24 December 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from FWS!

Happy Holidays from FWS! I hope that this blogpost finds you surrounded by loved ones, with presents ready to open, and Eggnog in hand. I wish to extend a very big thank you to everyone that reads the blogposts, comments on them, and spreads the word of the work being done here on FWS. This year has been the biggest for FWS in terms of comments, traffic, and emails. FWS finally broke the 2 million page views mark! Once again, thank you for all of that. This year personally has been one of great change. My first military science fiction novel Endangered Species was accepted for publication by Forker Media, I got my teaching job instructing refugee high school teenagers in World History, American History, and World Geography, and my wife and I welcomed our foster baby in September. With these highs, there were lows: my father died suddenly in March, the foster application process was tortuous, new job stress, and money issues...always money issues. In 2015, FWS will be welcoming my book rolling out, more blogposts (with better editing!), along with the new Masterworks of Military Science Fiction series. Here is hoping that 2015 is bright and full of hope to everyone that reads this!  

21 December 2014

FWS TV Review: Ascension (SyFy Channel 2014)

The "SyFy" Channel is often hit-or-miss when it comes to their original productions. On one hand, they had Battlestar Galactica, Blood-and-Chrome, and Dune. However, they made Sharknado...enough said. Recently, the channel has come under fire, and in response, SyFy greenlit the recent miniseries called Ascension and hopes were high that this miniseries would lit the fire for a full series, much like BSG. So, does this limited three-night television event restore the heady days of BSG or it is Sharknado in space? Well, there is the FWS review of Ascension.

The Plot
With the looming threat of nuclear war between the US and Soviet Russia, the nascent US Space Program develops a generational nuclear pulse propulsion starship that is capable of flight to the nearest star to Terra and supporting 600 humans for 100 years. This ship is the USS Ascension, and it was launched in 1963. Now, it is 51 years since Launch Day, and the mid-way point for the mission to Proxima Centauri, and the middle generation is having a tough time, and during the celebration of the 51st anniversary of the launch of the ship, a popular upper deck girl is found murdered by the use of a gun. Now, the XO of the ship is tasking with locating the murdered and the loose pistol before panic sets in.

For the most part, Ascension has beautiful sets, good production values, solid music, and Tricia Helfer; who turns in a nice performance. Added to this, is the interesting premise of the entire miniseries, a deep space colonization mission being launching in the 1960's, and the production does a nice job of showing the progression of an encased spaceborne society dealing with the realities of an 100 year long space mission. This is an mentality that the majority of adult crew are dealing with: being the "middle generation" of the ship's mission to Proxima Centauri. Nearly all will be dead by the time the ship arrives, and this is beginning to weight heavily on the crew's mental health. Added to this, there are some unique traditions and culture born onboard the ship that were a nice touch. through the three hour miniseries, I felt like there was an attempt to incorporate the concepts found in Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey with a shipboard classed society. Some of the character demonstrate the challenges of moving up the ladder to the upper decks were the minds make the decisions live and play, and not the work-a-day reality of the hard lower decks with the water recyclers and meat animals. This made the ship, the characters, and the events an interesting place to live.

I should have know within the first 10 minutes that Ascension was a loser. The beginning is slow, uneven, and completely not where the miniseries should have started off at and that is indicator of the entire miniseries. Then there was several interesting ideas that played throughout the first night of Ascension, and then by Night Two and after the big plot twist, the Earth storyline begins to dominate, and those promising story elements get squeezed out. The idea of the ship reaching the mid-way point and a go-no-go decision was needing to be made is dropped along with the lower deck/upper deck tension results in bombings, but it is somehow unsatisfying. Plaguing the entire miniseries is poor acting coupled with poor dialog ("the star child must be born"!) and transplanted ideas from other better science fiction that just do not work here. However, the element for me that was the standout "bad" element was the "Mad Men in space concept". I imagine that SyFy Channel executives were sold Ascension as "Mad Men in space" but the promise never materializes here. Yes, some of the costumes, media, technology are 1960's but that is all, and I felt lied to in a way, especially being an Mad Men fan. 

Without a doubt the worse element in the entire Ascension miniseries is the end of the Night One plot twist that is un-fucking-believably-bad. I was worried they would be pulling something like this...and they did, and it was bad. While I cannot talk about it without a major spoiler, it degrades the entire rest of the miniseries and alters the audience's mindset on the events unfolding on screen. It is sad the writers and producers decided to go there and ruin the integrity of the concept and overall plot. Nice job, SyFy Channel.

Should You Watch Ascension?
That depends...if you have already DVR'ed the miniseries and you have some time, and Rum and Eggnog handy, then it might be a good way to kill three hours. If you already know about the big plot twist, and you are still interested, than I would watch it...but overall, I am kind of meh about the whole thing, it wasn't that good, and as uneven as a holiday fruit cake. In the end, Ascension is a great concept ruined by poor writing and uneven pacing.

Will Ascension become a TV Series?
In a word, no. While the mini-series ended on a cliffhanger, the ratings were not good enough to warrant an entire series that will only deal more with the fucktastic plot twist and the "Star Child" storylines with the uneven acting. Sorry, SyFy Channel, we science fiction have already had our fill of storylines like that in Lost and BSG. SyFy Channel should just move on, find another project, and learn from this uneven science fiction miniseries.

Watch This Instead!
If you are wanting to watch something better than Ascension that as the same themes than 2009's Virtuality is the ticket. I love this failed TV series plot that was transformed into a TV movie of the week in 2009. This is a DVD I watch a few times a year, and very much enjoy every rewatch. Virtuality has a mixed crew of military and civilians on a 10 year journey to a nearby star in order to find a habitable planet. Much like Ascension, there is a murder onboard the ship, and the crew looks to one another as tension reach crippling levels. Virtuality is damn good sci-fi, and worth a watch.

13 December 2014

FWS Top Ten: Military Sci-Fi Uniforms

Since the beginning of science fiction military uniforms in early cinema and television, there has been the batshit-insane over-the-top type of uniforms or the more realistic. For much of my life, the world of futuristic military uniforms was dominated by the colored code uniforms of Starfleet, and these uniforms became important symbols of the show itself and the fandom at large. The domination of the Starfleet uniform is seen in most uniforms of other science fiction works, and were openly mocked in the very cool Galaxy Quest.  Certainly, fans of Trek identify themselves just by which uniform they don, the branch, and the rank. Given that FWS is devoted to military science fiction, I thought it was high type that we discuss MSF uniforms.  So, while I am busy writing the blogpost on Patrolling, here is my Top Ten military sci-fi uniforms.

1. The Movie-era Starfleet Uniform (2278-2350)
Star Trek has some of the most recognized and iconic uniforms in the history of science fiction, for better or worse. The majority of Starfleet uniforms are well designed and thought out, then there is the uniforms from ST:TMP...the horror...the horror. To me, the original cast movie-era uniforms are simply the best of any Trek uniform and the most striking, especially when compared to the uniforms seen previously Trek works. Also, it seems like this uniform would be easy to live with, unlike a number of the TNG uniforms, and you could "feel" like you were serving in a military organization with a uniform like this. According to behind-the-scenes information, the turtleneck quilted undershirt was made with a sewing process called "trapunto" and the during the production of ST:TWOK, there was only a single needle to sew the undershirts in all of the west coast, due to the process being out-of-fashion for many years. Due to this and other reasons, the undershirt turtleneck is often the hardest element for most cosplayers and even when these uniforms were seen on TNG, the turtleneck was deleted. Oh, and the "bomber jacket" variant is awesome.

