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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.

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Series Question Posted
Safehold Grab Bag of Questions, Part 1. (Asked Mon Oct 03, 2011) December 2013

Don't hold back. Feel free to tell us what you really think about it! [G]

No author is going to please everyone, and there are going to be things that happen in any series of books to which some or more of his readers are going to take exception. That, unfortunately, is a fact of life. And every reader has the right to take exception. That doesn't mean that the writer is going to agree with him when he does, but the fact that the writer doesn't agree doesn't automatically make the reader wrong, except in the sense that the writer is in charge of the literary universe and is going to go ahead and write that universe the way he believes is best. That doesn't make what the author does an "error," however. In fact, only one of the points to which you object — so far as I can see — would constitute an "error" under any circumstances. The others strike me as things I've done, or the characters have done (or not done), which strike you as illogical, unreasonable, or unnecessary. Those aren't "errors;" they are storytelling decisions that you object to, which is quite another kettle of fish.

I'm sorry if I'm doing things that strike you as wildly annoying, but I have to write the stories the way I see them. There are, however, specific reasons why I did almost everything that you're objecting to. Since you took the time to explain the things that bug you, I'll take the time to explain why I did them.

In response to your points.

1. I'm perfectly well aware of how Nimue is pronounced, and that is in fact the way I pronounce it, and the way I have to pronounce it for the voice-activated software I use. I deliberately spelled the crown princess' name with a divergent pronunciation which, while incorrect, is one that you hear quite frequently. I'm sorry it bugs you, but be assured that Nimue Alban actually knows how her own name is pronounced, even though it isn't the same pronunciation as the one bestowed upon her namesake. I will mea culpa on the princess' name and admit that I probably shouldn't have done it. (And, for that matter, I should probably admit that one reason — subconsciously — that I did it may have been that the voice-activated software I use can differentiate between Nimue and Naimu cleanly and easily, which is not the case where many of the other alternatively spelled names that I've assigned in this series are concerned. So, in that respect, it may actually have been a certain degree of laziness on my part, although I would suggest that anyone who finds it "lazy" might want to consider writing a few 200,000-word novels using voice-activated software. You have to make quite a few . . . adjustments along the way, because Computers Do Not Care.) There, I hope my admission on this point makes you feel at least some better. [G]

2. You are assuming facts not in evidence. First, I don't believe I've ever told you that the bombardment system couldn't be reloaded. If I did, I certainly didn't intend to. (You may consider that a hint, if you like.) Second, I never suggested that it was simply dumb rocks, because it isn't. Third, I don't believe that I have ever stipulated anywhere in the books that she might not attempt exactly that technique as a means to temporarily run the bombardment system out of ammunition. There are quite a few problems with her doing it, however, the three greatest of which are:

(a) If the kinetic bombardment is known, it will certainly be taken as a sign from God and the archangels, and the Church propagandists will have the inside track for explaining it as a gesture of divine wrath against the Church of Charis. "See how God releases the Rakurai against this desolate, barren, and already accursed place as a warning to those misguided souls in Charis who have embraced the heresy! He could have chosen to smite them in their very cities, yet He gives them this opportunity to reject their vile, despicable leaders who seek to lead them into Shan-wei's very clutches. Let them repent now, before the next strike of the Rakurai destroys them and all about them! Return to the fold and be saved!" Or words to that effect.

(b) If the kinetic bombardment system is only temporarily disarmed, is Charis going to have a sufficiently wide window to complete the overthrow of Mother Church, take Zion, neutralize the Temple, and secure control of whatever ground station may or may not control the bombardment system? Because, if it doesn't, then once the bombardment system reloads, anything they've built to take advantage of the window will simply be snuffed out from orbit with a very high death toll which will also happen to absolutely confirm for the Temple Loyalists that the Charisians were dangerous heretics being crushed by God.

(c) Merlin and company know something is under the Temple. They have no idea what that something is, or what its resources in addition to the kinetic bombardment system might be, but I think they have to reasonably assume that if the bombardment system fires and it is in some sort of communication with the "something" under the Temple, it's going to inform that "something" that it's just fired on proscribed technology. On that assumption, then tempting the bombardment system into firing would effectively start a probably fairly short countdown clock towards bringing them into direct confrontation with whatever the "archangels" left under the Temple. Again, unless they're in a position to conclusively take out the Temple — and anything under it — once the bombardment system has been neutralized, neutralizing the system is far more likely to prove disastrous than beneficial.

3. In this regard, you are flatly wrong. Sorry about that. Lock Island was not simply the Imperial Charisian Navy's commander-in-chief; he was also a fleet commander in an era in which fleet commanders are expected to command at sea. That, however, is almost beside the point, since he was also, along with Rock Point, the most qualified officer to command. In fact, he was essential to making the operations plan work, since he had access to Owl's SNARCs and the recon capability they provided and there was no way for him to pass that information to someone else as his officer in tactical command. In other words, he had to be there in order to provide the tactical command to make victory even remotely possible. He also happened to be on a sailing vessel which had to close to very short range before it could engage the enemy. These are not highly maneuverable ships, and collisions (and subsequent boarding engagements) were not at all uncommon when large numbers of sail-powered vessels encountered one another in a close-range, general melee . . . which happened to be the sort of battle the ICN had to fight. (Go back and look at some of the engagements in the Anglo-Dutch wars, for example.) As for whether or not a flag officer should be engaged in a boarding action, I would direct you to Admiral Nelson's actions at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, when he led offensive boarding parties across no less than two Spanish ships-of-the-line. In Lock Island's case, however, the boarding actions were defensive even if the defenders were charging into combat with the attackers swarming onto his flagship. In that sort of an engagement, you fight, you don't hide, and quite aside from his personal preferences, an officer like Lock Island would have been intensely aware of the positive moral effect of his personally leading his men into combat. If you can show me a way in which he could have used the information he was gaining from the SNARCs to direct the tactical employment of his vessels while he stayed safe ashore somewhere else, then I may grant that this argument has some point. If you can't (and I don't think you can), everything else that happened followed from the requirement for him to be there if the battle plan was going to be possible, not because of any reckless disregard of his own safety or any unreasonable action taken by him, Cayleb, or any of the personnel around him on his flagship. And before you point out that Domynyk Staynair, who also had SNARC access, was present at the battle, I cheerfully concede that point . . . and point out to you in turn that the ability of Lock Island and Rock Point to coordinate using their com links was critical to their entire strategy and battle plan. So, again, there was no alternative to "co-locating" Lock Island with the battle fleet in this instance. If you've read How Firm a Foundation, you'll see Rock Point in much the same position in which Lock Island found himself, but with a very different balance and mixture of forces, and Rock Point doesn't find himself engaged in a hand-to-hand melee, but that's because the tactical — and strategic — situations are completely different. He doesn't have to take the chances, if you will, that Lock Island had to take in the Markovian Sea, and because he doesn't have to, he doesn't. Different battle, different situation, different imperatives.

4. Obviously I can't make every technical innovation occur as rapidly as everyone wants me to, however I would point out that it doesn't really matter how soon they begin thinking about iron or steel armor if they don't yet have the capability to manufacture it. That is, from Nimue/Merlin's perspective (and from Cayleb's, Howsmyn's, Sharleyan's, and Lock Island's), there was time to allow Seamount and Mahndrayn to come up with a solution — thus encouraging that native innovation which they're after — because even if they'd come up with it before Seamount began experimenting with exploding shells, they didn't have the capacity to manufacture it. You have been paying attention to what Howsmyn's been up to up at his foundry complex, yes? Hammermills, rolling mills, open hearth steel production, hydro accumulators to sub for steam power, etc., etc.? Without all of those innovations, they couldn't have produced the armor anyway. Moreover, even if they could have, there would be all kinds of reasons for them not to actually introduce iron or steel armor until after the bad guys have devised exploding shells of their own. Why in the world would they want to begin building ships which would show the other side how to defend against their new "secret weapon" before the other side was able to duplicate the weapon in question? In short, the Charisians have positioned themselves to be able to begin promptly producing ships armored against the new weapon if and when the bad guys have that same weapon; they couldn't have produced such ships very much (if any) sooner, because they didn't have the capacity to manufacture the armor; and they have avoided showing the bad guys how to defeat their new weapon any sooner than they have to. Oh, and don't forget encouraging native Charisians, without access to Owl, to come up with the answer in the first place. I'm sorry if it offends your sense of timing, but from my perspective that's a win/win approach for the good guys.

