Literature: Hammer's Slammers
Hammer's Slammers is a series of Military Science-Fiction short stories and novellas written by David Drake, based loosely off of various historical models and his time in the 11th Armored Cavalry during the Vietnam War.The Slammers are a futuristic mercenary group under the command of Colonel Alois Hammer, who leads the toughest mercs who ever killed for a dollar. According to Word of God, partly based on the French Foreign Legion in the 1950s, when that service had a large proportion of former SS in its ranks, but also loosely based on the Vietnam-Era 11th Armored Cavalry regiment, with fusion-powered hovercraft "panzers" replacing tanks and smaller combat cars replacing M113 cavalry vehicles.
The Slammer Stories
The series consists of the following works:
- Hammer's Slammers - A series of short stories describing the core characters of the Slammers and the beginning and end of the tank regiment.
- At Any Price - Another collection of short stories. The titular story describes the Slammers fighting an unconventional war with aliens who can teleport.
- Counting the Cost - Based on the suppression of the Nika riots, with a Slammers officer taking the place of Narses (Belisarius' role is played by an officer from another mercenary unit working with the Slammers).
- Rolling Hot - The Tet Offensive in the Vietnam War retold in the Slammerverse.
- The Warrior - Another short story collection. The titular story recounts the one-sided rivalry between Slick Des Grieux and Luke Broglie, two Slammers tank aces.
- The Sharp End - Rewrite of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest on a Crapsack World in the Slammerverse, except that the hero is leading one of Colonel Hammer's contract teams.
- Paying the Piper - The Macedonians against the Aetolian League IN SPACE!! Okay, on a planetary surface. (Happy now?) Available free here.
- Cross the Stars: a retelling of the Odyssey IN SPACE! with former Slammer Major Donald 'Mad Dog' Slade as the Odysseus character. Colonel Hammer plays Zeus off-screen. Available free here.
- The Voyage: Re-write of the Jason and the Argonauts myth in the Slammerverse. The nephew of 'Mad Dog' Slade from Cross the Stars is the viewpoint character. Colonel Hammer again is cast as Zeus, but with only a brief message as an appearance.
The first five stories were repackaged in a three book set:There is also a Traveller-compatible world guide, available here.
- The Tank Lords
- Caught in the Crossfire
- The Butcher's Bill
Provides Examples Of:
- Ace Pilot: Slick Des Grieux and Luke Broglie from The Warrior definitely qualify. Broglie is also The Ace, while Des Grieux is is not. Word of God says that their rivalry is based on Hector and Achilles.
- Agent Peacock: Major Steuben is almost Camp Gay in regards to his attention to personal appearance and behavior most of the time, but woe betide anyone who crosses him or Alois Hammer.
- All There in the Manual:
- Drake provides several essays on the technology and setting of the Slammerverse, most of which tend to get included in the first volumes of most collections.
- The Hammers Slammer's Handbook by By John Lambshead provides additional background material approved by Drake.
- Beam Spam: One of the staple weapons in the novels is the vehicle-mounted tribarrel, a weapon with three rotating barrels that shoots energy blasts (called "bolts") so fast that the bolts leaving the weapon appear to be a solid line - not individual bolts. The weapons scale up, too - his tanks in the series have both a tribarrel and a 20cm "main gun" that can literally cook mountainsides with one shot. The tribarrel is based on a cross between the real-life MG 42 machine gun and the Gatling gun, both of which have beam-spam-class rates of fire.
- Central Theme: Anyone Can Die and War Is Hell, especially the morally murky bits.
- Comm Links: Each soldier is fitted out with a tiny communicator that's implanted in the jawbone. It's activated by clenching the teeth and can even pick up subvocal speech. Handy things.
- Common Tongue: Spaceways English (Spanglish), though the company mostly speaks Dutch among themselves (being from Friesland) and they use Sleep Learning to pick up their clients' languages.
- The Conscience: Danny Pritchard ends up as Colonel Hammer's conscience, as Hammer's been too hardened by war to recognize when he's gone over the line.
