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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
Honorverse Why is there legalized dueling in the Star Kingdom? (Asked Mon May 23, 2011) December 2013

[The] real reason for the reemergence of dueling in the SKM is the sheer bloody-mindedness of the human creature in a frontier environment.

The SKM has always been very "2nd Amendment" friendly, largely as a result of the fairly conservative North American DNA in the original colonists, who were fleeing a Solar System in which they felt the Nanny State had become tyranical. Another consequence of their origins was that they had something of a fetish about self-reliance, standing on your own two feet, and other cliches to that effect. And they were settling on planets much of whose surfaces were then (and in HH's day still are) hazardous for the unarmed/unprotected. (Don't forget that as late as HH's time, people who go wandering in the bush on Sphinx take along some hefty firepower, and even the planet of Manticore has less than 2 billion citizens, quite a few of whom (like the majority) are concentrated in a relatively small number of urban enclaves.) In the earlier days of the SK -- post Plague but way pre-Honor -- the practice of well-armed citizens settling disputes on their own (and before the cops could respond, given some really long response envelopes) -- reemerged. It was not officially sanctioned when it did, but juries tended to refuse to convict if they could be convinced that the dearly departed "needed killing."

In time, the precedent was pretty well established that a homicide was "justifiable" as long as it was "a fair shootin'" and both sides had participated voluntarily while taking precautions to protect innocent bystanders. In other words, "If you two lunatics really want to shoot at each other, more power to you. The gene pool will be improved whichever of you we manage to remove from it!" Once it became an acceptable practice, laws were passed (beginning on Sphinx, I blush to disclose) codifying it in the interests of conrolling and minimizing it.

Honor thinks it's a Really Bad Idea (despite the fact that she's resorted to it twice herself), but not because she thinks you shouldn't be allowed to settle disputes with a certain degree of . . . finality if both parties agree. Her objection is that the shaming aspect of it has turned it into something that drives/forces/convinces otherwise putatively sane (and honorable, decent, etc.) people who otherwise would know better than to do such a stupid thing (like Paul Tankersley) into situations that get them killed by the scum of the earth. She has no objection in theory to settling things on the dueling grounds (and was willing to use the "shaming" aspect of it herself to get to Pavel Young), but is actually doing all she can currently to support the growing reform movement to abolish the practice in the SEM.

I should, perhaps, point out that she would have been entirely willing to shoot Pavel without aid of the code duello if the code hadn't been there to be used. Lord knows I love the girl, but I certainly wouldn't wamt to get on the bad side of her with blood in the water. Moderation under those circumstances is not precisely her strong suit.

Oh, and who says you can't settle disputes on Montana with a shootin' iron, Pardner?

Honorverse  What constitutes membership to the Manticoran nobility for the purposes of forbidding marriage to the Heir to the Throne?   I ask because I have this idea that Edward Saganami was the great love of Queen Adrienne's life, but they were forbidden to marry because he (just) qualified as a member ot the nobility. February 2012

For the purposes of the requirement for the heir to the throne to marry a commoner, the restriction generally means that the candidate for marriage cannot hold a peerage or be an immediate family member of someone who does, although there are some "loopholes" built into it. Simple knighthoods do not count for this purpose, since to be defined as a "peer of the realm" in Manticore, one must hold a seat in the House of Lords. Technically every baron or baroness (or higher ranking noble) holds a seat in the Lords, although not all of them ever take it, but knighthoods, in and of themselves, do not confer membership in the Lords. Anyone standing in the direct line to inherit a peerage would also be ineligible as a potential husband or wife for the heir to the throne, but the House of Lords (responsible for interpreting constitutional provisions) has determined that members of collateral lines with at least six direct heirs between them and the title would be eligible. (This is the major "loophole" I referenced above, and it was established over 200 T-years before Honor Harrington's birth.) It's been suggested that it should be legal for the heir apparent to marry even someone in direct line for a peerage if the heir to the peerage renounces the title in perpetuity for himself/herself and his or her heirs, but this interpretation of the constitutional requirements has not been argued before the Lords (since the circumstances visualized have never occurred. If it was heard by the Lords and sustained, it would, of course, constitute a second major "loophole" in the requirement. Given the fact that it would obviously violate the intent of the provision, however, most constitutional authorities in the Star Kingdom assume that it would not be sustained. On the other hand, if it has been established, at least in principle, that if the heir to the throne renounces the Crown, then the bar against marriage to a member of the aristocracy becomes moot.

