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Author Topic: A space opera fleet  (Read 1198 times)

Offline Eli_Freysson

A space opera fleet
« on: March 20, 2016, 04:17:27 PM »
Help me out here, you folks heavily involved with sci-fi.  :)

I've been working on my space opera short story serial for a while now, and I'm going to start actually getting to work on putting it out there. So the time for making final changes is running out.

The main thing I'm still not entirely decided on is the size of my space warships and fleets. I'm never had much to do with space opera, so this whole thing is an odd choice for me, but what counts as impressive?

The first story features a dreadnought (the largest type of warship) that is 2600 meters long, with a total of 94 guns and missile ports, and can comfortably house 50.000 people. And it is noted as being an older, somewhat obsolete model. Newer ones are bigger.

Sound okay?

I'm also worried that my fleets are too small. The main story concerns a civil war in a vast space realm of dozens of inhabited worlds. Now, much of the army is spread around to hold important locations and protect borders, but an assault fleet is gathered and noted for being large, and consists of nine dreadnoughts and 175 smaller ships.

I know it's my job as the writer to decide on this kind of stuff, but I want to know if a reader will feel underwhelmed.
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Offline Jmack

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Re: A space opera fleet
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2016, 04:30:02 PM »
Eli, have you read any of the Honor Harrington series? It's really fantastic for fleet, ship, and weaponry stuff.

Meanwhile, I tend to think of 50,000 people in ship as puzzling. I can't figure out what they all do. If a civilization is so advanced as to have a ship that large, wouldn't it be advanced enough to have massive robotics?

But I'm probably being way too logical for space opera.  ;D 
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Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: A space opera fleet
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2016, 04:37:22 PM »
Eli, have you read any of the Honor Harrington series? It's really fantastic for fleet, ship, and weaponry stuff.

Meanwhile, I tend to think of 50,000 people in ship as puzzling. I can't figure out what they all do. If a civilization is so advanced as to have a ship that large, wouldn't it be advanced enough to have massive robotics?

But I'm probably being way too logical for space opera.  ;D

I know of those, but no, I haven't read them.

I didn't mean that it takes 50.000 to crew a dreadnought. Just that it can CARRY 50.000 soldiers, for when there's need for ground fighting, or leaving behind a garrison.

As for robots, yeah, robots will probably do all of our jobs in the future, but that's boring so I worked a Skynet-style uprising into the backstory. So, a couple of wars later, no robots.
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Offline Jmack

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Re: A space opera fleet
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2016, 04:42:46 PM »
Eli, have you read any of the Honor Harrington series? It's really fantastic for fleet, ship, and weaponry stuff.

Meanwhile, I tend to think of 50,000 people in ship as puzzling. I can't figure out what they all do. If a civilization is so advanced as to have a ship that large, wouldn't it be advanced enough to have massive robotics?

But I'm probably being way too logical for space opera.  ;D

I know of those, but no, I haven't read them.

I didn't mean that it takes 50.000 to crew a dreadnought. Just that it can CARRY 50.000 soldiers, for when there's need for ground fighting, or leaving behind a garrison.

As for robots, yeah, robots will probably do all of our jobs in the future, but that's boring so I worked a Skynet-style uprising into the backstory. So, a couple of wars later, no robots.

That's a great way to do it.
Article in the Wall Street Journal today in which writer says: "um, should we start being just a little careful about the children of AlphaGo?"
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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: A space opera fleet
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2016, 04:45:56 PM »
I think it might need more guns/missile ports if it's 2600 metres long. 94 seems awkwardly few if you want to cover that much space.

The size of your fleet depends entirely on how you want to depict your space battles and how good your civilizations are at producing said space ships.
You can go Legend of the Galactic Heroes style with enormous fleets and depict the large scale tactical battle:


Or go Angels Fall First Planetstorm style, where a battle is 2-4 capitol ships, outfitted with 30 or so starfighters.

Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: A space opera fleet
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2016, 05:08:38 PM »
I think it might need more guns/missile ports if it's 2600 metres long. 94 seems awkwardly few if you want to cover that much space.

That is a fair point, but doesn't the size of the guns have a say in that?

Quote
The size of your fleet depends entirely on how you want to depict your space battles and how good your civilizations are at producing said space ships.

