So, today the monkey flipped the switch and I started work; almost six thousand words, more than I had planned for today. I think that counts as a good start, though it was slow to begin...five hours to do two thousand words, then two thousand words an hour for two hours! I suppose I'll settle for that, after all, I only need to do it about another fourteen times to get the book finished! If I'm honest, I reckon it was probably the 'second book' jitters more than anything else. I know these characters a lot better now (and this time, all three of the important new characters will be written in within the first four or five chapters) so that is a bit easier...and it's fun throwing them into new situations.
Including a fighter battle! I opened this one with the hero riding his fighter into battle, and spent ages trying to make it feel right and be right; I didn't want this to be a 'World War 2 dogfight in space', I wanted to try and make it as it would actually be under these circumstances...so the fighters don't have cockpits, they are primarily flown on instruments by expert systems. The pilot is the decision-maker; this is true today, but by this point the physical requirement to pull a control stick is replaced by instructing the systems. Which is not a million miles away from where we are now. (As to why use humans? Humans are the decision-makers, and at least one of them needs to be operating in real-time. Or at least close to it.)
Fighters are a much bigger part of this book; in the first book, aside from the lead being a former fighter pilot, it didn't have any role – but in this book (very mild spoiler here that I will likely put in the blurb) Alamo gets its fighter squadron. Which is what brings in the new characters, because fighters need pilots, and with the connection to the commander, its inevitable that they are going to be a major part of the plot. (Heck, if they weren't going to be a major part of the plot, I wouldn't be bringing them in at all.)
I'm going to admit at this point that space fighters are cool. Which is the entire reason why I've gone to some effort to bring them on board Alamo, making it a 'hybrid ship', rather like one of the through-deck cruisers the Royal Navy – and to an extent, the Soviet Navy – introduced. That gives a key to what sort of fighters are usually going to be on board these ships, because they are always designed as 'sea control ships', primarily to hunt submarines, but in this context, the idea would be patrol craft to intercept small ships, perhaps to defend asteroid fields from rogue prospectors, or for that matter to raid such ships. This makes Alamo – and by extension, all battlecruisers in this setting – blockade guards or privateers. Which I think adds another great element to this, as well as being a logical extension of the battlecruiser principle.
For battlecruisers in actual use were generally misused. Giving them big guns suggested that they needed to be a part of a battle line, put up against warships as some sort of tactical naval cavalry...but that generally leads to glorious deaths. (See Jutland, Denmark Strait, and so on.) They are actually designed to hunt down cruisers, to hunt down surface raiders attacking merchant shipping, and in that role – when they were used in that role – they are successful. Naturally, as the Graf Spee proved (not a battlecruiser, but well, 'pocket battleship' is probably close enough) they are also excellent for hunting down merchant shipping themselves. Had two massive naval powers fought in the Pacific before naval aviation was developed, battlecruisers would have been incredibly valuable. (Say – US vs. Japan in 1920.)
So that's where the Battlecruiser Alamo comes from, and that is why the battlecruiser gets resurrected; in the Triplanetary setting, where there is a requirement to defend clusters of asteroids being mined across several star systems...this is a required concept.
Wow, this one rambled. I'll try and get more focused tomorrow.