Shamrokon – my Eurocon Schedule


As some of you know this year Dublin is hosting Eurocon, named Shamrokon it going to be held from the 22rd to 24th of August. I have been invited to join three of the panels which are as follows:


Made In Ireland: Come To Ireland, We Have Tax Breaks

Friday 16:00 – 17:00, C. Ground Floor 1 (Double Tree by Hilton Dublin Burlington Road)

Learn all about Ireland’s tax exemption on income from works of cultural merit, and how this affects this careers of Irish residents.


Self Publishing: Career Progression Post Publishing

Saturday 21:00 – 22:00, E. Room 1/2 (Double Tree by Hilton Dublin Burlington Road)

“Next Steps in Self Publishing”
You’ve written the novel, designed a fantastic cover, and deciphered Amazon and Smashword’s Byzantine upload and tax instructions. Now what? Our panelists will debate the merits of multiple covers, writing in multiple genres, signing with The Big Five, POD, and series vs standalone


Self-publishing: Getting Feedback

Sunday 15:00 – 16:00, C. Ground Floor 1 (Double Tree by Hilton Dublin Burlington Road)

The differences between editing, beta reading & copyediting. Do our creators prefer The Compliment Sandwich or the Red Pen of Doom?



This will be my first time on panels so if you are there, then please be gentle!


PS details might be subject to change.


On a related note I’m also attending Loncon the weekend before – but only as an attendee.


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Ships of the Fleet – Coms Ship Grace Hopper


Since the first satellites broke Earth orbit, one of the inherent complexities of space travel engineers, scientists and later ship crews have wrestled with, is transmission delay. The speed of light is 299 792 458 metres per second, if a transmission is sent from Earth to Mars then, depending on their positions relative to each other, the signal will arrive between four and twenty four minutes later. In the period prior to first contact, when human scientists explored the solar system via robotic probes, this presented a significant engineering challenge. Instructions when issued from the ground, had to be sent well in advance, to allow for them to arrive before the probe needed to take action. If an unforeseen event occurred then the probes were forced to operate on effectively autopilot. Given the limitations of these early machines, this often resulted in the failure of a mission.

In the aftermath of the Contact War, as the first jump capable ships began to venture beyond Earth’s solar system, this limitation suddenly presented a real danger to life. A radio transmission from even the next closest solar system would take years to reach Earth. One means of summoning help was quickly developed – the emergency message drone or EMD; basically a small jump drive with a basic engine, these could be used to dispatch a mayday should a a vessel get into trouble. As a means of providing emergency communication for a ship to summon help it was just about acceptable but of little use for a home base to contact a ship. For Battle Fleet in particular, this represented a significant challenge. When a ship jumped out, it effectively passed beyond the reach of ground side commanders and the only way to call a ship back, would be to send another ship after it. Given the fleet’s extremely limited resources, this presented a significant strategic risk, with the danger that the fleet might, in the event of attack, suffer defeat in detail. In many respects this was a situation not unlike that faced prior to the invention of the telegraph during the nineteenth century. Fortunately there was a potential solution. Among the technologies obtained at First Contact was a Faster-Than-Light (FTL) receiver. Ehile this device was returned to the Aéllr at the end of the Contact War, its very existence proved the possibility of FTL  transmitter.

In the run up to and during the course of the Contact War, humanity had successfully adopted a range of technologies, thus with misplaced confidence the leaders of the FTL transmitter project predicted that the first prototype would be ready for testing with four years – a prediction that would come to haunt them. Unlike jump drives, fusion reactors and the various other technologies Aéllr, no human had even seen an FTL transmitter, much less been able to study one. The FTL receiver that was examined had been about the size of a domestic refrigerator, the researchers mistakenly assumed that the transmitter was of a similar size or slightly larger. This assumption would cost the project ten years and result in the removal of several project leaders. It was only in 2045 when researchers in University of Washington, proved mathematically that the transmitter had to big to function, with a resonance chamber that would needed to be at least twenty meters across that progress began to be made.

