05 December 2015

FWS Top Ten: The Most Interesting Wars of Military Science Fiction

Being an history teacher in public school, I often only get to teach the larger conflicts, and even then, I have to follow the state guidelines. However, global history is populated with smaller conflicts or relatively unknown wars that always been interesting to me, like the Opium War,  the American-Filipino War, the Boer Wars, the Matabele Wars, and the French and Indian War. This is also true of the world of science fiction. In this Top Ten list, FWS will be exploring the most interesting fictional conflicts of the genre that are either little seen or explored for a narrow point-of-view.

1. The Cylon Wars from BSG
The Cylon Wars have been a founding event in both BSG series, and neither have been seen in any length until the 2012 web-only miniseries Blood & Chrome. In the 2004-2009 Reimagined Series, the rebellion of the intelligence machines, known as Cylons, was about fifty two years before the Cylon Holocaust (BCH), and lasted for 12 years. This war united the 12 Colonies of Kobol under the Articles of Colonization, and saw the construction of the Battlestars that we know and love. This conflict transformed the 12 Colonies and paved the way for its destruction decades later and the rise of our society here on Earth. But, we saw very little of the actually, despite the Caprica series.
In the original 1978 series, the Cylons were actually an reptilian alien race that used robotic soldiers to wages their wars after their own population was nearly exhausted to maintain their empire.
The Cylons of the original series waged an 1,000 year war with the 12 Colonies of Man, until finally achieving victory, and destroying the 12 Colonies of Man. Of course, both Cylons had help in destroying the 12 Colonies in the form of the Baltar characters. After the end of the SyFy Channel reimagined series in 2009, it was believed that a new series would be created around the Cylon War and William Adama's experiences in the war, along with the series Caprica. Again, the Galactica would be front-and-center. This would have allowed us to see the war that had been floating around science fiction since the 1970's. That promised series was not delivered in the form that we fans expected. BSG: Blood & Chrome was downgraded to an online miniseries of a 10 episodes. The show we thought we were going to get was just okay, and the Cylon Wars remains an unseen war. What is interesting about the Cylon War mentioned in both series, is that creators took two very different ideas on the war and the Cylons.

2. The Four Year War from Star Trek
There has been hints of an Klingon-Federation war for years in the early days of Trek with mentions in the Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology and it wasn't until the FASA Star Trek role playing game that we got the story behind this mythical conflict. According the non-cannon sourcebook, the Four Years War started in the 2250's after the Klingons raided and killed 112 citizens on the Archanis IV colony. Most of the non-canon sources on the Four Years War use the canon Battle of Axanar and Garth of Lzar in the history of the conflict. It was surprising to me that the Four Years War was not an official event in Trek, after all, DC Comics, several novels, and the FASA RPG all discussed the Federation-Klingon War like it was fact. To me, it seems organic that there would have been Klingon-Federation at some point prior to the original Trek series. Recently, a crowd-funded Trek film is being filmed that is all about the Four Years War, and teased for it that gives background of the conflict in a documentary is nothing short of brilliant and inspiriting. It is the Trek film, Star Trek: Axanar, that most of us Trekkies have been waiting decades for.

3. The Bugboys/Bebops/Wantabes of the ALIENS Universe
There was hints in the legendary 1986 film that there was a large universe to Colonial Marines and the world of 2179. Certainly, the banter between the Marines over cornbread informed us that native species culling on colonial worlds was nothing new, and they falsely believed that the operation on LV426 would be another simple endangering species op. Boy, were they wrong. Anyways, it wasn't until the 1996 ALIENS: The Colonial Marine Technical Manual by Lee Brimmicombe-Wood that we took a glimpse into the world of 22nd century Marine Corps and their conflicts. Mentioned several times was a conflict with some enemy called either "the bug boys" or "the bebops". Sure, the Colonial Marines operate against Asian forces, some that they call Wantabes, but most of the battles mentioned were against these mysterious enemies. There is no hard information on who these Bugboys or BeBops are, but fans have speculated for nearly 20 years. Some believe that they are another alien species that some of the colonial rivals of the United States armed to oppose American colonization. Some believe that they are 22nd slang name for the the Chinese-Sino united government (CSUG), or another Terran rival power. Other think they are some sort of colonial insurgency or rebellion. Either way, I would like to see more of this world, and you know, fuck the xenomorphs! They had their films! We need an Colonial Marine movie!

