Dinosaurs & A Dirigible

BOOK: Dinosaurs & A Dirigible
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Dinosaurs & A Dirigible

David Drake

Henry Vickers's job is to keep clients safe from the dinosaurs they're hunting. That's the easy part. The hard part is to keep the clients safe from themselves and each other. Men with enough money to go into the past to hunt the largest land animals of all time are powerful and self-willed. Some make an effort to act like decent human beings, but more are selfish, stupid, sadistic--or all three together. The few women are likely to be worse.

Vickers doesn't expect rich people to understand the dangers of where they are and what they're doing; he doesn't expect them to be competent with the powerful rifles they carry; and he 
particularly
 doesn't expect them to be reasonable. He treats his clients' behavior as he does the rain and the baking heat--the cost of having a life he loves and which he couldn't afford in any other way.

But no matter how detached Vickers tries to be, eventually there are moral questions that he can't ignore. And when Henry Vickers starts to behave like a human being instead of a hunting guide, things get 
really
 dangerous.

And in a complete change of pace
: "Travellers." An airship is crossing the United States in 1897 in search of the weird and the wonderful. The two teenagers aboard know that the airship's captain is a great scientist and inventor--but they don't know how much more he is also.

All five of David Drake's time travel stories collected for the first time.

Baen Books by David Drake

The RCN Series

With the Lightnings

Lt. Leary, Commanding

The Far Side of the Stars

The Way to Glory

Some Golden Harbor

When the Tide Rises

In the Stormy Red Sky

What Distant Deeps

The Road of Danger

The Sea Without a Shore

Hammer’s Slammers

The Tank Lords

Caught in the Crossfire

The Butcher’s Bill

The Sharp End

The Complete Hammer’s Slammers, Vol. 1
(omnibus)

The Complete Hammer’s Slammers, Vol. 2
(omnibus)

The Complete Hammer’s Slammers, Vol. 3
(omnibus)

Independent Novels
and Collections

All the Way to the Gallows

Cross the Stars

Foreign Legions,
ed. by David Drake

Grimmer Than Hell

Into the Hinterlands
(with John Lambshead)

Loose Cannon

Night & Demons

Northworld Trilogy

Patriots

Ranks of Bronze

The Reaches Trilogy

Redliners

Seas of Venus

Starliner

Dinosaurs & A Dirigible

The General Series

Warlord with S.M. Stirling
(omnibus)

Conqueror
with S.M. Stirling (omnibus)

The Chosen
with S.M. Stirling

The Reformer
with S.M. Stirling

The Tyrant
with Eric Flint

Hope Reborn
with S.M. Stirling (omnibus)

Hope Rearmed
with S.M. Stirling (omnibus)

Hope Renewed
with S.M. Stirling (omnibus)

The Heretic
with Tony Daniel

The Savior
with Tony Daniel

The Belisarius Series
with Eric Flint

An Oblique Approach

In the Heart of Darkness

Belisarius I: Thunder Before Dawn
(omnibus)

Destiny’s Shield

Fortune’s Stroke

Belisarius II: Storm at Noontide
(omnibus)

The Tide of Victory

The Dance of Time

Belisarius III: The Flames of Sunset
(omnibus)

Edited by David Drake

The World Turned Upside Down
(with Jim Baen & Eric Flint)

DINOSAURS & A DIRIGIBLE

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 2014 by David Drake. A shorter version of this volume appeared in 1982 as Time Safari.

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

A Baen Book

Baen Publishing Enterprises

P.O. Box 1403

Riverdale,
NY 10471

www.baen.com

ISBN: 978-1-4767-3683-9

Cover art by Tom Kidd

First Baen printing, September 2014

Distributed by Simon & Schuster

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York,
NY 10020

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Drake, David, 1945-

[Novels. Selections]

Dinosaurs & a dirigible / David Drake.

pages cm

Dinsaurs and a dirigible

ISBN 978-1-4767-3683-9 (paperback)

I. Title. II. Title: Dinsaurs and a dirigible.

PS3554.R196A6 2014

813'.54--dc23

2014019714

Printed in the United States of America

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

eISBN: 978-1-62579-312-6

Electronic Version by Baen Books

www.baen.com

DEDICATION:

To Ralph H. Eisaman, MD.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

Among the friends to whom I owe personal depts for help given me on
Dinosaurs & A Dirigable
are: Jim Baen, Bernadette Bosky; Jase Valentine; Karl Wagner, and my wife Jo, who is indeed a friend. They are not responsible for the mistakes, for the questions I didn’t ask and the advice I didn’t take, but bless them all for what they freely offered.

A LOOK INTO THE PAST

1

In the mid-’80s, I got a new editor at Tor and almost immediately handed in
Bridgehead
to her. A throwaway scene in the novel involves a distant world in which a family of creatures much like plant-eating dinosaurs are gamboling.

In good time I got back the manuscript. With it came a long editorial letter which, among other things, directed me to remove that scene. I don’t have the letter any more because in the aftermath—which involved me getting the wonderful Harriet McDougal back as editor—Tom Doherty, Tor’s publisher, suggested that I burn it. I haven’t forgotten the editor’s language after 30 years, though (and I’ll probably be able to quote it on my deathbed): “Dinosaurs are reptiles, and reptiles do not nurture their young.”

