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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 What do the various planets/regions of the Honorverse sound like to you? (Asked Tue Sep 20, 2011) January 2014

In general:

Planet Sphinx = Midwestern American;

Planet Manticore = British (specifically, English with upper and lower class distinctions, but with a pronounced, rather dreadful 19th century sort of Anglo-Irish drawl for certain segments of the uppermost upper crust [i.e., Oversteegan & Co.]);

Planet Gryphon = Highland Scots;

Haven System (particularly Nouveau Paris) = French;

Planet Grayson = Welsh, that sort of soft, musical edge;

Solarian League (particularly Old Earth) = various "big city" American accents.

This is how my ear "hears" them when I think about it, although to be honest, I usually don't worry about pronunciation as much as I do about word choice when I'm writing.

Honorverse Why didn't Queen Elizabeth and her coalition try to negotiate peace at the outset of the Havenite Wars? (Asked Fri May 25, 2012) January 2014

I think that throwing around terms like "tunnel vision" where the Centrists are concerned is a bit like calling Winston Churchill an "alarmist" where the rise of Nazi Germany was concerned. In fact, it would actually be rather more like calling an alternate-history FDR alarmist for regarding the Axis as a threat following the conquest of Western Europe by Germany and the conquest and partition of the Soviet Union by Germany and Japan. The People's Republic began its forcible expansion through conquest in around 1850; by the time war between the Manticoran Alliance and the PRH actually began 55 years later, the People's Republic had become second only to the Solarian League in size, population, and military power. Throughout that entire period, the Star Kingdom (in the person of first Roger III and then Elizabeth III and their ministers) had known — not simply from observation but from all manner of human intelligence sources — that the Peeps had no intention of halting their forcible expansion . . . ever. They also had plentiful experience of watching the PRH's foreign policy, including the subsidization of domestic "separatist" and terrorist organizations (a la the Office of Frontier Security's tactics) against the targets of their expansion, covert operations to destabilize regimes, assassination, bribery, graft, blackmail, extortion, and economic warfare. And that was simply what they were willing to do to star systems they had not yet conquered and added to the empire; it didn't even consider what they were willing to do the star systems they had already conquered in order to pacify them. They had, in fact — to the certain knowledge of the then prime minister of Manticore and the Queen, her then regent, and her most trusted inner circle of advisers — used assassination, suborned senior political operatives, and a deliberate effort to destabilize government against the Star Kingdom itself at a critical moment, 20-plus years before active and open hostilities broke out. From Elizabeth's perspective, the Star Kingdom had been at war with the People's Republic from the date that it had committed an act of war by murdering the Manticoran head of state, even if the constraints both sides faced had prevented that war from being openly declared before the entire explored galaxy.

It was neither tunnel vision nor paranoia to regard the People's Republic of Haven and all its works as a mortal threat to everything the Star Kingdom of Manticore held dear in 1905, regardless of what might or might not have been going on domestically in Nouveau Paris. No, there was no formal Peep declaration of war against the Star Kingdom under all of the niceties of interstellar law. On the other hand, there'd never been a formal Peep declaration of war against any of the PRH's previous victims. In addition, I don't believe any of the people criticizing Elizabeth's approach to the People's Republic in 1905-1906 can point to any communication from Rob Pierre or the Committee of Public Safety offering so much as an apology for the PRH's unprovoked attacks, far less a stand down order, on the new regime's part. And the reason you can't, is that there wasn't one. There was, however, a great deal of information coming out of the People's Republic — from both public sources and from existing Manticoran intelligence channels — to suggest that the Pierre regime was using the threat of an external enemy (Manticore), which the PRH's propaganda had spent decades demonizing, as a means to consolidate his new position in Nouveau Paris. So Elizabeth and her advisers and government were hearing from the new management exactly what they had heard from the old management, with the kicker that the new management was involved in a bloodfest of purges, executions, and a general reign of terror which dwarfed in intensity and violence anything the Legislaturalists had previously produced. A regime, one might also point out, which already controlled or was in the process of consolidating control over the largest navy in the galaxy outside the Solarian League Navy itself.

This is a time when Elizabeth, whose star nation was the victim of aggression to begin the war, is supposed to exercise restraint and open negotiations with a regime which is busy expressing its openly avowed determination to continue the "People's war" against the "plutocratic oppressors" and "kleptocracy" of Manticore? Please. It was all very well for people outside the government to advocate for "giving peace a chance" and "taking the high road" or "engaging the new regime in dialogue" when (a) they bore no responsibility for what would happen if their advice was/wasn't accepted and, even more importantly, (b) the people giving that advice knew it would not — and could not — be accepted by the Queen or her government. They were posturing purely for domestic political advantage, for the most part, although I will grant that there were individuals so fundamentally misreading the situation as to believe their advice was also sound policy. They were very few and far between in the Manticoran Opposition at that time, however, and after decades of bitter political strife against the Opposition, Elizabeth understood that perfectly, which was precisely the reason she was so bitterly infuriated at finding herself blackmailed over the matter of Pavel Young's actions in Hancock and the political machinations pivoting around his court-martial.