- Cycle of Revenge: Played with in the short story Cultural Conflict. A Slammers soldier shoots what he thinks is a dumb animal. It isn't. The primitive natives and Slammers begin to skirmish with each other in an escalating cycle of violence, ending with the decimated Slammers nerve-gassing their nests and wiping out almost all the breeders. The remaining natives prepare for one final Zerg Rush just as the Slammers landing craft arrives.
- Extended Disarming: A variant occurs near the end of the story At Any Price, when a mercenary genuinely forgets to remove the small knife he keeps up one sleeve. He actually blushes when reminded that he hasn't disarmed completely.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Mostly in the background, but no one who hires the Slammers ever profits by it. The Slammers achieve their military objectives, but outside of that, everyone involved always loses.
- Faking the Dead: While not stated outright, the character of Johann Vierziger from ''The Sharp End" is strongly hinted to be Joachim Steuben despite taking place over 7 years after his supposed death. He has the same mannerisms and personality, same build and "pretty" appearance, same tastes in both sexual partners and weapons(the description of his custom pistol and holster and Steuben's are identical) same incredible skill at quick draw and marksmanship, and multiple times appears to know more about the unit and Hammer himself than a relatively new recruit would be expected to know. More than one character notes that Vierziger reminds them of what they knew about Steuben, with one character even questioning if he might be related.
- Faster-Than-Light Travel: What kind used is never explained, but it's mentioned to be migrane-inducing.
- Fictional Geneva Conventions: In addition to it's escrow duties, the Terran Bonding Authority enforces the Laws of War.
- Fighting for a Homeland: The Slammers are from many worlds, but the goal is to eventually have a place of their own.
- Hand Cannon: Pistols have 2 centimeter bores. This works out to having a 20 millimeter pistol. 20mm and up are grenade calibers. Justified in that they're shooting the "powergun" energy beams, so there's no bullet and significantly less recoil than the barrel diameter would indicate for a typical firearm. Powergun technology is closer to lasers than explosive propellant ballistic technology.
- Hollywood Tactics: Averted. Weapons and tactics are (usually) intelligently used by both sides, to the point that an intelligence operative recommends nuking a rebel stronghold rather than trying to dig them out. The use of chemical weapons is also liberally noted.
- Hover Tank: The main equipment for the Slammers is their fusion-powered air-cushion tanks. Each lift fan has its own armored nacelle to protect it from anything that damages another fan; "while a single broken track block would deadline a tracked vehicle, a wrecked fan only made a blower a little more sluggish."
- The Gunslinger: Joachim. Despite his delicate appearance, he's an insanely quick draw and accurate marksman.
- Interfaith Smoothie: The Church of the Way, one of the most common religions off Earth, formed as an alliance between Protestant churches opposed to the rise of Fundamentalism in the 20th century and incorporated some themes from Eastern religions as well.
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Averted, mostly. Powerguns (a form of energy beam weapon) are by far the most common high tech weapons. Some armies use railgun rifles instead of powerguns because they have better armor peircing capabilities. However, railguns don't scale up like powerguns do, are no cheaper since, while their workings are much simpler, their barrels have to be made from diamond, and are energy-intensive. Lasers are a no-go because they require a 400-lbs. fusion reactor to reach killing power, and explosive bullets are "just as likely to vaporize a leaf as an enemy".
- The Metric System Is Here to Stay: Powergun calibers are measured in centimeters, as are most other measurements.
- Mind Probe: Played with, particularly the story called " The Interrogation Team". Here the mind probe is semi-painless and takes the form of a directed hallucination. BOTH the interrogator and the person being interrogated are given the drug, and a second interrogator asks questions while the first, in rapport with the victim, experiences his/her memories as the questions are asked. The drug in question is a combination truth serum and hallucinogen, and is described by the first interrogator as akin to a drug high.
In this particular story, the interrogated person comes from a heavily defended town, a "red-pill target". When the authorization to nuke the town is given, the interrogator shares one last vision with the interrogated person - as he envisions his baby girl's eyeballs melted by the nuclear blast. Both the interrogator and the interrogated individual were disconnected from the machine when it happened. David Drake does not write nice stories - perhaps because he WAS a interrogator assigned to the 11th Cavalry during Vietnam.
- Obligatory War Crime Scene: Usually by way of doing whatever victory required.
