Tactics and strategy inform or should inform everything a soldier does.
Your soldiers in military sci-fi must have a doctrine of some kind which tells them what to do and how to do it.
In the modern US Army, the nuts and bolts of things soldiers are trained to do are called Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTP for short). The larger picture is strategy, and there are some pretty basic things that are to be accomplished with strategy.
With strategy, you must ask the question: Why are your military units doing what they’re doing?
If it does not have an applicable purpose, then your officers look incompetent, stupid, untrained, or insane. If the character is portrayed as competent, then his inability to understand strategy will be seen as a function of the author’s inability to understand strategy and the reader will stop reading the book. Do not misunderstand this to mean that officers aren’t sometimes wooden, textbook responders, or unable to remain focused on the objective. It means that if you portray a competent officer, he will respond to stimuli in a competent manner, based on the information they receive.
A competent officer has training to teach him to gain information about the objective, evaluate the enemy forces and intent, and either respond or initiate a response.
The things we will see in your novel will reflect whether your POV character is a grunt or a officer. Sometimes there’s officers who are ground-pounders– that is, company level and lower– but the higher ups formulate strategy based on the size of the units they command. A general may command an army (or divisions), and lower ranking officers command smaller sized units all the way down to the company commanders who are in the field supervising their platoons.
One important aspect of strategy (and indeed, tactics) is sustainability. That’s the dull world of logistics. Did I say dull? It’s not dull if you’re on the pointy end of the spear and you are getting no supplies, or worse, the wrong supplies. Horror stories abound from how landing ships were configured for the US Army landings in Morocco and Algeria. The doctrine of loading a ship with stuff wasn’t advanced at all, and I believe the stevedores were often left in charge of determining what would be loaded where. This led to situations where the guys first on the beach need tanks, or jeeps, or ammunition, or medical supplies, and instead they’ve got bales of blankets or rations or underwear. It sounds absurd, but the military will grind to a halt if they don’t have petrol and bullets. And water. And boots. And artillery.
Therefore, if you want to invade a planet, a space station, or another ship, you will need logistics: Transport, gas, food, drink, armor, weapons, communications, shelters, clothes, ammunition, and batteries. It’s not enough to go in with just the stuff on your back. You will need resupply if you’re not living off the land. One way to cut off an army is to interdict its supply lines, and those supply lines in space are ships dragging supplies around and factories on the ground factoring. Cut off the ships, you cut off the ability of the attacker to support an attack and you conceivably will win the engagement. We see this doctrine in seige warfare, starting over 3000 years ago (the Greeks), and continuing to the present day (Cuba).
So your logistics arm is going to acquire, store, and move stuff. It finds replacement personnel and stores them. It acquires, stores, and moves weapons systems. It provides medical, legal, and psychiatric care for personnel. If any of these things does not happen, it will affect the effectiveness of the personnel by lowering their morale and inhibiting their ability to fight.
The mindset the US Army has is that, “(1) In combat, Infantrymen who are moving are attacking. (2) Infantrymen who are not attacking are preparing to attack.” (FM 3-21.8 The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, published by the United States Army.)
Overall, the strategies used in sci-fi are going to mirror those used in modern combat. Asymetrical warfare, using small unit and terror tactics, must be responded to by the larger force with a unified strategic doctrine that places forces in places to quickly react to provocation or to search for and prevent attacks before they happen.
What is the larger strategy? Follow the money. No matter how you posture your future, ultimately there are never enough resources for everyone, and that is the crux of most decisions made by the polity. It’s not for the good of the people, it’s for the good of commerce. Ultimately, no matter how deep a political system may lay in socialism, it will collapse without the application of capitalism. Therein lays the logistics argument: To get all this stuff, you must mine it, grow it, or manufacture it. The strategy is to protect the stuff, or to take the stuff.
I see some authors who promote a character from a shivering private up to general grade levels. Being a grunt does not mean you are trained to think like an officer. It means you’re trained to think like a grunt. When you have Private Schlomo promoted way above his pay grade, he’s going to be way out of his comfort zone because he isn’t trained to understand the fight at company, brigade, or division level. A fireteam leader or squad leader has 3-8 people under them, and the decision tree may not be that complex. A platoon leader, which is the lowest level of officer supervision, is the point where the thought process must be done on a give-orders-to-subordinates basis.
