And definitely not my last. As many of you know, I have been in two of the Four Horsemen anthologies, and did a novel (When Eagles Dare) in the series. I met James Young at a Libertycon when I was moderating a panel with seven participants. James came into the room and became the eighth. James is a graduate of the Upper Hudson School for Boys, also known as West Point, and is a knowledgeable student of history. He approached me with the idea of doing a story for an alternate history volume on naval warfare. The one rule, not a whole lot of stories on alternate Leyte Gulfs. No problem. I have wanted to write alternate history for a while, and am planning a series based around WW2 (I know, done, but definitely not the way I’m going to do it). But I also had another idea. One that I thought would make a good novel. The problem was time. I would have to live to a hundred to write every idea I had. But maybe a longish short story?
Off Long Island came from an idea I had about the Washington Naval Arms Treaty. For those who don’t know, there was a concern in Britain about the looming naval arms race after WW1. The world was broke after the war, with the exception of the United States, which held debt from almost everyone else. Everyone wanted a larger fleet, but most saw the possibility of going bankrupt trying to fund it. The Washington Treaty was the attempt to stop this arms race. A very successful attempt that limited the navies of the UK and the US, as well as those of Italy and Japan, which were saddled with a smaller size than either wanted. Battleships were limited to 35,000 tons and fourteen-inch guns, though a few sixteen inchers had been built previously. Most countries played with the wording of the treaty, and reported their ships’ empty weight instead of battle ready to sail. Of course, Japan eventually backed out and built the Yamato, the US started putting sixteen-inch guns on their ships, and the Germans, who had never signed the treaty, built the Bismarck and Tirpitz.
Before the treaty both the US and UK had new superships on the drawing boards. The Brits were going to go with battleships in the fifty-thousand-ton range with eight eighteen-inch guns. Along with them would be battlecruisers of about equal displacement and sixteen inchers. All would be fast ships, and the UK would have a battle line second to none. Or would they? The United had decided to go with ships just as large, in most cases a little swifter, with an armament of sixteen sixteen-inch guns, and the same armament in a nine gun configuration for the battle cruisers. The battleships had the same main armament weapons layout as the cancelled Montana class which was seen as the answer to the Yamato. The guns had a longer range than the eighteen inchers of both the Japanese and the Brits, and the weight of sixteen shells was slightly more massive than either eight or nine. Of course, we know what the answer was to the Yamato. The airplane, and the Montana’s were cancelled.
The central ideas for the novel, and thus the short story, was this. There was no Washington treaty, and the UK was forced into a disastrous building war with the US. Tensions were heightened, and as nations tend to do, both concentrated on war with the worst-case enemy. Something happened. I had never finalized what that something was, but in the short story there is a clash of two destroyers, and both go down with all hands. Instant war, and I didn’t have to assign blame (hey, I have a lot of readers in the UK, and I didn’t want to villainize that nation.)
So, war is declared, the United States invaded Canada, the Brits bomb Southeast Florida from the Bahamas, and the UK sends a relief expedition to their possession in the North. After that they try to teach the Colonials a lesson, and range down the East Coast punishing the Americans. And then they meet, Off Long Island. It was a fun story to write, and I hope my fans enjoy it, and possibly give the other writers a try if they haven’t. Chris has helped some incredible writers to gain recognition, while using the talents of the better known. Will I be doing another with his company? Possibly. I have projects of my own. My first traditionally published series. Finishing up what I already have out there. Four more series in the planning stage. But I would be very open to doing more short stories in his anthologies. In fact, with the popularity of their brand, and the talents of the writers working in his Factory, I consider it an honor to be considered. So go out there and get Those In Peril, and find out what might have happened if some things had changed.