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Frequently Asked Questions

Perhaps it is because of the nature of the books that David writes, perhaps it is because David Weber's fans are unusually dedicated and inquisitive... but it seems that everyone has a question! Here are a few that David finds he gets asked most often.

If you have a question that you would like to see considered as a FAQ, please e-mail us at Responses will be posted if and when David can get to them. We'd love to hear from you! 

Series Question Posted
Safehold Why are the Gbaba so mindlessly bent on genocide? (Asked April 5, 2015) April 2015

I can't explain the behavior behind the Gbaba without explaining things about the Gbaba themselves that I don't want to explain at this point.

I will say that I strongly disagree with your father's these us that they "must have evolved as a social species and so should be pre-inclined to cooperate with any new species they encountered." As you yourself point out, there are more than enough instances of human societies waging merciless war against other human societies in order to "take their stuff," if for no other reason. Further, it doesn't follow that our own psychology will be a close match for that of an alien society emerging from an entirely different evolutionary process. The best argument that I have heard for "they should be pre-inclined to cooperate" is based on the thesis that any species which wasn't so inclined would undoubtedly have destroyed itself once it acquired the technological capability to do so because a society which wasn't pre-inclined to cooperate (at least with other members of its species) would undoubtedly enjoy a brief but lively experience of nuclear fusion and that would be the end of it. Again, however, that is (in my opinion) a conclusion whose foundation rests upon a humanity-centric perception of what constitutes "reasonable" or "rational" behavior, and even among humans, "reasonable" and "rational" are not, alas, the default setting of far too many societies and social constructs. There is an unfortunate tendency to argue that other human beings must be "just like us" when it comes to their basic motivations and that they must therefore share our basic worldview and concept of rationality. Those who embrace this argument usually believe that adversaries whose fundamental psychology and motivations are fundamentally different from their own really share their understanding of how the world works and have simply chosen to act in a destructive or irrational fashion out of the selfish objectives of the adversary society's leaders. I certainly don't know that this is the case with your father, and I'm not trying to suggest that it is; I'm simply pointing out that we are governed by our own fundamental mindsets and that even intelligence analysts who consciously try to avoid doing that do it anyway on an almost daily basis.

I will also say that there is, indeed, a reason the Gbaba act in the way they act, that they did not simply evolve from the protoplasmic ooze equipped with starships or the technology to build them and an unreasoning bloodlust. There's not any reason why a sapient species shouldn't evolve "hardwired" to instinctively attack and seek to destroy any competitor/threat species it encounters. One may argue (somewhat precariously, in my opinion) that this isn't the case with homo sapiens, but that clearly doesn't eliminate the possibility of its happening with some other species evolving under different constraints and with a completely different historical/social experience. While I can't (and won't) explain at this point what it is about the Gbaba that satisfies the conditions of my previous sentence, be assured that I have at least thought through the reasons for their behavior on a basis which makes sense to me and does not rely on an unquenchable, totally irrational mania for homicide on their part. And I should also say that the same thing which explains the Gbaba's behavior explains the stasis in their technological development which was observed by the Terran Federation during its losing war against them.

Hope this helps, and if I'm remaining too inscrutable, I apologize, but an author needs to keep at least a few surprises in his shot blocker.

Safehold How is the Harchongese army organized? (Asked August 26, 2016) August 2016

Someone asked about Harchongese rank titles, so here's a section from the series tech bible which was written before LAMA. I mention this because Church rifle production numbers  have been substantially increased by several factors since October 896. There's a section in ATST in which Green Valley is rfelecting on Temple production numbers and comparing them to what the Union managed during the American Civili War with a total population of only around 15,000,000.

The projections are . . . illuminating. :o

Imperial Harchongese Army

Ranks and nomenclature:
Lord of Armies — Army minister
Lord of Hosts — field marshal
Lord of Horse — general (a floating rank)
Lord of Foot — brigadier
Captain of Horse — colonel
Captain of Foot — major
Captain of Swords — captain
Captain of Spears — senior lieutenant (no precise equivalent in other armies)
Captain of Bows — lieutenant
Captain of Staves — cadet/midshipman

Noncommissioned ranks (which are less important and therefore less flowery) are the same as those used by other armies: corporal, sergeant, etc.

The Imperial Hanchongese Army traditionally has relied upon mass and the toughness and endurance of its serf and peasant soldiers. Cavalry has much greater prestige, and traditionally missile weapons have been regarded as suitable for serf soldiers but not for noblemen. There’s been some change in that attitude since the introduction of gunpowder and the emergence of a professional standing army, but old habits die hard, especially given the enormous expansion of the standing army demanded by the requirements of the jihad.

The quality of the standing army is actually quite good, although it can be badly hampered by the influences of nepotism and aristocratic privilege within its officer corps. Long-term noncommissioned officers and enlisted are professionals who spend too little time in training in many ways but who compensate for that with length of service and experience on deployment. They are as much (or more) wedded to old model tactical doctrines as anyone else — in part because whatever the faults and flaws of the Imperial Harchongese Navy, the Imperial Harchongese Army has had a tradition of success in battle. Of course, it never came up against the Republic of Siddarmark, where it would undoubtedly have experienced much greater difficulty. The levees conscripted for the jihad are not going to approach that level of competence; the professional regiments are extremely proficient within the limitations of their tactical doctrine and their archers/arbalesteers are well-trained and accurate, able to produce a very significant volume of fire at ranges which would allow them to more than hold their own with slow-firing smoothbores.

