Tue
Jan 17 2012 4:30pm
Admirals and Amazons: Women in Military Science Fiction

Navies clash in the vast depths of space. Intrigue and politics and empire-building — both bureaucratic and territorial — span lightyears, planets, and decades. Explosions, assassination, war, revolution: some of my very favourite fictional things. I really like a good military space opera.

Military SF is, fundamentally, a politically conservative genre. In the original sense of politically conservative, at least: that is, interested in tradition and the preservation of existing institutions. The wild-eyed revolutionary firebrand and the generally stable — even, one might say, socially rigid — institution of the military tend to get along about as well as a house on fire, with a lot of heat and noise and property damage. Which is fine: there’s nothing wrong with conservatism in its place, and the clash-of-armies novel — past, present, or future — is one place where you’re guaranteed to find it. That conservatism is most glaring, though, in my opinion, when it comes to the position of female characters and non-“western” cultures. [1]

[1] For non-“western” cultures... You name me some military space operas where the protagonist is not recognisable as culturally American-descended or, in a minority of cases, British, and I will revise my opinion, okay?

“What?” you say. “But surely the most famous military science fiction series of our time is about a woman? And what about Kris Longknife?”

True! And I am overjoyed that this is the case. But just because we have women in prominent positions doesn’t mean that there are no problems in the field with the position of women — and of non-culturally “western” characters. To take the latter first: Tommy Lien, in Mike Shepherd’s Kris Longknife books, is a nice enough guy, but a caricature of Irish Chineseness.[2] People in David Weber’s Honorverse have a variety of skin tones, but a much more limited variety of backgrounds. David Drake’s With the Lightnings and sequels are clearly, if not explicitly, based on Republican Rome, and the civilised folks/barbarians division inherent in your average set of Roman assumptions doesn’t leave much room for cultural diversity. I could continue the list, but I don’t think I have to: you get the idea.

[2] I know, that’s not a real word. I think the English language will forgive me.

But let’s return to the case of the ladies. Whatever else we may say, we’ve at least moved on from the 1970s  military SF of Jerry Pournelle and David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers, where the only role for a woman was in the rear echelons as support staff, or an unrecognised irregular.

Or have we?

Space operatic military SF is different. By which I mean space navies. Whatever Weber’s flaws, his female characters are not single heroines operating in a void, but competent equals to the men around them.[3] Elizabeth Moon’s space opera includes well-rounded military and civilian women. Walter Jon William’s Dread Empire’s Fall trilogy had some of the most interesting characters, male or female, I’ve seen in space opera in a very long time, and Scott Westerfeld’s decision to write Young Adult fiction exclusively is a great loss for the field, as The Risen Empire aptly demonstrates.

[3] Though one may be tempted to say something about Honor’s near-celibate status for many books (don’t make me count them), and how femaleness is seen as less female when it’s non-sexual — but I’m not a gender studies geek, and besides. I’m not sure I’d believe me.

But elsewhere, it often seems that a girl must still be One Of The Boys to be taken seriously. In Shepherd’s Longknife books, for example, Kris Longknife is portrayed as tougher than a marine, though able to move with ease in high society. I’m not sure whether the handful of Halo tie-ins I’ve read are representative, but this is also true for them. In Drake’s With the Lightnings and sequels, the main female character, Adele Mundy, while not exactly one of the boys, is not what you would call emotionally well-rounded, either. (In the interests of fairness, it must be said that neither is her co-star, Daniel Leary.) Maybe we can put this down to the fact that military SF doesn’t always have a lot of scope for — or interest in — showing life outside the military, and in the present day the ability to be one of the boys is necessarily a military virtue. Fond as I am of space opera, I find this a doubtful argument — but it might be an argument worth having.

So much for the major space navy players. What about military science fiction with a ground combat element? Here the names that come immediately to mind are John Ringo and Tom Kratman, both of whom I find strongly problematic — Kratman, outright unsettling, by virtue of how very much, from where I stand, his books live in Opposite World, and Ringo because I will never again be able to disentangle his SF from that Boy’s Own Adventure of his which I read by accident, immortalised on the internet by Oh John Ringo No.  Their female characters tend to suffer unpleasant fates, or to be relegated to backwaters of the narrative, and the old canard of “no women in the special infantry” is once again in play. Am I being a little unfair? Perhaps. But I see in their work much of the influence of Pournelle, and — to borrow a phrase from a certain fictional curmudgeonly old woman — I can’t be having with that kind of thing at my time of life. I should also, probably, mention Michael Z. Williamson under this heading — though while I find his politics as problematic, his treatment of female characters is less clearly marginalising.

Then again, on the other hand, we have John Scalzi, against whom I can levy no such complaint. Scalzi, unlike Ringo, Kratman, or Williamson, doesn’t have a military background of his own. Yet I find his future military more convincingly science-fictional than those of the aforementioned authors. Why is that? Is it that I find it strange that writers can imagine alien cultures and strange new weapons, but appear unable to see gender in other than the ways they’re most accustomed to?

When talking about women in science fiction, it’s probably best to avoid making inflammatory statements. I’m afraid I’ve not managed that. To make up for it, I’m not going to draw any sweeping conclusions. Instead, I have a question or three for you. Is popular military SF more conservative in terms of gender and race than the rest of the genre? If it is, what factors make it that way?

And if it’s not, what have I been missing?


Liz Bourke is reading for a PhD in Classics at Trinity College, Dublin. A longtime SFF fan, she spends her spare time among far too many books.

This article is part of Military Science Fiction on Tor.com: ‹ previous | index | next ›
127 comments
Kerry Kuhn
1. Kerry
Ground-force military SF - what about Huff's Valor series? Female protagonist.
kukkurovaca
2. kukkurovaca
How about Asaro's protagonist in "Primary Inversion," etc.? She's...gosh, what is her genetic background supposed to be? Largely Mayan, right? Of course, defined ancestry and actual cultural perspective as depicted aren't necessarily related. I don't know whether the Skolians actually *feel* like a non-western civilization.

Also, while Bujold's Vorkosigan books are mostly centered around a male character who is certainly Western in origin (Russian/British/American/etc.), they have a very different political and social landscape than, say, Weber.
kukkurovaca
3. Algot Runeman
You may also have missed including the women in Lois McMaster Bujold's work. While the main character of the Vorkosigan series, Miles, is male, he is more than adequately supported by strong women, including his mother.
kukkurovaca
4. Pangolin
Isn't the entire Serrano family from when Elizabeth Moon's character Herris Serrano black?
F Shelley
5. FSS
Ground force Sci FI - Starship Troopers comes to mind (the book - not the movie, thanks). Also has a non-US protagonist (Juan Rico from Brazil).

I'm not a scifi expert at all, and have only read a handful of Heinlein, so I can't think of a female main protagonist, but he has strong female characters in a number of books such as Stranger in a Strange Land (which I disliked and is very dated, being 60-ish years old) and the Moon is a Harsh Mistress.
Liz Bourke
6. hawkwing-lb
@Kerry:

You're right, and I completely forgot about the Valor series. (Bad me. No biscuit.) They're such very entertaining books, I can't think how I managed it.

@kukkurovaca:

I have to say that the focus of Asaro's work always feels less military and more space fantasy (it's Star Wars! With extra women!) to me - the scope of it, and the telempathic powers, and the concentration more as much the emotional arcs of the characters as on the political side. Tho' I expect other people have different metrics.

But yes. The cultural background of Skolia is - hmm. Always struck me as though it should feel more alien than it actually does in practice? And as far as I recall, the only Earth humans we're introduced to are Americans and Brits. I take your point, though.

@ both kukkurovaca and Algot Runeman:

Is the Miles Vorkosigan series actually military, though? It always strikes me as more caper-plot and Intergalactic Adventure than military. Though I admit both Warrior's Apprentice and The Vor Game has very good military bits in them, so perhaps I'm not using the quite the right metric to judge.

@ Pangolin:

Are "black" and "culturally American/Brit" exclusive categories? Some of my mates will be shocked to hear you say so.
George Brell
7. gbrell
@5.FSS:

Ground force Sci FI - Starship Troopers comes to mind (the book - not the movie, thanks). Also has a non-US protagonist (Juan Rico from Brazil).

Except that every element you mention there is from the movie. In the book, Heinlein strongly divides the military with the grunts (the Mobile Infantry) being exclusively male (so much so that while in training camp the prospective soldiers claim to disbelief that women even exist), while the Navy (or at least the pilots) are predominately female due to their physiological differences.

You are correct, however, that Johnny Rico is not technically American. But he's Filipino, not Brazilian (he speaks Tagalog), and his social background is very American.
kukkurovaca
8. AlBrown
People today tend to forget how much the world has changed in just a single lifetime. When I joined the Coast Guard in the early 1970s, there were no women on active duty, they were all limited to service in a women's reserve known as the SPARS. Then, within a few short years, we went from women in the active service, to women at the Coast Guard Academy, to women on ships, and women in command of ships. For example, the Admiral who led the response to the devastating BP oil spill last summer was a woman, RADM Mary Landry, one of those pioneers who broke the gender barrier.
To give credit where credit is due, the first time I remember encountering a female infantryman in a book was The Forever War by Joe Haldeman. And I do remember another in a book by David Drake, if I remember correctly the book was Forlorn Hope, out in the early 1980s. And I remember a lot of flak over those portrayals. I just watched a history channel on the Tuskagee Airmen, and it was surprising how many of the false claims about blacks in WWII were paralleled by what I heard in the 70's from folks who didn't think women could do it.
Now, admittedly, there have been some problems created by throwing young women and men together in tight quarters, what with young people and their libidos. But these problems are far outweighed by the fact that, again and again, women have proven that they can serve alongside men, serve proudly and serve well.
And a measure of how far we have come is the fact that science fiction books from past decades, that went with the prevailing wisdom of a male military, now seem archaic and quaint.
So welcome to the fray, ladies, I'm proud, and glad, to have you aboard!
kukkurovaca
9. Tom Kratman
Liz, I invite your attention to this:
http://www.baen.com/amazonsrightbreast.asp.

Warning: it is not going to make you happy.

best,

Tom Kratman
kukkurovaca
10. Mike G.
Speaking of the Coast Guard, how about S.M. Stirling's _Island in the Sea of Time_ series? The military commander is a female USCG Captain, IIRC.

And, of course, his Draka series has women fully involved in combat ops. Of course, the Draka are evil, but the women are certainly equally evil with them men :) (And there are very strong non-Draka women in the 2nd and 3rd books)
Liz Bourke
11. hawkwing-lb
@Tom Kratman:

If you have an argument about the position of women in SF, this would be a good place to make it. The argument you're making over there (whether I agree or disagree with it is, at this point in time, not relevant) doesn't appear to have much to do with science fiction.
kukkurovaca
12. Tom Kratman
That was just for your benefit, Liz. What it has to do with science fiction is that it's an accompanying piece to a mil sci fi book I wrote. Since I hate pimping my books, I won't mention the title, though I suppose it could be found. My position on the position of women in military sci fi is that most of it is wishful thinking, driven by ignorance of - or the wilful ignoring of - the realities of war. Entertaining, perhaps, and even moving, sometimes; still, it is fictive and misleading, at best, and fundamentally fraudulent, at worst.

