The Ghost Fleet Concept

(I blame Karl Gallagher and Alistar Young for this. And isekei novel ideas. Namely, why would you have a whole bunch of starships with AIs that were clearly looted from your local high school…)

The question that was continually asked by the Third Imperium-at least places like Naval Strategy and Planning, Imperial Intelligence Sixth and Ninth Directorates, and their respective Archons-was a simple one.

Where was everyone?

That was the big question and nobody really had a good answer for that. It wasn’t like there weren’t opportunities for races that made it past the Gaian bottleneck and didn’t nuke themselves into oblivion. Once you had the technology to reach the heliopause of your solar system, discovering slipspace wasn’t too difficult. Once you had slipspace technology, the universe was your oyster.

There were a few obvious reasons. Quite a few species ran into the Alphas and the usual way the Alphas introduced themselves was kinetic energy bombardment, followed by industrial genocide and hostle terraforming. There were hints that many species tended to find ways to kill themselves off in fratricidal wars (which is why there is a Third Imperium). And, there is the issue that in the time frame of the universe, any empire is a mere candle-flicker in terms of the length of the universe.

But, once again-where was everyone?

There was the wreckage and ruins of species going anywhere from Class II to Class VII (roughly the range from late 20th Century Earth to current Imperial standards). Hints of even more species. Some of them were even relatively “recent” in archaeological terms (i.e. somewhere in the 20,000-30,000 year old range). Everything suggested that despite the Alphas and their actions, there should be about nine to sixteen Imperial-peer species out there within a year’s round-trip by slipspace courier from Terra, a sphere a thousand light years in radius.

And yet..there wasn’t.

Once the Third Imperium had been formed after the Era of the Five Emperors, the Alphas finally defeated and destroyed, this question grew in importance. One of the theories was that there was a Great Filter mechanism, something that would clean out and eliminate empires that had reached a certain level. But, there was no indication as to what that mechanism was, what the trigger of that mechanism was, and how it worked.

Despite this, Navy Strategy and Planning, Sixth Directorate, and Ninth Directorate were tasked to come up with potential countermeasures. One of these potential countermeasures was the Ghost Fleet concept. The Ghost Fleets were designed around the idea that if there was a filer mechanism, one way to avoid it was to hide. Hide sufficient assets so that when the mechanism was triggered and the filter had swept the universe clean, a restoration of the Empire was possible.

The Archons then drew up plans, and these plans were based on the following concepts-

  • Provide enough of everything to ensure Imperial continuity of both the Empire and its people.
  • Conceal the forces-both in numbers and in depth-that short of a hard target search of every object Ceres-sized or larger in every single gravity well that had a defined slipspace limit, at least one task group-sized unit (two battlecruisers, four heavy cruisers, eight destroyers, and support ships in proportion for a total of at least twenty-two ships) would survive the filter mechanism.
  • Ensure that with the exception of archival data, every single storage facility has no more than a 2.5% commonality with any other facility.
  • Long-term storage was a major requirement. Even a “short term” facility would have to be operated unattended for at least 5,000 years without interference or direct contact.

This concept would gain the nickname of “the Ghost Fleets,” and it would stick. Even with all of these requirements, the Archons could easily perform the mission as required. Older ships that would previously be scrapped would be taken up by the Sixth Directorate and renovated to current standards. The only exception would be that ships with antimatter reactors would have them replaced with fusion reactors (storage of anti-hydrogen was considered difficult in the time frame of the Ghost Fleet concept), and the AIs used would be ones with the personalities needed to handle long term operations outside of a chain of command.

Redundancy was a key. The ships in earlier caches had a genetic “spread” of frozen (later stasis-locked) genetic material and plans to create uterine replicators for raising animals and people. Later ships would use WORM-media storage of genetic coding and there were molecular and atomic-spitters that could create the DNA as needed. Complete archival records were stored on every ship as well-from history textbooks to entertainment media-which would ensure continuity of culture. The goal was that if a single Imperial starship survived, a viable human population could be raised up to minimum standards in a century. A single cache of ships could do this in twenty-five years.

How many Ghost Fleet caches exist are unknown. Indeed, the Archons have put in a significant effort in both the emplacement and the concealment of the caches. To the best of anyone’s knowledge, there is no single list or set of lists of the caches and almost all of these lists have specific keying to divert attention, just in case. 

