HMS Javelin (D133)

Life aboard HMS Javelin, the Royal Navy vessel on which all the PCs in RogerBW’s Wives and Sweethearts campaign are serving, in the 24th century.

This is a ship designed for both free-fall and 1G acceleration, and possibly shifting from one to the other suddenly. So getting from one level of the ship to another is generally done by a lift running along the spine. (With the ship about 200 feet in length, that’s still twenty-ish stories to climb under thrust.)

And while there is alcohol on-board - some traditions are hard to break - getting drunk while the ship is underway is not acceptable.

I think the overriding principle is that this is a dangerous machine in a more dangerous place, and at any moment you might suddenly have to do something complicated. That said, a glass of wine with supper when you’re going to be off-shift for a few hours is no problem. There are probably people who take it further than is reasonable; their mates may cover for them, but probably not for long, because they’re putting everyone at risk.

A modern warship is a cylinder perhaps 3:1 or 4:1 length to width. You can spin it, but you mostly don’t bother.

Older warships, and most merchants, use drives that produce micro-G. They don’t have to worry about a major thrust axis, so they do spin - they’re likely to have foldable habitat arms, or even rings. A big merchant may have a lift down the middle, but a smaller one will just have an open passage with emergency pressure doors.

(Bone mass depletion in zero-G is fixed medically.)

A civilian ship with a modern drive might have folding habitat arms so as to provide a habitat with a useful living axis under thrust and while spinning, but there aren’t significant numbers of those yet.

Modern ships don’t have huge amounts of burn time: Javelin has about 32 hours at 1G. Smaller warships just put up with zero-G, but it may be worthwhile spinning the bigger ones, although probably not to anything like 1G.

Indeed. The trick, I think, is that when your combat manoeuvres are in micro-G, you can just strap everything down and plan to de-spin the habitat ring to avoid gyro coupling; when you might be putting out 1G or more, you hjave an assumption that that might come at short notice. That in turn means you have to cope with spin gravity and/or thrust gravity, and designing for that starts looking like hard work that compromises other capabilities.

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Listening to the Podcast on the wives and sweethearts topic I was reminded of reading Robert Massie, Byron Farwell and David Niven. A topic that crossed those was the importance and intimidating length of the Army and Navy lists before The Great War and between the Wars.

Has a similar situation returned for this campaign? The discussion of being noticed reminded me of the benefit relative to the lists of surviving a forlorn hope. Another curious thought was how relativistic velocities have affected seniority. Is it taken into account or is all seniority reckoned from a set point? With the extended lifespans there may just not be as oppressive a feeling as Niven mentions at realizing it would be ten or twelve years to a captaincy.

Apologies if any of this is covered throughout the campaign logs. I did a browse to avoid saying something foolish but certainly could have missed something.

That’s a good point. If anagathics triple the lengths of careers, but hierarchies become no taller, then it gets to be a long time between promotions. Which puts one in mind of the Royal Navy’s toast for Thursdays: “A Bloody War or a Sickly Season”.

The situation might if anything be worse in organisations that promote by merit rather than seniority, as the upper ranks fill with the aging wonderkids and political favourites of past generations, leaving an underclass of the unspectacularly competent who will never be promoted. I am reminded of the Duke of Cambridge being Commander in Chief of the Forces of forty years and stifling every possible reform.

Also in institutions dominated by inheritance, such as the monarchy and other family firms: as life spans get longer without a proportionate delay of first childbirth, hereditary positions will tend to be occupied for a great proportion of the time by people in their extended senility and prolonged terminal decline. (We expect that the current very low chance of death in one’s adult years will continue, so that in future few young inheritors will skip generations as Richard II and George III did.)