5. I flatly disagree with you about killing Nahrmahn. It was not an easy thing for me to do. If you think that the reader becomes attached to these characters, then you should try it from the perspective of the writer who creates them. However, as I have stated many times before, military fiction in which characters the reader cares about never get killed is pornography. It cheapens the price which both fictitious and real life military personnel pay and it creates a "splatter porn" type of fiction in which the reader can exult in the knee-deep gore without having to worry about anyone "important" dying. Ultimately, I think the majority of readers will recognize not simply the implausibility but the willful unreality of allowing all the characters that all of the readers have become attached to to miraculously skate out and survive when all of those "little nameless people" around them are being killed. I've had more than one major character seriously injured — Honor Harrington comes to mind in that regard — and I've also had them pay prices in the form of people they've lost. Again, Honor Harrington comes to mind. That's part of the price people pay in wars, and if the characters care about someone in the books, those are also likely the characters the readers care about. In other words, if I kill a secondary character who the primary characters are genuinely going to miss and mourn for, those are also going to be characters that you care about . . . and, conversely, if you don't care about them, then you will not understand the emotional cost to the characters in the novel, either. Nobody gets a free pass in one of my books, because nobody gets a free pass in real life, and because ultimately the enjoyment you will take from a book in which you don't have to worry about what happens to the characters I've invested effort in making real to you and you've invested effort in caring about will be shallower than the enjoyment you take from a book in which you realize that these non-flesh-and-blood characters you've come to know and to care about are just as fragile as the people around you in your own lives. That's how I see it, at any rate, and if you don't see it that way then you and I simply disagree on what goes into making a good novel. And, unfortunately, I don't think you can expect me to write the book in what I think is a weaker and less satisfying fashion. So, again, I'm sorry if this is another one of those things I did that annoy you, but there was a specific reason that I did it and I warn you now that I may very well do it yet again before I'm done. Leopards, after all, do not change their spots.

Meow. [G]

Safehold What's the best real world era that corresponds to Safehold? (Asked Wed Feb 08, 2012) December 2013

There are things going on, especially in Charis, that I haven't been telling you about primarily because of space limitations. However difficult it may be to believe this, I've actually been trying not to bury the reader in too much "Hey, isn't this neat?" rediscovery of technology, so quite a few things have been happening offstage. (I haven't told you about the sea dragoning industry of Charis, either, at least until the current book, and I haven't really discussed distillation processes available, or crop yields, or quite a few things which have a pronounced significance for where Safehold is going . . . and can go.)

In the current book, Amid Toil and Tribulation, you're going to meet some of the other faculty members of the Royal College, most of whom have been there all along, doing their things — and, in some cases, being added to the inner circle — even though I haven't spent a whole bunch of time with them. For example, Doctor Dahnel Vyrnyr, who's been working out gas and pressure laws, with an occasional small assist from certain parties. And you haven't begun to see everything that even some of the people you have met have been up to. For example, Rahzhyr Mahklyn and Sir Dustyn Olyvyr (who is now a member of the inner circle) have been working on applying mathematics to calculations of sail area, stability, displacement, metacentric height, prismatic coefficients, etc. Ehdwyrd Howsmyn's senior engineers and artificers have been applying more of the new math in planning the construction of new canal systems, designing pumps to extract water from deep mine galleries, etc.. Primitive hydraulics have been a part of Safeholdian plumbing basically since the Creation (I did give you just a hint of some of that in Manchyr in the last book), and combined with Doctor Vyrnyr's work, much more advanced applications are quickly becoming available. Even before Howsmyn came along, Safehold's basic metallurgy was rather more advanced than many of you seem to have been assuming, as well, even before Nimue Alban woke up. Production techniques were suited only to relatively small volume quantities, but the alloys themselves (mostly, again, because of "recipes" left by the Archangels) were quite good. In Post-Merlin Charis, of course, Houseman, especially with Owl to help him out, has been pushing metallurgy even harder, especially in terms of production but also in terms of quality, and is, in fact, in the process of introducing nickel steel. (Safehold's known how to extract nickel — in relatively small quantities — from laterite soils for a long time; it just didn't have a lot of use for it . . . until now. Oh, and while I'm on the subject, for you metallurgists out there, Safehold in general and Charis in particular has used "red lead" as a pigment in paints for a long, long time. I understand that one of Howsmyn's ironmasters is presently experimenting with heating its oxide in a charcoal oven for some reason, though. Not sure where that might lead, of course. [G]) And then there's "stone wool" . . . a.k.a. chrysotile, whose production and use is permitted by the Archangels, although hedged about with various laws to minimize the worst of the potential health consequences.

In general, you can think of Howsmyn's metallurgy as approaching very nearly to the capabilities of, say, 1900, with the proviso that his "power budget" is still limited. As he acquires the capability to supply ever greater amounts of power and apply it in ever more sophisticated fashion, his capabilities will increase geometrically. And, of course, he's currently building at least two additional industrial works, each of which are ultimately intended to be at least as productive as his Delthak Works.

I think people persist in thinking that they've successfully pigeonholed Safehold's technical sophistication without realizing that there is a difference between process and understanding. For example, Safeholdians understand the process of pasteurization — called Pasqualization, on Safehold — even though they don't really understand why it works. It's a "dispensation of the Archangel," just as the use of pressure cookers and canned (mostly in glass, not metal) food preservation is something "taught by the Archangels." And I trust you did notice when we were visiting Manchyr and the last book that they use rubber gaskets in their plumbing? Safeholdian agriculture understands four-crop rotation, fertilizers, and other "advanced" farming techniques (although there are still some curious holes in what they know), but it's all applied by hand, fertilizers are manufactured in "kitchen sink" quantities, nitrates are mined (think Chilean saltpeter) and nobody's ever heard of Wilhelm Ostwald, etc. In other areas, the porcelain and ceramic producers of Safehold long ago developed/were gifted with pyrometers which allowed them to measure and gauge temperatures far more precisely — and at significantly higher levels — than I suspect most readers are allowing for . . . which has significant consequences in metallurgy, as well (for obvious reasons), once people like Howsmyn begin applying them. Indeed, for those among you of a historical bent in naval matters, the term "Howsmynized" is going to find itself applied to armor plate produced at the Delthak Works in the not too distant future. (There's a reason, other than a desire to rehabilitate the name "Houseman” for a friend of mine, that I gave Howsmyn his name. It seemed to form a not-too-convoluted homage to Hayward Augustus Harvey.)

Safehold is not seventeenth-century Earth, or even eighteenth-century Earth, despite the relative primitivism of aspects of its capabilities — like artillery, small arms, sailing ships — at the time Merlin comes on the scene. There are, in fact, large reservoirs of capability built into existing Safeholdian processes, and the planet has some truly stupendous engineering works in the form of canals and high-quality transportation networks. (You might want to remember Earl Coris' thoughts during his journey to Zion and the sophistication of the transport arrangements which were made in his case.) In many ways, even before Merlin came along, Safehold was beginning to "slip through the cracks" of the proscriptions in places other than Charis alone, and that's one of the things that makes the rest of Safehold still quite dangerous to Charis despite Charisian innovations in productivity. The reason Merlin, Howsmyn, Cayleb, and others keep talking about the absolute productivity of the rest of Safehold is because it's actually quite significant, despite its limitation to wind, water, fire, and muscle power. In many ways, all that the Royal College needs to do is to determine the underlying principles governing things Safeholdians have been doing for centuries and to codify them to kick off a genuine scientific revolution . . . and that's precisely what it's been doing.

Now, that doesn't mean Merlin, the inner circle, and Owl aren't cheating just a bit. [G] For example, a native Safeholdian, not a member of the inner circle, came up with the concept of the "crush gauge" for measuring bore pressures in artillery pieces. Obviously, the inner circle was delighted with it, and that "mathematical genius" Mahklyn and some of his students helped handle the math for it. But in addition to that, Owl produced the base, indexing copper inserts for the gauges and substituted them for the ones which had been produced on the shop floor at the Delthak Works, with the result that the pressures which can be extrapolated from later crush gauge tests happen to be quite amazingly accurate. And the ballistic pendulum has also been invented (math courtesy of the Royal College), which means the Imperial Charisian Navy is able to measure bore pressures and muzzle velocities with the same degree of accuracy that was possible here on Earth prior to the introduction of electricity-based measuring instruments. You think that's not going to have an impact on the design of artillery and small arms? Machine tools — especially Howsmyn's — remain clunky and huge and bulky because they have to operate under direct drive power from (currently) hydro-sources, but the precision of what they can turn out has advanced very significantly. Tolerances in the Delthak Works are achieving a degree of precision people probably aren't thinking about, and Howsmyn's tool steels are attaining early twentieth-century levels of quality.

