29 November 2015

Future Military Profiles: STARFLEET

In one of the longest running science fiction shows of all time, Star Trek, the viewers over the last 50 years have watched an unique future military organization, Starfleet, alter with the times and events with the universe. This military organization is one of the most unique within sci-fi and has gone on to be one of the most influential fictional military organizations of all time. In this installment of the continuing series Future Military Profiles we will be exploring Star Trek's Starfleet.

Starfleet is the primary defensive, exploration, and peacekeeping agency of the United Federation of Planets, and was founded in 2140s by the United Earth Government. This means that Starfleet predates the founding of the Federation (2161), and this Terran military organization was incorporated into the Federation as the common defensive and exploration organization, much like the UN Peacekeepers sometime after the Romulan War. Individual members of the Federation can and do maintain their own military organizations as they see fit, such as the Andorians and the Klingons. However, the bulk of the member races adopt and constructed the standard Federation Starship design. By the 24th century, Starfleet had a fleet of hundreds of starships, millions of personnel, and over 500 off-world installations that was tasked with patrolling and protecting over 8,000 cubic lightyears.  While primarily an organization devoted to peace, Starfleet has been called on to defend the Federation over a dozen times in major engagements and wars. Most scholars agree that the largest conflict in Starfleet history was the bloody Dominion War of 2373-2375.
The Headquarters of Starfleet is located on Terra in the Sol System (Sector 001) just outside of the North American city of San Francisco. Starfleet senior leadership is Starfleet command, which has an overall chief-of-command, and an governing body of the chiefs-of-staff. However, they answers to the civilian government of the Federation, and the President of the UFP is the command-and-chief of the Starfleet. Local command of Starfleet is handled via Sector Commanders, who are Admiral-level and based on an Starbase.

Why is STARFLEET the Military Organization of the Federation?
One of the biggest unanswered questions of Starfleet history is how an Terran space agency got to be the defensive organization for the whole of the Federation? Starfleet was founded in the 2130's by the United Earth Government to be the manned space program that also defended the Sol system and the few colonies she had. During the Romulan War (2156-2160), Starfleet was part of an greater coalition against the Romulan aggression, included the Andorians, the Vulcans, the Tellarites.
When the Federation was founded in October of 2161, Starfleet was not yet the accepted military of the new government, it was more akin to the UN Peacekeepers. While no canonized information exists why Starfleet is part of the UFP, there are several theories. One being that since the alien governments did not fully trust one another, putting the weakest member in charge of the military would prevent any greater shift of the power balance of the region. Another fan theory is that Starfleet just wanted the job, and Jonathan Archer pushed for it, and with the amount of respect that he and other members of Starfleet had gathered, the other members agreed to putting Starfleet in charge. There is also the possibility that since Terra was basically neural, new to the region, and it was easier to mold Starfleet to be pan-interstellar military than other more established military organizations of the other races. It also helped that Starfleet was not strictly an space navy, but also devoted to exploration and diplomacy.  

The Composition of STARFLEET

Without a doubt, the symbol and pride of the Federation and Starfleet is their fleet. The unique design of Federation starships allows them to be instantly recognizable to friends and foes alike. The majority of Federation starships are listed as "cruisers" and armed with directed energy weapons (phasers) and torpedo launchers in various strengths and number of emitters and launchers. For defensive systems, Federation starships rely heavily on energy shielding, while a few select starships, like the Defiant class escort, have ablative armor.
The largest starships in terms of weapon output and size is the long-range explorers,like the Sovereign class, Constitution class, and the Galaxy class. Only very few Federation starships. since the founding of Starfleet. have ever being purposefully constructed with combat in mind. Without the ships of Starfleet, the worlds and citizens of the Federation and their allies would be more or less defenseless. This makes starships of Starfleet the most important hardware of the entire organization.
Due to the length of time that Star Trek has been around and the various works on the subject of Starfleet, there are no firm numbers of the amount of ships in service at any one time. Some people have put the numbers in the hundreds or even the thousands. It is also not certain how many member races of the Federation maintain their own space navies and how big those navies are.
One of the unique features, if you can call it that, is the dual purpose that the Federation starships serve (or schizophrenia as Christopher Phoenix once said): one of peace and one of war. Given the mission of Starfleet, their starships are designed to serve as science/explorer vessels first, and military warships second...a distant second in most cases. However, it is believed that this longstanding tradition is coming to an end due to the Federation-Klingon War and the Dominion War.

The Federation covers over 8,000 cubic lightyears, with hundreds of members, thousands of worlds, and trillions of citizens. That is what Starfleet is tasked with patrolling and protecting. To help with this monumental task, Starfleet has a network of Starbases that litter Federation and allied space. Over 500 Starbases of various sizes, locations, and operational objectives were constructed to help protect power across the quadrant.  Dozens of Starbases are under various phases of construction at any given time. The first Starbase orbits Terra and is one of the largest and has a sizable spacedock facility. Not all Starbases are an orbital facility and not all are constructed by the Starfleet. Along with Starbases, Starfleet maintains Spacedock stations around Federation territory and even deep space outpost in the frontier, like Deep Space Nine, located in Bajoran space.