Free-lancing, private practice of medicine, the law, and other professions and trades, small business etc. — occupations in which there is no tenure of office and no promotion as such — might at first glance seem unaffected. But I suggest that in the first place working lives of 200 years or so will give more opportunity for people to burn out in professions and get themselves re-treaded as something else. Eminent barristers and physicians will no longer by ripe after forty years in Harley Street and the Inns of Court for retirement to the Bench and the House of Lords. Appalled by the prospect of another 160 years of well-paid tedium (if they can defend their client lists against the young lions) they might lay down their lancets and hang up their wigs for new careers as police detectives and tour-boat operators. Where people live to 300 you’re probably young and jaded at ninety.

Society will probably adjust. Before WWI very few people had any expectation of a career with promotions and all that bureaucratic nonsense. For thousands of years mot people were farmers and labourers and never expected advancement, and most of the rest worked in small firms with short hierarchies. Institutions might have to do something to protect themselves against having their senior positions fill up with unimaginative stone-bottoms whose only relevant qualification is the stolid persistency to wait for decades and centuries in the same occupation, awaiting promotion. An obvious defence available to rule-bound bureaucracies such as the military is an “up-or-out” system such as the Americans have. It’s rather extravagant in training costs and perhaps wasteful of talent, but may be justified in accumulating a vast pool of experienced inactive reservists suitable for rapid remobilisation in the event of total war.

But I suppose that’s not the Royal Navy in Space, is it?

Speaking of short hierarchies and the Royal Navy, around 1812 the Royal naval hierarchy had two officer ranks below captain (lieutenant and commander — sub-lieutenancies lapsed in 1804) and ten above (rear admiral of the Blue, rear admiral of the White, rear admiral of the Red, vice-admiral of the Blue, vice-admiral of the White, vice-admiral of the Red, admiral of the Blue, admiral of the White, admiral of the Red, admiral of the Fleet).

Such arrangements are unlikely to return in a highly technical space navy, as are illiterate seaman (pace David Feintuch).

@WolfeRJ: Relativistic speeds don’t really come in much. Hundreds or maybe thousands of miles per second is about as fast as it gets. The RN (and this is true of the other spacefaring navies in the setting too) is quite large and wants to have really good captains for all its ships; one approach it takes to this is searching through a lot of people to find the ones who’ll make good captains. (Ditto other positions.) (That might also help with the “vast pool of reservists”, though I don’t believe that’s a particular plan, given how fast ship tech has been changing recently.)

So while there isn’t the formal seniority of a List, there’s certainly pressure to be spotted as one of the high flyers. There is still expansion going on, and even the good captains (etc.) eventually stop wanting to do the job. In a theoretical phase 4 of the campaign, one might track the various current PCs in their post-Javelin careers.

@Agemegos: Looking at my table of monarchs (see, it has to be useful for something), I have these ages at accession and death:

Elizabeth II   26   95
George VII     73   83
William V      49  147
Alexander IV  116  131
Anne II        93  107
Louise         67  142
Matilda II     93  186
Richard IV    135 

(That was generated by using the GURPS aging rules, assuming a fairly decent initial HT, and appropriate tech level advances.)

On the other hand one of the presumed benefits of high tech is that one can tend to remain fairly mentally functional nearer to the end, even if the body isn’t working as well.

On the third hand, someone who’s 150 years old is probably no less prone to nostalgia and conservatism than someone of 60 now. That’s probably not a facet of mental dysfunction, and even if it is they probably won’t want it changed!

Looking at the real world, I’d say that “any expectation of a career with promotions” has gone away for almost everyone now. Certainly I’ve never been promoted in any of the jobs I’ve held, even when I’ve been accepted as doing them very well; that’s just not how it works. I’ve got myself hired into a higher-responsibility position with a different organisation.

The Royal Navy is aware of the possibility of being taken over by the ageing conservatives (lower case C, let’s not even think about party politics). One defence against that is boredom: and your life as a senior officer is not really materially much better than you’d have on the outside, unless you’re really good at undetected peculation (in which case you can’t visibly enjoy it anyway). So you don’t have the same incentive to “hang on for the pension”.



These results suggest that the GURPS aging rules might be a little pessimistic, or at least blunt-edged.

