Realistic Space Combat-does it tell a good story?

Excerpt from book concept beyond Destiny’s Hand‘s timeline.  It is intended to be entertaining before realistic.

Butterfly people, aren't peopleA man watches lines crisscross an angry dark like overlapping fireworks, while the hissing of escaping air is drowned out by nearby explosive decompression. A bright flash makes him push away with a pained gasp, and then the Rainbow Ships of the butterfly people suddenly swirl like a kaleidoscope viewed through the small porthole.

The following is from current Destiny’s Hand draft.

Before resting ten light seconds away, the Ship Of Destiny did a flyby just a few light seconds from Ortome. To launch their assault craft a couple days at craft speed from an asteroid around a quarter of Ortome’s mass. They approached from the far side, so the smaller potato would block line of sight, and blasted with dubam cannons when in range to create an actual cloud of debris. Just an innocent impact between two smaller neighboring potatoes.

I see value in both and do try to balance, but for Destiny’s Hand  I lean towards realistic before entertaining.  My hope is that this will ease consistency and ultimately be more immersive.

Making realistic palpable is hard.

Go corner gif

I am inspired by author Jack Campbell writing The Lost Fleet, and how he deals with space combat in the series.  For me, it comes across as both hyperrealistic and entertaining.  He deals with the space of space very well, and gets me thinking about distances on the scale of a solar system when there is a fight.

Here’s an excerpt from a typical Campbell fight:

Because of the time delays involved in communicating across even such a relatively short distance as a few light-minutes, it took about ten minutes before the tracks of the six heavy cruisers and nine HuKs that Boyens had sent out began changing rapidly as the fifteen Syndic warships bent up and back, coming around and accelerating toward the battleship they had left not long before.

“The Syndics have abandoned their attempt to intercept the new cruiser,” Lieutenant Castries reported, as if not believing what she was saying. “The Midway flotilla is continuing en route an intercept with the Syndic battleship.”

“Maybe it wasn’t a bluff,” Desjani said, eyeing her display. “We’ll know in twenty minutes.”

I kept Campbell’s style in mind while writing the brief bits of space combat in Destiny’s Hand, and I hope I described the space of space at least to his standard.  I certainly paid more attention then I otherwise would have to light speed affecting intel and communications due to the massive potential scale of a space fight.

High tech (x-tech) Sci-Fi has a story telling cap.

"No. 5, 1948" by Jackson Pollock. Should be public domain PD56.  Realistic complexity.At some point tech creep makes people gods, and with few limitations story and characters lose perspective and point.

Another inspiring author for me is Iain Banks with his Culture series.

Mr Banks pushed the envelope for ambient tech level while still writing realistic good tales.  Characters in his universe could copy themselves, live forever, and become just about anything that popped into their head.

Space battles were sort of entertaining.  Nothing like Mr Campbell’s, as Banks is writing with tech well beyond what’s available to The Lost Fleet characters.

Although from a battle perspective I prefer Campbell’s, the multileveled tapestry and mind blowing scale of Banks’ gives context to the fight Campbell can’t match.

I play Eve Online as a wolf in a pack.

Public domain pic from B-R5RB fight.  Not so realistic complexity.I’m a negative ten pirate which fits in with the rest of my corp and alliance.  I’ve been with The Pro Choice since it was founded and helped think of the ticker “A8ORT” since “ABORT” was already taken.

Our alliance is known for interceptor manual piloting, which is almost as uncommon and difficult as being a master of dual boxing pvping.

The inreal news worthy “Bloodbath of B-R5RB” really juxtaposed our style of play with the blob style.  Having spoken to a few alliance members that participated in this fight, it was a marathon slog that was only entertaining if zoomed out, or thinking and chatting about it in retrospect.

Playing Eve gives me a realistic take on dog-fighting.

Small gang PVP is consistently hailed as the pinnacle of fun in the sandbox game.  I tried one November for NaNoWriMo to write a book drawing directly from my in game experiences.  I succeeded in reaching fifty thousand words, but wasn’t happy enough with the story to keep at it.

It’s difficult to capture the fun of eve, unless the story allows that it’s just a game played by friends.  I will get back to attempting story exports, there are a goldmine of them from my years of playing Internet spaceships.

Editing my Detiny’s Hand’s excerpt

Ship Of Destiny passed within a few light seconds of Ortome before stopping ten away.  Near the closest point, their assault crafts were launched, timed to be hidden by an asteroid a quarter of Ortome’s size.  That was big enough to block line of sight and allow a simulated potato collision with dubam cannons, which gave cover as a cloud of debris for the couple days travel to target.

The above seems like an improvement, but is hardly poetic.  “Potato” seems awkward, but consistently referring to asteroids as potatoes can make it work.  So too I think being consistently realistic will make a fight in space work for a story.

Be flexible, especially when writing in present tense, with how much to push things to work out as planned.

I’ve spent a lot of time developing the setting for Destiny’s Hand.  I need to trust that I’ve done enough so I can just let my mind run off the leash.

A problem with space combat is that it is so artificial, so removed from human experience.  Playing Eve Online could tackle that by viewing the ships as interchangeable avatars.  In the Eve sandbox, each ship no matter how big or small has a crew of one.  The game’s background lore talks about crew, but us emergent players generally ignore the npc storytelling.

I kept Eve in mind when doing comms chatter in Destiny’s Hand.

The old skill and bonesOn our alliance comms, banter is nearly constant, sometimes even in the midst of a fight.  There is definitely a pirate ship mentality where everyone gets an equal share and votes on who’s captain, rather than a more traditional militaristic one.

Although our comms discipline sucks, and nearly everyone is a backseat fleet commander (FC), we are well know and feared as very successful pirates.  In the last two years we’ve gotten third place in the Alliance Tournament, and odds are decent we’ll do even better this year.

As awesome as this is, it is also a reminder that this game is a bit of a sport.  At times it is not very realistic in its complexity.  The game is so good with emergent play, but by necessity it is still in a fairly limiting box.

The Culture series isn’t limiting enough, and The Lost Fleet series gets lost in its realism.

The juggle for space combat is to have the realistic dialogue of Eve, the scope of The Culture, and the consistency of The Lost Fleet.  I will do my best to keep all these balls in the air.

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