Ground Forces
Due to the primary mission of Starfleet being exploration, peacekeeping, and defensive military action, there is little or no Federation ground forces to speak of in canon sources. The main focus of combat within the Star Trek universe is ship-to-ship, and the limited engagements between infantry forces on planetary environments seems to be conducted without the benefit of the combined arms doctrine or even the basics of standardized infantry warfare. Given the amount of space that Starfleet must protect and monitor, any situations would be handled by one or two starships with the only resources being available for the situations being onboard these ships. that means that Starfleet has to make the most out of the security officers and others onboard the starships. This was heavily hinted at with Miles O'Brien own experiences during the Setlik III Massacre and the security team used in TNG episodes: "The Higher Ground" and "Too Short a Season".
In may be possible that security personnel and others are folded into emergency infantry units when the need arises. This could explain the Federation "soldiers" seen in several episodes of Deep Space 9. However, if these are indeed Federation infantry, they are not supported by any armoured vehicles, CAS, or even artillery, save for maybe a mortar seen in ST: TOS. This weakness was exposed by the Dominion and their Jem'Hadar warriors during that bloody war. The lack of ground forces seen in Star Trek was going to be addressed by FASA in a special RPG manual called Starfleet Ground Forces Manual. However, this sourcebook was seemingly never printed by FASA due to the unhappiness of Paramount, who later pulled the licences for Star Trek from FASA.

Special Operations Forces
While Starfleet may not have any sort of standing army, there is a possibility of some specialized units operating with the security or intelligence sections of Starfleet. During Enterprise, we saw Starfleet reach out the Earth Military for a detachment of Military Assault Command operators (MACO). This was the first and only verified use of SOF units in the realm of Star Trek. There have been hints at others, including intelligence operatives from Section 31 and the hostage rescue team from Star Trek V: the Final Insult. These specialized security agents that attempted to free the hostages could be akin to the FBI's HRT, and are called in when the need arises. This maybe the remnants of MACO in the 23rd century. In the Star Trek Voyager video game Elite Forces, we seen that lost ship create a specialized security team called "the hazard team" for specialized missions and situation, however, it is not canon. Of course, there is always Section 31...who knows what assets they have.

Service Personnel
Starfleet is tasked with the protection of hundreds of worlds, trillions of citizens, and thousands of lightyears. With the number of member worlds of the Federation, Starfleet can draw personnel from hundreds of species. This makes Starfleet a mosaic of races, colors, shapes, and languages. Much like most modern military organizations, there are two paths to service: enlisted and officer training. Enlisted personnel in Starfleet are much most current military organizations, there is a ceiling to the level of advancement within Starfleet. Someone that enlists in Starfleet is shut out of the captain's chair and officers, but not always from supervisory roles or even command roles in certain cases.
To achieve the dream of most Starfleet hopefuls, to command a starship, they must pass the rigorous entrance exams for Starfleet Academy. Based on Earth in the city of San Francisco, California, Starfleet Academy is considered one of the finest educational institutions in the whole of the Federation. Here, the vocational destiny of the cadet is determined based on their abilities and interests. After graduation, most emerge as lieutenants and are assigned according to the needs of Starfleet and their abilities.
Some will go on to even higher levels of education, like Medical School. Some personnel of Starfleet enter into the organization later into life with education and skills, like medical doctors and scientists. Some personnel are not officially Starfleet per say, and contacted for their skills and abilities on a project. This is the case with some scientists and engineers assigned to research areas of Starfleet. Due to the length of time that Starfleet has been around, both fictional and in the real world, there are no firm numbers on how many people serve in Starfleet. Some place the number in the hundreds of thousands, but it is more likely that it is in the millions.

Intelligence Service
No military organization can survive long without an intelligence gathering agency, and Starfleet Intelligence is the public face of the various intelligence services used by the Federation. It is worth noting that most Federation member governments still run their own intelligence services, who feed their reports and data to the larger Starfleet Intelligence. Probes, computer taps, starships, informants, and agents are all arms of gathering intelligence. Starfleet Intelligence is not above using unknowing starships and starbases as platforms for operations, and recruiting onboard personnel for operations. Within the known circles of Starfleet Intelligence are the unknown agencies, like Section 31. This black operations, off-the-books, covert agency was named after a section in the Starfleet charter, and has been in existence since the start of Starfleet.        


Considering its size and complexity, Starfleet has a relatively straightforward ranking system for non-commissioned and commissioned personnel. For commissioned officers at attend the academy, they achieve the rank of Jr. Ensign, then Ensign, and by the time they graduate, they are Jr. Lieutenants.For the bulk of their early years in service, a majority of officers will remain within the Lieutenants grades. Once achieving the rank of Commander, it is a short trip to the big chair (well...not if you are Riker).
A vast majority of people join Starfleet attempting to work towards getting their own command, and requires an ranking of Captain. That ranks is often the end of the career line for a majority of officers, either due to death or lack of ability to move upwards. After Captain, there seems to be the elusive Commodore rank then onto the Admiralty. Given the size of Starfleet, there is room for more Admirals than the US Navy, but the position is still hard to achieve, and they are fewer slots for Admirals. Once the rank of Admiral has been achieved, there five ranks within the Admiralty. The highest being an Fleet Admiral. There is the issue of NCOs...which are never laid out with any definition as specific as the officer ranks. The idea of NCOs in Starfleet is not often very clear until the Miles O'Brien character, and their ranking system and insignia is half-baked. NCOs enlist into Starfleet and are trained in areas where they are skilled. They start off as crewmen and move all the way up to Master Chief Petty Officer or Chief of Operations.