2. The Enterprise-era Starfleet Uniform (2140-2161)
I make no secret that Star Trek: Enterprise is one my favorite Trek series, and that it's cancellation was the final nail in the coffin for my Trek fandom. In the days prior to Kirk and Spock, the beginning days of Starfleet saw the use of a jumpsuit-style blue uniform with colored division pipping and a home assignment patch, and a black Henly undershirt. To me, the Enterprise uniform seemed based on the NASA astronaut jumpsuits or USN submarine uniforms and they were an attempt to have a more realistic look than the TOS era uniforms. Much like the ST:TWOK era uniforms, I could wearing this and it being a livable uniform. 

3. The Stargate Atlantis Expedition Uniform (Seasons One-Three)

I was never much for the original Stargate 1994 movie, nor the SG1 TV series, but for some reason, the concept of Atlantis really appalled me, and I rather liked the uniforms of the multinational Atlantis Expedition. According to the wikipedia article, the 2004 Expedition designed the uniforms to separate the military element and the civilian element through the use of colors, and they rather look like Starfleet uniforms, and the in-show dialog mocked this as well. Once again, this looks like a uniform that you actually wear, but it seems more sloppy than more traditional military uniforms, especially the way that rebel-with-a-P90 Colonel John Sheppard wears it. After season three, the uniforms were altered, with some of the main characters getting black collar-less leather jackets.

4. The Classic Battlestar Galactica Colonial Warriors Uniform

This is one of the military sci-fi uniforms I grew up with and I've always felt that it was a damn-fine looking uniform with an awesome suede leather jacket. While the colors of the uniform were taken from fashions of the late 1970's, the sci-fi touches made the Colonial Warrior uniforms a real standout, even over the other Galactica crew. You weren't cool onboard the Galactica unless you were donning on of these bad boys. Some costuming website I've researched have said that until recently, this was one of the hardest and most costly sci-fi uniforms, due to the base light brown uniform and the suede material. Recently, Magnoli Clothiers offers an accurate "Galactica" jacket...for $750 and yes, I thought about buying one.

5. The Star Force uniform from Starblazers/Space Cruiser Yamato
When it comes to 1970's sci-fi cool uniforms, you cannot miss the original Starblazers Star force uniforms, bell-bottoms and all.  Much like the original Starfleet uniform, the Starforce crew is outfitted in color-coded "anchor" symbols with a white base color, while the Black Tigers space fighter pilots were the black base color. The only female onboard ship is Nova, and she wears the very tight yellow- and-black uniform that is either sexists or awesome, depending on your POV. Much like the movie-era Starfleet uniforms and the Colonial Warrior uniforms, the Star Force uniforms were part of my early exposure to military science fiction. For several Halloweens when I was in grade school, my mother made me a "Derek Wildstar" Star Force uniform. No one knew who the hell I was, but I didn't care, it was epic. The recent live-action film did a nice job of adapting it to the big screen for real people.

6. The 2063 USMC Uniform from Space:Above and Beyond
I make no secret on how much I fucking love this show, and very soon, FWS will be writing an entire blogpost to that very subject. In this 1995-1996 Fox MSF television show, the United States Marine Corps of 2063-64 wears a familiar base uniform throughout the show: the military OD flight jumpsuit with black mock turtleneck undershirt. Throughout the show, the 58th core cast dons these OD jumpsuits in the cockpit of the Hammerhead fighter and during on-planet dirtside operations, even on worlds that are ot atmospheric standard. This means that these jumpsuits are actually an streamlined environmental suit rather than just normal flight suit. Dotted with all manner of patches, pins, and pockets, the SAAB USMC jumpsuit is completely functional and most likely the most realistic military science fiction seen on-screen because the actually uniform used by the production crew was ordered from (according to rumor) US Calvary. Unlike many of the uniforms seen on this list and most other sci-fi works, the SAAB USMC flight jumpsuit is an easy, cheaper uniform to cosplay, but nearly no one would know who the hell you are dressed up as. Pity.

7. The House Atreides Military Uniform from DUNE (1984) 

Say what you want about David Lynch's 1984 DUNE adaption to the sliver-screen, the costuming was epic and that extends to the military uniform of House Atreides. While only seen on-screen for a short amount of time, the House Atreides military uniform is one smart looking uniform that hearkens back to the turn-of-the-century military uniforms of the European powers prior to the First World War. Unlike other uniforms seen on this list that are jumpsuits and rather sloppy, this is a proper uniform that calls you to attention with all the older military touches. Oddly, the 1984 unsuccessful LJN toyline of the DUNE film had the Paul Atreides figure in his House Atreides uniform and not the Freman stillsuit, which he worn more throughout the film, and unlike the film, the LJN figure is wearing an olive-hued uniform, not black. In the pre-production catalog photos, Paul's uniform is a Smurf blue. Sadly, I do not think that will see the like of the House Atreides uniform until a Honor Harrington movie is committed to film.

8. Earth Force Uniform from Babylon 5

During the renaissance of science fiction back on television in the 1990's, there were two sci-fi tv shows about space stations, one was the from the juggernaut of Star Trek and the other was set in a new universe of weird aliens and epic space battles. Unlike DS9, the uniforms of the Terran military were more much "military" looking and were not colored coded like the Starfleet uniforms. Under the snapping looking uniforms was a very-trendy white collarless dress shirt, which were all the rage back in the 1990's. There are many pictures of me in high school with collarless shirts, and a few still survive, lurking around the very back of my closet. While B5 may have been the cheaper cousin to Deep Space Nine, the production crew developed one of the better future military organization uniforms of all time.

9. High Guard Uniform from Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda

After the death of the original Trek in the 1960's, Gene Roddenberry developed a new show about Dylan Hunt, an astronaut who was placed into cryogenic freeze and awake in a post-apocalyptic future, and Hunt attempted to restore civilization. The basic plot elements were recycled and reimagined from Genesis II into Andromeda. In the series from 2000-2005, Dylan Hunt was one of the sole survivors of the Systems Commonwealth High Guard. From some of the series, Hunt would wear the uniform of the High Guard which is an older style uniform that a nice look on screen and while it took touches from the Starfleet uniform, it was it's own uniform. Oddly, in the first episode, the High Guard crew of the Andromeda buckled tunics are a redish color with tan pants, then once Hunt is awoke, he dons a black uniform. The uniform is completely abandoned by the 4th season. It is a shame that the series started off on a such an interesting note, and boiled down to nothing.  

10. The United Planets Uniform From Forbidden Planet (1956)
Here it is, the Granddaddy of all military science fiction uniforms: the United Planets steel-grey uniforms from 1956's Forbidden Planet. In this groundbreaking science fiction film, the 23rd century has humans united with faster-than-light space travel under the United Planets banner. In one of the earliest future human military organizations, we seen the soldiers of the United Planets don military uniforms in a fully grey hue with baseball caps, along with a short-sleeve variant. Unlike other sci-fi costumes, the uniforms of the United Planets is more realistic but futuristic.