4. The Clone Wars (Before the Prequels) from Star Wars

For the newer fans of the Star Wars universe, it is hard to imagine the fandom a long time ago, an galaxy before the internet. Back before we got the bullshit prequels, we fans lived on a few facts, many theories, and high hopes to see the mythical war that Obi-Kenobi spoke of in the first film. Back in those days, even mainstream magazines, like Starlog, were involved in exploring the Star Wars we had yet to see. For years, we fans collectively wondered and theorized about the word "clones" in the Clone Wars. We knew that Boba Fett's armor was somehow connected to the original stormtroopers, and somehow those troopers were involved in the Clone Wars. Many of us speculated that the "clones" in the Clone Wars were cloned Jedi created to overcome either an Mandalorian invasion or an Sith invasion (before the rule of two). These new cloned Jedi were somehow turned to the Dark Side by the Emperor or Vader and used against the Light Side Jedi. I actually think that one of the few bright spots in the Prequel films was reality of the clones and how Lucas weaved the origin story of Boba Fett into the Clonetroopers as well.   

5. The Jedi/Sith Wars from Star Wars 
The underlying theme of the Star Wars films is the struggle between the Light and Dark Sides of the Force. At times, the Dark Lords of the Sith achieve the control over the destiny of the galaxy, while other times, the Jedi achieve control. For some time, Star Wars fans have known that their was an larger Jedi/Sith conflict in the distant past, and it was not until the 1990's, when Dark Horse Comics published The Tales of the Jedi and Bioware released The Knights of the Old Republic games. This all-out war of Sith vs. Jedi armies has lit the imagination of fans for decades, and maybe we could make movies out of the Great Sith War...maybe call it, Episode -1? There was a rumor running around the internet of an tie-in film that told the story of the origin of the Sith and their struggle against the Jedi. Of course, it was just a rumor. 

6. The War Against the Machines from the Terminator Universe
Anyone that reads FWS knows how big of a fan I am of the War against the Machines seen in the Terminator universe...especially in the first two (real) Terminator flicks. Those dark vision of ragtag humans waging urban warfare on new killing machine in the rubble of Los Angeles while plasma bolts danced around was nothing short of beautiful and terrifying at the same time. I wanted nothing more than to see this dark vision of 2029 played out on film in a 3rd Terminator film that chronicled the story of Reese and John Conner. However...that never really happened in the way it should have. Originally, back in the early 1990's, it was rumored that an prequel Terminator film was planned that would have been all set in 2029, showing the Resistance struggle in the ruins of our world.
It is odd to me that something so organic to the Terminator film universe should not have been made. Sure, the recent and stupid Terminator: Genysis did show the Resistance gaining access to the Time Displacement Equipment, but it lacked the power that those scenes should have had. Ugh. Anyways, to me, the promise of the War Against the Machines seen in T1 and T2 has not been fulfilled, and nor will it. Terminator: Genysis was successful enough to warrant more films, but they will lack what should have been the Terminator film franchise should have been. I have also wondered why does every fucking Terminator film have to deal with a time-traveling toaster? From the tv show, to the films, to the comics, the vast majority are all about those humanform cybernetic organisms coming back and attempting to alter the past. Oh, by the way, I am purposely ignoring Terminator: Salvation....that film had no balls and no story.

7. The Off-World Conflicts from BLADE RUNNER
BLADE RUNNER is one of those films that deeply layered with worlds within worlds, and for each of fans of the 1982 classic, we have different things that interest us about the Dystopian world of 2019. For me, the off-world conflicts that fueled the development of the Replicants was what I wanted to see more of, not the gumshoe hard-boiled detective of the film. I even went as far as writing an book and several short stories about those off-world conflicts to satisfy my urge. The only hints we've seen of those wars was the information during Decker's briefing scene, some of the good parts of Soldier, and the Marvel comic book. It is unlikely that the long-awaited sequel to BLADE RUNNER will not be showing us anything more of the off-world conflicts, but it totally should. Much like Terminator, the world of BLADE RUNNER seems to be stuck in hunt for skinjobs on the streets of failing megapolis cities via gumshoe assassins with badass revolvers. Given my exception that any future film or book will not show us the off-world conflicts, I have written three short stories and one novel detailing what I think those pocket conflicts would look like.