Personally I think we could make decent women ground combatants, in useful numbers, but never so long as we insist on subordinating the realities of war to enlightened sentiment and wishful thinking.
Liz Bourke
13. hawkwing-lb
@Tom Kratman:

I think you are wrong in the present, but I doubt that's a subject on which we may have fruitful and productive disagreement, so we'll have to agree to be of different minds.

But as for science fiction? Mate, this is the genre of FTL and weird science and all kinds of theoretical and presently impossible physics crap. Are you telling me you can't conceive of a future where there are no (temporary or permanent) artificial fixes to the vast majority of objections you can raise? If that's not the type of story you want to read or tell, fine - but don't imply it's not a story that can't or shouldn't be told.
Liz Bourke
14. hawkwing-lb
but don't imply it's not a story that can't or shouldn't be told.

...And double negative fail for me. (This, internets, is why people should not be typing after bedtime.) Please remove one "not" or one "can't" for intended meaning of sentence.
kukkurovaca
15. Tom Kratman
What could weird science or FTL have to do with it? Maybe it could make women stronger than normal genetics has. Sadly, strength is the least of it.

Oh, I don't say they can't tell the story. I do say that the story typically goes beyond the plausible, to anyone with the grounding to know what is and is not possible.

Someone up above alluded to the case of racial integration. Here's a clue: racism is learned behavior, and what can be learned can be unlearned. Sexual attraction is largely an innate, not a learned, behavior, and it will never be unlearned. Or controlled. I've never had too much of a problem with the sci fi story that posits a very physically strong woman combatant. There are a few. It's the other thing they miss that sets my teeth on edge, how men and women in military organizations effect each other. Even with the best will in the world, "Eros mocks Mars."
Liz Bourke
16. hawkwing-lb
Sexual attraction is largely an innate, not a learned, behavior, and it will never be unlearned. Or controlled.
I think this statement is problematic on several grounds - and, with reference to science fiction, shows a deficit of imagination. But I've things to do in eight hours and need a modicum of sleep first, so you'll have to excuse me if I choose to discuss it at further length at some future point.
TW Grace
17. TWGrace
Then again, on the other hand, we have John Scalzi, against whom I can levy no such complaint. Scalzi, unlike Ringo, Kratman, or Williamson, doesn’t have a military background of his own. Yet I find his future military more convincingly science-fictional than those of the aforementioned authors. Why is that? Is it that I find it strange that writers can imagine alien cultures and strange new weapons, but appear unable to see gender in other than the ways they’re most accustomed to?
I'm going to with "personal politics"...
Clark Myers
18. ClarkEMyers
But let’s return to the case of the ladies. Whatever else we may say, we’ve at least moved on from the 1970s military SF of Jerry Pournelle and David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers, where the only role for a woman was in the rear echelons as support staff, or an unrecognised irregular.
An overbroad generalization that is simply untrue. Consider the role of women in Falkenberg's Legion on Sparta and before including combat deaths as a plot point - and somebody has to tell her husband.

For an interesting mixed case from Dr. Pournelle consider the place of a woman as logistics staff in A Spaceship for the King/King David's Spaceship.

In the Slammers consider in context: Margritte muttered cryptically. "That's four."

And yes indeed the reader who wants a female character who actively seeks out action at the Snarleyow level wants what no sane human being seeks.

Scalzi is quite entertaining - but like Houston Houston Do You Read for a clue to the author's experience -there's a scene by Scalzi that suggests to me the man wouldn't know a prop blast cup if someone emptied it over his head like coke over David Brin - and don't get me wrong that's probably a good thing.
Clark Myers
19. ClarkEMyers
Esprit de l'escalier
David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers, where the only role for a woman was in the rear echelons as support staff, or an unrecognised irregular.
Its place in the slammerverse is ambiguous but The Voyage has an interesting female character and Tom Kelly has one or another to deal with at the end of Fortress.
Jeremy Wall
20. skipjw
What about the Dune series? I've only read Frank Herbert's books, not his son's continuation/prequels so the following is based on those only.

Not sure if I could call them military SF space opera, but there is a lot of military action in it. The Fremen are organized on a more Bedouin tribal theme, with more equality for women. Though I note that only men can be Naib. But Chani was hard core. I could have seen her taking on the Naib role, if that pesky messiah hadn't come along.

And then there's the Bene Gesserit. Warrior-nuns with a plan. And later the Honored Martres. Total control freaks. I suppose one could argue their structure is based on western religious groups and fascism (respectively) as models? Though I tend to lean more towards Shaolin monks (but female) than the Sisters of Saint Whatever for the Bene Gesserit. They do come together in a new order under Odrade. Maybe that's leaning towards starting something new?
Michael M Jones
22. MichaelMJones
I actually end up addressing - or at least mentioning - some of how Ringo deals with women in his books, in my forthcoming reviews of Hymn Before Battle, and Into the Looking Glass. You're right in that his books aren't, generally, where to go for strong female protagonists in the military. At least not his earlier solo books. I can't speak for later efforts or collaborations.

I'm trying to think of any women in military SF who you haven't mentioned. There's Ia, in Jean Johnson's A Soldier's Duty. And probably a bunch more if you want to troll through the romance section.
Liz Bourke
23. hawkwing-lb
(Since it seems I'm not to get my modicum of sleep after all...)

@Tom Kratman:

1. Sexual attraction may be innate, but it's not universal. See asexual, people who identify as.

2. How people act on sexual attraction is learned behaviour.

3. "can't be... controlled." Tom, man. What're you saying, dude? That people use sex to game the system? (Some people use anything to game systems.) And somehow that's what, especially unfair? Or you're saying, what, the act of sex is so inherently super-special it has in itself some peculiarly distorting effect on hierarchies? (Or maybe you're saying something about sexual coercion, but I'm not going there.)

I say to this: grow some imagination. I'm tired of hearing "the future can't be different because ." Like I said, these may not be stories you want to read or tell? But don't pretend they can't be told, or that other people may not find your futures as implausible - and even unpleasant - as you might theirs, on good grounds.

From where I stand, your futures do live in Opposite World. And unless you bring a more SFnal imagination to our present interaction, my opinion of your wrongheadedness isn't likely to change. Therefore I recuse myself from arguing this further, because I will descend to unbecoming levels of snark.

ClarkEMyers:

You know, I was just thinking to myself that someone would come along and tell me I hadn't considered all the specifics of each earlier piece of writing/authorial output which I mentioned. Yes, I compressed matters of fact into a statement of overall impression: if you want me to write perfectly considered five-thousand-word research papers - well, no one's paying me for that.

But thank you for your addition to the record.
kukkurovaca
24. Tom Kratman
@Liz
1. Sexual attraction may be innate, but it's not universal. See asexual, people who identify as.

Do you really think the occasional fluke has a whole lot to say about mass armies? If so, why?

2. How people act on sexual attraction is learned behaviour.

Only in minor details. The love, lust, favoritism, demoralization, and de facto prostitution are fairly universal within any armed force that sees integrated sexes or integrated sexually compatible people unless extraordinary structural provisions are made. Those structural provision include segregation. Here's an interesting quote from very liberal, very politically correct Canada's PPCLI battle school: "
Male/female attraction will not go away because we tell it to; and soldiers will court considerable risk to pursue the obvious."

What you really seem to be saying is we can control it. Forget it; we can't.

What you should not forget is the ability of an army, any army, to make a terrible idea look good through sheer weight of effort and duplicity practiced on an heroic scale. Think Vietnam...or Project 100,000.



3. "can't be... controlled." Tom, man. What're you saying, dude? That people use sex to game the system? (Some people use anything to game systems.) And somehow that's what, especially unfair? Or you're saying, what, the act of sex is so inherently super-special it has in itself some peculiarly distorting effect on hierarchies? (Or maybe you're saying something about sexual coercion, but I'm not going there.) I say to this: grow some imagination. I'm tired of hearing "the future can't be different because ." Like I said, these may not be stories you want to read or tell? But don't pretend they can't be told, or that other people may not find your futures as implausible - and even unpleasant - as you might theirs, on good grounds. From where I stand, your futures do live in Opposite World. And unless you bring a more SFnal imagination to our present interaction, my opinion of your wrongheadedness isn't likely to change. Therefore I recuse myself from arguing this further, because I will descend to unbecoming levels of snark.

No, you are presupposing that things which cannot be changed can. Worse, you have no obvious basis for believing it except that you want to. Do you have any expertise in the matter of combat? I Do. What you're demanding isn't SF; it's fantasy. The mere fact that you can so lightly dismiss the effect of using sex to game the system, and as if that were all of it, indicates that anything that interferes with your particular fantasy has to be rejected.



Yes, the effect of sex has distorting effects in hierarchies. Perhaps it doesn't matter at any given corporation, but combat units are not corporations. The next time Bill Gates has to worry about a near ambush or artillery strike on his way to the office will be the first.

In this particular, no, the future cannot be different unless you write away what men and women are, how they think and act, what they care about, and what they'll take risks for.
kukkurovaca
25. Tom Kratman
Oh, and by the way, Liz, I _did_ give a very detailed way to do make women ground combatants, one that's historically well grounded, not mere fantasy, hard, harsh, brutal, unenlightened, and very politically incorrect. It takes more imagination to do that, and lots more expertise, than it does to just whip up a groundless fantasy.
Clark Myers
26. ClarkEMyers
#23 - It's easy enough to find examples of somewhat military related science fiction - some of it quite good in the popular esteem; I for one like The Only Thing We Learn - Kornbluth and a veteran, which has women only to contrast the male S for R - OTC types - that were as Jo Walton wrote about one such (and equally about some of his other stories as Allamagoosa on this very board)
This is an old fashioned book, written before women were invented—I don’t think there’s a single woman with a speaking role in the book. If it were written now, Mowry would have more character—he has a background and a personality, but he really isn’t developed at all. What’s good about Wasp is the set of incidents, which rattle along without pause, the humour, and the way it makes you think.
Neither Drake (the very first barely formed Slammer story on the Cambodian incursion has a woman in the forefront who is neither in the rear echelons nor partisan) nor Dr. Pournelle is an example of such.
kukkurovaca
27. Brad R. Torgersen
LTC Kratman's experience is from the infantry, and it should be noted that the infantry is almost a world unto itself, especially as one ascends through the heirarchies of the skill badges and tabs: Airborne, Air Assault, Pathfinder, Ranger, Special Forces, et cetera. These designations -- and the schools that produce them, and the units that keep them employed -- breed an attitude of exclusivity that is hard to separate from combat arms. Ergo, it's not just women who are on the outside. It's anyone, male or female, who isn't sufficiently badged, tabbed, or blooded.