STARFLEET of the 2150's-2160's
One hundred years prior to the launching of the Warp-5 NX-01 Enterprise, Earth was devastated by an nuclear war that ended civilization as we knew it. In 2063, Zefram Cochrane launches Terra's first warp-capable ship, the Phoenix, and this catches the attention of the Vulcans. It was only a few years later, when the United Earth Space Probe Agency (UESPA) was founded and was involved in launching deep space warp probes. As Earth rebuilt, they were under the protection of the Vulcans, who prevented the construction of a full-on offensive space navy. For years, UESPA operated the UE's "space coast guard" ships, who were not capable of more than warp 2. At some point in the 2130's, the UE founded Starfleet has the manned space program that worked in conjunction with UESPA. In the background of these events, Cochrane had founded the Warp Five project that would allow humanity to go deeper into space.
When the Warp Five project was near completion, Starfleet was already busy on the ship that would be mated to the engines: the NX class starship. When the NX-01 Enterprise was launched in 2151 in marked an important day in Starfleet history. From 2151-2153, the NX-01 was mainly engaged in exploration and scientific missions, until the Xindi Probe attack on Terra in 2153. With seven million dead, and a scar left on the planet surface going from Florida to Venezuela, The whole of Earth was united in finding the Xindi and stopping their planet-killer. The NX-01 was outfitted with new weapons, enhanced hull plating, and a detachment of MACOs from the UEG.
During this, Starfleet attempted to put the second NX class vessel, the Columba, into service, but delays forced the Columbia to launch in 2154. After the destruction of the Xindi weapon, Starfleet began laying down the hulls for several more NX class vessels. As the NX-01 and NX-02 explored and established diplomatic relations with other races, the Romulans were making their move. By 2154, Captain Archer managed to get an coalition together to hunt down the drone ships, and this coalition would be called into action again when the Romulans began to make further aggressive moves on distributing the good-will between the major races.
In 2156, after several Earth cargo vessels disappeared, the Romulans were found to be responsible, and the first major war for Starfleet began. From 2156-2160, the Romulan War was waged with Starfleet being a member of an armed coalition that included the Vulcans, Andorians, and the Tellarites. While Starfleet was more technologically limited than the other members of the alliance, it made up for it with bravery and cunning. The NX class and the improved Intrepid class were the frontline starships, and by the end of the war, nearly ten NX class ships had been constructed...sadly, over half were lost in the war. In 2160, the war ended at the battle of Cheron, and the next year, the UFP was founded. Within those first few years of the Federation, all members committed forces to the common defense/patrol effort with crew exchange programs.  

STARFLEET of the 2260's
By the time of the mid 23rd century, Starfleet had entered its "Golden Age" and certain elements of style, design, and iconography were established. This was also around the time that Starfleet itself had become the established defensive/exploration arm of the Federation, and with the iconic Constitution class starship, Starfleet had also established its signature style to starship design. During this time period, Starfleet was establishing new starbases, launching deep space exploration missions, and fielding the new Heavy Cruiser Constitution class.
When it comes to make conflicts, Starfleet and the Federation were coming off from the Four Years War with the Klingons (2252-2256) and the brief Federation-Sheliak Conflict of 2255, but there was no major conflict or war during the 2260's, save for the very brief Federation-Klingon War of 2267, which halted by the Organians. This allowed, in conjunction with the Organians, for Starfleet to field more scientific and exploration missions, with only one class combat starship being fielded: the Federation class Dreadnought. The primary vessel of the Starfleet at this time was the Constitution class, but only a dozen were in service. This trend of peace and exploration would continue, leading to a drop in Federation preparedness for a major conflict.

STARFLEET of the 2270's-2290's
Time is cyclic, and while the 2260's were mostly peaceful for the Federation, the 2270's through the 2290's, would see the 2271 V'Ger Incident. rising tension with the Klingons, resulting in skirmishes and raids, along with an nearly all-out war with the Klingon Empire after the explosion of Praxis in 2293. During the 2270's, Starfleet would began overhauling their entire Starfleet, from their ships, Starbases, to their uniforms. The 2270's would the adaption of two completely different uniforms. The latter 2278 uniform became the longest used in Starfleet history.
It was during the 2280's, rising tensions with the Klingons and Romulans over borders and colonies would cause the construction of the Excelsior class battlecruiser. Tension rose even higher part when the existence of the Genesis Device was learned in 2285, resulting in the Genesis Device scandal of 2285. This would mark a low point in the Federation's history. These border raids and skirmishes would be the bulk of combat for much of the latter half of the 23rd century. However, it could have been much worse.
In 2293, the Klingon energy production site on their moon of Praxis exploded, putting an expiration date on the Klingon Homeworld. It was there, that history arrived at a crossroads. Factions within the Klingon and the Federation governments plotted to keep things the way they were. Events arrived at a head when Chancellor Gorkon is killed by Starfleet personnel. As a result, Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy are arrested, trialed, and sentenced to the penal asteroid. This was nearly resulted in a full-scale war between the two power. By the time of Khitomer Conference, it was discovered that certain fractions within the key governments of the Alpha Quadrant had conspired to keep the peace talks from being successful. The Khitomer Conference would lead to the historic Khitomer Accords that lead to the grand alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. This peace altered Starfleet.

