29 March 2011

Will be out of pocket for a few days...

Dear readers of FWS,
I will be tending to personal business this week, two of my very good friends, Jeremy and Christi lost their little girl, Lily Rose, after being born at 31 weeks. I am headed back home to Oklahoma this week to attend the funeral.
Jeremy and I have known each other since 1995, and I count him among only a few real friends, that are there for you no matter the situation...the pain that they have been going through is beyond what anyone should experience.
My mind, normally on the writing, as been focused on this. So, I will be not updating the blog until Sunday.

Keep Frosty,

25 March 2011

The FWS Armory-The Return of the Bullet

FWS is creating a new ongoing series about the weapons of military science fiction. In the first offering, we present, the good old chemically propelled projectile firearms that we know and love and been killing with since the arquebus.
-"Lt, what does Pulse Rifles fire?"
-"10mm explosive tipped caseless, standard light armor piecing rounds."

When the future of warfare was considered by early sci-fi writers, the domainate theroy seemed to be that energy-based weaponry would be the future of weaponry. They must have reasoned that if mankind could travel to the stars, then why would there not be a ray-gun in their hand? This view was even more reinforced by Star Trek and Star Wars into the minds of the general public.Then, in 1986, ALIENS was release, and besides becoming one of the groundbreaking classics of military sci-fi, it caused writers to rethink the future of weapons.

The 1980's
From the time of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, it seemed that  every pulp sci-fi characters used some sort of raygun, then in 1977, Star Wars gave us the laser blaster coupled with very cool special effects, and then everyone expected to see a blaster from then on.
Then something changed in the world of sci-fi weapons...
At the outset of the 1980's, major studios released Outland and Blade Runner. Both showed the use of conventional bullet-firing weapons. In Outland, Sean Connery's character uses a 12 gauge shotgun when dealing with some hitmen.The director, Peter Hyams, said "there won't be a ray-gun in sight." Bold choice for an era when audiences wanted to see colorful deadly energies flashing around the screen. Some critics say that Outland's use of shotguns doomed the film to failure.
The other major early bullet-fring gun in sci-fi was the 2019 Pflager Katsumata Detective Special handgun, which maybe either a .44 or .357, Harrison never reloaded it on-screen. The prop-gun was constructed from a Steyr-Mannlicher Model SL and a Carter Arms Bulldog Revolver (also used for WASP from AVATAR). The 2007 remastered version of Blade Runner clearly had the gun report remixed to sound more 'revolver-like'.
Both of these film were made by directors that do not select props on whim, they wanted to their guns to be traditional, railing against the standard sci-fi concept of the day.
In 1986, James Cameron forged a realistic United States futuristic Marine Corps based more on Vietnam than NASA. Cameron is very deliberate with his movies and the caseless M41 Pulse Rifle was an attempt (in my opinion) to make ALIENS look different than the clean futures with guns that have a stun setting. He also was presenting caseless ammunition that was not widely known by the general public, giving the viewer something else to consider besides blaster, setting ALIENS apart from the mainstream. 
Japanese Anime and Manga were also starting to warm up to the idea of using traditional firearms. In the military sci-fi Anime epic of Robotech, the human defenders' mecha used massive handheld rotary cannons, complete with brass splitting out, and even the alien battlepods used machine-guns to attack infantry.
But, the clear leader in this field is Masamune Shirow.
His Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell manga works would bring a the little-known FN P90 to Japanese and American readers, via his fictional Seburo arms company. Shirow often favors police/military hostage rescue teams, that fight in close-quarters, using guns that fire 5mm or 6mm to defeat body armor, which showed that Shirow was ahead of his time, seeing the current tread of weapon manufactures abandoning the 9mm for smaller, high-velocity bullets.
Also pushing the bullet was the pen-and-paper RPG. In the 1980's, (for those who don't remember the 80's), the pen-and-paper RPG was hot, and there was vast crop of military science-fiction themed RPGs, like Traveller 2300, OGRE, GEV, Battletech, Rrifts,and Warhammer 40,000. Because of the nature of RPGs, the gamers needed more choices in weaponry than a movie or TV show could display or need. Along with RPGs have a system for every weapon having postive and negatives.
These works would lay the foundation for future sci-fi writers to use bullets instead of beams.

The 1990's
Paul Verhoeven opened the 1990's sci-fi films with Arnold Schwarzenegger using bullets to bloody effect in Total Recall and this, like his later Starship Troopers and previous Robocop, Vernoeven used convential firearms for his beloved ultra-violence to ensue. This would open the 90's to being a period when bullets started to overtake energy beams in major films, Manga, and Anime. This decade saw the three major science-fiction works that had soldiers using bullets in Space: Above and Beyond, Ghost in the Shell, and Starship Troopers.
In SAAB, the US Marine Corps of 2063 uses the M-590 assault rifle that fired a standard NATO 7.62mm round  and modified 9mm Glock pistol. Most every weapon used in the series was a conventional firearm, save for the shipboard and alien weaponry. The TV show and military concepts were ahead of its time, and this gun may have given rise to the MA5B rifle in the HALO games.
Ghost in the Shell got the big screen animation treatment in 1995, and gun designer Mitsuo Iso retrofitted several real-steel guns for the world of 2029 Hong Kong, such as the CZ-100 handgun, the Mateba Model 6 Unica, the Jericho 941, and the carbine (see in the picture) is a combination of the FN F-2000, FAMAS, and FN P90. With Ghost in the Shell being a massive success, it allowed the concept of ballistic weaponry in the future to be seen to a wider audience (especially me). The Japanese creators and animators took notice, and one can see a upswing in the use of firearms in Manga and Anime after 1995. 
When Paul Verhoeven finally brought the founding classic Starship Troopers to the screen 1997, he abandoned both the 1987 Anime and the 1958 book interruptions of futuristic weaponry. Instead, he gave the Mobile Infantry the 7.62mm firing Mortia bullpup rifles. When seen on-screen, the unleashing of a hail of lead at the monstrous bug armies, complete with ejected brass, working bolts, muzzle flashes, made for a bold visual style.
Conventional firearms where used in the 1997 sci-fi classic, the Fifth Element, and the big screen verison of the British dark comic Judge Dredd. As the 90's closed, the Stargate SG-1 TV show pitted small human teams using MP-5 SMGs (later, the P90) against energy-wielding enemies, of course, this was done mainly due to the contemporary nature of the humans. Stargate would broadcasting the 5.7mm P90 to a much wider audience.