Having said this, there is more to the military than just the infantry. My two mentors were both tough, professional, highly-competent female CW3s who helped boost me out of the NCO ranks by challenging me to reach for something more -- because the Warrant Officer's job is usually a technical job, and for technical jobs you don't always need brawn, but you do need brains. And this is why the modern US military could ill afford to lose its women due to the number of technical positions they fill. And, often, excel at. I have witnessed this with my own eyes and would go to the mat stating that the competent woman technician has earned her place.

Moreover, future warfare is liable to become ever-more technical, thus women will become still more enmeshed with combat equipment, weapons, and systems. The challenge then becomes: how do we keep these women and the men around them from doing what men and women usually do when they're bored, horny, afraid, stressed out, or all of the above? Sex won't ever go away in this scenario, and neither will the power games that often come with it. Thus LTC Kratman may seem pessimistic, but he's also being a realist. Gender integration at the company, platoon, and squad level hasn't been foolproof. Indeed, it probably never will be. And to simply assume that a couple of extra centuries will 'grow up' the human race such that sexuality ceases to exist in this context, is very much a fantastical notion.

Segregation, as unpalatable as it sounds to the 21st century mind, is one way to go.

The other way is probably to do what we've been doing: simply living with a certain percentage of fooling around that erodes morale, undercuts chain-of-command, creates distractions, and consumes time and resources in the form of complaints, investigations, and prosecution, to say nothing of pregnancies and the entanglements of child care, divorces, custody battles, etc. In 2011 alone I personally watched a poorly-handled sexual harrassment complaint totally obliterate a deploying unit's morale, command structure, etc. Before that unit ever left the States. People take sides in those kinds of fights, grudges then develop, and this often manifests as passive aggression... it can get very ugly very fast.

As long as we're going to put young men and women together the way we put them together in the modern US military, these problems will persist.

Whether or not they pose a dire threat to the readiness and effectiveness of the military as a whole is a matter of some debate, not only with the infantry stalwarts, but across other specialties and occupations as well. The "solutions" to this issue, if it's decided the problem is too damaging to be permitted, may not be to our liking in our era. But here again science fiction -- speculation about the possible -- is not obliged to adhere to 21st century liberal American sensibilities.

Civilians can easily miss all of this, or assume it's simply "boys club" scaremongering. But I'm a booster of women in the military and even I am sometimes concerned by what goes on, at my decidedly small and limited level. And it's not always the males who are perpetrating. Plenty of females have been getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar. And it's not an issue that can be wished -- or legislated -- away. It's affecting the real world right at this moment.
Claire de Trafford
29. ClairedeT
What about Anne McCaffrey's Planet Pirates series? Does that count as military SciFi? I'm not sure. I did enjoy it, ditto to Moon's Serrano and Vatta books, but I don't tend to read much in this vein.
Wesley Parish
30. Aladdin_Sane
Speaking of females and aggression, why does no one ever bother to investigate the animal kingdom?

I get sick and tired of hearing people go around in circles discussing (human) women and their roles in the military, etc, etc, ad nauseam, burkkk ...

If people would do some simple investigation and thinking, maybe they would not get caught up in the false dichotomy between the nurturing female and the aggressive male - take a look at the nurturing lioness, for pity's sakes, or the nurturing rhinoceros mother ...

And maybe the fiction they write would actually be worth reading. I tend to give military SF the thumbs down. It comes across as painfully ueber-American aka jingoistic, and gives - as far as I can see from the military SF I've read - a highly conservative view of realities. What wouldn't I give for a Palestinian or an Afghanistani guerilla/"terrorist" SF novel - but the only effort I've ever seen even remotely in that direction was Dune, and one commentator complained about its Ruritania-nature.

Just think, a Palestinian guerrilla SF novel would absolutely have to take into consideration Leila Khaled ... and Wafa Idris .... An American guerrilla SF novel would necessarily needs be based on the Revolutionary War, and as far as I know, women were strictly support staff in that conflict ....
kukkurovaca
31. a1ay
You name me some military space operas where the protagonist is not recognisable as culturally American-descended or, in a minority of cases, British, and I will revise my opinion, okay?

Pretty sure there's a manga or two that would fall into that category? Someone with manga knowledge, help me out here. Wasn't there one about the battleship Yamato in space?

And Wingrove's Chung Kuo series. Paul McAuley's "Quiet War" (Brazilian). Alistair Reynolds' very definitely Russian Ilia Volyova in the "Revelation Space" series. Richard Morgan's Hungarian/Japanese antihero Takeshi Kovacs in the "Altered Carbon" series, of which the second and third are definitely military (the first is more noirish). Fraa Erasmas in "Anathem".
Maiane Bakroeva
32. Isilel
Sexual attraction is largely an innate, not a learned, behavior, and it will never be unlearned. Or controlled.

Well, there were a number of successful militaries of Antiquity that used that fact to advantage, no? Or is homosexual attraction just infintely superior for battle-readiness?

Frankly, I tend to think that people just didn't learn to deal with this stuff on a routine and drama-free level yet.
And that macho attitudes are counter-productive to achieving this.

Not to mention that they conveniently leave out the fact that most of this crap was happening in the male-only militaries, too, with men competing over civilian women or using their wives to get ahead.

definitely Russian Ilia Volyova

LOL. It never ceases to amuse me that writers don't bother to pick up correct names when trying to depict a Russian. Ili(y)a is a male name, Russian version of Eli(as). At least her surname has a correct ending.

See also Nikita - another male name that the westerners saddled women with because they liked how it sounded.
kukkurovaca
33. a1ay
LOL. It never ceases to amuse me that writers don't bother to pick up
correct names when trying to depict a Russian. Ili(y)a is a male name,
Russian version of Eli(as).

And you're sure that'll still be true in 2615? Ilia will still be a male-only name, just like English-language male-only names like Cameron, and Sydney, and Evelyn, and Marion... :)
kukkurovaca
34. Tom Kratman
@Isilel:
Yes, and I addressed that issue specifically and extensively both in that essay and the underlying book.

There's really no way to expect drama free, not that drama is quite the issue, when your squad leader is sending you on patrol so that he (or she) doesn't have to send their bed mate out to be killed. And, even if he (or she) doesn't do that, there is a presumption that they're favoring their lover in any number of ways. Everything I have seen, in over thirty years of service in one capacity or another, tells me that presumption is valid.

Note that the competition for civilian women, which surely happens, is not the same thing and will not be the same thing until that civilian woman is in the combat organization. She's not going on patrol anyway. She's not pulling a sh*t detail. She doesn't have guard duty or need a four day pass. So what do you think she has to do with it?

That favoritism, that you can't compete with, undermines morale, discipline, esprit, and proficiency. Some have tried to analogize it to the evangelical CO and an equally evangelical driver. That fails; there is a difference in profundity and effect between liking and loving. The nearest analogy that really works in the typical Arab army, where no one who is not a blood relation or ( since a lot of them never quite grow out of youthful bisexuality) a lover really counts as human. You almost have to see it to believe it and understand how wretched those armies are and why.

Had a conversation in law school with a gay guy (Log Cabin Republican type) named Steve. It has to do with how people fool themselves when they think, if think is quite the word, about things like this. It went like this:

Steve: What makes you think that gays are attracted to straights?

Me: Steve, in matters romantic and sexual, are gays better than straights, worse than straights, or just remarkably human.

Steve (sensing the trap but not its precise nature): I'd have to say we're just remarkably human.

Me: to the audience: Okay, who here wants to f**k Monoka (a very lovely lesbian girl)?

Audience: MememeemIdoIdowheredoIsignup,

Me to Steve: The people rest.
Sky Thibedeau
35. SkylarkThibedeau
Though not a literary work "Space Above and Beyond" had strong female Marines flying and fighting right along side the Men. Not to mention both versions but especially the reboot of "Battlestar Galactica" where even the female Cylons were stronger than the men.
kukkurovaca
36. Jennifer R
I would just like to say that I get awfully damn tired of everything always boiling down to "Menz gotta fuck teh wimmenz." Which seems to be where this thread has gone. Gah.
kukkurovaca
37. Tom Kratman
@Brad:

Quite. I want women to succeed, in a successful armed force, against _all_ comers. We have never fought a really good enemy, a peer competitor, with large numbers of women in out ranks. The jury will remain out until we do. I see no reason for confidence, frankly.The things we can paper over, lie about, and hide, now, are likely to show up with a vengeance in that future war.

There are any number of BS analogies that get tossed out when discussing this. Here's a different analogy. Imagine a medical doctor conducting life threatening experiments on human subjects without their informed and willing consent. That doctor would be vilified, hounded, have his license taken away, and be denounced as a fascist.

Now take a social engineer, conducting life threatening experiments, on human subjects (soldiers; oh, yes, they're human), without their informed and willing consent...
kukkurovaca
38. Tom Kratman
@Jennifer

You don't like it. Do you have an informed solution, one that isn't just wishful thinking, to the problems of love, lust, romance, sex, favoritism, demoralization, and de facto prostitution?
Liz Bourke
39. hawkwing-lb
@Jennifer R:

Agreed times infinity. Wimmenz never *gotta* fuck teh menz - and yet, strangely, this is somehow biology rather than acculturation?

(For once I would like to have a discussion of SFnal possibilities, rather than a retread of tired regressive socio-cultural bullshit - but I would say that, wouldn't I? I'm a humourless hairy-legged man-hating feminist.)

Also, people who are saying integrated military units are bad for morale/lead to prostitution: let's ask (oh, to take an example) the IDF how it's working for them, k, before we go making generalisations from American cultural experience.

(Why is it always women who are prostituting themselves to game the system, in this implication, and never men?)

@Tom:

You've made a contribution to the conversation. You might want to think about stepping back for a little bit and let people with different opinions have a chance to talk before *insisting* they address your contention immediately: it'd be the courteous thing, I think, to do.
Brian R
40. Mayhem
@a1ay
You're partly on the right track with the Manga idea, there were a lot of good military works coming out of the east which are clearly not american descended. On the other hand, they suffer from seldom having strong female roles. Although a few stand out - Full Metal Panic is probably a good one with Sergeant Mao as the leader for ground parties and Tessa as the commander in charge of Mithril. Although Tessa is immediately subverted as she has supercompetent *male* subordinates, there are very few other females on the sub.

The literary works though are a bit hit and miss - Chung Kuo was good at not being american, but doesn't quite fit Military SF. Richard Morgan basically writes America with trappings of foreignness. The names might change, but the cultural behaviour is the same.

