Friday, 15 April 2016

SF And Military SF

In James Blish's Cities In Flight, the Vegan War occurs between Volumes I and II and is merely summarized in extracts from historical texts, e.g.:

"The capital world of the Tyranny, Vega II, was invested in 2413 by a number of armed cities, including IMT, whose task it was to destroy the many orbital forts surrounding the planet, and by the Third Colonial Navy under Admiral Alois Hrunta, who was charged with occupying Vega II in the event of its surrender. Instead, Admiral Hrunta scorched the planet completely, and led the Third Navy off into an uncharted quadrant with the intention of founding his own interstellar empire."
-James Blish, Cities In Flight (London, 1981), p. 170.

Earth suppresses empires but supports law-abiding cities for its own economic health:

" and order in Arm II are provided by the Earth police, and its economy is supported by the migrant cities. Both systems are haphazard and inefficient, and often operate at cross purposes." (p. 171)

The moral is: make trade, not war, and do not build empires. The system is inefficient but could be worse.

Poul Anderson's Master Merchant Nicholas van Rijn, title character of Trader To The Stars and The Man Who Counts, finds peace more profitable and morally acceptable than war. However, other Anderson characters must cope with warfare. If we want to read a detailed account of a planet attacked by an interstellar fleet and defended by orbital forts, then we can turn to Anderson's The People Of The Wind. Does Jerry Pournelle's military sf concentrate more on the historical experience of land-based warfare? His mercenaries cross interstellar distances to reach low tech colony planets where they must march to make war.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    Make trade, not war, as Nicholas van Rijn would say? I certainly agree! And we see him preventing a war in SATAN'S WORLD and trying to mitigate the consequences of a war in MIRKHEIM.

    But not all empires have to bad! I remembered telling Poul Anderson in one of my letters to him that, as he described it, the Terran Empire compares FAVORABLY to most actually existing regimes.

    In my view what made the Terran Empire different, to some degree at least, from most other empires was how it arose as a reaction to the Time of Troubles. The chaos following the collapse of the Polesotechnic League and Solar Commonwealth so badly traumatized many Earth colonized worlds and other races that unity came to be desperately desired. Manuel's Empire, promising peace, order, protection of interstellar trade, defense against both barbarians and hostile civilized powers, etc., was willingly accepted by many, many planets. Moreover, as a matter of both principle and necessity, the Empire did not try to govern most worlds too tightly, preferring to let these planets govern themselves more or less as they wished (with a few reasonable restrictions).

    This did not mean corruption and abuses did not occur. Alas, they certainly did, esp. as the Empire began to decline during the lifetime of Dominic Flandry. But he, and others like him, worked hard to hold things together, correcting abuses, bolstering defenses, etc.


  2. Sean,
    But Flandry did take part in the conquest of Brae.

    1. Kaor, Paul!

      Certainly! And we also see Flandry plainly not liking what happened at Brae. Unlike Jihannath and Altai, the annexation of Brae was not driven by military necessity or the need to thwart Merseian intrigues.