From a post to DAVIDWEBER.NET forums on 1/10/12

David's "mistakes" relating to character background material

Charles83 wrote:

    This I think is one of the few times when RFC has screwed up on my opinion, if Grayson was furious because of how they were treating Honor, at least her own family specially seeing how close they are and all this have been written by RFC in ART, I think they would have put a word to at least make the pressure less, like you put there is a simple way of doing it indirectly.

    Well I said this because is a little bit of a contradiction that Honor uncle's is so worried about Honor's dad and feels so guilty and we never saw any support or contact between that side of the family and honor, and one or twice in the series RFC has made references to that side of the family, I really think he screwed up on the family side of Honor.

    Okay, guys, let's talk about the "he screwed up on the family side of Honor" issue.

    First, I obviously disagree with you.

    Second, how much did I ever tell you about Honor's immediate family in Manticore outside her parents and a few references to her cousin Devon after he inherited the title from her? Yet there have been references in several places — including the reference to Michelle Henke's operations officer — that Honor has lots and lots and lots and lots of relatives on Sphinx. They weren't germane to the stories I was telling about her so they didn't get mentioned as individuals and her relationship with them was pretty much handled in narrative and in deliberately nonspecific references. Have you guys really looked at how many characters — named characters — I put into these books? I don't put in characters who aren't going to fulfill a specific function in the story I'm telling at the time I introduce them, and as important as Honor's family is to her, they haven't had a specific function to fill in the story I was telling at the time, so they didn't get put in.

    Third, there have been references to the Beowulf side of her family, at the very least in the form of her Uncle Jacques, from the point at which I first introduced her 1911 .45 ACP, since I first mentioned the Anti-Slavery League, and since I first mentioned the Society for Creative Anachronisms, which has been a feature of the books since at least Honor among Enemies.

    Fourth, I made it clear fairly early in the series that Allison Harrington had emigrated from Beowulf not simply because she loved Alfred Harrington but because she wanted to get away from Beowulf (and her family's prominence). This point has been a fundamental element of her background pretty much from the first time we met her, and it was very specifically addressed in At All Costs after being touched upon in quite a few other places earlier in the series.

    Fifth, what makes you think her Beowulfan relatives had any interest in "doing a Benjamin" on anyone in the Star Kingdom about the High Ridge "smear campaign" against her and Hamish? Beowulf is a stranger to dirty political campaigns? The government of a sovereign star nation is going to intervene in the internal politics of another sovereign star nation (and economic and military ally) over allegations being made in the open press about the personal lives of two public and political figures in the aforesaid other sovereign star nation? For that matter, what makes you think Honor would have wanted anybody in Beowulf to intervene in Manticore's politics in her behalf? You do remember that this is Honor Harrington we're talking about, right? The sort of person who believes in personally shooting her political enemies . . . or knocking them over the head politically, at least? Or are you suggesting that her personal distress should have been so great that Uncle Jacques would have metaphorically come in shooting to rescue her for having been accused of doing something that is perfectly acceptable between consenting adults under Beowulfan mores? And how was he supposed to even be aware of the degree of her personal distress unless Honor (or her parents) went crying to him about it? And just how do you think Honor would have reacted if she later discovered that Allison had written a tearful letter to her brother Jacques asking him to bring his personal influence or — even worse — the influence of the Beowulfan planetary government to bear on Honor's part? And, finally, political figures — and especially military figures — who muster "foreign influence" in domestic political and military disputes generally end up paying a significant price in terms of loss of public support. They get "tainted" as being "in the pocket of" the outsiders attempting to exert influence on their behalfs, even if the outsiders are from an allied nation. You think this wouldn't have been a factor in Jacques's or the Planetary Board Of Directors' calculations? That they wouldn't have realized that, in the long run, they'd actually have been shooting themselves — and Honor and Hamish — in the foot by attempting to exert influence on her behalf?

