I'm far enough along in my writing process of Sublight Frontier that I'm starting to have to slap labels on things, and have characters start spouting out terms. I have figured out that because this world discovered rocketry before flight, they would favor naval terms for things over aeronautical terms.

But when it comes to creating a space military force, what does on actually call it? Space Navy? No NAVY steps from the same root word as NAUTICAL. Spavy? Eh, not correct and my wife says it sounds like a venereal disease.

Star Trek get around it by simply calling their organization Star Fleet. Which, unfortunately doesn't make much sense in my world because people are still confined to the Solar System. Also the term Astronaut probably would never be used. Cosmonaut is more general, and there isn't the "Anything but what the Russians call it" mentality.

But then memory lane tugged in the strings of Macross. All of their ships were labeled with UN SPACY.

While I was thinking about it, my main character wouldn't be the Navigator for the vessel. She would be a Cosmogator. Or, being that this world might have taken a different approach to women's liberation Cosmogatrix.

In my world, the German Empire got to the moon first. Most rocket terms are probably going to be in German. "Ferstanden" instead of Roger. "notefall" instead of "Mayday". "Panne" instead of "pan".

I picked the "best of" for the Enlisted. I mainly found myself preferring the Army and Marines terms. The navy way of making everyone a Sailor or a Petty officer X class is terrible.

Level Spavy US Army US Navy US Marines
E-1 Private Private Seaman Recruit Private
E-2 Private First Class Private Seaman apprentice Private First Class
E-3 Lance Corporal Private First Class Seaman Lance Corporal
E-4 Corporal Corporal/Specialist Petty officer third class Corporal
E-5 Sergeant Sergeant Petty officer second class Sergeant
E-6 Staff sergeant Staff sergeant Petty officer first class Staff sergeant
E-7 Cheif sergeant Sergeant first class Chief petty officer Gunnery sergeant
E-8 Master sergeant Master sergeant Senior chief petty officer Master sergeant
E-9 Sergeant major Sergeant major Master chief petty officer Master gunnery sergeant/Sergeant major

For the Navy I ended up adopting the British naval ranks. There's still to much "Rear Vice and Uber" in the Admiral category. But the soup of Generals isn't much better. Plus I like the sound of "Commodore" far better than "Rear admiral - lower half"

Level Spavy US Army US Navy US Marines
O-D Midshipman N/A Midshipman N/A
O-1 Ensign Second lieutenant Ensign Second lieutenant
O-2 Sub Lieutenant First lieutenant Lieutenant (junior grade) First lieutenant
O-3 Lieutenant Captain Lieutenant Captain
O-4 Lieutenant commander Major Lieutenant commander Major
O-5 Commander Lieutenant colonel Commander Lieutenant colonel
O-6 Captain Colonel Captain Colonel
O-7 Commodore Brigadier general Rear admiral (lower half) Brigadier general
O-8 Rear admiral Major general Rear admiral Major general
O-9 Vice Admiral Lieutenant general Vice admiral Lieutenant general
O-10 Admiral General Admiral General
O-11 Fleet Admiral General of the Army Fleet Admiral General

Of course the question inevitably arises: would a SPACY have officers and enlisted? Invariably yes. They are a natural progression to space of imperial navies of the last 19th century. Class divisions would remain, somewhat. Though, probably like in the United States who ends up an Officer and who ends up Enlisted comes down to education.

But when we bring up education we run into a conundrum. While the education system we employ in our world is largely geared to the trades (Thus Bachelors, Master, Doctor), the education system in Sublight is geared toward magic. Thus people will be ranked according to their level of Magical training.

Level Sublight College Degree Martial Arts Belt
M-0 Beginner Freshman Sixth kyū (Light blue)
M-1 Student Sophomore Fifth-Fourth kyū (White Belt)
M-2 Apprentice Junior Third-Second kyū (Brown/Purple) Belt
M-3 Novice Senior First kyū (Brown/Purple) Belt
M-4 Journeyman Bachelor First-Third Dan - (Black Belt)
M-6 Master Master Forth-Sixth Dan - Master
M-7 Wizard Doctor of Philosophy Sixth+ Dan - Grand Master

Practitioners below the level of "Journeyman" can really only perform Tegic with the assistance of an instructor. At a Journeyman level, you can utilize Tegic for occupational or other practical purposes. A Master level Tegic user can teach Tegic to others. Like in the trades, a "Master" has to demonstrate their work to the satisfaction of his/her peers. This is normally a Masterpiece. Wizards operate on the level of our Ph.Ds. They push the state of the art. Ranking Tegic users above the Wizard level is silly, because you have to evaluate them on individual skills. And most of those judgements will be downright subjective.

Tegic ranks are universal, because all Tegic users must be board certified by the International Union of Tegic Practitioners, who operate the Lethian Flying University.

When it comes to matters of command, the Martial ranking system of officers and enlisted comes into play. But when it comes to matters of Magic, a Private who is a Journeyman outranks an Admiral who is a Novice.

I think I will have to set up a situation where Sub Lieutenant Degan who is a Master of Cosmogation has to pull rank over a Commodore. The Commodore (with at best a basic understanding of physics) orders a vessel perform an impossible (or highly disruptive to life aboard) manuever. Degan, has to dutifully decline the order, and issue a report with her justification as to why she (and the expert system on the ship) find the orders to be preposterous. Which, of course, will set off a fire storm until someone higher up informs the Commodore that if he HAD gotten his way, and if the ship HAD been damaged not only would Degan be held personally responsible, he would probably be dropped to the rank of Shoe Shine Boy to an Ensign before being Cashiered out of the service.

Perhaps finish the drama with him sending Degan a nice bottle of scotch as a "Thank you for not letting me shoot myself in the foot" gift.

I posed this question on Facebook, and I got some pretty great replies

Robert L

Terran Galactic Navy
Space Marines

Stephen M


Adam W


Mike M (former planetarium coworker)

Force-S, as opposed to Force-L, Force-A, and Force-W. I assume a civilization that has an entire military branch in space is advanced enough that it would really be divided into Space and Terrestrial. MaybeTime as well.

Clif F (fellow tcl programmer)

Whatever the official name is, the guys who wear helmets will be called air-heads, and the guys who are sent to the gravity well will be called grunts (because that's what you do when you hit the ground) and the guys back at HQ who make up orders with no comprehension of the actual situation will be called by everyone affected by their orders.

Otherwise, the official name should be two syllables - that seems to be what folks will accept for a military force - ArMy, NaVy, Air Force, MaRine, and even Coast Guard.

Ron F (fellow tcl programmer, nuclear scientist)

Uhm... could use "Space Force" LoL