The 21st century
Most early sci-fi writers would have thought that by the 21st century, our soldier would be frying their enemies with laser instead of bullets. In reality and fiction, the new century is firmly planted the flag for bullets over beams. For the majority of science-fiction works in the 21st century, traditional firearms are featured, like HALO series of video games and books, the new Battlestar Galactica, the Killzone video games, the APU suits of the last two Matrix films, Avatar and Firefly.
In one of the biggest military sci-fi movies in the 21st century (so far), Avatar, the human company RDA personal weapon of choice is the CARB (Cellular Ammunition Rifle Base). The CARB allows a base 6.25x35mm carbine to be configured into several versions, and along with attachments to be mounted. The heavier RDA offensive system are also chemically propelled projectiles, from the AMP suit to the mounted machine guns.The trend of chemically propelled weapons contines with the big-budget Terra Nova FOX TV show.
In these first images of the show, we can see that the humans that have travel back into time, are using some sort bullet-firing carbine against the dinosaurs. The return of the bullet mae an appearance in the Japanese live-action version of Space Battleship Yamato movie, the marines and crew of the Yamato are using a dressed-up version of the H&K G36C, over the laser-pistols of the original 1970's anime classic.
However, the best example of the sea change from blasters to the more traditional firearm is when comparing the new Battlestar Galactica and the classic Battlestar Galactica. In the classic 1978 series, the Colonial Warriors used a very-Star Wars blaster, then in the 2003 new Galactica, the marines, pilots, and crew of the old Battlestar use the FN Five-Seven (5.7mm) pistol with a micro-grenade launcher.
This trend in science-fiction will be the use of bullets over beams for sometime.

"Bullets over Beams"
The choice that an military science fiction creator makes about the weapons used (and not used) in their work speaks volumes about their fictional universe. How the characters and readers will interact within this universe, and somewhat about the author themselves So, why the big switch? Some sci-fi creators, like Peter Hyams, James Cameron, and Ridley Scott used the bullet to contrast their early films from the juggernauts of Star Trek and Star Wars. Bungie used bullet-firing weapons in both the Marathon and HALO series to contrasting the massive technologically gap between mankind and their enemies. This may also be the reason, that the Stargate series used traditional firearms, even after mankind has access to direct-energy weaponry.
James Cameron's Avatar had a superior human force, the RDA using conventional bullets against the Na'vi. In the technical manual, James Cameron's Avatar: An Activist Survival Guide, the reason behind the use of older-style weapons by the RDA on Pandora, is the planet's odd magnetic fields screwed up the more advanced magnetic-based weaponry.
When it comes to Anime and/or Manga,like Ghost in the Shell, Appleseed, Cowboy Bebop, Neon Genesis Evangelion, some use sound military reason, like Ghost in the Shell.  In most cases, the choice comes off as an attempting to mimic to the John Woo/Quentin Tarantino influence.With films like Starship Troopers and the Fifth Element, the reason could style, or money. Retrofitting a futuristic casing on a blank firing prop-gun may be less costly than special effects.
One of the RN's I work with, Gene stated to me, "the reason may be, that the slug thrower is more esoteric than a laser weapon or particle beam to the reader, because your imagination tends to work best when there is element of reality. Most people when they talk of violence, are overwhelmed with how guns work today, with gun control, school and church shooting and even personal experience. It effect your life in real ways that you can see. Also,if it isn't broken why fix it? Why switch to an proven laser technology, when a ballistic weapon works? Just look at the AC-130 gunship, the Army as the money to mount an airborne laser on a C-1330, but the AC-130 Gunship still effective on the battlefield."
One of my friends, David, who also works with me at the hospital, and is quite the sci-fi academic, said this: "Slug-throwers are simple, foolproof, and proven...simply, they work. Readers have a disbelief with Direct-energy weapons, there too expensive and unproven."

Why I chose "bullets over beams"
99% of my Hard Military Sci-Fi, the soldiers carry some sort of kinetic energy weapon.

Here are my three reasons:
1. The truth is bullets are much easier for a writer: I can read accounts of soldiers describing of what incoming sounds like, what shooting a human with a gun can do.
I work in an Trauma ICU, I've seen what a bullet can do.
I play paintball, I can take that experience and help write combat scenes, and what a weapon feels like during those times. I have been shooting since I was 8 or 9, I know what a gun smells like, feels like, and how it behaviors. I can go onto youtube and watch a certain caliber fire and read how it behaves.
I don't know what a laser or plasma rifle feels like, how it would behave under combat conditions. What soldiers think of using them, or what they sound like being fired at you. You have to know someone with a massive and expensive degree for them to truly understand what a weapons grade laser be like in firm reality.

