Category Archives: Self Publishing

End of Amateur Hour?

Back in the days of yore otherwise known as 2011 the self publishing thing was still basically only getting off the ground (yes I’m ignoring pre ebook vanity publishing) and I had no way of knowing whether The Nameless War would be a success. Splashing out on cover art using money I didn’t really have spare didn’t seem like a great idea. So when I launched the Nameless War, the cover art was among the tasks I decided to tackle myself. I’ve upgraded a couple of times since then but if we are to be brutally honest, my best efforts come out at passable. Back in 2011 however that was enough. Every so often I peruse through the Amazon categories that are relevant to my books to see what’s popular and I’ve noticed that the quality of cover art has improved. Yes, there are still some god-awful covers on books that based on their position in the Amazon charts still sell but they seem to becoming an ever shrinking minority.

I’ve been saying to friends and family for a while that my current WIP (which is probably about a year away from release) so going to be getting a professionally designed cover but what about my older works? Well at the moment I’m currently investigating the possibilities of commissioning an artist who’s work I find attractive. One of the questions however is whether such as investment on my older works worth it at this stage of their life? The answer I’m edging towards is yes on a number of grounds. Unlike paper books, ebooks can remain available indefinitely. Even though we’re still in the early days of ebooks, it isn’t hard to imagine that a title published today could continue to earn for decades, even if annual sales are small a revenue stream is still a revenue stream. Certainly there is going to be a balancing act between spending enough to keep the title attractive to potential buyers and spending more than the title will every pay back.

The other reason I believe is that we have reached the end of line for the amateur looking works. I don’t mean an end to self publishing, much as some in the publishing industry would wish otherwise that’s here to stay. No what I mean is that works produced by individuals like myself – part-time, self published writers, can no longer expect to prosper unless our products can match the production qualities of traditionally published works. A book can be written by an amateur, but it can not look amateurish. In some respects this is a new barrier to entry but it one that comes from demands of the book buying public as opposed to any kind of artificial construction.

 

I suppose on a side note this is the reply to those* who a few years ago were predicting that self publishing would drown literature in a wave of rubbish.

 

* A self serving few in my experience.

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Beating your own drum

I am a natural to self promotion in much the same way that an African bull elephant is a natural to riding a unicycle. Which is why this blog is only active in spasms, I mostly ignore my twitter account and Facebook I primarily use to keep in touch with friends and relatives. Self promotion is not my thing, I’m not good at putting myself forward, my sense of humour leans towards self deprecation and I am on the whole a very private person*.

Why do I mention this?

Well as I put up on my previous blog entry last weekend I was at Octocon 2015, I was a speaker on five of the discussion panels which covered topics like the dangers of time travel, how much military science fiction borrows from the past and renewing genres. All good stuff and I had a great time, in fact the panels all went a lot better than I expected. There is no doubt that in recent years I have become a lot better at public speaking and actually if you’re looking for public speaking experience, a panel is potentially a good place to get it since if you do stall out, one of your fellow panelists is probably waiting to jump in.

When I released the Nameless War back in 2011 it was sent off without any form of advertising or promotion. The book was launched off into the world and…

Bell curveas I’ve said in an earlier blog post from what I can tell – because hard numbers are few and far between and my links to the writing community in Dublin are tentative at most – I’ve done a lot better than average. Without advertising*2. Which was fine by me. There was the potential to be interviewed on local radio during this year but unfortunately that fell through and most of the other things that so many writing advice websites will grandly declare you have to do, I haven’t. Because I don’t enjoy self promotion and because by books did so well, it was an aspect of the whole process that I continue to know very little about*3.

I guess one of the things that fears/concerns/worries I have when it come to promotion is that I’ll get boring, that if I continue to endlessly beat the same drum there likely won’t be any unpleasantness but will become part of the white noise of life.  There’s also that irritating tendency to do myself down and diminish my own work. As I said someone not that long ago ‘don’t do yourself down, there are plenty of people who will happily do it for you‘ very much in finest traditions of suggest to other advice you should take yourself.