@hawkwinglb
With regards the discussion between you and Tom, I think Brad gave a good overview - Tom is partly right in that it will be very difficult to have a fully integrated infantry unless we find a way to abstract the person from the role more. At present it is somewhere that exceptional individuals can do well in, but they have to be exceptional to be able to rise above the environment they are submerged in, let alone to do their jobs as well. Future wise though, I could easily see women being integrated more. If the whole idea of mechanised armor comes into place a-la Ringo's Posleen series, women will probably be *more* desired as they tend to be smaller in stature and tend to be better at simultaneous processing of inputs. Means the suit can be smaller and therefore cheaper or have more space for ammo etc. Same reason that women can make for very good combat pilots or astronauts - the aircraft abstracts away many of the physical requirements beyond basic fitness and resistance to G forces.
Sure, women now would generally have problems replacing tank tracks. But lets posit the Blower Tanks of David Drake, which have specially designed fittings to enable individual fans to be replaced, maybe by two crew instead of one, but they aren't generally being replaced under fire so it is less of an issue. The capacitive ammo is Magical Ammo anyway, but because of the design it gets loaded into hermetically sealed hoppers by special resupply vehicles, so you no longer need to sling shells around. In a story involving them, one tank had a female driver, another a female gunner, and there was a female in overall command. Drake just had fewer females in general because the mercenary lifestyle of his Slammers would attract a certain type of person that tends to be male, not because he thought they couldn't do the job.

Pregnancy and sex is a bit of a sidetrack - a future setting like Bujold's allows for permanent (even mandatory) contraceptive implants, uterine replicators and advanced tech to completely remove the issue of pregnancy. I especially liked the return of the embryos of rape to the rapists to deal with.
Besides, sex has been an issue in combat groups all the way back to antiquity, and either open or closeted homosexuality has usually been the result. From the Theban Sacred Band all the way through to the Royal Navy and whose turn it was in the barrel. The only difference today is that we try to moderate the effects either through denial (don't ask don't tell) or through post event investigations.
Regardless, favouritism has always been present and always will, whether it be male/female, male/male, or simply doing a family friend a favour a la the patronage system that Britain used for centuries.
kukkurovaca
41. Al45
It's positively thrilling that Tom Kratman is here to share his wisdom about women in science fiction. I cannot tell you how enthralled I am. Truly we are honored to bask in his light.

The Lost Fleet series, by Jack Campbell, has a fair number of strong female characters.
Brian R
42. Mayhem
@39
let's ask (oh, to take an example) the IDF how it's working for them, k,
before we go making generalisations from American cultural experience.

Actually Tom did address that in his essay linked above, where the integrated IDF forces are definitely considered second rate. But then, Israel is hardly what I would call a gender integrated society - strict interpretation of religious law tends to have that effect. And most young israelis I have met who are travelling the world after their enforced service are *extremely* indoctrinated and often particularly difficult people to get along with. By comparison the Swiss I have met who have the same situation of compulsory military service don't have anything like the same behavioural issues.
To be fair a lot of that comes down to the (partly justified) siege mentality of modern Israel, but I think there are very different methods involved in terms of training as well.
kukkurovaca
43. Tom Kratman
Because, Liz, if anyone is a subject matter expert in this, it is probably me. And the subject interests me. However many comments I may make does not limit in the slightest the comments others may make. So, no.

The IDF is mostly myth, where women are concerned. For a period or under three weeks, in their War of Independance, they had integrated combat units in the Palmach. Within that very short time, they found out it was a disaster and the women were pulled out. Thereafter, for many decades, women were not even allowed to drive trucks, because trucks went to the front. Indeed, for all that time, women's military status in the IDF depended on that status of the male units the women were supporting, i.e. packing parachutes, a female job there, was high status because the male parachute units were high status.

It has changed slightly since. They now have women integrated, sort of, in a number of places. But, note, those women are doing the physically light jobs, like fire direction computing in the artillery. Makes sense, right? From each according to their abilities? Not really. When an artillery unit is in action, one of the more backbreaking jobs is offloading, breaking down, and uploading the ammunition. 98 lbs a shell, for a 155. When 1200 rounds show up, and the road is not close, everyone must break their backs for the ammunition. If women cannot pull an equal share, then the male gunners are overtasked, because fewer in number. Overtasked means overtired. Overtired means mistakes. Someday, that's going to kill someone.

There is also, fairly recently, the IDFs Caracal battalion. It is gender mixed, but second rate, and used only for limited border guard. That, and the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, which proves nothing. Oh, and for propaganda and as a sop to Israeli feminists, too, of course.

Oh, men have done it too, to my certain knowledge, when there was a female commander. It's not a question of women being uniquely to blame; it's a question - not that there's any real question - about _mixing_ being to blame.
Brian R
44. Mayhem
Oh, and just jumping back to the pilot idea briefly, the Air Force and Submarine arm have historically tended to be the only locations with *maximum* size restrictions on their people, partly because pilots like to keep their kneecaps when they eject.

With magic future technology removing the radiation sterilisation issues I'd expect there to be entirely female or mixed submarine crews pretty soon after even if only on the boomers just down to the proven performance benefits you get from mixing women in a group, especially one that is unlikely to involve combat any time soon.
kukkurovaca
45. Tom Kratman
@Mayhem:

Yes, there's always been some favoritism. However, as with poisons, generally, toxicity is in the dose. That you can deal with a CO who likes his driver because they have a common interest or two, or simply because the driver's a suck up, does not mean that you can deal with a Dallas or Peyton Place in a gender or gender orientation mixed infantry company.
CD Covington
46. ccovington
Re a1ay @31:

There's tons of military SF/space opera out of Japan.

- The entire Gundam franchise. The UC timeline has a lot of Japanese names (Kou Uraki, Amuro Ray) in the lead, and then there's the mangled keysmash names (Casval Rem Deikun, Dozle Zabi). The non-UC timelines are more keysmash names, with the exceptions of G Gundam and Gundam 00.

- The Macross franchise. Original Macross starred Lin Minmei and Hikaru Ichijou, as well as Roy Fokker. (You may have seem it as part of Robotech, with Lynn Minmay and Rick Hunter.)

-Legend of Galactic Heroes. 110-episode space opera, starring future quasi-Germans vs future quasi-Americans. Reinhard von Lohengramm vs Yang Wen-li.

-Tytania. 14 episode space opera by the team that made LOGH. Names seem quasi-European in origin.

-Space Battleship Yamato (Star Blazers in the US). Very Japanese, culturally speaking. The original (sea) battleship Yamato was Japan's last hope during WW2, sent out on a mission no one expected it to return from. (I'd link wikipedia, but they're down for the day.)

(There's also, for example, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, which is space operatic in nature, but I don't think quite what's intended by the question.)
kukkurovaca
47. Tom Kratman
@ Al45:

Yes, you should feel honored. heheheh.
Liz Bourke
48. hawkwing-lb
@Mayhem:

What you're saying is pretty close to what I'm thinking, in terms of applying SFnal sensibilities to problems facing combat units. I think even more interesting extrapolations can be made - for example, combat in zero/low g, or heavy g, would place different stresses even on exceptional physical specimens of both genders. And what happens if we add nanotech - or, as Scalzi did, genetic engineering? I'm not even talking posthumanism, just re-adjusting the outer edges of physical limitations.
Clark Myers
49. ClarkEMyers
Also, people who are saying integrated military units are bad for morale/lead to prostitution: let's ask (oh, to take an example) the IDF how it's working for them, k, before we go making generalisations from American cultural experience.
Asked and answered as somebody who's been to law school might say.
But the army's chief education officer, Brig. Gen. Eli Shermeister, called the incident a "worrisome phenomenon" that "should not be accorded continued legitimacy."emphasis added
There is plenty of wishful thinking that education - or indoctrination or... - can reverse human behavior. No doubt the lion will lie down with the lamb and countries with McDonald's restaurants won't go to war against each other.


There is plenty of room for speculative stories about the technology. Frex Congress has mandated making combat airplanes fit a much wider range of pilot sizes than the market had settled on. There could be stories about breakthroughs in user interfaces making physical strength less meaningful than today for combat pilots - the female pilot in Tomb Tapper (Blish) demonstrates skill but once again it's a cautionary tale not a future I'd wish for myself.
A recent Canadian study found that military pilots are suffering from sore necks, and sometimes permanent damage, because of the increased weight of their helmets. Helicopter pilots appear to suffer most of all, because their helmets are heaviest of all (up to 3.6 kg/7.9 pounds) when using night vision goggles. In addition, helicopter pilots are moving their heads around more, both to the sides and down (to look at flight instruments). The vibrations and constant maneuvers of low level helicopter flight doesn't help either.
-
kukkurovaca
50. Tom Kratman
@Clark

As mentioned, I don't really think strength or the lack thereof is the main issue. Oh, it's a factor, but generally female lack of strength can be compensated for by simply using more of them. (Though, if equal pay for equal work is out rallying cry, should we then pay female firefighters, on an airbase in Alaska, if we need 6 of them to do the work of 4 men, only 2/3ds of the male rate?)

Science fiction can McGuffin away the strength issue, and almost invariably does. The problem with it is that it also McGuffins away every other issue, by pretending they don't exist.

I've mentioned the sex, love and romance parts. Even those aren't the most serious problems. You recall that line from Voltaire: "A rational army would run away"? Women get pegged with being emotional. Nonsense. Human females are the most rational creatures in the known universe. Conversely, young men - men in general but especially young ones - are almost completely irrational. They're emotional, and easy to manipulate, lead, motivate, and command because of it. They do not generally run away, because of that irrationality. Male bonding, a critical component of combat effectiveness, is emotional. Now fill your army with ranks of the rational...

Even someone as anti-feminist as Lionel Tiger (his parents must have had an odd sense of humor), believed that you can get the requisite emotional responses out of women. But you would have to put them in a sort of a coven...
Clark Myers
51. ClarkEMyers
#44 - Mixed manning on submarines - if they can get the Collins class to spend more time at sea the Australians are there now (and reportedly paying up to $160,000 annually for some skills on the boats
Yet another shocking revelation about the Australian submarine force is the fact that the cooks onboard these boats make more (about $160,000 a year) than some admirals.
)
The decision to fast-track women into combat roles coincided with the announcement of a raft of reviews and inquiries into the treatment of women in the defence force spurred by the Skype sex scandal.
About 93 per cent of all jobs in the military are currently open to women, including serving in submarines and piloting fighter jets, with the 7 per cent of jobs closed to women mostly in the army.
Mark Dodd From:The AustralianApril 12, 2011
Ralph Feldhake
52. feldhake
Mr. Kratman's arguments strike me as rather missing the point here. I'm willing to accept that mixed-sex combat units lead to all sorts of problems not seen in segregated units. I'm rather more confused as to why he thinks this matters... What army in history has ever organized itself entirely on coldly rational considerations of combat effectiveness? It's always been first and foremost about protecting the power of those who have it and keeping the rest in line.

Unless a society is just defending itself with mercenaries (or, of course, has no army), its army has to at least minimally reflect that socety's values--or at least the values of its rulers--if it expects to get the support it needs.

