dear Eric,

    how about some snippets from DWs ‘A Rising Thunder’.
    I’m starving.

  9. Bret Hooper says:

    @6 DS Baker: As another ex-IBEWer (Local 910, Watertown, N.Y.) I heartily second your comment. (I’m ex- because I got into computer programming, and preferred working in an office–heated in winter & cooled in summer–and besides, the work was more fun).

  10. George says:

    http://www.ericflint.net/forum

    is giving a 404 error, so that forums button is broken

  11. He Eric! What about the Trail of Glory?! We need to see this continued! It’s the most profound of all your books from a political POV…unless your “tears along the Mohawk” take this up…

    David Walters

    • Eric Flint says:

      In reply to David:

      Yes, there will be more books in the Trail of Glory series. See my recent post under “Forthcoming” (in the replies section, not the main body) for a more details.

  12. Bret Hooper says:

    Eric: You are missing a bet: why doesn’t clicking on any of the nine book covers on your masthead link to an offer to sell a copy? (not to me; I already have, and have read, all of them, and can honestly recommend every one highly!)

  13. Bob Walters says:

    I love your work and I love military science fiction. (I also like fantasy). However, most writers of Military SF (some of which are your collaborators) are somewhat to the right Attila the Hun. How do deal with this – especially when they use names that make fun of famous liberal icon or take the names of right wing idiots and glorify them?

  14. Adriandowle says:

    I’ve just finished reading john keegans’s book “A history of Warfare” and thought that there is a wonderful opportunity for you to explore alternate history here for grantville. The opportunity lies in exploring the concept of armies, uniforms and a police state and the opposing physcology of the transplants and locals, as Keegan says “accepting police is a form of coercion” and “uniforms represent the surrender of freedom”. Warrior attitudes must play a role in any organized group and as a union member (teamster) I see plenty of 21st century warriors. Captain general gars has I think a lot of learning to do!

  15. Jane Josefson says:

    I just found this ‘site’ and want to thank you for the ‘new world’ you have created in the 1632 series. I like the premise of a small chunk of America sent back in time to the middle of Germany in the midst of the Thirty Years War and their collective decision to ‘eat or be eaten’ and start the Revolution early. It demonstrates — in a literary example — how ‘ordinary’ people can do extraordinary things and how much useful information and talented people may be found in a small town.

    I tell people about your series quite frequently — directing them to the ‘on-line’ site for 1632 to get started ‘for free’. And as a Lutheran in the left-wing of the LCMS in Minnesota (where there are as many Scandinavian ‘cultural genes’ as German ones — and sometimes more) I have been ‘tickled pink’ at the ‘theological’ and the ‘cultural’ snippets included in the stories.

    Looking forward to 1636: the Devil’s Opera!

  16. Tom Smith says:

    I have enjoyed your work for many years. Please tell your publisher that I miss getting books from Baen. I won’t pay 10 bucks for a ebook when I can wait a couple of months and get a used paperback for a few dollars.
    I don’t like cutting the author out of the loop, but why does Amazon charge 9.99 for Baen ebooks, when most everybody else’s (wife gets lots of Paranormal Romance) is 7 or under?

    I put this on your site, so you would actually see it.
    Tom Smith

  17. Eric Flint says:

    I don’t know why Amazon does what they do. They set up a two-tiered system, where a new book’s Kindle edition costs $9.99. After a while, they drop the price to $6.83.

    This is not something I have any control over.

  18. Rose Young says:

    What area of WV did you live in while traveling the country? What area inspired 1632 Ring of Fire series? Thank you.

  19. Hal Freeman says:

    Thanks for literally days of reading pleasure. I’ve read everything you have written, co-written or edited on the Baen website, including all the GGs and enjoyed them all. I haunt the Baen website eagerly anticipating new reading treats. It was your free library that got me hooked and I even dipped my toe into Baen’s bar until the right-wing bombast convinced me that you can’t discuss anything with people who already know everything. But that’s a minor irritant. I consider it a very lucky day when I discovered the Baen website and especially your writings. Best wishes and on a purely selfish note, stay healthy, won’t you? I really want to read more and more and more. Thanks from one of the “buncha slavedrivers.”

  20. naturally just like your web site nevertheless, you want to implement phone punctuational upon quite a few of your respective articles. Some of them will be filled together with transliteration complications we in finding the item extremely worrisome to share with the facts however I’m going to surely come back yet again.

  21. Brian Pearson says:

    I recently (just a tad “late”…) encountered ‘1632’. For me, it was like ‘Lord Kalvan Of Otherwhen’ on ‘Roids! Just a super, super read! I’ll have to get the ball rolling and get my mitts on ‘1633’…soonest! I’ve been foolin’ around with writing a SF-Horror novel for a while now, but, after reading your book and those of Lois McMaster Bujold, my lack of basic writing skills is SO painfully evident! I’ve been reading SF ever since they let me check the old Gnome Press volumes of the Lensmen series out of our public library when I was a kid back in the ’50s, but maybe I’d better stick with learning invasive species ecology! Cheers, Brian Pearson

    • Vikingted says:

      @Brian, I have a special place in my heart for H. Beam Piper. Similarly, I have enjoyed the 1632 series immensely. Space Viking, Cosmic Computer, and Little Fuzzy were wonderful books. I have nearly all the printed 163X books, loved them all.

  22. Rob says:

    Could you recommend a few sources (books, etc) where I can learn more about Socialism, and Socialist Activism?

  23. Murray says:

    Hi Eric,

    Your link to Dave Freer’s site appears to be broken.

    Murray

  24. Margo Ryor says:

    Just discovered 1632 and am already hip deep in planning stories – which these days seems to be my usual response to a book I like.

    The afterword of ‘1632’ gave me a bit of a shock as I too attended Sierra Joint Union High School. I lived near Auberry but I think it must be the same school as I can’t find another with that name. Looking back I realize it was a very comprehensive and well equipped school – my father taught television there. I also remember how the school and the football team were pretty much the social center of the area. Of course this was in the mid-seventies so no overlap with your time there, Mr. Flint.

  25. Eric Flint says:

    Yes, it’s the same school.

  26. Im following the 1632 series since the first book and there was always one question for me. “Why did he locate the starting point of the story near my hometown Rudolstadt?”
    It’s a beautiful little residence city in a wonderful landscape but most of the Germans didn’t know that it exists. How did a guy living in America find such a historically irrelevant place in the middle of Germany? The most important thing that was ever done here was Friedrich Ebert signing the weimar constitution in Schwarzburg.

  27. Bing.Com says:

    I really like reading through a post that will make people think.
    Also, many thanks for allowing me to comment!

    My weblog – Bing.Com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>