She was wrong about reptiles also (some of them
do
nurture their young), but the important point of this statement is that in 1985, an educated (if remarkably arrogant) person could believe that dinosaurs were reptiles and behaved like lizards, not mammals.

2

When Tor published three of the stories in the present collection in 1982 (as
Time Safari
), I wrote an afterword arguing forcefully for the New Dinosaur which the stories describe:warm-blooded, quick-moving, intelligent creatures.
Dinosaurs and a Dirigible
doesn’t include that afterword because there’s no point in it. Nowadays
everybody
knows that dinosaurs were warm-blooded, quick-moving, intelligent creatures. They’ve watched
Jurassic Park
and any number of CGI dinosaur recreations on PBS and The Discovery Channel.

But I had another reason to drop the afterword: it embarrasses me. My (for a brief time) editor on
Bridgehead
isn’t the only person in this story capable of behaving like an arrogant twit.

I’d been fascinated by dinosaurs all my life. When I was five, I read an article in
Junior Natural History Magazine
which told me that Brontosaurus couldn’t walk on land because its joints were too weak to support its weight without water buoying up its body. I read the wonderful Sept 7, 1953, issue of
Life
with a Brontosaurus peering at me from the cover. I read Roy Chapman Andrews’ account of finding a Protoceratops egg clutch over which a sandstorm had buried an Oviraptor, the dinosaur raiding the nest.

I even made a Triceratops out of clay in 1st grade art class. (It wasn’t very good.)

Then in the late ‘70s, new information about dinosaurs reached the general public. Brontosaurs could walk on land just fine, and indeed they would have bobbed like corks in deep water. That head on the specimen from which the
Life
cover was painted was actually from a wholly different species found miles from the Brontosaurus. Worst of all, the Oviraptor was actually protecting its own eggs, not raiding the nest of another species.

Triceratops hadn’t changed much. That was something.

Looking back to 1980, I realize that I was furious at the scientists who had lied to me when I was a kid. I wrote the afterword to
Time Safari
in that mindset. I was unfair, and more important I was wrong.

Nobody lied to me: very learned men were wrong. Perhaps some of them gave the impression of stating the revealed truth like priests, not scientists, but even those fellows were doing the best they could with the information available.

I was angry about a lot of things at the time, principally the Vietnam War (during which people in positions of power
were
definitely lying), and I was transferring that anger onto people who had simply made mistakes. I apologize.

3

Dinosaurs and a Dirigible
contains four time travel stories centered on Henry Vickers, and one—
Travellers
—which is completely different. I sold the first Vickers story,
Time Safari
, to Jim Baen, for the Ace book/magazine
Destinies
.

That novella was intended as a one-off, but Jim almost immediately left Ace to join Tom Doherty’s newly founded Tor Books. He called me and asked if I could do two more novellas in series with that one so that he could bring them out as a book. I wouldn’t have needed much urging to do that even if I hadn’t just quit lawyering to drive a city bus for $4.05/hour.

Before I go any farther, let me say that (fictional) animals are most certainly harmed in the making of these stories. The impetus for the original novella was Sprague deCamp’s groundbreaking
A Gun for a Dinosaur
. I stole
Sprague’s concept of safaris going into the far past to hunt dinosaurs.

(For what it’s worth, Sprague used the same situation in the story
Impractical Joke
, which came out at almost the same time as
A Gun for a Dinosaur
, but in a rival magazine.
Joke
involves interstellar exploration rather than time travel.)

For background I read many, many hunting memoirs. From them I gleaned a piece of information that becomes a common thread in both Sprague’s story and mine, but which I arrived at independently: a safari guide’s biggest problems come from the clients, not the wild animals.

After the film of
Jurassic Park
appeared, Tom Doherty asked me to do a new dinosaur story to replace
Calibration Run
from the original collection so that Tor could republish it under a new title (
Tyrannosaur
). (Tom has had better ideas, and I’ve agreed to better ideas.) I wrote
King Tyrant Lizard
for that use.

The four Vickers stories have never been bound together before the present collection.

4

Travellers
is unique for me. I wrote it (like
Time Safari
) for
Destinies
. The story involves a dirigible crossing America from east to west during the Great 1896 Airship Flap. The Flap was real, in the sense that it was a real hoax by contemporary newspapers to raise circulation.

I use the British “ll” spelling of the title (my spell checker doesn’t like it, nor have copyeditors over the years) for a reason. My first story (
Denkirch
) came out in an Arkham House anthology which Mr Derleth titled
Travellers by Night
. I’ve used double-L spellings ever since.

Nowadays you could call
Travellers
a proto-Steampunk story. I meant it as a love letter to rural America, however. At a time when the world in my head was a very harsh place, I wrote a story which was positive and looked forward to a world which was intrinsically good.

I’m proud of what I created, and I’m still more proud that I was able to do so under those circumstances.

5

Above I’ve discussed the genesis of these stories. That first collection (titled
Time Safari
like the initial novella) has a deeper importance to my career than any book except for my first,
Hammer’s Slammers
. Tom and Jim were pleased with the way I had executed their directions, so (even before the collection came out as one of Tor’s first books) Jim called to offer me a multibook contract. Within a few months I quit driving a bus and became a full-time freelance writer, as I remain to this day.

All because I was a kid who loved dinosaurs.


Dave Drake

david-drake.com

BOOK: Dinosaurs & A Dirigible
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