2. The Bullet still works: It is my belief that the future armed forces will, for the next few hundred years, will be using chemically propelled projectiles...because of one reason...they work.
Since the bullet took the armor off the Knights of Europe, there has been a tug-of-war between the gun markers and the armor makers. This battle continues today, when modern body armor defeating the smaller pistol rounds.
The arms manufactures answered with  rounds like the 4.6mm and 5.7mm.
At this point in human technological developed, there is not a reason for a government to sink money into personal portable energy weapons.
If we ever get off Earth...and colonize, the steer expensive of that will forfeit the cost of developing some direct-energy rifle, especially if the government's needs are being met by the old style weaponry.
The last reason for my own MSF not having much in the way direct-energy weapons is the amount of damage they deal out. Most sci-fi  gets DEW painfully wrong. Even HALO, with it's loads of games and books lessen the effect of supra-heated hydrogen bolts impacting on human flesh.

3. The grim reality of Directed Energy Weapons: When a writer actually researches DEW and their effect on the battlefield, it gives pause to using them. The only three films, that I know of, fully demonstrate the horror of the impact from either a plasma bolt or laser: Terminator, War of the World (2005), and Predator.
In Terminator, when Kyle and Ferro are moving through the ruins to attack the Skynet ground H/K. Ferro is hit by the tank's heavy plasma cannon, turning into a pink mist with charred clothing.
Here is a quote for the Terminator 2029 website to explain why:
"Wounds from plasma weapons would be akin to severe burns with most organic material of the primary wound site being vaporized.  Fluids would flash to steam, organic material would turn to ash and most direct hit plasma wounds would be fatal in nature"

here is a link to the information: 
In Predator, when Blaine is hit by the Predator's shoulder mounted energy cannon, he blown open. When Dutch and Mac inspect the wound after their deforestation activity, they talk about the wound being "fused" and "cauterized" , and the lack of powder burns. While the energy bolt is mostly likely incorrect, the damage is not.
When seeing the level of damage that a single bolt from an energy-based weapon, it leaves the author limited room to have their characters survive major armed engagements without looking a piece of burned toast, or chucky salsa. Say that you have a combine arms engagement in on a open battlefield with infantry and tanks in support, the moment that the tanks open up with their plasma machine-guns and/or main gun, the blazing hot plasma bolts would burn a path through their own infantry then scourge the enemy troops that are in the open.
Even if they didn't all become pink mist, their armor would be blackened. That's before a direct hit by a plasma round!
The tripods that invade Earth in the big-budget verison of War of the Worlds, they take aim at Tom Cruise with some sort of DEW beam. The effect of these alien weaponry to burst humans into a dust (desiccation effect) from the extreme temperature. All round, humans explode from being swept by these heat beams.


The GryoJet Gun
Gryojet weapons fire about .51 caliber micro-rocket, the gun was noted to be more silent than a convention firearm, and the Gryo-Jet rocket-slug would buildup speed over the flight of the munition, and transfer more impact force. According to claims, the .51 rocket was more devastating than a bullet of similar size, longer ranged, no recoil, and was lighter than a typical .45 pistol. About a 1,000 were made, and some were taken to Vietnam due to the concept and the gun was claimed to work in all manner of environments (space, underwater).
The reason that theses guns did not become new weapon of choice was due to the real-world tests on the Gryojet, which were not good. According to wikipedia:
"Versions of the Gyrojet that were tested suffered from poor accuracy, cumbersome and slow loading, and unreliability (at best, a 1% failure rate was suggested; users quote worse figures, with many rounds that misfired the first time but later fired)"
The US military tested them in the early 1960's and they did not perform to the level of their cost. The company that made them shut their door due to new new gun laws and poor reviews, making the gryoguns a collector's items. They sell for about $1000 and if you wanna fire it, it'll cost a Franklin. While Gryojet concept failed in the real-world, it lived on in the Battletech pen-and-paper RPG, being used an infantry weapon.

The H&K OICW XM29 (Deutschland)
 Hecker&Koch parented with the US Army's Future Force Warrior project to develop a magazine-fed multi-munitions launcher, coupled with cut-down G36 5.56mm rifle fitted with some advanced optics. This concept, called the XM29 was tooled around with throughout the 1990's only to the cancellation in 2004 due to several issues. The smaller 25mm grenade was not effective as the 40mm, the weight, and expense. If one looks at the XM29, they can see the other issues: size and complexity. Cleaning this after a sandy patrol or even in a foxhole while taking incoming would be a bitch. The Army did not want a repeat of the battlefield failures of the M-16 in Vietnam. Also size of the gun would make this difficult to go from a foot patrol to house clearer in close-quarters. Some of the research fueled the development of the M4 carbine.

The H&K G-11 Caseless Rifle (Deutschland)
The H&K G-11 was going to be the next standard rifle of the West Germany Army in the late 80's, and to be the first caseless rifle in military service in the world. The 4.73x33mm caseless round was encased in a block of propellant, and the magazine of 45 rounds was loaded from the front, and cocked the weapon on a crack on the rear. The G-11 was to be the base platform from a light machine gun and pistol, but sadly, when the wall fell and the merger of West and East Germany took place, the money for the G-11 project was needed elsewhere. The gun was tested during the US Army's Advanced Combat Rifle program in the late 80's. There are rumors that the G-11 was also under  consideration for a light-weight light machine gun in 2004, but nothing as come of it. The G-11 is a weapon that can be used in the Call of Duty: Black Ops game.  