So on that note without self deprecation or false modesty, let me say that I am an author, a modestly successful one in an industry where such an achievement is a mighty one and what I have achieved so far is just the beginning.

 

 

* Yes, I am aware of the contradiction of saying that on a blog that potentially be read by anyone in the world with an internet connection.

*2 Up to now but that’s something for another day.

*3 Actually Octocon had a panel on Friday night entitled Promotion in the Age of Social Media which I would have like to have attended but basically, I was hungry.

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You can’t go back

A friend of mine, one who bounced ideas off for years, is currently hard at work on his first novel and now when our paths cross it’s his turn to bounce ideas off me – what comes around goes around. I won’t say anything about the nature of his work because that’s entirely his to introduce. What I will talk about it a sentence from him that started with: “I’m thinking about going back and-”

No

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes from mixing up character and place names to wacky typos to find and replace errors. All of which pale in comparison against the cardinal sin of writing that I have committed. Namely going back and tinkering. Now I will add a qualification. What I refer to is going back while writing the first draft. Yes, you will have to go back and make repeated passes through it if you have any sort of notion of putting the work forward for publication, because gods know, the chance of it being perfect on the first pass is about the same as the metaphorical thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters producing the works of Shakespeare.

Writing is by its nature a learning experience where to be honest I think the only way to stop learning is to stop writing but your first serious attempt is the one where you’ll learn the most the quickest. When I start a story I have one or two characters, some basics for the setting and maybe a couple of scenes. As you go a long things get fleshed out, gaps start to get filled in, you start to get a handle on the process, the words are starting to pour out of you. Then you look back.

That section or chapter you thought was great now seems clumsy or you’ve come up with a something that really needs to be put in a few chapter earlier. So you go back, you tinker.

You stop making forward progress.

A story, be it novel, novella or even short story, needs to have a start, a middle and an end. No matter how cracking the first line, paragraph or chapter is, it isn’t a story because it isn’t complete. Going back becomes a cycle. You go back to make a change and that change cause knock on changes so you end up working your way up through the existing text making more changes. By the time you get back to where you left off you’ve learned a few more things, had a few more ideas and you go back again and the cycle continues. All the while the story doesn’t get really any closer to actually being finished but does get closer to being abandoned.

The Nameless War was my slowest book to write, several years, because during the first and second draft I kept going back. The Last Charge was done in less than two because I was more disciplined, yes I did change my mind about details as I wrote but didn’t go back to change them straight away. In fact when I finished each chapter I tended to mutter to myself “That needs a lot of work.” then open a new file for the next chapter.

I’m currently writing a time travel story which as you might imagine does involve a lot of double checking but I’m not going back to change anything. Not yet. As I said before writing is a learning experience which makes going back a false economy. Changes while it is all work in progress could and likely will be changed again. With first drafts don’t be afraid of changes in writing style as you go, you’re learning. Once you have the full text, then you can apply all the things you have learned. If you are afraid of forgetting to make a change to an earlier chapter, then add a footnote to it.

But above all else, keep going forwards.

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The end of the line… and pauses along the way

I don’t know what proportion of science fiction and fantasy novels are part of series as opposed to stand alone but it is fair to say that they are far from uncommon. Now it should be pointed out that there are different kinds of series. There those like say the Chronicles of Narnia which use the same setting and have some character overlap but are basically stand alone books that can be read in any order. Then there series like Lord of the Rings in which there is a single grand story arc across two or more books, all of which need to be read and read in one fixed order. It is the latter category I want to say a little about.

It isn’t hard to see from where the lure of the series comes; creatively it gives more room in which to develop and flesh out a story, this is specially important for science fiction and fantasy since we have to burn so much word count on world building. Since an individual novel is limited to between forty and a hundred and fifty thousand words(1), while even a short series can be multiples of that, the extra words allows the writer to avoid having to make compromises to keep the word and page count acceptable. From business standpoint it looks even better, sell one large book for twelve Euros (dollars, pounds, shillings, rubles, yen, goats, whatever) or two for nine, ninety-nine. If the reader wants to get the complete story, they have to fork over for each and every book. In fact on that later point occasionally publishers have split into two books that were intended as a single volume. But in doing so a new problem is introduced.