Hmm. I feel that maybe the size of the population should be reflected in the size of the fleet, but maybe that's the wrong attitude. I don't know.
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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: A space opera fleet
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2016, 05:48:17 PM »
I think it might need more guns/missile ports if it's 2600 metres long. 94 seems awkwardly few if you want to cover that much space.

That is a fair point, but doesn't the size of the guns have a say in that?
There will most likely be different sizes in guns, no? Similar to how there are different defensive systems in land/seabased combat, you'll have different guns that specialize in different kinds of combat. Large powerhouses to keep enemy dreadnaughts at bay, smaller turrets to defend from fighters/bombers. If we look at Star Wars for example, the death star has these tower guns (turbolasers):


We also have these smaller emplacements to defend the hangar bays (tractor beams apparently):


And finally that huge laser of planetary death which is irrelevant for our case.
Your ship engineers will want most of the ship covered with defensive turrets for multiple occasions to avoid enemies outflanking the dreadnaught, especially since dreadnaughts are slow stuff.

Quote
Quote
The size of your fleet depends entirely on how you want to depict your space battles and how good your civilizations are at producing said space ships.

Hmm. I feel that maybe the size of the population should be reflected in the size of the fleet, but maybe that's the wrong attitude. I don't know.
Do you mean the population on board of the space ships or your total population of your civilization?

Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: A space opera fleet
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2016, 05:52:51 PM »
Do you mean the population on board of the space ships or your total population of your civilization?

I mean the population of the civilization.
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Offline Henry Dale

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Re: A space opera fleet
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2016, 06:01:48 PM »
Do you mean the population on board of the space ships or your total population of your civilization?

I mean the population of the civilization.
Well, if the civilization doesn't have the means or manpower to build spaceships it's unlikely to have a large armada. There also has to be a need to have them. You can't have 50.000 man ships if your civ can't spare the men to fill them with, so (base amount of people to run civ) + (base amount of people to build ships) + (people to man and fill ships) should be something to keep in mind when designing your ships + fleets and even then it can still deviate from that. (or go cheap and get a clone army à la star wars)

Offline Yora

Re: A space opera fleet
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2016, 08:45:09 PM »
When it comes to numbers in sci-fi, there's been a long established tradition to just make something up randomly. It's easy to criticize bad numbers with too many zeros or too few, but the main problem behind it is that the basic premise behind the popular scenario of space war is completely unrealistic.

What you usually get is something like World War 2 battleships in space. Which is of course completely implausible for various reasons, but when in doubt you could take the numbers for guns, crew, and aircraft from those. Then you get numbers that sound at least somewhat familiar to people who know a bit about the subject. Wrong numbers, but familiar wrong numbers.  :D

World War 2 battleships (the largest type there is) had crews of 2,000+ people. The biggest modern supercarriers up to 5,000.
And here's the guns of the Yamato, the biggest battleship ever build.
9 × 46 cm main guns
6 × 15.5 cm secondary guns
24 × 127 mm  anti-aircraft cannons
162 × 25 mm anti-aircraft machine guns
4 × 13.2 mm machine guns
Some modern carriers can carry almost a hundred aircraft.

Realistically speaking, a warship is an engine with guns and a control station. Everything else is infrastructure to enable maintainance of these two key components. If your guns aim automatically (which they should, because its much faster and more precise) and a lot of repair work is done by robots, the number of crewmen goes down a lot. Which means you also need a lot less people to keep that maintanance crew fed and cared for.

Space ships don't have to float, which is certainly a nice thing. But every extra kilo you stick to that engine makes it harder to accelerate, decelerate, and change direction. So you want your ship to be as light as possible as it can get while still being able to carry the guns it needs to perform its task. On 20th century battleships the task was to carry guns big enough to punch through the armor of any other warships. The reason these battleships were so big was because it was necessary to still float and move with such huge guns. Then we figured out how to guide missiles which can be stored and fired from much smaller ships and so battleships and cruisers pretty much disappeared since the 1940s. Even destroyers are pretty rare these days. Mostly you have frigates and corvettes, which in 1945 would have been considered pretty small.
If you want to have space battles with lasers (impractical, but traditional), you would have to have power geneators for each of them, as well as cooling systems, which could realistically get really huge. It's not too hard to imagine warships that are 40% engine, 40% laser generators, and 20% crew and maintanance.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2016, 09:09:40 PM by Yora »
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