From a post to DAVIDWEBER.NET forums on 12/2/2011

'Inconsistencies' in backstory revelations

looktowindward wrote:

    I know a serving USN doc who was Marine enlisted. A rifleman. Its not considered to be strange at all - it gives him a lot more cred with the Marines he treats, that's for sure.

    I'm absolutely sure that this is not a unique situation now, and I can't imagine why it would be considered strange in the Honorverse, where the Royal Marines seem even more Fleet oriented than their USMC prototypes.


    I'm not going to try to do a definitive response to the points raised in this thread. I'll simply point out that it's been my practice from the very beginning of the series to introduce the reader to clues about the background of individuals early on without bringing it front and center until/unless it becomes significant.

    I've always known about Honor's Beowulf relatives, and if you go back and look at the point at which Allison is talking to Lady Whitehaven about the genetic correction of her own inability to regenerate in any potential child, the fact that she's one of those Chous comes as quite a surprise to Emily. I've tried to make it pretty clear in the earlier books that Allison ran away from her Beowulfan persona. She sought a form of anonymity in the Star Kingdom, for reasons of her own, and that was part and parcel of Honor's upbringing.

    Honor knows her Beowulfan family, but anything like true familiarity on her part with the political heavyweights — with the exception of her Uncle Jacques — as anything except relatives who happen to be in politics was completely off her radar scope until she became a senior officer and a Manticoran aristocrat in her own right. Take a look at Michelle Henke's attitude towards politics and possible nepotism, and you see something rather similar to Allison's attitude towards it back home. She did everything in her power to separate Honor from anything that would have remotely smacked of "First Family of Beowulf" status. Once Honor became a significant political power broker in her own right — got over that "I don't like politics and I don't understand politics" mindset (which was indeed an accurate reflection of her mother's attitudes) — and began discharging her responsibilities as a political as well as a military leader, much of that changed. It happened offstage just like the vast majority of Beowulf's relationship with Manticore happened offstage. I didn't tell you about it because nothing significant was happening because of or as a result of it.

    As far as Honor's attitude towards genetic slavery is concerned, it's never been a secret that in her own opinion she imbibed a hostility towards the genetic slave trade with her mother's milk. That doesn't mean she wouldn't hate it anyway, and it doesn't mean that she is a mindless puppet programmed by her mother. But, come on, people — I've made it clear for quite some time that she has a special relationship with the Anti-Slavery League and, for that matter, with the Audubon Ballroom. If any of you read In Fire Forged, then none of this should be coming at you as a surprise at this point, but the hints have been dropped well before I ever wrote "Let's Dance." I fail to see how it takes away from Honor in any respect for her to come from a family which has been instrumental in the fight against genetic slavery since its inception. Nor do I see how bringing that relationship to the long-term struggle against Manpower and Mesa to the forefront is in any way inappropriate now that the Mesan Alignment is in the process of being unmasked.

    As far as the "hatred" between Marines and Spacers in Manticoran service, it's a tradition, not a blood feud. Believe it or not, there are actually Marines who respect Navy officers and enlisted personnel, and vice versa. Why, Horace Harkness even married one, didn't he? And the suggestion that she should have brought up the fact that her father was a junior noncommissioned Marine in order to gently whack Papadopoulos in Basilisk instead of pointing out that the man he was actually talking to had been a major in the Corps is frankly pretty ridiculous, I think. Especially when her father had been a naval doctor for — what? thirty years? — before his retirement. A hammer, you will note, she did use against Doctor Suchon when she tried to slack off in the same deployment. She used the most effective weapon available to her in each case. You may have noticed that she has a tendency to do that.

    I'm not going to tell you the full back story on Alfred Harrington and how he went from being a Marine to becoming a Navy doctor until and unless I get around to writing that story, which may be a "standalone" Honorverse novel in the fullness of time. I've never given you the details on his courtship of Allison, either, nor quite a lot of things that happened in his life before Honor was born. I've never explained to you why he doesn't have a treecat — there's a reason he doesn't. I've never explained why Honor has referred many times to the fact that she "knows where my temper came from" despite the fact that her father is generally portrayed as the gentle balance wheel of her life. If I get around to writing the story of his Marine service, perhaps you'll figure that out. I already know, and I don't have any problem at all about continuing to reveal earlier aspects of a character's life as they become germane to the story.

    The Idaho System was, indeed, a member of the Manticoran Alliance. It has, however, a very small population, and until the discovery of the wormhole in that system, it didn't have a pot to piss in compared to, say, Manticore or Erewhon. The wormhole was discovered seventeen years before the events in A Rising Thunder— that is, about the time the war was beginning. The Zunker Terminus was charted fairly quickly after that. Idaho is covered by Manticore itself in terms of direct attacks by the People's Republic of Haven; it didn't begin to have the infrastructure that had been built up by Manticore over the two centuries that the Manticoran Wormhole Junction has been in operation (or the many, many decades the Erewhon wormhole has been in operation); and the amounts of money passing through Zunker and Idaho as a result of the Idaho-Zunker hyper bridge is enormous in comparison to their previous cash flow, which doesn't mean it's especially huge. If Uruguay suddenly got the GDP of Greece, it would be a huge infusion of cash by Uruguay's standards, increasing its total GDP by a factor of something like ten, but it would still leave the Uruguayans with a total gross domestic product smaller than the United States defense budget all by itself. In star systems desperately in need of infrastructure improvement, the increase in cash flow (which was rather smaller on an absolute scale than my Uruguay/Greece example might suggest) wasn't going to add major striking power to the Manticoran Alliance. Rather than attempting to build up its own internal shipbuilding industry, Idaho — which was only about a week away from Manticore through hyper-space — figured it would be cheaper and more economically sound to (gasp!) purchase whatever light warships it needed for its internal security from the Manties (just as Erewhon had purchased its warships from the League) and rely upon the Royal Manticoran Navy for its security against significant external threats.

    In other words, this particular hyper bridge did very good things for the two star systems it connected, but on the macro scale of the Manticoran Alliance and the Star Kingdom of Manticore's military posture, it was effectively insignificant. And, yes, the Solarian League (or, it least, the Office of Frontier Security) was most definitely pissed off that it wasn't allowed to simply move in and annex Zunker when it became a potential cash cow. Compared to the clout Manticore already had because of the Junction, however, any concern over Zunker was small beer. It was, in fact, the existence of the Junction and the ubiquity of the Manticoran merchant marine which gave Manticore the diplomatic muscle to tell the League "hands-off" where Zunker was concerned, just as it had the muscle to get the official embargo against tech transfers to the PRH enacted. I didn't tell you about other sources of friction between the League and Manticore at that time, either, did I? I didn't tell you about the conflict with OFS, or emphasize the arrogance of the SLN in its dealings with the Manties and other "neobarbs."

    I've told you about things as they become significant relative to the storyline and/or to the characters. I'm going to continue to do that, and I'm not going to try to insert an info dump in which I tell you "by the way, here are all the things I never told you before about the characters." In response to one point, however, no, Honor is no relationship whatsoever to the Ramirez family of San Martin. Sorry about that. [G]