Submarines, Dolphins, and Military Sci-Fi: A Journey

Happy Friday, all! I hope everyone had a good week and that you all stayed safe and dry, especially if you were in the path of Hurricane Idalia in the United States. It’s been a tad wet here in North Carolina, but not nearly as wet as in Florida and Georgia. I hope everyone is doing well down there.

I wanted to share some of my path to writing my new Drowning Earth book, which I mentioned in my last posting. For those who don’t remember, my Kickstarter opens up this coming Tuesday, September 5th.

When I was young, I loved watching movies like The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide. Not only did they have great actors, one of whom was my namesake, but they also gave me a peek into submarines.

I don’t know why I thought they were so cool. At the time, my brother was into aircraft carriers, but I was into subs. Like all things with brothers, we were rarely into the same things. Maybe I was weird like that. Anyhow, I had a cool model of a submarine I remember building; but for the life of me, I can’t remember which class of sub it was.

USS Forrestal – F-4 Landing

While my father served in the navy on an aircraft carrier, servicing F-4J Phantoms, no one in our family was ever stationed on a submarine. And even though I never served my country, I have the utmost respect for the men and women who serve and protect. Without them, we wouldn’t have the freedoms and security we so often take for granted.

That curiosity about what it would have been like to serve in the military led to my interest in science fiction and, later, in writing my Dark Nebula series. For me, one of the angles was about how a military force could work alongside a non-military force. That dynamic in my space opera series wasn’t nearly as deep as I delve into in Drowning Earth, not in the slightest.

For this new series, I wanted to write a legitimate military story. The last thing I wanted to write was a surface-deep storyline where the characters had the titles of military officers and soldiers but broke every norm and protocol in the book.

If there’s one audience of readers that demands you follow proper conventions and rules, it’s military sci-fi readers. I learned that by attending a bunch of sessions at previous years’ writing conferences. There were some badass authors there, and I spent quite a while picking their minds and listening attentively to their panels.

Virginia Class Submarine (Photo courtesy of General Dynamics Electric Boat Public Affairs)

To make this happen, this new series had to be as thoroughly researched and as genuine as possible. While I planned on writing a work of near-future science fiction, my goal for these books was that if someone who served picked one up, they wouldn’t want to toss it against the wall because I messed everything up. There are ways military soldiers talk, formalities they follow, and entire subcultures I had to respect.

So what’s an author to do?

Research, research, and more research.

Let’s start with the simple stuff: submarines. You already know why I chose subs; I mean, who doesn’t love a fun, sticky-finger-glue model to build? On top of that, they feel like the most isolated of all military branches… and on a social level, I can relate. I mean, they spend months at a time underwater with little to no contact with anyone in the outside world. That sort of describes my time in college in a computer lab. But less in jest, the people who serve on these boats aren’t just the hidden forces that protect our countries; they often house some of the most powerful weapons in our military arsenals.

On to the next important question.

Are they boats or ships?

A submarine is a boat, never a ship. There, I said it. Why, you ask? 🤷🏼‍♂️ It’s complicated. Apparently, it’s a combination of tradition, command structure, technical shape, and a host of other reasons. Just make sure not to call them ships. Dolphins don’t like that.

Jumping Dolphin


Yeah, that’s what some countries call their submariners. In my case, since I’m writing about a British submarine, they call their crew dolphins. Which, while apparently confusing to some of my author friends, is perfectly clear to people in the know.

Wait, did you say it was a British submarine?

I did. I don’t know why, but when you say submarine, I think of the United Kingdom. They’re a badass naval fleet; they’re an island country, and their maritime traditions are deeply ingrained in their national identity. From the age of exploration to modern times, the British Navy has been a symbol of power and innovation, shaping not only the UK but also global maritime history.

Which leads me to the HMS Bancroft…

The HMS part is for His (or Her) Majesty’s Navy in the UK. Bancroft, well, that’s named after Edward Bartholomew Bancroft. He was a physicist born in Massachusetts who was also a double agent, spying for both Great Britain and the United States. He served as secretary to the American Commission in Paris during the American Revolution and played both sides like a fiddle.

I thought it was a cool name, considering the submarine has technology from both the British and American militaries inside. It’s also fitting, as both countries are part of an alliance between Australia, Africa, the European Union, and the United States (AAFEUS). In this alternate future, the UK has returned to the EU for the second time. I won’t give away why. 😉

Drowning Earth Challenge Coin
Challenge Coin for Drowning Earth

During my many deep-dive research sessions into submarines, I came to a few interesting conclusions. Submersible designs haven’t changed in a long time, and the military has managed to keep the maximum depths of their subs a secret. I mean, like, super secret. It’s astonishing how tight-lipped everyone is about it. But I guess it makes sense, given that the security of our countries depends on them.

So, with that, I did what I do best, or at least what I love to do: I threw some science fiction at it. I dug into research to explore what could be possible, even if on a smaller scale. And then I pushed that a bit.

What came out the other side was the HMS Bancroft, the world’s first faster-than-sound submarine that could dive below 5,000 meters—and it could bend.

Yes, you read that right. It can bend.

I know it may sound novel, and it is a bit, but there are some cool things you can do if you can turn quickly. Think navigating tunnel systems or changing the nature of underwater combat.

But you said it can travel faster than sound, right? What’s the big deal? I mean, sound is slower in water, right?

Well, no … it’s not.

Wait, what?

I didn’t stutter. I know it’s not intuitive, but sound is four times faster in water than in air.


I know, right? Anyway, sound travels faster in water than in air because of the density of the molecules. What that means, after you dig into it, is that moving faster than sound in water means you have to move four times faster than you would in air. Plus, if you think about it, the sound of your movement gets there faster than you do if you don’t. Like, way faster. And in case you don’t understand how submarines work, staying quiet and undetectable is kinda important.

Thus, the Bancroft was born: a supercavitating submarine that could turn on a dime.

Alright, let’s go to the lightning round.

What is an oxygen thief?

Well, besides being the most random question in the world, it’s a newbie submariner who hasn’t proven they won’t fold when it counts. They’re someone who might hinder the crew or lead to their death if they fail. Or, as an author sees them, they’re the best role to instill doubt. 😉

What is a wibble?

No, it’s not a board game; that’s Boggle. A wibble is what happens to people who live underwater for a long time and can’t stand it anymore. Maybe they lack privacy, hate not seeing the outdoors, are tired of the repetition, or perhaps they just miss a proper sleep cycle. These are people who have cracked, and they’re the dolphins you need to be on the lookout for. They can bring the entire house of cards down without warning.

And breathe …

That’s a lot of details to dump in a short timeframe, but I hope you found it interesting. I know I did when I was learning it. The deeper I got into the intricate world of submarines, the more and more excited I became. And that was before I even delved into mixing it up with mythology.

But we’ll get into that next week.

Until then, if you’re even remotely interested in anything above, please take a look at my Kickstarter.

The end is just the beginning

Drowning Earth

Are you fascinated by modern technology?

Have you always been intrigued by ancient mythology?

What if I told you that myths were in fact mere shadows of reality?

Welcome to Drowning Earth, Book 1 of The Portalverse: Elemental Origins Series. Dive deep into a narrative where cutting-edge tech meets age-old legends.

I hope you like my new banner. It gives you clues into one of the many cool things I have in store for my backers.

I’ll talk to you on Tuesday when the project launches!

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