As I say, there are lots of things going on, and I will simply add for those of you out there who are really into steam plants and steam engineering that Safeholdian riveting, welding, and metallurgy — at least as practiced by one Edwyrd Howsmyn at his Delthak Works, and coming soon to another Charisian foundry complex near you — is sufficient and adequate to produce watertube boilers operating at pressures of up to around 290-300 psi. What that means for, oh, triple expansion engines, shall we say, I leave for your own consideration.

Safehold Hypothetical Matchup: Charisian Galleon vs. USS Constitution (Asked Wed Oct 12, 2011) December 2013

You make a lot of good points in your analysis, but there are also a few points (historically) on which I disagree with your interpretation, a couple in which you're arguing on the basis of facts (about Safehold) not in evidence, and at least one in which my own use of terminology (selected to avoid confusing non-technical readers) has, in fact, confused the basis of the discussion.

Taking them in reverse order, I used the term "displacement" when, in fact, I meant "burden" in discussing ships such as HMS Destiny. I don't remember if I gave the actual displacement for Empress of Charis at any point (the one you're citing is for Destiny, I think), but I may well have. I just don't remember. At any rate, I didn't want to go into discussing the difference between "burden" and "displacement" for the readers, especially after the terms got confused by a copy editor's correction that I didn't notice in one of the earlier books. I ought to have been content to simply go with the splendidly ambiguous term "tonnage," but I didn't do that, either. I am, however, aware of the difference, and the figures given for Charisian galleons have been the traditional Charisian numbers (i.e., burden) rather than actual displacement figures. This point is made in the book I just finished, where Sir Dustyn Olyvyr, as the Navy's chief constructor, has begun converting to displacement numbers as a better and more accurate measurement. (Partly so that I can go ahead and correct that earlier incorrect "correction," if that makes any sense at all.) Because of the way in which I've stated tonnage, however, the actual numbers against which you should be comparing Charisian warship tonnages are the "burden" figures, under which Constitution is about 1,575 tons, not the higher (and more accurate) 2,200 of her displacement tonnage. This particular misunderstanding was my bad. Sorry.

Turning to the "facts not in evidence" portion of your argument, however. You are making assumptions which, especially by the time Empress of Charis comes along, are not valid. I'm not sure where some of them came from, although I can see where others did. In part, I think you may also have confused Empress of Charis' dimensions with those of HMS Destiny, a smaller ship from the "first-flight" of purpose built war-galleons.

You say that "Empress carried 68 guns on a single deck but due to her shorter length that weight would have to be supported by a wider hull and that hull would have many more holes (gun ports) and far less frames to give strength to her scantlings." In fact, Empress of Charis is a double-banked frigate larger than USS Philadelphia. She's 169 feet in length, 40 feet in the beam, with a burden of 1,400 tons and a displacement of around 2,100 tons, which puts her within 100 tons of Constitution's displacement. I blush to disclose that I can't find the actual statement of her original armament in text, but according to my notes she originally carried 32 30-pounders on the gundeck, 32 30-pounder carronades on the spar deck (not the gundeck), and 4 long chase guns (14-pounders), total of 68. At that point in her career, she was clearly heavily over-gunned. Remember, however, that she is actually only about 6 feet shorter than Constitution, and in her second iteration, with her armament reduced, she carries only 30 30-pounders on the gundeck, exactly the same number of main battery guns as Constitution, and 30 30-pounder carronades (10 more than Constitution.). In her final iteration (which I don't think has been specified in any of the books so far) her armament is further reduced — to 30 30-pounder long guns on the gundeck and only 18 carronades, but the carronades are upgraded from 30-pounders to 57-pounders, which increases their individual striking power while reducing the battery's total weight by approximately 8 tons. And, obviously, it cuts the length of hull occupied by the carronade battery almost in half, which allows it to be placed closer to the center point of the hull, significantly reducing longitudinal stress. Her armament is not, however, and never was carried on a single gundeck, and your assumptions about her hull form which followed from the belief that it was are therefore necessarily incorrect.

(As another point that should be considered here, even with the original 32 guns on the gundeck, Empress of Charis' ports are not actually significantly closer together than Constitution's. She filled all of her gun ports — a not insignificant cause of her overloading — whereas Constitution did not fill her "bridal ports." The American ship actually had the same number of gun ports spread along only 6 more feet of hull length. In essence, she has one gun port for every 10.9 feet between perpendiculars whereas Empress of Charis has one port for every 10.6 feet, a difference of only 3.5 inches. This is not going to necessarily result in an inherent relative weakness in longitudinal strength because of wider spacing of gun ports and frames. It should also be pointed out that the Charisian Navy's guns are shorter and somewhat lighter than their USN counterparts; a Charisian 30-pounder is only about 420 pounds heavier than one of Constitution's 24-pounders, so the difference in the weight of her gundeck battery — after its reduction from 32 to 30 — is only about 6.3 tons, which is probably less than you were assuming it was. A gundeck armed with USN 32-pounders rather than 24-pounders would have to carry almost 10 more tons of weight, better than half again the differential between 24-pounders and Charisian 30-pounders.)

You say that ICN galleons are "a comparatively unsophisticated 15th century design are not at all weatherly and cannot even come close to the benefits of design evolution that the British Empire and later the United States enjoyed." While that statement is accurate about the half-dozen or so galleons the Royal Charisian Navy possessed pre-Merlin, it is emphatically not true of the purpose-built war galleons of the Imperial Charisian Navy. It's not true even of the "first-flight" purpose-built galleons, and it definitely isn't true by the time we get to Empress of Charis.

When the merchant galleon conversions were made, the forecastles and aftercastles were substantially cut down to improve weatherliness and reduce top weight. By the time they began building purpose-designed war galleons, they were producing ships with effectively straight sheer; they had, in fact, begun using the same essential hull design as a late-eighteenth/early-nineteenth century sailing frigate like Constitution. There's a reason all of the non-Charisian people who see these ships comment on how huge they are, and why Sharleyan, at the time of her arrival at Tellesberg, is thinking about how low-slung the Charisian galleons look compared to her own old-style Chisholmian galleon despite the fact that they've actually increased freeboard for their gun ports. Don't forget that Merlin took Olyvyr aside to discuss warship design with him at the same time that he was describing the new artillery to Seamount and the rest of the team King Haarahld assembled under Cayleb's direction at King's Harbor. In effect, the first purpose-designed Charisian war galleons were Olyvyr’s attempt to create in wood a 19th-century design concept Merlin had described to him in considerable but not complete detail. So your comments about the weatherliness of the design are based on incorrect assumptions about hull form and upper works. In fact, Empress of Charis is just as weatherly as Constitution or Philadelphia. Her sail plan, in fact, is very nearly identical to Philadelphia's, which means she has slightly less sail area than Constitution (which might make her somewhat slower in extremely light conditions) but gives her essentially identical handling characteristics.

It's worth noting that the American 44s, and especially Constitution enjoy an iconic status which has led to all manner of inaccurate or exaggerated evaluations of them and statements of fact about them. For example, I've seen it stated in several sources (almost all of them British, I believe) that the American ships were originally designed as 74s. Indeed, at least one British source states that they were actually laid down as 74s and later completed as frigates, retaining their original ship-of-the-line scantlings, hull thickness, and sail-plans, thereby explaining why they were so superior to proper British frigates when they met in battle. Needless to say, there is no accuracy in that statement. It may be that it originated in part from the 6 74-gunships authorized in 1799 (but never built). Ihe fact that the same number of frigates and liners had been authorized, that the liners never materialized, and that the frigates — delayed in construction — didn't begin commissioning until about the time funds for the liners were appropriated, may be the source of the confusion. Unfortunately, if you go back and look at the Act of 1799, the construction of the ships was never authorized; instead, the Navy was authorized to acquire the frames for them so that they could be rapidly built if/when Congress later became convinced there was actually a need for them. The timber was acquired, but it was never used (at least for that purpose) and most of it rotted in storage so that none of it was available for the liners actually built during the War of 1812. It's very clear from the correspondence of the design team on the 44s that they were intended as extraordinarily powerful frigates from the very beginning, but that they were never visualized as ships-of-the-line.