STARFLEET of the 2340's-2267
The Starfleet that begun the 24th century was not the same Starfleet that ended the century. While hopes were high at the beginning of the 24th century from an era of peace and exploration, by the 2370's, the entire quadrant was ripped apart by the bloodiest war the Federation had ever seen. With the alliance between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, Starfleet believed that they could devote new resources to exploration. In 2311, the Romulans and the Federation had a conflict that would result in thousands of lost lives and the Treaty of Algeron. This conflict, the Tomed Incident would cause the disappearance of the Romulans from the interstellar stage for fifty years. The only contact that Stafleet had with the Romulans after the Tomed Incident was the Battle of Narendra III, where the Ambassador class Enterprise-C would defeat the Klingon outpost from four Warbirds. The Enterprise-C would be lost with all hands in attempting to save the outpost. This heroic action of the Enterprise-C would forge an even closer relationship between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.
During that time, Starfleet would engage in t wars, one with the Cardassian Union that lasted from the 2350's through the 2360's, resulting in millions of causalities, and the infamous Setilk III Massacre. The others were the Galen border conflicts of the 2350's and the Federation-Tzenkethi War of the 2360's. During this time period, Starfleet has began to adapt new uniforms that harkened back to the "Golden Age" and the largest starship class was created: The Galaxy class long-range explorer. This new class would govern over the "style" of the fleet for much of the rest of century. This new class became a symbol of what Starfleet and the Federation wanted for the 24th century, a return to peaceful exploration. However, in the 2350's, the Borg were beginning scouting expeditions in the Alpha Quadrant, and the formal introduction for the Borg Collective to the Federation was made by Q when he pushed the Enterprise-D into the star system J-25, some 7,000 LYs aways from Federation space in 2365.
It was there, that the Enterprise-D crew met and engaged the Borg. This meeting would alter Federation history and cause Starfleet to began several major research projects on the Borg. However, the Collective would mount an invasion of Federation space in 2367 with a single cube, and the resulting events would again alter the Quadrant. Admiral Hanson would amass 40 starships of various classes at Wolf 359 to haul the Borg Cube's path to Terra. That single battle was the biggest in Starfleet history (at that time), and the greatest loss as well. 39 of the 40 starships were destroyed with 11,000 killed or assimilated. The Cube was destroyed by the heroic actions of the Enterprise-D, saving Earth and the whole of the Federation. But, everyone knew that was not the last they would see of the Borg.

STARFLEET After the Battle of Wolf 359 and the Dominion War
Prior to the battle, Starfleet had been working on more offensive solutions to the Borg threat, and new starships were being planned that were more combat minded than previous along when new weapon systems, like Quantum torpedoes and pulse phasers. The Akira and Defiant class were planned out to be ships that could counter the Borg. Only the Akira class would see service into the fleet prior to the Dominion War. This threat altered thinking of starship design as well, as seen in the Steamrunner class.
With such a loss of manpower and ships, it was estimated that it would take years for those assets to be replaced. This would cause a building boom for starships and increased recruitment. All of the planning came together when the Borg tried again in 2373 with a direct assault on Sector 001. The new ships, new technology, and new training paid off when the Cube was destroyed with tactical knowledge from Captain Picard and some well placed Quantum torpedoes from the new Enterprise-E. Still, about 20 starships were lost, and this was just one of the major events in the Alpha Quadrant during the Dominion threat and the Klingons.
From 2372-2373, the Klingon and Federation tensions exploded into all out war. This was on the heels of the Klingons invading Cardassian space after a coup in the Cardassian central government. The Klingons believed that the Cardassian government had been taken over by the Dominion. However, all of this was a plot by the Dominion to destabilize the whole of the Alpha Quadrant. It very nearly worked. In 2373 through 2375, Starfleet, weakened by the Klingon War, engaged in the largest war in its existence. This was a war for the very survival of the Quadrant, and all of the Federation rose up. In order to counter the 30,000 ships of the Dominion and their Cardassian and Breen allies, Starfleet broke out the mothball fleet and pushed ship construction to the minimum, in order to put starships on the line.
For two years, the Federation and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant was torn apart, with even Terra suffering attacks. One of the most major engagements was Operation: Return, were Starfleet attempted to take control of DS9 with a task force of 600 ships to counter a force of 1200. While DS9 was returned to Federation control, the results were bloody. The Federation formed an military alliance with many other Alpha Quadrant powers, including the Romulans to help push back the Dominion from invading the founding worlds of the Federation. By 2375, the Dominion was being countered, and when the Dominion pulled back to Cardassian space, the Federation Alliance invaded to end the war with an all out assault on Cardassia Prime.
While another costly victory, the Battle of Cardassia Prime was the end of the war. The planet itself was nearly completely destroy and millions were dead. Cardassia, one of the great powers in the Quadrant was gone. The end of the two year war was formalized by the Bajorian Peace Treaty of 2375. What reminded of the Dominion and the Founders withdrew to the Gamma Quadrant, and the task of rebuilding was undertaken. Many estimated it would take more than a decade to rebuild the Quadrant, and even longer to rebuild Starfleet's ships and personnel.  Whole classes of Starfleet Academy were wiped out, and nearly every Federation member was effected by the war, including invasion and occupation. With this power vacuum, there was an revolt on Romulus in 2379  by Remus, which resulted in the Battle in the Bassen Rift with the Enterprise-E preventing the warlord Shinzon from taking control. As the 24th century drew to close, Starfleet had suffered through its darkest years, and reminded standing.