  • HM the Q’s life expectancy as a British woman aged 91 is to live another another 4.3 years (according to an on-line estimator I found) — but that’s an average including smokers, heavy drinkers, and the very unwell. Adjusting for her never having smoked, and drinking moderately, and her family history of cardiovascular health she ought to expect to live to 99.6. Statistics aren’t available, but informally, taking into account that her mother reached 101.7 coming from an earlier generation with shorter life expectancies, that she has never had a serious illness, that she has excellent nutrition and portion control, and that she has always had and will continue to have the very best medical care, I would give even money on HM making 102.
  • HRH the PoW is 69, and a randomly-chosen British man of 69 is expected to reach 84.6. Your prediction of his dying at 83 is not out of line given that the poor chap has evidently had a few too many falls off polo ponies. But take into account his family history of cardiovascular health, activity level, healthy weight, light drinking, and non-smoking and his expected age at death is 90.7. And again, that’s without accounting for the fact that both his parents lived very long lives for their generation in good health, excellent medical care, and healthy diet and portion control. I think 83 would be an early death for HRH.

There is some interesting politics in your monarchs’ choice of regnal names. The present Prince George of Cambridge, acceding in 2129, is not too keen on the memory of his grandfather, and wishes to appeal to the Scots? After 2233 the Royal Family has become more relaxed about the dire record and reputation of Richard III and the Empress Matilda?

I think this could go either way. Stem-cell cloning and 3-D printing of tissues are taking off just now, and offer a lot of promise for autograft therapy. Stem-cell therapy in general offers (though perhaps doesn’t promise) a line of attack against senescence. But replacing or re-growing the aging brain threatens personal identity. It’s the reverse of immortality based on mind transference. On the other hand, perhaps there will be breakthroughs addressing the aetiology of specific neurological degenerative processes.

We could get an aged of healthy minds in clapped-out bodies. We could get an age of demented elderly in healthy bodies. We could get an exact balance of progress in life-extension with progress in postponing mental senility, so that death once again comes in timely fashion as both out mental and physical powers give way to miserable disability. I think it’s more of a matter of setting-designer’s choice than of an obvious presumption.

Indeed. The Empire in my setting has a strict policy of compulsory retirement at age 110 for mostly psychological reasons. If you want to continue to live a worthwhile life after that, join an NGO or settle down to raise children. (Members of the Imperial Council may continue to serve, but without parallel administrative office, to the age of 130, and residents of Imperial Direct Jurisdiction may continue to be elected to serve as the equivalent of local councillors to that age too.)

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Certainly they’re blunt, but the results don’t seem entirely implausible. I felt quite odd assigning fictional death dates to real people already.

The regnal names are there largely to suggest how the politics of such things may have shifted. It’s not that the historical associations are forgotten, but they’re regarded as historical associations, and not using a name because of its bad luck is just as superstitious as using it and worrying about it.

(If/when I get round to writing up the Rightly Guided Republics this will become much more obvious. But I need to learn more about actual Islamic and Islamic-influenced cultures before I pin that down in detail.)

Just last week I was looking over the original brief that I wrote in 1987 for a setting that I only meant to use for a year. Very evidently I wrote it before I realised that the Soviet Union was on the point of collapse.

What I learned from that campaign is this: when you are writing a setting seven hundred years in the future, don’t start with a history of the next twenty years.

I believe that editorial policy for Transhuman Space (set in 2100) is to keep the far past (i.e. our near future) as fuzzy as possible and preferably not to mention it at all.

There probably is a List, simply so that you have a reference for who is an officer and their seniority. But with an expanding Navy, there is space for promotions that aren’t driven by seniority, which was the problem. Managing this kind of thing is going to be a variant on actuary work.

As a product of that system, I can attest that it suffers from both rampant careerism and the Peter Principle. There is much to be said for allowing superb junior or mid-grade officers to continue unmolested, rather than force them to become mediocre senior officers. This is especially true if your service feels the need to give line officer ranks to specialists (like Air Force pilots).

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