marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

Military Motifs in SF

A panel where everyone had written military SF and only one of them had not had military experience.  Some were proud that readers had joined a service because they were readers.

Which is limited in its usefulness.  As one panelist explained, he was in the Coast Guard, and people keep asking him about the accuracy of a film about the Coast Guard, and he doesn't know, because he was in small boats, which this film was not about.
A naval guy explained that ships were basically like high school.  On the job, there's discipline, but off it there are many, many, many teenagers -- the average age is twenty -- and you get all the same dynamics.  (Not the panelist.  He, lucky soul, was one of the adults in the high school.)  And to add to the drama, there is all this powerful and expensive equipment that these teenagers have access to.  it changes the dynamics when a teenager is an infantryman, too, and is carrying a gun.

Lots and lots of boredom.  Also, much of the military consists of getting the breakfast to the man in the field the morning before the battle.  Amateurs talk strategy.  Professionals talk logistics.

You can get away with things on the grounds that it's an alternate universe.  One panelist had gravely written back to Special Forces members that yes, you could get into Special Forces with a lower rating than you could in our universe, and then kicked himself for having missed it.

Then there is the whole matter of what changes are allowed.  Basically, all the rest is superficial and malleable as long as you get the crucial part, which is making the soldiers do vastly unnatural things.  Like, say, telling a corporal that you need him to hold this road so the rest of the troops can get away, and when he asks you for how long, you tell him, basically, you just want him to hold the road.  And that's an order that you must deliver face to face, and can not delegate.  Furthermore the corporal you give it to has a rifle in his hand, and you have a holstered pistol.  What happens next is crucial to the authenticity.
Tags: boskone, death, world-building: social structure
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