The Future of STARFLEET: 24th Century and Beyond
After the end of the TNG films and Deep Space 9, there has been no canonized information on the activities of Starfleet and since the ST franchise is now existing in the J.J. Abrams alternate timeline, we may never know. However, there some hints of the future of Starfleet. It is believed that with the destabilization of the Gamma and Alpha Quadrant and the near destruction of the bulk of Starfleet's fleet caused Starfleet to alter its core mission of defense and exploration to maintain peace, security, and rebuilding it ships, bases, planets, and personnel. After all, Starfleet suffered the worst casualties of its existence with the the back-to-back wars. It is also believed that Starfleet designed more offensive/defensive starships due to their experiences in the wars.
We know that in the 26th century, Starfleet had the Enterprise J in service, and it was on the frontline of the war against the Sphere builders at the Battle of Procyon V. At this time, the Federation is the primary power in the galaxy, with the Klingons, Xindi as actually members of the UFP, and not just allies. (Does this mean Klingon warships look like Federation starships?). By the time of the 26th century, the Federation and Starfleet are involved in time travel. By the 29th century, Starfleet has timeships, like the USS Relativity. Time, as much as space, becomes a battleground. After the 31st century, there are no more information on the status of Starfleet. Some believe due to the Temporal Cold War, that the Starfleet we knew is no longer the defensive organization of the UFP.

The Enemies of STARFLEET

For much of Starfleet's history, their primary enemies have been the Romulans, the Klingons, and Cardassians. These are rivals that mirror in the Federation in technology and military philosophy. The balance of the Alpha Quadrant is not in favor of one or the other...until the emerge of the Borg and the Dominion. It was under these trials of fire that the true strengths and weaknesses of the Starfleet were exposed. Both of these mortal enemies forced Starfleet to reevaluate their military policies and training. Both enemies caused considerable death and destruction to Starfleet and the Federation, however, they pushed the Federation to grow and Starfleet as well.

The Final Assessment on STARFLEET
Often military organization are ranked, and I've often wondered what kind of grade Starfleet would get if ranked. So, here it is, the final assessment of Starfleet. Credit has to be given for the amount of time that Starfleet has been in existence and amazing low number of major conflicts that the Federation has endured. However that peace has come at a price, along with the multiple missions of Stafleet. When confronted with a hostile situation, Starfleet attempts diplomacy, and this has cost starships and lives.
Due to the mission of Starfleet being primarily peacekeeping and exploration, their bulk of their fleet was not designed for combat, and this also reflected in their approach at the Academy and lack of ground forces. However, the strongest military does not always win. The true strength of Starfleet is not in its starships or phaser banks but its ability to form alliances and its people. Starfleet personnel are the best trained and most flexible in the Quadrant, allowing for Starfleet to rise to new challenges, even if the hardware is weak. In the final judgement of Starfleet I would grade the organization an "C". While their personnel are the core strength of the organization, it is the bipolar nature of their organization and the multi-mission starships that open Starfleet to weakness against more aggressive species.

The Impact of STARFLEET and Its Importance
There is nothing like Starfleet in the whole of science fiction, before or since. Since the 1960's, we have seen the evolution of Starfleet in both real-world time and the fictional timeline. We have Starfleet evolve from its beginnings in the 22nd century through the 24th. This has never been done before in an fictional military organization, especially one featured across most media platforms. Along the way, we have seen the continued development of their uniforms, their technology, and their ships. This also applies to new aliens being added to their ranks and even the evolution of the government that Starfleet serves. What also makes Starfleet unique to science fiction is its mission and the fandom. Unlike the vast majority of fictional military organizations, Starfleet is not whole devoted to defense or militarism. Instead, Starfleet embraces several core missions: defense, exploration, diplomacy, and peacekeeping. This construction of Starfleet has made other creators take note of how an space navy can be much more than just an navy.
What about its impact? That can be best seen in its fandom. Starfleet uniforms have been worn to weddings, parties, courtrooms, in space, and even in senior pictures; as we have seen "hot nerd girl" Tracy's 1990's senior pictures (my gods, that woman is perfect!). Most fans would gladly enlist and serve in Starfleet with recruitment rates that would make the US Navy extremely happy. That really says something about the impact of Starfleet, when something like 80% of ST fans would gladly serve in Starfleet...hell, even I would serve in Starfleet! In fact, "Hot Nerd Girl" Tracy attended San Francisco State University based on it being the closest to Starfleet Academy in terms of location and style. That speaks volumes about the impact and importance of Starfleet on the sci-fi community and fandom.