The truth is that the 44s were bleeding-edge ships when they were built, pushing — and in some cases exceeding — the limits of what the then current technology could build. All of them had trouble carrying the weight of the batteries actually put aboard them. Originally designed to carry 24-pounders on the gundeck and 12-pounder long guns on the upper deck, they were supposed to be converted to 24-pounders on the gundeck and 42-pounder carronades on the upper deck, but Constitution actually carried 32-pounder carronades because her hull strained and hogged with the heavier "establishment" armament onboard. She was right at the limit of the length attainable in a wooden-framed, wooden-built hull which could be expected to have the longevity the designers wanted out of her, and it was another quarter-century before naval designers really figured out how to build wooden ships as long as she was (or even longer) that didn't hog excessively. The "truss" system used in the Constitution is actually an example of the same principles used in diagonal planking schemes already being widely experimented with at the time the ships were designed . . . and which (if you read the books carefully) you'll discover Sir Dustyn Olyvyr is applying to the new, extraordinarily large, purpose-built war galleons he's designing for the Charisian Navy almost from the get-go.

I could go on at enormous (and enthusiastic) length about the actual design history of the 44s and the smaller ships authorized under the same act and later acts. John Wharton, Joshua Humphreys, Josiah Fox, John Barry, William Doughty, Thomas Truxton, and all of the other naval officers and designers who weighed in on the design and construction process make for fascinating reading, and watching their arguments about the strengths and weaknesses of individual design features is even more fascinating, at least to someone like me. The notion that these ships were revolutionary in every way, breaking all existing patterns, is simply untrue, however. They grew out of the American experience with ships like the frigate South Carolina (ex-L’Indien), a 40-gun ship acquired from France by the colony of South Carolina during the Revolution coupled with the awareness on the part of the people fighting to create an American navy that they were going to get only a very small number of ships, which implied that the ships they had were going to have to be extraordinarily powerful. It's worth noting, however, that the basic parameters of the ships — armament, tonnage, crew, etc. — were all pretty much set before they were actually designed. Henry Knox, George Washington's Secretary of War, was responsible for convincing Congress to appropriate funds for them before the Navy Department's formal creation in 1798. Knox had no expertise at all in naval matters, so he turned to advisors like Wharton (a Pennsylvania politician with lots of experience with the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress . . . who just happened to be Joshua Humphreys' cousin), Barry (an experienced naval officer), and (probably) Joshua Humphreys himself (who had been involved with the Continental Navy's construction programs and was a ship builder in Philadelphia, then the national capital, which meant he was readily available to Knox). The Secretary had to provide at least rough design data to Congress in order to estimate the amounts of money he needed to ask Congress to appropriate, and he couldn't pay anyone to produce an actual design until the money had been appropriated, so the tonnage and approximate dimensions had been set before the design process as such ever began.

There is no question that the intention was to produce ships of extraordinary combat power for their rate. In fact, American naval designers generally felt that their ships were unsuccessful unless they were fit to encounter a ship at least one nominal rate higher. That showed clearly in the design of 44s, but it also showed in the design of American ships-of-the-line. Although Independence (1814) was officially a 74, her actual battery in 1817 was 84 guns and carronades, all of them 32-pounders. That means her actual weight of broadside (leaving aside the fact that American round shot weighed about 15% more for a given gun caliber) was 200 pounds heavier than that of the 100-gun HMS Victory at Trafalgar. The same disparity in weight of broadside was evident in the frigate actions of the War of 1812, in large part because the Brits had decided that the 18-pounder was the ideal frigate gun, whereas the Americans thought differently. Many British captains of the period believed that the 24-pounder was simply too big to be served as rapidly and effectively as the far lighter 18-pounder, with a weight differential of almost half a ton between the pieces. They found out differently in 1812. It is, however, inaccurate to say that Constitution was intended to take on and defeat other nations' 74s. She was designed to shoot the ever-loving crap out of anything below the line, but she was also intended to "Run away. Run away!" from a "proper" ship of the line. (see Joshua Humphreys' letter, below)

There's some confusion over just how "tough" "Old Ironsides" and her sisters and near-sisters actually were. Joshua Humphreys, who some people argue was "the" master designer for the 44s but who was, in fact, almost certainly simply one of the senior members of the "committee" of designers and officers Knox assembled for the task, wrote in a letter to Robert Morris, then a senator from Pennsylvania and a very influential member of Congress where naval affairs and finances were concerned, in 1793:

Sir:- From the present appearance of affairs I believe it is time this country was possessed of a Navy; but as that is yet to be raised, I have ventured a few remarks on the subject.

Ships that compose the European Navies are generally distinguished by their rates; but as the situation and depth of water of our coasts and harbors are different in some degree from those in Europe, and as our Navy, for a considerable time, will be inferior in numbers, we are to consider what size ships will be the most formidable and be an overmatch for those of the enemy; such frigates as in blowing weather could be an overmatch for double deck ships, and in light winds to evade coming to action; or double deck ships that could be an overmatch for double deck ships- and in blowing weather superior to ships of three decks or in calm weather or light winds to outsail them. Ships built on these principles will render those of an enemy in a degree useless, or require a greater number before they dare attack our ships.

Frigates, I suppose, will be the first object, and none ought to be built less than 150 feet keel, to carry twenty-eight 32-pounders or thirty 24-pounders on the gun deck and 12-pounders on the quarter deck. These ships should have scantlings equal to 74's and I believe may be built of red cedar and live oak for about 24 Pounds (L) per ton, carpenters tonnage, including carpenters' , smiths' bill, including anchors, joiners, block makers, mast makers, riggers and rigging, sail makers and sail cloths, suits and chandlers' bill. As such ships will cost a large sum of money, they should be built of the best materials that could possibly be procured. Tne beams of their decks should be of the best Carolina pine, and the lower futtocks and knees, if possible, of live oak.

The greatest care should be taken in the construction of such ships, and particularly all her timbers should be framed and bolted together before they are raised. Frigates built to carry 12- and 28-pounders, in my opinion, will not answer the expectation contemplated from them; for if we should be obliged to take a part in the present European war, or at a future day should we be dragged into war with any powers of the Old Continent, especially Great Britain, they having such a number of ships of that size, that it would be an equal chance by equal combat that we lose our ships, and more particularly from the Algerians, who have ships, and some of much greater force. Several questions will arise, whether one large or two small frigates contribute most to the protection of our trade, or will cost the least sum of money, or whether two small ones are as able to engage a double deck as a large one. For my part, I am decidedly of the opinion the large ones will answer the best.

This was fairly early in the process, when they were talking about the general characteristics of the ships they intended to request Congress to approve. (It should be noted here that not everyone agreed that larger was better. Philadelphia was originally intended as a "downsized" 44, although she was re-rated as a 38, and was the work of Josiah Fox, who opposed the enormous size of the big frigates for several reasons, including cost, numbers, and handiness. He was supported in his view by Truxton and several others who shared his opinions.)

What is significant here from a tactical/strategic perspective are Humphrey's comments on frigates "overmatching" 2-decked ships (64s and 74s) in blowing weather and 2-decked ships "overmatching" 3-decked ships under the same conditions, but that both American types should be able to "evade coming to action" in "light winds." That is, the frigates he's proposing would be able to stand up to 74s when weather conditions forced the 74 to close her lowest gun ports, taking her heaviest guns out of action, and the "74s" he envisioned would be able to do the same thing to 3-decked ships-of-the-line under the same conditions, but neither would engage the enemy under conditions in which all of the enemy's gun decks could be fought.

What is significant here in terms of their construction, however, is that what he's talking about is not an attempt to make them impervious or even especially resistant to enemy fire. He's talking about how to design ships to carry the extremely heavy weights of the proposed armaments. The term "scantlings" used here doesn't refer to thickness of hull planking; it refers to the customary naval definition of "scantling" which is "The dimensions of the structural parts of a vessel. Often used in the plural." That is, he's talking about framing members, deck beams, and primary hull timbers, not planking. While it's true that Constitution's hull is around 20 inches thick across the gundeck, a typical 74 had hull planking which gave it a total depth of timber at the gundeck that was in excess of 2 feet, or something like 25-30% thicker. The thickness of Constitution's "gun deck armor" (if you will) was actually a bit greater than that of a Dutch 64, because the Dutch had shallower harbors and couldn't afford the depth of keel other naval powers could, which meant they had to build lighter in order to hold down draft. (And the draft of the big American frigates came as a very unhappy revelation for many of the officers initially assigned to them, since there were quite a few US harbors they couldn't enter freely.) Constitution would have been a very nasty handful for a single British 74 (28 32-pounders; 28 18-pounders, 18 9-pounders, and 2 68-pounder carronades for a weight of broadside of 894 pounds versus Constitution's 704 pounds) but the British ship would have been clearly superior to the American in actual combat power, particularly because in addition to a 74's scantlings, a ship like HMS Bellerophon had a 74's planking and wales.

