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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 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 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 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 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 I actually think [David] is painting a too pessimistic picture, vis-à-vis the overall strategic picture. (Asked Tue Sep 27, 2011) December 2013

I'm sorry? I'm painting too pessimistic a picture? Gosh, and here I thought I was the one person who actually knows who's building what, where, and why! [G]

More seriously, I don't know why you think I'm painting too pessimistic a picture. What I'm saying is that Charis does not have an unlimited cornucopia of production capacity; that the Church's capacity is higher than some people seem to be assuming; and that the Church's strategists are not all idiots who are going to fail to recognize (a) strategic opportunities and (b) strategic necessities (as in "necessary for our survival, you idiot!" necssities). I don't believe I ever indicated that the Church wasn't going to experience some of those ugly times in Siddarmark of her very own, either.

The Church is not going to drop dead tomorrow; there is still a huge reservoir of religious and political loyalty to the Church even in the provinces which remained loyal to Stohnar; between them, the continents still have an enormous aggregate productive capability (which may or may not be in the process of being successfully tapped); and no matter how qualitatively superior your forces may be, you still need a sufficient quantity of them if you intend to maintain sufficient force density for a strategy of persistence to work.

It might be worthwhile to consider just what Charis' strategic options ultimately are.

Most satisfying to the reader and to Charisians in general, undoubtedly, would be Cayleb and Sharleyan dictating terms to the Church of God Awaiting in the smoldering ruins of Zion, surrounded by their victorious army. Of course, the question is where they get an army big enough to do that.

There are two basic strategic approaches: raiding and persistence. You can apply either a raiding or a persistent approach to almost any strategic equation; the one a successful strategist chooses is dictated by his tactical tools, his strategic resources, the exact nature of his objective, and how well the force he can project matches up with the opposition he faces.

In a raiding strategy, you operate by launching attacks (which are hopefully carefully targeted) on your opponent's critical resources, thus weakening him to the point at which he collapses or at least is forced to accede to your demands. In this type of strategy you don't seek to occupy your enemy's territory on a permanent basis. Instead, you're concentrating on in-and-out operations as precisely aimed as you can manage to inflict crippling damage. A strict naval blockade which cripples your opponent's economy or starves your opponent's population is also an example of a raiding, rather than a persisting, strategy, despite the fact that it requires a long-term commitment of your forces.

In a persisting strategy, you physically occupy enemy territory, either to compel him to counterattack you to regain critical resources (population, oil, food, whatever), or to establish your permanent control over it by replacing the government or groups which previously controlled it (the English policy in building castles all over Wales would be an example of that sort of strategy).

The two types of strategy can be combined. For example, the Union was waging a persisting strategy against the Confederacy, since its objective was ultimately to physically occupy (or reoccupy, if you want to adopt that terminology) the states which had seceded. Grant pursued a persistent strategy in his Western campaigns and in his drive into Virginia with the Army of the Potomac in the last months of the war; his operational objective was the Army of Northern Virginia, but only because its destruction would give him his ultimate strategic objective of conquering the Confederacy's critical territory. Sherman, on the other hand, pursued a raiding campaign in his March to the Sea. Arguably, he was pursuing a persisting strategy until he actually took Atlanta, although I think even then he was basically following a raiding strategy, but his march from Atlanta to Savannah was clearly a raiding strategy, aimed at destroying the logistical support base for Lee’s army and also at destroying Confederate morale, rather than remaining in place and permanently occupying the territory upon which his army stood at any given moment.

The problem with a persisting strategy is that you have to be able to achieve a favorable ratio between the area to be persistently occupied and the forces available to occupy it. Put another way, you have to have sufficient density of force to cope with opposition to your presence, which may come in the form of organized hostile armies, or simply a hostile presence conducting either organized or freelance guerrilla warfare against you, or (even more ominously) a combination of the two.

The Group of Four hoped for a situation in which Corisande would become a hotbed of resistance to Charisian occupation. That was a major factor in Clyntahn's assassination of Hektor and his older son — the hope he could so inflame the Corisandian population by murdering a popular monarch that popular resistance would lead to Charisian overreaction which would, in turn, lead to still more resistance. The way he saw it, if everything worked properly, Charis' military "conquest" of Corisande would become a deadly trap from which it could not extract itself (à la Napoleon in Spain). At the very least, he hoped for a "quagmire" situation which would impose a steady, debilitating drain on Charisian resources. It was only Cayleb's and Sharleyan's careful management of the situation, coupled with the existence (in Anvil Rock and Tartarian) of a power bloc with Corisande's best interests (as opposed to the Group of Four's best interests) at heart, which prevented that from happening.

(As an aside, it also forced a situation in which no one in Corisande has yet sworn loyalty to the Crown of Charis as Charisians. They have sworn loyalty to Prince Daivyn as Hektor's heir, and they have sworn obedience to the Crown of Charis, but they are still Corisandians and not Charisians, which was not what Cayleb had in mind when he invaded. If Hektor had lived, he would have been required to swear the same oath Nahrmahn had sworn and which Gorjah was later required to swear, but Daivyn has not yet sworn that oath, leaving Corisande's relationship with the Empire unresolved. That may ultimately actually prove beneficial to both Corisande and Charis, but it could also still very well go the other way. And Cayleb's intention of extracting that oath of fealty from Hektor, by the way, was another reason why it would have been remarkably stupid for him to have Hektor killed before he could swear it . . . a point Earl Coris is going to be making to Irys and Daivyn in the not too distant future, I suspect.)