Even if Pierre had been willing to entertain the possibility of a negotiated cessation of hostilities at a time when he clearly needed/desired an external enemy in order to consolidate his grip on power, it would have been criminally negligent of Elizabeth to halt military operations against the adversary who had just initiated open hostilities against the Manticoran Alliance — in effect, for NATO to have halted operations against the Warsaw Pact following its invasion of West Germany in 1985 — until she had some evidence of that fact. The last thing she could afford to do would be to permit a new, terroristic, extremist regime busily using the PRH's historic (and carefully fostered) hostility against the Star Kingdom to whip on the mobs cheering the equivalent of the guillotine in downtown Paris to reorganize and regather its forces for a second, more powerful, and better organized offensive.

If — if — there had been one single word coming out of Nouveau Paris that consisted of anything suggesting for even one moment that the Committee of Public Safety intended to disavow the last 50-plus years of the People's Republic's foreign policy, then perhaps it would be legitimate to criticize Elizabeth for failing to "stay her hand" and "give peace a chance." There was no such single word, however, nor did any of her intelligence sources — which were giving her accurate intelligence — suggest for a moment that there was going to be any such word. I didn't give you every single gory detail about the intelligence coming into her hands, the blow-by-blow discussion in her cabinet of the position of the Committee of Public Safety, the competing analyses being handed to her, etc., etc., because — in my humble opinion as the author — it wasn't necessary in the absence of anything from the other side suggesting any change in its foreign policy objectives.

Next, I suppose, we come to the allegation that Elizabeth was wrong to oppose negotiations with Saint-Just following the successes Buttercup and Pierre's assassination.

First, let's think about whether she should have halted operations short of "dictating peace" from Haven orbit. Why should she have been insane enough, for a moment, to have considered anything else after 50-plus years of cold war followed by 10 years of hot war against an adversary like the People's Republic which, under its post-Legislaturalist management, had become even more of a police state marked by terror tactics against its own citizenry and an absolute ruthlessness in military operations? She was in a position to destroy the PRH's military capability, then do the equivalent of anchoring in Tokyo Bay and saying "we need to talk" from a position in which even the Committee of Public Safety would have been forced to negotiate seriously. The fact that she would be in a clearly demonstrated position of military supremacy — with an unchallengeable military advantage, proven by the destruction of the People's navy and the fact that her own naval forces were literally anchored in the middle of her enemy's capital city — doesn't mean she would have been required to impose a Carthaginian peace and plow the surface of the planet with salt. Nor does the fact that she was never allowed to present peace terms to the People's Republic under those conditions mean that she didn't have a set of peace terms in mind. There was never any reason for me to give you a discussion of what sort of post-Peep regime she had in mind for the People's Republic of Haven, because there was never an opportunity for her to present it to anyone, was there? People seem to be assuming that because she had never enunciated her view of an "exit strategy" from a 70-year (or so) conflict that she must necessarily neither have had one nor been capable of producing one — short of nuking Nouveau Paris into a puddle of volcanic glass, of course, since that was obviously the only outcome she could possibly envision.

When Elizabeth went to consult with Benjamin, she was going to discuss their joint policy towards the People's Republic in the newly demonstrated military situation. She was going to Grayson for the specific purpose of discussing that with her closest, most trusted, and most powerful ally. (Think of it as the Tehran or Potsdam Conferences from World War II, if you have to have a real world equivalent, although that analogy is rather badly flawed, since there was no equivalent of Joseph Stalin and the USSR in the power equation.) Hostilities were still ongoing, there'd been no initiative (at that time) from the enemy — the enemy in the losing position, given the current correlation of military force — to end or even suspend operations, and the meeting with Benjamin was the first step on Elizabeth's part towards initiating a discussion and exposition of the Manticoran Alliance as a whole's position in the endgame of the war against the People's Republic. This is the act of someone whose "tunnel vision" prevents her from seeing the complexity of the interstellar situation? At what point in this process do we see Elizabeth saying the equivalent of Bill Halsey's "When this is over, the Japanese language will be spoken only in Hell" following the attack on Pearl Harbor? Yes, she's a good hater. Yes, she's determined to see justice done for her father's murder. Yes, she doesn't trust Peeps as far as she can spit upwind in a hurricane. So what? I would submit to you that there is exactly zero evidence — prior to her trip to Grayson — that in 1914-1915 PD she intended to impose a peace so punitive that it would fuel revanchism against the Star Kingdom of Manticore on the part of whatever replaced the Committee of Public Safety. I'm not saying it wouldn't have worked out that way; I'm saying that the only thing you actually have evidence of is her determination to dictate the terms of whatever peace emerges from a position of overwhelming strength founded on the complete destruction of the People's Republic's military capabilities. And that, I would submit, was no more than a case of simple sanity after how long her own star nation had been facing outright destruction by those same military capabilities, which doesn't even consider the . . . psychological stimulus towards accepting terms it would necessarily generate in Havenite minds. The destruction or complete, unconditional stand down of the People's navy had to be a nonnegotiable precondition for any realistic peace negotiations at that time.