Honorverse In what novel is Berry Zilwicki rescued from Old Chicago?  June 2011

This was actually not in a novel. Helen Zilwicki rescues Berry and her brother Lars from Berry’s rapists in “From the Highlands,” Eric’s first Honorverse novella. When Anton Zilwick (and Victor) end up rescuing Helen (well, “retrieving” her, at least), Anton takes Berry and Lars back to Manticore with him, where he legally adopts them as his children. For all intents and purposes, Cathy Montaigne is their adoptive mother, as well, although Eric (for some reason) prefers not to marry them off. I’m fine with that, myself, but I get asked why they haven’t married fairly often, and I just say “Because Eric doesn’t want them to.”

Honorverse I've just finished with "A Rising Thunder," and I've got to know...what's the next Honorverse book? September 2010

Interesting question. "Fire Season," by David Weber and Jane Lindskold, which is the second of the young adult series set in the Honorverse that features Stephanie Harrington, will be released in October of 2012. David has also finished the next Honorverse book, tentatively called "Shadow of Freedom," due out in 2013. Eric Flint and David are also collaborating on another book, tentatively called, "Cauldron Boil, Cauldron Bubble" (or some other phrase from MacBeth...) which will hopefully also be released in 2013.

Honorverse What order am I supposed to read the Honor Harrington/Honorverse books? September 2010

Great Question! David originally intended the books to be read in order by publication date, but that's gotten a little complicated. Check out our handy list, contributed by Christine Acker!

Honorverse What are the books of the original Honor Harrington series? July 2009
The (Only) Honor Harrington Books:
1. On Basilisk Station (1993)
2. The Honor of the Queen (1993)
3. The Short Victorious War (1994)
4. Field of Dishonor (1994)
5. Flag in Exile (1995)
6. Honor Among Enemies (1996)
7. In Enemy Hands (1997)
8. Echoes of Honor (1998)
9. Ashes of Victory (2000)
10. War of Honor (2002)
11. At All Costs (2005)
12. Mission of Honor (2010)
But please take the time to enjoy the other Honorverse books too, especially Crown of Slaves (2003), Storm from the Shadows (2009), and Torch of Freedom (2009) - they are advancing the plotline for the entire story arc, besides just being really great reads!
Honorverse Please explain prolong. What generation is Honor Harrington? May 2009

There are currently three generations of prolong. The term "generation" has nothing to do with descent or parentage; it refers to the version or variant of prolong available.

First Generation Prolong: May be administered up to the age of about 25; normally administered about 16; may be administered pre-puberty but virtually never is. Aside from the case covered in the 3rd sentence of the next paragraph, 3rd generation prolong works equally well for everyone, regardless of genetic makeup. Stops the aging process in the early 20s. Does not slow physical healing times and/or extend pregnancy periods, etc.

In addition to the above, 2nd and 3rd generation prolong are expected to extend the "frozen" aging process by about 20% and 33%, respectively, over 1st generation prolong. (That is, they will both stop the aging process earlier and keep it stopped longer.) Also, for reasons which are still subject to investigation, it does appear that the children of prolong recipients respond more strongly to the same or later generations of the prolong therapies. 3rd generation also plays less havoc with hormone balances and so forth than 1st or 2nd generation prolong.

Honor is, in fact, 3rd generation, despite the error in the earlier book. She is also the daughter of prolong recipients on both sides. She did not receive the treatment until about the time she entered the Academy, which put her through puberty and most of her physical adolescence before it began taking effect.