To return to my main thread, however. If the Corisandian situation had not been handled with extraordinary care, by a viceroy who'd been carefully selected, and if there hadn't been a competent, sane group of candidates for a Regency Council (and candidates who strongly doubted that Cayleb had actually ordered Hektor's assassination in the first place), Clyntahn would have gotten what he wanted. He very nearly got it anyway, only it came not in the form of the general uprising and insurrection he'd hoped and aimed for, but rather in the form of an aristocratic plot and cabal . . . which, in turn, lent itself to being identified as such when the conspirators were arrested, tried, and executed. Sharleyan and the Regency Council managed to accurately portray it as a top-down plot orchestrated by self-seeking opportunist, rather than a popular uprising. Another factor which worked critically in Charis' favor in Corisande, was the strength of the underlying Reformist attitudes of a significant percentage of the Corisandian population. In regard to that factor, it's also worth noting that despite Clyntahn's best efforts, the "religious fervor" quotient of the jihad hadn't been cranked up in Corisande to anywhere near the strength he desired before Charis was able to get in and defeat Hektor in what just about everyone recognized was actually the final stage of a secular conflict which had been initiated by Hektor. (It has been ratcheted up to very nearly those levels in most of the mainland realms by now, however; also a factor in Our Heroes'™ thinking.) If those factors hadn't broken in Charis' favor, then even with the advantage of Merlin's SNARCs, it is highly unlikely that Charis could have found the manpower to hold down Corisande in the face of a general resistance while simultaneously continuing the buildup of its navy and an army which could possibly afford to divert any of its deployable strength to the mainland.

What would have been a serious problem in Corisande (whose population was roughly 49% that of the combined populations of Old Charis, Chisholm, and Emerald) would become a nightmare on the mainland, where the population (even excluding Siddarmark from the equation) would be 10.6 times the entire population of all the territory currently controlled by Charis. (As a relative yardstick, Germany in 1941 had a population of 110,000,000 in all of its home and occupied territories while the USSR's population in all of its home and occupied territories was 181,000,000, or a ratio of only approximately 1.65-to-1, and we all know how well that worked out. The ratio for a Charisian Empire trying to occupy the mainland would be 6.5 times worse than that, although a Siddarmarkian alliance would help those numbers somewhat.)

From a combat perspective, Charis might well be able to hack numbers like that, if it can stay sufficiently far ahead of the mainland in terms of quality of weapons and if the evolving nature of its industry allows it to free up a significantly higher proportion of its far lower overall manpower totals. From a persisting perspective, however, Charis is hopelessly outnumbered. It doesn't matter if you have Abrams tanks and M-16s while the opposition has only 1903 Springfields and horsed cavalry if you cannot deploy your forces in sufficient density to prevent those mounted troops from using those Springfields to shoot up your supply convoys and massacre anyone in the countryside who show signs of supporting The Heretical, Demon-Worshiping, Baby-Eating Occupation™. You just can't be in enough places at once.

That's the real problem Charis faces with imposing any sort of permanent, lasting peace on the Church. Unless Clyntahn's excesses become sufficiently blatant, and/or unless the propaganda being distributed by Merlin's remotes can (a) succeed in distinguishing between the Group of Four and the Church in the minds of a majority of Safeholdians outside the Empire and (b) actually convince the majority of Safeholdians outside the Empire that the propagandists are telling the truth in the first place, the level of bone-deep resistance from the bulk of the mainland population will be widespread, powerful, and probably inextinguishable. As a case in point, I give you British efforts in Ireland, which was an island surrounded (and isolated from outside support) by the most powerful navy in the world, rather than the entire continent of North America and Europe and Asia and India and — well, perhaps you see my point. [G]

Even if Charis succeeds in toppling the Group of Four, or even if the Group of Four is removed from power by some internal faction within the Church, so long as faith in the archangels persists, the Church, and not Charis, holds all the trump cards in creating and sustaining the sort of moral authority and support which can (and will) inevitably defeat any Charisian effort at occupation or the installation of "puppet regimes" which can be delegitimized by the Church. The Brits couldn't defeat Gandhi in India without resorting to tactics which would have delegitimized Great Britain in the eyes of the world and — even more importantly — its own population. Charis would face very much the same situation on the mainland, following even a crushing outright military victory, despite the fact that readers would realize that, ultimately, it was actually Charis which held the moral high ground.

Cayleb, Sharleyan, Merlin, and their advisers are all aware of this. At the moment, while they are absolutely dedicated to the defeat and destruction of the Group of Four, they recognize that in the long-term they're fighting for survival and to provide a base from which an effort to eventually successfully debunk the entire theology of the archangels can be waged. Ultimately, they recognize that they cannot defeat the Church of God Awaiting by force of arms. They may be able to defeat the Group of Four and hopefully clear the way for a Reformist takeover of the main Church, but that's really the best they can shoot to accomplish militarily.

In the long term, a Charisian Empire which is able (thanks to its access to Merlin and Owl) to stay ahead of the curve of industrialization and technology uplift would probably present a challenge to the Church's more moribund technology which would result in the gradual decay of the Church's authority to forbid change and control thought. Of course, that supposes that the kinetic bombardment system can somehow be taken out of play.