06 December 2014

FWS Book Review: The Chimera Vector: The Fifth Column by Nathan M. Farrugia

There are novels that fit within the genre of military science fiction like a Lego piece, and then there are others that take the familiar themes of the genre and mix it with a variety of other themes from other genres. Take this novel, The Chimera Vector, it mixes an contemporary setting, counter-terrorism operations, elements of military sci-fi, and the shadowy world of espionage. This is the first novel within the techno-thriller series Chimera Vector: The Fifth Column by Nathan M. Farrugia that is now into its fourth book. This 2012 novel was given to FWS by the Australian publisher Momentum for the purpose of this review.  

The Setting of The Chimera Vector
After reading this book, I recalled a quote from The Matrix that seemed to apply to the setting "(th)is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth". The idea of an group operating in the shadows, controlling world events and global prospective on these events plays heavily in the current-world setting of The Chimera Vector.
The Fifth Column and Akhana are fighting behind the scenes to control the destiny of human society as we all drone onwards to work and Starbucks. This is all because Chimera Vector is set in our current world with the current problems, which makes the setting relatable. 

The Spoiler-Free Review of The Chimera Vector
In the pages of this “techno-thriller” novel, first time author Nathan M. Farrugia proves himself worthy of being a new voice in the genre of military thriller. Throughout my month-long read of The Chimera Vector, I was reminded of Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse while reading some of the trials of Sophia and how she thinks. Mr. Farrugia also proves himself in taking  often used plot points of shadow government, genetically tailor agents, and badass female agents with a fresh  prospective and engaging the reader. This was not just applied to Sophia as a ronin agent, split from The Fifth Column, but also with characters like Denton and Damien. All of these characters seemed to more than just empty shoes, and well written, making them more than just Starfleet Red Shirts. 
I especially liked they more realistic way that Mr. Farrugia approached the character of Sophia. She is not some warrior-Valkyrie-battle-princess-badass-sexy-bitch that is Black Widow or Max from Dark Angel; Sophia gets shot, cries, makes bad decisions, and eats. She also gets captured several times in the novel. Overall, the novel is expertly written with Mr. Farrugia drawing from his military experience leading to some detailed scenes that cover the range from the bloody results for gunshot wounds to simply European urban environments. His dialog was also worth noting, with lines worthy of my highlighter and a good laugh. While the majority of the novel is very good-to-excellent, it is not all sunshine and kitties. The overall novel lacks gravity to anchor down the events, especially later, when the plot thickens and the reason for the title is revealed. While Mr. Farrugia builds a foundation that is compelling and mostly well done, there is not enough of it to support the weight of the later story arch due to beginning. 
From those beginning pages, Sophia and her team are disavowed from the Fifth Column, and forcing her and her team to run for their lives as they search for answers. This is a solid military/spy thriller plot device, and it used effective in The Chimera Vector, but it is a little hallow. If we take 1996’s Mission Impossible as an example, Tom Cruise had about 20-25 minutes as an IMF agent, and much of the film is devoted to his survival and salvation as a disavowed agent. Sophia’s journey is similar, but like Mission Impossible, she is barely in the service of the Fifth Column long enough to support all of the elements in the later pages. I would have loved to see The Chimera Vector open with Sophia on more of several missions. This would have also helped the central concept of the shadow Fifth Column government and the Akhana resistance group. Another point, and it is a small one, is that too often Mr. Farrugia uses the proper full name of the firearm being used. While I love the fact that he uses proper weapons for the tactical setting, he could have used other proper noun for guns likes the P99. Theses few rough points of the novel pale in comparison to the rock-solid core, and author Nathan Farrugia has a bright future in any writing path he choices. 

The Hardware of The Chimera Vector
One of the standouts of The Chimera Vector is the firearms. Seriously. Mr. Farrugia puts real-world weaponry into the hands of his characters, and it says a great deal about the level of thought and detail. For example, Sophia's favorite weapon is the P99, but she will use a number of real-world weaponry throughout the novel. In the Chimera Vector, the weapons are stars along side the character. In the first few pages, there is a damn near pornographic scene involving an Barrett .50 sniper rifles. This weapons are one of my favorite elements and really adds some nice atmosphere in the novel. 

The Interview with author Nathan M. Farrugia
1. What was the genesis behind of The Chimera Vector, and world that the book lives itself, and Sophia?

It started when I was a teenager. I had this idea of two operatives, Damien and Jay, infiltrating a covert facility. It was just a really simple story, but as I grew older, went through the army and studied film and also writing, that story moved through ten evolutions over ten years. In its finished form, it became The Chimera Vector. Damien and Jay are still in the story but they’re secondary main characters and they don’t infiltrate the facility, because they’re already inside!

2. What impact does your military service have on your writing and how you examine other fictional military works (ie video games, books, movies)

There are pros and cons here. The pros: it helps my own writing and helps me think like my characters (who are far better trained than I am by a mile!) and challenges me to avoid common Hollywood tropes and actually think about how they would really resolve things. Often that can be more interesting and more entertaining. But the ultimate objective is that it will entertain.

The cons: it completely ruins my ability to enjoy an action movie or a first-person shooter game or a thriller novel. You need a huge suspension of disbelief to be able to re-engage with entertainment again otherwise you’ll laugh every time soldiers clear a room in Call of Duty, or drive yourself crazy trying to remember the last time you saw a movie where someone actually held a pistol properly. To me these are really basic things but they’re often overlooked because 99% of the audience will also overlook them, therefore they don’t matter. And if you’re unlucky enough to not be one of those 99%, then there’s only one thing you can do: let it go and enjoy things for what they are. It does mean you’ll enjoy things a lot less, but it also means you can appreciate the stories that do put the effort in even more.

3.  What are your favorite fictional military works across all types of media?

Film: Probably cheating since these are based on novels and manga, but recently I really enjoyed Ender’s Game and Edge of Tomorrow. Not everyone liked these movies but they worked perfectly for me.

TV: I’m not ashamed to admit Stargate SG-1! I also enjoyed Battlestar Galactica, even though I felt it lost direction in the final season.

Games: Deus Ex (the original), Half-Life 2 — both of these games have a heavy science angle too. They are to this day my favorite games of all time and I will forcibly recommend them to anyone. 

Books: Gridlinked by Neal Asher (first in a series), which is pretty much the far future version of my series. And Old Man’s War by John Scalzi (also the first in a series).

4. Why did you decide to have your main character be female and what impact does having an female character have on the writer and the story itself. Also, why was she named Sophia?

It more or less happened without my realizing it. I had a main character and hey, she was female. I named her Sophia, which is Greek for wisdom. I wasn’t sure if having a female protagonist would change anything for me as a writer or for anyone as a reader, but once I started writing her it really didn’t make a difference.

I think it’s great that more writers consciously try to push for a balance of genders in their stories, which usually means introducing more female characters than they might’ve otherwise. It’s hard for a lot of writers and I think it might be because they’re looking to the real world as a genuine example of gender balance, but the problem is the real world is grossly imbalanced.

This leaves many writers in a weird place where they have to actually imagine what “normal” should be. Some writers can do this quite naturally without any problem. But others tend to overthink it and try to create a “strong female character”, except they really don’t know what that is. So they often end up transferring just a few attributes from their male protagonists (strong! tough as nails! can do roundhouse kicks!) and applying them to their female protagonists. But they’re transferring all the dumb stuff instead of the important things, so they end up with an over-masculinized female character as some sort of awkward placeholder.

I find the best way is just to not think about what gender Sophia is. Because 99.9% of the time it’s irrelevant. When she’s solving a puzzle or escaping a pursuer, I don’t constantly think, ‘Hey, she is a woman’ every ten seconds, just as I don’t think ‘Hey, he is a man’ every ten seconds. If I did that, it would get in the way of my writing.

