Read This First! – Really!

Author's Introduction:

The stories that follow took a rather strange journey getting here. Way back in ancient times, the late 1990s, I started reading David Weber's Honor Harrington series and I liked it quite a lot. I got involved in a group of other Weber fans on this new-fangled Internet thing which had just popped up and I had a lot of fun discussing the books and making new friends. One of the biggest topics of discussion was, of course, what would happen in the next book? This grew especially vigorous in the wake of Weber's "In Enemy Hands" where Honor is captured by the evil Peeps. How would she escape? How would she get home? What were all the people who thought she was dead doing while she was gone? I developed my own set of ideas about what was going to happen. And while I knew that I wouldn't guess all the details correctly I had a sort of mental list of Things Which Need to Happen in the next book.

Eventually the next book, "Echoes of Honor" did come out and I read the whole thing in a single night. And I was kind of disappointed. Oh, it had been a rousing adventure, but unfortunately, when it ended there were several items on my Things Which Need to Happen list that hadn't been checked off. In my opinion the darn thing ended about three chapters too soon! It bothered me. A lot.

So, after stewing for about a week, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I wrote the 'missing' chapters. This was an entirely new experience for me. I was 45 years old and I had never written much of anything in the way of fiction beyond annoying assignments in English classes in high school. I had done some story-telling, though as I had been an avid Dungeons and Dragons dungeon-master during my college days. I loved coming up with intricate plots for my players to unravel. That was to serve me well.

So I cranked out the three chapters. Almost 30,000 words. A task that I would have considered cruel and unusual punishment during my school days, but which I now found that I enjoyed very much. It came as quite a surprise: not only did I enjoy writing, but I was pretty good at it. Or at least that what the folks who read the chapters said. Cool! I never posted the chapters anywhere as Weber had a well-known aversion to fan fic, but I did share them with the other fans I knew and their praise swelled my head quite a lot. Gee, maybe I should write something else…

As it happened, there had been an idea knocking about in my head for a long time. In my high school days I had avidly read the Hornblower novels, I'd also watched the original Star Trek TV series. I especially liked the early Hornblower novels where he was just a midshipman or a new lieutenant. I began to wish that someone would do a 'Hornblower in Space' series. Now I knew that the Star Trek series was intended to be exactly that, but with the main characters already high-ranking officers they were clearly playing the later Hornblower rather than the young one and it wasn't quite the same. I wanted a series about Star Fleet Academy! I'd read Heinlein's "Space Cadet", of course, and that was the sort of thing I was looking for, but I also wanted it to be in a wartime setting with battles and such. One day all the pieces clicked into place and I realized I could set the stories in the Honorverse instead of the Star Trek universe. "Tales from the Academy" was born.

So I started writing and started sharing the chapters with my Internet friends. They were very supportive and about a year later I had a finished novel. Cool! I'd never imagined I could do such a thing, but there it was. And people liked it! I shared it with about a hundred people and the praise was pretty much universal. Many folks wanted me to carry on with the story and I was happy to oblige. I next wrote "Lieutenants" following the careers of the cadets I had written about in "Tales". It was much longer, and, I thought, quite a bit better. I had learned some stuff doing the first one and my style was improving.

By the time I got to the end of "Lieutenants" my head had swelled to the size that I now felt I could try my hand at writing original stories. Stories I could actually get published. So I set my fan fiction aside and started writing 'real' stories. Over the next few years I cranked out seven finished novels. And they were good. Not just my opinion, not just the opinion of my friends, but I had real, professional feedback. By a strange set of circumstances I became friends with Eric Flint, who at the time was an up and coming star in the SF&F world. He felt my stories were absolutely of publishable quality and he went to bat for me with his own publisher, Jim Baen. But in spite of the support, my writing career never really took off. I published one short story, but that was all. The full tale is too long and too depressing, but let's just say I eventually gave up on the idea of becoming a writer full-time.

Some years later I had become very interested in the works of Lois Bujold. Bujold is an amazingly talented writer, probably the best of our generation. I read all her stuff and hungered for more. And I thought back to my fan fiction writing days and remembered how much fun that had been. And I saw that Lois did not object to fan fiction and there were actually places to post it on-line. Hmmm. But what to write?

Then I remembered "Tales" and "Lieutenants". Could I convert them to Vorkosiverse stories? At first I thought it would be fairly easy to do, but as I got into it I realized it would be much more involved. But I persevered and completely re-wrote "Tales from the Academy" as a Vorkosiverse story. I posted it and got lots of positive feedback. I'm currently in the process of re-writing "Lieutenants".

But then one of my readers asked to see the ORIGINAL "Tales" and "Lieutenants". I obliged and he urged me to post these as well. Since it seems that Mr. Weber is no longer hunting down and destroying people who write fan fiction in his universe (he never actually did that, but the threat was there) I figured: "What the heck?" So I am posting those stories here.

For those Bujold fans who have read the Vorkosiverse versions I will say that while some of the names are the same, the stories are very different. You can read these as new stories.

For Honorverse fans, I have a few additional words of information.

First, these stories were written in the 1998-2000 years, after the publication of "Echoes of Honor", but before the publication of the next book in the series, "Ashes of Victory". The stories begin with everyone believing that Honor Harrington is dead. She doesn't return until halfway through "Tales". "Lieutenants" takes place in the time period dealt with in "Ashes of Victory" but I wrote it before "Ashes" was published, (well, nearly, "Ashes" came out just as I was finishing "Lieutenants" and I did make a few modifications at the very end of my story to try and make it a bit more compatible with the canon plotline) so I was just guessing about what was going to happen in the 'Big Picture'. As you'll see, I guessed completely wrong. :)

Second, while a few canon characters make cameo appearances, my stories deal mostly with original characters and I have to mention a few things about a couple of those characters.

Helen Zilwicki. When I started "Tales" Helen had been seen for exactly one page of Weber's "Short Victorious War" as a four year old girl. We had never seen her again after that. I decided to take that girl and make her a major character in my story. This was several years before Eric Flint decided to do exactly the same thing in his story "From the Highlands". Our two interpretations of Helen are very different and whatever you think of them, just remember: I saw her first! :)

Anny Payne/Abigail Hearnes. Reading my stories you will see that there is a remarkable similarity between my character, Anny Payne, and Weber's character, Abigail Hearnes. Well, once again, my character came first. I invented Anny years before Abigail arrived on the scene. Any similarity is purely coincidental. Surely a case of Great Minds Thinking Alike :)

And there you have it. I hope you enjoy it.

Scott Washburn