It follows that if you're writing sci-fi, the military should reflect the society that produces it. Don't give me an all-male military if the society is rigidly matriarchal, with the men being kept locked up in harems or stuck at home tending the uterine replicators...and don't give me a military with segregated combat roles if the society embraces gender equality.
kukkurovaca
53. Tom Kratman
@Feldhake:

So you think, you really think, combat effectiveness does not and should not matter?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

And there's another bit of nonsense. Why _must_ an army reflect the society from whence it springs? The very worst armies in the world, the Arab armies, do just that, to perfection. Do you mean that if we have a society of self-centered hedonists and amoral familists that we must also make an army of self-centered hedonists and amoral familists?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
Joris Meijer
54. jtmeijer
A lot of military sf seems to rely on simply moving current structures into space, without looking much at the implications of the new technology. And of course a large majority of the writers in the genre seem to be from the USA, usually with armed forces experience, which would limit the cultural perspective.

Haldeman of course has women (if not as main characters), and he also introduced the societal changes to match.

I think the more inclusive militaries are probably found in space opera and hard sf rather than mil. Even if we then only tend to get glimpses of the military forces and organization. And still the culture tends to be US/Western.
Brian R
55. Mayhem
@51, Heh, yeah that makes perfect sense - the Collins class are diesel electric, so no radiation issues, and Australia is highly unlikely to fight a significant war with them any time soon :p

New Zealand is doing much the same - I know the SAS is very keen to get some women on board once they find some who can pass the selection tests*. And the NZ SAS is a *very* well regarded elite organisation who wouldn't compromise for political reasons - they don't need to. New Zealand is a very different society to the kind that tends to be written about in military SF though. More akin to Bujold's Betan practicality about most matters.

*No reflection on the women - around 90% of eligible male applicants don't pass either.
Brian R
56. Mayhem
Tom @50
Human females are the most rational creatures in the known universe. Conversely, young men - men in general but especially young ones - are almost completely irrational.

That to my mind makes them more useful in a future context - we hopefully wouldn't still be having the same old ideas of lining up both sides and declaring who has the most left afterwards the winner.
Thinking more into repercussions, I wonder if instead we'd see a women heavy military make coldly rational decisions to take preemptive action where needed, and negotiating where not. More in line with how the various elite forces tend to be used today, either as trainers and local liason staff to keep everything running smoothly, or to coldly go in and Fix The Problem when it doesn't.
To be fair, the much more extensive training they get is a factor in that though.
Clark Myers
57. ClarkEMyers
#50 - Of course and granted. A world such as ours full of child soldiers suffices for an existence proof.

I do suggest there is room for discussion and stories on the path between where we are now and where we might (or might not) go in the future. In particular stories can McGuffin away such issues but might better deal more directly with them. The bible for Star Trek at least TNG advised writers to simply and the staff will fill it in with some hope of continuity if not reality - that's been mocked a lot. Assume a can opener solves all problems neatly.

The more interesting question in a soap opera way is not praising the Lord and passing the ammunition but who will trade their hands for keeping the gun running as hot shell handler when the gloves can't be found.
kukkurovaca
58. Tom Kratman
@ jtmeijer

One of the more interesting things with Haldeman's Forever War is that he did _not_ McGuffin away the sex, love, lust, romance, etc. problem, but faced it square on, with a mandatory sleeping together roster where the men and women got no choice in their partners for the evening and no choice is what sevices they would provide (that orgy, involving the company's women, when the company reached Charon's pure male crew). Frankly, I agree that that could work, for a while, but even Haldeman shows it breaking down rather quickly.
kukkurovaca
59. SKM
Someone up above alluded to the case of racial integration. Here's a
clue: racism is learned behavior, and what can be learned can be
unlearned. Sexual attraction is largely an innate, not a learned,
behavior, and it will never be unlearned.

Did your gut tell you that? Because here in reality, it's been shown time and time again that racial discrimination is in fact innately based. Of course, here in reality even all-male militaries deal with sexual attraction in the units and somehow still manage to be effective, so the lack of any factual basis for your claims was already evident.

Perhaps you should switch to writing fantasy, because writing anything requiring familiarity with science is clearly not your area of strength.
kukkurovaca
60. Tom Kratman
@Mayhem

Hopefully, we'll not see the military making any independent decisions that are best reserved for politicians. You're rather mixing up the two functions: decision to go to war (political, rational) and decision to hold the hill at all costs (military, emotional), to advance in the face of withering fire (military, emotional), to endure under the artillery prep (military, emotional).

Unfortunately, no, war, for so long as it is war, for so long as it remains "the province of danger," requires irrationality at the individual level, in order to form the artificial groups (companies; there is something unique about the company) that mean more to that individual than he does to himself.
kukkurovaca
61. Tom Kratman
@SKM

No, my personal observation that, _in_fact_, we unlearned it did. Do you have a better personal obsevation and, if so, where did it come from. Indeed, your particular scientific and military qualifications are...???

How much sexual attraction do you think there is in an all male, non-gender orientation integrated, military? Or is that the subject of a fantasy you're working on?
kukkurovaca
62. a1ay
46: thanks, I suspected there might be, but, as I say, me:manga:: Aztecs:the wheel.

57: A world such as ours full of child soldiers suffices for an existence proof.

That's one of the big changes in modern war - lightweight, easy to use weapons make child soldiers feasible. Not just drummer boys or midshipmen or sparrow team members, but actual infantrymen. They eat less than adults, they're easier to control, more ruthless, less susceptible to fear or pity (especially when drugged)... PW Singer wrote a book about this. Maybe that's your big trend for the next century. Taking the adults off the front line to be replaced either with drones or with kids.
kukkurovaca
63. a1ay
How much sexual attraction do you think there is in an all male, non-gender orientation integrated, military?

No idea - there's never been such a thing. Ever. Yes, there have been lots of all-male military organisations, and there still are quite a lot, but there's never been an all-straight military organisation.
kukkurovaca
64. Tom Kratman
@ a1ay

No, not really. Oh, sure, for the unequipped rabble of most of the Third World. For others? Once you put the minimal equipment on the child soldier's back you have broken him. He can carry a rifle and at least some ammunition for it. But everything else? The mortars with their horrid load of ammunition? Radios? NBC gear? Heavy machine guns? Night vision? His food and water? The kid has no chance to compete. If you nose around on line you can find a study done on the combat load of the troops in Afghanistan. It is amazing.

The Roman legions of the Republic and early Empire, at least, put homosexual troops to death. If there were some there, and there likely were, they kept very well hidden indeed. So, yes, effectively straight.
Brian R
65. Mayhem
@Tom
Yes, I was deliberately mixing the political and tactical, mostly because I see the future being much more assymmetric conflicts than formal war between countries. Meaning the senior staff on the ground will be making decisions that used to be the reserve of Headquarters or civilian authority. Take the opposition in Gaza or Iraq - the strategic decisions are generally being made by individual warlords, not by a formal opposition body.

(companies; there is something unique about the company) that mean more to that individual than he does to himself.
I remember reading a lot about this in a psychology class at university. What it comes down to is the company (80-220 people) is roughly the largest group of people who you can individually know *and* care about, in line with tribal behaviour in human history.
The same effect comes in today when people analyse patterns in social media - the average facebook user has something like 120-150 friends. When they can differentiate better (google's circles) they have around 5-10 close friends, 30-40 good friends, and the rest are divided up into colleagues and accquaintances they want to keep in touch with.
Funnily enough, the modern military structure is very similar - squad > platoon > company > regiment etc.
Brian R
66. Mayhem
@64
Hmm. I think you two are talking at cross purposes. He mentions possibilities, while you are somewhat hung up on uniquely *first world* solutions to the issue.
Like it or hate it, in the third world, you can have ten people do the job of one. And cost less. And do all right for a while. The Vietnamese were surprisingly effective to start with despite being far less well equipped and trained at the start of the conflict. They still lost eventually but it wasn't the walkover people expected.
NBC gear? Not an issue if the side that has it isn't prepared to use it on the side that doesn't. Mortars - use lots of peasants to carry the ammo, a few each. Maybe lots of kids with one shell each. Radios? Assymmetric warfare - compare a heavy military secure wideband radio with a throwaway cellphone as commonly used in Iraq to arrange attacks and trigger IEDs. Yes, in a war you take out the cell towers, but they can respond with lots of microsites or buried wires.

If you nose around on line you can find a study done on the
combat load of the troops in Afghanistan. It is amazing.
I'd believe it, although a good amount of weight would be water. But remember the west wants to field a small number of highly versatile troops, and do anything they can to avoid losing them - deaths play badly to the people back home. Other countries don't have the same obsession on not having any casualties, or are prepared to take more to get the same result.
kukkurovaca
67. Tom Kratman
@Mayhem, in re 65:

That's exactly it. I came to the conclusion independently, through studying various forms of military organization through the ages. Imagine my pleasure when I discovered the sociologists had come up with the same idea, though they argue about the precise number. Personally, I'd say the minimum is 60, or the pain of loss becomes too great, and demoralizing, and the max is about 200. I'd also say that someone can belong to more than one company at a time. For example, the junior NCO belongs to his company, but also to the similar sized group of JNCOs in his battalion. The junior officer and senior nco also belong to their companies, but still to the "company" of junior officers and senior Non-coms in their brigade or regiment. Etc.
kukkurovaca
68. Tom Kratman
@ Mayhem, in re 66:

I thought he was making the point that the child soldier is generally superior. My point is that he is highly limited in use.

All warfares tries to be assymetric. We've turned it into a buzzword, meaningless, as most buzzwords are. But, just imagine for a minute, 3rd SS Panzer Division, rejuventated, re-equipped and brought up to date in everything but modern, enlightened sensibilities. Now imagine someone trying for assymetry, by hiding behind children and women's skirts, as our current enemies do. How's Ol' Totenkopf respond to that one?

Well, of course the moral and humane thing to do with non-NBC equipped child soldiers is to whip a little Blue X on them. Then we can collect them, collect their guns, spank them, and send them to boarding school.
john mullen
69. johntheirishmongol
I think it's a utopian ideal that men and women can work together in a military setting without being distracted by sexual attraction, but who's utopia are we talking about? I was raised in the service, did my time along with most of the men in my family. Having women in the service is a great idea, having them in the front lines is not. Asking men and women to fight together and not be sexual is naive, and then asking those same people to maintain fighting discipline if their partner is hurt or killed is ridiculous.
kukkurovaca
70. Tom Kratman
@John, in re #69:

Being another mostly Irish mongrel...

Yes, but extrapolate it out a bit. Isn't it just as ridiculous to expect them to _risk_ their partners/lovers? Isn't it just as ridiculous not to expect that those not so graced and protected will be rather resentful at having themselves and their lovers risked?

One of the tough things about writing fiction is putting in stupidities that are the fault of your protagonists. I addressed that problem - death of a lover - by having a gay regiment be infantry, go essentially insane during a desperate assault, and having a sergeant major point out in advance that that would be the predictable effect, and that they should have been in light armor so they could, at least, die together.
john mullen
71. johntheirishmongol
I think it's a utopian ideal that men and women can work together in a military setting without being distracted by sexual attraction, but who's utopia are we talking about? I was raised in the service, did my time along with most of the men in my family. Having women in the service is a great idea, having them in the front lines is not. Asking men and women to fight together and not be sexual is naive, and then asking those same people to maintain fighting discipline if their partner is hurt or killed is ridiculous.
Maiane Bakroeva
72. Isilel
Re: late Republican Rome, Julius Caesar was characterized as

every woman's man, and every man's woman

and killing people for homosexuality was considered a sign of madness, though still legal for the pater familias to do.