I'm not saying that there aren't factors that could dramatically change the strategic realities of Safehold in a relatively short timeframe. For example (and I'm not saying this is going to happen), if it should happen that a handful of "archangels" were to awaken under the Temple and ride out to smite the ungodly in their kyousei hi only to be shot down by Merlin's recon skimmer, the archangels' prestige would be severely dented. Even then, however, the Church might not be turned against them, since according to the Church's own history of Shan-wei's Rebellion, many angels and archangels were "slain" in the fighting.

Nor am I saying that the removal of the Group of Four wouldn't bring the present war to a conclusion, because it almost certainly would lead to at least a temporary break in the fighting. But what happens then? If the Church of Charis immediately denounces Langhorne and his fellow archangels, the war begins again instantly, and on a far more ugly basis, with the Reformists who might have thought reasonably well of the Church of Charis faced with the incontrovertible truth that Clyntahn was right all along in denouncing the Charisians as heretics of the worst possible stripe. And, if the Church of Charis doesn't immediately denounce Langhorne and his fellow archangels, the presumably Reformed Church gradually reasserts its control over the faithful since the Holy Writ itself defines the proper state of affairs as a theocracy in which the secular realms are controlled by the Church. It may well be that the Church of Charis is recognized as equally holy, possibly even a recognized branch of Mother Church, when the smoke clears, but the pressure for the schism to be healed and the ascendancy of Mother Church will still gradually regenerate a level of hostility between the Empire and the mainland realms.

To attain Merlin's goals, Charis has to sweep the board. It has to militarily defeat the Group of Four; it has to permanently defang the bombardment platform's threat to re-emergent technology; and it has to permanently and effectively destroy the theological and doctrinal basis of the Church of God Awaiting. Even having the Republic of Siddarmark fully restored to pre-Sword of Schueler status and firmly allied with the Charisian Empire won't accomplish any of those goals. A Siddarmarkian alliance, even with a grievously wounded Republic, may be a major step in the direction of those goals, but there is a very, very long road between where Charis is right now and where it needs to be to redeem Merlin's promise to Pei Kau-yung and Pei Shan-wei's memories.

Safehold Where did the myths of Seijins come from? Are there more out there? December 2013

Or it might — might, I say — have been a case of some of the mortals who fought on the side of the archangels against Shan-wei's demonic hordes having been given mystical weapons by the surviving archangels and angels before being sent forth to smite the ungodly. For that matter (who knows?), perhaps some of those mystical weapons might have persisted, remained available, for a generation or two after Shan-wei's defeat. (Do you suppose, for example, that Merlin's katana might not be the very first battle steel blade ever issued on Safehold? Makes you go "hummmm," doesn't it?)

I'm not saying that was what happened, or even anything remotely like it, you understand. Simply tossing out another possibility for consideration.

[Walks away, hands in pockets, whistling tunelessly]

Safehold The Sword of Schueler were able to have a conspiracy of tens of thousands and no one in government had a real clue what was going to happen? There was nothing Merlin could have done to warn/prevent? The whole thing seems slightly incredulous. December 2013

No, you don't mean that the events are "incredulous," you mean that you are "incredulous." I believe the word that you actually wanted was "incredible," as in impossible/difficult to credit. [G]

If you do, then you do, and there have been events in books I have otherwise very much enjoyed over which I have been incredulous, or at least left considering that they represented major plot holes. In this case, though, I don't think that "no one in government had a real clue what was going to happen" is precisely accurate. They knew perfectly well that something — and something they weren't going to like one bit — was going to happen. They knew that the Temple loyalists were organizing an anti-Stohnar movement, they knew it was aimed at the overthrow of the Republic, and they knew the basic structure and shape of the agit-prop being used to fuel it. They even knew enough about the nature and shape of the Sword of Schueler to have deployed more of their available strength in the capital than it turned out they could afford to protect the Charisian Quarter. What they didn't know was exactly when/how soon the attacks would kick off, although they clearly had enough warning for Stohnar and the seneschal to have coordinated plans for reinforcements to enter the city. Remember that Stohnar wasn't thinking "it may be days before the troops get here;" he was simply thinking that it was going to take time that he and the defenders of Protector's Palace were going to turn out not to have for the seneschal to complete the troop movements which had already been ordered and that they had underestimated the forces available to the attackers. There was, of course, an additional problem (which I'll probably address below) about how preemptive they could afford to be about what they did see coming.

As the situation in Siddarmark progresses, you may very well get a better look inside the admitted intelligence failure which led to the extent to which Stohnar and his most trusted allies in government were taken by surprise on The Day. You may not, too. I know what they were and why they occurred, but the reader won't find out about them unless the characters find out about about how they happened.

Now, as far as what Merlin and Charis knew and did not know.