5.One of the details that I enjoyed from The Chimera Vector was how specific you were about the weapons. For example, Sofia uses an Walther P99,and an FN P90, along with that scene with soldiers carrying M4 carbines that the significant of that. This really sets your novels apart. Why did you decide to do this and how do you go about choosing a weapon for your characters?

It’s funny you should mention this because it’s something that really divides my readers. Half of them relish the specifics of each weapon and don’t like the vague and generic terms like “pistol” or “rifle”. The other half don’t like the specifics. So I’m always trying to keep the specifics without the language getting in the way of the reader. It’s a delicate balance.

In The Chimera Vector, almost everyone has access to some resources and weapons so there’s quite a bit of selection available to them. I went for some different weapons that aren’t usually seen, such as the FN P90. Although having said that, the P90 isn't a good example because it’s actually become quite popular. I even remember seeing it in Stargate SG-1. But the reason I chose it was because it has an unusual design and look, and it’s actually similar in a lot of ways to the rifle I was trained with in the Australian Army: the Steyr Aug. The Steyr is another unusual weapon and it’s not used often in film or literature. The Governor wielded the Steyr Aug in The Walking Dead.

For the most part, Sophia and her friends are operatives so their primary firearm is the pistol. It’s more easily concealable, but of course the range is limited and the stopping power isn’t as great as a rifle, and you don’t have as many rounds on hand. I always try to remember that if Sophia needs more than a couple of magazines then she’s in big trouble. But again, big trouble is usually what happens in these books!

In later books, resources grow more limited and the good guys are using whatever they can scavenge or steal.

6. Your book extensively deals with secret societies that hold a great power, and most of the world are oblivious of their power in their daily lives. What gave rise to this and explain why you chose the term "the Fifth Column" and "Akhana". 

I actually purposefully avoided secret societies for two reasons: they’re done to death and a few of them peaked with Dan Brown, and they’re a common trope in conspiracy fiction. The Fifth Column is not quite a one world secret government, but they are fairly tightly woven into the military industrial complex of most countries. They’re not as all-seeing and all-encompassing as many ruling governments in science fiction military settings, but they certainly want to be. The key distinction between most approaches to this and The Fifth Column series is that there is no secret bloodline or initiation into a cult or alien race. Those that are in control are genetic psychopaths, they’re just as real as the rest of us.

The Fifth Column is usually used to describe a group of people who undermine a larger group and it can be overt or clandestine. Which in a very twisted sense is what happens in these books, except instead of a small uprising of resistance fighters from the bottom of the chain, it’s a small selection of psychopaths at the top.

The Akhana on the other hand is a resistance of Fifth Column scientists and soldiers who defected. The meaning behind the word is Gnostic and Akhana is the female Aeon, which in one interpretation translates to “truth”.

7. The concept of psychopath in the novel was an intriguing one and something unique. I address in my own blogpost about super-soldiers. What inspirited this idea? 

A decade ago, I was reading about a small team of psychiatrists who worked in secret under Nazi and then Soviet occupation. They were trying to understand evil from a scientific standpoint and they found that there was a certain percentage of people who were born without a conscience and could not experience a wider range of emotions such as empathy or guilt. Some are easy to spot and usually end up in jail, while others are smooth operators and go their entire lives undetected. The team of psychiatrists witnessed these sorts of people finding their way into influential positions and wreaking havoc.

This team was decades ahead of any research in the West and even today we’re still playing catch up. Most people still believe a psychopath is a bloodthirsty serial killer or a Hannibal Lecter, which makes it easier for the real psychopaths to move through society undetected, leaving in their wake a trail of devastation through their various careers where they’ve manipulated their way to the top, and their personal relationships, where they’ve manipulated their partners into believing they’re to blame for everything the psychopath has done.

In the Fifth Column series, psychopaths are typically working in the higher echelons of the Fifth Column itself, while the operatives and super-soldiers are humans with a conscience, programmed to perform certain deniable operations. You can certainly have psychopaths as operatives. But with the exception of one or two types, psychopaths tend to prefer to manipulate their way into a higher, more managerial position where they can fulfill their primal desires of power and control by manipulating operatives to do the menial work for them. Working in an area where they can continually deceive people would give the psychopath a great deal of satisfaction, something they almost seem to feed off. Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if the vampire myth is based on ancient knowledge of the psychopath.

8. What happened to the planned graphic novel? Will we ever see it or another project like it?

I hope so, it’s something I really want to do. It was my second Kickstarter project, which only raised half the needed funds back in 2011. Admittedly, I tried to do this before my first book was even released, so there wasn’t an existing readership there to help support it. I learned the hard way not to put the cart before the horse! I could probably try crowdfunding the graphic novel today and there’s a good chance it would be successful. But  creating a graphic novel is an extraordinary amount of work and not something I want to rush into.

If you want it to be completed in less than 2 years then you need multiple artists involved rather than just one. My plan was to have six artists involved, which raises the problem of different styles and consistency — do you purposely divide the artists into chapters with distinct styles or do the artists try to conform to one style?

I haven’t abandoned the graphic novel idea, it’s a big undertaking but I know it’s something that I will do in the near future. And when I do, I’ll probably fund it myself.

9. The concepts and central story elements seem to be a good fit for a television series...as anyone approached you about an Fifth Column show?

I’ve only had film offers so far, but I agree that it works much better for television. The budget might be a problem, but it would be nothing compared to the costs of something Game of Thrones. Extensive CGI can rack up costs very quickly, which is why you don’t see dragons in that series very often. For that reason, I’m glad The Fifth Column series is thriller with science fiction elements rather than full-blown science fiction or fantasy. Which gives the budget some room to breathe.

I’d rather see that extra budget go into the central action scenes that need it and also the combat choreography, which is usually underwhelming in Western television and cinema. The Matrix trilogy set that bar much higher, but over the past decade only a handful of movies really rose that challenge, like Scott Pilgrim vs The World.

10.Given some of the elements in this novel, which espionage agent is Sophia similar to? Jack Bauer? James Bond? Jason Bourne? Sydney Bristow?

Hmm, that’s a tricky question!

Jason Bourne would be the closest match, given that he is far more strategic and is the closest I’ve seen to an operative as defined in The Fifth Column series: someone who is trained as a soldier to a special forces level and also as an intelligence officer to an equally high level. Bourne begins as a diplomat but is later recruited and trained to become a part of a death squad, Medusa. Essentially, this is where he receives his standard military and special forces training combined. Later he joins a black ops element of the CIA, Treadstone, where he receives his intelligence training.

Sophia receives her training in the same order as Bourne. She receives her military training as a teenager and reaches a special forces level before adulthood. As an adult, she receives her intelligence training and works as a deniable operative for the Fifth Column for a number of years before things start to go awry.

11. What does the future hold for your Fifth Column Series? And are you exploring other military science fiction/techno-thriller book concepts?

I’m working on a new episodic series at the moment that includes both new and old characters. New readers won’t need to know anything about the previous series but existing readers will be able to continue the journey with their favorite characters, including Sophia and Denton.