8. The Eternal War from The Forever War
This may seem like an odd choice...but hear me out. In one of the founding classics of military sci-fi literature, 1974's The Forever War, we see our main character William Mandella and his experiences in the Eternal War. However, it is mainly his experiences that we read about and experience. The Eternal War was nearly a thousand years long with thousands of Terrans involved, and we only have TWO accounts of the war: William Mandella's from The Forever War and Marygay Potter's from the 1999 short story "A Separate War". This war and the consequences of FTL travel due to time dilution has always been absorbing to me and I always feel there is more than we could explore than just these two soldier's experiences, and that could create the basis of other books set in The Forever War universe.

9. The Human/Forerunner War from HALO
For a time, HALO games could do no wrong, and each one seemed to build and build into a series that will be regarded as the best of its generation. However, has physics tells us, what goes up, must go down. Many felt that HALO 4 was the worst game of the series and the low point (I do not). However, whatever you feel about the fourth Master Chief game, it did add a whole new layer of explanation to the vast backstory to the HALO universe. It seems that the war between the Flood and the Forerunners was more complex than we originally thought.
Unknown to archaeology (but known to the Ancient Aliens crowd), prehistoric humans achieved spaceflight and formed an interstellar empire that was equal to the Forerunners around 150,000 years ago. Humans founded new planets and had an alliance with the San 'Shyuum race. 110,000 years ago, these humans discovered the Flood, and war erupted. However, they were losing, and it effort to get ahead of the infection, humans and their allies attacked unknown Forerunner worlds. This sparked the Forerunner/Human War. That means humans were engaged in two wars at the same time. Humans lost, and we forced back to their homeworld, and reduced in technology status to primitive species.
Maybe we could have a series of games based around this time period in the HALO universe? You could play as an prehistoric Greek Spartan-like super-soldier, but with a twist. Maybe the Greek Spartan warriors were inspirited by the ancient super-soldiers of the prehistoric advanced human culture, those were primarch of the concept. So, those ancient warriors inspirited the Greeks, and the Greek Spartans inspirited the SPARTAN II/III/IV warriors. I would love to play these games and explore of this interesting timeline.

10. The Butlerian Jihad from the DUNE Universe
For many of us fans of DUNE, the religious crusade against the thinking machines 10,000 before the events of the first book was one of the most intriguing events that was not heavily explored. It was not until the 1984 film adaptation that we fans were able to glimpse the known universe before the legendary novels. Those paintings that served has the introduction to the DUNE universe and colored my vision of what I thought the Butlerian Jihad were going to look like. When it was announced that Frank Herbert's son would be crafting an trilogy about the war against the thinking machines, I was extremely excited, and bought it only a few days after its release...and boy, I was disappointed. The magic of the world of DUNE was not present, and the new universe seemed completely separate from the world seen in DUNE. Even today, when I re-watch DUNE, I wonder about what the Butlerian Jihad what it would have been like in different hands, and those paintings are still something that interests me...can we get an Butlerian Jihad reboot?

Next Time on FWS...
Distance can be an friend of the soldier in combat, and the closer proximity of soldiers to their enemy, the increase in the danger. One of the most deadly, chaotic tactical environments is Close Quarters Warfare. Combat in tight spaces of office buildings, homes, cruise ships, space stations, or even starships is its own special breed of combat, and it is high time that FWS explored and explained Close Quarters Warfare.


  1. Sean Robert MeaneyDecember 5, 2015 at 3:36 PM

    Bug-boys seemed an early reference to the predators.
    Captain Picard declares he is not with the 'eastern coalition' in startrek:first contact.
    No battletech universe?
    space 1999 had a timeline that included terrorists using nukes. Not sure if that constitutes a war though.

  2. I thought about including the Post-Atomic horror era of the ST and I am interested in that period of Trek history.
    I also wrestled with including some of the unseen wars in the BT universe. This was not an easy list.
    I never talked too much about the Space:1999 universe...need to change that

    1. There is cannon for both the Post-Atomic horror era of the ST, and the Space:1999 universe, that implies that their nuclear wars had extra-terrestrial causes.

      The Khan Noonien Singh Cycle implies that Earth had interstellar capability prior to the war. After all, the SS Botany Bay, a DY-100 vessel modified as a sleeper ship, was found in interstellar space.

      Then there is Colonel Green. According to a source that I believe was cannon, Green was in command of a base on the moon, which had nuclear weapons for planetary defense. He used those weapons to attempt to black mail the Earth. Because of the time frame, the only weapons available wound be those that were not used during the war, and if Green had enough to significantly threaten the Earth, then there had to be a hell of a lot of them that were “Not Used.”

