Thursday, August 3, 2017

More literary Traveller history

Many bytes have been committed to the discussion of what works influenced the development of Traveller. My little contribution here today is by no means ground-breaking or game-changing. I simply share with you a fun story I discovered yesterday, that has a few points in it that share common ground with Traveller's mechanics and setting. 

The story is Hide and Seek, by Arthur C. Clarke, published in "Astounding Science Fiction" v44 #1, September 1949. I found it in the Internet Archive. 
One man being chased by a starship should be out of luck, right?  Not so fast!

First point of interest, this line describing the small 'scout ship' which is pursued by the larger cruiser:
"It reappeared only a few minutes later, traveling under full thrust on a course directly away from the sun.  It was accelerating at almost five gravities-and it had broken its radio silence."
To folks raised on Trek/Wars, starship thrust in Traveller may seem ridiculously slow. For the math-challenged, five gravities is a whopping 49 meters per second, or 109 mph. You're not making it to Mars for several days at that speed. *See the comments below for more accurate math* This was in the days before sci-fi assumed ships would have artificial gravity that compensated for velocity so those aboard would not feel the sensation of movement. Later on it mentions that the scout ship had made it up to 6 km/sec before exhausting its fuel; a much more respectable 13,000 mph. So high speeds were attainable, it was just costly in time and fuel.

Second point of interest, the pursuing cruiser is
"armed with a dozen heavy guided missiles and two turrets of electromagnetic guns."
so it could have as few as six and as many as 14 Traveller turrets, depending on how many missiles were in each turret. I've house ruled the torpedo concept, a larger missile such that one launcher takes the space of three standard ones. This implies that the cruiser is maybe 800, maybe 1000, maybe 1200 tons, the equivalent of a Type-C cruiser or maybe a Kinunir.

Later he mentions that
"The average cruiser, fully fueled, has a mass of two or three thousand tons,"
and that there is off-screen a larger 'battleship' coming to the fight. Traveller ship design in the LBBs/TTB did not create the mammoth vessels found in Trek/Wars. the 5,000 ton maximum (volume or mass, who cares?) fits much better with the ships presented here.

Traveller's original space combat rules, before High Guard, were 2D vectors on a map, and the map had to be large. A ship that built up any velocity then had a very hard time changing direction. Clarke explains, without giving a math lecture, why that is so, and makes it a dramatic element of the story. Traveller's vector movement is wholly justified.

Another point of interest is the way the cruiser's crew were armed:
"In the ordinary course of business, side arms and other portable weapons are as much use to a space cruiser as are cutlasses and crossbows. The Doradus happened, quite by chance-and against regulations at that-to carry one automatic pistol and a hundred rounds of ammunition."
At least to Clarke, armed ships' crew did not make much sense. There is the implication at least that cutlasses would not damage the ship's internals; one of the usual arguments for why Marines all learn how to use them. 

Furthermore, many published Traveller products which involved a starship and pre-generated crew included in the ship's locker automatic pistols with 100 rounds of ammunition. Coincidence?

I've shared a few other classic gems of sci-fi that had connections with Traveller. Check them out here:

Planet of Dread and Traveller world-building
I Found Jump Torpedoes!
Why there are no ranks in the Scout service
The creatures of Little Fuzzy
Armored with Collapsium



  1. Seems to me that "side arms and other portable weapons are as much use to a space cruiser as are cutlasses and crossbows" is implying that none of these are any use at all.

  2. Five gravities is 49 meters per second *squared* - it's acceleration, not speed. It can't be expressed as a speed at all. 109mph is how fast the ship would be moving after one second at 5Gs. You could reach Mars in 2.5 days with that acceleration (at closest approach, assuming constant acceleration).

    1. Simon, you are right on the money. I did not explain that far enough. Thank you for the math correction. It might also be more accurate to say you could reach the orbit of Mars in 2.5 days - but you'd be going way too fast to land.

  3. Great selection, Mr. Weaver. I've always loved that story and remember laughing aloud when I first read it.