So, she goes to discuss this with Benjamin, and what happens? The Peeps attempt to assassinate her and Benjamin and do manage to kill their prime ministers and their foreign ministers (one of them Elizabeth's uncle, and along with him her first cousin), and then they offer a cease-fire in place, preserving their military forces and their current conquests and borders by diplomatic sleight-of-hand when they could not possibly have attained either of those objectives by force of arms . . . and "her" own government, without bothering to consult with their treaty partners, decides to accept it at a time when purely domestic political considerations prevent her from rejecting that decision. And please note that the High Ridge Government accepts the cease-fire before Theisman's coup or any suggestion that any such coup might even remotely be in the offing, so it knew it was dealing with the same management — and the same regime which had just attempted to murder his own head of state and her closest ally. Yet despite Elizabeth's "tunnel vision" and irrationality where the Peeps are concerned, she swallows all of this rather than provoke a potential constitutional crisis which could have completely paralyzed Manticoran diplomatic and foreign policy at that critical moment. (Had she known how High Ridge & Co. would proceed to mismanage the cease-fire, she might well have gone ahead and provoked exactly that constitutional crisis . . . at which point, I have no doubt, certain of her critics would have used that as proof of her irrationality and unfitness to rule.)

Then, following the High Ridge Government's unspeakably incompetent foreign policy, the "reformed" Republic of Haven, which has disavowed the Peeps' traditional foreign policy — officially, at least — forges diplomatic correspondence from Manticore, which Elizabeth knows (correctly, I might point out) is forged, and uses that forgery as a pretext to reinitiate hostilities against the Star Kingdom with the new, powerful, modern navy which it was permitted to build because Elizabeth was never allowed to "dictate terms from Haven orbit" in 1915. Again, her military forces — at the cost of heavy casualties, heavy loss of warships and lives — manage to fight back from an initially highly disadvantageous position, and — again — a Havenite regime proposes a "peace conference" (without ever saying "And, by the way, we're ready to admit we forged the diplomatic correspondence").

Admittedly, Pritchart chose a very different messenger, and the strategic situation, what with the looming threat of a confrontation with the Solarian League, was quite different, but only an amnesiac could have been expected to overlook the parallels between the situations, particularly since Elizabeth was fully briefed on what was going to happen when Apollo went into action (or the minor fact that she had proof of the duplicity of the Pritchart Administration's prewar diplomacy and no reason to think it had become less duplicitous since). Despite that, and against all of her admitted natural inclinations to see the Republic of Haven destroyed once and for all, she allowed herself to be convinced — convinced herself on the basis of her understanding of the situation — to not simply agree to the conference but to use the conference itself as a means of patching up relations with Erewhon, despite Erewhon's "desertion" to the other side and her full knowledge that in changing allegiances, Erewhon handed the PRN a huge technological bonanza Haven would not otherwise have enjoyed. This is the act of someone with "tunnel vision" which prevents her from formulating rational policy?

So what happens? Having convinced herself to negotiate, to accept that these Peeps actually might be different from the ones she, her star nation, her government, and her family have been facing for 70 years at enormous cost in blood, money, and the deaths not simply of her subjects but of people she'd personally known and loved, her ambassador to the Solarian League is assassinated and her niece and the Queen of Torch are almost assassinated in a direct (indeed,an intentional) reprise of what happened at Yeltsin's Star in 1915, under circumstances which point directly towards Havenite involvement and responsibility.

It is certainly fair to say that at this point Elizabeth was "played" by the Mesan Alignment; indeed, she herself later sees it that way. It is unfair to see her response as irrational. There is no question, and I never intend there to be any question, that her response was flawed, that the way in which she interpreted events — while internally consistent, logical (based on her knowledge and understanding of what had happened), and supported by the majority of her counselors, without any hard intelligence data to demonstrate its inaccuracy — wasn't shaped by her own life experience, attitudes, and — yes — personal hatred for the Peeps and all their works, or that some of those closest to her, notably Honor and Michelle, weren't worried at the time that it was flawed. It was not, however, irrational, and it was based firmly on decades of experience as the leader of a star nation which she had guided not once, but twice, from positions of weakness to positions of overwhelming advantage against a far larger, expansionist, and hostile star nation. She had an absolute moral responsibility to avoid repeating what had happened following Buttercup and to end the threat of the Republic of Haven — once and for all, without question or equivocation — in the face of the new and even greater potential threat of war against the Solarian League. Since events had just demonstrated to her satisfaction that the Republic of Haven was still essentially the People's Republic of Haven at the genetic level, it was completely rational of her to terminate that threat by destroying it rather than giving it yet a third opportunity to go for the Star Kingdom's throat. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

Elizabeth Winton is not the perfect head of state, but there are no "perfect" heads of state. She has weaknesses, and while some readers seem persistently unable to recognize it, she understands that she does, and on numerous occasions in her career — occasions which have been shown in the books — she has cut against the grain of those weaknesses in the name of doing what she recognized pragmatic realities required. She is absolutely and totally committed to the protection and well-being of her people and her star nation, and she has demonstrated her willingness and ability to subordinate the things most desperately important to her personally in the universe — like vengeance for her father's murder, like vengeance for the murder of her beloved prime minister, uncle and cousin, and the minor matter of her own attempted murder — to that protection and well-being. She is also intelligent, determined, and personally fearless, and if the test of success is to protect and preserve her kingdom and its people in the face of overwhelming threats, she is also arguably the most successful head of state in the entire Honorverse.

