1. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Space opera terminology. Help

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by architectus, Nov 14, 2009.

    I'm trying to find a site that lists space opera words, like hatch, deck, etc. What hallways are called, different rooms on a ship and so forth.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    Oh, if you just wish to list words that would be helpful, too.

    Coridor
    Deck
    Hatch

    What are other things on a spaceship or space station?

    What are metal panels called that are used to make parts of walls or coridors?
     
  2. Nackl of Gilmed
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    Nackl of Gilmed Member

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    Hull would be a good one. I think the rule is just steal submarine terminology. Except propellors. Spaceships don't have propellors.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The terms tend to come from nautical terminology for multi-person craft. One or two man crafts are more likely to use aeronautical terms instead (e.g. cockpit instead of bridge), as they are treated like fighter jets.

    Corridor (note spelling)

    deck plates, bulkheads, hatches, bunks, quarters, port and starboard, fore, aft, bow, stern, fleet, lifeboat, docking, etc. Command ranks on military spacecraft tend to follow naval naval tradition as well, (admiral rather than general).
     
  4. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Thanks cog. This will be helpful. I'm going to see if I can find a site with a bunch nautical terminology, and study navel command.
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Read The Mote in God's Eye by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. It makes heavy use of naval terminology and thinking.
     
  6. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hatch - door

    Porthole - window

    Head - bathroom

    Deck - floor

    Quarters - personal room

    Berthing - place where people sleep, usually your quarters, but not always:rolleyes:

    Overhead - literally anything overhead

    Screws - propellers

    Bridge - Command room

    Grog - A ration of alcohol given to sailors of yore, now any kind of nasty drink, usually given as a form of humiliation (hazing not allowed)^^

    Gaff - oroginally part of a ship's mast, now any kind of joke or mistake i.e. gaffing off or made a gaff

    Reveille - Morning music, originally played to wake people up in the morning. There are many bugle calls played on bases throughout the day, but this one is pretty important, I used to hear the day thing all the time.

    Colors - Another Bugle call, every day the American flag goes up in the morning and goes down at night, anyone who hears the Bugle call is supposed to stop what they're doing and turn to the flag and salute




    Its a naval tradition to name ships after females, or to give them female pronouns in the case of names that are either male or neutral (i.e USS Enterprise is still a she)

    Why? Its a Greek thing the Athenians were a sea-faring people and their city was named after Athena because she was the patron goddess of their city-state, so they extended the honor to their ships. Western culture has aped this tradition for millenia now.

    Tradition is a big thing, before leaving the ship you have to salute the American flag as well as the sailor on watch before asking them for permission to go ashore. The same thing happens in reverse when coming back on the ship, permission to come aboard.

    These are the enlisted and Officer ranks

    E1 - Seaman Recruit
    E2 - Seaman Apprentice
    E3 - Seaman
    E4 - Petty Officer Third class
    E5 - Petty Officer Second class
    E6 - Petty Officer First class
    E7 - Chief Petty Officer
    E8 - Senior Chief Petty Officer
    E9 - Master Chief Petty Officer (or) Fleet/Command Master Chief (or) Master Chief of the Navy

    W1 - Warrant Officer (WO1)
    W2 - Chief Warrant Officer (CW02)
    W3 - Chief Warrant Officer (CW03)
    W4 - Chief Warrant Officer (CW04)
    W5 - Chief Warrant Officer (CW05)

    O1 - Ensign
    O2 - Lieutenant Junior Grade
    O3 - Lieutenant
    O4 - Lt. Commander
    O5 - Commander
    O6 - Captain
    O7 - Rear Admiral Lower Half
    O8 - Rear Admiral Upper Half
    O9 - Vice Admiral
    O10 - Admiral
    O11 - Fleet Admiral

    If you end up having a naval style spaceship without any Marines aboard I will be a mighty sore, and thats partially because I'm a former Leatherneck. Marines were originally thought of as "soldiers of the sea" and the tradition continues since the Corps is headquartered under the Naval branch and we still have naval tradition. The Corps and the Navy are still a kind of family, you never have a Marine base without sailors on it, and the same goes the other way around. Marines are always found on navy ships, sometimes for security, sometimes because they are being transported. Marines also guard bases, depots, US embassies, but Ill stop bragging.:cool:

    Yeah you should look up naval stuff online, there is alot of tradition and stuff, the more of it you absorb and put into the story the more genuine it sounds.
    I am very curious to see what you come up with, I love space opera. If you need a personal consultant let me know, I wasnt a sailor but I was a Marine for five years so I can give you an inside look at being (enlisted) in service.