The ending of any story is the pay off, regardless of genre or style, a bad ending can completely undo any good work that has been done up to that point. The ending needs to resolve the major plot threads and if the reader is left unsatisfied or feeling cheated, well then that’s a reader who won’t be looking that writer up again. But for a single arc series it can’t tie everything off, it needs to provide a satisfactory close and at the same time provide a launchpad for the next book of the series. What is needed is a sub-ending.  The writer Shantnu Tiwari makes an impassioned case that the very worst sub-endings are cliffhangers. While I can’t get quite as worked up, thinking back across my own reading history I can think of a few cliff hanger ending I’ve read and while they didn’t make me throw the book across the room, they didn’t make me rush out and buy the next book either because there was that lack of pay off. The other problem with the cliffhanger is that there is likely a gap between the publication of individual books, of between months to years (20+ and counting in the case of one series I know of). Will the reader still have excitement to pick it back up, will they still remember what was going on? The best sub-endings I seen are the ones that felt like they could have been the end of the series, for my money Juliet E McKenna‘s first series nailed this perfectly.

So, if you are sitting out there somewhere idly considering writing your own series what am I saying? I’m saying you need to plan ahead (2). You absolutely must know where each book is going to end. Even if the big finish at the end of the series is absolutely amazing, it’s going to count for nothing if most readers abandoned ship at the end of the first book.

While we’re on subject of endings, lets move onto big ones, not just the end of a series but the end of a setting. It’s a personal belief of mine that all setting have their limits. Regardless to genre or even medium, each setting has its limits. Now quiet where those limits are depends on the nature of the setting. It is hangs off a single character then the limit will be reached fairly quickly (3) while one based on a large world or universe in which individuals can come and go will have more legs (4) but even there are limits. I suspect it’s one of the reason I never got into comic books, by now Batman should have either cleaned up Gotham City or be dead, either way as a story without a final end holds no attraction to me. Obviously there is a damn good reason why the likes of Batman, Star Trek or any other property keeps soldiering on:

Here's Johny!

Here’s Johny!

Be you an individual author or a good old fashioned soulless corporation walking away from an cash stream is going to be difficult to do at best and often impossible. Search the internet on any particular established series or franchise and it won’t be hard to find someone somewhere who feels its gone off the boil, the glory days are gone, it’s now just ploughing the same furrow. The solution to this if a solution is needed is in the hands of the consumer. We need to be ready to pursue to new and original. While we can continue to enjoy the glory days of our old favorites we should be ready to abandon them if they don’t come to an actual end.

FINAL THOUGHT: I say all that as someone who is very much a hobby writer. I don’t rely on my writing to pay the bills, just pay for the luxuries. I’ve certainly not had anything like a huge hit which I’ve continued to milk. Obviously if I do I may well turn into a huge hypocrite but at least if that happens, I’ve given everyone some good material to work with.

 

 

 

 

 

(1) Ref SFWA Award FAQ and Writer’s workshop.

(2) Yes I do know what I said in a previous blog entry about my tendency to do more winging it than planning. I did know where the Nameless War and Last Charge were going to end when I started them, the Landfall Campaign it was figured out while WIP, which is a writing technique I call ‘making life difficult for yourself’ [patient pending].