It's totally fair for readers, from a reader's omniscient perspective, to say "it's really a pity Elizabeth didn't do thus-and-so" at specific points in the story line. In fact, you're supposed to say that, to recognize the points at which history could have gone differently "if only." It's equally fair for readers to analyze the reasons she didn't "do thus-and-so," and I've tried to give you a deep enough look inside her skull and inside her heart to understand those reasons. I do not, however, and never have understood why there seems to be a tendency to find her competence as a monarch and a war leader so wanting because she didn't somehow magically and unerringly see into the minds of her potential and actual enemies as clearly as the readers themselves, having had the opportunity to be inside the heads of those potential and actual enemies are able to see. If she'd had that ability, she would have been God, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

Or else, of course, she could have had Merlin's SNARCs reporting back from inside the council chambers of all her adversaries, but that's another set of novels.

Honorverse Why doesn't the Grand Alliance simply attack through the Torch Wormhole? (Asked Mon Jun 11, 2012) January 2014

As always, I'm flattered that you're giving attention to my humble work, but this ain't a'gonna work, guys. Some points (in no particular order cause it's really late and I'm really tired [G]).

(1) The reasonable assumption for Torch (absent some sort of inteligence info from the other side courtesy of the Daring Duo or some other cloak-and-dagger type) is that whatever happened to their survey ships was a natural hazard to navigation. As such, there is no reason to believe SDs would be any more immune to whatever ate Harvest Joy than a CA was . . . and they'd be a heck of a lot more expensive. Too expensie to be thrown away feeding the nice black hole on the other side of the wormhole.

(2) Even if the more paranoid members of the Torch government decide it was enemy action, instead, they're gonna need a lot of assistance from someone like the RMN of the PRN to come up with the kinds of SDs and such you guys are talking about.

(3) You cannot enter hyper if your hyper generator is surrounded by solid material. The ships lifted into hyper with another vessel have all been smaller than the hyper-capable unit and have been tractored inside the area of effect of the hyper translation field.

(4) A wormhole is a large volume of space and a very complex phenomenon. It takes a long time and a lot of observations to locate it from either side and plot an approach which will let you get back through it without going "boom," so even if it were possible to fit a hyper drive and Warshaswki sails into something the size of a missile (and to get it off before someone shoots you dead), you couldn't get it back through the wormhole with any information about your new discovery.

(5) All planetary-sized bodies generate hyper limits of their own. For habitable planets, it doesn't matter, because they are uniformly within the hyper limits of their primaries where you can't translate into hyper, anyway; for planets outside a star's hyper limit (like gas giants like Blackbird), it does matter, and it's been referenced several times in the books and in responses from me here and elsewhere to questions about things like establishing a star system's infrastructure.

(6) IRT sending someone though the Torch wormhole and immediately translating out in a "normal" hyper-space escape, you are going to be right on the very edge of a hyper limit, which is going to create all sorts of interesting problems unless you come through on exactly the right emergence vector. Otherwise, you've got to correct course away from the hyper limit before you could translate out. And even if it were possible to cycle a hyper generator that quickly (it ain't), the odds of your managing to do so before the Bad Guys shoot you dead would be . . . slim.

(7) I don't see the Manties sending through SDs covered by Ghostrider platforms for several reasons. One is that they don't know what's covering it from the other side --- a couple of dozen BCs? A squadron of wallers? Three dozen 16-megaton fortresses? 17,495,103 mines? Assuming, of course, that it doesn't simply lead to a black hole somewhere? Without at least some info on the possible threat, no way are they going to risk 90,000,000 or so tons of ship, no matter how good their EW is. A second reason is that they would be strewing thousands upon thousands of their very best EW platforms around in a system they will automatically be abandoning to the enemy. No matter how good their security protocols, they would have to allow for the possibility that at least some of their most recent goodies would fall into Bad Hands if they did such a thing.

(8) IRT the notion of using a grav pulse to mark the location of the warp bridge's other end --- not gonna happen. First, the range at which you could detect such a pulse is far, far. far lower than certain, ah . . . enthusiastic souls seem to be prepared to argue. Second, it would propagate at a grand and glorious real-space velocity of about 64 times the speed of light. So even assuming you could detect it at, say, 200 LY (which you couldn't), it would take over three years to get to your sensors. Third, it wouldn't tell you much of anything when it did get there (if it were going to, which it isn't) without a cross bearing. Fourth, it would take a measurable period of time --- probably at least several minutes --- for you to fire up a grav pulse transmitter big enough and powerful enough to have a prayer of being detected at interstellar distances (even short ones) and while you were doing that, the defending ships (or fortresses, or mines, or whatever) would turn your ship into toasted wreckage.

