On ships as characters.

The next Cruel Stars book is in its final editing stages and I had a query from a proofreader about whether Defiant should always be ‘the Defiant’

They’re worried about consistency in the text, which is what proof readers do, and why they get to drive Lamborghinis and live in mountain top lairs.

This is my proofreader arriving at Random House…

I hadn’t really thought about it, but after a moment’s consideration I knew that both forms are correct. Ships do become characters, however, both in stories and to the people who serve on them in real life. I think it would read a little clunky to always add the definite article before the name Defiant, especially when characters are effectively referring to her as another character.

For instance, this works:

Defiant is my one true love,” Lucinda said. “My family."


“The Defiant is my one true love,” Lucinda said. “My family.” ...

… does not, or at least not as well. It’s too formal, too clunky, and it turns the ship from a character back into an inanimate object.

But if we are actually describing the ship as an object, a weapons platform, a piece of military equipment, then it can appropriate. I’m pretty sure I stuck to my own informal rules throughout the manuscript, but an example that might help would be something like…

“The Defiant moved into position to receive the Sturm’s attack.”

In this sentence you could substitute the phrase 'stealth destroyer’ for ‘Defiant’ and it would work fine. But in the examples above, it doesn’t: “The stealth destroyer is my one true love,” Lucinda said. “My family,” sounds perverse.

It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there and its own of those things you never really think about until you have to.