As for the "jail bait" aspect of her appearance which some people have commented upon, this is a woman who looks to be about 21 or 22 (which gets her out of the "jail bait" category in most jurisdictions). However, remember that she is also half-Chinese. It has always seemed to me that Oriental women appear physically younger (to Western eyes, at least) than Western women do. This is not a value judgment, only a statement of fact (or, at least, opinion), and I cheerfully acknowledge that it may be culture bound. However, one should also remember that the people to whom Honor seems so physically youthful have their own cultural baggage. Alistair McKeon is a 1st or 2nd generation recipient; Hamish Alexander is a 1st generation recipient (and, because of the culture in which he was raised, continues, deep down inside, to carry around a pre-prolong society's views on physical aging); and Andrew LaFollet who, in Flag in Exile, thought of Honor as (I believe) "barely post-adolescent" in appearance is from a culture which (a) did not have prolong at all (prior to the Alliance) and (b) had virtually no ethnic Asians in its population. (And note that, nonetheless, he thought of her as post-adolescent.) The point I'm trying to make is that while Honor does look absurdly young for her actual age, she may not look quite as young as you think (by our standards), because you're seeing her through the eyes of other people with other standards.

Honorverse Gun control in the Star Kingdom of Manticore would probably make the NRA very happy. I wonder why that is? May 2009

There are no real restrictions on the small arms available to private citizens (small arms in this instance being defined as non-energy, projectile-throwing weapons) at the national level. As far as the Crown is concerned, if you can afford it and you want to lug it around, you have a constitutional right to do so. At the same time, the royal ministry of justice comes down like a hammer on anyone who misuses or abuses any weapon. Energy weapons are somewhat restricted in availability. The position of the Crown and Her Majesty's Government is that projectile weapons, especially with the lethality of pulsers and tri-barrels, are sufficient for most self-defense means and constitute sufficient firepower to give even minions of a tyrannical central government pause. Energy weapons are regarded as falling in an intermediate stage between weapons of self-defense and weapons of mass destruction. Private citizens can own them, but unlike the owners of projectile weapons, they are required to pass a government-designed competency test and to be bonded. Moreover, unlike projectile weapons, energy weapons must be registered.

The Constitution of the Star Kingdom specifically guarantees the right of the citizens to be armed, and where small arms are concerned, the entire Star Kingdom is under a \shall-issue" system. Local municipalities can -- and do -- pass local ordinances which restrict where and how weapons may be carried, however. For example, in the City of Landing, chemical-powered projectile weapons can be carried by virtually anyone, although the City requires licensing and the successful passing of a basic competency test before they can be carried concealed. Pulsers, on the other hand, are restricted to police officers and bonded security forces as carry weapons within the city limits and may not be carried concealed at all under normal circumstances. In addition, there are certain areas in the city where private citizens are not permitted to bring weapons. Such places would include courts of law, government offices, etc. No municipality, however, under the Constitution, may legally tell a citizen that he/she cannot possess any non-energy weapon he/she wishes, including pulsers, within his/her own home.

The Star Kingdom does not mandate a Kingdom-wide weapons training curriculum, but the policy of the Crown has always been to strongly encourage local school boards to make such courses part of the required curriculum at what we would consider the middle school and high school levels. The position of the Crown is that since the right to be armed is enshrined in the Constitution, it only makes sense to ensure that every citizen has basic safety and marksmanship training. There is, however, an enormous degree of local autonomy when it comes to making decisions about school systems for specific communities or duchies, and by tradition, the Crown cannot dictate what a specific local or regional curriculum will include. In effect, though, the degree of emphasis the Crown has placed on certain courses -- history, weapons safety, etc. -- has been more than sufficient to ensure virtually 100 percent acceptance of them, which means that almost all citizens of the Star Kingdom have received at least basic weapons instruction.

Honor herself was born in Craggy Hollow, County Duvalier, Duchy of Shadow Vale, on Sphinx. Shadow Vale, which is still very thinly populated, has a typical "rural" attitude towards weapons. They are day-to-day survival tools for people wandering around in backcountry areas which still contain the occasional hexapuma and other large and dangerous predators. People like Honor and her parents also have what you might call a "sturdy sense of responsibility and independence," because they know perfectly well that it is extremely unlikely, even with modern transportation, that law enforcement personnel are going to arrive in time to do much good in an emergency situation. As a result, they have a powerful "do-it-yourself" attitude where self-defense and defense of property are concerned.