    Good luck ^^
     
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  7. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    Don't forget, if you are writing your own universe in a fictional world, you can always make up some gadgets and things specifically designed for your space world. Like Star Trek had communicators, photon torpedoes, tricorders and transporters (the pads that reduced the character standing on it to atoms and transported them onto other ships, or other worlds, and then reassembled them into their solid form.) In Star Wars their guns are called Blasters, they have kill modes and stun modes. Most ships in both worlds have shields, and some sort of propulsion systems. Star Trek called Warp Drive and had several different levels of it like Warp Five, and they were driven by dilithium crystals, if I am not mistaken (though I might be.) Star Wars had Hyperdrive, and called it "making the jump to lightspeed." They calculated their jump pattern on a "nava computer." And Han was trying to fix the cupling thing with a hydrospanner.

    Some things you can borrow from nautical terminology, but life boats would be called escape pods, and there are other little things that you can change or add to the terminology to make the world your own. Every space universe would have their own set of language, things only they would call tools and parts of ships that we might never have heard of. So make some stuff up.

    The thing I like is the unobtrusiveness that the language should pose in your prose. You don't have to explain what everything is, just name it if your character is going to use it, and you don't have to give a complete spec rundown on what it is and how it works, just show it in action or associate it with whatever it does. I know I can't stand when a writer dedicates three pages to describing the ins and outs of one little device when they simply could have shown it in action and I could take a wild stab in the dark as to how it works, or I might not care how it works, so long as it either works or doesn't.
     
  8. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Really?

    I was under the impression that the colours were the nationality flag of a naval ship- hence the phrase strike your colours meaning to surrender, and nailing the colours to the mast being the ultimate refusal to do so.

    And to add to your point on the Marines, in the UK, the Royal Marines are still technically a part of the Navy, and do serve aboard navy vessels a lot more frequently than their US counterparts seem to.


    To the OP, I'd recommend getting yourself a few seasons of Battlestar Galactica and immersing yourself in them. In my experience, they seem to do naval-to-space transitions well, keeping a lot of the naval terms.
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Curious that science fiction opts for Naval terminology when in reality it is usually a nation's Air Force that is linked with it's space programme.
     
  10. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Stargate? :p

    To be honest I think that it's more in line with a navy, with the issue of fighter-like craft being an analogy with the Fleet Air Arm (or US equivelent).
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Stargate's inclusion of the U.S. Air Force is a real life parallel. In the US, the Air Force is the armed force linked with the Space Program.

    Air Force Space Command
     
  12. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    As much as I hate to admit it, because of old rivalries, the Air Force is making the transition to space and will probably get there first.

    More than likely as high altitude aircaft technology improves and we find a cheaper way to get into orbit we will see the Air Force becoming and Aerospace Force.

    Technically there is an international law that there should be no weapons in space (high altitude orbit is a loophole I think) but the military organization concept of the Air Force would make a good framework. Space Shuttle crews have Commanders and their own rank structures too.
     
  13. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Wow... I didn't realise there was a real link.

    Given our current level of spacefaring technology, I'd say that a Air Force basis makes sense. It's still very much about attaining orbit/leaving the atmosphere from the ground.

    I think when a civilization reaches a spacefaring point with serious interplanetary travel, and large vessels being built in space, with never any intention to land planetside (I'd use Battlestar Galactica as my example here, with the shots of Scorpion Fleet Shipyards in Razor, and the so-called Adama Manuevre in Exodus Pt2, it seemed to me that such large warships were constructed in space, with neither intention or capacity for low-atmospheric manuevres- I remember one of Helo's lines in Exodus refering to Galactica's altitude as "dropping like a stone" in the atmosphere, and also the battered state of the CIC after it had jumped back into orbit) then a naval comparison is more apt.
     
  14. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I definitely agree that the nature of large space craft (like the Galactica) simply beg a Naval comparison, I just find it unusual that in real life it is not actually the Navy that has its hands on the wheel, so to speak. :D
     
  15. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    As opposed to the Air Force with its hand on the yoke? :p
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    good idea... losing control over one's belly button can have serious consequences! ;-)
     
  17. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    lolololol Mamma, good catch and nice pun:p
     
  18. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    That was BSG's take on that, but other series, like Mobile Suit Gundam and Robotech featured starships that could re-enter in atmosphere, of course they had thermal shields, like the one that the soviet ship uses in 2010 the year of the contact.

    If you want a 1500 mt vessel to land on Earth, I've to suggest to make it float on a sea, like in Robotech, that was very clever, because the hydrostatic pressure would keep the ship on the water level just like a "normal" ship.
     
  19. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    Actually, I'm writing a space opera too, therefore it's my field... :p

    But I'm sorry to annoy some people here, I'm a former Air Force Officer and private pilot, so I take more from the Blue Armed Force than the Navy...:D:D:D

    The command deck of a ship is a bridge, but now the CIC is more fashionable, with some reasons because a spaceship is more alike a submarine than a surface ship.