12. While Sophia is clearly the main character, however, I gravitated towards Denton...why is that?

Denton is Sophia’s arch-nemesis and he’s also a psychopath. But he’s a very entertaining one. It’s not easy to create a person without a conscience, empathy or regret, and still be relatable and likable to us. But that’s where Denton flourishes. And it was actually by accident that so many people hated and loved him at the same time. He’s not as uptight or serious as most characters, his plans and schemes are grand and clever, he bakes cupcakes, and he says all the things no one else could say. You might argue that Jay does this too as he’s a bit of a joker, but Jay is restricted to being a good guy whereas Denton can dance across that line. Denton shifts from order and repression in the first book to chaos and insurgency in the later books — and he loves it. Sophia finds herself working alongside him as often as against him. So I think it’s the reluctant allegiance that wins us over too.

By the way, your novel forced me to eat a cupcake!

Blame Denton, not me!

Be sure to pick the entire Fifth Column series on Amazon.com!

Next Time on FWS...
Going on patrol is one of the core duties of soldiers since the dawn of organized combat, and it continues today, and will likely be something future soldiers do as well...or is it? In the next installment of FWS, we will be examining patrolling and its role in the modern military and military science fiction. Join as we get our boots dirty!

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29 November 2014

FWS News Feed: Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens Trailer

88 seconds. It took 88 seconds, shorter than heating up an Hot Pocket, for me to get official excited by the new J.J. Abrams helmed Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. Of course, we all labored under the same assumption back when the teaser trailer for Episode I was revealed. After watching the trailer a few times and getting a huge nostalgia boner, it was hard not be excited. The trailer is hitting on all cylinders, and includes a platoon of Stormtroopers being off-loaded along with X-Wings skimming an lake. Yeah, cool shit with healthy dashes of military science fiction...but it is enough? It is my hope that JJ Abrams does not follow the same template as he did with the recent (and terrible) remake of the Star Trek universe. There seems to be the spirit of the original Holy Trilogy in the images of the trailer, and if we are very luck, The Force Awakens will be the new Star Wars movies that we were all promised in 1999. I simply cannot handle another repeat of The Phantom Menace. The universe is not that cruel...right? Oh, and I am not sold on the new Sith Lightsaber design...really, again with the novel red lightsaber?

FWS Topics: Should We Remake the Original Battlestar Galactica?

There is little doubt in my mind that the original 1970's Battlestar Galactica is a founding classic of my own sci-fi understanding and one of the works that praved my undying love for military science fiction. The original Galactica had very cool starships, space fighter, cool 1970's hair, and hot 1970's sci-fi women. But taken as a whole, the 1978 series was wanting and mostly half-baked. Recently, the geeky side of the internet was a buzz with a trailer of three minutes of the original BSG being remastered with new VFX, like the recently Star Trek: TOS release. While it looks much better than the 1978 original visual effects that lifted from ILM, it still begs the questions: should we remake BSG? Fans of the 1978 and 2003 series are divided. Some believe that the old Galactica should be risen from the grave and given a second life that is separate from the newer Ronald D. Moore series. For years, there has been news that Bryan Singer would be making a new BSG film that drew upon the 1978 series and not the 2003. Once again, should we? Should we not just let the original series just die? Or should we remaster the original series with new VFX and import the 1970's to the 21st century? I am deeply vexed...
I do think that relaunching BSG with a new disc release of the original series with new VFX would be a nice way to bring the series up to some current standards, and allow a new generation to discover the series, especially if the Sy-Fy Channel aired it...which they totally should. I mean, what the hell else are they airing besides shitty Z-rated films?! The there is the other argument...not touching it, because we all know what George Lucas did to the Star Wars films...dry humping my childhood memories, and the original 1978 Galactica series is a touchstone of a certain generation of sci-fi fans.
So, what do you, fair readers of FWS, think? Should the original BSG be remastered with new VFX scenes? Should it be left alone? Or should their be a reboot of the original storyline of Galactica? Or is the entire universe of Galactica done with...and we should all move on? I am not sure...should the same thing be done with Babylon 5 or even Space: Above and Beyond? Or should some of the vintage favor be left intact? Shouldn't we live in a world with both New Coke and Classic Coke?

Here is the new "remastered" BSG footage:

23 November 2014

FWS Topics: Orbital Bombardment

FINALLY! FWS is updated! It has been said that outer space is the ultimate high ground for military engagements, and if we examine orbital space-based weapon platforms seen in sci-fi, it seems that our future will include orbital space as a future battleground. Currently, orbital space is used by military organizations and intelligence services for all manner of satellites that watch and listen. But, could orbital space be militarized? Could we have orbital artillery as predicted by science fiction and the cancelled SDI program? In this blogpost of FWS, we will be discussing orbital artillery and orbital bombardment.

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and Space-Based Weaponry
The idea of the militarization of outer space was a real fear in the heady days of the Space Race between the USA and USSR. The Soviets had put up military space stations and a few of them were armed with an 23mm cannon. There was also worry that the arms race would continue into the void of outer space with orbital nuclear missile platforms. In 1967, the United Nations passed the Outer Space Treaty that established legal frameworks on the ownership of celestial bodies, like Luna and Mars. One of the elements of the treaty was preventing orbital weapon platforms that bore nuclear weapons and othe r WMDs. This treaty shaped the research on orbital weapon systems.

The Types of Orbital Artillery

Directed Energy
One of the most common type of orbital bombardment/artillery is directed energy beams that can be used more like knife than an club or even a shower of directed energy death-laser-beams that tear through the planetary surface. Shooting freaking laser beams on the surface of Luna is much easier than shooting them down to Earth or Mars, due to the atmosphere. Any military-grade lethal DE beam would have to be powerful enough to punch through the atmosphere and hit the target with enough energy to be lethal. It is unlikely that lasers will be the orbital DEW system of choice, instead, it is likely that particle beam DEWs would fulfill that role. The use of DE is common in science fiction "kill satellites" as seen in works like Akira.

Kinetic Projectiles or "Rods from God"

Unlike orbiting nuclear weapons, kinetic projectiles are legal under the 1967 Outer Space Treaty (as well as space-based lasers) and instead of those dirty nuclear weapons, these rods from god are able to delivery some serious punch without the nasty after effects of nukes. If we examine the USAF's proposed  kinetic bombardment system, these six meter long tungsten rods impacted the surface of the Earth with the road going at MACH 10 (7,700 MPH). The impact of the rob was equal to between 10 and 120 tons of TNT, less than the 2,000 tons of TNT that the Fat Man and Little Boy Atomic bombs produced when dropped on Japan. Unlike long-range bombers like the B-52 and B-1, the tungsten rods at able to reach their Earth-based target at between 10-15 minutes, and are extremely difficult to intercept like ICBMs or bombers. While this form of orbital artillery is not as effective as nuclear weapons, they can be used in more of combat supporting role and even pre-invasion artillery softening up operations, along with being a effective "bunker buster" system. The data for this section, comes from the Game Theory video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rx5XyspHldk  

Reentry Vehicle
On current ICBMs, re-entry vehicles are used to delivery the nuclear payload safety through the atmosphere and blow the holy jesus out of your enemy. This could be another way to delivery orbital artillery rather than kinetic rods, especially at longer ranges than just orbital space. Reentry vehicles could also pack more countermeasures than just speed to defend themselves. While the RV would be good method of delivering nuclear weapons and other WMDs, they would make for a poor orbital artillery method.
Controlled Meteors
From the Centauri mass driver bombardment of Narn to the Fithp "foot" being shot into the Indian Ocean by rocket motors, meteors have been an excellent form of orbital bombardment, and the oldest...after all, humans are only around due to an meteor strike. Some science fiction works, like Babylon 5 and Starblazers space fleets use controlled meteors and asteroids as a form of orbital bombardment. However, this comes with certain risks...any space rock too big, and you could completely wipe out all life on the planet along with the ecosystem...unless that is your goal, then have at it, and bombing into extinction!

