David Drake has garnered a reputation in the world of science fiction readers as a leader in the military sci-fi genre. But he won’t be penned in by labels. His latest novel, “Monsters of the Earth” (Tor/2013), is the third in his Books of the Elements fantasy series.
The book draws on Drake’s extensive knowledge of Ancient Rome and his love of Latin verse. Of course, if you’d told him early in life that he’d fall in love with the Latin language, he would have called you crazy.
"It's funny. I had two years of Latin in high school,” he said on The State of Things. “And I didn't like it any better than you did."
But when he went off to college, he became lost in the crush of people and felt adrift.
"Everything was completely new, foreign. There was no security in my world anymore,” he said.
He wondered how he could regain some of the comfort he’d felt in the predictability of high school.
"I was going to pieces,” he said. “And I realized that I could not bring back the security of high school in any significant fashion."
But he realized that by focusing on his knowledge of Latin, he could regain a fraction of what he'd lost.
That knowledge has made its way into his work over the years. His latest series is set in a world based on the culture of Ancient Rome, but it is definitely a made-up world.
"Let me emphasize that I'm writing fantasy novels,” he said. “I'm not writing historicals with a fantasy element. And I deliberately don't call the place Rome."
Though his latest book is the third in a series, readers don’t have to be familiar with the first two to read it. That’s a writing habit he developed from his days as a short story writer.
"You could not assume that someone who picked up the July issue of Galaxy would have read the November issue of the previous year," he said.
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