@69
asking those same people to maintain fighting discipline if their partner is hurt or killed is ridiculous.

Spartans, Thebans and others, etc, managed. They thought that having lovers fighting side by side actually enhanced discipline/courage.
For that matter, on many occasions in history troups were required to abandon to certain death or even kill their female camp followers/resulting children and they did that too.

Also - why do you folks think that it is ridiculous to expect people to maintain discipline after death of a sex partner, but A-OK to to expect it after death of a friend or brother/father/son? Ditto with favoritism? Don't you think that it very much _is_ a matter of socialization?
kukkurovaca
73. Tom Kratman
That line, from Suetonius, refers to an essentially ungrounded charge, made in a speech, by a political opponent. It's hard to imagine Caesar having enough time to dally with men, given a) the wars, b) the politics, and c) _all_the_women_.It is even harder to imagine him dallying with the troops.

That's not an issue of Fatherly power but of military law and regulation. Different things, for different purposes, by different sovereigns.

Can you, perchance, come up with a thorough list of the occasions when an army killed it's camp followers? Given that Roman soldiers couldn't be married, until much later, that the children of the whores following the troops could have been anyone's, that the others were slaves, easily bought and easily replaced, why should you think that killing them would much matter?

Spartans and Thebans. I've said it elsewhere; the details are instructive. Casualties were usually under 5% in ancient battles, and often quite a bit less, if you won, which both Thebans and Spartans usually did. When you lost, they could be so disastrous - for the Spartans at Leuctra, for example, or the Theban Sacred Band, at Chaeronia, essentially 100% - that it didn't matter. Again, as above, toxicity is in the dose. That you can deal with X doesn't mean that you can deal with Y, when Y is several times greater. Moreover, what do you think it mattered to some Theban at Chaeronia that his lover died, when he died too? And it was over in a day, for the few affected.

It's very different now, when the battle can go on for weeks or months, the casualties are random, and frequent, and battle takes place not in formed ranks but open, and largely hidden, order.

How often do you think a brother/father/son is killed in the unit? We tend to avoid assigning them together, you know. As for friends, they are not the same as lovers. Just not. And even then, of course, sometimes a man will go berzerk. Tell me why it is that because something bad sometimes happens we should want even more bad to happen?
kukkurovaca
74. jason swan
how in the world is there no mention of Honor Harrington in this entire thread or article....
kukkurovaca
75. jason swan
never mind - I see it at the very beginning now. I dunno - I have problems with your dismissing the strongest example of what you are discussing from the conversation right from the get-go.
kukkurovaca
76. jennygadget
"Asking men and women to fight together and not be sexual is naive..."

I think the part that bothers me most about this line of thinking is that it disappears the sex (consensual, non-consensual, transactional, and otherwise) that already happens as a result of collecting large number of young people together, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, and then restricting their social options.

I suppose you could make the argument that, at least that way, you aren't messing with the front line troops ability to be cannon fodder? But that's an argument for seperate units, not for men only, ever. (and what the fuck do you plan to do with non-straight people?)

Just as importantly, if we are making that argument? Let's not be coy about what often ends up being the alternative. Not leastways because that tends to open up a whole other can of worms in terms of maintaining discipline, security, and diplomacy. Not to mention the health of the troops!

Even if the situation does not reach the level of horror that occured/is occuring in the Balkans? You still run into stuff like the sex worker strike that happened in Hawaii during Workd War II. This is a headache as well. (albiet one full of awesomeness on the part of the sex workers.) This range of possibilities should not be swept under the rug.

Al45: I love you. Will you be my reason I can't be a good soldier?
Brian R
77. Mayhem
@74 & 75 - It's right at the beginning, but her point is addressing the lack of females in *ground* combat. The rest of us are bickering back and forth as to why.

Tom has very good points as to why the US military is against the idea of mixed services in the front lines of the military forces of *today*.
It is a valid point, although there are counter arguments from other cultural standpoints who don't expect to fight any time soon. Also, a change in the political weather on either side would greatly change how modern campaigns play out. Actually figuring out what to do once you've driven the enemy out of power would be a good start overall, but so would using different tactics. Fear does work too, if short term. So does negotiation. Trying to do both halfway .. not so much.

What I think he's overlooking is the effects of technology and societal change in the future, which is one of the hallmarks of military SF.

The biggest thing we probably need to stop doing is immediately transplanting our current situation to a future IN SPACE!!.
Honor Harrington : Hornblower and the Napoleonic wars IN SPACE.
Drakes's Slammers : Vietnam ... IN SPACE, followed by Greece and Rome. Pournelle also took Rome. Ringo & Weber did the Anabasis.
Yes, the stories are fairly timeless and transplant well. But they overlook so many other things you can do with the basic concepts, and often the writers have to take fairly significant liberties in order to make their particular technological mcguffins work *just so*, which means they forget all the other things the magic tech lets them do.

As Tom pointed out just above, fatalities prior to the invention of the machine gun tended towards very few or almost all. It was noticeable in the Maori Wars in New Zealand that the British didn't lose many troops directly but they didn't kill many Maori either because they thought up the concept of fortified trenches and *not standing in front of guns*, and the guns and cannon were fast moving direct fire weapons that didn't damage the trenches well. Useful things like Coehorns weren't brought out to the colonies much.
Go back to archery as the primary long range weapon, and while storming a castle would result in massive casualties, most of them would be wounded, not killed outright. At least until infections took them out down the line anyway. But Swords and Spears didn't kill nearly as well as the SCA makes them out to do.

In the future however, I wonder if there really is a place for large ground battles or even much in the way of an infantry. If someone has control of the orbit of a planet, they can bombard anything with kinetic weapons pretty much with impunity. Aim em well enough and control for size well enough and you have the ability to dial up or down from a 155 shell to a relatively clean nuke at a moments notice. Aiming well is hard, sure, but this *is* the future :p
(Actually that was my biggest gripe with the Posleen books to be honest - the alien invaders gave up every single advantage they had to let the humans 'draw even' before being wiped out by the same advantage. Supertanks are fun and all but they don't dodge worth a damn and one C-dec in orbit would have ruined everyone's strategic defensive wall.)

Getting back to the whole point of the article though, I see the Dickson/Pournelle/Drake approach being more likely than the Weber Space Navies to be frank - small groups of highly specialised professional soldiers being hired out as mercenaries to different planets for strictly limited and defined minor wars. Most will survive, the medieval concept of ransom will be in full effect, and surrendering under terms will be quite acceptable.
In that context, Women will probably play a respectable but not overwhelming role - they'll do everything a man can do, but it takes a certain mindset to sign up for a mercenary lifestyle, and not that many of either sex have that particular bent. Heck, give the infantry some form of mechanised body armor, and it really won't matter what sex they are.
kukkurovaca
78. Tom Kratman
@ Jenny:
"(and what the fuck do you plan to do with non-straight people?)"

For gays, a Tercio Gorgidas, for lesbians, a separate company or two in the Tercio Amazona.

Brad mentioned it above; there is a huge difference between the combat arms, and especially the infantry, and the rest. We can, perhaps, deal with the fact that mixed sexes in a trucking unit interferes with that unit's ability to conduct a deliberate attack on a complex obstacle and strongpoint system. Why? Well, because it's not their job anyway...ordinarily; it has happened. See, eg, the German "Snail offensive" of WW II. Though even there, the problems can become so immense that the unit is incapable of doing its trucking job, too.

Segregation fixes several problems, and mitigates still others, but it doesn't deal with them all. I mentioned that physical strength is the least of it, but it's not utterly unimportant, which is why arguments like Mayhem's above, wrt powered armor, are kinda shaky. There are...ahem...special field sanitation issues. It's not insurmountable, but it does need a solution. There are pregnancy and motherhood issues. They're not insurmountable, either, but neither can they just be waved away. You want to hear a stink? Announce that women will no longer be accepted into the armed forces unless they sign up for Norplant or Deprovera. And even if we got away with that, motherhood's kind of important to most women. We'd have to have some kind of special pregnancy leave, and overstrength for the unit to permit those leaves.

There's a writer - brilliant, brilliant gay guy - named Lee Harris, who's pointed out that there are only two kinds of naturally occuring loyalty, the family and the boy gang, of which the family is much the stronger. The military utterly depends on the boy gang. Getting women to bond like that, something that doesn't seem to come naturally to most, is not likely to be easy. It's highly questionable whether modern, enlightened society would permit the military to do the kinds of things that may be required to form a female equivalent. Even assuming it's possible to turn women from the mature, cold, calculating, and rational beings they are to, essentially, immature and malleable boys with boobs.

Moreover, boys are expendible in a way that girls are not, they being, as it were, the bottleneck in the production of the next generation's machine gun fodder. You could afford to lose a vast percentage of young men, and still fight another war in 20 years (the one bull for a hundred heiffers ratio). If you lost a vast percentage of young women, on the other hand, your society may well be over.

That list isn't exhaustive. And mil Sci Fi usually ignores all of it. Why? Well, it is, after all, mostly a form of entertainment. But I really think that if the writers tried to deal with the issues, they'd either still come up with fuzzy-minded wishful thinking, or they'd have to admit that it's just too hard and too improbable, without any number of diststeful fixes. (I don't really write sci fi, by the way. Not really or, at least, not much.)
kukkurovaca
79. Tom Kratman
@Mayhem

If a society doesn't plan or intend to fight a war, and doesn't act as if it's going to, what can it possibly have to say about questions that are key to fighting a war? Especially if it's forcing critical changes that have nothing to do with fighting a war, and everything to do with social engineering for a society that they are certain is not going to fight a war?

Infantry in the future...well...why are you bombarding a planet into slag? If it's the enemy capital planet, and you want him extinct...okay. But what if it's a planet you want? Do you nuke it? Do you slag it? Or do you send down infantry to take it? What if your enemy wants your planet and sends down infantry to take it. Do you slag your own planet? Or do you meet him with more infantry, better infantry, or more and better infantry?

The Posleen didn't really give up advantages they were especially conscious of. They were a stupid race, until we made them much, much smarter, that got almost all their tech from others. And, as above, they wanted the planet fairly healthy to live on until population pressure drove them to wreck it themselves. But, as the Great Helmsman observed, "We eat and then we defecate. Do we eat in vain?"
Clark Myers
80. ClarkEMyers
#66 -I'd believe it, although a good amount of weight would be water. But remember the west wants to field a small number of highly versatile troops, and do anything they can to avoid losing them - deaths play badly to the people back home. Other countries don't have the same obsession on not having any casualties, or are prepared to take more to get the same result.
There's something of a divide between (1) patrol or raid combat load with maybe 5 lbs water - a pint's a pound the world around - in a Camelbak style rig and a lot of weight in mandated armor (quite right - risk averse and often a topic in Drake's Slammers and to a lesser extent in Pournelle's Falkenberg's Legion) and munitions (2) Route march, LRRP style and Special Forces actions with much more water and less armor. For a lot of water and a very heavy loadout see e.g. ZeroTwoBravo by Andy McNab.