(9) Unless you're prepared to design (and take the time to build . . . and armor) an SD especially for this mission, any ship that comes through (under Warshawski sails) is going to be exposed to energy fire through its completely unarmored ventral and dorsal aspects until it can reconfigure to impeller drive (which is going to take at least 15-20 seconds, even for a terminus whose stresses you know ahead of time), in which case even lasers would kill just about any ship ever built, SD or not.

(10) IRT (7), above, Ghostrider is most useful against missiles, people; it has very little effect on energy-range fire control that already has you locked up. You can fire off all the decoy drones you want at knife range and your opponent's energy batteries are pretty much going to drill you, anyway. Now, if you were to come in through normal-space with your drones already deployed in a truly massive, dense shell around your ships, you might --- might --- be able to get down to energy range under their protection, but not coming through a wormhole from the other side. You couldn't possibly get them deployed before shipboard fire control locked you up, and at such a short range, it would never let go until you were dead, dead, dead.

I could probably think of a few more point relevant to the topic but, like I say, it's late and I'm tired, and ten makes a nice, even, two-handed number.

Honorverse Could you build an armored shell encasing a ship such that it could survive a transit through a defended wormhole? (Asked Tue Jun 12, 2012) January 2014

First, let’s consider the issue of timing (i.e., could the massively armored “outer SD” last long enough for the “inner dispatch boat’s” hyper generator to cycle quickly enough, irrespective of little things like intruding mass and matter.

in A Rising Thunder, pp 254-55, DW wrote:
Filareta walked back across to the master plot and unobtrusively checked the waterfall display on one of the secondary plots which showed the status of Eleventh Fleet’s hyper generators. A hyper generator built to the scale of a superdreadnought like Philip Oppenheimer was a substantial piece of equipment, and it took time to cycle. In fact, it would have taken Oppenheimer thirty-two minutes—over half an hour—to go from powered-down status to translation into hyper. Recovering from a translation took time as well, although nowhere near that long. In fact, Oppenheimer’s generator could return to standby readiness in only twelve minutes, but it would take another four to cycle all the way up to an actual translation, for a total of sixteen minutes. Unfortunately, they’d been only about nineteen minutes’ flight time from Manticore-A’s hyper limit when they made their alpha translation. That was why his operations plan had specified bringing those generators back to full readiness as quickly as possible, and he gave a mental nod of satisfaction as he observed their progress and then glanced at the time display.

Now, obviously Filareta was thinking about superdreadnoughts and our "inner dispatch boat" isn't a superdreadnought, but bear with me and remember that any starship's hyper generator is designed to produce a translation field tailored to pretty exacting dimensions and a specific mass. There is some flex in those parameters, but not a whole lot, and the nature of a hyper generator's "design capacity," let's call it, is going to have consequences where that little matter of being located in the middle of the "outer SD" is concerned. There's also the problem that we're talking about two separate hyper generators here — one for the "outer SD" in order to get it through the terminus, and one for the "inner dispatch boat" to get it into hyper before the "outer SD" is torn apart around. I'll touch on why this is a problem in a moment, but first, here's a segment from the Honorverse tech bible dealing with hyper generator cycle times:

in the Honorverse tech bible DW wrote:
Just as a ship's tonnage/dimensions affect its acceleration rate, they also affect how rapidly it can cycle its hyper generator. A hyper generator's cycle time determines how quickly a ship can actually translate into hyper from complete readiness -- that is, from the moment the "go" button its punched on a generator which has been fully prepared for translation.

There are 4 actual readiness stages for a hyper generator:
Powered Down
Routine Readiness
Stand-By Readiness

The time required to go from Powered Down to Routine Readiness is equal to 4 times the cycle time. The time required to go from Routine Readiness to Stand-By Readiness is equal to 3 times the cycle time. The time required to go from Stand-By readiness to actual Translation is equal to the cycle time. That is, a 1,500,000-ton BC with a cycle time of 75 seconds would require:

300 seconds from Powered Down to Routine
225 seconds from Routine to Stand-By
75 seconds from Stand-By to Translation
Total: 300+225+75 = 600 seconds = 10 minutes

Under normal circumstances, cycle times apply only to translations into hyper-space. Generally speaking, any hyper-capable ship's hyper generator remains engaged the entire time it is in hyper, and the ship may move freely up or down the hyper bands. Once a ship re-enters normal space, it bleeds off its transit energy (the visible blue flash of its Warshawski Sails) and the generator must be cycled before it can translated back into hyper. Unless the generator is deliberately powered down, however, it remains at Stand-By Readiness and can immediately begin cycling upward again for a translation. Thus our BC with a 75-second cycle time would be required to spend an absolute minimum of 75 seconds (1.5 minutes) in normal-space between translations. Note, however, that accurate astrogation will generally require at least some observation and calculation time, so this minimum figure would not normally be attainable.