One major factor in planning was the “unknown unknowns” issue-could an unknown attack vector render all this planning useless? This dictated a number of planning  methods, not the least of which was that almost every single cache was designed to not accept external updates outside of a very specifically defined set of circumstances. 

One of the most “common” methods used was a quantum entanglement timer linked to a physical control system. As long as the entanglement remained active, and a “no” message was sent at the proper time, the control system would remain off. If the entanglement failed, the mechanism would engage a specific lock-down and timer system to begin starship revival. If a “yes” message was sent, a specific receiving mechanism was engaged to allow for updates and status checks.

How many Ghost Fleet caches exist is unknown. A rough estimate is that there are anywhere between sixteen hundred to four thousand of them, scattered all over Imperial space. And even this estimate is considered low

Getting Back Onto Schedule

Last week was a little frustrating and confusing because I had to puppy-sit and that threw a lot of my scheduled life off in directions that I didn’t expect.

But, it gave me a chance to shake up how my life is.

The Winter Solist has been making process, not as quickly as I would like, but it’s getting done. And, discovering the joys of eye strain, the whole “wrapping a steel band around your head” annoying pain thing.

And, going to see a friend on Sunday, which will be good.

Hopefully, this week, I’ll share some of the ideas for the RTS Isekei idea, and there’s another Isekei story idea that is percolating in my brain. And it’s one of those ideas of…

…look, I love Japan. I think it’s an awesome place. But I know what the limitations of the country are and its people. Two of these big limitations? Racism and bullying. Something which this story idea is going to take head-on. With bells.

Back to the writing monkeygrinder, busy times.

So, Good News? I Can Have Some?

Is there good news? Yes, there is. There’s several fronts that I’m having to deal with, and I’m having this distinct lack of fear, angst, frustration, and/or terror.

I believe most people call this “being happy.” It’s weird. It’s very weird. I like it, but it is just weird.

Academics-Staying on top and ahead of as many of my projects and classes as possible. In three weeks, I’ll have to start commuting twice a week down to San Francisco for classes. Which I’ve got timed, figured out, and I know how to make the schedule work. It’ll just be waking up early (not 4AM early, thank God for that), and making sure that my timing is good. Projects are current and working.

Internship-So far…I might have something. It seems like it’s locked in, but it don’t mean nothing until the paperwork is signed. It’s local, so the commute is short (twenty minutes, maybe), three days a week. And, it’s paid. Yay!

Writing-Going slower than I expect, but I’ve gotten started on one of the two short stories for the end of March (fingers crossed)…and, The Winter Solist is still being written. I’m getting close to the big reveals, the big fight, and the lead-in for A Solist In Rome, and that outline is growing ever more detailed as I get closer to telling that story.

Other stories are going to be on semi-hold because I need to finish my classes so I can graduate and not go crazy with all this work that I’ve got to get done. But, I might need to escape into a story or three when things get bad.

More news as it comes, I hope…

My Academia Joys

…did IQs drop while I was away, am I on the right mix of medications for my issues, or maybe…I’m finally mature.

Honestly, I’d prefer to the first two-it makes me wonder how much I still needed to grow up and didn’t until the last few years. But…better late than never.

Did my second day of classes and it went well, I think I’m on or ahead of schedule for homework and assignments, which is good. Fingers crossed.

And, I did an interview with a potential internship at a local company and…it feels good. The interview went well, I’m happy with the end results, and I will hopefully know more by Friday.

Writing work…been behind on The Winter Solist, but mostly because I’ve hit a plot bubble. I’m hoping to get around it and get back to work. A few of the untitled projects are still percolating, but with school and some of the other things going on…don’t know when I will get back to them. But, I will get back to them.

One More Week…

I’m back to school in a week.

I hate with several burning passions the idea of being thankful for COVID, but San Francisco State is saying that I probably won’t have to attend physical classes until February 14th. If my math is right, that is one-fifth of my class time not having to wake up early and take the bus down to SF State, deal with Golden Gate Transit, deal with MUNI, deal with the campus in general…

So, onto writing. I worked out some more outline details and wrote down some more notes for a few of the untitled projects percolating in my head. Oh, and I’m getting close to the big reveal in The Winter Solist, so I can get to the big fight number, and fill in some additional details. I’m not going to be doing any more “checkpoint” books again, this stuff is just harder on me than what I thought. The next book, A Roman Solist, is going to be relatively complicated in terms of it’s plot, and I need to keep much better track of things than my memory and some jotted down notes in places.

