Friday, October 4, 2013

Chris Weuve On Wet Navies In Space

I was noodling around the Foreign Policy website today and was delighted to find an interview, first published last year, with US naval analyst Chris Weuve on how science fiction models naval warfare, including "Air Craft Carriers in Space". The models Weuve discusses come from popular culture: Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek, Star Wars and Babylon 5, and he makes some very clever and insightful comments on how science fiction models and sometimes anticipates trends in warfare of the day. Here's a taste:

" But science fiction is the literature of "what if?" Not just "what if X happens?" but also "what if we continue what we're doing?" In that way, science fiction can inform policy making directly, and it can inform those who build scenarios for wargames and exercises and the like. One of the great strengths of science fiction is that it allows you have a conversation about something that you otherwise couldn't talk about because it's too politically charged. It allows you to create the universe you need in order to have the conversation you want to have. Battlestar Galactica spent a lot of time talking about the war in Iraq. There were lots of things on that show about how you treat prisoners. They never came out and said that directly. They didn't have to. At the Naval War College, one of the core courses on strategy and policy had a section on the Peloponnesian War. It was added to the curriculum in the mid-1970s because the Vietnam War was too close, so they couldn't talk about it, except by going back to 400 BC. "

Wargamers and military/SF nerds will find a lot to like in this article. Wargamers intuitively understand the idea of modelling reality, and those of us who remember games like Star Fleet Battles, or who play current games which draw Great War air combat a la Wings of War into the Star Wars X-Wing vs Tie Fighter franchise, have thought about the assumptions involved in translating air or naval games into space combat. One of the gaps I did notice in the interview with Wueve was David Weber's Honor Harrington series of space opera, which to my knowledge (and to my unscientific mind) is the most interesting and detailed thought experiment in what strategic and tactical naval warfare in space might look like. I'd welcome suggestions on author others whom you think "get it right".

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