Sci Fi Military: Something new, or a retread of modern military?

This seems to be a controversy, which is this:

Sci fi military, is it going to be evolved and different or a retread of what we have now?

Certain things will always make sense, like that you must have hierarchy in military commands, and only one person ultimately in charge. I don’t think that can change, at least for humans. When people buck this particular nugget of wisdom, you end up with military disasters. Command by committee = Vietnam.

As for the actual composition, you would be hard pressed to find something alternate to an officer/nco/enlisted ranking structure. That’s been around for 1000s of years.

Romans | Modern
miles        private
optio         sergeant
centurio    lieutenant
legate       colonel

Without organization, you have a cluster of people who fight as individuals, and that’s not a military. Or, not an organized one.

The proposed changes stem from an idea that mankind will evolve. [Haven’t any evidence of this, so it’s unlikely.]

Absent some sort of coercive behavior, most people aren’t strongly motivated to fight. Thus, hierarchy.

4 thoughts on “Sci Fi Military: Something new, or a retread of modern military?

  1. From what I’ve observed, most writers will base hierachical structures based on what they know. Don’t we usually write what we know? What we have seen and/or experienced? In which case Sci Fi military will most likely follow what we have now …


  2. I was never in the military, but I have two vets in my writers group, one from Vietnam and one Iraq. They both use their respective experiences to bring a great deal of “reality” to their sci-fi writing which I love – that sense of technical and emotional authenticity. At the same time, your question made me think of Ender’s Game and the technical, increasingly remote aspects of warfare. Will we be fighting wars through our consoles, using robotics? Is the death of human beings necessary or are there other ways to defeat an enemy? I imagine hierarchy is natural to human structures and won’t change much, but the what-if questions of military sci-fi should keep the genre fresh.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What D Wallace Peach wrote. Plus, really, what fun would it be to write a retread of what happens now, but in different dress? Boring!

    I am bound, in ancient battle scenes, to stick close to what is already told or assumed, but if I had to write for the future, I would immerse myself in John Keegan, Dave Grossman, Ewart Oakeshott, and the new poets coming out of the Middle East, then try to build something so alien and seemingly illogical that it would blow the socks off every military guy I know, even while he was grinning and nodding. Win by ceding territory rather than trying to take it, for example; or work with the long-known fact that it’s difficult to get people to kill one another, so do Something Else that they do automatically love doing. Reconsider the central needs and purposes of warfare; could they be stood on their heads? What else might ‘winning’ look like?



    • Cede territory? What sort of crazy talk is this!? I had to think that one through. I’m not sure that ancient patterns of conflict are changing all that much in modernity. For instance, you see slaughter presented in the Bible and it’s not pretty at all. Kill all the men, women, children, and beasts. But we’re civilized now! Nope, we still have these total war urges to genocide segments of the population we do not like whenever a despot manages to seize control.

      Beyond the petty power displays of small leaders, do we see enlightened behavior? Take, for instance, the situation in the 1820s: That manifest destiny thing is going to happen, and nobody has a clue what to do with the native americans aka injuns aka savages. They can’t seem to handle it like Europe: You invade a country and now it’s yours and everyone is now a subject. So they do the next best thing and invade the countries and squat. Possession is 9/10s etc.

      Fast forward 200 years to the happy times today where we’ve solved all those ugly problems and live in peace with the Indian Casinos and ignore the reservations. Yeah, the decisions made weren’t very good ones (Oklahoma land rush, for starters), but what, oh enlightened people, was the alternate realistic solution?

      Real life is never pat and easy and everyone sits down and has a nice little chat and agrees on everything. Sort of like fiction: There’s always conflict.

      I’ve read numerous works where humanity goes through an awful war and everyone says, “that was awful. Let’s never do that again, kay?” and they all agree and suddenly we’re in the star trek universe. It’s as if the world were re-written by Polyanna. They had an ending like that in WWI in a train car in France. The War to End All Wars. “That was bloody awful,” they all said. “Let’s fine Germany and get on with it, then.” No more wars, and thanks to the great work by the League of Nations, we never had another war. 😀


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