Thursday, 16 August 2012

Graveyard Shift: Our Heroes

Graveyard Shift has three primary protagonists. In the best traditions of Charlie's Angels they all went to police academy together, and then things went to Hell.

Aleks is the Crusader. A Moscow-born immigrant with an ex-spy for a father, family money, and a belief in doing what is right, not what is easiest. Aleks wasn't an easy woman to get along with when she was human, but eight years ago she was gutted by a Loup Garou, and since then she's shared her psyche with a wolf-bitch with a primal hunter's disdain for convention. A detective sergeant with the 13th Street precinct, she is as much a hunter as a detective, but her psychic lodger and her temperament leave her inclined to be too direct for her own good.

Laura is the Earth-Mother. An all-American girl, and witch, she was Aleks partner until the Loup Garou incident, and where Aleks was gutted, but on her feet in days, Laura was left with the permanent consequences of a spinal injury. Denied a role on the streets, she transformed herself into a forensic sorceror, climbed the departmental hierarchy, and is now the lieutenant in charge of SPD's CSI nightshift. Along the way she found time to marry and is the mother of a precocious three year old. She remains Aleks' closest friend, as Aleks is hers.

Bobby is the Operator. Whether it was his career, women, or the case on his desk, Bobby always had his eye on the fast-track. Sometimes that fast-track came with a cost to others. Others like Aleks, left emotionally broken at the academy when Bobby lured her into a relationship and then dumped her. Two months ago the pigeons came home to roost, and Detective Roberto Ventimiglia found himself pinned to the ground in a filthy alley with a pack of juvenile vampires bleeding his major arteries dry. Newly risen as a vampire, Bobby is still a detective, but his comfortable job at headquarters is a fading memory, the 13th Street ghetto his new beat, and his partner, and senior officer, is the woman he once loved and threw away. The time may finally have come for Bobby to grow up.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Graveyard Shift: Why Seattle?

Why pick Seattle, a city I've never been to, for Graveyard Shift?

The most fundamental reason is probably market driven: most dark fantasy/modern urban fantasy / whatever is published in the US. I wanted a novel set in a US city, once that was decided Seattle was the obvious choice.

While I've never been to Seattle, Boeing are based there, and I spent several years working on the development of the 777 (in fact there were days I knew what the weather was in Seattle, but not what it was 10 feet outside my windowless office here in the UK). My company maintained a team of engineers in Seattle, and at one point I was due to be seconded there. The secondment fell through, so Seattle was always the great missed opportunity, and even if I didn't get to go, a good friend did and can potentially be leaned on for detail. Effectively I have greater links to Seattle than to any other US city, and besides, I'd already bought the guide books when the secondment was cancelled, I might as well get some use out of them....

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Graveyard Shift: What is it?

Graveyard Shift is the novel I'm working on - and saying that is a milestone in itself.

I originally started work on Graveyard Shift back in 2007 and completed about 55,000 words before things went berserk careerwise and life became too painful/stressful for me to write. I've been slowly luring myself back into writing again, I've known probably for the last year that I needed to return to Graveyard Shift, but it's taken a good while to manipulate myself into the right frame of mind. I finally started working about a month ago, and the word count is now just short to 80,000. I'm reliably turning in about a thousand words a night (and I do mean night, writing after the witching hour suits me best) and when I haven't managed to turn in any new wordage it's generally been because I have been focused on structural/plot issues. Apparently leaving a novel aside for several years gives your subconscious time to get gothic with the plot.

I'm going to be using Graveyard Shift posts to try and keep myself moving and to record some of the thoughts that drive the structure of my writing, both from a general diary approach, and so that I can record and review changes as they occur to get a better feel for how they fit into the novel as a whole.

Graveyard Shift is a police procedural, in a world where myth isn't just real, but has the right to vote. If the guy next door is a werewolf, then who do you call to police him? What if he actually is the police? Graveyard Shift has three protagonists, sharing focal point of view on a rotating basis, each of them an officer with Seattle PD, and each of them preternatural in their own way: Aleks the werewolf, Laura the witch, and Bobby the vampire. Preternaturals might have the vote, that doesn't mean they are accepted, and the Seattle of Graveyard Shift is a city with a ghetto so clearly delineated it even has its own police precinct - 13th Street (don't look for it on a map, Seattle has a 13th Avenue, but that's not it).

