‘Watt O’Hugh’ Author Steven S. Drachman: ‘Why I Believe In Dragons’


Illustration by the author’s daughter, Julianne Chin-Drachman

Enjoy this exclusive essay from Steven S. Drachman, author of The Memoirs of Watt O’Hugh: Books 1 & 2: The Ghosts of Watt O’Hugh & Watt O’Hugh Underground, available now from Chickadee Prince Books.

Special – and equally exclusive – illustration by the author’s daughter, Julianne Chin-Drachman!


For the past few years, I’ve been writing a series of books about a gunslinger named Watt O’Hugh and his quixotic battle against a seemingly beautiful secessionist movement called Sidonia. But beyond the rip-snorting derring do, careful readers will catch an obsession with dragons, and an apparently sincere quasi-scientific insistence that they really existed.

This is the basic argument: All across the globe – in Israel, Asia and Europe – denizens of civilizations with no connection to one another, and thus no shared legends, reported dragon sightings. How could such a thing have happened if dragons weren’t  real, a lost link between the dinosaurs and the birds, featherless flying reptiles, full of anger and love?

But there’s more to it than dispassionate science and history.

If dragons existed, then I take my name from an early band of ancestors, fearsome German/Jewish drachenmanner, or dragon-slayers.

But if dragons never existed, then, as my great-grandfather speculated in his autobiography, I take my name from an early bumbler who wandered from Greece to Galicia and tried to spend Greek coin (drachmas) at the local inn, causing much hilarity and an insulting nickname (Drachma-mann) that to this day my family has had to wear like a dunce cap.

I prefer the former theory, although I recognize that the latter is the more likely.

Otherwise – Drachma-mann! – I must hear the thousand-year-old taunts even now.

What the villains in my book – the Sidonian secessionists – offer their followers is mathematical certitude, a warm security blanket that strips of us our sloppy humanity and makes us slaves. We all have delusions about ourselves and the world and the way things should be, and Sidonians use them to trap us.

Is it indeed harmless to believe passionately in lies that make us happy?:

I might win the lottery; global warming is probably nothing; I was put on this planet for a purpose; there could be fairies in the garden; everything happens for a reason; I’m just a cog in the big corporate machine for which I work and therefore blameless for its murders and crimes; what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger; change is good; the boss respects me a lot; there is some sense to Life; there is Hope after all.

Foolish myth-making is a terrible sin, a kind of giving up, refusing to solve our problems and humanity’s problems, but casting loose our foolish myths is beyond human capacity, which is why disasters have befallen us, and why we are doomed.

Therefore, for all sorts of reasons, not least of them my empathy for that Greek man whose genes and social awkwardness I have inherited, who proclaimed himself an outsider when he showed a drachma at a Galician inn, whose first name is forgotten but who became a laughingstock forever, it makes me happy to believe instead that he never existed, and that dragons were real. One story is heroic, the other pathetic. I choose to believe the heroic one.

More about Watt O’Hugh:

The Memoirs of Watt O’Hugh trilogy by Steven S. Drachman is a Western/Science Fiction mash up that will take you on a magical trip through Wild West. The second in the series, WATT O’HUGH UNDERGROUND (May 2014, Chickadee Prince Press), will be released for the first time, along with a reissue of his debut, THE GHOSTS OF WATT O’HUGH, both featuring stunning covers by renowned illustrator Mark Matcho.

WATT O’HUGH UNDERGROUND is a rollicking tale of a man determined to avenge his lost love and do nothing less than rescue the emerging American frontier. His longtime adversaries are the fantastically menacing and mysterious Western settlers whose idea of manifest destiny is nothing less than the destruction of rugged individualism itself. From his first journey across space, time, and the American desert to the train robbery he engineers to save his country from its deadliest enemies, right through his showdown in a dystopian and darkly magical mountain metropolis, Watt O’Hugh is a new kind of American frontiersman. He is humorous but heroic, possessed of an ability to roam Time with ease and confront shape shifters with aplomb, and full of hard won and homespun wisdom as well as the capacity for love, romance, and awe. Even in those pages that follow the exploits of other characters—ranging from a Chinese poet sent to San Francisco on an inexplicable mission by the empress, to J.P. Morgan himself—the voice and spirit of Watt O’Hugh suffuse every word.

Harold Goldberg, author of All Your Base Are Belong to Us says the series is “A triumph of genre bending, a fine, literary mashup of cowboy adventure and science fiction magic.” The Boston Phoenix says “Drachman revives the genre.”

WATT O’HUGH UNDERGROUND is a smart and enjoyable romp where you savor every word and want to return to the first chapter the moment you reach the last page. Steven Drachman has created a unique American hero who will captivate readers of Westerns, lovers of fantasy, and everyone who wants to save the world.