25 November 2008

A taste of the new material...

Because battle scenes are so gratifying to write.
And then the shells from Xinjinshan arrived. The battleship was half a million kilometers away, outside of its gun range...for a maneuvering target. Giant asteroids, as a rule, didn’t maneuver. The facing surface of Patroclus exploded with shell hits, spraying shards of rock into space. An evacuation shuttle was caught in the splash and disintegrated like a sparrow in the mouth of a shotgun.
Everything is coming along just fine.


Phong said...

Actual shells for space combat?

Matthew said...

Railgun slugs, depleted uranium cores surrounded by a steel jacket, fired at about 100kps. Called shells because it sounds cooler. There's an error in the post; the number should be 50,000 kilometers. It looks like I might have to knock a zero off all my combat ranges; going over the math with Metatwaddle made me realize just how optimistic my first draft figures were for missile delta-V. Sometimes I envy the soft SF writers. All they have to say is "It works because I say so, that's why", and never lie awake nights wondering if people are going to laugh at their figures.

Phong said...

Oh, I figured they were something like a railgun slug, but I was a bit curious on how your space combat mechanics require them.

At least in Draft 0, you have combat with lasers, kinetic-kill antimissiles and nuclear-tipped attack missiles. Even against large static targets, might not nuclear weapons work better?

Matthew said...

As the density of point defense increases, the chance of a successful torpedo hit falls close enough to zero that it's a waste of time to hurl nukes at a target. Frigates are too light for their PD to hit this critical density, but battleships and space stations are not. That's why battleships mount them in the first place. The reason frigates don't is frigates are also too light to carry enough on-board power generation to operate them, and their frames can't handle the recoil. As for lasers, they haven't worked out all the bugs yet, so railguns have a longer working range and actually carry more ammunition (if you recall, the laser used by the Ontario is open cycle--it solves the waste heat problem by dumping its coolant overboard, limiting its capacity). So railguns are the weapon of choice for heavy combatants who can mount the reactors and absorb the recoil, including the battleship in the excerpt. There are frigates present at that battle firing torpedoes as well, but I promised people battleships. :)

Actually, though I don't think I ever revealed this in the book, the way the technology is evolving in this universe, torpedoes are on the cusp of obsolescence. The next generation of frigates would have mounted better PD, and interceptors are improving all the time, while they've just about maxed out the engine efficiency and propellant loadout of the torpedoes. Meanwhile, they're improving their combat lasers and miniaturizing the power reactors for railguns. The generation after the next generation would have mounted lasers as their primary weapons, until materials science advanced to the point they could build a lightweight enough frame to handle a railgun recoil.

Keller said...

A tiny note: kps is properly rendered as km/s, no matter how many people in sci-fi disregard it :).

If you still need test/beta readers I'd be happy to oblige after Christmas. The Wayback Machine archive of the first couple chapters already vaulted me into wanting to buy the book.

electric.monk.ts [at] gmail.com

Steve said...

I don't like the name XinjinShan. I would recommend either XinShan or JinShan,

For several reasons

1) 2 character names generally feel & seem more naturally chinese than 3 character ones. Most chinese cities founded by the Han have names of only two characters.

2)XinJinShan could mean "New Gold Mountain" but it could mean "Cash Money Mountain" or "Pocket-change Mountain" both of which are frankly stupid.

Go with XinShan "New Mountain" or even better "JinShan"--gold mountain.