(3) Say a few books, two or three of films or a television series

(4) Example Star Wars or Star Trek

 

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Filling the gaps

I heard it said that there are basically three kinds of writers:

1) Those who plan everything to the Nth degree

2) Those who wing it

3) Those who fall somewhere between the two extremes

I’m a three leaning towards two, I did try writing out a plan for I think the Landfall Campaign but then once I started writing, never remembered to refer back to it. What I do have for each work is a set of mental notes in the form of key scenes. These might be battles or a brief conversation, either way they’re important points for the creation of the story. I like to think of it as an incomplete alphabet. When I know I have A, B and D, I know have to go through C to logically get from B to D. It helps break huge looming task that is book writing down into more manageable lumps while at the same time keeping at eye on the endgame*. There is no such thing as a one perfect method of writing that works for everyone – no matter what people who are usually trying to sell their ‘perfect’ method claim – what there are is a number of techniques and what you have to do is find the combination that works for you.

 

 

*Quite a few of the early Discworld books by the late Terry Pratchett were chapterless and I don’t know how he managed that.

 

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Writing for a living

Over the weekend I attended a house warming barbeque and I got talking to cousin I haven’t spoken to in a while. They were telling me about an in-law who has recently moved back to Ireland and has yet to get a job and start supporting themselves. One of their alternatives to employment my cousin told me, was to instead write a book. I was not supportive. In fact I was even less supportive of the idea than my cousin is.

Hard information on how the average writer does in financial terms from their work is hard to come by. Based on the occasional article I’ve read and other anecdotal information, I believe this is where I fall on the old bell curve.

Bell curve

I published my first work in July of 2011 and since then I have sold a combined total of twenty seven and a half thousand copies. Of this twelve and a half thousand are the Nameless War, a little under eight thousand the Landfall Campaign, five and a half the Last Charge, with the balance covered by the Job Offer novella and the two tech manuals. What has this amount to financially? Well in three years after expenses and taxes I’ve made about the equivalent of one year of the take home pay from my day job. As a supplement, that’s really good. As an actual primary income, not so good.

In fact the situation is worse than that. The Last Charge was about my most efficient book; it took two years and about a thousand man hours to get it from the first word to the finished product. I have no idea how many man hours the Nameless War took but to say many, many thousands is probably no word of a lie. Of course all the expenses from living costs, editing, cover art, etc are all front loaded. You will have to pay these out months or years before you can hope to see a penny come back.

Okay but that’s self publishing, what about traditional publishing? I have never gone down the traditionally published road so what follows is deeply anecdotal.

Assuming you’re first time writer, based on what I’ve read, advances on a first book are likely at best single digit thousands, with little likelihood that there will be anything beyond that*. This is to be expected, there aren’t many lines of work out there where you immediately walk into the top job, you have to prove yourself and writing is no different. Also once again even with traditional publishing, that first book is going to have to be written before you approach a publisher, so you’re front loading the living costs while you write.

Does this mean I’m saying you shouldn’t even try? No, definitely not. What I am saying is that even you’re a really good writer with a compelling story to tell, writing is difficult way to earn money and if you get to the point where you earn minimum wage through writing, you are doing very well. Certainly for several years something else is going to have to meet the bills. It is worth remembering that even the boys and girls who’ve made it big in publishing were often several books in before they started to see major money.

So in conclusion writing as a means of earning a living. Possible? Yes. Easy? No. Fast? Definitely no.

 

 

* If any readers can offer better information I would certainly welcome hearing from you.

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Ships of the Fleet – Defender Class Cruiser

Profile Defender
Background

While now long since superseded, the construction of the Defender class starships remains one of the greatest technological achievements of the 21st Century, if not all of human history. In less than a decade, mankind went from crude chemical powered rockets, scarcely able to reach high orbit, to jump capable starships.
After the events of Monivea in 2022, the surviving members of the Aèllr crew tried hard to persuade their captors that the Confederacy was fundamentally peaceful; with the casualties inflicted on the Irish Defence Force, a tragic anomaly. While Earth’s political leadership desperately hoped for this to be the case, the majority opinion was that Earth simply couldn’t afford to risk another encounter while technologically so far behind. The lessons of human history showed that encounters between two cultures, where one was significantly more advanced than the other, had almost invariably proven disastrous for the less developed of the two. With further encounters between the Confederacy and Humanity likely to be a question of when rather than if, it was clear that the means needed to be found to meet the Aèllr on an equal footing.
Two Cruiser SMALL