Quite correct that the adversary may be carrying say 30 lbs or 1/3 the weight that a fully loaded American carries. And see Future Combat System and the French FELIN for story ideas and possible futures.

A friend of mine who was just the man you wanted to respond to a cry of guns up was training folks in Juan Rico's home country. The trainees felt they just couldn't carry that much belted. Perhaps exceeding his brief to train only and avoid embarrassing incidents with Americans involved and perhaps doing his job as he saw it the group somehow fell into a firefight with guerrillas which inspired the trainees to decide they could and would carry more belted.

#78 I still think there is some use to scale and focus among other criteria that might be used in distinguishing military SF and military/political SF and something very near alternative history. whether terms used include space opera. Failure to observe such intrinsic differences when they do exist make it easier to talk past each other blind men and the elephant style.

#42 - IMHO the Swiss attitude has changed a good deal in the past just more than half century - I was there for the national level war games when the Stg 57 was adopted and there has been more of an attitude however described than we see today. There's a bit of a siege mentality when the Boy Scout compass is graduated in artillery mils. Room for thought and discussion in what changes at what rate. I argued for the Swiss system - in large part for a citizen army perhaps Heinlein influenced - with a friend who once took a large group of reservists to Korea and watched his men die for lack of current effective training - I was probably wrong.

To some extent that is a question still being debated - military virtue, mercenary virtue or civic virtue.
kukkurovaca
81. AlBrown
I think you are too pessimistic about the ability of culture to adapt to change, COL K, and I remain convinced that we can reach a happy medium, with many jobs open to women in the military, without compromising our combat effectiveness.
That being said, I am the first to admit that my overwhelmingly positive experiences with women in the Coast Guard are somewhat due to my service in the shore-based portion of the service, the captain of the port offices and small boat stations, where unless you are standing duty, you go home to your spouse at night. Much easier to integrate in those circumstances than at the pointy end of the spear.
I will just say to everyone who argues with COL K that, agree or disagree with his conclusion, the issues and problems he raises are real, need to be thought about and addressed, and are not going to go away if we ignore them. It is never a good idea to stop listening to someone just because their politics don't match yours.
We have a lot of issues to deal with as women play an increasing role in the military. We will have to work to find a good balance between inclusiveness and practicality. Not all jobs can be open to all people. The policies and training have to adapt. The culture will change. We will need to work together to make sure that change is positive. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds!
Brian R
82. Mayhem
@78
You want to hear a stink? Announce that women will no longer be
accepted into the armed forces unless they sign up for Norplant or
Deprovera. And even if we got away with that, motherhood's kind of
important to most women. We'd have to have some kind of special
pregnancy leave, and overstrength for the unit to permit those leaves.

Read Bujold's Cordelia's Honor. Her Betan society mandates permanent contraceptive implants at sexual maturity - its a rite of passage along with getting your ears & hymen medically pierced.
The Betans require government permits to have the implant removed, which has to be done at a hospital. Totally removes the issue of pregnancy from the equation, and means the society is *very* different.
Actually you might also like to look at her book Ethan of Athos, which looks at how an all male society might develop with the existance of uterine replicators and banks of preserved ovum.

Remember this is military SF we are discussing - the SF part is quite important. Don't get too hung up in the near future, we can posit extremely different societies from simple technological adaptations.

If a society doesn't plan or intend to fight a war, and doesn't act as
if it's going to, what can it possibly have to say about questions that
are key to fighting a war?

There is a difference between not wanting to fight a war and avoiding the issue entirely. Maintaining suitable alliances, shared material costs, and educating the society can have a much greater impact than merely bragging about the size of your stick.

To be honest, in my view, since the fall of the USSR, the USA has been looking for someone to fight. They spent fifty years building up the preeminent fighting force on the planet, and the other side collapsed before the polititians could play with their toys properly. Iraq and Afghanistan were pretty much excuses to get all the toys out of the box again.

Oh, and as a random analogy, what more worrying on a forest trail - a male grizzly marking its territory or walking between a female and her cubs? After all, the females are smaller and weaker than the males, right?
Clark Myers
83. ClarkEMyers
Sulien ap Gwien wouldn't be an example of a woman in combat save her world has different rules for a woman's fertility than our own.

G. Brooks McNye doesn't seem to need the same treatment. I wonder what might happen by analogy if a similar person on a weather cutter (I don't think they exist in the same long duration sense today?) were a woman? There's a superstion about women on ships but based on what I do not know.
kukkurovaca
84. Ginger
Liz, I'd point you to "The Outback Stars" and the next two books, because although Sandra McDonald was in the US Navy, her characters are Australians in space. Someone else pointed out the The Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell (aka John Hemry), which also has strong female characters in a space navy.

I'd say it's not too surprising that Navy seems to be the wave (sorry, couldn't resist) of the future; it's been more flexible in recent years than the Army in terms of dealing with women on board. A space navy would have to incorporate more women, with far fewer issues overall; something that Army-based veterans seem incapable of envisioning.
kukkurovaca
85. AlBrown
Ginger, Don't blame the Army folks for being more inflexible than Navy types, the additional resistance has to do more than the physical nature of the duties than with stubbornness.
Leigh Butler
86. leighdb
Mayhem makes a good point: that while Mr. Kratman's arguments against women in combat situations may be valid in the current cultural, political and technological climate, the entire point of this article (as I interpret it) is the often unquestioned importation by milSF writers of those cultural mores into the military mindsets of far-future societies, which strikes me as being unrealistic at best.

The changes affected in our technology and cultural mindset in just the last seventy years are so staggering that no one would even have believed it if they hadn't seen it happen. And the two cannot be separated, either - the Industrial Revolution and all that followed it reset the rate of societal change from a steady plod to Ludicrous Speed, for both good and ill, and I see no reason to assume that rate will slow from here on out. If anything, it's only going to get faster and weirder as we continue to go to plaid.

Therefore, assuming that *any* of our current cultural mores/hang-ups/tensions regarding gender or race or *anything* will still apply even fifty years down the line, much less centuries later... well. Let's just say I am skeptical of any such claim.

I also note, somewhat tangentially, that many of the objections Mr. Kratman has raised re: the impossibility of overcoming sexual tensions in mixed units were also used, pretty much word for word, to argue that women should not be allowed in the workplace. Today almost 50% of the workforce in America consists of women, and I have not noticed that societal collapse has occurred as a result.

Did it cause problems, and does it still cause problems? Sure. So did racial integration. It causes big problems, precisely because it forces us to confront the fact that our ideals of freedom and equality do not yet meet up with our reality, and that's a realization people never like even admitting, much less doing something about. So yeah, that shit is hard, and it sucks, and there are a lot of wrinkles to be ironed out, and there will be for a long time to come.

Does that mean it's not worth doing? Fuck no.
kukkurovaca
87. Tom Kratman
@Leigh

Why are you - and you are hardly the only one - assuming the problem is merely one of cultural mores? I certainly haven't made that claim, nor anything like it. Why are you, what basis have you for, assuming that normal male attraction to women, and vice versa, and what they are willing to do to advance that, is a mere cultural more, one that will surely disappear in the very near future? Why are you, what basis have you for, assuming that women will suddenly and quickly develop from the cold, rational, mature, calculating beings that they are, into immature boys with boobs?
kukkurovaca
88. Tom Kratman
@ Mayhem:

Oh, and as a random analogy, what more worrying on a forest trail - a male grizzly marking its territory or walking between a female and her cubs? After all, the females are smaller and weaker than the males, right?

That's not a random analogy; it's a crappy one. The female grizzly may be smaller and weaker than the male, but she remains larger and stronger than you or me. Human females, on the other hand, aren't.

What do you think the odds are that a society which has no real thought of fighting a war and thinks of its military as a useful petri dish for social experiments, and little more, are going to come up with a valid approach to war?
kukkurovaca
89. Brad R. Torgersen
Just poking my head back into the room.

Having read a lot of the back and forth between LTC Kratman and others, I think it may be worth it to point out that even though a thing might be possible, this doesn't automatically make the thing probable. I think because gender integration is now accepted -- indeed, mandated -- in almost all walks of civilian life, that civilians tend to regard the military as just another male-dominated echelon of the civilian sector: overdue for wide-spectrum integration, and infested with too many stodgy old chauvanists who don't want to let the girlies play the game with them.

Before I joined in 2002, I certainly believed this. It was conventional wisdom -- the military was an Old Boys club and women were going to break down those barriers and "win" just as they'd done in various other jobs and roles across the civilian work force.

Let me quickly tell an interesting story: my wife (the uber-feminist) had a retired Navy CPO for an instructor in one of her college classes. Since they were both PoC (People of Color) they could talk about discrimination in ways even my wife and I sometimes can't -- because they shared an overlap of experience, on the receiving end. Anyway, one day they got to talking about women in the military, and my wife and her college instructor went 180 degrees opposite. He was firmly of the belief that full gender integration was both dangerous and futile. My wife, then a bit hot with her tongue, demanded to know why he -- who had faced discrimination as much as she, for his ethnicity -- would be willing to see it done to women for their gender.

His answer? "If I am laying unconscious on the deck and the boat's burning around me and the only person who can attempt to pick me up and fireman-carry me to safety is a woman half my size, half my weight, and half my strength, I am as good as dead."

Even my wife (the uber-feminist) had to stop and think about that one for a second. Because he was right. Integration doesn't just bring sexual problems to the force, it also brings practical problems. In our modern military there are still many, many jobs and situations for which there is no replacement for raw, brute strength.

How many women can lone-carry an M2 .50 calibre machine gun up a hill? That's an infantry task that's tough for even the biggest, toughest men. A 5'-2" 105 pound female? Even if she's not already burdened with tens of pounds in load vest, SAPI plate, ACH, personal weapon, ammo, etc, she's going to find the M2 practically impossible to lug for any reasonable distance because the weapon weighs almost as much as she does.

LTC Kratman pointed out artillery in his own example. Howitzer shells are heavy! Most 21st century civilian men (who work a desk job) would find them near-impossible to lift. Anyone here ever lay cement? I have. How easily can you lug 60 or 80 pound bags of concrete? Now add 20 to 40 more pounds. Even if you're in very, very good physical shape and lift weights and are conditioned to lug 100-lb loads on a bar at Gold's, it's physically taxing. Perhaps a large and extremely fit woman could do it as well as a similarly large and fit male. But these kinds and types of women are vanishingly hard to find, and thrusting women without the size and strength to fill the role, into the role -- for the sake of gender integration -- is not only unfair and dangerous to the female soldier, it's unfair and dangerous to the men around her who will (as LTC Kratman noted) be forced to lug the burdens their female counterpart(s) cannot.