Merlin was aware of what was going on in Siddarmark. He was also aware that the Lord Protector was aware of what was going on in Siddarmark. Neither Merlin nor the Lord Protector were aware of many of the details . . . including — and, indeed, especially — the execution date of the operation. And the reason they didn't that particular minor fact was that the folks on the ground responsible for carrying the operation out didn't know the execution date. I will give you a hint (and this may or may not be brought out in the books eventually) but if you'll recall there was another operation that Clyntahn wanted to correspond in time with the uprising in Siddarmark. And when he told Rayno that, Rayno pointed out that the schedule might have to be adjusted slightly. Until Rayno transmitted the actual execution order, the troops on the ground hadn't been told exactly when they would be ordered to move but it had been clearly (and deliberately) implied to them that it would not be until after winter had closed down the ability of the Lord Protector to move troops around to counterattack their successes. They were to be ready to rise against the "apostate traitors and Charisian lackeys" any time from late summer on, but the emphasis was placed on a rising later in the year as a cover against those infernally effective Charisian (and Siddarmarkian) spies Clyntahn and Rayno have been worrying about for quite some time now. (Hmmmm . . . I see I'm giving away some of those things the characters may/may not learn the books after all.)

There were, obviously, instructions in the pipeline that had to reach all of the various groups before they acted. One thing which I see I did not make sufficiently clear in Cayleb's mental summarization of what happened in Siddarmark, however, is that not all of these risings and attacks occurred simultaneously with one another. Looking at Cayleb's reflections on what happened, I can see where it could be reasonably assumed that they did, since Cayleb never reflects specifically that they didn't. In fact, however, the uprising in the capital was the first, and the order was transmitted to the Inquisition's agents in place using the Church's semaphore system (which is faster than anything on Safehold except Owl's coms . . . which, of course, Stohnar and his subordinate, local military commanders didn't have access to). As a result, the insurrectionists were inside Stohnar's communications loop, and would have been no matter what Merlin might or might not have been able to pass on to him the instant in which that order was transmitted from Rayno in Zion, inside the bubble which is closed to Owl's remotes, to the agents in place in Siddarmark. The orders to the other Inquisition "cells" which had been set up for the Sword went out in a cascade at the same time, which put all of them inside Stohnar's communications loop. In addition, there were standing orders about how cells were supposed to react when news of "spontaneous uprisings" elsewhere reached them. And, you may recall, at the very moment that all of this was happening, Merlin was rather occupied down in Delferahk. His ability to go gadding about in Siddarmark — even as Zhevons — was . . . restricted.

The bottom line, however, is that Merlin and Co. were focused on the consequences of the Rakurai and Charis, on operations against Desnair, and on getting Irys and Daivyn out of Delferahk. They knew that Stohnar knew Clyntahn and Rayno were using the Inquisition and the Levelers to foment unrest/rebellion/insurrection. There really wasn't anything they could have told him (that he didn't already know) without at the very least raising questions they couldn't answer about how they might have come to know it and how they could conceivably be moving information around that rapidly. Don't forget their problems communicating with Coris in Delferahk in some explainable fashion. And, of course, they knew Aivah Pahrsahn also had an eye on the situation and was making plans of her own. I suppose I could've dwelt on that awareness of theirs at an earlier point at I did. For example, I could've actually shown you Aivah training her riflemen on her various farming operations. I could have actually shown you a discussion between members of one of the Inquisition's cells. There were a lot of things I could have shown you, but I decided I'd rather have the reader wondering about the same things Stohnar and his henchmen were wondering about.

To be honest, from a writer's perspective, Merlin's ability to find things out can be a distinct liability, not so much from a plot perspective as from a storytelling perspective. It's hard to legitimately blindside (I mean, of course, "surprise") the reader when one of the characters in the story, not simply the narrator, becomes effectively omniscient. If I write a scene in which I deliberately distort what Merlin "knows" in order to . . . misdirect the reader's attention, I'm not playing fair with the reader. In effect, I'm lying to him, and he has every right to feel cheated when he realizes that I did. At the same time, if I tell him everything that's coming before it happens, then I'm shortchanging him. So sometimes what has to happen is that I simply don't tell the reader at all before the event takes place. In some cases I may go back and explain to the reader how that happened, what people actually knew or didn't know that the reader wasn't told about at the time, or how something fell through the cracks without being picked up upon at all. Sometimes that doesn't happen, either.

I will say this. Even if Merlin had had access to Clyntahn's entire playbook, and even if he'd handed that information over to Stohnar (assuming there was some way he could possibly explain how he'd come into possession of it . . . and how he could expect Stohnar to believe that such an incredible treasure trove of information wasn't deliberate disinformation on Charis' part, designed to draw him into an open break with the Church), Stohnar could not have prevented very much what happened from happening anyway. He couldn't openly challenge what the Inquisition was doing ahead of time without an open breach with the Church. In fact, he couldn't be positive that that wasn't what Clyntahn was really after: creating a situation in which Stohnar became the aggressor against Mother Church, exactly as Clyntahn had been warning his colleagues in the vicarate was inevitably going to happen one day. That's the main reason he had to be so cautious about troop movements and warning orders before the nickel actually dropped; the last thing he could afford was to give Clyntahn a plausible (or even semi-plausible) provocatory pretext. So there was very little he could do prophylactically that he hadn't already done, and as long as he wasn't in a position to take powerful, suppressive action — with an army he could be certain would take his orders to move preemptively against Mother Church in the middle of Mother Church's first true jihad — there was no way he could take the initiative away from Clyntahn. When you add to that that Clyntahn and Rayno had succeeded in confusing him as to the actual timing of the Sword, perhaps you begin to see how the situation could go as far south as it went.