Design

At the start of the Defender project, the designers were faced with an unparalleled challenge. The technology, the tactical role, indeed the very tools that would be used to build the ships were themselves all under development. To add to this already daunting task was a desperate urgency for results. A detailed examination of the Defender project design notes provides a virtually day by day record of human understanding of spacefaring technology. The very first sketches, dating from the start of the Long Calm period, indicated a vessel bearing a more than passing resemblance to the American Orion project of the nineteen sixties. This design was for a vessel launched from Earth’s surface via nuclear pulse propulsion.

Early breakthroughs in regards to plasma engines allow for this and similar schemes to be mercifully abandoned. The success of the Starhaul lift system made the transportation of large loads into orbit a practical proposition and instead plans began to coalesce around the concept of a vessel constructed in orbit with no ability to land. The earliest tactical theories suggested the way forward might primarily be a missile ship, firing nuclear tipped projectiles. However while great strides had been made in reverse engineering the Aèllr fusion engines, the early attempts to miniaturize them sufficiently to use in missiles were abject failures. The drives produced so much radiation that any computer systems would be destroyed and there was even a risk of the radiation bombardment causing the fissionable material to go critical prematurely. This left only traditional chemical rockets, which would be slower and less manoeuvrable than their likely targets. It was judged, and in fact proved to be the case, that such missiles could only reasonably hope to hit, if the launch vessel was so close to the target that it would also be in danger from a nuclear warhead. In contrast the work on the recovered plasma cannons was progressing well.
The exact nature of possible space combat was at this stage hotly debated within the newly formed CPDF – Combined Planetary Defence Force (renamed Battle Fleet and not to be confused with the much later Planetary Defence organisation). There were a number of schools of thought; the first believed that the best route forward would be the construction of a robust, semi-mobile vessel that would remain close to Earth. This line of reasoning would ultimately lead to the construction of the battleship Resilient (See Ships of the Fleet Volume One). The second and third groups, often collectively known as the Engage at the Heliopause groups, favoured a faster, more mobile platform, capable of meeting an incoming vessel further from Earth. Where these groups diverged was on the question of the exact nature of combat. One favoured what would become known as the frontal assault model, with opposing forces making a series of head-on high speed passes, with opposing ships exchanging fire on approach before reversing heading, decelerating to make further passes. The second believed it would take the form of ships moving parallel to one another and exchanging fire. While much time and ink were expended on the topic, the reality was that no one knew. It was only in 2025 that the governing council ruled that humanities first starships would be designed around the frontal assault paradigm.
Protector MkI side SMALL
With this in mind, the dominant feature of the class was to become the armoured bow cap, which would absorb over ninety percent of the mass committed to armour. However this could not simply be a solid shell. While the early research indicated that a wormhole drive or as it would be come known, a jump drive, was within Earth’s reach, the first generation drives would not be the equal of the Aèllr example that inspired them. In particular the drive nodes needed to be well clear of the bulk of the ship. While the physics of jump drives was still poorly understood, it was clear than the drive had to be mounted in the bows and could not be behind armour. The designers were forced to develop an armoured cap that could open to allow the nodes to deploy. Two different systems were used, the first two ships used a large visor that slid down from the upper hull; in service this was found to be prone to jamming in the raised position, thereby limiting the arc of the upper turret. The remainder of the class therefore used an alternative arrangement that had two shutters. What little remained of the armour allowance was spread down the entire length of the ship. It should be noted this layer of armour was primarily anti-radiation and in combat offered negligible protection.
The initial arrangements for the sub-light propulsion were to follow the model that was trialed on the test ship Fusionian. This would mean two single facing engines mounted on nacelles. The nacelle arrangement was proposed not to enhance manoeuvrability but because these engines produced large amounts of radiation (for the same reason the radiation screens were mounted inboard of the engines. However this was rejected by the military on two counts. The ship would only be able to decelerate by reversing its facing, thereby potentially turning the armour protection away from a threat. Secondly if one engine failed or was knocked out, the off centre thrust from the remainder would make the ship very difficult to handle. The nacelle engines became double facing, while a third single facing engine was added to the aft hull, although to keep radiation emissions acceptable, this engine had to be down-rated to provide no more than two thirds its possible thrust.
Protector MkI top SMALL
The main armament of four mark one plasma cannons, were mounted in double partial turrets, one above and one below the hull. These mountings had a traverse of only twenty degrees left and right of the centre line, but with the expectation of only frontal combat, this was not considered a handicap. Additionally two internal forward facing missile tubes were mounted in the central hull. It is worth mentioning that at this stage, it was still hoped that peaceful contact with the Confederacy might be made. Therefore versions of the design were drawn up that would have seen the plasma cannon turrets replaced with either larger sensor arrays or shuttle bays.
Even at this early stage there was an understanding that the sensor package needed to be more than just radar. Passive sensors would be more discrete and less subject to transmission lags and in an attempt to meet this requirement, four optical sensors were fitted in ball mounts, one on either side of each of the radar towers. Unfortunately in service, engine vibrations largely rendered these ineffective.
Bow cap designs SMALL