The Confusion over Starfleet's Purpose and Mission
The concept of Starfleet was not established until the episode "Court Martial" of the TOS, and prior to it, the term "UESPA" had been used as well. For many years, Trek creator Gene Roddenberry stated over and over again, that Starfleet was not an military organization, and it was more akin to the US Coast Guard than the US Navy. The militarism of Starfleet has been down played many, many times by dialog in the shows and film. This leads to much confusion among fans and even the production staff. While Roddenberry was alive, he prevented anything that might reflect Starfleet being an space navy, and played up the exploration missions rather than the combat.
However, over time, this has been eroded, and rightly so. At one time, I think Roddenberry wanted the USS Enterprise to be explorer vessel that was under the command of an space agency like NASA, and that is why UESPA was born, but it just does not work in the complex galaxy that Trek is set in. Again, this only adds confusion. For those of us that grew up under the movies and TNG, Starfleet became a hybrid of peacetime and wartime missions. However, some were not happy, including Nichelle Nichols, and she reminded ST II:TWOK producers that Starfleet was more NASA than the USAF. To me, I think what Ron D. Moore said in 1997 is true, that Starfleet is the defensive and exploration arm of the Federation, and this organization which is so unique to the world of science fiction should be celebrated for being both: the Yin and the Yang of an in-space force. After all, the US Navy renders aid during international crisis as much as it launches bombing missions. It is possible to do both.

Next Time on FWS...
Some wars are more intriguing than others, and at times, those wars are not the ones explored by the creator. It is sometimes those background conflicts that trigger an urge to research than the bigger, more well-known conflicts. In the next blogpost, FWS will be exploring the most interesting (to me) conflicts of science fiction.

22 November 2015

FWS News Feed: STAR TREK Special Forces Movie?!

News broke this week that Paramount President Marc Evans, during an interview with WIRED magazine, said that Paramount is exploring the possibility of  Trek themed stand-alone films, like Star Wars is doing with Rogue One. In the interview, Evans wonders what an Star Trek: Zero Dark Thirty commando movie would look like. This is amazing news, because we've never had an military-themed Trek film and to see one that might answer the basic question of the existence of the mythical Starfleet Marines! I wonder if Evans is referring to the MACOs, only Special Forces unit we've ever seen in Trek? This connected universe film of the Trek universe could allow us to see more of the galaxy than just the Federation and Starfleet...could we get an Klingon movie? Of course, the real question is would this military-themed Trek film or other connected-universe films be set in the mainstream universe or the new alternative universe laid down by J.J. Abrams? Those new films are so limited in the presentation in the wider universe, but would mining the old original timeline be confusing to audiences and Trek fans? All of this is just speculation at this point, but the mere possibility of seeing an Trek commando film could be very exciting!

21 November 2015

FWS Book Review: The Last Hero by Nathaniel Danes

The genesis of interstellar conflicts has been a topic greatly explored by science fiction writers and creators since the beginning of the genre with HG Wells' War of the Worlds. So much so, that FWS has an entire blog serial devoted to the topic, and I'm always keeping my eyes open for new works with solid reason for wars in outer space. That is when I discovered The Last Hero by Nathaniel Danes, and after reading the excerpt, I knew I had to read his book, because it mirrored a book I have in-production and it gave one of the most concrete reason for interstellar conflict: planetary atmospheric standard real estate...and because it was solid military science fiction.

The Setting
Trent Maxwell is a man out of time. He was the last Medal of Honor winner and a damn fine infantry commander that has proven himself on the battlefield for his country many times. However, when the friendly alien race known as the Kitrights arrived on Earth, Maxwell's chosen profession ceased to exist due to an outbreak of global peace and a new understanding among nations. Trent Maxwell, Medal of Honor winner became an insurance salesman for his Father-in-Law firm, as colonial expeditions to an Earth-like world are mounted. The future it seems, is one without war. For year, all seems bright and shiny...until they came and attacked. An unknown hostile feline alien race attacks and destroys the colonial settlement on New Earth, propelling the Earth to rebuild their nearly extinct military organizations. Then warfighters like Trent Maxwell are asked, once again, to fight the good fight, but this time it is for the future of the species. But at what cost to the warfighters? What price will Maxwell pay?