The closest 20th-century parallel to the big American frigates, conceptually, would be the battlecruiser, designed to crush any armored cruiser in existence and to outrun any battleship in existence, which is actually pretty much precisely what Constitution, President, and United States were, when you come down to it. Although they were inferior in firepower, tonnage, and ability to sustain damage to a ship like Bellerophon with 27% more weight of broadside than their own, they were immensely superior to a 38-gun ship like HMS Java (only 492 pounds weight of broadside, barely 70% as much as Constitution). The fact that the British frigate captains were supremely arrogant and overconfident in 1812 was another factor. British captains were accustomed to defeating French ships of heavier armament and size for their nominal class, and they had Cape St. Vincent, the Battle of the Nile, and Trafalgar behind them to further increase their confidence. Moreover, by 1812 they'd spent something like 15 years denigrating the "over-armed" American ships, sneering at them for seeking an advantage in sheer size rather than recognizing that it was seamanship, training, and morale that truly mattered. They'd badly underestimated the actual disparity in firepower and ship size, their crews were badly understrength (impressment to provide the needed manpower had been one of the causative factors of the War of 1812, after all), and since the Battle of Trafalgar, their main emphasis had been on commerce protection, support of army operations in the Peninsula, and what we might think of as "presence missions." That emphasized seakeeping, seamanship, sail drill, etc., but it had not required them to fight a resolute, powerfully armed opponent at sea in over a decade, and training standards for gunnery had slipped badly. And they figured they would be professionally ruined if they avoided action with another "frigate" (however powerful the ship in question) because of the British public's expectation and demand that British captains take on and defeat all comers. James Carden, of the Macedonian, after surrendering to Stephen Decatur in the United States in October 1812 remarked that he was "a ruined man" as the first British officer to surrender his vessel in a single-ship action since Trafalgar. When he was told Henry Dacres had aready surrendered Guerriere to Isaac Hull in Constution in August, he said "Then I am saved!" according to at least one American witness.

The short, devastating combat between HMS Shannon and USS Chesapeake indicated what happened when a British ship whose captain had heavily emphasized gunnery training ran into an American ship of approximately equal armament, especially when the American had the green crew. The battle was just as one-sided — in the Brits' favor — as the earlier battles had been in the American favor, which actually represented an even greater achievement on Captain Broke’s part, since he didn't have the disparity in firepower Hull, Bainbridge, and Decatur enjoyed in their frigate victories.

Getting back (eventually) to the question of Constitution-versus-Empress of Charis, the battle would probably be a lot closer and nastier than you assumed on the basis of your initial analysis.

Constitution: length 175 feet, beam 43.5 feet, tonnage 1,575 tons, displacement 2,200 tons, armament 32 24-pounders (counting chase guns) and 20 32-pounder carronades, weight of broadside 704 pounds.

Empress of Charis: length 169 feet, beam 40 feet, tonnage 1,450 tons, displacement (approximate) 2,100 tons, armament (third iteration) 30 30-pounders, 4 14-pounders, and 20 57-pounder carronades, weight of broadside 1,048 pounds.

I'll grant you somewhat greater structural strength for Constitution, but there's very little to choose between hull forms, nothing to choose between weatherliness, and Empress of Charis (third iteration) has a 49% advantage in weight of broadside. In her original 68-gun configuration, her weight of broadside would have been only 988, reducing her "throw weight" advantage from 1.49 times that of Constitution to only 1.4. Constitution is going to have a longer design lifetime because of the extra care taken to strengthen the hull longitudinally (the reason for those "74 scale" scantlings), but in terms of raw fighting power, the offensive edge would have to go to the Charisian while the defenses edge for the American would be much thinner than you seem to be assuming.

Essentially, the reason that no one in Charis has considered going to a "proper ship-of-the-line" is that the ships they already have in commission already have the firepower of a late 18th-century 74 even before they introduce exploding ammunition. Given the capability of the platforms already available to them, there is absolutely no point in their tying up the additional manpower and economic resources in building even bigger sailing warships. I think, however, that the above discussion of Empress of Charis actual dimensions, armament, and hull design may actually make the utterly revolutionary impact of the Charisian "galleons" a bit clearer than it might have been previously. The fact that Safeholdians are still calling them "galleons" an entire six years after the broadside gunnery concept was first introduced should not mislead anyone into thinking that these are the ships of the Spanish Armada being "drummed down the channel" by Sir Francis Drake and John Hawkins. [G]

Sorry about the length and the digressions.

Safehold The River-class ship seems too heavy for it's stated dimensions. Can someone tell me where I am going wrong here? (Asked Fri Apr 06, 2012) December 2013

Couple of points. Well, three points, actually. [G]

First, the hull is very nearly rectangular. This is a converted canal/river barge, not an oceanic hull, which is the main reason such an absurdly overpowered hull isn’t capable of more than 17-18 mph in calm water.

Secondly, 951 metric tons is 1,048.3 short tons, which are the only tons available on Safehold, courtesy of Eric Langhorne, and it was short tons I was citing, so the difference in tonnage from my figures to your “rectangular hull” is only 151 tons, or roughly 7.5%, which very probably occurred in my original rounding and is close enough for me to feel perfectly happy using.

Third, the 6” BL gun you cite is a heck of a lot bigger than the gun I am citing. Your gun was a 6”/44 — that is, it was 44 calibers long, making the tube right on 22’ long; the 6” for the river class are black powder weapons, and longer tubes don’t give black powder cannon the same velocity advantage they give with nitro cellulose propellants because of the difference in burn time. A black powder weapon gives all of its acceleration almost instantly; after that point, friction with the barrel liner becomes a factor (especially in rifled guns, with their reduced windage) which actually reduces muzzle velocity in a longer tube. The 6” BL for the River class is a 6”/18, with a 9’ tube, just over 40% the length of your weapon, and a muzzle velocity of roughly 1,350 fps compared to the 2,700+ fps of the 6” you cite. Total weight of the gun on a wooden truck carriage is only about 2.5 tons and the new mount is based on the Marsilly carriage with a very simple hydro-pneumatic recoil system, so total weight per piece is only going to be in the 4-ton range. I also gave you 2 too many gun ports per broadside in my original notes (I forgot I’d shifted 4 broadside guns to bow and stern positions when I went with a homogenous 30-pounder/6” armament on a 140’ hull rather than having a single 8” fore and aft on a 160’ hull as in my original rough design), so the actual total armament is 22 guns, not 26, giving a weight of around 104 tons, not 195.

Armor (I’m shooting from memory here, rather than going back and hunting up my exact calculations) works out at about 280 tons, hull structure works out at around 250 tons, guns come in at about 100, and machinery (with all liquids aboard) is about 250 tons, for a total of 880 tons, or 1,360 with 480 tons of coal on board. I allowed myself the extra 160 tons as a wiggle-room number, given that all of the figures are approximations. (Besides, I thoght “twelve hundred tons” sounded better than “thirteen hundred and sixty tons,” so I exercised a little authorial license. [G])

If the weight of the machinery seems low, I would point out that the triple-expansion machinery of USS Maine (6,650 long tons [7,448 short tons]; 1895; fire tube boilers; 135 psi steam; trial speed 17.45 Old Earth knots [20.08 Safeholdian knots]) weighed about 700 short tons, whereas these ships have double expansion machinery, small water tube boilers, and 290 psi steam, so the 250 tons number is actually probably high. The third cylinder — the one these ships don’t have — is usually around 3 times the diameter of the first cylinder, so the weight of the engines themselves is cut approximately in half, while Maine had 8 boilers, all of which were bigger and heavier than any of these ships’ 4 boilers.