    For the command chain, I personally tried to invent one of my own because I wanted to avoid the "carbon copy" effect that you get when you're using the ranks of the US Navy, that's a typical stereotype of the genre I wanted to avoid, so I introduced the rank of marshal ( senior subofficer, I never liked the term NCO because the authority of a subofficer is not given by an officer, IMO) in various classes, abolished the specialist (better, specialists are specialised personell, so an officer can also be a specialist) and introduced some ranks that aren't present in the US Army but exists in other armies, such as Senior Colonel, Grand Admiral, Commodore etc...

    Caring about all these details may be a lot of fun!
     
  20. StrangerWithNoName
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    StrangerWithNoName Longobard duke

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    I don't recommend to use BSG for these kind of things, the commnad chain was completely made up mixing up terms of the Army or Air Force with naval ranks, their rank structure was something like this:

    Admiral
    Commander
    Colonel
    Major
    Captain
    Lieutenant
    Junior lieutenant

    There there's a mess, they have chief petty officers and sergeants, petty officer, specialists, marines...but the marines didn't have any officers or subofficers and it seems that nobody cared to promote somebody to that rank.

    In battle marines were led by...Viper pilots! I found this particurarly hilarious, Starfrak was a space ace and a markswoman, that makes no sense whatsoever.

    Besides that the portray of the officers were extremely offensive, most of them were either incompetent, or mentally unbalanced (Cain first) or unfit to duty (Tigh drunk on duty?) or insubordinate and badmouthing (Starfrak). Adama was more a mafious boss than an admiral and he should have hanged at least twice for treason...in short all the military that I know were outraged by this aspect of the show.

    More details at Frakheads, of course, the resistance group against the Ronmorons.
     
  21. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Thank you everyone.

    I'm not even sure if my next novel is a space opera or not. I'm still working out the outline as I finish my fantasy novel, which should be in a month.

    Is it a space opera if they never leave the space stations? Also space opera seems to be mostly read by men, so my story might do better in a fantasy setting because both the MC's are females. At least they start off females. The species is strange. Everyone is born female and turns male around age sixteen.

    In the space opera, there are two main space stations, and each of them has smaller stations surrounding it. They orbit a dead planet; well, the atmosphere is poisonous. The two space stations are Demi and Herac, named after their goddess and god.

    There will be three types of ranks. Officers for the pilots, which I think will follow the air force. Officers for the space station, which I think will follow the navy. And the government, which is ran by the queen and priests. At least on Demi. Herac has a king.

    I'm only going to use some of the terminology for things: hatches, decks, bridge, corridors, portholes, quarters, sick bay, safe bay.

    I"m not sure what to call the place where ships load and unload. I might make up a term.
     
  22. Edward
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    Edward Active Member

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    Whenever you can, use Air Force terminology instead of Naval terminology, but mix the two. Think Stargate. The Air Force runs the Stargate program, and SG-1 and "Homeworld Command" all have Air Force ranks, instead of Naval ranks. Where appropriate, some Navy terms would be better--I don't think there's an Air Force equivalent of an Admiral, and I don't think the Air Force has the habit of calling whoever's at the wheel captain--but overall use the one that fits better. Or, compare the Armed Forces as a whole to each other, and see how they use the same terms differently, and then have the terms be used different from what's already established, creating a new branch of the armed forces instead of just being a Navy in space.

    That's my two cents.
     
  23. jonathan hernandez13
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    Ships load and unload at a port or dock, ad usually people board and unboard at a place called the quarterdeck. You might as well use naval terminology, its much cooler than Air Force:p

    besides, instead of making up terms you can just use ones that are already known and widely used and even household names.
     
  24. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Jon here. You may well create a system of rank that is unique, but for terms related to physical locals and items, I would stay with the more tried and true terminology. First because there is a real life tradition of keeping these terms in tact long after the item or local has changed pretty much beyond recognition from the item or local that originally inspired the name (military tradition tends to be very strong) and because there are GIs out there who are going to read your work and think, "Their whating at the what?"

    I downloaded an entire field strip manual for the M16 just to name two parts of a weapon that was being cleaned by one of my MCs in a story I have, knowing that if anyone who read that story happened to be a weapons aficionado, an incorrect term would have brought a raised eyebrow and pulled them out of the read.
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm pretty sure that even the US Air Force mostly uses naval nomenclature aboard their ocean vessels, although they may have their own terms for some features.

    Likewise, I believe the majority of the nomenclature aboard a large spacecraft will follow a similar tradition for features in common with oceangoing craft. Military vessels will keep similar terminology as their oceangoing brethren, and passenger vessels will borrow terminology from ocean liners. Why? Simplicity. There's no point in inventing new terminology when language already exists and fits well.

    By the way, the CIC (Combat Information Center) is not the same as the bridge. The bridge represents te center of all command decisions, including navigation, communications, alert status, etc. The CIC is specifically tasked with weaponry, defense, and tactics. For obvious reasons, this function is often a prominent bridge component, but strictly speaking, the bridge incorporates a broader set of command activities.
     

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