      I have a personal “Fan Theory” about the ST-Post-Atomic horror era that says that 85% of historical documents from that era are still classified because the word “Unknown” is used to often.

      In the Space:1999 universe, the series was originally intended to be an extension of the UFO series, and S.H.A.D.O. was involved in action against an extra-terrestrial threat. Then there is the MK IX Hawk. That must have been an expensive weapon system for a world, which was recovering from a global war, to develop. Another is the combat capability of the Eagle. If it was just a utility workhorse, it would not need to be armed.

      Lastly, what do you mean by “The Unseen Wars in The BT Universe?” (I’m assuming that you mean Battletech.) Do you mean “Interstellar Players?”

  3. Interesting article.
    The Forerunner war and the Terminator war are the most interesting to me, although the Star Trek nuclear holocaust sounds interesting too.

    Sometimes i try to understand why the war against the machines wasn't explored, i mean, it was the most logical evolution to the series, first you got a slasher movie with a relevant backstory and plot (T1) then you got a more light almost family flick movie (T2), then why reusing the same concept? "If you already explored the same universe two different ways, then why showing the same thing again?" I think myself.

    Speaking of nuclear holocausts, what do you think about the Fallout series as a whole? "The Great War" was worth mentioning here. Both pre-war and post-apoc aspects of the Fallout series are very well written and deep, all with a 50's styled POV of the future. Super Amazing blog;

    ~Rafael F.M

  4. Sorry to see no Horus heresy, but good list anyways.

  5. While I found the recent exploration of the Forerunners history before their downfall to be interesting, I and a good Halo fanfic writer Katsuhiro believed that the Ancient Human and San Shyuum part of the universe was completely unnecessary. And the exploration into the Forerunners ruined quite a bit of the mystery regarding them and the Precursors. We preferred that they remain unknown because what remains unknown it the most tantalizing and mysterious.

  6. I'm assuming that since theirs son hint in aliens 3 or 4 of some government turmoil or something wrong with the government, the bug boys are colony insurgents. This theory also comes from the post Vietnam look of the colonial Marines makes me think that the bug boys are a nod to the Vietcong in Nam especially since the name has some connotations to underground tunnels like in Vietnam. Just a thought though and don't forget killzone. If this was a top 11 list I would put it somewhere ( higher than star trek)

  7. No nod to the Berserker or Bolos?

    Then there is the works of H. Beam Piper that used actual historical events as models for his novels and short stories, with the two largest ones being untold (The System States War and The Fall of the Federation)

  8. The order that I put the "Top 10" Blogpost is no order of importance, and if that were so, the Four Years War would have way down the list.
    The War against the Machines seen in pieces in T1 and T2 should have been explored and given a 3rd film...but I have no answers way. T3 did not even come out until 2003, 13 years, 12 years after T2, and they could have made the backstory Terminator film. Too late now, they've already ruined it.
    I nearly put the Horsey Hersey on the list, but it has been well explored in the novels.
    I have mixed emotions about the deepening of the HALO universe. You are correct that there did not need to be anymore explanation of the Flood/Forerunner War that what existed prior to HALO 4, and adding humans is odd...I think it would have been just has interesting to have the Didact reap prehistoric humans for the knights and avoided the whole advanced human civilization...HALO crossed over into Stargate territory there.

    1. Definite point about the Horus Heresy, it has been covered fairly extensively as of late. I used to love the old snip bits and small narratives that built up scraps of 40k history. As you rightly stated in the Flood/Forerunner War comment, sometimes its better to not to have as much explanation. The concept of Lore can be just as enticing if not more so.

  9. I am surprised no one has talked about the unseen Clone Wars...

  10. I was going to be mad if you didn't mention #8. The Eternal War absolutely deserves mention here.

  11. No mention of the brown coat rebellion of the outer planets in the Firefly series? For shame.

  12. How about the Unification War of firefly verse?
    Heavy borrowing elements from American civil war like the alliance's purple bellies &independents' brown coats…

    If someone can make a C war in space and base it on the dark tune of Firefly deleted scenes:
    And Serenity last deleted scene, from 13:25
    It will be pure solid gold!


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  14. The Cylon war is so underrated imo. And of course the Firefly rebellion is cool but I think the off world conflicts from the Blade Runner and Soldier universe give an even cooler vibe, replicants man.