You must use a staff, because you are not capable of getting the information necessary to do your job on your own. At company level, you have an executive officer who seconds the commanding officer’s lead. At higher levels than company, you see more staff to assist with functions such as analysis and prediction of enemy action, communications, IT, operations to assist in personnel (promotions, moving around, exiting the service, pay, awards, and so on), and training (both finding locations and creating the criteria for what is being taught, writing manuals, creating videos for training).
As I’ve mentioned before, I purchased Ackerman and Puglisi’s excellent Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes a few weeks ago.
There are a lot of positive traits, I must say. They have these columns listing them, and then there’s four different categories.
So, you pick from each category.
Me, I hate all that choice. There are 80 traits in the interactive category alone. I dunno, I gotta pick one from each?
I entered the traits into Excel (I won’t say how, but it’s pretty obvious) and stuck a random number generator at the top in cell A2, which looks like:
That gives me a range from cell A4 to A47, where I have the Achievement traits. Note that the random number generator creates an integer with up to 3 decimal places, so I use the round to round it off. If you don’t have that, when you try to grab the integer later it won’t have a good cell address.
Then for the paydirt, the thing that grabs whatever it is out of the column according to whatever the random number generator created.
In cell A1, I have this:
I copy the formulas across 4 columns with the numbers adjusted for the stuff in the column.
This gives me the result:
Some of the positive traits aren’t compatible with others, but I haven’t figured out a simple way to tell it “don’t use these results, they’re wrong!” I certainly could program it to do VBA and put in a string after each term with the opposites that may cause conflict, i.e. for Analytical, these traits aren’t usually compatible: adaptable, adventurous, illogical, impulsive, melodramatic, paranoid, sentimental.
Or just eyeball the result and decide on my own without a machine’s help. I can also program it to randomly select the negative traits, as well. Ultimately, it’s a nice starting point.
Don’t mind me, but I couldn’t help but see that you were standing over here with a blog. I love blogs! Maybe you could paint it blue.
That one doesn’t look real. Creative AND responsible? Doesn’t fit the stereotype.
This is splendid and I will be going back through these. Jen at Jen’s Thoughts posted these rules from a list composed in 2011, by then Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats. While they aren’t linear, it does bode well for formulaic writers. Do each of these things and you will write a successful story. Some seem simple, others may stretch you. If you want just the straight list (text) without the pictures, it follows the pictures at the end.
I wanted to share this article with everyone. To me, it’s a gold mine that you can review over and over. I hope it inspires you.
Back in 2011, then Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats (now freelancing) tweeted 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar. Coats learned the ‘guidelines’ from senior colleagues on how to create appealing stories,tweeting the nuggets of wisdom over a 6 week period.
Last week, artist and User Experience Director at Visceral Games (a subsidiary of Electronic Arts), Dino Ignacio, created a series of image macros of the 22 rules and posted them to Imgur and Reddit.
Below you will find the list of image macros along with a text summary of Pixar’s 22 rules of storytelling at the end of the post. Enjoy!
I’ll bet Polish people would like to read Crumbling Empire, too. In their native language! Imagine:
Łaska Bedell nie kapitan Przed objęciem ogolił pozycję na moście. Było jasne, że był w złym nastroju i jeśli komputery były złe, jeśli przeczucie załogi było źle, wszyscy by się pęcherze ból. Kary dookoła. Misery.
Kapitan uznał informacje na wyświetlaczu. “Oni nie są identyfikowane jako łodzi bezpieczeństwa, i nie są one Imperium. Nikt inny nie ma cztery niszczyciele i dwa krążowniki w tym sektorze, ponieważ ich właścicielem. Cholera, nie ma żadnych innych rządów oficjalne. Kim oni są?” Nikt nie odpowiedział. Oczywiście to było pytanie retoryczne.
“Panie, prep na spotkanie zaangażowanie?” XO zapytał.
