Yeah, I really like “Clueless enemies and forgiving friends.” I think that’s still in there. I mean, I wanted the Royal Fleet to just have a lot of elements that were fun and colorful. Instead of it just being a grim “we’re all just saluting and saying jargon to each other,” it’s funny. I watched this show, The Last Ship, which has a lot of problems, but it was made I think with the cooperation of the U.S. Navy and it had extremely accurate and very well-done naval battles, which actually really helped me thinking about space battles, even though obviously a little bit different.
Part of what The Last Ship really shows is the level of the rituals and all the little observances and rituals and somewhat whimsical stuff that people do in the military. Just the thing where they don’t say, “What’s your location?” They say, “What’s your whiskey?” I think I’m getting that right. I thought, “They should have their own little rituals and their own little observances.” It should be something that’s fun that people can be like, “Oh, I’d want to be part of that, because that seems like a fun thing.” I’ve tried very hard in general to avoid the grim, “we’re just all gritting our teeth” thing all the time.
Star Trek was obviously a big touchstone for this book and world. What elements of Trek did you want to emulate or explore and which elements did you maybe want to push back against?
I definitely grew up loving Star Trek and definitely Star Trek is still super important to me, especially now. I feel like Discovery has really rekindled my love of Star Trek and I’m loving Lower Decks. [With Victories], mostly what I wanted to do was write something that nobody would be like, “Oh, you just completely just copied Star Trek.” I didn’t want it to be like oh, instead of Vulcans, there’s like Vercans or whatever. You know?
I was trying really hard to not just do the Star Trek thing up the wazoo. I think one thing that I wanted to do differently is that in Star Trek it always seems like humans are in charge of everything. The Federation is basically humans and then other groups get to be a part of it, but the humans are always the one calling the shots. I thought it was way more interesting if humans are just there—like, we have our human kids, but everybody else is an alien and aliens have been doing this thing for a long time and they’re in charge. They have their own knowledge and they have their own establishment. That was the thing that I thought was more fun or was fun to do differently.
I think to some extent when I watched Star Trek, especially the original Star Trek, but really all Star Trek, to some extent the Federation and Starfleet feel like they’re representing America. I feel like, to some extent, the show is about America and American power and influence in the world. So you have this thing of the Prime Directive. The original Star Trek has all these stories where it’s explicitly about basically proxy wars fought, except instead of fighting proxy wars in Latin American countries, as you know, we were with the Soviets, we’re fighting them on a planet with the Mugato and everything, and against the Klingons. The original Star Trek very much commented on the Cold War with the United States represented by the Federation and Starfleet. I inevitably had to think about the Royal Fleet and what it stands for.