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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous From Fumitaka Joe:Is "Out of the Dark" the first book in a new series (as indicated in at least one review of the ARC) or is it a standalone book? September 2010

Currently it is a stand alone book, which is an expansion of a short story that David wrote for the Warriors anthology. David's editor at Tor likes it well enough that he has asked David to consider expanding it to a series.

Hope that helps!

Multiverse I really loved the Multiverse series! When can we expect book three? July 2009

In the Hell's Gate series, there are two more books under contract, but the project is in hiatus while David tries to catch up with his writing schedule. He has told people at Cons that he had no business starting "still another series", but he wanted to tell the story so badly that he bit off more than he could chew. This was actually one of the original series that he pitched to Jim Baen all those years ago, and he's been itching to get it told. It's a good story!

**Update: David understands that these books are very much in demand by his fans, and hopes to make room in his schedule to begin working on the next one sometime this year. 

Safehold What powers does the Charisian Crown have? (First asked Tue Jun 14, 2011) December 2013

All right -- you guys asked for it, so don't blame ME for the length of this! And BTW, the reason I'm using all caps for emphasis rather than ital isn't to shout at you but because I composed this off-forum and didn't want to hunt through it to find and reformat each emphasized word. <G>

We haven’t discussed how Constitutional law works in Charis because it hasn’t really been important to the story. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been important to what’s happening (or to the characters in their off-screen lives), but that the actual mechanisms haven’t been crucial to the results the reader has had to see.

Unlike most medieval Terran monarchies, Charis has a written constitution which was promulgated by the House of Ahrmahk after Saint Zherneau’s journal had revealed the truth about the “Archangels.” It was intended to provide a basis which might later be transitioned into a constitutional monarchy (in our present sense of the term) while conserving the power of the Crown at the moment, and so it favors the Crown rather heavily over Parliament.

Essentially, the Crown can rule by decree, and its decrees need not be approved by Parliament to take effect. HOWEVER, Parliament can by a majority vote of both houses repeal and negate any royal decree within a half-year of its promulgation; after that, it requires a two-thirds super-majority of both houses to repeal a decree. This means (in effect) that Parliament has a collective veto power over the Crown, although the process is complicated enough that it’s not real likely to happen (especially since a smart monarch will withdraw or modify a decree which is generating that much resistance before Parliament gets into the habit of overruling him).

The Crown also controls fiscal policy and establishes tax law and Parliament cannot repeal Crown policy (except by a majority vote of both houses, as described above), but Parliament does have the power to ammend existing tax law. Because the Crown can (and normally does) rule by decree which (in effect) simply has to be approved by a majority of one house to remain law, the Council, as the Crown’s advisor and executor, is of special importance under the Charisian Constitution. The House of Commons’ biggest stick is that it has the responsibility of approving (and the right to recall) all members of the Council. The Crown determines which councilor holds which “portfolio” (including the First Councilor’s position), but the Commons (by majority vote) can control who SITS on the Council. The House of Lords doesn’t get to confirm members of the council, but it CAN move to remove a councilor. The process is sort of a mirror image of the US Constitution’s impeachment process (except that it can be exercised for any reason, not for specifically enumerated offenses against the Constitution) in that a simple majority of the Lords can call for a councilor’s removal but that the actual removal must be confirmed by a two-thirds majority of the Commons.

The House of Lords’ biggest stick is that it serves as the kingdom’s supreme court in constitutional matters (the King’s Bench is the supreme court in criminal matters, which has the potential to lead to a clash of authorities), which means that the Lords are the final determiners of what the Constitution actually says. In addition, the Lords must confirm the succession to the throne. The Constitution doesn’t specifically address the question of inheritance, but Charisian tradition enshrines male primogeniture. The Constitution DOES, however, provide that the House of Lords can refuse to accept the “proper” heir and move further down the line of succession. The Lords are required to approve an heir as soon as a new monarch assumes the throne, however. This means that the succession is always secured, by act of Parliament, without room for a disputed succession in the event that a monarch dies childless. The Lords can alter the succession at any time, but that requires a two-thirds vote rather than a simple majority, and they’d probably better be sure they REALLY want to get into a pissing contest with the Crown if they decide to do so without a damned good reason. <G>