As another indicator of the difference between water tube and fire tube boilers, the weight of HMS Invincible's machinery (1907) was about 20% of her total displacement, or around 3,925 short tons, and developed 41,000 shaft horsepower. HMS Hood (designed 1917) devoted only 13% of her much greater displacement to machinery (around 6,800 short tons) but developed 144,000 SHP. This means that the earlier ship (with 31 fire tube boilers) developed 10.44 SHP per ton of machinery, whereas Hood (with only 24 water tube boilers and higher pressures) generated 21.22 SHP per ton of machinery, better than twice the efficiency. Both of these ships used turbines rather than reciprocating machinery (as in the River class or the Maine), but the decrease in weight per SHP (which was really pretty astonishing in only a decade) was due to the greater efficiency of the water tube boilers. That same efficiency curve, only greater, would be in play in comparing Maine's machinery weights to the River class'.

For anyone interested in real esoterica, USS Iowa's machinery weight in 1943 was 4,423.8 long tons (dry) and 4,815.8 long tons (with liquids) and generated 212,000 SHP. That comes to 39.3 SHP per short ton weight of machinery, which explains why a ship with a standard displacement 116% that of Hood was 10% faster than Hood's highest attained speed and 16% faster than her best speed in 1941. I don't know what Hood's steam conditions were, but Iowa's plant operated at 600 psi, which was 210% of the 280 psi of the Colorado class, the last USN BBs built before the Washington Naval Disarmament Treaty.

Returning to Safehold, one recurrent problem people seem to be having when they look at Safeholdian technology is an effort to pick a period of Old Earth technology and then use it as a yardstick for Safehold. The difficulty is that they appear to be picking the wrong periods rather than looking at the numbers I’m actually giving them, as when it was assumed in another post that Empress of Charis was basically a 16th century galleon with all guns on a single deck instead of, effectively, a 19th century double-banked frigate design. In this instance, for example, you were selecting guns which are much more advanced than (and more than twice as heavy as) the ones actually being mounted, while I suspect most people are looking at machinery weights in terms of around 1850-70 tech when they are actually far more comparable to those of around 1915 (USN service) in terms of steam pressures and weights and hence efficiency.

Safehold Comparative Ship Analysis Part 2 (Posted Sat Apr 14, 2012) December 2013

Since there's been some discussion about exactly how Charisian warships might stack up against "real world" counterparts, here are some statistics to think about. All tonnages are "burden" not "displacement," and all are in long tons (despite the fact that long tons don't exist on Safehold; I'm using similar units so they can be properly compared to one another)

USN Ships:

USS Philadelphia: (1799): length 157'; beam 39'; 1,240 tons; gundeck 28 long 18-pounders; spar deck 16 32-pounder carronades; weight of broadside 508 pounds.

USS President (1799): length 175'; beam 43'8"; 1,576 tons; gundeck 30 long 24-pounders; spar deck 22 42-pounder carronades; 2 long 18-pounder chasers; weight of broadside 840 pounds.

USS Columbia (1813): length 175'; beam 44'6"; 1,511 tons; gundeck 30 long 32-pounders; spar deck 20 42-pounder carronades; 2 long 18 pounder chasers; weight of broadside 918 pounds.

USS Columbus (1816): length 193'3"; beam 52'; 2,480 tons; lower gundeck 30 long 32-pounders; upper gundeck 32 medium 32-pounders; spar deck 24 32-pounder carronades; broadside 1,376 pounds. (Notes: over-gunned for her displacement; despite her size she had no more than 5' or 6' freeboard between the waterline and the sills of her lower deck gun ports.)

USS Ohio (1817): length 197'2"; beam 53'10"; 2,725 tons; lower gundeck 30 long 32-pounders; upper gundeck 32 medium 32-pounders; spar deck 24 32-pounder carronades; broadside 1,376 pounds. (Notes: considered one of the finest two-decked ships-of-the-line ever built; carried her armament easily with almost twice Columbus' freeboard to her lower deck port sills.)

USS Pennsylvania (1822): length 210'; beam 56'9"; 3,105 tons; lower gundeck 30 long 42-pounders; middle gundeck 32 long 32-pounders; upper gundeck 32 long 32-pounders; spar deck 30 42-pounder carronades; weight of broadside 2,284 pounds.

Royal/Imperial Charisian Navy:

HMS Hurricane: length 108’; beam 35’; 750 tons; gundeck 14 35-pounder carronades; upper deck 14 35-pounder carronades; weight of broadside 490 pounds. (Notes: this is fairly typical of the Royal Charisian Navy's smaller converted merchant galleons. She does not have warship-grade scantlings or planking and carries only carronades to reduce weights, which limits the range at which she can engage. Even so, she has very limited freeboard.)

HMS Gale: length 115'; beam 35'; 840 tons; gundeck 18 35-pounders; upper deck 14 35-pounder carronades; 4 long 14-pounder chase guns; weight of broadside 588 pounds. (Notes: this is fairly typical of the Royal Charisian Navy's larger converted merchant galleons. She does not have warship-grade scantlings or planking, but her greater tonnage lets her carry long guns on the gundeck and gives her slightly better freeboard.)

HMS Dreadnought: length 154'; beam 42'6"; 1,200 tons; gundeck 30 long 30-pounders; spar deck 20 30-pounder carronades; 4 long 14-pounders; weight of broadside 828 pounds. (Notes: the first purpose-built war galleons of the Royal Charisian Navy. Approximately the same burden as Philadelphia but beamier to carry her heavier battery. Freeboard to lower port sills only about 10' — better than anyone else's, but still about 3'-4' short of what a proper blue-water frigate really needs. From this ship on, Charisian warships are as heavily built as — or more heavily built than — their USN counterparts.)

HMS Empress of Charis (original): length 168' 11"; beam 40'3"; 1,400 tons; gundeck 32 long 30-pounders; spar deck 30 30-pounder carronades; 4 long 14-pounders; weight of broadside 958 pounds. (Notes: if anyone is looking, in my original post about a matchup between this ship and Constitution, I think I forgot to divide by two when calculating Empress' weight of broadside. [G])

HMS Empress of Charis (final): length 168'11"; beam 40'3"; 1,400 tons; gundeck 30 long 30-pounders; spar deck 18 57-pounder carronades; 4 long 14-pounders; weight of broadside 991 pounds.

HMS Royal Charis: length 174'; beam 40'; 1,520 tons; gundeck 30 long 30-pounders; spar deck 24 30-pounder carronades; 4 long 14-pounders; weight of broadside 834 pounds. (Notes: 30-pounder carronades later replaced by 20 57-pounder carronades, at which point weight of broadside became 1,048 pounds. She carried her guns higher than the original Empress, and showed 12' of freeboard to her port sills. This was the immediate follow-on class to Empress.)

HMS Sword of Charis: length 178'6"; beam 45'4"; 1,725 tons; gundeck 30 long 30-pounders; spar deck 20 57-pounders; 4 long 14-pounders; weight of broadside 1,048 pounds. (Notes: An improved Royal Charis. Her greater displacement gives her 14' of freeboard to her port sills.)

HMS Thunderer: length 194'6"; beam 52'3"; 2,500 tons; lower gundeck 30 long 30-pounders; upper gundeck 32 long 30-pounders; spar deck 24 57-pounder carronades; 2 long 57-pounders; weight of broadside 1,728. (Notes: This ship, which would have been the Imperial Charisian Navy's first true ship-of-the-line, was designed by Sir Dustyn Olyvyr before the Battle of the Gulf of Tarot, when no one was really thinking in terms of shell-firing guns or ironclads and the ICN hadn't captured so many prize ships from the Navy of God. The long 57-pounders are basically long 7.5" smoothbores on pivot mounts which allow them to fire in either broadside or directly ahead as chase guns.)

When comparing the tonnage costs of these ships' batteries, remember that: a USN 32-pounder weighs just over 6,000 pounds; a USN 24-pounder weighs 5,376 pounds; a Charisian 35-pounder weighs about 5,000 pounds; and a Charisian 30-pounder weighs about 4,800. This means, for example, that Empress of Charis' 30 long 30-pounders actually weigh 11% less than President's 30 long 24-pounders. Charisian "long" guns would have been considered "medium" guns by the USN, which gives them slightly shorter range than their USN counterparts might have had. On the other hand, they have more range than their Safeholdian counterparts.

And I'm not going to tell you about the ironclads which are going to be built instead of Thunderer.

Safehold Grab Bag 2 of Questions, Part 2 (Posted Sun Apr 15, 2012) December 2013

You guys are being very enthusiastic about what Charis should be doing, aren't you?

I'm not going to give away any details about what actually happens, but if you're going to speculate on what may happen in the next book, let's toss out a few numbers — some of which you already had, many of which you didn't — which are going to constrain what both sides can do.