AAI Flechette ACR (America)
AAI corporation developed a 5.56mm flechette round firing from combat rifle based around the M16A2 (it is the one on the bottom of the picture) for the Army's Advanced Combat Rifle Program in the mid-1980's. The aim of the ACR Program was to fit a next-gen combat rifle for the US Army and replace the aging M16. The Army liked the idea of a flechette round, due to the lethal ballistics, flatter flightpath, and ability to pierce body armor. However, the ACR project moved in different ways after the tests, developing a cheaper alternative: an upgraded M16...we call it the M4 carbine, and the Special Purpose Rifles.

The Steyr ACR (Austria)
Another flechette firing rifle in the US Army's ACR program was the Steyr ACR. The ACR borrowed a great deal from their advanced AUG rifle, the ACR held less round (24 vs. 30) than the AUG, but had a bottom ejection port. Some research online as revealed that the Steyr ACR prototype would not been selected, due to its extreme cost...some information points to the base gun costing $15,000! The other issue facing the adoption of the AAI and/or Steyr ACR prototypes was the US Army and most likely the entire NATO would have to switch over to the flechette ammunition...causing much expense and supply issues if World War III broke out.   

The redevelopment of the M-16/M-4 (America)
The 5.56x45mm round that as been used in the M-16/M-4 since the 1960's is currently under fire from firearm expects and soldiers. Arms company have been responding with retooling the M16/M4 platform to fire a number of rounds, from 6.8mm, .338, 7.62x43mm, .50 Beowulf, .458 SOCOM, .264 warrior magnum, 6.5mm Grendel, and even 6.25mm PDW concept. None of these have been formally adopted by the US military, however, some SPECOPS groups have been rumored to using one or all of these at different times.

FN P90 PDW and the FivseveN pistol (Belgium)
In the mid-80's, FN was working on a new theory in weaponry, the Personal Defense Weapon or PDW. The concept had been pioneered by the H&K MP5K, and but with body armor able to withstand 9mm rounds, FN developed an entirely new bullet, basically a cut-down 5.56mm, coupled with a bold new design.
Today, the P90 is becoming the new PDW of choice for the US Secert Service, SWAT units, SPECOPS units, and close protection contractors. The gun as become a favorite on the new Battlestar Galactica and Stargate.  
The FiveseveN is the embodiment of Mr. Shirow M5 5mm pistol weapon concepts in Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell. Shirow's little workhorse pistol could be used like a PDW, defeating hostiles in close-quarters. The same could be said of the FiveseveN, its 20-round magazine and specially developed bullets allow it to be a PDW.

H&K MP7 (Deutschland)
With FN getting all the attention of its forward thinking design for the P90 and 5.7mm round, H7K reponsed with its own PDW and new HV round: the MP7 and 4.6x30mm bullet. This PDW was developed for the same reasons as the P90, and there is a pistol verison in the works as well. With the success of the P90, the MP7 is still trying to gain wide spread acceptance, however, with terrorism, there is always work of a good PDW.
The FN F2000 (Belgium)
The 'double loop' design of the P90 was used to create a new 5.56mm assault rifle. The weapon features a sealed body that prevents dust and mud, also the ejection port spits brass out of the front, to allow ambidextrous users.

The "Family" Concept in modern military weapons
Starting in the 1960's with the original concept for the M16 and the Stoner-63, there were to be different verisons based on a base model. This as been carried forward in the H&K XM8, the FN SCAR rifle, and the IDF TAR-21. Modular Appleseed, Ghost in the Shell, and the CARB rifle from Avatar.  

PAPOP (France)
The PAPOP assault rifle is similar to the H&K XM29, combining a smaller grenade launcher to a 5.56mm bullpup rifle. The 35mm grenades will be fed via a two-round magazine, and there are plans for several verisons of the rifle, including a camera on the end of the gun that will fed into a HUD. Once again, much of this is similar to the US Army's Future Land Warrior program. To see the ability of such technology, some of the Ghost Recon games feature the technology.   

Daewoo XK-11 (South Korea)
This is yet another H&K XM29 clone, using very similar technology. However, the air-burst grenades can be targeted via a laser range finder that is tied into "ballistic computer". The idea is allow the smaller 20mm grenades to be shot through windows and such. Some of these have been sold to the export market on a trial basis.

Around the Corner Shooting
 The as been a concept since the Nazi developed an flexible barrel for the STG-44 assault rifle. This is the latest verison that comes in a number of calibers and attachments. The Israelis are interested in the this for close-quarters work, and since there is a video camera attached it could be used for evidence gathering, no word on if it is Blue-Ray.
This weapon is mostly likely will be used by SWAT teams, rather than military, and the cornershot does have less-lethal munitions.
At the present time, there is no ipod connectivity for the cornershot. Sorry.


One of the best hard science sites on the web

The best research gun site on the web

This is an account of an American soldier in Vietnam bring a Gryojet pistol to the jungle

1980's video of the H&K G11, Steyr ACR, the AAI ACR, and the Colt ACR:

20 March 2011

FWS movie review of Starship Troopers 3: Marauder

This is the FWS review of the 2008 direct-to-DVD true sequel to the 1997 Starship Troopers. Unlike the second film, Marauder as elements of the book, and expands on the concepts of the first film, while Hero of the Federation is completely ignored.
Marauder sees the return of the character of Johnny Rico, 11 years after the first film, and is now a Colonel. He as been stationed on the Federal farming colony of Roku San to lead the defense against a Bug invasion of the planet. The film opens on the trench-like outpost on Roku San holding off the complete Arachnid take over the colony, only a energy barrier-fence holds them off from feasting on the M.I. in the outpost. The very popular Sky-Marshall Omar Anoke is making a PR tour of the front, and the desperate situation on Roku San, This is one of his stops. He brings with him, Captain Lola Beck (the beautiful Jolene Bladlock) and General Dix Hauser. Once again, the Bugs kill, people get naked, and everyone looks good while doing it.
Would you like to know more?