Outside the professional regiments, Harchongese archers tend to have very limited proficiency. This is a direct result of the Harchongese aristocracy’s determination to keep effective missile weapons out of the hands of serfs. For the most part, the Harchongese peasantry is allied with the aristocracy against the serfs, because liberating the serfs would threaten the peasantry’s landownership (the serfs would need land of their own), because the serfs provide a lower-class to which even the poorest peasant can feel superior, and because the peasantry is usually attacked along with the aristocracy in the event of a servile insurrection and peasants usually lack the organized military force to defend themselves. Peasant landowners are permitted to possess arbalests and bows and are subject to emergency call up by the militia in the event of servile insurrection. As a result, many of the peasants are proficient archers. Serfs, who are punishable by death if they are found to possess any missile weapon other than a shepherd’s sling, have no opportunity to develop archery skills during peacetime. This is one reason why the IHA continues to deploy slingers in its missile troops; serfs (and especially serfs who work as shepherds for their masters) are likely to be skilled with that weapon.

The conscript troops raised for the jihad are, for the most part, not very skilled in missile or melee combat and have highly inexperienced officers. The men are tough, by and large, and controlled by brutal discipline and impelled by faith in Mother Church, they possess (or will initially possess, at any rate) a great deal of determination, but their forte is going to be hard, stubborn defensive fighting rather than offensive operations. The standing army, on the other hand, is actually well-suited to old model offensive operations and, in addition, will find its own morale and determination enhanced by its sense of superiority over the vast sprawl of the conscript army.
The peacetime strength of the Imperial Harchongese Army (standing regular army, not counting cadre of feudal cavalry regiments) was 471,310, organized as follows:

Household Cavalry (heavy); 45 Regiments; 89,955 men
Household Cavalry (light); 40 Regiments; 79,600 men
Line Cavalry (heavy); 10 Regiments; 19,990 men
Line Cavalry (light); 70 Regiments; 139.930 men
Heavy Infantry; 75 Regiments; 111,975 men
Light Infantry; 20 Regiments; 29,860 men

In addition to the combat formations above, the Emperor’s Spears (military police) contributed an additional 20 cavalry regiments (29,860) and 25 infantry regiments (37,325), for another 67,185 men, bringing the total peacetime armed forces of the Harchong Empire (excluding feudal cavalry regiments and purely local militia units) to 538,495 men.

For security purposes, given the perpetual Harchongese fear of servile rebellion, 20 percent of the standing army and 50 percent of the Emperor’s Spears have to be left home both for security purposes and as training cadre, so the maximum deployable force of “regulars” would be approximately 375,000 combat troops and 34,000 military police, or 409,000 men. This means that of the estimated 1.5 million men being sent to the Republic (actually closer to 1.75 million, in the end), approximately 1,341,800 (or better than 75%) are conscripts or feudal cavalry. The actual breakdown is (approximately) :

Feudal cavalry; 135 Regiments; 269,865 men
Conscript cavalry; 53 Regiments; 105,947 men
Conscript infantry;**  647 Regiments; 965,971 men
Total: 835 Regiments; 1,341,783 men
*Number of regiments for feudal cavalry is approximate because of fluctuation in unit organizations.
**75 percent of the conscript infantry regiments (485 regiments = 724,105 men) are heavy infantry. The remaining 162 conscript regiments (241,866 men) are light infantry, of which 45 regiments (67,185) are actually slingers.

Of this total force, 40 regiments of regular heavy infantry are equipped with bayoneted rifles (total of just under 60,000) and 10 regiments are equipped with matchlocks (15,000). Thirty of the heavy Household Cavalry regiments are equipped with pistols (59,916) which have long enough barrels to effectively be treated as carbines. None of the conscripted infantry regiments had firearms initially, but all of the military police are equipped with them, the infantry (12 regiments) with rifles and the cavalry (10 regiments) with pistols, adding an additional 17,916 riflemen and 19,990 pistol-armed cavalry. That gives the field force an initial total of 15,000 matchlocks (all line infantry); 77,636 ML Rifles (59,720 line units); and 78, 926 pistols (78.916 in miltary police hands)

What all of this means is that of the 1,750,000 Harchongese troops in the Mighty Host of God and the Archangels, only 4.4% have rifles and only only 4.5% have pistols, and roughly 30% of each are in the hands of the military police rather than the combat formations, as of October 895. This means, of course, that they are totally and completely unfit for combat against the Imperial Charisian Army or the re-armed Siddarmarkian regiments.

In light of the poor equipment levels of the IHA, extraordinary measures are imposed by Maigwair and Ducharn. Until their meeting in September 896, all new production in the Temple Lands and Border States was intended for the AOG, although transport difficulties had caused quite a bit of the new weapons to pile up in the rear. After their September meeting, however, everything not already forward of the Border States is subject to reallocation. In addition, the decision is made to recall all pikemen from the Army of the Sylmahn and the Army of Glacierheart. They have proven ineffective in combat, making them useless mouths at the end of a long, difficult supply chain. Those pikemen are drawn on for the AOG cadre being spplied to the IHA under the agreement Maigwair and Duchairn (with Clyntahn’s support) have rammed through. With the pikes withdrawn, the supply situation is improved and there’s less reason to get new rifles to the front and many of the rifles which were supposed to be sent to the AOG by the various other realms are diverted to the IHA, instead. Of the roughly 295,000 rifles produced between October 895 and October 896, 225,200 went directly to the IHA, a 317% increase in the originally projected number of weapons going to the IHA.