I deliberately structured the book so that all of this came at the reader fast and hard — and so that the extent of Clyntahn's success clearly came as a surprise both to Stohnar and his supporters and to Charis. Hopefully, as the conflict in Siddarmark comes to be more fully developed in the next book, some of the factors leading up to the deliberately administered shock factor at the end of this one will become fully developed, as well.

Safehold Are there more secret brotherhoods out there which know the truth? (Asked Fri Aug 19, 2011) December 2013

Okay, I haven't read the entire thread about the possibility of additional "secret brotherhoods," but the dispute going on in it is one reason I said that I didn't really want to get into the history that I ended up giving you in response to another question. On the other hand, maybe it's a good thing I did, because you have pointed me at a couple of problems which I'm pretty sure (comparing my rough drafts to final versions) were introduced in the copy editing process. Mind you, one of them is at least partly my own fault.

I'm not going to talk here about whether or not there might or might not be other "secret brotherhoods" out there in the weeds somewhere. I will say that if there ever had been one and if it ever had come to the notice of Mother Church and been dealt with, Clyntahn certainly would have known about it and would undoubtedly already have labeled all of the Reformists as heretics who probably had been exposed to the same pernicious lies Grand Inquisitor Stomp Them out had been forced to deal with however many centuries earlier. IF any similar "secret heresy" had ever been discovered, the Church would be watching for others like a hawk.

Having told you what I'm not going to tell you, let us now continue.

One of the problems I've discovered as a consequence of the discussion about "secret brotherhoods "— and the one which wasn't my fault (except in as much as I failed to catch the change when I went through the copyedited manuscript — is the dating in Saint Zherneau's journal. I should clarify things a little bit by pointing out that I've had problems with my Tor copy editor on every one of these books so far. Part of the problem is that there are a lot of technical terms used in the books (as, for example, were sailing ships are concerned) and that Off Armageddon Reef was my first Tor novel. As a result, I didn't have a "history" with any of their copy editors, and their copy editors didn't have an "author's stylesheet" on me. For those not familiar with the editing process, a stylesheet is a set of notes for the copy editor telling him (or her) how the author's style differs from the "standard." All of us differ at least somewhat, and in fairness, I'm rather less "standard" than most. I won't say that that explains all of the problems I've had, because, frankly, it doesn't, and the process has been very frustrating for me in some respects. (For example, in one of the books the copy editor decided that I couldn't possibly be speaking of "white horses" sweeping across a bay. The fact that a "white horse" describes a very specific type of wave formation obviously eluded him. So he changed it to "white houses" sweeping across the bay. Exactly how having a house float across the bay was better than having a horse do the same thing eluded me, so I went ahead and changed it back, but this is the sort of thing I've been dealing with.) Mind you, they've caught a lot of things which were errors, and I won't pretend that they haven't. At the same time, the irritation quotient for some of the more . . . less than brilliant changes, shall we say, has been high. At any rate, all of my manuscripts have come back with a lot of copy editor marginal notations, queries, "corrections" (the majority of which I've reversed), etc. My point here being that there are so many of them that they have a tendency to blur together and things get lost in the underbrush.

One such thing which got "lost" was the fact that the copy editor had taken it upon himself (or herself) to "reconcile" the dates in Saint Zherneau's Journal, and I didn't notice it until after the book was printed. He assumed (or she assumed; I don't know who it was) that if Jeremy Knowles was writing in the 140th year since the Creation, that he also had to be writing in the 140th Year of God, or vice versa, and made the dates "fit." That is the reason for the discrepancy in the journal's internal dating. So far, you guys have seen only a handful of words out of his entire journal, none of which include his version of the extended fighting lumped together as "Shan-wei's Rebellion" by official Church rheology and history. If I'd included more of that information at that time the copy editor might not have taken it upon himself to "reconcile" the dates, since it would (hopefully) have injected an awareness of the times and dates involved in the process. On the other hand, given some of the other things that have been changed, I wouldn't want to bet anything important on the possibility.

Okay, the discrepancy in the dating on Nimue's "wake-up call" is more complicated than that, and reflects two errors, one mine and one the copy editor's. The book as published says that Nimue is set to wake up 750 years after Pei Kau-yung's decapitation of the command crew. It then has her waking up in the Year of God 890. Now, 750 standard years is approximately 824 Safehold years so, if we assume that we're dating from the beginning of Shan-wei's Rebellion, not the end, and that it took approximately 60 standard years after the Creation for that rebellion to begin, the number 890 is about right. After all, 60 standard years are about 66 Safehold years, and 66 plus 824 equals 890.

The problem is that in my original manuscript (checked from my file copy on the hard drive) Pei Kau-yung says to her "I've set the timer to activate this . . . depot, I suppose, eight hundred and twenty-five standard years after I complete this recording." Originally, I had intended to date from the Creation; I changed my mind about that when I was around 75% of the way through the first book. At that point, I decided that there'd been a war of succession among the surviving members of Langhorne's command group, that there needed to be more time for that to take place, and that the Church would begin dating from the end of that war. It seemed to me that adding 75 standard years or so to my timeline would cover things.

(As an aside, some people seem to be assuming that the aforesaid war of succession started as soon as Langhorne was killed; actually, it took a few years for the tensions among the survivors to reach the point of open conflict, at which point a very complicated situation [which I am not going to go into at this time] came about in the various enclaves. Those of you who are assuming the general use of advanced weapons are mistaken. As far as the command crew were concerned, there was a lot of "taking to the hills," hiding from each other, ambushing each other, etc., but all of the surviving command crew were dedicated to the notion that the Church of God had to be preserved, at least in the short term, and they were very careful about the terms in which they couched the conflict among the "mortal" factions in the enclaves and about using "divine weapons" even against other mortals. I'm not saying there wasn't any use of advanced weapons; only that those weapons weren't in general use.)

