In this post I’ll be introducing one of the first steps of the process I took once I’d developed a build I was really proud of: analysis and naming. One of the first impulses you’ll have is a desire to name all the workings of the build. If it’s a castle, the questions will start to come to you: where is its situated and why, how many gates does it have and towers, and how strong is the gatehouse that protects the entrance to the castle? What are the castle walls made of, and how long did the castle take to build (by the peasants and craftsmen, not you!). You might ask yourself what part of the country this castle was sited on and how it was built to guard from enemy attack. Or perhaps this is a very late medieval castle, and the the structure is little more than a glorified palace meant to make an impressive statement to other visiting nobles as a symbol of their status. These are the flood of questions that will start coming to you once you have built a castle you are truly proud of. Now, let me show you how an example of the fictionalized technology that I created for my second starfighter, the GDM Avenger, works. Notice the two processes I am using: analysing (looking at the parts of the ship that would be necessary to make it work); and naming (coming up with credible sounding names for those parts, and the technology behind them).
Great Democracy Star Fighter: The Avenger
Role: Light Hybrid Superiority Spacefighter; In service: CC 37 to 38; Combat record: 1 to 3 for. Enemy planes: EGM Firebird, EGM Scorpion.
Weapons: 2 Tasker wing-mounted medium laser rifles, 4 Cyclops light ballistic cannons, 1 Dymax particle beam rifle (under the nose); Armour: 20mm cadium plate welded over 20mm plasteel enamel; Shielding: 2 (wing mounted) Vantrue 1.2m kilojoule shield projectors, 1 Vantrue 5m kilojoule shield generator; Power supply: 1 Dyron dual atomic accelerator, 7 Dyron instability core batteries; Propulsion: 2 Obersk 600 rps thrusters; Top speed: Mach 6 (atmosphere). Acceleration class: 1; Spaceframe: assembly of 45 multi-size plasteel beams bonded to a Y-column of re-grained flex steel; Navigation systems: Osiris 7 AI-assisted navigation; FTL drive: none; Dogfighting (manoeuvrability) class: 1; Life support: Annubis Lifesign 2, providing 24 hours of oxygen, AI medical and repair panoply; On-board combat computer: Archangel 3 AI (assisted targeting and tactics).
Light, manoeuvrable, and adaptable—the Arrow is both a space and atmospheric fighter of surprising deadliness for a one-person craft. The Arrow fought alone in space and in the sky against two different specialized fighters of the Explorers Guild Military (EGM) and held the line against them for the first 4 years of the War of Refusal until the heavier Avenger entered service in CC 37.
Most military historians and veteran pilots agree that the precise and responsive flight systems, directional thrusters, light spaceframe and the extreme manoeuvrability and acceleration they granted allowed the Avenger to hold its own in the first space war. Frictionless enamel coating allowed the ship to move into and out of atmospheres, giving it the tactical ability to retreat into the friction of the upper atmosphere of their two homeworlds and re-engage at a time and place of their choosing—an ability GDM aces exploited ruthlessly. This tactic led to the development of the EGM Scorpion fightercraft, the first EGM fightercraft developed for combat in an atmosphere.
The Avenger, nicknamed “Apollo’s Son” by proud GDM pilots, know the craft for its near equal effectiveness in both space and atmospheric combat.
Where Does All This Made-Up Tech Come From, and Is It Valid?
Notice that all the technology is entirely imagined. I’m not an expert in astrophysics or in fighter-plane design. I was lead by the build itself to imagine all the factors that would affect space combat and make this plane the ass-kicker it is. And notice as well, that I sought verisimilitude for my build by giving each of the technological components, from the thrusters to the navigational systems manufacturer’s names, showing that something as complex as as space fighter could not be made by any one manufacturer or engineer alone. There would be a master design and spaceframe that the fighter would have that would give it an advantageous shape and it would be measured to accommodate all of the other components of such a technological wonder that other manufacturers would have to supply.
Do Some Fun Homework
Again, the first lesson is analysis and naming. Once you create a great build, you’ll want to break down the parts of the build and give them names. If you build a castle and don’t know what the various design features are for a castle, pick up a book on castles that goes into how castles worked and why they were made in the various ways they were. From there, you will gain all kinds of terminology that’s fun to learn and may inspire your next castle. For example, crenellations are the spaces between the stone tablets built for archers to shoot arrows through while enjoying the protection of the the short stone walls on either side of them. Machicolations are the holes built into the extruding circles of towers through which hot oil, sand, or rocks could be dropped on the enemy. Once you learn this, you may be inspired to build a castle with machicolations. A fantastic visual guide to the features of castles for starters is DK’s series Eyewitness Books Castle.
If your castle is big enough, you may be able to build miniature catapults that can sit on the walls. You might also do something typical of castles and build an outer wall that is much lower than the inner wall. This enables archers on the inner higher wall to shoot arrows over the heads of the archers on the outer lower wall without risking hitting them in the back. If this research sounds like a hassle to you, don’t do it. Invent your own reasons for how a castle works that are entirely rooted in fiction. Perhaps your castle has the equivalent of a huge secret pit in the centre courtyard so that invaders who manage to enter the castle can be dropped through the false floor onto sharpened stakes. How will you build this into your castle? In this case, your idea has worked in reverse, from cool idea and analysis backwards to the actual design of your castle. You may even want to get a little crazy and come up with a castle that walks.
My research was a series of books on the Star Wars vehicles that offers cross sections of the ships with some brief explanations of how the tech works. I was very inspired by the book’s illustrations and the labels of the ship parts that helped me with the analysis of my own fighters. One such book in the series is another in the DK heavily illustrated line of books Star Wars Complete Vehicles: Incredible Cross Sections of the Spaceships and Craft from The Star Wars Galaxy. But I was less satisfied with the descriptions of how the tech worked, so I invented my own tech based upon cobbled together ideas of how lasers and ballistic weapons worked. I invented magnetic and radiation weapons–the sky was the limit. And the details of the manufacturers and how the tech worked sold my audience (I hope) on the realism, or as I say, created verisimilitude (I’ll use this word often–it means the details that go into creating the appearance of truth in a fiction). Have fun! More lessons await, as well as more models to analyse and reveal background stories on.
I’ve hinted at my description of castles about the whys of where and how castles are built and that’s really backstory, or background. We’ll discuss building background and how that’s inspired in my next post. Writers and Legomaniacs, please let your friends know about this blog and the journey we’re taking. Slowly but surely, we could be taking you to your first novel or short story.