Pay attention to the man behind the curtain

Okay, so at the start of the month the final book of the Nameless War Trilogy hit the digital shelves and since then I’ve been pretty quiet here. I’m sure publicity types would say this is exactly when I should be trying the drum up every ounce of publicity but after ten years of effort and six months of frantic effort my brain was fried and I needed to step after from the keyboard. Since then I’ve been engaging in a bit of DIY, gardening, miniature painting and general re-engagement with planet Earth.

While I’ve been doing that though I’ve been thinking about what my next writing project should be, or to be more precise, what my next three should be.

First off there is going to be a second Ships of the Fleet book. I’m not sure on a time frame but provisionally Spring of next year. Subject is going to be the early cruisers of the fleet, so the likes of Hood and the rest of Geriatrics.  This is mostly because it will be easier to establish a consistent look if I start from the beginning.

Number two a stand a lone science fiction story, not related to the Battle Fleet setting. It was something I started as part of a writing group but had to set to one side when time started to press. Whether it will be a novel or novella, time will tell.

The third item which definitely in the slot marked ‘longer term planing’ is a return to the Battle Fleet setting and that is the one which I’m still pondering on. The question is forward or back?

To go forwards meaning going into the post Nameless War period. Beyond a few idle notions on ship design and probably about a postcard’s worth of rough ideas I haven’t got a lot to work with. Not necessarily a bad thing at this stage, but from experience I know that I need a starting point and where I’m finishing; the the stuff in the middle, that I can work out as I go a long.

The other alternative is backwards and that means the Contact War.  Quite a while back I talked about my lost book, the one that fell foul of a hard drive failure, the one I was sure I was never going to go back to. Like the forward option next to nothing is currently written down. However there is a lot of the history of the Contact War rattling around in my brain, not just background and world building but younger versions of some of the main characters from the Nameless War and the moments that shaped them. Also when I started writing the text for the first of the Ships of the Fleet books I found myself starting to fill in some of the gaps.

There is however one glaring problem – The Contact War would fall firmly into the category of prequel and – to put it mildly – prequels don’t have a great track record.

You don't say

You don’t say

The prequel as a concept has some pretty glaring problems built in. With the end point effectively known then the writer’s options are considerably limited, particularly in terms of physical danger (something close to my writing heart). It is hard to get any dramatic tension going, it doesn’t matter how big the bus the writer has gleefully thrown the character under is, if the reader knows that character X was still around thirty years later. There is also the question of fine details and avoiding inconsistencies. Details that were handwaved before now have to be filled it and that might be problematic. The earlier work might have had a throw away line about two characters having know each since a given time or event, so now you are going have have to make sure that actually happens. All of which means a prequel has to jump a lot more hurdles to be considered ‘good’

So as I say pondering is being done.

Whatever direction I do go in the important thing is that it widen and enrich the setting. As said when announced the release date of the Last Charge I am proud of my work and anything that gets attached to it be it sequels, prequels or attachments must also be something I’m proud of because if I’m not proud of it, then why bother that all?

ahem...

ahem…

Well yes apart from that.

Until next time.

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Right… now what?

Okay, second attempt at writing this entry after accidently kicking the plug out of the computer – twice.

I haven’t been very active on the blog front of late; this is because over the last six weeks I have been busy, very, very busy. This busy-ness has come in the form of attending Loncon, making my panelist debut at Shamrokon, taking on new duties in the day job and of course doing final preparation for Book Three of the Nameless War – The Last Charge, which goes live tomorrow morning – in fact the paperback is already available. That last point I really didn’t think I was going to achieve on time, but I guess practice does make perfect.

Tomorrow morning the book will hit the digital shelves, the six hundred odd people who have pre-ordered will receive their copy and I – at risk of sounding over dramatic – will finish what has over the last ten years, become a fairly major part of my life. So I suppose the question becomes what do I do now, now that I have completed my side of the bargain and finished the series?

Well I can tell you one thing I am NOT going do: that is follow the suggestion of one friend who has put forward the idea that I should write trilogy in four parts. No, NO, NO! I am not Douglas Adams.