Marauder is surprisingly good, especially considering the foul odor of Hero of the Federation, and marks a return to the Verhoven-roots of the 1997 original, and Casper Van Dien has Johnny Rico, who saves the film a many turns with his skillful protrale of Rico.
For Marauder being a low-budget film, the actors, SFX department, and script all work very hard at turned in out a good film, that is very watchable, not just because of Jolene Blalock.
The theme of the film is the concepts of loyalty and religion, which are handle in a convicting manner. Through the first watching of Marauder I found myself unsure were the character's loyalties lay, to themselves or the good of the Federation. The new character of Beck, Hauser, Anoke, Admiral Enolo Phid (one of the best new characters in Marauder) all bring different points-of-view on the Federation, it's society, the war, and to each other. One of the best smaller roles was of the citizen peace protester...his role made the Fednet very watchible. In addition Stephen Hogan throws himself into the role of the Anoke and singing the propaganda song: "Good day to die", he leaves the viewer deciding if Anoke was a fool or messiah. The portion of Maraduer that sold me, was the section on Roku San, the WWI style trench base and the resulting firefight is one of the best combat scenes in the Starship Troopers series. And of course, the Marauder powered armor...worth waiting until the end to see.


Marauder does pay more attention to the "Verhovenian-style" than the second, making the semi-mocking style conflict with the dire situations through the film. The limits of the SFX come into play during portions of the film, they spent money on somethings, and others they simply did not. Where the HQ of Fleet at Sanctuary is quite beautiful, some of the Warrior Bug animation is down right ugly. While the M.I tactics have gotten better, and they have the 3rd generation Morita rifle, which is now firing 10mm caseless ammo (where have I heard that before?), the prop is massive, especially when used by Captain Beck. Of course, being a B-movie, some of the actors are good, like Mr. Van Dien, and others are simply bad...like, pick-another-career-bad. This unevenness plagues the portions of the movie were there is talking, which always risky in a Starship Troopers movie.
Another element, is the choices on how the scenes were done. There is a scene late into the movie, where one of the brain-bugs attempts to take control, and the resulting scene is painfully to watch...good idea, bad execution. It seems that the director and producer suffer for a lack of imagination when working around the limits of their budget.  


What sends Marauder off the rails towards the end, is the presentation of the new "God-Bug", or Behemecoatyl (trying saying that three times fast!). If the SFX budget woudn't allow for what the filmmakers wanted why didn't they go with a more "psychological" approach to Behemecoatyl? 
While the concept is interesting and how it interacts with Anoke, but the result on film looks like a rubber-puppet from Mystery Science Theater 3000! It ruins the end of the film when the Marauder APS unit finally shows up and starts kicking bug ass. The actors themselves seem to have trouble getting into the scene with it, making the performances woody. Another bitch I have about the Starship Troopers films is the nudity. Now, I am a male, I like the way a woman looks, and nudity should be there if it is needed, not to spice up a bad film. Marauder does this during the suit integration seen, which could have been a cool concept, expect, that all the actors (male and female) get full naked to stand in a scanner.
Now, my hats off to Mr. Van Dien for not shying away from the camera, but still it was unneeded and comes off as lame.  

Should You Buy It?

I exchanged the utter terrible HALO:Legends (see review) for this DVD, and I think I made the better deal. If you liked or loved the first Starship Troopers film, then I think it is safe bet that Marauder is something worth the money, especially if you pick it up used.
Just be warned, you are buying a firm, well-made B movie, the 1997 film is still superior in direction, action, and SFX.

16 March 2011

MSF Oddities: Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future!

 Since the genre of military sci-fi is so wide, and often warfare is a good backdrop, writers use future warfare to frame their fictional works. In the world of military sci-fi, there are times when an oddity is born, and the oddest of the odd in the realm of military sci-fi is....CAPTAIN POWER AND THE SOLDIERS OF THE FUTUREThis syndicated hour-long TV show ran for 22 episodes from 1987 to 1988, and was aimed at both kids and adults. The show also was groundbreaking in having a line of toys that interacted with embedded IR signals from the TV show. When a evil robot would fire at you, it was possible for your fighter to react to the blast. Heady stuff in those days. The show was rumored to cost one million dollars, and since the show's backdrop was a post-apocalyptic future where machines hunt humans, it caused advertisers to stay away. Captain Power and the Soldiers of Future died after one season, despite planning for a second. Today, the show is barely remembered...expect for people like me that were kids at the time of the original airing

The Plot of Captain Power
Yep...it was the 1980's...
At the beginning of every of the 22 episodes of Captain Power was the line: "Earth, 2147. The legacy of the Metal Wars, where man fought machines—and machines won"
In 2132, mankind had developed armies of bio-Mechs cybernetic soldiers that saved flesh and blood soldiers from the horrors of war, (like the ABC Warriors comic), however, this only increased warfare. In response, Dr. Power and Dr. Lyman Taggert, working on a supercomputer called OverMind to control the legions of bio-mechs and stop these wars. OverMind required human brain patterns to work, so Dr. Taggert submitted himself, and then the old quest-for-robotic-prefection plot device breaks out, and Taggert uses OverMind to unleash the Bio-Mech armies on mankind. For 15 years, the humans waged a losing war against OverMind's machines, Dr.Power, feeling gilt for the Metal Wars, developed prototype Power-Suit that would change one soldier into a fully armored warrior that could take more punishment than a typical soldier.
But it was too late. OverMind  been successfully in wiping most of humanity, while  Dr. Power hid away in a mountain stronghold, developing the new Power-Suit technology for a underground resistance movement that was later led by his son. Dr.Power was killed while trying to rescue his son, and Dr. Taggert was wounded. OverMind turned the fallen Taggert into a cryborg, called Lord Dread (HAHA). Some fifteen years later, Captain Johnathan Power leads a small group of five humans equipped with the Power-Suits with a few fighters and a rather cool jumpshuttle on a quest to stop OverMind and rescue as many of the surviving human race, all while looking rad.