This would not necessarily be the case for someone born and raised in a more urban area. Most of those areas continue to enshrine the right of the citizen to be armed and to use lethal force in self-defense under circumstances which make it appropriate, but the environmental threats are much less extreme and so the majority of the citizens feel no particular need to go around armed to the teeth. This was the attitude of the tactical officer aboard Honor's ship on her snotty cruise, who was basically a big-city girl. She had received basic training in personal weapons even before joining the military, but she had never acquired the mindset which would have gone with actually carrying one on a day-to-day basis.

Although the Star Kingdom's Constitution enshrines the right of the citizen to be armed, and specifically prohibits the government from infringing that right (except, as noted above, in the case of energy weapons), there are a great many ways in which an individual citizen may lose that right. All of them involve criminal or criminally negligent actions on the part of the citizen, and the criminal and civil liability penalties for the misuse or abuse of personal weapons, from old-fashioned edged steel to energy weapons, are severe. One might almost call them draconian, because most of them entail hefty periods of jail time (at a minimum) in addition to the subsequent permanent loss of the right to possess weapons.

Basically, the Star Kingdom believes in punishing individuals for their actions rather than depriving entire groups of law-abiding individuals of their rights. There was an effort to amend the Constitution to place much more stringent limits on the rights of citizens to be armed following the clashes between the Gryphon highlanders and the "sons of shareholders" in the so-called "Gryphon Uprising" of 1721 PD. Those efforts failed because the only people who really supported them were certain members of the aristocracy, and those aristocrats found themselves up against the perception by the bulk of the population of the Star Kingdom that the weapons in the hands of the "rebels" had done precisely what they were supposed to do: protected those who had them from the strong-arm tactics of the petty aristocrats trying to force homesteaders off of the recently opened Crown Range on that planet. Eventually, the military was used to separate the two sides and to impose order, but once order had been restored, the right of citizens to be armed remained unimpaired.

Honorverse About those treecat toenails... Why are they so short, and if they're that short, how do they do the damage that they do? May 2009

I suppose I should properly have said that treecat claws are [12.7] millimeters long, rather than 1 centimeter long. I actually intended it to be understood that they were close to a half-inch in length, and I simply rounded down, which I shouldn't have done. This is still short, by the standards of terrestrial cats, but treecat claws are not really close analogues to terrestrial felines' claws. Treecat claws are needle-pointed and sharply curved. The concave, rear-facing side of the claw also closely resembles an extremely sharp knife. Although treecats often use their claws when climbing, they seldom extend them fully when doing so. I have made repeated reference to the fact that they have long, agile, slender, etc., fingers, which they normally use much more as a monkey or a chimpanzee might when climbing. They are, however, capable of extending their claws in order to climb in a fashion much more similar to a terrestrial cat. It's important to remember, however, that they are called treecats because humans familiar with terrestrial cats were looking for a convenient referent to hang on them. And, of course, the original name was bestowed by a very young -- if exceptionally bright -- girl, not a trained xenobiologist.

A treecat's claws evolved primarily as weapons, not as a general utility adaptation, and they are not composed of the same materials as terrestrial felines' or canines' claws/toenails. I haven't made a study of exactly how cats and dogs claws and toenails differ from one another, but my understanding is that a cat's claws are basically bone, and a dog's are basically specialized, toughened skin. Treecat's claws are much closer in composition to what we might think of as teeth. That's not exactly accurate, of course. For one thing -- although this hasn't been particularly emphasized or dealt with in the novels to date (I'm sort of saving a lot of details about treecat physiology and societal organization for the series I want to do centered around Stephanie Harrington) -- the “bone” used by Sphinxian critters is substantially heavier and denser than that of terrestrial animals, thanks to several factors, but most of all to the fact that all of these Sphinxian animals are adapted to a heavier native gravity. Treecat claws should not be confused with toenails, as I think the above establishes, since they are actually much more similar in appearance and hardness to human tooth enamel. Moreover, treecat claws are like shark's teeth in two ways. First, they have the same sort of "slicing" sharpness. Second, like shark's teeth, they regrow quickly and can be regrown as many times as necessary. In terms of just how sharp they are, in both the needle and the knife edge sense, you might want to reflect upon the fact that the reinforced portion of Honor's garments is literally "bulletproof."

