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Thread: Why Reading Science Fiction is Good For Military Officers

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    Why Reading Science Fiction is Good For Military Officers

    Why Reading Science Fiction is Good For Military Officers

    The 1143 year long war had begun on false pretenses and only because the two races were unable to communicate. Once they could talk, the first question was, ‘Why did you start this thing?’ and the answer was ‘Me?’

    The Forever War, Joe Haldeman, 1975



    I am an Army officer. I consider myself a dedicated professional, and I have something to admit. I love, just love, reading science fiction. I always have. And, I think I am a better military officer for it. So now I have that off my chest, I thought I might discuss the reasons why I think that science fiction is part of an effective, broad reading program for military officers.

    It elevates us above the tactical. Reading science fiction forces us to think about the future. It draws our thinking out of current operations, out of the day to day of soldiering, meetings and reports. It is so easy to remain bogged down of the here and now, and forget about our responsibility to think about the future of our institutions. The science fiction of authors such as Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clark, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and Jules Verne (among others) takes the reader to another time away from the here and now. Consciously or subconsciously, reading science fiction leads to thinking about the future and that of our Service and the profession of arms.

    It shifts our paradigm to different subjects. Science fiction gives military officers a break from military history and current events. We, as members of the profession of arms, must keep up with developments in strategy, technology, policy and tactics related to our profession. But at times military officers need to give themselves an intellectual break from the deep import and seriousness of such reading. Science fiction, with its focus away from current events offers this break. It should, hopefully, also offer lighter moments – try reading Douglas Adam’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy without laughing out loud! And not only in books. For a more contemporary example, try the work of the Angry Staff Officer, whose obvious affection for Star Wars (which I share) has carried over into posts on his blog. One particular post starts with: Official complaint logged by Human Resources Division, I Division, Stormtrooper Corps Dear Sir/Ma’am/Alien/Droid, This is a closed complaint from troopers of the I Division, who wish to remain numberless, for very obvious reasons…. Classic!

    It nurtures hope. Reading science fiction nurtures our hopes that there is something better in the future. While conflict, catastrophe and climate change features in many science fiction novels (often to deliver cautionary tales), much science fiction is highly optimistic in nature. Carl Sagan’s Contact is just one example. Maybe it is just a personal bias, but uplifting stories of positive futures grill me with hope that in some way our service is helping to make this happen.
    “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.'”

    ~ Aldous Huxley

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    Not if it’s that “Old Man’s War” shit.
    I will show you de way....

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    Bad news, Cupcake.


    It reminds us of the enduring nature of our profession. Finally, science fiction reminds a military officer of the enduring nature of war. Some of the finest science fiction novels explore the enduring nature of conflict. Card’s Enders Game, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Haldeman’s Forever War, Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series, or Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill, are all fine examinations of the nature of war, and the centrality of human will, placed in a future (or near future) context.
    “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.'”

    ~ Aldous Huxley

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    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Jingo View Post
    Bad news, Cupcake.


    It reminds us of the enduring nature of our profession. Finally, science fiction reminds a military officer of the enduring nature of war. Some of the finest science fiction novels explore the enduring nature of conflict. Card’s Enders Game, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Haldeman’s Forever War, Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series, or Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill, are all fine examinations of the nature of war, and the centrality of human will, placed in a future (or near future) context.

    Well I guess that just proves that military officers can be tards too. That book is trash. A decent idea that was completely wasted.
    I will show you de way....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hondo View Post
    Well I guess that just proves that military officers can be tards too. That book is trash. A decent idea that was completely wasted.
    It's even worse than you think. The Perry Group elective at the War College is named after John Perry.
    “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.'”

    ~ Aldous Huxley

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    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Jingo View Post
    It's even worse than you think. The Perry Group elective at the War College is named after John Perry.
    I rest my case.
    I will show you de way....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hondo View Post
    I rest my case.
    Hugo awards tomorrow. I have not read them all so no opinion on what should win. I will say this, though. The Calculating Stars, 2019 winner, was truly awful. Probably the worst Hugo winning novel I have ever read. Hell Hugo nominated novel.
    “It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.'”

    ~ Aldous Huxley

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    Quote Originally Posted by Billy Jingo View Post
    Hugo awards tomorrow. I have not read them all so no opinion on what should win. I will say this, though. The Calculating Stars, 2019 winner, was truly awful. Probably the worst Hugo winning novel I have ever read. Hell Hugo nominated novel.
    I have no time to just sit and read lately, although I have taken to enjoying a cigar after work and listening to an audiobook. Still slogging thru “Abaddon’s Gate.”

    My current project involves digging thru the Polish order of battle at the Battle of Smolensk in 1812. I do not speak Polish.
    I will show you de way....

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