Okay, this battlecruiser has a 75-second cycle time. Allowing for tonnage differences, a dispatch boat would have a cycle time of 30 seconds, which is the minimum possible cycle time for a military-grade hyper generator. (Civilian-grade hyper generators have longer cycle times but are also designed for lower power loads and can go much longer between maintenance periods.) However, this is where the problem of "nested" hyper generators comes in, because you cannot have a hyper generator online inside another hyper generator's translation field. That means you can't even have it at Routine Readiness. The inner hyper generator would have to be at Powered Down status, which means that even with its 30-second cycle time, your dispatch boat would require:

120 seconds from Powered Down to Routine
90 seconds from Routine to Stand-By
30 seconds from Stand-By to Translation
Total: 120 + 90 + 30 = 240 seconds, or 4 minutes.

I submit to you that your "outer SD" is unlikely to survive four minutes under concentrated, short-range energy fire.

There is, however, another problem, and one which makes the reference to Filareta's superdreadnoughts rather more relevant. . . and the dispatch boat's theoretical cycle time totally irrelevant.

When a hyper generator's translation field establishes itself, it attempts to translate all the matter within its area of effect into hyper. The translation field must extend a certain distance from the generator which is proportionate to the translation field's designed mass — that is, for a ship of a given mass, the spherical translation field has to be "x" meters across. The dimensions of the field scale with the translation mass, but what matters for our purposes right now is that the minimum dimension for a sustainable translation field is going to be about 600 meters. That is, everything within 600 meters of the hyper generator is inside the translation field's area of effect and its mass affects the translation. The chief engineer can fiddle with the settings on the hyper generator to some extent, and there's usually some safety margin built into it, but it can't handle much more than a maximum of about 6% tonnage "overload" before the hyper generator "departs from its mounts in multiple directions," as the engine room manual puts it. In other words, it blows the hell up, usually inflicting fairly spectacular damage on the ship in which it was mounted.

What this means is that the mass of the surrounding "outer SD" which would lie within the minimum volume of the hyper generator would cause the aforesaid hyper generator to blow up when it attempted to establish its translation field unless the hyper generator was powerful enough to carry the mass. However, that starts requiring bigger generators and bigger power supplies, which requires larger platforms, which increases the size of the translation field. In order for this to work, the dispatch boat would have to have a superdreadnought-sized hyper generator, because all of the "outer SD" mass and volume would be inside the translation field. So the cycle times quoted for Filareta's superdreadnoughts in the passage I cited is very relevant to our problem here, because that's where that 32-minute cycle time comes into play. Never mind the fact that the hyper generator you'd need would be just about the size of the entire dispatch boat in which you're trying to put it, it would also take over a half hour just to cycle up to translation status, during which time both "outer SD" and "inner dispatch boat" would be ripped into very tiny shreds.

As I say, my "can't do it from inside a solid object" was a way to try to avoid having to explain all of this in such detail, but since you asked . . . . [G]

Honorverse Could a Peep attack through the Manticore Wormhole Junction succeed? (Asked Thu Jun 14, 2012) January 2014

The defender's problem, of course, arises when there are multiple axes of attack. That is, when someone can flank you and hit you from hyper as well as through the terminus. Even then, you are risking enormous losses for the force transiting the terminus, and one reason to attack from hyper as well is to get close enough that you can target the terminus defenses (including all those mines and stuff) from behind. You cam "sweep" the mines on a terminus with weapons launched in n-space on the other side, opening a gap in any "automatic" defenses, while your forces coming in through hyper draw any defending starships out of position by forcing them to honor the new threat.

In the case of Trevor's Star, the Peeps hadn't put any forts on the terminus. They hadn't needed to. If anyone started any wars between them and the SKM, they intended for it to be them, which meant that --- unlike the SKM --- they didn't have to worry about a sneak attack in peacetime. Therefore, it made more sense to use the immensely less expensive option of mining the single transit lane to a fare-thee-well. That strategy came back to bite them when White Haven managed to convince the Admiralty to let him go after the terminus from both directions at once, but please do note how long it took him to convince Admiralty House to let him try that even with the enormous strategic edge Trevor's Star's was going to give the RMN. Had the PR been able to find the resources to put forts on the terminus to protect it against an attack through hyper-space, White Haven's plans probably wouldn't have worked because there would have been something in place to back up the mines, but the PN didn't have all those big nasty forts and was under the impression that a sufficient number of SDs ought to do the trick.

In Honor's case in OBS, her major concerns were (1) the SKM would lose the entire Basilisk System plus terminus if the Peeps succeeded; (2) in the event of a war, the SKM would pay just as hideous a price as anyone else if the Manties were insnae enough to try an assault through a terminus; (3) Manticore would have lost control of a full third of the Junction's then known termini if the Peeps succeeded; and (4) that the bad guys might not accept the conventional wisdom and that the conventional wisdom might be wrong.