The Spoiler-Free Review of The Last Hero
One of the struggles of any writer/creator is having something new to say about a familiar setting/situation, and wars being waged over interstellar real estate is common.It takes talent to set your work apart without making it an oddity. That is the ultimate question for The Last Hero, did author Nathaniel Danes set his work apart from the others? The answer is yes. At its center, The Last Hero is a novel about the sacrifice that soldiers make on the battlefield, and the impact of those sacrifices have. That fact is only compounded to a greater extent by the horrors of time dilation. We have seen this in characters like William Mandella from the The Forever War and Cooper from Interstellar, but Mr. Danes does something different with his primary character Trent Maxwell that harkens to those other characters, but makes Maxwell's sacrifices deeper and more painful, and thankfully avoids the "stranger in a strange land" trope that The Forever War mines liberally and exhaustively. Danes expertly weaves hard emotions and even harder choices for Trent when he is forced to leave his family to fight among the stars. Some of the scenes are damn powerful, and the overall book is strengthened by those key scenes. The other aspect of The Last Hero that was done in a refreshing manner is Trent's talent for being a soldier. Often in modern polite society we avoid discussing one inescapable fact about some soldiers: they are good at what they do and they have a need to do that job. Mr. Danes does not shy away from having Trent think this several times, and how excited he is to leave his insurance job for the armed expeditionary force.
That life-altering moment for the primary character is within the first few pages of the 316 page novel, thrusts the reader into the situation rapidly. This allows the reader to know that this book will be about the war and not Maxwell's home life. While others may think it needed more at the beginning, I liked this, and there is enough character inner reflection to make up for it. The war itself is told in a similar manner to The Forever War, where an expeditionary force goes, fights an battle or two, and then comes back to an altered world due to time dilation. This is another good point in favor for The Last Hero, the changes reflect the war expanding and Earth's response. It reminded me of how the United States geared up for World War II after years of military dormance. The expeditionary forces also encounter more advanced alien technology due to the time shift
which I greatly enjoyed.
Several things I greatly enjoyed as well was the way that the author presents the battles and the gear that the members of 1st Legion use. There is enclosed combat environmental suits, KEW rifles, magazine-fed grenade launchers, and various exo-planet environments and terrains. He actually thought about weapons and gear, which is a nice touch. Mr. Danes was also inventive with the combat scenarios seen in the book, especially one taking place on an alien space station. I do wish that some scenes were spaced out more, especially those concerning Maxwell's return to Terra and his interactions with his family and society at large. These scenes are highly concentrated with a great deal happening, and they would have benefited from some more breathing room to have a more natural flow. However, the strength of the writing and characters pays off carrying the story and reader through these patches. Another element that I wanted more of was the enemy itself: the Bearcats. I wanted to know more about them, and I believe that since The Last Hero is part one of a trilogy, that information is coming, but there is only hints. That is one of the perils of writing a series of books from the beginning, authors tend to hold back, often making some of the events seem half-baked when it is according to the grand plan. Fortunately, The Last Hero read wells and does not suffer from that syndrome as much. By the end of the 300+ pages, there is a twist, and it did have me buying part two...and that is the best compliment: you want more.

The Interview with the Author Nathaniel Danes (Conducted on November 7th

1. Tell us about the genesis of The Last Hero and why you decided to the set the first battle on Terra's first off-world colony.

ND: The true genesis of The Last Hero was the birth of my daughter. I thought I knew what love was before I had a child, I was wrong. I wasn’t prepared for the raw emotional gut punch it is to hold your own child for the first time. Those feelings bleed into the stories that are always bouncing around in my head and here we are now. The story begins with a humanity just beginning to explore the galaxy and they are ignorant about the vast majority of it. That naiveté is important to the story’s first phase.

2.   Why did you decided to write within the genre of military sci-fi? Do you have an interest in the genre?

ND: My first advice to any writer would be to write what you’d want to read. I once was on the path toward a military career and extensively studied military history to prepare myself for it. I also have a love for SciFi, Star Wars, Star Trek, etc… The two just are a natural fit for me. To this day I pretty much only read military history and military SciFi.

3.  Tell us about some of your favorite military science fiction works or works that inspired you to write The Last Hero. Was it The Forever War?

ND: The Forever War certainly played a big role in my writing career. It in fact, was the first military SciFi novel I ever read and hooked me on the genre. I also enjoy reading B.V Larson’s Star Force and Undying Mercenaries series, Jay Allan’s Crimson Worlds, Vaughn Heppners Invasion America series. And of course, Old Man’s War.

4.   While the book focuses on the expeditionary Earth forces and Trent Maxwell, the story elements dealing with Trent's relationship with his wife and daughter were heartbreaking and remind me of the heartbreak that most of our soldiers experience when they go off to war. Why did you decided to include these family elements in the book?

ND:  Some military SciFi can lack heart and/or gloss over the emotional toll war wrecks on soldiers as you move from battle to battle. Bringing the element of family into the story gives it depth and adds another angle to explore the characters’ journey through this universe.

5. Your main character Trent Maxwell is multi-layered, and deeply explored in the novel, making me believe that Trent is someone you know. Is Trent or any of his team based on anyone you know? And how did you approach designing the character?

ND:  All of the characters are, to at least some degree, based on people in my life. When I imagine the person I want for a particular role, I think of someone I know who is like that and ask myself what would they do. I carry that formula throughout the work.

6.   Your novel is mostly populated with military characters that are mostly seem upper-tier warfighters. What was the challenge for you writing characters like this?