- In one of the stories, Colonel Hammer catches some flak from rear-echelon types for dealing with an insurgency by having family members of known insurgents ridding on Slammers' vehicles while moving through hostile territory; ambushes of Slammers armor columns dropped, and several attempted ambushes failed because, "somebody noticed their wife or kid on the lead vehicle." Also, gassing a village being used as a heavily fortified base by those insurgents, using gas rather than a nuke only because a gas attack could be done without drawing the attention of reporters. Hammer's actions are about par for the course in the setting.
- Obviously, frequent use of Overkill and WM Ds (nuclear and chemical) on civilian populations, too. And a specific story about destruction of a historical shrine due to it being abused as a shield for military forces by one side.
- Oh, Crap: Happens to one Slammer's unit who through miscommunication, accidentally end up in the center of an enemy firebase.
- Plasma Cannon: Powerguns use precisely arranged copper atoms stored in a plastic matrix. The atoms are pulled down the mirror-smooth barrel of the weapon by electromagnets. The barrels are cooled by liquid nitrogen and air, as most use a rotary assembly. The result is something that performs similar to lasers, rather than the short-range plasma cannon typical of other military SciFi.
- Private Military Contractors: While Drake mostly uses them to tell stories based on historical events, their mercenary nature plays an important role in their characterization. In the series background, war has become so very expensive that mercenaries are common, and usually the most competent soldiers. The Slammers interact with other mercenary companies and are sometimes shortchanged by their employers. At other times, they play both sides off against each other. The mercenaries and their employers are kept in line by the Terran Bonding Authority, which forces both sides to stick to their agreed contracts. Mercenaries which break their contracts are declared outlaw and hunted down. The Slammers' political maneuvering usually consists of sticking to the letter of the contract while violating the spirit.
- Psycho Sidekick: Major Joachim Steuben is in love with Colonel Hammer — and there's nothing so awful he wouldn't do it if he feels it'd benefit the colonel. Including having himself assassinated to give Hammer the chance for a "once and for all" crackdown on the opposition and because he recognizes that his continued existence would be bad for Hammer, and Nieuw Friesland"And sometimes a fellow who does one job well can see where his job has to be done, even though a better man has overlooked it. Anyhow, Secretary, there always was one thing you and I could agree on — lives are cheap."
- Shoot the Dog: Oh, so very much. It is war, after all.
- Shout-Out: In the story "Cultural Conflict", the position initially set up by the Slammers contingent is named Firebase Bolo.
- Shur Fine Guns: When powerguns work, they work great. However, when they jam, it's usually because the copper-containing plastic matrix they use has melted into the workings so they need to be replaced or are otherwise unavailable. This is particularly a problem for pistol handguns, which can't cool the firing mechanisms fast enough for more than a few shots at a time.
- Standard Sci-Fi Army: With fusion-powered hovertanks and hovercars armed with directed energy weapons, Hammer's forces are state of the art.
- Tank Goodness: Most of the Slammers stories revolve around their panzers and combat cars. Other mercenaries also use blower tanks, although wheeled and tracked vehicles are common for low-end units.
- The Unfettered: Joachim Steuben, whose Unfetteredness is dedicated to Alois Hammer's use; and Don "Mad Dog" Slade of the Hammer's Slammers books and Cross the Stars.
- Warfare Regression: Technological developments have altered somewhat the face of combat:
- Powerguns, when tied into a computer, are extremely accurate. This, and the sheer destructive power, range, and speed of the weapon, renders ordinary aircraft obsolete. Artillery can also be interdicted, but remain effective.
- Thanks to "nuclear suppression fields", nuclear weapons are rarely deployed.
- Tanks almost disappear from the battlefield, but make a comeback thanks to practical fusion power and improved weapons.
- WMDs are shown as rare, but definitely used, particularly chemical weapons.
- However, tactics are almost identical to late 20th-century mobile armored combat, with both panzer (tank) formations and mechanized infantry supported by long-range indirect artillery being the dominant force.
- Recon and intelligence gathering closely resemble that of 21st century warfare, dominated by satellites and stealth recon drones with heavy computerized support for intel processing and communications.