I will continue write. Writing is and remains a pass time I enjoy (the money angle doesn’t hurt either), I enjoy the process of getting the collection ideas down and linking them into a coherent whole. I enjoy the creation of my characters, I enjoy building the worlds they inhabit. I enjoy self-publishing with the challenges and opportunities it brings.

I have ideas for the future; readers of this blog will be familiar with my Ships of the Fleet project, its future depends on how the first one is received. There is also a long parked side project which I have begun to look at again and perhaps longer run the Battle Fleet universe has more tales in it.

When it comes to the immediate future one thing is for sure though. I’m taking October off and booking a holiday – Malta looks nice.

See you.

Oh PS, for anyone who hasn’t yet read The Nameless War, on the 1st October to celebrate the arrival of Book Three is it going on sale.

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Volume One of Ships of the Fleet now available for pre-order

I am please to announce that my often mentioned side project Ships of the Fleet – Battleships is now avaliable for pre-order on Amazon.

Cover SotF Vol 1 Battleships BLOG

In the forty years since First Contact, humanity has gone from a species confined to a single world, to one that has expanded across the stars. Along side this march, has been the battleship.

This illustrated guide traces the rise and development of the battleship, through years of the Contact War to the present day – covering the shifting technological, strategic and political factors which have influenced the development of these vessels. This fascinating study is an indispensable guide for any student of starship design and fans of the Nameless War series.

Available on Amazon.com and Amazon.UK

This book covers

Resilient (Contact War)

Fortitude

Resolution Class

G2 Class Battlecruiser

Titan Class

Warspite Class

The people have just had a sample sent out to enjoy, the entries for Fortitude and Warspite are going to remain available here to enjoy.

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Ships of the Fleet – Warspite Class

Warspite Class Battleship
Profile WarspiteBackground
The completion of the Titan class and declaration that the fleet would be pegged at a ratio of one for two against the Aèllr defence fleet, resulted in a break in battleship production, although design work continued. While this was viewed as wasteful by some commentators, the fleet felt that it was necessary to both retain key personnel and keep abreast of technical and tactical developments. This work resulted in a number of designs but the lack of government authorisation meant that these remained purely paper projects.

The modernisation of Fortitude, with emphasis placed on acceleration, marked the beginning of the fleet’s interest in a fast battleship. The likely decommissioning of Fortitude in the early 2060s offered an opportunity to replace her with a ship that retained her best features, while capable of standing in the main battle line. Building a single battleship to an entirely new design seemed uneconomic and initially it was thought more likely that the fleet would have to settle for an improved design – the Titan class.

The Aèllr’s announcement that they intended to build five of the Gqrru class (largely as a response to Fortitude’s possible role as a heavy raider) changed the calculations. With the mothballing of Fortitude, there was now the opportunity to build a full class of three ships, while remaining within the required ratios.
warspite beauty shotDesign
The armament and broad layout of the Titans was regarded as an acceptable starting point. Indeed, it was felt that to significantly upgrade the weapons package would risk restarting an arms race with the Aèllr, with such a course of action likely to result in the block obsolescence of fleet’s existing battleships. Beyond this there was significant divergence from the earlier class.

The completion of Baden Base and its fixed defences meant that the large amount of fuel and stores carried by the Titans were no longer viewed as essential. This led to the abandonment of the outer case with shuttle bays once again positioned external to the main hull.

Propulsion was to be provided by the McDonald Douglas WRS4 Bearcat engines, which were a development from the failed Wildcats. These engines had suffered a particularly torturous development cycle and questions were asked whether the fleet was again risking finding itself with a ship slower than originally planned. Although these engines had successfully completed extensive trials on board the fleet’s test ship Fusionia III, it is a reflection of prevailing concerns that the decision was made to fit them to the Akagi, second of the Yorktown class carriers, as a further test. The success of the engines in service laid these concerns to rest. To achieve the necessary level of thrust, six rather than four would be needed. Four were to be double-ended, providing both acceleration and deceleration thrust, while the other two would be half-engines providing acceleration only.