On today’s suggested viewing, we’ve got a YouTube history guy that I am enjoying a great deal. Drachinifel does a lot of naval history, almost all of it is World War II or earlier, and he is good and witty about the subject. Lately, I’ve been binge-watching his two-part story on the Russian Second Pacific Squadron (aka The Voyage Of The Damned) and it still makes me laugh and chuckle from the sheer black comedy of such a tragedy. He even has a Patreon (when I can afford to buy Taco Bell more than once a month by subscriptions, I’ll even add to my list), and tell him I said hello.

Back To School Days

So, I put in my final payment to go back to school, get my degree, and with a degree in hand…maybe get a job that doesn’t require me to say “do you want fries with that?”.

And, this may be the first time I’ve ever been grateful for the damned Crow Flu. The first three weeks of classes, at least, are all going to be virtual in some form. I just have to be dressed and wearing clothes for classes and not make the three hour commute to San Francisco every day. Still have to find an internship, but hopefully that can be all virtual work as well.

Writing news-I’m past the half-way point for The Winter Solist and I’m heading to the third act and the run-up to do A Solist In Rome. Some of my other ideas, such as An Ethical Succubus, has some progress as well. I realize that I should work harder to disconnect my inner editor, but I’ve never been a “spew word salad” sort of writer, who just keeps polishing again and again until it’s all done.

And, for today’s shared blogging experience, I’m going to share Kim Du Toit’s blog. Reading him, you get a distinct “get the hell off my lawn” feeling from him, but it’s less “angry about the world” and more “low tolerance threshold for idiots” grumpy. Which I’ve been guilty of as well, but I try not to scream at people. They look at at you funny when you do that.

Lots of collections of neat little stories and hilarious gags about how the world is. And, he’s got exceptional taste in women, which maybe I should start to share on my blog as well.

Well, There’s SOME Good News…

Writing on The Winter Solist is making some real progress. I’m nearly done with one of the first big fights in the novel, and I’m thinking that I’ll have to expand it a bit more. The story is coming along, but I’m getting past the first checkpoint. So, that’s something at least.

Other stories? I’ve got the outlines for about two other novels, and A Solist In Rome, and once The Winter Solist comes out…hopefully that story will come out a lot more quickly.

Personal life-I was able to get my blood pressure down to a safe level. The truly interesting thing is that to do that, I had to cut one of my ADHD medications out completely. This was a medication I was on for years, because it was one of the medications that allowed me to keep a job and keep my mind on track.

So, I stopped taking the medication two weeks ago…and, I’m doing a lot better in terms of my mental and emotional state. I’m not bouncing around like mad. I’m able to get a full night’s sleep with my CPAP. I’m not having the massive mood swings or sheer, despising hatred of most people and most entertainment. Could it truly be that simple, that easily resolved and easy to handle?

(I still can’t stand most TV shows, most modern comic books, and most “modern” novels. They’re written in a way that makes my brain hurt and are completely incoherent. I tried some new YA novels and they’re just…bad.)

The job hunt has been terrible. Resumes go out, I keep applying for things, but all the jobs that seem to be hiring are warehouse work, retail work, “own car” delivery work, and grocery stores. None of those are practical for me, not really. But, I’m still applying for them. And, on the 15th, SF State will put their schedule up for me to see if I can attend classes without driving myself mad in one form or another.

Fingers crossed, and hopefully good news for me soon.

It’s Bad Form, Isn’t It?

To spit over the very edge of the world?

It’s been…not bad. I’m not in any particular danger or risk or need to set up a GoFundMe to get money because I’m short. I have been dealing with a lot of nagging little issues, top to bottom.

Health issues-high blood pressure runs in my family and I’m not that big of a genetic outlier. So, more exercise, less salt, less time working on the computer, which means…

Writing has been slow. I’ve got a spec project (research for a non-fiction book), that I’m working on, and I’m also working on finishing up The Winter Solist and writing outlines for A Solist In Rome, some untitled writing project ideas, and quite a few other projects.