The Crown determines foreign policy and negotiates treaties and alliances, but any formal treaty must be approved by both houses of Parliament. (This means that Cayleb’s proposal of marriage required parliamentary consent. As one may have noticed from reading the books, however, Cayleb didn’t say a word to Parliament until he announced what was effectively a fait accompli. That reflected not simply the absolute necessity of keeping the negotiations coompletely secret until they were concluded but also the fact that he knew damned well Parliament would accept it, in no small part because he had discussed it intensively with the critical members of his council (who tend to keep in touch with little things like the mood of Parliament). In addition, of course, there was the minor fact that it was a matter of national survival . . . and that no one in his right mind wanted to piss Cayleb off at that point in his reign.)

The Crown also makes and determines military policy (which includes procurement fiscal policy covering --- very specifically --- shipbuilding). The monarch is also commander-in-chief, and the military’s oaths are sworn to the CROWN not the CONSTITUTION. (A minor point, after all . . . which the Crown made darned sure was enshrined UNDER the Constitution. <G>) The Crown does NOT require a formal declaration of war from Parliament to commit the kingdom’s military forces, but Parliament can use its power to amend tax policy to starve the Crown of funds for military operations of which it does not approve. This is a time-consuming process, however, and leaves Parliament without EFFECTIVE control of the kingdom’s military operations. Nor has it ever actually been employed in Charisian history.

Parliament does have the power to initiate legislation. ALL bills must originate in the House of Commons but are amendable (and must be approved) by both houses. However, no act of Parliament can become law without the Crown’s assent, and Parliament does NOT have the power to override the Crown. (It would always be theoretically possible for Parliament and the Crown to get into the equivalent of a series of nuclear exchanges with both sides effectively vetoing the other side --- in Parliament’s case by repealing existing Crown decrees and “amending” tax laws out of existence before allowing them to pass --- until one side or the other gives up. This has not happened in Charisian history to date, however.)

There is a formal procedure for amending the Constitution. Amendments can be proposed by Parliament (simple majority of both houses) or by the Crown. To become law, an amendment must be approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses AND the Crown. An amendment can become law OVER the Crown’s objections only if it can be approved by a two-thirds majority of both houses in successive parliamentary sessions. The sessions in question need not be IMMEDIATELY successive to one another; that is, there is no limit on how much time can pass between the two parliaments which ultimately approve the amendment.

As far as the succession in Old Charis is concerned, the Lords had confirmed the succession before Haarahld’s death as : Cayleb, Zhan, Zhanayt. When Cayleb became king, the succession became Zhan, Zhanayt, Rayjhis Ahrmak (minor Duke of Tirian). The big problem with the succession at this point (of course) was that ALL the immediate heirs were minors, but Zhanayt wasn’t enough older than Zhan (in Parliament’s view) to alter the succession, and Parliament was not prepared to move beyond Cayleb’s immediate family to name a more distant adult relative as his heir although it COULD in theory have done so. Cayleb and his council had named Gray Harbor as his regent in the case of his death in order to provide the greatest possible ciontinuity iin the case of a minor reign.

Under the Constitution, Parliament must meet yearly and must sit for a minimum of four months a year. There is no maximum length on a session of Parliament, and the Crown cannot dissolve it against its will until it has sat for its minimum of four months in a year. In other words, the monarch can’t simply dismiss Parliament and rule by unchecked decree the way Charles I attempted to do in England and the French kings after Louis XIII did regularly up to the Revolution. Members of the House of Commons are elected for three year terms, NOT for the duration of a single Parliament, and elections are staggered, with one-third of the boroughs holding elections each year. The Crown is specifically prohibited under the Constitution from arresting or imprisoning any member of Parliament for any offense during sessions of the Parliament in which he serves. Even MPs or Lords who have been imprisoned for some other offense between sessions must be released to take their seats during the current session.