While this breakthrough ultimately resulted in the successful development of an FTL transmitter, the size and mass of the equipment – several hundred tonnes – was far from the ‘two refrigerators’ volume requirement that the fleet had originally been told to expect. Not only was it clear that the fleet’s existing ships could in no way incorporate such equipment, but that no conceivable warship could absorb such mass and bulk, without hopelessly compromising all other aspects of its functionality. With this in mind it became clear that the only reasonable course of action was the development of a new category of ship – the Communications or Coms Ship. At this point FTL transmitter technology was still very much in development and a coms ship built at this stage might well be rendered obsolete is a fairly short time frame. However the fleet was eager to gain experience and it was felt that a single ship would allow it to ‘test water’ without committing too deeply.

Grace Hopper Views


Faced with the introduction of the very new and unproven transmitter technology, the decision was taken to use a proven design as the basis for the ship itself. The Antonov SK-10 mid range transport was chosen, The drive section was altered to accept a larger more powerful reactor, which resulted in the reduction of fuel stores and the heat sink being displaced forwards into to the command section. The bridge structure was enlarged to provide a control compartment for the transmitter.  Midships, in what had originally been the cargo bays was subject to massive alterations, with the entire space occupied by the transmitter equipment. The most obvious feature being the transmitter dish mounted on the dorsal hull. Even with such a large volume, the transmitter itself could not be omnidirectional, instead would be mono-directional, which would mean that the transmission would have to be at least roughly ‘aimed’ at intended message recipient.  Since the vessel was a prototype and frequent access into the hull was expected to be needed, several large access panels were added. The reduction in fuel and stores significantly reduced the ship’s effective range but since it was assumed the vessel would either spend much of its time close to base or in the company of other ships, this was seen as acceptable.

Grace Hopper 1


Christened in 2052 Grace Hopper after the pioneering American computer scientist and United States Navy rear admiral, the ship was seen primarily as a prototype and testbed. As such much of her first five years of service was spent engaged in tests and time in dockyard hands being adjusted. Among the discoveries in this period was the fact that the mono-directional transmissions, while acceptable for communicating with planets  was difficult to aim with sufficient accuracy at a ship as the beam’s spread was even narrower than projected. The experience gained from these tests would be fed into the design process for the section generation of Coms Ships.

While not intended as a line vessel, the Grace Hopper would be involved in a number of fleet operations – most notably the search for the transport St Mary and as the coms relay during the second Three Planet’s Talks. Additionally the ship provided communications support during the early days of the settlement of Landfall.

Grace Hopper 2

Grace Hooper was superseded by the Emmy Noether Class and in 2062 was reduced to reserve. While it is understood that a number of commercial and private groups have expressed an interest in obtaining the ship, to date the fleet has not indicated any desire to dispose of her.

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Book Three is coming – update on the Last Charge

Okay, update time.

The Last Charge has now returned to me from my editor. No clangers like the infamous Thurder incident – overlapping names appears to have been my error of choice this time round. Now I have to do another complete read through, just to make sure no problems have wriggled their way in before I start preparing the file. Work has begun on the blurb, with suggestions being bounced off various friends, family and associates. Cover art – still on the to do list.

On the subject of Ships of the Fleet, I’ve rejigged and expanded the histories of the Fortitude and Resolutions to make them line up better. Wrote from scratch the history of the Contact War era battleship Resilient, two never-was designs and I’m now working on the write up for the Titan class. The models for Resilient and the Titans are done. That leaves between now and October, finishing the write up, a couple more basic models for the never-was designs, doing the artwork, pulling the file together. Which will be tough.

On a mildly related note I am now on Goodreads, so feel free to drop in and ask any book related questions that spring to mind.

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Mississippi Incident – Alien Ship Preliminary Tactical Analysis


Please note that this is a preliminary report with two major qualifications.

1) Analysis of the data from Mississippi’s records and debriefing of the command crew is still ongoing at this time.

2) Given the severe system damage sustained by Mississippi in the first strike, combined with the ship’s aging systems, data quality was comparatively low.


On the August 12th the River Class Cruiser Mississippi, while engaged in a survey of the system tentatively identified as A046-026, was fired upon and severely damaged by a starship of previously unknown design. In the exchange of fire that followed, the unknown starship was crippled then self destructed. Mississippi retreated from the system shortly afterwards.