ND:  Making sure their realistic. While I prepared for several years to become an officer in the Army, my career was cut dramatically short with a medical discharged due to a genetic disorder that is causing me ot lose my sight. Given that lack of real work experience, it can be easily to make military characters seem totally unbelieveable. I hope I managed to capture them.

7.  Why did you base the Earth Legion around the Ancient Imperial Roman military?

ND:     One, I think the reason given in the novel is legitimize for doing so. Secondly, for my own fun. I love Roman military history and thought, why the hell not.

8.     I thought an interesting element to the character of Trent Maxwell is his natural talent and ability for combat and war in general. We, in proper society, often attempt to not address the natural talent that some warfighters have for their craft because it involves death and killing. How did this come about in your character? Was it a social commentary?

ND:    There wasn’t an arterial motivation for making him that way. It’s who he is at his core, a warrior. He is so much more than that, though and that creates conflict within. He deeply misses home but knows he is where he belongs, doing what he was built for. He makes no apologies for who he is. He didn’t ask for war and had made a life without it but when duty calls, he will answer it.

9.    In your novel, the Legion expeditionary forces use magnetic kinetic energy weapons, like the MRC. Why did you decided to arm the Legionnaires with these types of futuristic weaponry instead of the more the classic sci-fi directed energy or even caseless weaponry?.Also, What was your general approach to the human and the Bearcat technology presented in The Last Hero? For example, in the HALO universe, the UNSC uses kinetic while the Covenant uses directed energy weaponry. Being an Texan, I also enjoyed the inclusion of the Bowie Knife!

ND:     I went that way because that’s the direction I think our science will take us. Direct energy weapons, scaled down for individual use, will have serious drawbacks, even a couple hundred years from now. The Legion’s rifles give them better rate of fire and more ammo not to mention their effectiveness isn’t limited by foggy weather or rain. As for the weaponry the Bearcats use, I based that on their biology. Their a large species and their rifles reflect what would be the best fit for them. And if you were going into a fight against a Bearcat, you’d want a Bowie knife too.

10.  Your characters use grenades a number of times, which is special and rare among military sci-fi literary works. Tell us why you decided to include grenades, especially ones loaded from a magazine like the HK XM25

ND:   I envision they will have great utility in future wars. Advanced science makes them small but lethal. Add in the fact that they can be programmed to detonate at pre-assigned distance, something we can do now with some rifles still in R&D, gives them great flexibility on the battlefield.

 Why did you decided to use feline-like alien basis for the Bearcats? Was it due to feline aliens like the Kilrathi from Wing Commander?
ND: You know, it just kinda worked out that way. I can’t really examine it. When I thought of these aliens, I saw feline type creatures. Who knows why, I sure don’t?

12.  Do you think that the social horrors and logistical issues of Time Dilation will rule out interstellar war?

ND:     I like to believe we will one day figure out warp drive, NASA’s actually doing some incredible work on it to get us there 100 years from now, or find another solution like in my novel. But, we may never. In that case, interstellar war will be very difficult but not impossible. I have dark faith that mankind will figure out a way to wage war despite great distances and relativity. Think, self-sustaining military forces with a feudal political system.

13.  Unlike The Forever War or even Interstellar, Trent comes back to future Earth that is different, but he still understands. The Earth he left to go to war, and the Earth he comes back to are still similar. Did you decided not to alter the Earth to the extreme of The Forever War?

ND:  The reason you saw such change in Interstellar and The Forever War is because it was negative change. Think going from the height of the Roman Empire to the depths of the Dark Ages while my novel goes from the heart of the Renaissance to the late 18th century. Its change but along the same path that the person left.

14.  What does the future hold for your series and your writing as a whole? I notice that The Last Hero is a trilogy. Any plans to write more stories in The Last Hero universe?

ND: Book 2, The Last Revenge is already out and the final installment, The Last Charge of the 1st Legion will be out very soon. I can one day envision another trilogy in this universe but not for some time. I have other stories in my head I need to get out.

15.  Now that the book is out for the public consumption, and while your Amazon reader reviewers are very positive, what changes would you have made to The Last Hero?

ND:  Thanks to my editors, my writing has gotten a lot better, I at least like to think so. When I go back and read passages from The Last Hero I often go, oh gees, I’d write that differently if I could. But it is what it is and those changes would really just be cosmetic. The story would still be 100 percent what it is now.

Should You Read The Last Hero?
Yes. To me, The Last Hero is a solid military science fiction tale with mileage left in the tank to carry the characters and setting through the next two books that Mr. Danes has laid out. There is easily enough here in these pages to fully recommend the book. The Last Hero has the punch of great action scenes, wrenching emotion situations and good world-building to keep your attention and offer you something interesting. I will be reading the next two installments of this series, because the twist was just that good and so is his central character.

Next Time on FWS...
A few months ago, FWS started a new blog series about profiling the most common fictional military organizations. For the next installment of that serial, we will be profiling the protectors of the United Federation of Planets....Starfleet. So, join FWS next time after the Thanksgiving break, when I will fully demonstrate how much I know about Star Trek and how much of an (ex) Trekkie I am. Until next time...

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