“Zrób to. Stacje bojowe, dźwiękowe, stanowisk bojowych Hełm, obliczyć pole przechwytywania i zabrać nas, połowa prędkości, taktyczne dać mi rozwiązanie broni jak najszybciej, a XO, muszę aktualizacji na zespoły kontroli uszkodzeń i broni w miejscu dla ewentualnej walki. Czujniki, zacząć ciągnąć dane na temat tego, co te statki są uzbrojeni i chcę swoje dane milliday temu!” Kapitan wyprostował się i spojrzał na holo statków ponownie.
XO aktywowane stacje bojowe i alarmy zabrzmiał na całym statku, podczas gdy kurs potwierdzeń słychać było taktycznych, steru oraz czujników.Chwilę później, Grace Bedell opuścił orbitę Reville i przesunął się na kurs przechwytujący.
Apparently “Misery” and “XO” don’t translate. 😦 That’s why you need a human.
That, and I probably have some really awful language bloopers in there. Google translate, you make me sad.
1970 2670 words, first installment, 10 11 pages. Goal: To have a good opener. Establish protagonist. Establish conflict. Throw dangerous situations at protag. Meet the fireteam. Make up novel name (not permanent). Set up the middle.
Edit: I have rebranded this as the complete chapter 1. It replaces the original and edited chapter 1 (or installment 1).
Edit: New edits as of 3/31/15.
Added more he/she said tags, to make all dialogue speakers clear. Added more internal dialogue for protag. Added description of shuttles and HCA. Added additional description of environs when possible. +1000 words from previous draft.
Edit: New edits as of 4/21/15.
Eradicated passive voice. Removed all semblances of was. Fixed science in initial scene to reflect how space ships really move. Removed extra alarm notice from marines waking up scene. 2768 words.
Edit: New edits as of 4/22/15.
Really removed all the wases this time. For sure. Really. Reworked first through third paragraphs. They’re tighter. I miss the weak passive voice.
Edit: New edits as of 5/01/15.
Found some errors in a paragraph. How did I miss them? I really need an editor.
A critical situation called the Grace Bedell’s unshaved captain to his position on the bridge, because the executive officer had insisted that he couldn’t make the call. The XO should have been able to handle all routine operations of a destroyer. He’d been with the captain for years and never interrupted the captain’s sleep before. Is it serious, then? The captain’s curiosity obscured his foul mood. What event would cause the XO to throw this decision on me? Space contained many surprises, though not on routine patrol.
The captain considered the information on the display. “They’re not IDed as security boats, and they’re not Empire. No one else has four destroyers and two cruisers in this sector because we own it. Hell, there aren’t any other official governments. Who are they?”
No one answered.
“Sir, prep for meeting engagement?” The XO inquired.
“Do it. Battle stations, sound battle stations, helm, calculate a slashing attack course and take us in, keep us slow so we can use Reville’s gravity to slingshot around and possibly attain orbit should they prove friendly or neutral, tactical give me a weapons solution asap, and XO, I need an update on damage control and weapons teams in place for possible combat. Sensors, start pulling data on what those ships are armed with.” The captain straightened up and looked at the holo of the ships again.
The XO activated battle stations and the alarms sounded throughout the ship, while a course of acknowledgments were heard from tactical, helm, and sensors. A moment later, the Grace Bedell accelerated toward the belligerents orbiting Reville.
Alarm. That’s an alarm. Lance Corporal Anasia Yuen snapped alert. She lay for a moment to process. Marine quarters.Grace Bedell. No drill scheduled. What is this?
“Unbelievable,” Private Radawski complained. “Can’t we have drills in the day cycle? I haven’t done this since boot camp.” He stretched, sitting on the edge of his bunk, then passed gas loudly.
“What, a week ago, Radawski?” said another marine.
Lance Corporal Anasia Yuen sat up in her bunk, then slid out of the narrow space to stand up and dress in her under armor suit. The compartment smelled heavily of stale air and sleep. “Radawski, shut up and get dressed.” She noticed his furtive glances at her nude form, and glared at him. It’s an alert and he’s thinking sex. Staff Meyer is right. Boots are pretty dumb. No, inexperienced. But they look dumb. And they do dumb things. It’s the same as if they were really dumb.
The fireteam scrambled to get dressed in the cramped marine quarters. “Move it to the armory,” she said as she checked her personal data unit.
