SGJ Podcast #54: How to Lose a Fleet with John Hemry (Without Even Trying! ;)

Concept Art from The Books...
Concept Art from The Books…

Hey folks, welcome to this latest episode of the Space Game Junkie Podcast! Now, this week we did something a bit different. Rather than talk to a game developer, as is our usual, we brought on author John Hemry. Under the pen name Jack Campbell, he has written an entire series of books called the Lost Fleet series (the first being Dauntless), which in the beginning focuses on a fleet of starships trying to make it home along a long slog through enemy territory. Jim and I have both read these books (I more than him), and we were FASCINATED by the unique way space combat is handled in the series.

Basically, since light is a limitation/speed limit when in combat, the amount of time it takes light to travel affects everything you do, from when you see something to when you react to something. It’s really amazing stuff, so Jim and I were thrilled to talk to John about his military background and how that helped him come up with the concepts of movement and combat in the books. We had some technical difficulties, and I apologize for not talking much as I was fighting a cough the whole time, but thankfully Jim picked up the slack. We hope you enjoy it. :)

As always, we look forward to your comments below, and invite you to email us at if you have any further comments or suggestions for future shows. Thanks for listening!

P.S. Since the stream had some serious audio issues, I’ve decided not to include it here, but it’s on YouTube if you REALLY wanna check it out. ;)

Author: Brian Rubin

16 thoughts on “SGJ Podcast #54: How to Lose a Fleet with John Hemry (Without Even Trying! ;)

  1. Wow, I really enjoyed this episode, despite it being only tangentially related to space games. As much as I love listening to Brian & Jim, the best episodes are the ones with a really interesting guest.

    I had heard of the Lost Fleet series, but never read any of it. I’ve added Dauntless to my Kindle queue and am looking forward to reading it.

    I was a little surprised that Honor Harrington never came up in the conversation (although Horatio Hornblower did). I enjoyed the first several books in the Honor series, but as the series went on it felt like Honor had to become so over-the-top powerful that I lost interest. The conversation about Lost Fleet started heading in that direction, but never quite got there.

    It was funny to hear Rules of Engagement mentioned, about a half-hour after I was thinking that your discussions of light-speed delay reminded me of it.

    1. The great thing about John Geary is how fallible he can be, which is one of the reasons the series is so appealing. I’ve only read some of the first Honor Harrington book and…I dunno, it’s not clicked with me, surprisingly.

      1. One other thing I wanted to mention – at some point during the podcast you guys were discussing the “magic” of energy shields.

        I had always wanted to see a game system implement shields (and possibly FTL travel) like in the Niven/Pournelle novel The Mote in God’s Eye. They had the concept of a Langston Field, which was a shield that absorbed attack energy but had to re-radiate it eventually. Apparently this was taken from an earlier series of Pournelle novels which I have not (yet) read.

        They also had the Alderson Drive technology for FTL. This allowed interstellar travel through “tram-lines” between some star.

          1. Absolutely! IMNSHO, it is one of the finest Science Fiction novels ever written. The sequel (The Gripping Hand) is also quite good.

              1. You’re welcome. If you like Mote, I would recommend picking up some of Niven’s short stores (Known Space) or Ringworld novels (which I would read in-order if possible). He has a huge catalog as he’s been writing since the mid-1960s and is still active. As I think I mentioned earlier, the short Mote series is really part of Jerry Pournelle’s CoDominium universe. I plan to dive into those books sometime soon, too.

                And thanks again for having John on the podcast. I’m a little more than a third of the way through Dauntless, and I’m already pretty sure that I’ll pick up at least the rest of the Lost Fleet series to take on summer vacation with me.

  2. “Basically, since light is a limitation/speed limit when in combat, the amount of time it takes light to travel affects everything you do, from when you see something to when you react to something.” That actually sounds pretty cool, I’ll have to give the series a look!

    I’m gonna have to recommend staying away from the Honor Harrington novels – I should know, I read like 10 of them back in the day. ;) They make a decent start as, basically, space combat game AARs, where the appeal is in how the author sets up interesting battles based on a consistent ruleset (FTL physics, weapons, the relative training/tech levels of the two sides, etc). The problem is, as the series continues, (A) the author gets more and more heavy-handed with the politics, and (B) his core strength – the combat – gets undermined by a habit to give the heroes new wonder-weapons whenever they look like losing. This happens like 2-3 times in the series, I’m not kidding. Never touching his books again.

    I also have to respectfully disagree with Kelly’s recommendation of Mote… there are some interesting ideas there but the characters (IIRC – it’s been a long time since I read the books) are about as deep as tissue paper. :/

    1. Yeah, I kinda stopped in the middle of the first Honor book and haven’t felt like going back. One would think it’d click with me but not so much. The Lost Fleet series, on the other hand, those clicked haaaaaaard. The combat is a special high point in them, seriously. So much fun to read.

  3. It took me a few weeks to get my hands on a copy, but I just finished and really enjoyed the first book in the Lost Fleet series. Many thanks for turning me on to Hemry’s work!

    During the big battle scene, the way orders needed to include “At time X,…” reminded me a little of Frozen Synapse. Or, at least, the way giving orders works in Frozen Synapse struck me as a potential model for the hypothetical Lost Fleet computer game.

    1. Oh yeah, I can totally see that. :) Glad you enjoyed the first book, and I hope you enjoy them more as they go, as I am. :)

  4. Thanks for bringing this series to my attention. Going through 3rd book right now and it is still amazing and not loosing a beat. Brian, do you have another similar series to recommend? A “wing commander” series of book is of a similar feel, though John Hemry’s has more of a “plotting” and less of “guns blazing”, which is a delight in itself.

    1. Honestly? I’ve not read another series that handle tactical starship combat as interestingly as this one.

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