Getting back to the dating conflict.

At any rate, there I was, having changed my original plan three quarters or so of the way through the first book. As I say, I had originally had Commodore Pei set the timer for 750 standard years before I decided to add the additional 75 years and have him set it for 825 standard years, instead. I changed the text to reflect that change. Unfortunately, I apparently didn't remember to change the standard year dating on Nimue's "wake-up scene." I had intended to move it up from 3249 to 3324 to reflect the extra 75 years of Nimue’s nap, but checking my file copy of the rough draft, I found that I actually left it at the original 3249. When the copy editor came along, he "checked my math" using the unchanged header dates for the two scenes and came up with the original 750 years between them. He then changed the "eight hundred and twenty-five standard years" in Kau-yung's final message to Nimue to match the header dates. Now, in fairness to the copy editor, 750 is a much "rounder" number than 825; I'd originally used that number (before the change) and it worked very well with the rest of the text; he did have the interval between the dates I had changed to indicate that there was a problem between the text and the dates; and he probably specifically noted and queried the change on the manuscript. Unfortunately, probably largely because he didn't have that stylesheet I mentioned above, he was also marking everything else in sight, querying word choices, querying nonstandard grammatical usages, changing completely correct grammar that apparently didn't match his usage manual, even rewriting some of the sentences entirely (remember those white houses?). My point is that while there isn't any excuse for my not having noticed if he did, in fact, note the change from 825 to 750, it's very probable that I simply "lost it in the underbrush."

The way that it actually works is that approximately 70 standard years (around 77 Safehold years) elapsed between the Day of Creation and the end of Shan-wei's Rebellion. As of How Firm a Foundation, the date is Year of God 895, and it's been 979 Safehold years since the Creation. Nimue's last update was in year 54 after the Creation (16 years before the end of the Rebellion, if any of you are counting), and she woke up in Year of God 890, 906 or so Safehold years later, which is roughly the 825 standard years to which I had changed the date in the first book. The fact that my change got "corrected" back to 750 in the copy editing process accounts for the confusion. Unfortunately, I wasn't aware of the problem until you people started checking the math. I had to go back and reconstruct what had happened by comparing my electronic file of the original draft for Off Armageddon Reef against the printed version to figure out what had happened. And, since I already have the 70 year interval between the Creation and the end of Shan-wei's Rebellion in How Firm A Foundation and it's too late to adjust it at this point, I'm going to have to figure out how (or if) to deal with it for the general readership who might/might not pick out what you eagle eyed . . . people have picked up on.

Safehold How did the Church slide into corruption so quickly? Shouldn't the command staff have held things together longer? (Asked Fri Aug 12, 2011) December 2013

You're getting into a degree of historical background I don't really want to give at this point. The short answer ("short" for me, at least) is that, first, the years of the Church of God Awaiting are counted from the suppression of Shan-wei's Revolt. This was regarded as a major victory, not a Pyrrhic victory, because neither Langhorne nor any of the other angels/archangels who fought on his side were actually killed. Remember, the theology of the Church of God Awaiting says simply that the physical bodies of the archangels — created on the same day as the rest of the world, and expected eventually to age and ultimately perish anyway (as all things of the mortal world do) — were destroyed, forcing them to return to the presence of God a little sooner than originally allowed for. The survivors were not above generating posthumous holograms of Langhorne and Bédard to bolster the notion that they had not in fact "died," and did so. At any rate, the years of Safehold are numbered not from the Day of Creation, but rather from the final victory of the forces of Light.

Second, Nimue Alban was actually quite young compared to the command staff of the expedition. I realize that Nimue herself reflects that many of the original command staff had been almost as young as she was, but the majority of the command staff was not, and for fairly obvious reasons when you think about it.

The colonists were all very young, for a society with the youth-prolonging technologies available to the Federation, because they needed to be young for the arduous conditions they were going to face and to provide the "breeding stock" needed to get Safehold's population off to a good start. But the command staff was picked for experience, knowledge, etc., and not for youth. The command staff was deliberately kept relatively small, and its median age was somewhere around 65 or 70 years. By the time the struggle against "Shan-wei's Revolt" was over (and, by the way, it took longer to suppress that "revolt" than some people seem to be thinking, even with the strike on Alexandria, in no small part because of certain things that happened that you don't know about among the surviving members of the command staff after Commodore Pei decapitated it), most of the survivors were in the vicinity of 150 years of age or so, which means they could expect to live about another century and a half. (Around another 160 Safeholdian years, getting them to around the Year of God 160, about 60 years earlier than you had calculated, and putting 247 years between that date and On Obedience.)

The assertion of the Grand Vicar's infallibility as expressed in On Obedience (and, by the way, since the doctrine of infallibility was only promulgated officially by the Catholic Church in 1870, the better part of 2,000 years into its history, I'm not sure I find myself in agreement with your observation that "most of the evil it has done can be directly traced to their foolish acceptance of that notion," but that's a subject for another debate) was thus made around 12 generations after the last of the archangels "returned to the presence of God. That's actually quite a lot of time. Moreover, the assertion of the Grand Vicar's infallibility (which — like the doctrine of papal infallibility — is actually quite restricted) was only one part of what On Obedience set out to accomplish as a response to a significant challenge to the Church and God's Plan as revealed by the Archangel Langhorne.