First of all, the isthmus connecting Haven and East Howard is, at its narrowest, 252 miles across. That's a fairly long front to hold in a continuous line.

Second, a few sea distances:
Tellesberg to Siddar City:..................8,000+ miles
Port Royal to Siddar City:..................9,830+ miles
Port Royal to Gorath Bay:..................14,270+ miles
Border States to Siddar City:...............2,400+ miles

Third, available shipping tonnages (burden; short tons):
Total Safeholdian oceanic tonnage......4,900,000 tons (rounded)
Total Charisian oceanic tonnage........3,580,000 tons (rounded)
Food required per day per man.............3 pounds
Food required per day per horse..........30 pounds
Food required per day per dragon........580 pounds

Total Safeholdian oceanic galleons: 4,162
Total Charisian oceanic galleons: 2,753

Charis has a lot more coastal shipping and a lot less canal shipping than the mainland realms.

NOTE: the fact that someone has oceanic galleons doesn't necessarily mean those galleons can get to sea and survive there.

Fourth, population numbers (rounded to nearest million):
Old Charis...................14,000,000
Windswept Island................150,000

Border States...............102,000,000
Follos, Duchy...................463,000
Temple Lands.................89,000,000

Barren Lands*.................1,000,000
Raven's Land....................123,000
*Includes Green Tree Island and Westbreak Island.

Fifth, troop strengths:

Siddarmark's pre-Sword standing army: 1,200,000

Siddarmark's post-Sword standing army: 394,550
Siddarmark's post-Sword loyal militia: 496,420
Imperial Charisian Army: 450,000
Total post-Sword good guys: 1,340,970
Militia as % of total: 37%

Siddarmark post-sword Temple Loyalist militia: 473,900
Desnair + Dohlar invasion force: 360,000
Army of God invasion force: 500,000+
Harchong invasion force: 1,500,000+
Total post-Sword bad guys: 2,833,900
Milita as % of total: 16.7%

NOTE: the majority of the Imperial Charisian Army is in Chisholm (see voyage distances, above), and the Charisian Empire can't completely strip its rear areas of security forces (remember Corisande?).

Sustained daily movement rates by canal: 50+ miles per day.

Subtle hint: This is all going to be about logistics.

And I don't want to hear any whining about "but that's not what you told us before!" [G]

And one more thing, if anyone gets too anal, I won't give you any more info. So there. Take that.

Safehold What kind of piracy was going on on Safehold, and why didn't it affect the Church tithes? (Asked Tue Apr 24, 2012) December 2013

I think I've just explained (at least I've tried to) why the waters concerned weren't considered "waters dominated by the ICN" at that time, and I also don't recall ever having said that no one ever considered stealing "some of the tithe passing by in 800 years." Even leaving aside the religious convictions to which Friar Bob quite rightly alluded, no nation (and no sane individual — even a Safeholdian athiest [although that’s a concept — pre-jihad, at least — to boggle my mind!] who imagined for one instant that he might be identifiable, for that matter) would ever even have considered it because of the penalties which would have attached and the fact that the Church and every other secular nation on the face of the planet would have come after them, of course, but I never said that no one at all considered pilfering from the tithe. In fact, one of the problems Duchairn has to address in MT&T is how to deal with putting an end to the margin of graft and corruption — embezzlement, if you will — which the Church had previously been willing to put up with in certain places. And I'm quite sure that more than one desperate individual, over the course of Safeholdian history, was willing to hit a Church tithe gatherer over the head to relieve him of the tithe . . . which is why tithe gatherers are normally accompanied by armed guards. And also one reason the tithe is not normally sent any farther by sea than it has to be.

Even without the threat of piracy or thieves, there's always the possibility of shipwreck, after all, and a "ship" that sinks in a canal is much more readily salvaged than one that sinks in a couple of thousand of feet of seawater. Hence, again, the reference to the fact that sending the shipment from Khairman Keep to Silk Town represented an unusual change which the loss of Archangel Chihiro and Blessed Warrior brought to a screeching stop.

Finally, I don't know that I ever suggested (a) that piracy was "apparently endemic" to Safehold or (b) that "only the top and bottom of Safehold's society show[ed] any signs of corruption in those ~800 years." Certainly piracy was a problem prior to the jihad, but does the fact that piracy is rife in the waters off Somalia mean that piracy is "endemic" to 21st-century Earth? In certain areas, piracy was a known and even severe problem; in other areas, it was an occasional problem; in still others, maritime traffic was considered secure prior to the current unpleasantness. And I'm not sure what you mean about only the top and bottom of Safeholdian society showing any signs of corruption. Exactly what signs of corruption are they supposed to be showing in those theoretically "middle portions" of society? I think it's been pretty evident throughout the course of the books that there are criminal elements at just about every level of Safeholdian society, just as there are here on Earth, but you'll have to give me a little more guidance as to exactly what sort of "corruption" in what portion of society seems to be missing before I can address the point. You really need to stop assuming that just because I haven’t made some specific aspect of an entire literary world critical to the storytelling that that aspect doesn’t exist. If you really need me to show you a mid-level bank clerk skimming the accounts going past him, or a dishonest store clerk deliberately making the wrong change, or a plumber committing adultery to make it clear that there is routine, run of the mill corruption and human weakness at all levels of society, the story is really going to bog down, you know.

Safehold With the way that the Clinton is breaking the writ laws such as with the Canals for example won't this in the end undermine the churches authority? (Asked Thu Apr 26, 2012) December 2013

dis-pen-sa-tion: noun 1.a The act of dispensing. b. Something dispensed. c. A specific arrangement or system by which something is dispensed. 2. An exemption or a release from an obligation or a rule, granted by or as if by an authority. 3.a An exemption from a church law, a vow, or another similar obligation granted in a particular case by an ecclesiastical authority. b. The document containing this exemption. 4. Theology. a. The divine ordering of worldly affairs. b. A religious system or code of commands considered to have been divinely revealed or appointed.

I would direct your attention to 3.a and to 4.b.

Zhaspahr Clyntahn is the "ecclesiastical authority" charged with enforcing the Proscriptions and Church doctrine. He is also the individual who has the authority, under the Writ, to grant dispensations allowing departures — temporary or permanent — from the Proscriptions and doctrine . . . after, of course, prayerful consideration of the Writ and God's will. Remember that it's the Intendant in each archbishopric, invariably a Schuelerite, who passes on the acceptability of new innovations under the Proscriptions of Jwo-jeng, but the Intendant can only approve of innovations which are acceptable under currently interpreted Church law. He can't grant an attestation for something entirely new or novel; that sort of decision would have to be referred up the chain to the Office of the Inquisition, and even his decisions to allow something on the basis that it reflects only already approved technology are always subject to review at a higher level. Remember also, however, that Erayk Dynnys couldn't simply overrule Paityr Wylsynn; he could pressure Wylsynn, but only the Office of the Inquisition would have had the authority to overrule him. And the Office of the Inquisition is headed by the Grand Inquisitor, who happens to be Zhaspahr Clyntahn.

(Things are just a little different in the Church of Charis, obviously, but we're not talking about the Church of Charis in this instance.)

So far, Clyntahn is well within the official, legal sphere of his authority in granting dispensations for the use of new weapons, the adoption of new techniques, and even for things like the temporary sabotage of canal locks. There are other things he's doing in which he is at the very least . . . creatively reinterpreting the Writ, such as his imposition of a worldwide embargo against Charisian commerce and his deliberate destabilization of entire realms. Then there's the little matter of assassinations and terrorism, so I think it can certainly be argued that he is far, far outside the spirit of the Writ in terms of meeting his pastoral responsibilities.

(And despite what's currently going on on Safehold, the Writ is really very clear about the "pastoral responsibilities" the Church's clergy are supposed to meet. It's important to remember that the Church of God Awaiting wasn't really established for the purpose of providing the vicarate with cushy, comfortable lifestyles and opportunities for graft.)

Nonetheless, even granting that Clyntahn is off the reservation in several contexts under the normal reading of the Writ, one should also remember what Dunkyn Yairley had to say to Duke Kholman following the Battle of Iythria about how the Writ's rules change in the event of a jihad. It would be very difficult — so far, at least — for any Temple Loyalist to argue that he's exceeded his or the Church's authority or done anything other than what the Writ itself authorizes (where dispensations are concerned, at any rate) in time of jihad.

