Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Meet Adele Mundy, Badass Space Librarian

DRAKE, David. Some Golden Harbor. NY: Baen Books, 2006.
Cover by Steve Hickman.

For conspiring against the government of Cinnabar, her family was massacred; she is the sole survivor. She's a scholar, a librarian turned Signals Officer who has joined Daniel Leary, a lieutenant in the Republic of Cinnabar Navy (RCN) to battle against treacherous politicians, the Alliance, rebels, and all manner of galactic grief and peril. She is a master of information technology and spy craft. She likes weapons and knows how to use them.

Don't mess with Adele Mundy, sharpshooting librarian in space.

It was just the other day when I rued the exclusion of librarians from science-fiction literature only to learn that yes, in addition to Space Lawyer, there actually is a librarian plying her skills in the cosmos beyond Earth. I was so taken by the revelation, provided by Vic Zoschak, of Tavistock Books, who perpetrated Space Lawyer on me, that I pursued it directly to the source, David Drake, author of the  highly respected RCN series featuring the inter-galactic adventures of Lt. Leary and Signal Officer Mundy, and mercilessly interrogated him.

Booktryst; Why did you choose librarian as an occupation for Adele?

DD: My RCN series is consciously modeled on Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series which pairs a naval officer with a technical specialist who is a crack shot. O'Brian made Maturin a doctor. I wouldn't create so direct a copy, and anyway, I don't have the background to describe a doctor's work usefully.

I did, however, spend quite a lot of time as a book page at the University of Iowa and later at Duke. I love libraries, and I have some knowledge of and enormous respect for librarians - the first and still the best information specialists. It was therefore natural to make Adele a librarian.

Booktryst: Is there something intrinsically sexy about a librarian with martial skills?

DD: I don't think of occupations as being sexy. I've never understood the cachet which some people attach to this occupation or that. In particular I don't understand why people consider being a writer 'special.'

I'm a writer and a darned good craftsman. My dad was a very good electrician, and my dad's father was arguably the best tinsmith in the country. These are all respectable things to be, as is librarian; but they aren't sexy.

Booktryst: You have cruelly destroyed the fantasies of many library patrons with over-active imaginations. Let's get to another key issue. Adele Mundy, space librarian, on e-books: sí­ or no?

DD: The late Jim Baen (who founded Baen Books) was a real leader in electronic publication. For some years now Baen Books earns a great deal of money annually through its electronic publications (though that's still a sidelight of its dead tree operations). Jim was one of my closest friends, and I'm proud that the RCN series has been a feature of Baen's electronic publications from the beginning.

Booktryst: Any chance of spinning off Adele into her own series? I smell chick-lit, grrrl power bonanza! Followed, of course, by film adaptation, Angelina Jolie, and sequels.

DD: Spinning off Adele? Tsk! As in O'Brian creating Stephen Maturin, Pistol-Packing Doctor? Adele and Daniel Leary are halves of a single archetype. I'm certainly not going to split them up.

Booktryst: Alright, then. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, together again after the deadly Mr. and Mrs. Smith, as Daniel Leary and Adele Mundy. Hollywood, are you listening?


Booktryst: I'll take that as "no comment."

DD: I'll throw in a comment on Space Lawyer, which I read a very long time ago. I think you'll find that the concluding portion of Space Lawyer was written for book publication, not for the magazine.

[Nat, author of Space Lawyer] (though he's forgotten today) was a mainstay of Astounding  during the Golden Age and wrote consistently thoughtful material. [Asimov was a fan]. Unfortunately he was at best a pedestrian writer. When I was 14, that didn't bother me; but Space Lawyer is sprightly compared to some of his work.
Best wishes to you and your readers.

And to you, David Drake.

Next time you visit a library, don't mess with that shy, demure reference librarian behind the desk. It could be Adele Mundy, incognito and undercover for a secret mission on Earth, packing a devastating weapon to deal with unruly patrons, rude behavior, and aliens in the rest room. And if you owe late fees, better pay up, buster. Adele takes no guff.

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