Designing the Grayson Sword (by Robert Graham)

[Post updated with another image.]

As part of the process of compiling House of Steel, the first Honorverse Companion, BuNine compared existing Honoverse artwork with the text descriptions in the books. During that comparison, Tom Pope, Scott Bell, and myself noticed a problem with the depictions of Grayson swords. They look good, but they simply don’t match the text evidence.

The Grayson swords as presented in the artwork—not only the book covers, but collateral art such as navy crests and the like—are European-style straight blades, of varying lengths. The Grayson swords in the books, on the other hand, are katanas. Here’s a description of a typical Grayson sword from chapter six of Flag in Exile:

King’s College had sent along a description of the traditional swords of ancient Japan, and the Grayson weapon bore a pronounced resemblance to the katana, the longer of the two swords which had identified the samurai. It was a bit longer—about the same length as something the records called a tachi—with a more “Western-style” guard and a spine that was sharpened for a third of its length, which the katana’s hadn’t been, yet its ancestry was evident.

Tom decided this was worth asking David about, so he asked me to put together a packet detailing the problems with the swords as depicted (including comparisons of Japanese and western swords and sword-making), and possible solutions. As part of this I used both my own existing references (I am already a blade fanatic), plus some from Scott and the web. This packet then went to David.

You’ll note that we put together the packet before Tom ever mentioned to David our misgivings about the sword designs. This is standard for the way we interact with David, for two reasons. First, David’s schedule is insane, and hence “David time” is a precious resource, not to be squandered. Presenting him all the info up front generally makes it easier for him. Second, David often works through the night, so email is usually the best way to communicate with him for something like this. As a result of these two factors, it’s generally best to provide David with a complete packet describing the problem and the possible solutions; if we’re lucky, we’ve anticipated his questions and he can say (for instance) “I like option C—run with it!”

In this case, we didn’t have to convince David of the inconsistency. He quickly responded that he knew the illustrations were wrong, and asked us to redesign it. This started a rather fast and yet in-depth redesign of what Tom Pope has described as “the platonic ideal of a Grayson katana,” which would lay down the template for the depiction of every other Steadholder blade.

To start, Tom did a rough sketch of several ideas he and David discussed. Those sketches and my own research were used to create a very rough 3D ‘blank’ showing both the general shape and form of the blade. To this Lightwave 3D model I added features from David’s descriptions, such as the double edge not usually found on historical katanas.

GraysonbladeWIP1_Page_03 straight-blank

Once we settled on the general form and shape, the generic model was taken in to Zbrush and given a high detail pass, adding ornamentation and other details. This turned the rough model into something which could be used by other artists for final images, as well as allowing us to do renders of how the blade itself would look if produced in real life.

The images displayed below were shown first to Tom and other BuNine personnel, then handed to David for review. After a couple of minor changes (e.g, thickening the more European-style cross guard), David passed off on the blade after two revisions and a total of just over 5 days of work.

grayson-v02-side detail-fronton2


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A Peek in Honor’s Closet…


When a storyteller of any variety starts to tell a tale, there is always a back story. All of those pieces and parts that added together to make the person the total sum of the human being (or alien…we do love science fiction after all…) that they are. You might not get the full story, but the writer will sometimes stop and give you a few details so that you, too, can know where this character came from and why they have this particular set of skills or that particular dislike for green-skinned demons. Call it the gamer in me, but I really love how you can see a clear progression as a character grows and accumulates new skills and abilities and becomes more they ever thought possible!

In the upcoming House of Steel, BuNine has assembled a unique visual depiction of Honor Harrington’s journey. Now you can see the uniforms of the Manticorans, the Graysons, and the Havenites as the author imagined them, plus get page by page descriptions of technical details for everything from ships to weapons to governments.

Can you tell we’re excited?

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Calling all Honorverse Fans…

For the last several years, BuNine has been privileged to have a weekend of David Weber’s time to work with him on different aspects relating to the Honorverse. Sometimes we had specific questions, sometimes we just got to sit and listen to David in “storyteller mode.” No matter what, we had a great time with good friends. Jokingly, someone called the annual meeting HonorCon, and the name stuck.

Last year, Toni Weisskopf (David’s editor at Baen) mentioned that it would be wonderful if the Honorverse had a Con of its own. With House of Steel due out in May 2013, and 2013 being the twentieth anniversary of On Basilisk Station’s publication and the birthday of the Honorverse, 2013 seemed like a natural time to have an HonorCon that would be open to everyone. After volunteering a few hardy souls who were experienced in Con organization, we were off and running!

HonorCon 2013 is scheduled for November 8, 9 and 10th, in Greenville, SC. We hope that everyone can share in the camaraderie and fellowship that we have enjoyed these last five years. We are planning a family friendly environment that will appeal to fans of all ages, with tracks relating to everything from writing to tech to presentations by TRMN, the official fan club. Please visit for all the upcoming information about HonorCon 2013!




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House of Steel – The Honorverse Companion

…for Manticore and Grayson.

Have you ever been to a bakery when you were hungry? Have you had that particular feeling of being surrounded by wonder in so many different directions that you have no way to narrow it down? Of course, the only answer is that you try your favorites on the menu, then come back again another day, right?

That was the situation we found ourselves in when David Weber asked us to help build a companion to the  20 year series that is the Honorverse. David’s writing is filled with detail and descriptions, and led us to questions, discussions, wild goose chases, and at least a metric ton of really cool, amazing information. For the last year, we have been carefully building this Honorverse Companion, only to realize that we had too many great things to choose from.

So, with much deliberation and a few suggestions from David Weber, we tailored our approach to include only the Manticorans and the Graysons, easily two of our favorite “treats.” David’s accompanying novella sheds light on a fascinating character that deeply affects the current Manticoran government. And for people who love the backstory, BuNine has collected and expanded the information available on technology, social structure, history, and characters.

House of Steel: Honorverse Companion is due out May 7th, 2013, and is already available on Amazon for pre-order here.

If it is well received, we hope to continue with further sweet treats – Companion Two would feature information about the Havenites, the Andermani, and Erewhon. We hope to take another trip to the Honorverse with David’s fans soon!


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Welcome to BuNine!

  • We are subject matter matter experts in subjects which do not exist. (Yet.)
  • Providing Consulting Services to Authors.
  • Putting on Convention Tracks, Conventions and other Public Presentations.
  • Developing Simulations for the Hobby and Professional Communities.

We are a group of science fiction enthusiasts from varying backgrounds who bring a multi-disciplinary approach to world-building. We work with authors to bring multiple years of experience in various disciplines that add depth and factualness to the written worlds that we work in. We define what we do as primarily fictional non-fiction. We enhance and research the worlds that authors have created to use to tell their stories.

We have worked with talented authors to conceive new technologies, help with technological extrapolation, provide a real-life grounding in naval operations and technologies, and do cross-checking and research. We also provide graphic art – everything from book layout to deck plans to emblems and costume design.

BuNine is an exciting and group of consultants, visionaries, and futurists who work together to improve created realities. We’re excited about all the possible upcoming futures that we see on the horizon, in fictional and non-fictional realities!


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