As for the plot: once upon a time two very young patrol officers stumbled into a domestic abuse call that was more than it seemed; that call changed both their lives, and eight years later their actions are coming back to haunt Aleks and Laura, and all those they love.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Most Accessible Olympics Ever - Yeah, Right...

We've had ministers, LOCOG and BoJo all claiming London 2012 would be "the most accessible Olympics ever", but the sad reality is that they have actually slashed the budget for accessibility improvements and quietly dropped targets for improvement (while still proclaiming their virtual sainthood to the masses).

 Out of 270 Tube stations, only 66, virtually all in the suburbs, have step free access to the platform, and 49 of those then have a step up to the train.

 Good enough, or a sick joke?

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

More Jet Sturgeons

Hypothetical markings for a Sturgeon NF.II of 1782 NAS, serving with the British Pacific Fleet and shore-based at Manus in August 1946 for defence of the fleet anchorage at Seeadler Harbour against night-raiders.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Short Jet Sturgeon

The complicated development of the Short Sturgeon started with the S.6/43 requirement for a high-performance torpedo bomber and reconnaissance aircraft with a weight of no more than 24,000lb. Short Brothers were not invited to tender, but when the initial estimates from the firms that had been approached came in it became apparent that a twin-engined aircraft meeting all of the requirements was unlikely to weigh less than 26,000lbs, while a single-engined aircraft was unlikely to have better performance than those already in service. The S.6/43 requirement was allowed to continue, in case something useful might arise out of it, and there is some evidence to suggest Shorts submitted uninvited proposals for both single and twin-engined aircraft to meet S.6/43, which, like the proposals from other manufacturers, were not adopted.

Meanwhile the initial requirement was split in two with the torpedo bomber becoming O.5/43, and eventually the Fairey Spearfish, while the reconnaissance aircraft became S.11/43 for a reconnaissance aircraft with bomber capability to operate from the Ark Royal and Hermes class carriers that were building for service with the Royal Navy off Burma and Malaya and in the Pacific. Shorts submitted the twin Merlin S.38 Sturgeon as their tender, while Armstrong Whitworth proposed the twin Merlin powered AW.54 and, after the AW.54 was criticized for lack of power, the AW.54A with two MetroVick F.3 turbojets, submissions were also made by Blackburn and Fairey with twin Merlin designs and Westland with a mixed-power design with a Pratt and Whitney R.4360 radial in the nose and a Halford H.1 turbojet in the tail. On 19th October 1943 Shorts received an order for three Sturgeon S.1 prototypes, with the tailored requirements following in February 1944.

The Sturgeon S.1 flew for the first time on 7th June 1946, and proved to have excellent handling. As initially developed it was a neat and compact three-seater with navigator and radio-operator carried within the fuselage, powered by two 2080hp Merlin 140s driving contra-rotating propellers (in order to minimise the yaw from asymmetric power in the single engine out situation). Provision was made in the design for the later replacement of the Merlins with Griffons. Fuel tanks held 410 gallons of fuel. ASV radar was carried in the nose, while armament comprised 2 or 4 .50 Brownings in the lower nose, a single 1000lb bomb, or equivalent combinations of smaller bombs or depth charges, in the bomb bay, and up to 16 60lb/3 inch Rocket Projectiles under the wings. Two F.52 cameras and a single F.24 camera were carried for the reconnaisance role, which was intended to be flown with a crew of two and a 180 gallon long-range tank in the bomb bay.

A contemporary article on the Sturgeon S.1 can be found here.