In the Roman Catholic Church, papal infallibility applies only to statements of a dogmatic teaching on faith contained in divine revelation (or, as I understand it, at least intimately connected to divine revelation); it does not preserve the pontiff from sin or error in his personal life, in his official life and discharge of his duties outside the dogma being set forth, or even in matters of "fallible doctrine." That is, a pope can make plenty of mistakes and even sin in his administration of the Church, his discharge of his office, his personal life, his decisions where something besides fundamental doctrine is concerned, etc., despite his infallibility as the promulgator of essential doctrine. The same is true in the case of the Grand Vicar, and, in fact, the current doctrine of the Grand Vicar's infallibility developed from an earlier tradition of infallibility, deliberately established by Langhorne when he created the Church.

The Grand Vicar was established as Langhorne's successor as the head of the Church. (This was deliberately modeled on the Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession.) Consequently, his pronouncements in doctrinal matters were those of the Church itself, ratified by Langhorne, and (as such) infallible. Under the original construction of the doctrine, however, that infallibility represented not the Grand Vicar's autocratic ability to declare whatever doctrine he chose at his own sole discretion, but rather his role speaking ex cathedra in the name of the entire vicarate, which under Church law was (and is) regarded as the corporate repository of God's and Langhorne's authority in the mortal world. Under the original formulation of the doctrine he enjoyed that infallibility only as the spokesman of the vicarate's collective understanding of doctrine based on The Holy Writ and such teachings as might have been added to the canon following the departure of the archangels. (That is, in the case of the Church of God Awaiting, the conflict in the Roman Catholic Church between the authority of the Pope and ecumenical councils had been resolved in favor of the ecumenical councils under Langhorne's original formulation.) In cases of conflict between the Writ and the later portions of the canon, the Writ was to govern. And no later "infallible teaching" could contravene or contradict an earlier infallible teaching. (Which has not prevented some . . . inventive reinterpretations of "infallible teachings" by later vicarates or Grand Vicars.)

At the same time, however, the Grand Vicar enjoyed enormous authority. Whereas he was expressly not preserved from sin or error in his personal life and the general discharge of his office (he was mortal, not Langhorne), he was in most respects an autocrat as the Church's chief executive, reflecting the autocratic structure Langhorne had created/adopted for his control of the command staff and, thus, of the early Church. The vicarate's "authority" over the Grand Vicar consisted of the fact that he was chosen by the majority vote of the vicarate and that the vicarate was supposed to have the ultimate authority in the declaration of matters of doctrine and faith. Aside from that, and the fact that Grand Vicars were usually fairly senior members of the vicarate themselves before they were selected (which meant that most Grand Vicarates were relatively short in duration simply because of the Grand Vicar's age when he was selected), the vicarate was little more than a rubber stamp for the Grand Vicar's decisions in the day-to-day and year-to-year administration of the Church.

Langhorne's death and the decimation (actually, a lot worse than simple decimation) of the original, small command staff had a lot of consequences, including the consequence that what Langhorne and Bédard had originally planned as a gradual transition to mortal control of the Church over the space of as much as 200-plus years was significantly accelerated. The surviving members of the command staff found themselves forced to work through "mortals" much earlier and much more comprehensively than had originally been intended, and as such the vicarate and (especially) the Grand Vicar found themselves inheriting a greater degree of personal power earlier on in the process than Langhorne and Bédard had ever envisioned. Worse (from Langhorne's perspective) it meant that there were no archangels around to help cope with certain later problems as they arose.

The biggest problem that the Church faced in the first two centuries after the archangels "returned to the presence of God" (that is, in the 250 or so years between the departure of the last archangel and the promulgation of On Obedience) was an enormous expansion in the planetary population. As that population grew and spread out further and further from the original enclaves, additional bishops were required. Under the original provisions of the Church of God Awaiting, Langhorne (or, at least, his successors on the command staff, and I'm not telling you exactly which it was) had always intended for the bishops and archbishops to be selected by the citizens of their bishoprics and archbishoprics. In a previous post I pointed out that the archbishops could be considered provincial or state governors in a theocratic government, and the original thought had been that since these were the prelates who were going to be in closest contact with their flocks, allowing the members of those flocks a voice in their selection would provide at least the rudiments of a genuinely representative government at the local level. (At what you might think of as the "federal level," the vicarate was specifically and deliberately detached from local selection, although the original assumption of the Church was that since the vicars would be selected from the ranks of the episcopate, there would be a sort of secondhand representative element in the creation of the vicarate.) Where this became a problem was that as the population of the planet spread further and further away from Zion and as communication became more and more arthritic, even with the semaphore and messenger wyverns, the archbishoprics began acquiring too much power. (It should also be pointed out that the institution of the office of bishop executor had its origins during this time period as archbishops found themselves spending more and more time traveling back and forth between the more distant archbishoprics and Zion.)