IRT that last point, note that no one had ever been stupid enough to TRY a terminus assault into a prepared defense. Manticore couldn't be positive that the Peeps might not be ready to try it in the event of a war, and until someone did try it --- or until they'd had sufficient time to be sure the laserhead was going to work as advertised --- they couldn't be positive it was unworkable.

I suppose I should admit that the terms in which I have been discussing this sort of a scenario are those of around 1900-1920 --- i.e., after the laser head has been throughly tested in battle. Prior to that time, a terminus assault just might have been survivable in the absence of powerful fortifications, and in that sense I have been guilty of a possibly misleading statement in earlier posts. Prior to the development of the laser head, minefields were armed with the old "boom or burn" warheads rather than laser heads. They required longer to get into effective attack range, which actually might have given someone who transited the terminus long enough to get his own missiles off before he got wiped. At that point, you needed the forts to back up the mines against someone coming through the terminus. It was only after the laser head was developed and thoroughly tested that the SKM's forts became redundant in wartime defense against assault transits and assumed defense against attacks via hyper as their primary function. Prior to the laser head, defense against a "peactime" assault through the terminus and against a more conventional attack through hyper were of coequal importance.

One should also note that SKM doctrine and defensive analysis was lagging even in 1900 because the laser head had not yet been used in combat. To use a very imperfect analogy, their fears that the Peeps might be willing to throw in a wave of BBs, even knowing they would lose them all, in order to erode the defenses, was somewhat equivalent to an admiral in 1939 being unprepared to declare the battleship obsolete in the face of carrier airpower. Until the Manties knew laser heads were going to work as well as they hoped, they were unprepared to risk the SKM's existence on the proposition. In that respect, shutting down the Junction forts as obsolescent reflected the final validation of the laser head. The RMN now knew that the mines could do the job unassisted; until they had the test of combat behind them, they couldn't be positive of that.

Honorverse Is the contact nuke going to make a return now that Apollo makes penetrating  defenses trivial? (Asked Mon Jul 16, 2012) January 2014

The only problem is that you won't get the hits in the first place, for a lot of reasons.

The biggest one, as I've mentioned several times, is that the vulnerable aspects of an Honorverse ship are extremely limited even when the ship in question isn't maneuvering radically to make things worse. You can't get a hit through the wedge; you can only hit it through the sides of the wedge, up the kilt, or down the throat, and Honorverse missiles aren't that maneuverable, especially at the ends of their runs when they have an enormous velocity.

Terminal velocity on a Mk 23 after a 9-munute run from rest is .81 cee, and you can't turn something moving at that velocity on a dime. But the sidewall is 10 kilometers from the side of the ship and roughly 140 kilometers from the outer edge of the wedge. Threading that narrow chink of vulnerability is tough even with a laser head's standoff range; it would be a lot tougher for a contact warhead. And even assuming you pull that off, without the right penetrator, a warhead's not getting through that, which automatically means a 10-km-plus standoff range for a "contact" nuke in an airless, noncompressible medium, against radiation and particle shielding that can handle incoming particles at .7 cee for days on end.

Of course, the target can deny you that angle by rolling ship as the missile comes in, and as noted above, there's only so much delta vee you can apply in the period in which your missile overruns the target. If I roll, your missile (or its wedge) is going to hit my wedge on the way in if you can generate a sharp enough turn to nip in between the edges of a 300-km-wide wedge in the first place. Same with "hooking" a contact nuke down the throat of a wedge or up the kilt, and the manuvering aspect of the geometry of the warhead's approach to contact completely ignores the active defenses, which are going to have a field day during the warhead's final approach.

The laser head has a vastly larger range basket, is far better suited to "snap shots" as it crosses the vulnerable aspect of an evading wedge, has a greater standoff range, and is a much more difficult target for the close in defenses. The percentage of hits you will score is much, much higher than even Apollo could possibly hope to score with contact warheads (especially against a peer warship with bow and stern walls), so even if each individual hit is less destructive, the damage budget is much larger for the same throw weight of missiles.

I can't see anything on the horizon that's likely to alter those fundamental limitations against an iumpeller drivfe vessel.

Empire of Man with John Ringo Is David ever going to give John Ringo the outline for the next Empire of Man book? In an interview a while back, John Ringo said he had been waiting for a while and was looking forward to writing the next book. July 2009

First, and this is really the point that is holding up both of them, is the fact that David and John Ringo both have several contracted books that they are due to write and they honestly haven't had a break in their writing schedules for quite a while. When they both have a break together, David will prepare an outline, and (since you have read David's work, I'm sure you can understand this) David never does anything short...In fact he has written short stories that have managed to grow into a full novels! So, yes, David does have to do an outline for John to work from, but it isn't something he can just sit down and write out at breakfast. David assures me that it is a story he wants to continue, but he won't be continuing the Prince Roger storyline, rather he will be going back and telling the prequel story of Miranda McClintock, the founder of the Empire of Man. So, David says there will definitely, definitely be a continuation of the story, but he's not sure of exactly when!