The Historical Context of Captain Power
This is a time period I remember well, in 1987 I was 11, and I thought Captain Power was cool because of its tie to The Terminator. At the time Captain Power aired, the children of my generation were obsessed with their NES, and playing Lazer Tag games, while watching really bad post-nuclear wasteland movies, and oddly, Captain Power attempted to tap into all of that, along with the healthy boys toy market with the cutting-edge interactive toys of the series. Also at this time, there were still independent TV stations thhat were outside the big three, and Captain Power was a way for these local stations to have a first run show via syndication, which at the same time, ST: TNG was also successful using the same idea. However, Captain Power was not The Next Generation

The Horror...the horror...
Sounds cool, huh?Well, it wasn't. Despite the creator of the show was also the creator of Babylon 5, the show suffered from terrible writing, dialog, acting, special effects, and a simple lack of understand of military tactics (hello, gold armor, anyone?!). It was like someone took the basic ideas from Terminator and twisted it into a pure mess. It really was a shame, too, Captain Power could have been what the last few Terminator movies should have been, all about the dark future and the desperate war against the machines. As a kid, in 1987, that name and concept of the Metal Wars was so cool, but watching the show today on youtube, it was painfully bad. That's a real shame that the series never lived up to the promise of a live-action dark Terminator future TV show.

Why Captain Power didn't work....
The Ad that was in 1987 comic books
1. Four words: Post-Apocalyptic Kid's Show.

2. Cheesy. Captain Power was supposed to work on several levels, were kids and parents could enjoy the same show. Right. If you have seen what the show looked like, and the painfully dialog, then you know why that this failed with parents.

3. Being too violent. One has to remember that in the 1980's, government was concerned with family values (remember the trial of Judes Priest), and having a show with post-apocalyptic soldiers shot at your kid, who had IR gun, scared the morality police. The show was actually used  as a example for the protest over violence in kid's shows. This hurt Captain Power right in the wallet.

4. The toys didn't work. Recently GT4.com tested the Captain Power fighter with the old VHS tape training sessions, and frankly, it just didn't work. That was my experience with the system back in the day, when my friend and I tried to use it. If the gimmick to get kids to buy the expensive toy didn't work, than it is doomed to failure, along with the expensive show.

Here's the link:


15 March 2011

HALO-Operation Chastity

I want to let the Military Sci-Fi community know that some very dedicated HALO fans are funding an epic project, an full HALO film.

Quit simply, this is an amazing project with people that that are committed to making a top-notch film. Not only are the props dead on,even having a Warthog based around a Land Rover...they have hired one of the best MSF concept artists in the business, Kai Lim (artwork to the left).
We are at Future War Stories are supportive of brave, fresh, and thoughtful military sci-fi, Operation Chastity is certainly shaping up to be just that.

They are in need of donations and promotion.

here is their website:

here is their email:

keep it frosty, soldiers!

13 March 2011

Ships of the Line: The Overview of Military Spaceship Classes

During my writing of my first military sci-fi novel, Endangered Species, I researched the types of military space combat vessels that would exist in reality (since the book is more hard than soft sci-fi). As someone that grew up with Star Trek/ Star Wars you would expect when there is a real-space-going fleet, there would an vast array of warships, like the wet navies of the world maintains now.  After reading the article on Atomic Rocket (http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/spacewarship.php), I decided that would make an excellent article for FWS! Just like with the real navies, money, mission, area of operations, and range of the drive system would determine the scope and size of the space-going fleets of the future.Here is a list of the major seaborne naval warship classes verse the spaceborne warships, comparing and contrasting the two. This is not meant to be entirely hard science discuss, if you want that, than the link above is your best bet, nor is it completely soft on science, more in between the two. Over at Atomic Rockets website , Ken Burnside came up with a table matrix that divided up space-going ships by if they were capable independent patrol or had to a part of a larger main fleet. For example, a "Battleship" is part of the main fleet, and operates with other vessels, while the "Battlecrusier" is designed for independent operations and can hold it's own in ship-to-ship engagements. For those sci-fi creators out there, it seems to me, that in the realm of a space-going warships, the most important consideration is their faster-than-light (FTL) drive system. How it works and the rules of how it travels through space determines a great deal about your fictional universe.
UPDATE From the Future:This old FWS blogpst would give rise to the popular Ships of the Line blogpost series. If you wish to know more in-depth information about sci-fi military spaceship classes, check it out on the "Master List" side bar section.  


Just around the time of the First World War, there was an arms race between the industrial powers to build these sea monsters.
The term dreadnought, and mainly applies to a specific British warship built prior to WWI, the term gets through around, and changes over time, but it seems that dreadnoughts are heavily-armored warships that possess massive long-range seaborne artillery cannons that rain down shells the size of Volkswagen Beetles on enemy naval vessels. They mostly disappeared between WWI and WWII.


