You see them at every convention.
A group of what are obviously committed fans. They’re wearing what appear to be some form of naval uniform. Some of them are in fatigues, most of them are in something a little flashier. There’s berets—most of them black, but occasionally white, and all of them with this red-and-gold patch featuring a manticore.
It looks like they’re cosplaying some television series, but you can’t quite place it. They’re not Star Trek, or BSG, or Babylon 5, but they’re close. Somewhere in there. And it looks pretty cool, and you kind of wonder about it, and then you go on having fun because you’re at a convention.
Or at least, that’s how I was introduced to Manticore.
It took me three years to realize that they were repping a series of books. Three years. And I was at these conventions as an author. You may as well strip me naked and walk me through the halls of the Pasco Red Lion ringing a bell and chanting “shame” at this point. I’ve earned it.
Once I realized that we were talking purely about written fiction, I was intrigued. After all, that’s a pretty hard-core fan base for written fiction. I know a lot of Dresden fans—I’ve seen very little Dresden cosplay. An organization? That’s gotta be something.
I swear I don’t know what happened to the next month and a half of my life. It’s kind of a blur, really. But it’s like David Weber found a way to simultaneously tickle my age-of-sail-warfare fetish with my science-fiction obsession. In my day job as a public defender, I have clients who mix methamphetamine and heroin before smoking it. It’s called “doing speedballs,” it’s a terrible idea, and it is the mental equivalent of the Honor Harrington series for me.
I love this series, and I love David Weber for writing it. I could turn this post into a super-in-depth explanation of the significant differences between the Mark 16 MDM (Variants E and G, really, because honestly does anyone care about pre-G Mark 16s anymore?) and the Mark 23 (Especially, of course, the infamous Mark 23-E). Everyone who has read the series is nodding and smiling about those jokes in the parentheses. Everyone else’s eyes just glazed over.
But instead, I want to be a little general. Let you ease into the thing. There’s going to be a lot of technical stuff laid out for you (as above). It’s going to be a little boring at times. But it pays off. When you know exactly what these ships are capable of, you know the dangers and the brilliance of the commanders who are sailing them. And Weber has designed a unique system for space combat that gives us a sense of the constantly-evolving. The reason those letter variants are important up above is they represent the continuous pressure a war brings to make your tech better.
From the exploration of Manticore’s society, to the really interesting contrast with Grayson’s society (and there’s an entire analytical diatribe that I’m not getting into as well), Weber gives you a fully-constructed world to play in, and then he takes you for a ride in it.
This isn’t going to be for everyone. But if you’re like me, and you’ve spent way too much time studying, say, old Civil War battles—for example, if you think Daniel Morgan’s move at the Cowpens was the best thing since Cannae—then Weber has written a series for you. These are, in essence, Bernard Cornwell books. The only difference is they’re set during a war thousands of years in the future that hasn’t happened yet.
Go. Pick up On Basilisk Station. The books get better from there.
You’re not going to find me wearing a Manticoran uniform at a convention. But that’s only because I’m there to promote my own work instead. David Weber has given me a universe that I very much like to go play in, and for that I thank him. Manticorans at conventions, know that I am with you in spirit, if not in cosplay.