Radawski continued to dress. Get him up to speed in the future. I keep catching flak for his performance. “Radawski, catch up. This is not a drill,” she said over her shoulder.
Other marine fireteams funneled through the wide, brightly lit metal corridors toward their respective armor lockers. No paneling disguised the kilometers of conduit and tubes. Warship crews needed quick access to repairs in battle. The air from the corridor smelled of ozone, electrical.
“What’s the drill, Porn?” came the deep voice of PFC Tama Anaru. Because of Anaru’s extreme tallness and breadth, it had been a difficult process to get him heavy combat armor to fit.
“It’s not a drill, Stalk, this is a real deployment.” Yuen replied.
“What’s the non-drill, Porn?” His words were rapid fire as they walked.
She pursed her lips and tried to read. “Wait one…” She gave up on walking and reading and stopped abruptly. Private First Class Bendtsen ran into her with an oath.
“Six ships,” she read out loud, “unidentified possible hostiles, suit up and combat load on the shuttle, possible hostile action in a centiday.”
“This real?” Anaru asked.
Bendtsen added, “There isn’t a pirate fleet with six warships. Not one that would go toe-to-toe with the Empire.”
Because we are marines. And no one fights as well in space as we do. No pirate. No rag-bag citizen army.
Radawski ran up to them. “I’m here, corporal.”
“About time, Radawski.” Yuen replied. This pisses me off. Boots are supposed to be faster at everything, not slow.
The squad leader, Sgt. Ihejirika, spotted them clustered around Yuen in the corridor and bellowed at them. “Alpha Fire Team, move it! Suited in five milli, MOVE IT!”
Yuen darted forward down the corridor. This should be easy. The plan is to load up in shuttles. But what then? Just sit and wait? “Just move, it’s real, guys.” Yuen replied, “Not a drill. Get your suits, get on the shuttle.” The fire team trailed behind her.
They arrived at and undogged an enormous hatch to enter their armory locker. Four sets of matte black Chieftain Combat Systems Paladin v. 6.8 heavy combat armor lay in organized heaps beneath metal frames. Vertical racks contained rifles and rucks of ammo. The strong smell of gun oil permeated the compartment. They had just finished cleaning all the equipment after a drill a mere… was it only two centidays ago?
By design, the HCA suits enveloped the user in a rapid automatic sequence. Yuen had polished the dull black surface of hers so it shined in spite of the matte finish. The suits did not externally differentiate between male and female, so observers could not tell the gender of the wearer just by looking. On the chest and shoulder were her rank, in gold, and displayed on the front right of the chest, her last name.
Yuen stepped into her suit, grasped the metal frame for balance, and commenced the suiting up sequence. Her helmet snapped into place to complete the process. The suit always smelled of cleaner and mechanical lubricant, and no matter how hard she cleaned it, sweat. There’s nanites that’ll clean the organics out of a system, though you don’t want those on your face. Sure, nanites can solve everything, but they’re like fresh boots, really dumb and linear thinking. The O2 flowed cold and dry, and she took a few breaths and felt invigorated by it.
The heads up display on the visor displayed the boot sequence for the many onboard computer units. “Chieftain Combat Systems” displayed for a moment, then a lot of text Yuen ignored, stating who made the cooling subsystems, the fusion power unit, weapons, the medical care system, comm system, and everything else packed into the armor. Everyone read it the first time in boot camp. Unless you were an armorer or tech, it fell into the background of things you thought about. “Authorized user: Anasia Yuen, LCPL, ISM” displayed after the rest of the system finished booting. Good, my suit recognizes me. This time. You couldn’t count on that always being the case. It seemed like technical problems sidelined 40-50% of the teams’ armor at any given time. Lots of job security for the navy HCA mechanics, though they never seem to have replacement parts.
She considered it fantastic armor, if a little dated. Due to little or no competition in the Empire, replacements were counted as unnecessary. The Marines usually acted as policemen, or sometimes, mafia enforcers. It depended on which official obtained authorization to use the marines.
“Radawski! Are you retarded? Just get your suit on,” Bendtsen said, through the open visor of his HCA. “How did you manage to get through basic? Bribes? C’mon, gehen wir!”