The Church, under the original Constitution, holds ultimate veto power over any purely political act in that the Church through the local archbishop and/or his intendant may rule any act is not in accord with God’s law as revealed through the Archangels. (This is the case for any Safeholdian rwealm, not simply Charis.) The Church also holds ultimate authority over the confirmation of any title of nobility, since the succession cannot become legal without the Church’s attestation. (This was the reason the Church had final authority in the disputed succession in Hanth.) It has historically been very rare for the Church to have to intervene that “crudely” in domestic political affairs because the Church is guaranteed a large percentage of the seats in the House of Lords in every Charisian kingdom and --- in most Charisian kingdoms --- the Lords dominate the Commons. (This was one reason the Chrch was prepared to whack Chisholm as soon as Charis was out of the way even before Sharley married Cayleb; Chisholm was giving the Commons too much power. The situation in Harchong, where a reactionary nobility is completely loyal to the Church, is the Temple’s ideal political equation. This, of course, is another reason the Church is unhappy with the Republic, where the Lord Protectorship is elective and the legislative authority lies in the hands of an elective senate rather than an hereditary nobility which can be seduced/coopted into serving the Church’s ends out of self interest.)

As part of the marriage contract with Sharleyan, Zhan (who had already been confirmed by Parliament as heir to Old Charis until Cayleb produced a child) was made their joint heir because Sharleyan HAD no siblings or children. Indeed, the succession question in Chisholm was a bit vague, and Sharleyan’s need to produce an heir (or to do an Elizabeth I tap dance about who she might marry as a diplomatic weapon) was a major policy issue for her and her council. The agreement to make Zhan their joint heir satisfied existing Charisian law and clarified the succession for Chisholm (and, of course, the Empire as a whole), while the provision that either partner became joint heir to both thrones in the event one of them died (and the relative youth of both of them, with the promise that additional joint heirs could --- and would --- be produced) went a long way towards quashing any lingering temptation to depose Sharley among the Chisholmian peers. It also solved the problem of minor heirs in Charis, since it provided Sharleyan (an adult and obviously VERY competent monarch in her own riight) as Cayleb’s heir if anything happened to him. When Crown Princess Alahna was born, she AUTOMATICALLY became first in line to the imperial crown because of the specification of the marriage contract (she is the ONLY “heir of their joint bodies” in existence), although Zhan remains next in line behind her. The Imperial Constitution, moreover, provides that the heir to the crown is the FIRSTBORN child, regardless of gender, since they could scarcely exclude female heirs with Sharleyan specifically named to succeed Cayleb if he should pre-decease her.

The Imperial Constitution differs from the Old Charisian constitution in several other minor particulars but follows it in general. The Chisholmian “constitution” was largely unwritten, with the power of the Crown waxing and waning (which was the problem Sharleyan’s father had in recouping the Crown’s power). Sharleyan, however, was a VERY strong monarch, which meant she and Green Mountain had near absolute power when Cayleb’s proposal arrived (and explains the reason she was able to announce to her Parliament that they WERE going to do things her way). By signing onto the imperial Constitution, she has in effect accepted a de jure limitation of her powers, although in a de facto sense she and Cayleb remain very nearly absolute monarchs under the current conditions.

Safehold I've just finished reading the most recent Safehold book, and I've got to know, what is the name of the next Safehold novel, and when is the publication date? July 2009

David is currently writing one per year. The next Safehold release is titled Hell's Foundations Quiver, with the release in November of 2015.

Safehold Okay, So I'm dying to long does David think that this series is going to be? And will the inhabitants of Safehold ever meet the Gbaba? August 2009

David is currently anticipating that the Safehold series will be a minimum of nine books. And, he is currently planning for the humans of Safehold to run back into the Gbaba at some point...but that's all the details I could squeeze out of him!