The Reformist tendencies which are emerging now (as of How Firm A Foundation) have always been at least potentially present within the Church. Put another way, there has always been a tension between the more humanist elements of the Church (frequently, as now, led, ironically, by the Bédardists and their allies) and those more focused on the preservation of doctrine and strict adherence to the Writ, and signs of that tension began to emerge as popularly selected bishops and archbishops began to push the direction of church doctrine at what might be thought of as the "grass roots" level. They weren't all pushing in the same direction, either, and the vicarate of the time faced the Church's first real challenge to its authority and to the overarching authority and absolute primacy of the Writ as understood by the vicarate.

On Obedience was an effort to deal with the perceived danger of the fragmentation of not simply the vicarate's authority but of Mother Church's authority . . . which was another way of saying the perceived danger of allowing Shan-wei to reestablish a toehold in the mortal world. Therefore, the vicarate in its collective role as the infallible arbiter of doctrine, fundamentally changed the process by which members of the episcopate were to be selected. At the same time, the current Grand Vicar, an especially able politician (as he had to be to bring about such a basic alteration in the process for elevating bishops), also pushed through a declaration that the Grand Vicar spoke infallibly ex cathedra — that is, specifically when exercising his office as the enunciator of official doctrine — both as the spokesman of the collected vicarate and in his own right when he promulgated doctrine which had been divinely revealed to him in the Writ or by the direct touch of God and the archangels upon his heart. He got it through because of the careful alliances he'd built within the vicarate and because the vicarate had been panicked by what it perceived as an ongoing disintegration of the Church and, hence, of God's plan for Safehold. Panic over the possible emergence of heresy and/or apostacy (and remember that they had the historical experience of an actual war between good and evil in Shan-wei's Revolt) led them into desiring an even more authoritarian, even more ironbound protection of orthodoxy, and the Grand Vicar managed to convince the vicarate of something he actually believed: that expanding his power as Langhorne's successor was, in fact, both directly in line with Langhorne's expressed desires and an additional and necessary safeguard of orthodox doctrine and theology. And since On Obedience had been issued ex cathedra, it became part of the "infallible doctrine" of the Church and, once done, could never subsequently be undone. In essence, it was an overreaction against the dissipation of the Church's central authority which went too far in the other direction. Indeed, the overreaction also paved the way for the eventual absorption of the Order of Jwo-jeng into the Order of Schueler and for the Order of Schueler to gradually supplant the Order of Langhorne as the "senior" order of the Church.

Although On Obedience made what turned out to be fundamental shifts in the Church's internal dynamic, it's important to understand that it wasn't seen as doing that by the vicars who endorsed it. Yes, they were restricting the "popular voice" in the selection of bishops and archbishops, but even under the new rules, the vicarate and the Grand Vicar were supposed to solicit the views of those the prelates were to govern. Inevitably, that solicitation of local input atrophied fairly rapidly (in a generational sense, at least), but that was not an intended outcome. Moreover, the Church had always been planned as a strictly hierarchical organization with top-down rule and an Inquisition specifically granted the authority to enforce doctrinal conformity by any means necessary. One of the other unintended consequences of On Obedience was that the vicarate's power actually increased, since the counterweight of the "popularly selected" episcopate had been removed. Yet another unintended consequence, however, was that a strong Grand Vicar now had the means to tyrannize even the vicarate in ways which had not previously been possible because of his ability to decree doctrine independently of the vicarate in the case of a fundamental disagreement between it and him. And that, frankly, was a reason why the vicarate began electing weak Grand Vicars. Because the office had become too powerful to be restrained in the hands of a strong Grand Vicar, they had to select for weakness in order to preserve their own authority . . . and, on more than one occasion, cabals within the vicarate eliminated Grand Vicars who proved stronger than they had expected. In some instances, that was actually an act of semi-legitimate self-defense, since one or two Grand Vicars had inclinations in Clyntahn's direction and there was no provision for the removal of a Grand Vicar except by death. Which, unfortunately, helped to legitimize the use of assassination, and thus made it steadily more acceptable.

It's important to bear in mind that the consequences I'm describing in the above paragraph didn't happen overnight. In fact, it took several centuries, and it really began to accelerate only in the last couple of hundred years, the period during which the Church has slipped steadily into greater and greater internal corruption. I hope, however, that this gives at least a little better understanding of how the Church originally got to the "tipping point" which provoked On Obedience, not to mention how it reached its current tipping point where the Reformists are concerned.

Another point which it is also important to emphasize (or perhaps reemphasize) is that the premature destruction of the command staff was completely unexpected when Langhorne and Bédard made their original plans for the creation and the nurturing of the Church of God Awaiting. They anticipated a much, much longer period of direct, "hands-on" control of the Church, and they fully intended to make adjustments during that time as experience indicated modifications were necessary. The conflict they got and the casualties they suffered after the Alexandria strike deep-sixed that part of their plans, and the fact that "repairs" to the original master plan had to be made more or less on the fly by the surviving members of the command crew — not all of whom had shared every aspect of Langhorne's vision — meant there was no one to deal with emerging failure points which might actually have been recognized and compensated for had the anticipated number of "archangels" been available for the anticipated length of time.

I'm not trying to make excuses for Langhorne or for the fundamental failures/weaknesses/blind spots inherent in his vision. I'm simply saying that his own plans got run over by a Greyhound bus called Pei Kau-yung, and that the factors within the Church leading to its present corruption and decadence got a quicker jump because of circumstances beyond his control.