Yuen glanced at the completely suited Anaru, who performed his startup diagnostics.
“Damn, Porn, this thing is a glitchy piece of crap.” Anaru complained.
“Same problem?” She asked. Her suit chimed green on all systems, full power plant, comms, medical, cooling, and movement normal. She grabbed her rifle and a ruck and turned her attention to Radawski.
“Tubesteak, stop haranguing him. Calling him retarded doesn’t help him.” Yuen said. Though it’s spot on.
“Same problem,” Anaru said. “Thought the navy mechs were going to get this all fixed, it’s been two thirty-days that I’ve had this problem.”
I know. I got written up for it. “Do your best. Improvise,” Yuen said.
“He is retarded.” Bendtsen said.
“Screw you, Tubesteak,” Radawski replied.
“Both of you shut up,” Yuen snapped, “Radawski, what’s the issue?”
“Did you hear me, Porn?” Anaru asked.
“Yeah, I heard—” she began.
Radawski interrupted. “This suit’s blotchy, and the Empire doesn’t fix it. Diags show loading fault and I can’t get it fixed. In boot, the DIs would give just scream at us for a while—”
“Radawski. Shut up.” Yuen cut him off. “We all know what they did in boot camp, but we just need to get it fixed.” So quit bitching and start fixing, boot.
“Porn, what do you want me to do?” Anaru asked.
Yuen leaned in to look at Radawski’s suit, crowding Radawski away from the armor with her own armor’s substantial bulk. “Try a reboot sequence?”
“For my suit, or his?” Anaru asked.
“That’ll take a few milli, and we’re outta time, Porn!” Bendtsen replied.
“I know!” she said. “It might not matter… Screw it, we gotta go. Radawski, get your flak wrap and take a pulse rifle and grenade load out, soft kit.” Radawski looked confused. “Soft kit! You know what soft kit is? Dammit, I don’t have time for this! Stalk, issue Radawski that equipment. Move!”
“I didn’t think we used soft kit for anything,” Radawski protested.
“Uh, Yuen, my suit is still throwing faults,” Anaru pointed out.
“Sort it out on the shuttle, Stalk. Just get Radawski his kit,” Yuen said. Do I have to hold everyone’s hand?
“Sure, I’ll probably end up frozen in the airlock with a suit lockup. Let’s go, Radawski, you have to be in the shuttle in a milliday,” Anaru replied, violently shoving Radawski.
“Damn, lighten up, Stalk!” Radawski complained, rubbing his shoulder.
Radawski and Anaru moved to the equipment lockers, and Bendtsen stomped toward the shuttle debarkation port. Bendtsen has no finesse. Just brute your way through it.
“Coming, Porn?” he asked.
She followed him lightly down the corridor. If anyone could sneak up on someone with an HCA, it’s me. She’d learned how to move quietly and be light on her feet in a large, heavy set of combat armor. It did not rank as a very useful skill in a combat unit that placed more value in shock and awe. You can’t shock someone if they don’t know you’re there. But you can punch them with incredible force and that kills them.
“Yeah, let’s get loaded before Meyer and Ihejirika both fuse their brain pans,” she said.
Yuen and Bendtsen hurried through the open airlock to their designated planetary assault shuttle. The shuttle crew had painted the area next to the airlock door to the shuttle a rendition of a blue dragon belching fire with claws extended, with the caption “Hot Boarder.” Navy regulations technically forbade wall art, but navy personnel ignored it. If a shuttle crew cared enough to name their shuttle and paint a mascot on their airlock, they had good morale and took good care of their vessel. A dull, soul-sucking grey smothered the remainder of the bulkhead. Naval regulations required all military equipment to be uninteresting colors. Morale or something.Would it kill the navy to put in some crimson colored curtains or something?
The airlock door and shuttle door were temporarily wedded together, leaving a wide opening into the shuttle permitting easy navigation for Marines in HCA. It wouldn’t bother most of the personnel if there had been leaks, as they were required by regulation to have airtight suits. Airtight suits in boring colors. Everyone is suited up.
