David Wesley Hill is an award-winning fiction writer with more than thirty stories published in the U.S. and internationally. In 1997 he was presented with the Golden Bridge award at the International Conference on Science Fiction in Beijing, and in 1999 he placed second in the Writers of the Future contest. In 2007, 2009, and 2011 Mr. Hill was awarded residencies at the Blue Mountain Center, a writers and artists retreat in the Adirondacks. He studied under Joseph Heller and Jack Cady and received a Masters in creative writing from the City University of New York, as well as the De Jur Award, the school's highest literary honor.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in New York City and raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I attended the Bronx High School of Science and then the City College of New York, where I was accepted into an accelerated creative writing program, which allowed me to take undergraduate and graduate courses simultaneously and to graduate with both degrees in four years. I also had the good fortune to study under such fine writers as Joseph Heller and Jack Cady.
After college I worked in publishing for several years and then entered the hospitality field, eventually becoming an executive chef for such hotels as Hilton, Radisson, and Inter-Continental, mostly in southern cities although once I had an assignment in Abidjan, the Ivory Coast. Eventually, however, I hung up my apron and became first a consultant for a major outplacement firm and later a website designer and programmer.
In the early nineties I began publishing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories on a regular basis in magazines and anthologies. In 1998 I was a second-place winner in the Writers of Future contest and in 1997 I was honored with the Golden Bridge Award in Beijing, China, where I have a good number of readers. Twice, in 1977 and in 2007, I was invited to speak at the International Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy in Chengdu, Sichuan.
Why did you decide to write about Sir Francis Drake?
In 1998 I was a winner of the Writers of the Future Contest, which was created by L. Ron Hubbard, who was a science fiction writer before he founded the religion of Scientology. Each year winners of the contest are invited to Los Angeles for a black-tie awards ceremony and a week-long writing workshop conducted by a professional science fiction writer. Hubbard believed in research. Thus one morning we were let loose in the aisles of the LA Library to browse the shelves in search of inspiration. I was mildly interested in pirates and began reading a facsimile edition of The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake.
This was not written by Drake himself but published by a nephew thirty years after Drake’s death in an effort to keep alive Drake’s reputation. While thumbing through the book, I came across an interesting passage:
On an island off the coast of Patagonia, Drake charged one of his crew with treason and mutiny. Forty men were chosen as jurors and a trial was held. The accused, Thomas Doughty, was found guilty. Drake gave Doughty three options.
"Whether you would take," he asked Doughty, "to be executed in this island? Or to be set a land on the main? Or to return into England, there to answer for your deeds before the lords of her majesty's council?"
To which Doughty replied: "Albeit I have yielded in my heart to entertain so great a sin as whereof now I am condemned, I have a care to die a Christian man . . . If I should be set a land among infidels, how should I be able to maintain this assurance? . . . And if I should return into England, I must first have a ship, and men to conduct it . . . and who would accompany me, in so bad a message? . . . Further, the very shame of the return would be as death, or more grievous if it were possible, because I would be so long a dying, and die too often. I profess with all my heart that I do embrace the first branch of your offer, desiring only this favor, that you and I might receive the holy communion again together before my death, and that I might not die, other than a gentleman's death."
Drake obliged and cut off Doughty’s head. Then he held it up by the hair and said, “Lo, here be the end of traitors.”
Upon reading this, I said to myself, “This is utter mendacity.” So I started researching the real story of what had happened on that bleak island (Drake called it the “Island of Truth and Justice” but the crew had another name for it: “The Island of Blood”). Eventually, I succeeded—at least, to my own satisfaction. My first inclination was to write a non-fiction book about the Doughty affair. I am, however, a fiction writer, so I decided to tell the tale in novel form. I am also writing a series of short stories and essays about aspects of the circumnavigation.
"The Mermaids of the Darian Coast" is a short story that takes place during the 1577-1580 circumnavigation of the world by Francis Drake. It is a companion piece to the author's critically acclaimed novel, At Drake's Command.