It must be Italy week! In the mail today are my copies of Ossa della Terra -- in English, Bones of the Earth.
I spent roughly a year researching that novel, interviewing scientists, going to conferences, traveling to view specific fossils. By the end of that year, I could sit on any conversation between paleontologists and understand every word they had to say. I couldn't contribute to that conversation, mined you. But I could follow it.
More than that, whenever I finished a chapter I ran it past Bob Walters, the dinosaur reconstruction artist, and some time later he would return it to me with an insultingly thick list of corrections. I would incorporate them into the chapter and then run it past Ralph Chapman, then at the Smithsonian. Who would return an equally thick list of corrections to be made.
At the time of publication, Bones of the Earth was as accurate as any dinosaur novel ever written.
That happy state lasted for most of a year before subsequent discoveries began invalidating parts of the novel.
But, my God, what a lot of fun that book was to research.
And sad news . . .
I learned recently that William H. Patterson, Jr., died this April 22. Patterson wrote the authorized biography of Robert H. Heinlein, published in two parts as Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, Vol. 1 (1907-1948): Learning Curve (2011), and Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, Vol. 2: The Man Who Learned Better, which is forthcoming.
I did not know Patterson very well -- a few pleasant conversations, and that's pretty much it. But I did get to watch from the sidelines, a little, as his massive (and massively titled) magnum opus was created. The fight over what was to be included and what was not was prolonged and many-sided, and I can't pretend to be well informed enough about it to give you a recap. Suffice it to say, the biography was a lot of work. Some of it caused by Heinlein himself, who put a great deal of effort into pruning his paper paper trail, in order to hide parts of his past which I rather suspect would only have made us like him the more.
But while he did not live to see the second volume published, Patterson did get to clutch the first and to see it nominated for a Hugo Award. He was a great admirer of RAH, and I know it meant a lot to him to finish the project and to see it acclaimed.
You can read the Locus Online notice here.