General Why do you write about so many female protagonists? May 2009

I get asked this question a lot, and I've never really come up with a satisfactory answer. The one thing I know with a relative degree of certainty is that it was never a "marketing" or demographic decision on my part. I never really thought of it as a "selling point" for a novel. In that regard, it genuinely is something that just happened.

          Having said that, I also have to say that I've known a lot of strong women in my life, starting with my mother and certainly including my wife Sharon, and that I'm comfortable with them. That I prefer strong people to weak people, whatever their chromosome balance may be, and that I prefer strong protagonists to weak protagonists. It's not exactly as if I don't have strong male characters and protagonists, either. Colin MacIntyre in the Dahak books, for example, or Bahzell in the Norfressa novels. And there have always been strong male characters in the books which do have female protagonists.

           I'm inclined to think that there is a little quirk in my gallop which enjoys putting women into traditionally "male" occupations and positions. To be honest, I quite frequently end up literally flipping a coin to decide whether a new character is going to be male or female, but there does appear to be a significant bias towards female commanders and authority figures generally in quite a lot of my work.

          I suspect that part of that stems from my own belief, on the one hand, that we're on the right track in terms of gender equality, coupled, on the other hand, with my distaste for the more strident forms of feminism. Mind you, if I were female myself, my tolerance for "feminism" might well be significantly higher than it is under the actually obtaining circumstances. I'm certainly well aware of that. However, it's always bugged me when I read a novel or short story set hundreds or even thousands of years in the future in which the female characters are experiencing exactly the same sorts of problems and prejudices which women have faced in Western society over the last hundred years or so. My own feeling is that if we're on the right track here (and I clearly think we are), then by the time we get a few centuries down the road the question of whether or not women ought to have exactly the same opportunities, receive exactly the same compensation, find themselves being promoted in step with their male compatriots, etc., is going to be a done deal. It's going to have about as much burning significance as a topic for debate as the moral rectitude of the African slave trade does for 21st-century Americans. And by the time you get a couple of centuries beyond that, the significance is going to have dropped to about that of Pharaoh's policy towards the Hittites.

          If you look at the universe of Honor Harrington, or of Alicia DeVries, or of Li Han, the question of whether or not a woman ought to be doing what they're doing simply doesn't arise except under very special circumstances (like pre-alliance Grayson). In that sense, I suppose one might call me a post-feminist science fiction writer, but I think that what I write is actually a healthy manifestation of feminism. My female characters posit societies in which the relationships between beings have advanced (or, as I prefer to think of it, matured) to a point at which attitudes which have victimized so many people for so long have simply died. And I also think that my female characters and their societies recognize the fundamental strength of women -- the fact that when half the human race puts its formidable intelligence, abilities, and determination to work to achieve complete equality, it's going to happen and anybody who thinks he can turn back that particular clock probably likes standing directly in front of speeding locomotives, too.

General What made you choose to write sci-fi? May 2009

I think the best advice any perspective author can be given is that he should write what he likes to read. There are a lot of reasons for giving that particular piece of advice, beyond the mere fact that it will be a lot more fun. There's also the fact that you'll probably do a better job of writing something you enjoy reading than you would of writing something simply because you might be able to sell it.

          In my own case, I've enjoyed reading science fiction since I was about 10 years old, although I didn't get around to figuring out why I enjoyed it until much later in my reading career, of course. When I started writing, the fact that I'd already been reading science fiction for the better part of 30 years before I sold the first novel made the genre a natural fit for me.

          That's why I chose to start writing science fiction. The reason that I've continued to write it instead of some other genre [and there are other genres I'd like to write in, including historical fiction and fantasy] is that I've continued to enjoy it a great deal and the stories have succeeded rather better in many cases than I'd ever anticipated when I first started out.

General Why did you choose to write military-political science fiction? May 2009

          In a lot of ways, the answer to this one is the same as the answer to why I decided to write science fiction at all. My academic training is as a historian with special emphasis in military, diplomatic, and political history. That gave me a pretty good background in what human beings have already tried when it comes both the politics and to killing one another in the names of various disagreements, and one of my own favorite authors when I was younger [he still is one of my favorite authors, he just hasn't been around to write any new books in entirely too long] was H. Beam Piper. Anyone who's read his stuff knows how much history went into it -- and not just into his maritime stories. That was a large shaping factor on my own view of what science fiction was and certainly on what it was that I liked to read.

          In addition to the "this is what I enjoy reading and writing" factor, though, there's the fact that approaching the kind of story I'm most comfortable telling from a military and/or political perspective provides me with all sorts of source material. That may sound a bit peculiar when we're talking about writing science fiction, since science fiction is the literature of the future, after all. But if you really think about it, people are going to be pretty much people until we evolve into something we won't really recognize anymore. That means that looking at the way people have responded to certain types of pressures in the past ought to provide a pretty reliable template for how people would be likely to respond to those types of pressures in the future, as well. And that, in turn, means that it provides a science fiction writer with both examples and also with responses most readers are going to find plausible.