Fallacies in Military Space Novels

I’ve put together some Basic and I mean Basic assumptions in any Military Science Fiction story that should be followed to maintain some credibility.

The following assumes Earth has developed a cost effective method to achieve orbit. From there everything else flows.

Industrial

If you can reach orbit cheaply and regularly you can build a large orbital infrastructure, space stations, foundries, factories and shipyards.

Once in orbit you can travel anywhere in the solar system relatively cheaply and easily, even using currently available technology.

Assuming you’ve achieve orbit using some sort of “thrust” technology and not a space elevator that technology should be easy to adapt to interplanetary spaceships.

The incentive to build spaceships is pretty simple and clear.  Unlimited mineral resource, the solar system is teaming with Billion dollar asteroids waiting to be found.

Thus any industrial society who can duplicate the basic engine design to get into orbit will go into the mining business.  You don’t turn your back on 10s of 100s of Trillions in annual revenue.

Thus you can expect every one of the G22 countries to be in space.

Of those 22 a number will absolutely dedicate resources to build a military presence, treaty or no treaty.

  • United States
  • Russian Federation
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Germany
  • China
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • India
  • South Africa

Fighters/Fleet

There are eventually two schools of thought in space warfare.

  • Those who imagine the possibility of an effective fighter as a front line weapon and those who know it’s not going to happen.
  1. A fighter needs to have the endurance to travel the vast distances in space.  You have to factor in the fuel and speed of the fighter. Unless said fighter can accelerate and decelerate to near C with no energy penalty a pilot will be very uncomfortable crossing a solar system. So you either have  “Large” fighter that can achieve this or you don’t.
  2. Can a small fighter deliver enough payloads to do damage as a primary offensive weapon? Unlikely, space ships by their very nature will be heavily shielded or armored. Fighters would be ineffectual against capital war ships unless they operate in huge swarms where casualties would be immense. You have to keep in mind, in navel warfare fighters are expendable assets.
  3. I find that in most novels where fighters are used as the primary weapon of choice you end up in amateur hour where the laws of physics, basic engineering principals and military discipline are out the window. Said amateurs inevitably propose aerodynamic fighters with limited weapons and armor.  In Space there’s no air, gravity and very little friction.  An armored ball with a drive on one end would be the ideal shape.
  • There also exists a lack of understanding of military vessels or vessels of any kind.
  1.  If you build a Space Carrier it has to be bigger than what exists on Earth.  A Nimitz class carrier is roughly 360meters long and carries roughly 90 air craft.  Said carrier doesn’t have to worry about airtight compartments to handle their air craft, they don’t have to generate breathable atmosphere or deal with the heat/cold of space.  Taking that into account you can only roll your eyes when someone builds a space carrier that’s 30 percent smaller.  Simply factoring in the engines said space carrier would have to be at least 50 percent bigger than a Nimitz.
  2. Assuming you’re never going to land said space ship, you can put weapons placement all around the hull.  The limiting factor is space on the hull, power for the weapons and munitions.  In the case of a Carrier you should be able to land on the “top” or “bottom” of the craft.

WEAPONS

  • There exists a near total lack of understanding of space based weapons.
  1. It’s space, you’re weapons are operating in a vacuum with limited friction or gravity.  Whatever max velocity your payload reaches is the speed it’s going to hit its target at. Beam weapons have issues with dispersion and kinetic rounds keep going till they hit something. Beam weapons operate at light speed, but may not be effective at light speed range.
  2. It’s space, it’s okay to use High Yield Nukes.  You keep seeing people wanting to use Tactical nukes in space, WTF.  It’s been proven that a WW1 battleship can withstand a hit from a 50kton nuke, so imagine how a well armored a space battleship will handle a pocket nuke.  You don’t have to worry about fallout or firestorms.  Nukes in space only affect a small specific area; they’re not strategic weapons in space combat.  So it’s okay to use a 10 megaton nuke on an enemy space ship. Ideally you want to build even bigger war heads.

These are my basic pet peeves.  The mistakes you see in military oriented science fiction.  You see the same mistakes over and over again.  Anyone thinking of writing a realistic military science fiction novel should keep my points in mind.

You can write any kind of story you want, romance, political thriller, comedy, mystery, drama… science fiction allows you to explore all these aspects, but please, if you’re going to write in the context of a military story, keep the basics in mind.  I won’t even touch on Military Discipline.

I would also like to note there many returned veterans who have begun seriously writing and some like to write sci-fi, which is raising the bar on military dialogue and process in fiction.  You don’t have to mind all your p’s and q’s, but try to at least have some idea of how things work in a military setting.

Advertisements