Unfortunately by the time the Sturgeon flew the war was over and construction of the Ark Royal and Hermes class carriers had been suspended. It was theoretically possible to operate the Sturgeon from the Illustrious and Colossus class carriers, but at the cost of keeping the aircraft on deck at all times and of having to rework the arrester gear on the Illustrious class. The requirement for the Sturgeon S.1 was therefore abandoned. The Sturgeon did see successful service with the fleet, but as the largely shore-based Sturgeon TT.2 high speed target tug with a grossly elongated nose holding a camera position. Later in their career a handful were reworked as TT.3s with a nose much closer to the original design. Later still Shorts attempted to develop the Sturgeon into the SB.3 as a competitor for the Fairey Gannet, replacing the engines with Armstrong Siddeley Mamba turboprops and installing a grotesque nose housing both a large radar scanner and two sensor operator positions. Unfortunately the downward exhaust of the Mambas, which varied with thrust, destabilized the SB.3's handling throughout the envelope and it proceeded no further.

The Jet Sturgeon shown here is based on an illustration of a Shorts proposal reproduced in British Secret Projects 3, and probably originated with N.21/45, an urgent FAA requirement for a night fighter to replace the Fairey Firefly. It is likely the unidentified design is the Shorts S.41. N.21/45 was written around the modification of the De Havilland Sea Hornet for the night fighter role, however this was considered high risk as the Sea Hornet was designed as a single-seater with the most compact fuselage possible, meaning space would need to be found to shoe-horn a radar operator into the fuselage somewhere, while a radar scanner would need to be installed in the nose, which was almost completely masked by the Sea Hornet's engines. The Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (Air) therefore directed that a night fighter variant of the Sturgeon should be investigated as an alternative design against failure of the Sea Hornet NF.21. It was recognised that the Sea Hornet would be the superior combat aircraft, with considerably better performance, but the Sturgeon conversion would be considerably lower risk. In the event the Sea Hornet NF.21 was successfully deployed with the fleet in 1949.

The Jet Sturgeon Nightfighter retained the wing of the Sturgeon S.1, but replaced the Merlins with two Rolls Royce AJ.40 turbojets (Axial Jet, 4000lb thrust - the well-known Avon started as the AJ.60). The fuselage was modified, raising the nose relative to the engine nacelles to maximise the arcs of the AI radar in the nose radome (the Sea Hornet NF.21 ultimately carried ASH radar in an elongated 'thimble' radome, but the considerably larger radome of the Sturgeon would potentially have been able to carry other AI sets with larger antennae), while the tailplane was moved half-way up the tail in order to clear it from the jet efflux. The crew was reduced to pilot and radar operator, the latter having a canopy of his own. The Brownings of the S.1 were replaced by 4 20mm Hispanos, while the space freed by the elimination of the radiators, bomb load, cameras and radio-operator was used to increase the fuel load to 910 gallons in 9 separate tanks.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Short Seamew

The ungainly Short Seamew was designed for anti-submarine work from escort carriers to specification M.123D in 1951 and first flown in 1953. The requirement was intended to provide the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm and the RAF's Coastal Command with a simple, cheap aircraft capable of surge production to counter the rapidly growing Soviet submarine fleet - essentially a Cold War equivalent of the Fairey Swordfish. Following initial trials the Seamew was ordered for both the Royal Navy, as the AS.1 to replace the ASW-modified Avengers used by the RNVR Air Branch, and by Coastal Command, as the MR.2. However Coastal Command lost interest in the small Seamew as it faced cuts to its more capable Neptunes and Shackletons, while the Royal Navy order was cancelled in the 1957 defence cuts, which also eliminated the RNVR Air Branch in its entirety. In spite of its awkward looks, with fixed gear in an era of fast jets, the Seamew was fully capable of aerobatics and Short's chief test pilot claimed the Seamew's handling was 'vice-free', but other sources claim it had some vicious handling tendencies that were never entirely cured.

The Seamew was powered by the Armstrong Siddeley Mamba ASM.6 turboprop, sensors included ASV radar and sonobuoys, while armament comprised 4 275lb depth charges in the internal bomb-bay and 4 underwing rocket projectiles. By removing the radar and radome, the bomb-bay could potentially be extended from 14ft to 17ft, allowing carriage of 6 depth charges, or a torpedo.

A 1956 Flight article on the Seamew by Short's Chief Designer can be read here.