The layout of the ship can be broken down into three sections; the forward-most housed the jump drive, fuel tanks and crew quarters, mid-ship, command and weaponry, with engineering astern. It is important to note that the raised conning tower was not installed to give the ship commanders windows to look through. Among the data seized from the Aèllr ship was some extremely limited information of their fleet. These ships also had raised conning towers; this feature was left over from the reunification war of over a century earlier and a period when opposing ships were exclusively armed with mass drive weaponry. The rationale being that an attacker would likely aim for the centre of mass, so moving the bridge away from this and into the conning tower would improve survivability. With no firsthand experience of their own, Earths’ designers chose to follow suit.
Inevitably with so much technology in development, not all of the designers’ estimates were to prove correct. In service the Mark One plasma cannons had far heavier requirements for coolants than even the worst-case estimates. With no redundant volume to work with, additional tanks had to be mounted on the outer hull.
Front and Rear SMALL
Although many claimed credit for the success of the Defender project, the greatest share must be given to the American engineer William Spencer, who guided the project through the difficult years of the Long Calm. There were many occasions when the project was in danger of collapsing, whether due to competing national pride or technological uncertainty. Spencer’s ability to both sooth politician concerns and willingness gamble that all of the necessary technologies would be ready in time, kept the project on track, although the stress undoubtedly contributed to his premature death.

Service

Only three weeks after the First Battle of Earth, President McCray became the first serving head of state ever to go into space. Launched with the words ‘to defend all mankind’ Defender became the Battle Fleet’s first true warship. For the first year of her existence Defender primarily served as a training ship, exercising intensively within Earth’s solar system. Operational plans for this period indicate that in the event of the arrival of a second Aèllr task force, Defender would have sought to engage close to Earth, where she could support ground launched fighters.
By this time Defender’s core design was already falling out of favour as the fleet began to grasp the problems with the frontal pass attack pattern; the designs that would follow would instead favour broadside fire. However the Defenders were for now all the fleet had to work with.
With the completion of Stalwart, the forth and final member of the class, the fleet was ready to attempt a more aggressive posture. It was accepted that combat inside Earth’s solar system would likely mean close to Earth. Orbital defences of the planet were at this time entirely absent, leaving the orbital dockyards hopelessly vulnerable. It was correctly believed that a second Aèllr task force would chose to pass through Bernard’s Star on-route to Earth. With this estimate in mind, it was decided to attempt to move the war as far from Earth as possible.