If anything is going to undermine Clyntahn's authority with the faithful, it's going to be the realization that he's acting in his own self-interest and not in the interest of Mother Church. As long as the Temple Loyalists remain convinced that the things that he's doing, however horrible, are required by the Book of Schueler and the Holy Writ, his actions are unlikely to undermine the Church's authority. Once that tipping point is reached, however, and the Temple Loyalists begin agreeing with the Reformists about the need to rectify the Church's corruption and abuses, everything that he's done will be looked at through a very different set of prisms. As far as the Temple Loyalists are concerned, his actions are unlikely to undermine the Church's authority even then, but at that point, the Counter Reformation will set in, and it will be interesting to see if Church doctrine becomes more or less authoritarian after the corrupt men in Zion have been dealt with.

Safehold Why can't Merlin just use Terran Federation weapons to quickly overthrow the Church? (Asked Mon Apr 30, 2012) December 2013

I have to write the stories the way I feel they should be written, however, and Merlin's high tech goodies are not going to turn into god weapons or panaceas in the course of the books for a whole bunch of reasons. Some I have already spelled out in terms of moral consequences to his actions. Some I have spelled out in terms of the damage they would do if they became known to the other side. Some have to do with the problems of charges of devil-worship and demon familiars which he has been at such pains to avoid. Some have to do with his refusal to replace one forcibly imposed set of technology guidelines and religous proscriptions and diktats with what amounts to another. Some have to do with story telling constraints. Some have to do with things you may not have yet thought about, but which I have . . . like how the Inqusition under Clyntahn is going to react to any town or settlement anywhere near to an "inexplicable" act of non-divine sabotage. (You do realize how likely he would be to start assigning "collective responsibility" and punishing the local inhabitants who were obviously assisting the saboteurs . . . whoever they were, don't you?) Some have to do with Merlin's own moral qualms and ethics. Some have to do with . . . .

I'll stop there. I hope this is enough of an explanation. I hope the readers will trust me with the books and with the characters, and that the characters' actions (and attitudes) will be consistent with who they are and what they've been shown to be. In the end, however, the stories will be written the way I think they need to be written. No doubt some readers will be upset and will voice their unhappiness with characters' actions (or inactions) as vociferously as thousands of Monday morning quarterbacks have second-guessed real lilfe military and political decision makers for as long as I can remember. If that happens, it will probably indicate that I got it right.

I'll leave you with one last thought. I could have had Nimue trot out her recon skimmer three days after she woke up in the cave, nuke Zion and all the major sources of the Church's military capabilities, then appear as "the Archangel Nimue," decree that the Church had fallen into corruption (as it had) and that she had been sent by God with the new dispensation, completing the teaching which had been interrupted by Shan-wei's "rebellion" when those claiming to be Langhorne's true followers had actually perverted the historical record of what had happened. In fact, Shan-wei was the first victim of the rebellion against Langhorne, to whom she was loyal to the moment of Armageddon Reef's destruction, and the true trator was Chihiro, who proceded to pervert and twist everything Langhorne had intended as his full teaching. That triumph of the Dark in the War of the Fallen established a thousand years of darkness on Safehold, making the Church's corruption inevitable, but the time has come to right the wrong which was done so many centuries ago and return humankind to the paths of righteousness, including the responsible use of technology which Shan-wei, as Langhorne's true, loyal lieutenant had been entrusted to reveal and teach before Chihiro the Foul's sinful, ambitious betrayal and revolt.

Now, obviously, I would have had to deal with the bombardment platform, but I can think of a couple of ways to do that right off the top of my head (one of which may yet be used), or I could simply never have inserted it into the mix in the first place. And what I've sketched out above is only one possible iteration of the many, many, many ways I could have allowed use of advanced technology to solve Nimue/Merlin's problems.

Would have been a damned boring book, too, and the entire war would have been over in about 12 minutes, with no moral growth or exploration of any of the characters. Ho-hum.

If you want that story, you'll have to go find it somewhere else, though, because I have no intention whatever of writing it.

Safehold Why shouldn't Charis induce atrocities to further erode the Group of Four's authority (e.g., throwing rocks through windows, stealing/destroying food supplies, etc.)? (Asked Fri May 04, 2012) December 2013

(1) If you start throwing rocks with remotes and someone sees them, you have demons coming out of the woodwork, thereby validating the Inquisition's claim to be representing God's will.

(2) If you start throwing rocks through windows, then the Inquisition will start posting watchmen round-the-clock, at which point you either have to use remotes (demons), human beings (who will be arrested and tortured to death), or Merlin himself (who can only be in one place at a time), or else stop.

(3) Same for stealing food from grainaries or other storage facilities.

(4) The Inqusition has no fields of its own, so if you steal their food, you're stealing every one else's.

(5) If you begin having random acts of sabotage, Clyntahn (as I have suggested elsewhere) will begin making examples of people living in the vicinity. He doesn't believe in demons (or, at least, that God will allow them to operate against Mother Church) so any deliberate sabotage has to be the work of human hands. If the locals weren't part of it, they should be sources of information about who was behind it. If they aren't sources of information, then they probably were involved. And even if they weren't, making salutory examples of folks in the neighborhood should inspire other folks in the neighborhood to start keeping their eyes open so they can provide the Church with clues in future. Defeating such sabotage is God's work and theefore, however distasteful we may find it, we have no option but to do whatever is required of us (with due considration for the provisions of the Book of Schueler) to accomplish that end. Please make plans to attend the auto-da-fe at the end of the street next Wednesday after mass. Thank you very much, the Inquisition,

Now, from a coldblooded perspective, I could easily make a case for Merlin deliberately inspiring Clyntahn to begin conductions barbaric, atrocity-generating "reprisals" against innocent civilians for his own [Merlin's] actions. It would, after all, be a way to accelerate the Temple Loyalists' . . . disenchantment with the Grand Inquisitor and the Go4. It is, however, a cynical maneuver of the kind Merlin (and Cayleb and Sharleyan) despise in Clyntahn himself. And, assuming the Go4 is ultimately defeated and the truth about Merlin (and his capabilities) comes out, then all the people who lost family members to (or themselves suffered from) atrocities which Merlin deliberately induced Clyntahn to commit are not going to be particularly enamored of the "good guys," and rightly so.

Just pointing out that it is nowhere near as simple as some people seem determined to assume that it is. I genuinly have considered most of the possibilities which have been presented and rejected them for reasons which --- in my opinion (but I'm only the author, so what do I know about it?) --- make excellent sense from the perspective of the main characters' morality, ethics, view of their mission, and pragmatic awareness of ultimate consequences for their overarching ojectives.

EDIT: I forgot to add the observation that throwing rocks and open acts of defiance usually only work when (1) the bulk of the population already agrees with those who are doing the defying and is willing to rally en masse to their rescue/assistance in sufficient numbers to offset the "authorities'" preponderance of military power; (2) there is an outside force which can and will intervene on the side of the troublemakers in time to keep them all from being killed; or (3) the people you are defying are the civilized ones, and so hamstrung by their own professed values where truly effective repressive tactics are concerned.

Regimes are seldom overthrown for being too repressive; they're overthrown when, for whatever reason, they are no longer willing/able to adopt effective repressive techniques. Brutality can generate people willing to rebel; it seldom generates successful rebellion as long as the people administering the brutality are free to continue to do so. Mahatma Gandhi would not have fared well against Heinrich Himmler; the Libyan rebels would not have succeeded against Kadhafi without outside air support; and the Syrian opposition will not succeed against Assad as long as someone is willing to sell him bullets and he can find soldiers willing to fire them (or the Western powers miraculously develop the cojones to do to him what they were willing to do to poor, isolated, not-connected-to-Iran-or-Russia Kadhafi).

There are enough moral ambiguities involved in attacking clearly military targets in a way which is going to cause collateral damage and deaths to a putatively friendly civilian population, as in Allied bombing of targets on French soil during World War II. Britain's Bomber Command is demonized in many circles for area bombing of German cities — i.e., cities full of enemy civilians — and then there's that little matter of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Yet even Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki could be justified as attacks on military objectives which inflicted those "collateral" casualties on enemy civilian populations. How much worse does the West feel about Stalin's refusal to advance to the liberation of the Warsaw Ghetto when it rose against the Germans? If Merlin & Co. are responsible for actions which cause the Inquisition to respond by punishing people innocent of any complicity in those actions, then they (in my opinion, deservedly) will carry a stigma as indelible as Stalin's from Warsaw.