The role of a dreadnought space warship came to me when I watched the Battlestar Galactica mini-series, when the old space carrier laid down a blanket of AAA to allow the deployment of the Vipers. This could be the role of a massive well-armored, well-armed warship, laying down suppressive fire, locking them to a certain position, then allowing smaller warships to outflank the enemy forces. This would means that a dreadnought class warship would be armed with long-range cannons and missiles and on-board munitions factories as well as massive power generators. The space-going dreadnought would be tied to supply ships.
 The best examples of dreadnoughts in sci-fi have to be the Nova class From Babylon 5 and the Andromeda class from Space Cruiser Yamato.



Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are the battleships of this era, and are the true offensive power of any nation's naval or military. Carriers operate within a battlegroup, due to their lack of anti-ship weaponry, but they can project airpower against entire nations.


In hard sci-fi circles, there would be no spaceborne fighters...however, for those that like their space fighters, the use of space fighters and the ships that carry them into space battles are easily imagined. Space carriers would be armed with anti-aircraft artillery to prevent enemy fighters from getting easy shots at fighters just coming out of the launcher tubes. More over, a space-going carrier would be able to project fighters, attack shuttles, and other smaller ships into a solar system.
The best examples of space-going carriers are Galactica/Pegasus from Battlestar Galactica, and the SCVN Saratoga from Space: Above and Beyond.


The battlecruiser is a faster, lightly armored, but better armed version of the heavy/main-line cruiser. These were to be faster than a battleship, and was a main stay of naval combat until the end of WWII...they were replaced by the aircraft carrier.


Unlike their shorter-range battleships that are tied to the main fleet, the Battlecruiser is designed to take the fight to the enemy territory, and even their homeworld. With this mission, the battlecruiser would have spare part and ammunition factories, larger crews, full sick bays, and larger cargo bays, along with the best FTL system in the fleet. To deal with all tactical situations that would arise, the battlecrusier would be armed with a vast array of weapons.
The best examples of the long-range battlecruiser are the Yamato from Space Cruiser Yamato/Starblazers, and the SDF-3 from the aborted Robotech II: the Sentients series.


The battleship, besides being a rather fun game, was the queen of the blue-water battlefield, with its massive large caliber cannons, heavy armor, and thousands of sailors. Nations bragged about how many they had, and battles were defined by these brutes. However, they were weak against aircraft, and since the warship couldn't touch their base-of-operations, they were hit with wave after wave. This was the fate of the largest battleship in history, the Imperial Japanese Yamato.


While the battlecruiser is made for long-range combat away from the support of their bases, the Battleship is the main short-ranged ship killer. These would be mainstay of any fleet, these ships would be armed with heavy anti-capitol ship weapons, and the armor to take a pounding. These ships would be the largest produced of any warships in the fleet.



The modern Frigates are used for specific tasks, like anti-submarine warfare, guided missile cruiser, and some are being fitted with sheath technology. Often Frigates are used for escort duties and most likely be used for warfare against pirates using smaller boats.


It is possible, that a frigate-like smaller warship that had FTL would be used for escort duties for dangerous trade routes, and for pirate suppression tasks. Given that a government would invest in heavy cruisers to fulfill both duties, it is unlikely that a frigate would exist.
My favorite frigates in science-fiction ship is the UNSC Forward onto Dawn and In Amber Clad from HALO 2 and 3.



The destroyer is defined as a fast, maneuverable, long-range warship that operates in a larger naval force and often protects the fleet from smaller, faster, warships. These ships have been lumped into the missile cruiser role.


Oddly, the main ship of the Earth Alliance in the Babylon 5 TV show is a destroyer, and one of my favorite spaceships of all time, the Omega class. The EA used the Omegas for all manner of duties and even had a small unit of fighters. However, in the firm reality of paying for space fleet, the destroyer looks like a class that would not exist. The only way for a destroyer to work, would be for a smaller warship that would mount anti-capitol ship weaponry. However, the power requirements for that would require a battleship sized vessel.



The modern corvette is used for a varity of roles, surface warfare, mine warfare, use smaller weapon systems, and guilded surface-to-air missiles, and a anti-submarine helicopter.


To me, the light cruiser would be used to protect new colonial settlements on the outer portions of their territory. These small warships would be tied to supplylines, and would limited FTL and arms. These vessels would be too lightly armed, armored, and limited range to be used in main battle fleets. The best known light cruiser is the Reliant from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.



The heavy cruiser is not longer a class of naval warship constructed. They went out during WWII, and occuiped a role similar to a battlecruiser. The cruisers of today are armed with cruise missiles and a 127mm cannon, and occuipe several roles  


I envision a heavy cruiser being the traveling and fighting companion of the battlecruiser, being a long-range warship that is cheaper than the battlecruiser. These heavy cruiser would be the more massed produced ships, and mostly likely the first warship on the scene.
The most famous heavy cruiser of all time, is the USS:Enterprise, and shows the flexible of this class of space warship.



With the invention and depolyment of the cruiser missile, the Tomahawk, and since the First Gulf War, most cruisers of the US Navy are missile crusiers to protect the fleet from long-range naval and airborne threats along bomb land targets.


I can imagine a space fleet having several missile cruisers in storage until the outbreak of war. These limited use warships would be constructed on an existing spaceframe, like a cruiser, but with much more limited abilities. The missile crusier would use quick in-and-out FTL systems, that would allow this ship to target a enemy fleet, and jump in, then with the massive frontal arch missile launching tubes, it would pepper the enemy ships with massive fire-and-forget missiles, then jump out. Seconds after the missiles reach their targets, the rest of the warships would jump in and finish off the confused vessels.
I based my missile cruiser concept around the Star Trek Akira class torpedo cruiser.



The amphibious assault ship covers a number of warships in modern navies, they possess a flattop to land helicopter, tilt-rotors, and even VTOL jets, and room to deploy marines. While the aircraft carrier is used for projecting airpower, the assault craft projects land power.