The wisdom of this course of action remains hotly debated by historians, a debate which goes beyond the terms of this study, it was however a campaign which saw the Defenders operating at the ragged edge of their physical capabilities. The poor fuel efficiency of their laser focus reactors, combined with the heat build up from the primitive jump drive, meant than even a distance of less than six light years required multiple stops to refuel and vent heat. With no tankers yet in existence, the Defenders were forced to act as their own, establishing refuelling points in interstellar space. It is also worth noting that aside from when the ships were under thrust, the class had no simulated gravity, meaning crews were subject to both bone decalcification and muscle loss during these extended operations.
Defender Guardian damaged low re

By the end of the Bernard’s Star Campaign, the weaknesses of the class had been exposed and indeed it was fortunate none of the four received crippling damage where the fleet would have been unable to recover them. Even allowing for the heavily armoured bow shield, having to go bows on to the target to bring the main armament to bear, meant putting the jump drive directly into the line of fire. A single armour penetration was almost certain to cripple the jump drive. Even a non-penetrating strike proved all too likely to jam the movable parts of the shield, preventing the deployment of the drive nodes. But for the fact that the designers had equipped the ships with the ability to jettison the shutters, Stalwart would have been lost. The lightly armoured flanks also meant that even breaking off from an assault, left the ships vulnerable.
When the war returned to Earth’s solar system, the Defenders were involved in frequent hit and run operations around the system. As the oldest and by now least valuable of the fleet’s starships, the Defenders were used to lead assaults and cover retreats and in the last year of the war, all four members of the class would see hard use.
Given the intensity of combat in the last six months of the war, losses were inevitable and Second Pluto, saw the destruction of Protector and Stalwart, while Defender and Guardian were both severely battered as they broke the Aèllr line.

Protector battlescene SMALL
Post-war, neither of the survivors was to have a meaningful career. Badly damaged as well as being conceptually and technologically obsolete, Defender and Guardian were both decommissioned. Although some efforts were made to preserve them, this proved impractical. However, one turret from Defender was brought back to Earth, where it can now be seen at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Conclusion

Aside from the small prototype Fusionia, Defender was the first human starship. Designed and built under incredible time pressures, that they were ready when so desperately needed must be rated as one of the great technological achievements of the 21st Century. Revelations from Aèllr sources indicate that even to this day, the Confederacy believes that such ships could not have being designed and built in the time frame humanity claims, high if unintended praise for the design and construction teams. That said the Defender class was far from flawless.
Its main defects all come from a common source, namely the frontal assault principle. Quite simply, this was wrong and, with the partial exception of the raider Onslaught, has never again been repeated in any human cruiser. While directly approaching an opposing ship offered the smallest possible target, with the jump drive effectively at the centre of mass, any penetrating hit was likely to be crippling. In fleet actions, the negligible flank armour rendered the class highly vulnerable to cross fires, which in service resulted in heavy crew casualties. These mistakes can be laid firmly at the door of inexperience. With nothing beyond theory to guide them, the designers were forced to make do with simulations and guesswork. What is less easy to understand is the decision to power the ships with only a single reactor. It would appear from available documentation, that fitting the ships with two smaller reactors was rejected as the engineers sought to avoid the complications of merging two plasma feeds. This simplified the engineering burden but, combined with the largely unprotected engineering spaces, left the class fatally vulnerable to power loss. Some sources list the Defenders as system defence boats rather than true cruisers. Certainly, with their limited fuel bunkerage and inefficient power plants, operations away from a fixed base were extremely difficult, an early demonstration of the problem that would plague most of the wartime cruisers.
Although flawed, and undoubtedly flattered by a battlefield performance enhanced by the failures of their opponents, there is no question that the Defenders were largely a success. Not only did their brave assaults succeed in blunting the Aèllr spearhead, but helped the nascent Battle Fleet establish a morale superiority over more the hesitant Aèllr Defence Fleet. So while they were crudely designed and hastily built, the Defender class lived up to their name.

 

The Defender Class is part of Volume Two of Ship of the Fleet which is now available for pre-order at Amazon.UK and Amazon.COM, the release date is the 1st July. On the 15th June I’ll be putting up a second sample fleet and sending out a further sample to those on my mailing list.

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