    Sixth, what exactly are you expecting her Uncle Jacques to do vis-à-vis her relationship with Klaus Hauptman? Are you somehow of the opinion/impression that Captain Harrington went crying to her big, mean uncle to protect her against that nasty old Klaus Hauptman? Are you suggesting that Uncle Jacques (a) was aware of Hauptman's use of influence in the run-up to Honor among Enemies, (b) that he had some reason to believe that Hauptman's actions were somehow materially different from those of all of the other Manticoran merchants and manufacturers agitating for more commerce protection in Silesia at the time, (c) that he should have taken Hauptman aside and threatened him (or whatever) to "adjust his attitude" vis-à-vis Jacques's frail and helpless little niece when Hauptman had not done a single thing to cross a line into overtly illegal, immoral, or even rude behavior towards Honor, and (d) that Honor wouldn't have taken Jacques' head off if he had done anything of the sort and she'd found out about it? The fact that Klaus Hauptman is a strong supporter of the Anti-Slavery League and a bankroller of the Audubon Ballroom doesn't necessarily mean that he and Jacques — or any of the rest of the Beowulf system government — are in bed with one another, agree on everything (including whether or not their relatives are horses' asses), or don't have feuds internally. Hauptman's feud with Honor was primarily one-sided (she didn't really care what happened to him as long as he didn't take any action against her parents) and the result of personal pique after she faced him down in Basilisk. They had no additional personal contact until Honor wound up saving his life — and his beloved daughter's — in Honor among Enemies, from which point he became a Harrington ally, despite the fact that he still didn't especially like her and she doesn't especially like him. By the time of the "smear campaign" against her in War of Honor, Klaus and Stacy Hauptman are firmly on Honor's side, so I doubt that any "attitude adjustment" at that point would have been necessary or especially desirable.

    My personal opinion is that you guys are busy straining at gnats where the Beowulfan side of her family is concerned. It wasn't especially significant in the novels until this point, which is why it didn't get brought up, and I don't think you'll find a single point in any of the stuff in the more recent book(s) that contradicts anything in the earlier books where her family is concerned.

    As for Jacques' relationship with Alfred Harrington, pray point out to me a point in the earlier books at which that had any bearing whatsoever on what happened? The only point in any of the earlier books where we saw Alfred being anything except Honor's tower of strength was in his reaction to her supposed execution, at which point he was on Grayson (with Allison), where he remained (at least as far as the novels are concerned) until Honor's "return from the dead." Did you expect me to put in a scene in which all of his relatives and in-laws who care for him voyage out to Grayson for a group hug? Or go through a series of recorded messages from them? Or is there some reason that you think there weren't such recorded messages, as well as terabytes worth of official condolence messages, that I simply didn't bury the reader under at the time?

    If it seems that I am just a soupçon irked over the notion that I "screwed up" in this regard, it may be because I am. Honor Harrington has never depended upon her connections to her Beowulfan family for a single thing in her entire professional life, which is why they haven't played a part in the books until now. She never used their influence, her parents were quite affluent and she never appealed to her Beowulfan family for financial support, and Beowulf — family or government — never really had a reason to intervene in her professional career at any time. Even when she was "beached" in Grayson, it wasn't because of the influence of her political enemies, it was because she killed a man in a duel after challenging him from the floor of the House of Lords. Yes, the identity of the man she killed played a definite part in the severity of the scandal, the screams of her political enemies, etc., etc., but the truth is that she would have been relieved of her command whoever the other person had been. And one of the reasons that she would have been relieved is spelled out clearly in Flag in Exile (if not exactly underlined and surrounded by "Oh, notice this now!" emphasis in the text). To wit: the woman had a nervous breakdown. You think maybe Sir Lucien Cortez over at BuPers might not have, oh, I dunno, noticed that one of his most outstanding officers was a basket case and needed a little time off a command bridge somewhere? For that matter, Honor knew she needed some time off. For God's sake, look at how she reacted when Wesley Matthews offered her a command in the Grayson Navy months later!

    My point is that I really and truly fail to see any point anywhere in any of the earlier novels or short stories in which the influence/resources/impact of her Beowulfan connections would have had any bearing on her professional life, her career, or the aspects of her personal life that have been fundamental to the stories.