Attached to a concave area on the destroyer’s exterior hull, the Skua class combat shuttle lay within the destroyer’s shielding system. Four other combat shuttles were attached at evenly spaced positions on the hull, one for each squad. They were flat, black aircraft, with large swept back wings and hover nodules for short take-off and landing on planets with atmosphere. In micro gravity, the wings served no function, but increased the mass and thus the fuel loss when maneuvering, slowing down, and speeding up.
The two marines plunged into the matte black interior of the crowded shuttle. Four racks open. For my fireteam. Looks like Bravo fire team and squad leader are here already. “Last man in?” anxiously queried the suited up shuttle crew chief, Spaceman Second Class Nolan.
He can’t count? We’re down two, you moron. “Not for this fireteam, two more to go,” Yuen responded, sitting in her HCA rack. Bendtsen locked into the empty rack beside her.
“What, they putting on their makeup?! Crap!” Nolan said. “LT wants us sealed and ready to pop.” He looked at her shoulder insignia and name. “Yuen? Your fireteam is going to get us killed. We’re going to be plastered all over the side of Grace in a milli if your people can’t get here in time. Or we leave them behind.”
Even the normally mellow crew chief is bitching and he’s scared. “Yeah, well, Lieutenant Monroe is more than welcome to get us parts for our HCA when he’s not piloting this shuttle, which is, I don’t know, most of the time? That’ll speed things up,” Yuen said. Lieutenant Monroe is an egotistical, arrogant, self-worshipping jerk. He’s also very good at what he does.I’m pretty sure he has no idea at all what we peasants do once we leave his precious shuttle to go tread around in the mud. Bet he never has missing parts or systems down. Or gets mud on his shuttle.
“Porn, you’re down two… pinging them at thirty meters, sitrep?” Sgt. Ihejirika radioed from the HCA rack at the front of the crowded shuttle compartment. Vessels that needed to operate under atmospheric pressure and high gravity made mass and volume a premium commodity.
He wants to know why my fire team is taking their sweet time. He knows why. Radawski is why.
“Radawski’s suit is redlined and he’s going soft kit. Anaru is helping him.” I don’t blame him. When my fireteam isn’t greened up, Sergeant Ihejirika gets it from his boss, Staff Sergeant Meyer. It’s a shame, really, since Meyer always takes out time of the chain of command to specially counsel me anyway. He doesn’t have to do that. He shouldn’t do that. It’s a nice personal touch, a fireteam leader like me getting nuked by the platoon sergeant.Meyer’s an asshole.
“Get your crap together, Porn. Every time, it’s your fireteam.” Ihejirika replied.
Getting nuked by the squad leader is quite enough. Time to appease him. “I know, sergeant. I’m working to improve the troopers.” A lead ball seemed to form in Yuen’s gut. The dressing down sounded mild, but Sgt. Ihejirika didn’t yell. That’s him yelling.
“No more screw-ups. Fix it.”
Yes, mother. “Understood, sergeant.”As if I know what a mother is like. I do, sort of. Mother Superior. She’s like a mother. Mother Mary. I could never have kids. No training.The sergeant iswound pretty tight, right now.He didn’t say it, but I’m the one who should have stayed behind to supervise Radawski. The leader is always responsible for the actions of the people under her.
Anaru and Radawski arrived in the shuttle at that moment. The other marines of Alpha squad looked at Radawski in his sealed suit over unpowered light armor and carrying a heavy assault weapon. Anaru clicked into a rack next to Bendtsen, and Radawski found a jump seat next to the crew chief, yelling “Last man in!”
Yuen thumbed the fireteam channel. “Ski, you green?”
“Yeah, Porn. I’m… hermit crab without a shell. I could be killed by fly fart in this rig. I got comms and O2.”
A soft ping alerted Yuen that Radawski’s suit, back in the locker, signaled it had rebooted and recovered from a serious error.
“There’s no reason for us to hold on to the marines. Jettison the shuttles—Send ‘em to Revile for this conflict, tell them to evade and land and coordinate with friendly ground forces,” the captain ordered. At least the shuttles might survive. The Grace has no chance in winning if they turn out to be hostile. They’re not talking so they’re not friendly.
“Aye sir, jettisoning shuttles now.”
“Comms, keep hailing them. We mean business, we own this space, and nobody screws with the Empire. We own thousands of ships.” Just none of them are here except this one.