Honorverse How does the intelligence of treecats compare to that of humans? May 2009

I do not intend, for fairly obvious reasons, I believe, to go into any discussion of future political developments in the Star Kingdom at this time. But if you're truly curious about precisely how treecat intelligence compares to human intelligence, then I have a few morsels for you. Be warned that not all of this may ever find expression in the novels, given that there is a limit to the human-cat interactions which could make all the similarities and dissimilarities apparent to the humans in anything like a short period of time.

All right, first a few words on memory singers. As I imagine you have already concluded from the short fiction which has been published, memory singers are extremely important to treecat clans. Their more obvious function is to serve as the repository of the collective wisdom and history of their species. The essential requirements to become a memory singer are an extremely strong mind voice, an ability to grasp of the nuances of other cats' mind glows with extreme acuity, an effectively \photographic memory," and the ability to project remembered mind voices and mind glows with the utmost fidelity. Normally, a very strong personality and what we might call "command presence" is bound up with the sort of mind and outlook which can satisfy the above qualifications, which further helps explain why senior memory singers are awarded so much weight when they confer with the other elders of a clan. In a very real sense, the treecats' history is truly a living entity, which moves from avatar to avatar as new generations of memory singers receive it from their predecessors and prepare to pass it on to their successors. Along the way, some of the more distant memory songs begin to lose their fine detail and resolution, and evens which do not make their way into memory songs at all are completely lost to the treecats. What this boils down to is that the portions of their history which they know have an intimacy and immediacy which no human can never match, but that there are much larger gaps in their knowledge of their history than is the case in post-oral tradition human societies.

There is also, however, an additional function of memory singers which in its own way is even more vital to the health and future development of the treecat community, and helps explain the reason why they are so intensely venerated and protected. The memory singers are not merely the repositories of history, but also the teachers of new knowledge.

I suppose that the fairest way to compare treecat intelligence to human intelligence is to say that the two are basically equivalent but function in quite different ways. Even the most intuitive human abilities pale beside the way that treecats process and interpret information. A treecat does not input, correlate, and evaluate data in the same way human does. They are far more likely to depend on their ability to perceive the emotion behind the thought (where humans are concerned; where other treecats are concerned, they perceive the thought itself, of course) and to form what a human might describe as a near-instant gestalt. This is one reason why it was so difficult for Climbs Quickly to reason his way through to an understanding of the bond which had formed between him and Stephanie Harrington. It was far outside the normal parameters of his species' experience, so he had no existing knowledge base to guide him, yet the fact that the telepathic channel was not available to him virtually shut down half of his normal information pathways and required him to approach the question on a deductive basis, which was not really comfortable fit for him or any other treecat.

In interpersonal relationships, treecats are vastly more sensitive, intuitive, and likely to comprehend intricacies and nuances than humans are, but for most of them (memory singers tend to be exceptions to this rule, but that is far from a universal case) their ability to handle those relationships is restricted to those whom they have actually met. In other words, they are masters of personal relationships, but beyond their own clans, they have a much poorer grasp of the sorts of collective relationships which make mass societies function, which helps explain why a race of telepaths and empaths has not evolved a societal matrix more complex than that of the extended clan.

The plain fact is that treecats are not exceptionally innovative, even in matters of purely social evolution. Once you step beyond the social arena (which, after all, is where they excel) they become even less innovative. As a rule, their first response to any new situation is to attempt to apply existing custom or solutions to it, and they become uneasy when they are unable to do so. When the humans first arrived on Sphinx as a permanent presence, the treecats recognized the potential danger which human technology posed to them and also that they themselves had nothing which might act as a counterweight to human tools and weapons if the situation turned ugly on them, and so they adopted the strategy of observation and concealment which lasted until Climbs Quickly met Stephanie Harrington. Their uneasiness over their inability to get a "handle" on human psychology and intentions (which was made infinitely worse for them by the fact that humans appeared to be mute race, as they were unable to "speak" in any way a treecat could understand) was also a major factor in their standoffish attitude. In addition, treecats -- because they are telempathic -- tend to be extremely consensual (by human standards) when it comes to choosing courses in action, which means that in potential threat situations the reaction of the species as a whole tends to err on the side of caution, as was demonstrated by the reaction of Climbs Quickly's clan elders once Stephanie spotted him. In addition, it usually takes something fairly extreme to cause treecats to alter an existing pattern of behavior. You might say that they rely very heavily on the concept of "If it ain't broken, don't fix it."