Protection would gain from developments in civil engineering. The advanced composites developed to form the tether for the space elevator programme could be adapted to serve as armour protection. The improvement of protective performance was such that although the mass of the armour on a Warspite would be only eighty-seven percent of that carried on the Titans, the level of protection would be slightly enhanced.
Warspite sideWarspite Front and rearWarspite topService
At time of writing only Warspite has entered service. She has successfully completed her acceptance trials and it is expected she will be fully worked up in time for the fleet’s annual manoeuvres around Dryad. The remaining members of the class were due to be named Goeben and Resilient, after the World War One battlecruiser and the fleet’s first battleship respectively. However this led accusations of an excessively Anglo/European slant to the fleet’s naming policies. For this reason the fleet has recently announced that these ships will instead be named Yavuz Sultan Selim and Mikasa. The former is due to enter service in 2068, while work on the latter has not yet begun.
Warspite deployed
Conclusion
As the Warspite class has only just entered service, few meaningful conclusions can yet be made. Certainly the class is significantly different from the Titans – a demonstration for students of ship design that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ design. Instead designers face a series of altering, often conflicting, requirements and must seek the best compromise between them.
What is certain is that barring a major paradigm shift, the battleship will remain the dominant space combat unit for the foreseeable future. The precise layout however of any future battleship design will be shaped both by the technologies available and perceived threats they will face.

Addendum
The recent encounter between the cruiser Mississippi and an unknown alien ship is a reminder that we cannot be certain what form future threats will take. The alien ship is understood to have used missile armament exclusively and fired from ranges well in excess of even heavy plasma cannon range. It is understood that the fleet is currently examining the records of the clash and this may feed into design of the second and third ships of the class. No details are however available at time of writing.

See Ships of the Fleet Vol 1 on Amazon.COM and Amazon.UK for more

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Ships of the Fleet Fortitude

Fortitude Class Battleship
Profile fortitudeBackground
The end of the Contact War saw an inevitable drop in the tempo of starship building as the exhausted but victorious Battle Fleet paused to take stock. By necessity, the first generation of human warships had been hastily designed and built. Within their limitations they had performed well, but equally there had been glaring flaws. These mostly manifested themselves in the form of poor fuel efficiency and reliability, as well as excessive heat build-up, which in turn limited jump range. All of these problems stemmed from a common source – humanity’s incomplete understanding of the advanced space faring technology it had obtained. The fleet’s first and at that point only battleship the Resilient, was beyond the point of economic repair and with the pressures of time and military necessity removed, there seemed no reason to seek a replacement for her. The fleet wanted time to mature the core technologies the next generation of ships would rely on in smaller cheaper vessels, before embarking on another major construction project.
In the decade following the war, the role of the battleship and whether it even had one, was the subject of an at times ill-tempered debate within Battle Fleet. Three competing schools of thought formed, all of which cited aspects of Resilient’s short life as evidence in support of their views.

The first envisioned the battleship as the primary assault ship, shielding the smaller cruisers during the approach before pinning down enemy heavy units in close combat. The second argued for their deployment as defensive units, much as Resilient had been originally conceived, best kept close to Earth and fixed installations, where they could sacrifice range and habitability for combat capacity – in essence a semi-mobile fortress, drawing fire away from the cruisers. The final school saw battleships as expensive and unnecessary luxuries that reduced the number of all-important cruisers the fleet could field.

What the three schools did have in common was the belief that the battleship was of secondary importance to the cruiser and also that its role extended no further than the edge of Earth’s solar system. With such divided counsel it is scarcely surprising that the fleet opted to build no battleships at all. It was only in 2042 with the failed invasion of Dryad by the Tample star nation of Rizr, that clarity and urgency was brought to the question.