Nameless on approach

While there was initial speculation that the vessel was of Aèllr origin, both the technology and behavior observed, have resulted in this possibility being largely discounted. Until or if evidence to the contra surfaces, it is accepted that this ship is from an unknown and previously un-encountered alien race. While our colleagues in the diplomatic corps are right in pointing out that the apparently aggression of this nameless race could have been due to host of reasons, the lack of any form of communication before firing is troubling and given that A046-026 is positioned within a handful of light years of the colony of Landfall, we can not rule out further encounters. For this reason a tactical analysis of the vessel and appraisal of its strengths and weaknesses is of significant importance.

Nameless on approach 2

Comparative Technological Levels

It is worth reiterating that there is no such thing as a consistent technological level. Based on human experience we tend to assume that alien species will develop technologies in approximately the same order and time frame as humanity. This is an error, as has been demonstrated to a certain extent by the Aèllr, Mhar and Tample. Technological progress is driven by social priorities and resources, therefore no two races will go through all the same steps and indeed, certain steps might be skipped completely.

In the case of the Mississippi Incident, this principal is more pronounced than we have ever before seen. Based on the Mississippi’s readings, this alien ship appears to be a mixture of technological levels, with some systems clearly several steps behind their human contemporaries, while others markedly more advanced. The most interesting of these – and the one most immediately identified in Captain Crowe’s report – was their scanning technology, which demonstrated Faster Than Light feedback.  Not only has this impressive feat been achieved for starship sensor systems, but this system is apparently small and cheap enough to use in a missile guidance system.

The only possible way to achieve FTL scanning that we know of, even in principle, is by gravitational detection. However to detect something as small as a starship by this means is well beyond our understanding. The second advanced system observed was the Faster Than Light transmitter. While this appeared to operate on the same first principals as our own, its pulses were much fasted than our own one point five pulses per second. Even more impressive is the apparent size of this transmitter. Currently the smallest human FTL transmitter is the American Jefferson Three in Texas and the resonance chamber alone of this device is nearly as wide than the  entire alien vessel.  While we are aware that the Aèllr are capable of building FTL transmitters smaller than our own, it is only by perhaps ten to fifteen percent. So to have fitted such a transmitter into a vessel, suggests that the device was tiny compared to our own.  It has been suggested that if such transmitters are a commonplace for this race, this may explain why there was no response to Mississippi’s attempts to communicate; quite simply radio transmissions may no longer be a method of communication used. However Mississippi detected no FTL transmissions prior to the attack so this suggestion appears very speculative.

In contrast to the scanning and communications technology, their propulsion systems are far less impressive. The image below is from the opening stages of the gun range engagement. Range at this point was under two hundred and fifty kilometres – at such close quarters even Mississippi’s old Mark III’s cannons could penetrate the main belt of a Titan class battleship.


To the left and behind the alien ship we can see the plasma bolt that struck and went through the ship. It is estimated that at the moment of this frame, the bolt was seven hundred kilometres beyond the alien ship and as you can see from the close up, the bolt has retained coherency. Even at point blank, had it struck any form of armour, then the bolt would be close to final decay. If the vessel’s engines had a comparable output to those of Mississippi, then we would expect the alien ship to have demonstrated a much greater level of acceleration and manoeuvrability. As it was, the vessel only approximately matched Mississippi and the reading from her passive sensors indicate fairly low output throughout the engagement. Therefore we believe their engine technology is significantly inferior to our own.

On the subject jump drive we have nothing to offer. Since the vessel was not seen jumping in and none of the planets of the A046-026 system gave any indication of ever having supported life, we must presume the alien ship is jump capable. The ‘horns’ that can be seen on the forward hull on either side of the forward launcher, with a matching pair on the ventral hull are assumed to be the housings for the jump drive nodes.


The Mississippi Incident Engagement

The following diagrams are not to scale and obviously only approximately indicate the movements of the two vessels in three dimensions. The engagement itself can be broken down into two clear phases. In the first, uncertain as to what he was facing and in line with the standard rules of engagement, Captain Crowe attempted to break contact when faced  by a vessel of unknown origin. As he was inside a planetary Mass Shadow, he was unable to jump away and Mississippi was unable to out-accelerate the approaching contact. He then attempted to open a dialogue, it was only as the contact accelerated in that it was identified as a missile. By this stage decoy and evasion were no longer possible and the missile struck the port side cargo pod. Mississippi sustained heavy damage from this strike with numerous personnel casualties. In his report Captain Crowe has stated an opinion that a direct hit against the primary hull, would have destroyed Mississippi outright. Damage control efforts were still under way when a second missile was detected, this weapon was successfully spoofed by the jettisoning of Mississippi’s starboard side cargo pod. With his ship seriously damaged and no further contacts detected, Captain Crowe chose to power down and let Mississippi drift clear of the planetary Mass Shadow.

