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.
Would you write 'The Dreadnought', or 'The Temeraire'? Good warship names don't require an introduction. If you're reminding the reader that Defiant is a stealth destroyer the inclusion of 'the' helps to link the words to the previously mentioned formal identifier.
PS - I think a lot post-Imperial angst went into RN warship names after Suez. Compare RN vessels from the mid 1700s to the end of WWII with their replacements.
Ships, like steam engines, are alive.
I had a look through a selection of books on things nautical in my booktorium. From flicking through, the purely naval-focused histories don't seem to use the definite article at all, though some italicised ships' names. A general history of the war in the Pacific in WWII mostly didn't, but sometimes did.
Interestingly, a nerdy technical book on HMS Dreadnought (1906) quoted some Admiralty documents, which did not use "the". But did italicise.
I would generally omit the definite article in talking from the writer POV, but not be too hung up on consistency it if sounds better to make exceptions. I would think crew on Defiant, and others familiar with the ways of the space lanes would just say "Defiant", whereas landlubbers (look it works for space too!) might be more likely to say "the Defiant". But here I am drifting close to advising on writing from an entirely inexpert perspective.
Is Defiant the ship or the Intellect, or both? You could argue the Intellect is the character and the ship is the hunk of metal. Still subtle though.
In Star Trek Deep Space Nine The USS Defiant (NX-74205) was always referred to as The Defiant but this may have been related to it being the first ship of that class constructed. In Star trek First Contact movie
Cmdr. William Riker: Tough little ship.
Lt. Commander Worf: Little?