The Basilisk glides silently sunward, her iron turning to gold in Saturn’s glow. The seventh boat of the Cockatrice class, she was analogous to the torpedo boat and the submarine of more familiar seas. Armed with long range rockets, she could deal a lethal (if inexact) blow to ships and installations many times her size.
Another illustration for Spacecraft of the First World War. I used Corel Painter 2015 for this, with minor adjustments in Photoshop.
All the silly looking gizmos are c. 1900 solutions for modulating a means of propulsion that involves a relativistic distortion of space. In practice, their use is a little like a cross between the heighliners from Dune and the stutterwarp drive from Traveler 2300.
They're really too big as kinetic kill devices for anything but the largest vessels, and accuracy isn't the strong suit of fire control in that period, so you're probably looking at a bursting charge of cordite and a jacket of tungsten steel spheres. The cordite probably wouldn't impart nearly as much energy to the spheres as angling the shot down into a gravity well. I'm certain there's an earnest young Rotwang carrying out trials with gravitational warheads, but that lies beyond the scope of the book (other than through dark implication).
Gravity being the weakest force, and one which we humans haven't much idea how to practically manipulate, I can't comment on gravitational warheads. But in the fictional physics of WW1 spaceships I suppose the gravity-altering physics behind spaceship drives could open up the way to weapons able to stretch a battleship apart like it had wandered too close to a rogue black hole...
Originally, the manipulation of gravity was something I just played with as a thought game, as I saw it as the only way for the crews to survive the acceleration forces when the cylinders arrived from Mars. I postulated that the invaders has access to tech from earlier civilizations that they didn't totally understand, and that we continued the trend. Of course, control of gravity leads to some interesting implications under general relativity, and the results of this are something I intend to show indirectly in the book.
Yeah, neither Verne nor Wells dealt with the fact that putting living organisms in a shell and firing them into orbit out of a gigantic cannon would squish them into a thin red paste covering the floor-plates. They just ignored that issue, and pretended it would work. A real space gun would either only be able to launch acceleration-hardened satellites, or it would have to gently accelerate a payload over a very long distance like StarTram (this applies more to electromagnetic launchers than the traditional over-sized artillery pieces). Otherwise you need inertia cancelers like in Star Trek, which might indeed have a tie to gravity control. And there undoubtedly would be implications in general relativity. Have you worked out what you think those implications would be? Until I have enough math to handle GR I've stuck mostly with special relativity myself.
I haven't touched the math, but I don't intend to. Mostly, I'm just doing a slow reveal on the 191X industrial west slowly realizing that being able to manipulate gravity will let them do a whole bunch of other things, so of which are very weird.
Interstellar distances are so mind-numbingly vast that it is easy to imagine all space travel being only between the planets. But seeing as Goddard dared imagine interstellar travel conducted with chemical rockets, it would be interesting to see what he would make of gravity drives.
But it's not there, and never even spoken of directly. The reader's mind is meant to be left speculating what went wrong, or what the author can not or will not say. There are a lot of layers to the onion here, and I hope to paint a certain picture with a pattern of omissions.