Compared to humans, treecats -- although in most ways they possess something between 90 and 95 percent as "much" intelligence as humans -- produce perhaps 1/10 as many individuals, proportionately, who have what we might call innovating mindsets. Their intelligence also tends to lie within a narrower band then human intelligence, with comparatively few individuals who fall very far below or very far above the median. In short, treecats Leonardo da Vincis are very, very rare, and "village idiots" are equally rare. As individuals, treecats are very unlikely to make great leaps forward, but in the rare occurrences when a treecat possesses both the ability to innovate and what one might call "genius," the fact that he or she has on the rest of his species is far more profound than the effect a similar human could have on humanity as a whole. The reason for this is the existence of the memory singers. Literally anything a treecat can learn or conceptualize can be passed on in its entirety to any other treecat via a memory singer. It does not necessarily follow that every treecat who receives a concept or knowledge through a memory singer will be able to use it as effectively as any other treecat, because there are levels of ability in all things. But this does mean that when the rare treecat genius comes along, his or her accomplishments can be added to the intellectual armory of his clan -- and spread beyond his clan through the traditional interacting of memory singers -- far more rapidly and completely than would be possible in a human society. This is precisely what made Climbs Quickly and Sings Truly so extremely valuable to their clan and to their species as a whole. Sings Truly, in particular, was not simply an innovator of genius, but was also a memory singer in her own right, which both gave her very high prestige and made her particularly effective in spreading her innovations throughout all treecats.  By the same token, Samantha -- who is very similar to her in both "intellectual stature" and inherent ability as a memory singer -- is perhaps even more important to her people than Sings Truly, even though she has never assumed the formal mantle of a memory singer.

There are certain areas in which treecats do not and probably never will equal human capabilities, just as humans will never be telepaths or (with a few significant exceptions) empaths -- or certainly never on a scale which will conceivably equaled the abilities of treecats. One major treecat "disability" which probably precludes their ever developing a high-tech society of their own, is a fundamental inability to grasp higher mathematics. It is significant that a society which has been around for thousands upon thousands of years still refers to numbers in terms of "hands of hands" and has never developed a written form of mathematics. Obviously, this has strong implications for all areas of advanced human technology. It is possible, that this inability will begin to ease if and when the treecats do completely internalize the concept of written language. It is also possible that sufficiently persistent humans will be able to teach a treecat someday to transcend the current limitations of his species, and if that happens, the existence of the memory singers means that it would constitute effectively a species-wide breakthrough. Of course, it is always possible that the treecats will never approach human levels of ability in math.

For the foreseeable future, certainly, treecats will continue to regard human technology much as they have for the past several centuries. They will probably learn to use certain human tools more effectively and confidently than is currently the case, and they will not be actively uncomfortable in the presence of humans' machines and tools, but they will regard those devices as being uniquely "two-leg" in nature. On the social front, treecats will almost certainly become much more deeply integrated into human society as a whole, using their empathic abilities and their intuitive grasp of complex personal interrelationships to make themselves invaluable in such professions as psychology, politics, dispute arbitration, "social services," the law, etc.  The precise effect which this will have upon their social and political standing is, of course, something which I have no intention of telling you about at this time.

I will add just one more thing. The Ninth Amendment of the Constitution establishes treecats as the native sentient race of Sphinx, reserves just over one-third of the total planetary surface for their sole possession, and grants them the legal status of minor children under the direct protection of the Crown. It does not grant them citizenship in the Star Kingdom of Manticore, enfranchise them as voters, or in any other way contemplate their full integration into the human society of the Star Kingdom. This is not to say that such integration is absolutely ruled out by the Constitution, only that it is not guaranteed or provided for, and that it is quite likely that it would be necessary to further amend the Constitution in order to make treecats citizens or subjects of the Crown. It probably also would require a degree of planet-wide social integration which treecats have not yet attained in order to provide anything like a representative body of treecats empowered to speak for the race as a whole if they were invited to become subjects of Queen Elizabeth.