Miss Incid 1

The second phase saw direct contact between Mississippi and the alien ship. Approaching from the same direction as the two missiles, the objective of the vessel was clearly to investigate the wreckage of the two cargo pods, which we assume they mistook for the wreck of Mississippi herself. Captain Crowe held his fire until certain his ship had been detected, at this point the two ships engaged at a range of less than four hundred kilometres. The alien attempts to fire a third cap-ship missile at close range, however this weapon was destroyed as it launched. The alien then attempted to cross Mississippi’s stern to target the cruiser’s engines while Mississippi engaged with guns. Mississippi outmanoeuvred the alien vessel and hit it with a single long lance missile; this and the secondary detonation of the alien’s fuel supply crippled the ship. A FTL transmission was detected from the alien before the ship self destructed. Mississippi withdrew from the system.

Miss Incid 2

Tactical Comparison

The first and most obvious feature of this vessel is its complete reliance on missile armament. At no point in the engagement with Mississippi, did the vessel use any form of gun armament. While certain Tample star nations have fielded missile cruisers and we have currently have in service missile strikeboats, a vessel of such size without even a point defence grid is unprecedented. While in theory a missile could have much greater effective range than any direct fire weapon, in practice against a target capable of manoeuvring, the lags introduced by light-speed transmissions have always made them unacceptably inaccurate at ranges beyond half a light second. The alien FTL sensor systems appear to solve this problem, with the large missile which we are dubbing Cap-ship missiles, able to react to the target long before it could receive light-speed transmissions. Exactly what range this system is capable of firing out to is pure conjecture, based on Mississippi’s reading it is certainly capable of engaging a target from beyond plasma cannon and possibly heavy plasma cannon range. If so, this largely offsets the disadvantages of their lack of protection.

Nameless Systems

While the target of a cap-ship missile would have several minutes at least in which to engage, we can not overstate how difficult this would be. The frontal aspect of the missile – the one the target will see – was less than two metres square. Plasma cannon while capable of ranging out to one hundred thousand kilometres, are at such range only accurate to twenty metres. Only once the missiles have closed to twenty thousand kilometres, do cannons stand any serious chance of hitting. At this range, plasma cannons will only have time to complete two full firing cycles. While this is likely enough against single missiles, against multiple in-bounds it is likely a target ship would be overwhelmed.

This capacity for long range fire only appears to extends to the Cap-ship missiles, the smaller missiles, used at close range do not appear to have this capacity. Indeed these smaller missiles appear to fulfil a dual purpose. During the second phase of the engagement they were used in a close range anti-ship capacity and in a point defence role when attempting to intercept Mississippi’s Long Lance missile. In neither role did they appear to excel, being somewhat heavy for the point defence role and too light for effective anti-ship against an armoured target – in essence the classic Jack-of-all-Trades problem.

The close range encounter with Mississippi was clearly not the one the alien ship was optimised for. What we can draw from this is that any further clashes with this nameless race will be very dependent on range. Assuming all of their ships follow the same design philosophy, they will avoid at all costs close range encounters, instead long range fire should be expected.

In event of a second or large scale engagement, our most important defensive asset would be the Luna Class Flak Cruisers. With their rapid fire flak guns, a single Luna could stand off a significant number of these alien ships. While on the offensive our carrier based fighters would be our attacking vessels as these would have the acceleration to close on the alien.

Damaged Nameless


This alien ship is unlike anything we have previously encountered, built around an entirely different philosophy and in the event of combat, it would require a completely different approach.  Currently the tactical implications are being examined as a matter of urgency by the Tactical Analysis section. However to what extent this nameless race presents a threat can not be answered on the basis of this one encounter. No matter how impressive this one vessel, it was only one ship. Questions of this race’s economic and military strength, along with their physical location need to be answered as a part of the wider appraisal. For the moment however believe that this race presents only a moderate threat and our forces stationed around Landfall are adequate, subject obviously to review should better information become available.