School-if I can do it all in one semester, everything is going to be put on hold so that I can finish my degree program. Which means that unless there’s another COVID disaster, I’m going to be commuting down to San Francisco on a regular basis. And, I’ve looked at just “a secure room with a shower, a fridge, and good Internet access” for the four to five months it’ll take for me to finish my degree. It is ALMOST as expensive as a full semester’s tuition, commuting three or four days a week is cheaper. Even the dorms would be expensive-between the cost and the mandatory meal plans, and they don’t have a single monk-like dorm room (which is all I need, really-one freaking semester) that I need.

Employment hunting has been terrible. I’m not working in a warehouse. I’m not working counter or retail or “own car” delivery. And, any of those jobs would bounce me off my current medical care into something worse. You start to understand why people want single-payer health care when you look at this crap, despite knowing that single-payer is like the Post Office but with doctors.

And, my fiscal concerns. I’m not in any trouble, just…little nagging things. Like for example, I’m having to manually update my Patreon payments. This isn’t a bad thing, I’ve trimmed out some people that I’ve wondered why I was supporting them. But, from the people I’ve been talking to, this is all (and I suspect, intentional) fallout from SESTA and FOSTA and it’s various weird requirements. Which have all just appeared to kick in today.

But, it can’t mess with my writing mojo, because I’m now writing again and figuring out work-arounds for the parent’s CNN addictions.

Progress will be made, one way or another…

Trying A New Tool

One of the things that any creative has to be careful about is trying out new tools. Let’s face it-90% of creative people have some form of neurosis and the remainder are able to hide it really well. And, one of these neurosis is about our tools. I’ve met people that have patched up, repaired, fixed, taped, epoxied, puttied, and eventually started to haunt estate sales and eBay because they had one particular kind of mechanical pencil that they used and “nothing else works right for me.”

Bit of Dumbo’s Magic Feather? Entirely possible and it’s also possible that it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other. Entirely possible that the ergonomics of that pencil have always worked better for him-or just that he’s gotten so used to it that everything else feels off. And, “feeling off” is sometimes one of the things that really throws a creative person off of their game. Sometimes to the point of not going somewhere with a project because it would require them to learn how to use a new tool…and then the neurosis hits again.

(My particular neurosis is the “not good enough” one. Not quite the perfectionist, but this fear that the point of translation between my imagination and the page is missing something and I need to go back and add that one more thing. And, creating things in my head, whole backstories that nobody will probably ever see…a series bible for TV or streaming would be insane by most standards, each A- and B-list character would have a massive biography and books and references…)

But, there’s also that point where you hit a wall and realize that the current tools aren’t going to help you any. This is why I’m learning a tool early-outlining.

How I usually write is what I call “checkpoint plotting.” It works like this-my stories have a number of checkpoints that I want to hit when I’m writing my story. I have a general idea when and where I want to get to that checkpoint. Just, sometimes I get hit by a plot idea or concept that is just so pretty…and I wander off the beaten path. And, come back as quickly as I can…but sometimes I find interesting things when I go off the beaten path.

Or, I have to spray for ticks.

But, A Solist In Rome and this new idea that won’t let go in my head is going to require me to stay closer to the road. So, that means I’m breaking out a new tool-an outline.

This is where everybody suggests a writing tool of one sort or another. Right now…not going to go that far. It’s really just a simple outline in Word as a prototype. First level is chapter headers. Second level is the main points where I want to go with this chapter. And, third level is what I call my “fluff”-little additional details that I want to add and follow up on.

I spent most of yesterday writing it, and I’m about a quarter of the way through my first outline for this second series that I’m working on. Today or tomorrow, I might get started on the A Solist In Rome (because it’s going to primarily first person with several second person callouts), so I need to keep tight track of where the story is going.

Back to the writing mines I go…and, we’ll see if this new tool helps any.

Fun (Not), One Each

So, I’m trying to get more of The Winter Solist done, and every time I think I’m able to get more than a page or two written…

I become the Default Dad. And, I have my own honey-do list. This is a scary thing, terrifying.

Dealing with the State of California and all of it’s many inadequacies. Almost tempted to take EDD to Small Claims Court and see if they’ll just cut me a check to leave them alone.

And…my creative brain has thrown at me another story. One that I’m actually doing bullet points to get the plot organized. This has been an interesting experience.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have “fun” next weekend. We’ll see.