In my opinion, the assault ship would be the ship to spend the money on, due to its flexible. If you take the Sulaco from ALIENS, as the example, these would be a multi-role warship that mounted the weapon systems to deal with other combat ships and cargo ability to transport marines with light armored vehicles and a few drop/gunships to the planetary battlefield. One of the critical elements in future space warfare would be starlift ability, how much can you put on a ship to get to the battlefield. If your warships can carry tanks/supplies/troops, so much the better.
The assault craft concept as seen best seen in the Sulaco from ALIENS and the UNSC Pillar of Autumn from HALO.



The modern corvette is used for a variety of roles, surface warfare, mine warfare, use smaller weapon systems, and guided surface-to-air missiles, and a anti-submarine helicopter.


This is another smaller warship that simply does not work in the realm of space warfare...the role of a ship like this is fulfilled by the ligth cruisers and patrol ships.
The most famous corvette in sci-fi is the blockrunner at the beginning of Star War IV: A New Hope.


The patrol vessels of the Coast Guard are a workhorse of all manner of duties, from rescue in storms, to stopping drug runners, and waterborne terrorism.


Patrol vessels would be most likely be the most constructed class of military spaceship in a colonizing empire, due to their role as a the "coast guard." These small lightly armed, armored, and non-FTL ships would operate in a settled star system, watching for criminals, pirates, rescue operations, and monitoring trading.
These also would be the first line of defense in case of invasion. No space fleet is big enough or as the money to keep main line warships in every colonial stat system.


The US navy maintains two hospital ships, and they are often the first at global mass disasters to render aide, and show the other side of the navy. These ships have a thousand beds, a dozen surgery rooms, and can be the turning point in care, often getting patients in the "golden hour."


The hospital ship is a class of ship that will exist as a both a military vessel and one that operates in peacetime. The hospital vessel would be stationed in orbit above a planet being fought over, or that had a disaster, and render aide. It is easy to see wounded soldiers being shuttled up to the hospital ship for treatment, then able to be shuttle back to the warzone.
The only two hospital ships that I am aware of in sci-fi is the M'Benga class from the FASA Star Trek: TNG Officer's Manuel printed in 1987, and the hospital EF76 Nebulon-B Frigate from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.


A few navies across the global have science vessels for various uses...these are not armed or even have that many military personnel. These are a rare vessel in the military, partly because civilian companies and other government agencies.


Science ships in science fiction are not uncommon, mainly because of Star Trek, where the majority of Starfleet ships are science first, combat second.
The science ships becomes a foil for them to be rescued or that they found something.
Since space is filled with mystery and wonder, it is very likely that a space fleet would have a few science ships, and these would have impressive FTL, probes, and sensor systems. My favorite science ship is the USS Grissom from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.



During World Wars, the Cold War, the submarine was an offensive tool of war that could have been the first strike in World War III. For years, we and the Soviets played cat-and-mouse under the seas...some sci-fi writers have linked future space warfare between ships as being similar to submarine warfare.


According to the link below, hard sci-fi tells us that there would be no shealth in outer space. Simply put, the engines from a starship would be measured in the terrawatts! There isn't any way to hide that kind of energy plume.  There are more links to read about how there is not any stealth in space:

 Here is the link:

And another link:


The use of scouts is limited to science-fiction fleets, mostly the classic ships of Star Trek and Star Wars, the role of these lightly armed vessels is to jump into a system, scan the enemy vessels/plants/bases, then jump back to the main fleet and allow the battleships to do their work. Of course, these would not be manned ships, unlike the view presented by most sci-fi. The simple fact is that unmanned space probes would be smaller, far cheaper, and could hid in asteroid fields and rings of gas giants. The data could transmitted back, or even jump back to a RV point.


Explorer class starships do not really exist in modern navies anymore. The days of Columbus or Magellan are gone, but in the realm of space, an explorer vessel is a real possibility. These would be well-armed, with marines, science labs, landing ships, repair factories, and the best FTL and navigation system available. The explorer class vessel would be able to be away from their government and supply lines for years, naturally, these vessels would be few in number and very expensive.
The best examples of explorer class vessels, are, of course, the Galaxy class Enterprise-D and the Cortes from Babylon 5.

Military Space Ships in my own military sci-fi writings

I grew up with Star Trek, Star Wars, and Babylon 5, and saw the traditional big fleet concept in sci-fi, and I thought that is how it should be in my own sci-fi.
That ended when I read the ALIENS: The Colonial Marines Technical Manuel, then I saw battles in space as rare and violent, fought over habitual planets and in orbit. I stopped seeing a vast space going fleet based around a wet-navy, and filled with various classes of ships. My ideas imagined ships that looked more realistic, like the ISV-Venture Star from Avatar, and the Sulaco from ALIENS.
In a realistic space fleet, the starships would be a mix of FTL troop/vehicle transports that have a array of weaponry to defend themselves against warship, much like the Pillar of Dawn from HALO and the Sulaco from ALIENS. It is mostly like, that most governments of the future would be limited by money to how many FTL ships they could deploy, and the Transport/Warship would the most logically class.
Most of my books/stories deal with planetside warfare, because this is a world I more familiar with, and it is much easier to write, from a harder sci-fi POV. The brief hard-science space combat scene in my book (that is being written) took months of research...and was a real pain in the ass.


io9 article on anti-matter on space travel

Here is a blog devoted to Hard Sci-fi, and their article on warships

The best hard sci-fi website:

Here is the Avatar Wiki article on the ISV Venture Star

This is the best work on the Akira class warship:

Here is a great site to see all manner of combat starships