While defeat of the invasion finally put to rest lingering suggestions that Battle Fleet was an organisation that had outlived its intended purpose, fleet commanders were uncomfortably aware of how close they had come to defeat. The fleet had correctly estimated that clash between humanity and the Rizr would pit quality against quantity. With this in mind, tactical planning emphasised using speed and manoeuvrability to gain advantage. However, tactical conditions had forced most of the Battle Fleet units to stand their ground and engage in a straight up fight. The brand new River Class cruiser Amazon had taken significant damage holding off the Tample and but for the efforts of the aging raiding cruiser Onslaught, would likely have been overwhelmed. The Tample star nations weren’t the only threat. The Aèllr Confederacy’s Defence Fleet, after a decade of muddled thinking, had arrested its slow decline and was starting a major new shipbuilding programme. Not only was something more powerful than a cruiser needed, but a vessel that could operate beyond Earth’s solar system. To this end Battle Fleet requested funding for the construction of a class of three battleships. In 2042 authorisation was granted for two.
Fortitude beauty shot
Design
Unlike Resilient over a decade earlier, Fortitude would not be limited to cruiser dimensions. Larger dockyards were now available and the fleet was determined to build to the limits of those docks to achieve a better and more rounded design. After exploring a number of alternatives, the design team’s first offerings followed approximately the same layout used in the fleet’s post-war cruisers, with the main armament in four turrets, with the rear pair raised so it could to superfire. Unlike the cruisers, these turrets would each mount three guns, which would grant the capacity to bring all twelve guns to bear across a wide arc. Fuel and stores would be sufficient to reach Dryad without refuelling. Propulsion would come from four of the brand new Rolls Royce Double Zeus engines, which promised a level of acceleration that would actually exceed most contemporary cruisers. Finally, the greater dimensions provided space for enhanced command and control facilities, which would allow the ship to serve as a command vessel.
While fleet commanders were broadly impressed, it was felt that a gun armament only fifty percent heavier than the Continental Class Cruisers that were also under design was inadequate and might see the ship quickly rendered obsolete. Quad turrets and a third pair of turrets mounted on the flanks were examined and rejected. Instead, the design saw the return of sponson weapon mounts for the first time since the Contact War. This gave the ship a total gun armament of sixteen plasma cannons, up to fourteen of which would be able to fire into the broadside. In addition, the ship would have four missile launchers in fixed mounts. Armour would be substantial, not only in terms of thickness but also in the percentage of the ship’s volume that would be protected. It was calculated that the main armoured belt would be immune to plasma cannon fire beyond forty thousand kilometres. With design accepted, construction began in 2044.
Fortitude was approximately ninety percent complete, on schedule and – rather uniquely for a government contract – on budget, when fleet intelligence dropped a bombshell. By means that remain classified, reading had been obtained from the commissioning tests of the Confederacy’s Rqwe class battleship, Avar. Intelligence sources had been puzzled by the fact that despite being of markedly larger than Fortitude, these newest Aèllr capital ships mounted only eight guns. Data obtained showed that while still plasma based, these weapons were more destructive per shot, with longer range. Dubbed heavy plasma cannons, these weapons effectively rendered Fortitude obsolete before she had even entered service.
Work on the ship was suspended for nearly a year as the fleet undertook a crash programme to develop its own heavy plasma cannons. However, it soon became apparent that these weapons would be too big to fit into Fortitude’s turrets. To enlarge these, the barbettes they rested upon would have had to be widened, which in turn would have meant virtually rebuilding the ship. The fleet reluctantly concluded that to modify the ship to accept the new weapons would be cost prohibitive and politically damaging. Therefore the ship would be completed as originally designed. The second ship of the class however was still at the preliminary stages of construction and ultimately this vessel would be completed as the first of the Resolution class battleships.
Fortitude sideFortitude front and backFortitude topService
While unquestionably outmoded by the time she entered service, Fortitude was by a wide margin still the most powerful human starship yet built. Upon commissioning she was immediately stationed at Dryad as flagship for the newly formed Second Fleet. It is widely believed that her presence during this period was the single largest factor in dissuading the Tample star nation of Rizr from making a second attempt to seize the system. While Fortitude never engaged Tample ships in combat, between shows of strength and goodwill tours, she became a regular sight among the star nations.