The Dangers of Orbital Artillery/Bombardment
There is nothing more devastating to soldiers than when supporting artillery from field guns to CAS goes wrong. Despite the advancement in battlefield technology, artillery fire can go horribly wrong, and your own forces pay the price. That is the danger today, and that will be a danger tomorrow. Even in video games, nothing is worse than calling down a strike and it wiping out friendly forces. If and when orbital based weaponry becomes a reality, the risk of troops calling down artillery could go horribly wrong, and given the power of rods-from-god, a miscalculation by the director, and an entire city or taskforce could be wiped out. Then there is another risk: overuse. Some orbital bombardment systems have been projected in science fiction as pinpoint laser DE beams able to slice-and-dice enemy tanks and infantry formations. However, the reality is that kinetic bombardment systems would be very powerful, and their overuse or misuse could bring about massive destruction and even nuclear winter conditions. This applies more so to the use of asteroids and meteors as a form of kinetic bombardment, too much and you ruin the planetary ecosystem, and affect global climate change.

Defense Against Orbital Weapon Platforms
Oddly, most military organizations and weapons manufacturers have already put weapon systems into place to counter satellites and the possibility of orbital based weapon platforms. The anti-satellite missile that can be deployed from strike fighters like the American F-15 Eagle, or land based launcher systems, or even submarines/naval vessels. These kinetic-kill warheads are fitted to small multi-stage rockets have proven effective against satellites, and could be effective against orbital weapons platforms as well. While an orbital weapon system could be camouflaged as something else, the moment it began firing, the game would be up, and ASAT weapon systems would be utilized. Of course, one way around this could be the assumed role of the X-37B USAF drone-shuttle: an mobile launcher system based around an space plane design. In the end, one of the best defenses against orbital based weapon platforms is wiping out their command & control system back here on Earth. Whether by direct action, like we saw in Call of Duty: GHOSTS or an EMP blast, any would be effective in taking out one method of controlling orbital weapon platforms.

Real-World Examples of Orbital Weapon System

The THOR Project (USA 1950's-today)
Boeing in the 1950's became working on a kinetic bombardment system called THOR. The idea was to have an orbital artillery system that could not provoke a nuclear exchange, and THOR later would conform to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. The heart of THOR was long tungsten rods that were the size of telephone poles and could delivery a punch without the risks of nuclear or conventional explosives. Even today, the US Air Force has been continuing the work on THOR as late as 2003. While Project THOR is technical possible, there are challenges with controlling the rod through atmospheric reentry, the cost of putting the system in space, the political heat for having orbital weapons system, and lastly, maintenance. A massive military orbital weapons system would need maintenance, and with the Space Shuttle fleet gone, it would require something like what was seen in COD: GHOSTS to keep the system running. 

Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (USSR 1968-1983)
Leaving it to the Soviets...their space-based weapon system was known as the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System, and basically was putting nukes into space that would be waiting for the order to hit America. Lovely. Th heart of the plan was to put ICBMs into low-orbit, and if the call ever came, the missiles could avoid NORAD and could cut down on flight times, hitting the USA before they could launch their nukes. Of course, the plan is banned under the Outer Space Treaty and the SALT II treaty. While the plan was never carried out, it did lead to Soviet rocket developments, and the entire program was scrapped in 1983.

The Rumored X-37B Space Drone Orbital Weapon Delivery System
For years, there have been rumors of a "secret" space program with their own Space Shuttles and even a space station. In 1999, NASA began the X-37 robotic mini-shuttle program, and in 2004 the USAF took over the project, and began flying the X-37B mini-shuttles on long-term missions for reasons unknown. Recently, X-37B OTV-2 spent 469 days in space, also for reasons unknown. There are some that believe that the X-37B robotic space shuttle is an delivery system for orbital weaponry or an orbital anti-satellite weapons platform that could be using kinetic-based weaponry or even a laser to knock out or fry hostile satellites.  

The 3rd Reich "Sun-Gun"
After the defeat of the 3rd Reich in 1945, the allies began to understand the depth of the scientific knowledge of the Nazis and how much they were pushing the envelope of technology. One of those projects was an orbital weapon system called "Soonengewehr". The Sun-Gun called for a massive 100 meter wide mirror that could focus the sun's light into a directed energy beam that could target any portion of the Earth. This would have orbited at 8,200 kilometers above the Earth, and would have been constructed into portions by the stillborn Nazi space program. The sun-gun would have been manned and possible used Nazi space stations to help construction and maintenance. The Sun-Gun was seen as a tool for 3rd Reich domination of the Earth and a way to keep themselves in power for a 1,000 years. Of course, the allies began winning the war, and after Operation: PAPERCLIP, the Americans felt that the Sun-Gun would have never worked.

The Role of Orbital Artillery/Bombardment in Future Warfare
If humanity is able to escape to the stars and construct off-world colonies and fleets of combat spaceships to protect them, orbital bombardment will be a factor. If there is a armed contest over a settled world, the invading force will need to support the planetary invasion force going dirt-side. While it is likely that any invasion force would carry means of heavy weapons support, the invaders would need time to get the cannons from star-side to dirt-side, and time to setup the field artillery along with any aerocraft.
This is were the orbiting warship comes into play. Any planetary invasion would be first conducted via control of orbital space, much like air superiority. Once that condition has been met, the warships could soften up the planetary defenses via some form of orbital artillery. That could be kinetic rods-from-god or DE weaponry, but either way, the weaponry of the warship would be used in a similar manner to the US Navy using their battleships in World War II to shore bombard prior to an ambitious invasion force landing. After the planetary LZ is secure, and field artillery and CAS are being established, the orbiting warship could be setting up so-called "kill-satellites" to further support the ground forces. This Kill-Sats could be dual-role as well, supporting ground planetary operations with support fire and protecting the planet from any counter-strike.  

From the Fox Mulder Corner...
One of the most infamous video footage of UFOs (or something) in Earth orbit being engaged by some type of weapon systems came from Space Shuttle Orbiter Discovery during STS-48 in September of 1991. Some believe that the amazing footage shows an Earth anti-UFO defense system being use, and missing the alien craft. Of course, NASA and others claim it is ice particles. Even before this, there were claims that the US maintains an orbital weapons system that was piggybacked on the old SDI program. Why does the US military maintain an secret orbital weaponry program. Aliens. Some believe that the US and other nations are fighting a secret war with an alien intelligence.