The Mississippi Incident is available to read. Click this way for the sample on Amazon.

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Update on The Last Charge – Book Three of the Nameless War and other news

The Last Charge

Okay, so where are we up to?

Despite a dose of food poisoning this week saw the hand over of the manuscript for The Last Charge get handed over to my editor so unless he picks up something that has gone horribly, horribly sideways, the October release date is still looking good. In terms of tasks to be completed that leaves me with:

The Blurb (already wip)

The Cover Art (not started but I have some ideas)

Reading the manuscript again once I get it back. (I don’t remember writing this sex scene)

Preparing the file for the various electronic platforms. (Why won’t you work you stupid piece *************)

Preparing the file for the paperback.  (Why won’t you work you even stupider piece *************)

Preparing for the release.

But like I said – looking good.


Other News

As regular visitors are likely aware I have had an ongoing blog project call Ships of the Fleet. Up to now it has been done mostly for my own amusement but I am planning to formalize and expand the material into a short ship guide which I intend to release as an ebook along side Book Three. I don’t know whether there is a market for this kind of material so this project is me testing the water. The subject of the book will be the ‘Battleships of the Fleet’. So far I already have one new model done up with another about a quarter done and the write up has begun. I’ll need to do two more models and go back and look at the three which have already been displayed to freshen them up a bit*.

This does mean that bits of Ships of the Fleet might be disappearing in the future so enjoy them now. However, this is a side project, which means of secondary importance. If time starts getting short, then Book Three comes first.

Okay that’s the new round up complete.




* I recently and finally got round to obtaining a new PC. In the past I would decide a model was done when it got to a level of complexity that caused my old computer to basically stop and have a little cry every time I asked it to do anything.

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Whiff of something stale

Something from the big wide web:

MGM, Warner Bros Reboot ‘Stargate’ By MIKE FLEMING JR | First it was Cliffhanger, and now MGM and Warner Bros. announced they are teaming with Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin to create a re-imagined trilogy based on the sci-fi hit Stargate, one of the biggest titles in the MGM library. Emmerich, who directed and co-wrote the original 1994 film with Devlin, is on board to direct this one, with Devlin producing. Those two are already hard at work on a new version of Independence Day at Fox.


Write MGM’s Gary Barber called Emmerich and Devlin “world-class creators of the original Stargate,” and said they will “bring their reinvigorated vision of this wildly popular property to audiences of multiple generations.” gateSaid Emmerich and Devlin: “The Stargate universe is one that we missed terribly, and we cannot wait to get going on imagining new adventures and situations for the trilogy. This story is very close to our hearts, and getting the chance to revisit this world is in many ways like a long lost child that has found its way back home.” MGM’s Jonathan Glickman will oversee it with Warner Bros’ Greg Silverman. Warners will distribute with MGM handling some international territories. Back in its day, Stargate set the record for highest October gross and did near $200 million in global ticket sales. It went on to have a very successful run as a syndicated TV series.

The rest can be found here

So yet another reboot that is about as welcome as a fart in a spacesuit. The thing is I enjoyed Stargate in all its forms (well nearly all, I’ve heard there was a cartoon never seen it though) but not uncritically. The original movie had a certain cheesy charm but when you get right down to it, the TV series really became greater than its sire. But that said, SG1 overstayed its welcome by at least two seasons and while Atlantis was okay it was never more than that. The franchise tried to go in a new direction with Universe, which had a go at being SG’s DS9 but was choked off by the fan boys who were apparently looking for the franchise’s version of Voyager.

My point is Stargate had had a damn good run. But the word is had, as in past tense. I want something new. There have been a few fresh idea in film and television recent years but they’ve been cancelled or written off as a failures before I even heard of half of them. So I have no enthusiasm to see resources being poured into a project like this, because while this thing is probably two or three years from seeing the light of day, from where I’m standing it already smells stale.

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This is just a shout for my friend Jan van Embden who has published his first book: Berezina. A historical novel set around  of Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow. Apparently my self publishing success encouraged him to try his hand, which is nice – normally I get counted as a warning to others :-)


On Amazon UK and Amazon.COM

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