Fortitude served with no more than routine maintenance for thirteen years. It was only in 2058 that she was finally withdrawn for a by now long-overdue modernisation. The reason she had soldiered on for so long without significant modification was due to disagreement at the highest levels over what to do with the ship. Aside from the deficiencies with her armament, she had performed well. However, that weakness left her occupying an uncomfortable middle ground – too weakly armed to stand in the line against her Aèllr contemporaries, yet equally just too slow to match the pace of the newest generation of cruisers. The preferred option would have been to rebuild the ship to match the specifications of her half sisters, in effect turn Fortitude into a Resolution. But the global depression in the 2050s, with its knock-on effects on the fleet’s budget, ruled this out. Instead the fleet opted the go down a different route.

During the Contact War activities of the raiding cruiser Onslaught had succeeded in forcing the Aèllr to station a significant number of first line warships around Confederacy worlds and their main shipping lanes. However, as a lightly armed and virtually unarmoured vessel, Onslaught had been vulnerable to combat damage, making any encounter with an armed opponent a gamble. A heavy raider was a concept that had repeatedly been suggested (see entry G2), a vessel not obliged to shrink from combat could do a lot to offset the numerical superiority of the Aèllr Defence Fleet. Additionally, dissatisfaction at the low acceleration of the fleet’s heavy units meant that a fast heavy ship was increasingly seen as desirable.

With this in mind, the objective of the refit became to produce a vessel capable of outrunning anything she could not outgun. The modernisation saw the replacement of original Double Zeus engines with Goblin IIIs, plus the complete removal of the sponson mounts. This increase of thrust and reduction of mass increased maximum acceleration by almost eight percent, giving Fortitude a clear acceleration margin over not only anything in her weight class but indeed all but the fastest cruisers. Some sources refer to her from this point as a battlecruiser but the fleet’s designation remained battleship.

Officially Fortitude’s role in the event of war would be to act as a cruiser killer, able to chase down lighter units while avoiding heavier opponents. The fleet’s wargames have stressed this role, which in turn was instrumental in the development of the Warspite class fast battleships. However, commentators have postulated that in the event of a second war between Earth and the Aèllr, the ship would have immediately been dispatched over the Confederacy’s border. The seriousness of the threat Fortitude presented to the Confederacy’s internal lines of communication was recognised by the Aèllr and can be directly attributed to the development of the Gqrru class, second-class battleships.  However Fortitude’s post refit career was to be a short one. In 2063, three years after her modernisation, she was reduced to the reserve, to free resources to allow for the construction of the Warspite class. It is understood that at present the fleet considers Fortitude to be in good condition and has no plans to dispose of her.
Fortitude post modernised
Conclusion
Fortitude was first and foremost a vessel caught out by a change in technology. While her core design proved solid, the problems with her armament ultimately resulted in a ship that fell far short of her design objectives. Against her likely Aèllr opponents, the only thing she could do better was run. This left her unable to meet her central role. That said, her armament combined with her size and speed certainly meant that she could overawe the lesser powers of the Tample star nations, who during her service career were to prove the most immediate threat.

Therefore the perception that Fortitude was essentially a failure is somewhat unfair. While it is true that her weak armament always hamstrung the ship, this is not an error that can be laid at the doors of either the designers or those who commissioned her. Fortitude effectively fell victim to a change in technology that could not have been reasonably foreseen. As the fleet’s first post-war and interstellar battleship, much was learned from both her construction and operation, with the introduction of many features, which at the time were innovative and novel.

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Scottish Independence vote

So today’s the day for the Scottish independence vote. I honestly think the yes campaign has taken far too much of an it-will-be-alright-on-the-night approach to some pretty serious questions and have left their supporters open to some nasty surprises not very far down the road. On the other hand for the independence movement to have even got this far is a pretty damning indictment of the public schoolboys and union officials that make up the Westminster ruling class and have presided over seventy years of managed decline by the UK. No matter what the result business as usual is not going to be an option.

 

Also if Scotland does become independent will there be panic buying of haggis? Because if so that would be offal.

 

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Book Three – The Last Charge is now available for Pre-order

If the end was near in my last post it is getting nearer. Book three is now available for pre-order on Amazon.UK and Amazon.COM. Publication date is now set for the First of October. (Yippeee)

Last Charge cover

Those of you on my mailing list will be getting a sample chapter later this week just to whet your appetite.

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