Orbital Bombardment and Science Fiction
As with many elements in Sci-Fi, EE "Doc" Smith did it first, and this includes orbital bombardment, but it would take the Cold War and the Space Race for science fiction to develop orbital bombardment that was more hard science based. Of course, human beings have been always seen and experienced the power of meteors, and this common human fear is linked to orbital bombardment. During the Cold War, the idea of orbital weapon systems and asteroids-as-weapons took shape with Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress from 1966. Given the popularity of that work, the idea of orbital bombardment entered more of the minds of sci-fi creators. It also helped that during the Arms Race and the Space Race, that Boeing was working on the rod-from-god Project: THOR.
During the 1980's, with the rise in science fiction and war gaming, and SDI; orbital bombardment became a hot topic. This fueled a number of examples in sci-fi, and one of the greatest lines fucking ever in a sci-fi film: I say we take-off and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure. In 1986's magnum opus, ALIENS, the idea of orbital bombardment was wrapped into one of the best lines of the one of the best sci-fi movies of all time, and that triggered a number of other sci-fi creators to include orbital weapon systems, including nuclear, into their stories and creations.
This was especially true of anime and manga, as seen in Gundam and Space Cruiser Yamato, and later, Bubblegum Crisis. Today, orbital bombardment is common in science fiction works, especially in the realm of video games. When video game technology improved in the 1990's, creators could place more complex elements graphically into the game, and one of those items was orbital bombardment. Today, you can see examples in games like HALO, Mass Effect, and of course, Call of Duty: GHOSTS.


The Attack on the Founder Homeworld from Star Trek: DS9

There are times when I respect the storylines and plots in Star Trek, and one that left an impression on me was the 3rd season 21st episode called "The Die is Cast". In the 1995 episode, the Cardassian and Romulan intelligence services unite for a clandestine mission to orbital bombard the homeworld of the Founders, and attempt to end the threat of the Dominion to the Alpha Quadrant once and for all. A small taskforce of top-of-the-line warships from both powers arrived in the Omarian Nebula, the location of the Founders' homeworld, and the seat of power of the Domination. Also, their intelligence indicates that the Founder homeworld is the main production site of the Jem'Hadar's life-giving Ketracel White.
It was hoped that this assault on the heart of the Dominion would produce its collapse, however, the Battle of the Omerian Nebula was the result. At first, the combined fleet was able to pound the homeworld with torpedoes and directed energy fire, it seemed too easy, and that was because the Founders learned of the plan, allowed to be carried forward, and setup a trap for the combined fleet. The Founders left their world, and allowed the fleet to destroy 30% of the planet's crust, and during this moment, 150 Jem'Hadar warships descended on small attack force. It was a slaughter, and wiped out the majority of these intelligence services power and influence, allowing the Founders to have an easier time subjugating the Cardassian Union and the Romulan Star Empire.

The Fithp Invasion of Earth from Footfall
One of my favorite sci-fi novels of all time is Footfall by the dream-team of Niven and Pournelle. The elephant-like alien race, the Fithp. The Fithp are a young race from Alpha Centarui that used technology and knowledge left by another species that shared their world. The aliens construct a interstellar vessel and spend nearly a hundred years traveling to Earth in cryo. The goal is conquest and subjugation. Throughout the book, the Fithp use in-orbit lasers and kinetic bombardment to soften up Earth for the invasion or just surrender. When humanity uses nuclear weapons at the site of the Fithp invasion in Kansas, the aliens responses with dropping a massive asteroid into the Indian Ocean, nearly wiping out India, and allowing for the aliens to control the bulk of Africa. Given the popularity of the novel and that Pournelle worked on Project THOR, Footfall would influence a new generation of sci-fi creators to include some of the concepts in the novel. If you have not read it, please do so...now.

The Covenant "Glassing" from the HALO Universe
It just has to be said...the Covenant are just dicks. It is not enough for them to destroy human colonies and kill everyone there, but then they have to go and burn the world black with ship-mounted plasma artillery. The massive plasma cannons on Covenant warships are altered to allow them to project plasma in linear beams that hit the surface of a planet with vastly intense heat, alter top soil to lechatelierite, a form of silica glass. It takes the aliens days to glass an UNSC colonial world. The world suffers global environmental damage that forever alters the planetary environment and leaves the atmosphere in a state of nuclear winter. Covenant glassing operations can be conducted from orbit or even endo-atmospherically. It is believed from some footage from the end of Reach, that the future UNSC has a slow method of reversing the effects of glassing.

The Zentraedi Holocaust from the ROBOTECH Universe
In the final battle in the First ROBOTECH War, the SDF-1, the UN Spacy Forces, and the rebel Zentraedi forces under Breetai all attempt to stand up against the invasion by the Zentraedi Central Fleet, and force of 4.8 million warships. Supreme Commander Dolza fully intends to wipe out humanity, the Earth, and the inflected rebel Zentaedi for good. During the battle, the central fleet pounds Earth with laser and particle beam fire that renders the surface of the planet a wasteland, killing billions. While the central fleet was destroyed, by the SDF-1, humanity was nearly wiped out. The Zentraedi Holocaust, as it was later called, killed over 5 billion humans, and altered the course of the species for all time. Only a few million survived, along with the off-world human service-members, and the civilians of Macross.

The USAF ODIN and the Federation's LOKI Space Platforms from Call of Duty: GHOSTS
While fans and players of the Call of Duty franchise were very unhappy with the online play of Ghosts, the campaign was rather solid, and had an original "Invasion USA" storyline that involved real-world orbital kinetic bombardment by hijacked USAF "roads from god" satellites by South American forces. The ODIN Space Platforms, or Orbital Defense Initiative were satellite launcher platforms that fired  six meter long tungsten rods from orbital with great accuracy. When the Federation took control of the ODIN space station, they bombarded main cities of the United States as a prelude to their massive invasion. Only through the brave actions of USAF personnel did the full might of ODIN was avoided.
To finally end the US, the Federation takes survives elements of the ODIN space station, and creates their own space-based weapon platform, LOKI. Unlike ODIN, LOKI could be controlled by a ground based operations center, the robds were smaller allowing for them to be used in a close  fire support role, and there were more platforms, allowing the Federation to carryout further offensive operations. During the apex of Ghosts, the USAF space warfare team, LCARUS, mounted an assault on the Federation LOKI space station, and turned the Federation's weapon against them, wiping out the ground-based control center, and the Federation naval force. LOKI was destroyed by the USAF LCARUS team. ODIN and LOKI may be one of the most accurate real-world examples of space-based weapons platforms in popular media.

The Centauri Mass Driver Bombardment of Narn from the B5 Universe

During the Narn-Centauri of 2259, the superior Centauri Republic gained the upper hand, and finally arrived at the homeworld of the Narn. When the Narn refused to surrender, the Centauri did not mount an invasion of the planet, but instead used retrofitted mass drivers on their Primus class battlecrusiers to propel asteroids. This form of planetary bombardment is illegal and ban by the League of Non-aligned Worlds, but te Centauri gave zero fucks, and did it anyway. For four days, the Centauri warships bombarded the surface of Narn, and finally, the Narn government gave in and surrendered to their former masters. Narn was already a world still scarred by the Centauri strip-mining efforts during their occupation, and the pounding from space didn't help. For over a year, Narn was a world under a nuclear winter, and it would take over ten years with the help of Minbari atmospheric processors to clean most of the air.

Here is the dialog from the episode:

Londo Mollari: Refa, any force attempting to invade Narn would be up to its neck in blood—its own!

Lord Refa: We have no intention of invading Narn. Flattening it, yes—but invading it? We will be using mass drivers. By the time we are done their cities will be in ruins, we can move in at our leisure!

Londo Mollari: Mass drivers? They have been outlawed by every civilized planet!

Orbital Bombardment from DUST 514
In the EVE Online military sci-fi shooter, DUST 514, players can call down three types of orbital strikes as fire support and even turning the tide in the online gaming arena. The first type of orbital strike is the Pulse Laser Strike that fires a high damage laser beam, but it only covers a small area. Next is the EM strike that used electro-magnetic energy blast to strike an larger area, but is a non-lethal strike, bring down shields and electronics. Lastly, there is the Hybrid Strike that combines lasers and other times of ammunition that the most devastating. Of course, giving the offensive power of the orbital strike, it is harder to achieve battlefield reward.

The Lunar Catapult from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Robert A. Heinlein's famous 1966 book is often praised, cited, and still read today, and does have a kick ass title...but, I've never liked it. I've read it several times to see what the fuss is all about, but much like Starship Troopers, Heinlein seems to suck the excitement and joy out of the basic plot. However, I do respect some of the themes, ideas, and of course, TANSTAAFL. In 2075, Lunar colonies are populated by the unwanted of Terran society, and computer technician Manuel Garcia befriends the Lunar colony computer system, HOLMES-IV. Due to Earth's demands, and the limited resources on the Lunar colonies, the export of wheat from Luna to Terra must be stopped, or less the Lunar colonies will descent into madness and cannibalism. Lovely. The computer, Manuel, and others in the Lunar liberation movement use the catapult launcher system to throw large lunar rocks at unpopulated areas of Earth, resulting in kinetic bombardment terrorism. The effort is successful, and Lunar becomes a free republic. Some falsely believe that The Moon is a Harsh Mistress to be the first real example of orbital bombardment in sci-fi, however E.E. "Doc" Smith takes that cake.   

The Xindi Probe Attack from Star Trek: Enterprise "The Expanse"
In the opening to the 3rd Season of much maligned Star Trek series Enterprise, the Xindi use an sphere-shaped weapons probe to test the design for their "super-weapon" that was designed to destroy the Earth. This one-man probe was a scaled-down prototype of the larger planet-killer particle cannon, and was designed to real-world test the weapon against conditions on Earth. While smaller, this particle beam sliced a canyon from Florida to Venezuela, killing seven million. This fuels the Federation and the Earth Military to rearm the NX-01, and sent on a hunt for the Xindi.

The USSD Particle Satellites from Bubblegun Crisis: 2033
The United Nations Strategic Space Defense Force of USSD is a branch of the United Nations has a network of  200 of these Kill-Sats, the VA-61 that are constructed around a particle beam emitter that has the destructive power to scar 100,000 miles. The role of the USDD is to enforce global peace, but some have been able to hack into the satillites, and use them for their own purposes, namely the evil megacorporation of Genom. Genom helped developed the "killer doll" Boomer project for the USSD, as a ground-to-space link to help target their kill-sats on more of a pinpoint target.

The Slug's Rod Attacks from Orphanage by Robet Buettner
In the excellent first novel by author Robert Buettner, Orphanage, the world had moved away from war, until the kinetic rods began dropping onto the Earth from Joviah moon of Ganymede. These aliens, called Slugs, are an advanced alien race very different from mankind, and their goal is to soften up Earth by using massive kinetic manned rods from Ganyeme. Earth quickly becomes a mess, cities are gone, economies are a wreck, and there are orphans...lots of orphans. Some rods are intercepted by armed space shuttles, but most get through. Earth is near collapse, and a despite plan is put into action, orphan-soldiers using old equipment and a advanced warship travel to Ganymede and assault the Slugs at their homebase. The destruction of the Earth by the alien rod attacks are nice touch and how it effects all levels of society. If you have not read Orphanage by Robert Buettner, than do so. This one great military science fiction book!

The Hammer of the Dawn from the Gears of War Universe
One of the more famous orbital bombardment systems in modern video games is the Hammer of the Dawn. The Dawn is an Imusion-powered laser DEW platform, developed by the COG during the Pendulum Wars, prior to the Locust invasion. During the Locust Wars, the Hammer of the Dawn became key to supporting COG missions and was used to destroy much of the surface of Sera. While the Dawn was extremely effective, it also took forever to boot up, and it was out of range more than it was in range. The games never make mention on how many Hammer of the Dawn satellites there are, but by the 3rd Gears of War game, the Dawn Kill-Sats were breaking down and taxed by overuse.

The AEGIS Orbital Defense Platforms from Babylon 5 "Endgame"
In the final showdown between the forces loyal to dickhead President Clark and B5's liberation force, Clark was losing and decided to turn the planetary defense grid of orbital weapons platforms called AEGIS back onto Earth. AEGIS platforms were equiped with missiles and heavy-duty particle cannons that could level wide areas of the surface. The liberation fleet destroys the AEGIS platforms and saves 40% of Earth's population from certain death. The AEGIS defense grid is rebuilt just in time for the Drakh attack on Earth in 2266.

The SOL Weapon Platforms from Akira
In the landmark manga and anime work Akira, there is an directed-energy orbital weapons platform called SOL or Satellite Orbital Laser. This large orbital weapons platform was developed by the Japanese for World War III. This was seen in the anime, and the American laser satellite called FLOYD was seen in the manga. During the end battle between Tetuso and the whole of Neo-Tokyo, the SOL is used for an attempted assassination of Tetuso, and the SOL first projects a aiming beam that focuses to an DEW beam of some power.  The SOL was destroyed by Tetuso in the Akira anime. Given the number of the SOL platform seen in Akira, 740, there is a possibility of more SOLs.

The Alien Relativistic Missiles from The Killing Star
One of the saddest books about alien contact is 1995's The Killing Star. A swarm of relativistic missiles from an alien intelligence hit Earth hard, killing the bulk of humanity in the first strike that rates as an extinction level event. Only because a few humans were off-world, could complete extinction be avoided, plus the aliens' took one male and one female human for their zoo, and the squid-like aliens tell the humans that once humanity was about to master relativistic travel, than they were a threat to them. The concepts in the novel are hard science fiction and this book rates among my favorites. It is such a sad story though.

Imperial of Man's "Exterminates" from WH40K
There several methods that are used by the Imperial Navy to attack and overwhelmingly assault the surface of a planet. This order is called "Exterminates", and the shipboard weaponry of the Imperial warship can be used, along with virus bombs and cyclonic tropodes. Few sci-fi works have ever shown the level of death assoicated with orbital bombardment than WH40K.  Exterminates is used through the various WH40K media, from books, video games, and the RPG. I became aware of orbital bombardment from the older PS2 WH40K video game Fire Warrior.

The Nerve Gas Orbital Modules from Moonraker
In the outlandish bat-shit crazy 1979 Bond film Moonraker, humanity was nearly wiped out by evildoer Drax and his nerve gas orbital bombardment. In the film, evil genius Drax of Drax Industries plans on wiping out all life on Terra by using nerve gas orbital module deployed from his space habitat station. Once human life is gone, Drax and his handpicked colonies will reseed Earth and Drax will become supreme ruler of the new human race. Of course, James Bond and Holly Goodhead take to an orange and white space shuttle and stop his evil plans. It is believed that Call of Duty: Ghosts used some of Moonraker for their own orbital space combat scenes. This marks on of the few times FWS as ever talked about James Bond, despite me being a huge fan of the Bond films.

HERCULES and PETER the GREAT from Meteor (1979)
In the much panned 1979 disaster film, a massive asteroid is headed to Earth that will produce an extinction level event, and there seems to be little to stop it. But wait! The United States and the USSR both have secret nuclear weapon platforms that completely volatile the Outer Space Treaty. In the film, Sean Connery was the developer of the American HERCULES weapon platform, he is brought on to help with redirecting the asteroid from hitting the Earth and killing everyone. The Soviets have the PETER the GREAT nuclear weapon platform.