In our future hypotheticals we will, of course, conjur power armor or other exoskelatal assistors -- like the now-famous loader from ALIENS. Such mechanized strength multipliers will offset the brute strength requirements of the infantry and artillery and numerous other jobs. But one thing a modern mechanized military must always assume is that the equipment can and will break down at the worst of times, thus it's up to human muscle power to get the job done. You have to be able to trust that when the machines aren't working, human brawn will make it happen anyway.

More exotic still would be "juiced" female troops -- shot through with hormones and drugs to force their bodies to "amp up" to or beyond male levels. Or perhaps endoskeletal solutions in the form of cyborg-like implants? How many women would desire or even permit their bodies to be altered in these ways, so as to eliminate the natural physical limiters that might prevent them from "manning up" to the level of the men? Science fiction allows us to run away with these hypotheticals, because they are -- in our time -- conceivable.

But as I said at the start, this would not necessarily make them inevitable. Nor desireable.

Currently, our social and political climate demands that we think of men and women as interchangeable in all situations and under all conditions. It's a requirement of polite society: one must never under any circumstances question the capacity or ability of any woman to do anything a man is doing, or might do.

Nominally, that's a good thing, because in most respects, it's true. And I would never suggest that women who have come into their own and proven themselves in a multi-faceted work force be removed from it or prevented from expanding their horizons or taking on new challenges. I welcome this.

But I also welcome some realism, where a few, very specific kinds of roles are concerned. Infantry? If we're going to integrate, can we please require that women entrants meet all the same strength, endurance, and durability requirements as men? Because infantry is something even most men in the Army don't do, or won't do. That's why many of us are not infantry. (g) Infantry is a tough, hard, often brutal job that requires tough, hard, often brutal people. For those females brutish enough to cut the mustard, fine. Maybe we can try it out and see if the doubters are wrong.

But I think there are so few women like this -- truly physically imposing, and with the heart and attitude to match -- that it's almost a self-defeating question.

Which is probably just my much-to-wordy way of saying what I said before: there are jobs and roles for which women can do wonderfully, and these are often technical, require brains, and are not necessarily in the rear or outside the possibility of combat. I am just not sure pretending that all jobs in the military are equal -- and that all women in the military are equally suited to tackle them -- is realistic. Now, or for the future.
john mullen
90. johntheirishmongol
I think it's a utopian ideal that men and women can work together in a military setting without being distracted by sexual attraction, but who's utopia are we talking about? I was raised in the service, did my time along with most of the men in my family. Having women in the service is a great idea, having them in the front lines is not. Asking men and women to fight together and not be sexual is naive, and then asking those same people to maintain fighting discipline if their partner is hurt or killed is ridiculous.
Joris Meijer
91. jtmeijer
The writers in this thread seem to forget we are talking about sf here. Depending on the development in technology it might actually be more useful to look at who is doing well in current computer games than to look at the modern-day military.

And I wonder how the background of writers in the US armed forces has influenced milSF. The US military (an to a lesser extent most western armies) seems to be designed to fight anywhere but at its own home soil. That has to influence doctrine and mentality, as well as the views of the role of women in combat.

The focus on physical prowess is probably valid, but one wonders how the Chinese or Indian army actually manages.
Birgit
92. birgit
This post is about SF. Why does there even have to be anything like today's infantry in SF stories? A story might replace human soldiers by a robot army.
Carrying heavy things is irrelevant in a space battle with no gravity or less important on a small planet/moon. Weapons of the future probably won't weigh as much as today's (compare today's computers with those 50 years ago).
kukkurovaca
93. Tom Kratman
@Birgit

If we're replacing human being with robots, what possible difference could it make to you if we call some of the robots "Sue" and some "Sean?" Or should we perhaps, append metal breasts and arrange for monthly oil leaks so we could call some of them "women?"

Compare what Caesar's legionaries carried with what the modern infantryman does. Guess what? His troops would have mutinied over the loads we put on our soldiers' backs. Yep, 2144 or so years of fairly steady technological progress has roughly doubled the load.

Why should there not be something like today's infantry in SF stories?
kukkurovaca
94. a1ay
I think we can all agree that the original post shows that, even in command of immense space navies, women's innate biological limitations mean that they will still be unable to resist the temptation to wear enormous and very silly hats.

(Which doesn't debar them from service, of course. Look at the Guards Brigade.)

Re: Kratman's point about kids not being able to carry the ridiculous weight of the current infantry CEFO; well, yes. That's central to my point. We will have lighter kit in the future. And, for that matter, things like load-carrying exoskeletons (which are in use in Afghanistan right now). Saying "kids will never be soldiers because they can't lift an M2!" is like saying "women will never be able to fight because they don't have the upper body strength to wield a claymore".

Is there any chance, by the way, that we could hear some comments from a member of an army that has actually won a war in the last half century? They might have some interesting perspectives on what does and doesn't work in terms of successful fighting that are denied to people who haven't seen victory since 1953 or so.
Liz Bourke
95. hawkwing-lb
@leighdb:

You have gathered my point entirely. Whatever the pros and cons of today's military, the future will be different. I don't think there's nearly enough written that explores anything like a variety of the possibilities.

Since I like milSF, that makes me sad.
Maiane Bakroeva
96. Isilel
@87:

what basis have you for, assuming that normal male attraction to women, and vice versa, and what they are willing to do to advance that

People are able to subordinate their normal desire for food and safety, why shouldn't they be able and required to deal with sexual attraction within acceptable parameters?

Seriously, sex isn't as big a deal as you make it and it is people like you, who refuse to anknowledge that misconduct associated with it is largely just another form of venality and bribery and can be controlled by similar methods, that perpetuate the problem.

Also, having _more_ women and women in authority would help to uncover stuff like that sooner and establish shame culture similar to one that historically mitigated male soldiers' favoritism towards their friends, relatives and homosexual lovers.

Additionally, as has been pointed above, the historical alternative leads to crime (even leaving aside rape, using prostitutes is a crime for a US soldier, yes? Even if it is one that is usually waved away) and substantial health and security risks. But those are traditional, hallowed negatives, so you refuse to even consider them as such.

And yes, sexual urges aren't going to go away, but culture certainly very strongly affects how people deal with them. And cultures can and do change drastically with time.

Re: male emotionality, bluster and resultant lack of self-preservation, sure it can be useful, but it also leads to stuff like cavalry charges against machine guns and barbed wire and Gallipoli :). I.e. something that military could use less of.

@89:

Sure, strength is a factor. One factor among many, which is why the biggest strongest guys don't necessarily become the best soldiers. I mean, your example would also exclude Napoleon, Nelson and a lot of other distinguished soldiers and sailors.
Because, you know, muscles are well and good, but once a certain level of sophistication is reached, specialist skills and other pertinent talents become more important. Which is why even in 19th century artillery officers tended to be small, weaselly guys who knew their mathematics ;).

I also question the motives of somebody who comes into a SF discussion and, based on their personal reservations re: current US army starts to obsessively insist that women shouldn't even dream about true equality in the military of the future. Shouldn't even aspire to being military heroes, ever, but accept and admit that it is not for them, once and for all.
I mean, huh?
Brian R
97. Mayhem
Hmm. Going back to the original list of titles that Tor plans to cover in depth, most of them feature mixed gender ground combat forces, if not necessarily prime focus. And the key to the ones that embrace the idea is they are not near future, they're all properly far future SF settings, with all the bells and whistles that that implies.

Fully integrated
The Forever War
Mutineer
March Upcountry (integrated elite forces no less and from Ringo too)
On Basilisk Station (the marines)
Starship Troopers
Heris Serrano: Omnibus One (although the series involves family groups, so different ties than the boy gangs of today)
The Complete Hammer’s Slammers: Volume I (the Slammers seldom involve themselves with infantry except as a faceless opposition but are integrated themselves in tanks & combat cars)

Token integrated
Hymn Before Battle (I recall a female MI LT at one stage in the series though she doesn't end well being the straw feminist opposition)

Not integrated
Into the Looking Glass (Near future US setting rules it out)

Unknown as I haven't read them
Dauntless
Orphanage
Ragnarok
Old Man’s War
Overkill
Legion of the Damned
kukkurovaca
98. Tom Kratman
@aiay:

Wishful thinking. The least likely thing to happen, from a reduction of weight in any given piece of equipment, is that the load will be lightened. Rather, _invariably_, some new item is added, or supplies (ammunition, say) for another item, or for the soldier himself, are increased, right up to the breaking point, lest someone be hurt or killed and someone higher look bad, thereby.

It's a function you see, of having the same kind of moral cowards in charge who insist that there's no problems, only advantages, with women in the military.

Exoskeltons may help. That will not however, change the other, more serious problems.

Oh, by the way, I was pretty sure we accomplished our objectives in 91. Moreover, one of the really nice things about the First Gulf War was that we found out, up close and personal, what kind of armies the Israeli's had been humiliating all those years. It's not a big achievement, and doesn't say a lot good about the IDF.
kukkurovaca
99. Tom Kratman
@ Isilel:

"Should" is an intellectual fantasy. What matters is "do." And they do...and they do.

Here's a little quote from that essay:

This is not something that can be done by decree, however. Laws and rules? No. I once met a wise sergeant, at the USDB at Fort Leavenworth, trying to explain how female prisoners still managed to get pregnant. Holding his hands palms inward, about six inches apart, he said, “Deterrence always seems to fail by about this much.” Indeed, an Assistant Inspector General of the Army, one Major General – later reduced to brigadier general; what a travesty! – David Hale, used his position to seduce – though morally it was a lot closer to rape and the filthy swine should have hanged by the neck until dead for it – the wives of his subordinates. Get that? The number two man in the IG? You know; the IG? The people who are supposed to enforce the rules? Yeah; when some idjit trots out the armed forces “incredible ability to control behavior and change values,” just tune that person out; they’re too stupid and ignorant to be entitled to an opinion.
Perhaps I should say it again: “Eros makes Mars his bitch.”
kukkurovaca
100. Tom Kratman
Addendum:

No, Isilel, the Army couldn't possibly care less if you make use of a hooker, per se. There are some theater specific prohibitions, largely when in Islamic countries, but the UCMJ is silent on the matter.

This is a difficult subject to address with people who are not only ignorant of the military and war, but can't quite get how ignorant they are and insist on trying to frame it as the left wing propaganda, the absurd core left wing notion, of the perfect malleability of man that they're comfortable with. Lemme try again:

It isn't about the sex. It's about the favoritism and resulting demoralization that go with the love and the sex. It's not primarily about women. It's about mixing men and women. And you cannot control it, once they're mixed. All try. All fail. And then all hide it and lie about it. And the intellectual frauds of "should," and "wouldn't it be nice" fail before the realities of "does" and "real."
Brian R
101. Mayhem
Why should there not be something like today's infantry in SF stories?

Actually, I think the posleen books kind of addressed that. With the advent of relativistic bullets, todays infantry greatly resemble tissue paper no matter what armor you put them in. If the enemy had been intelligent, or if things dissolved into a civil war down the line, both sides would wipe each other out in pretty short order.

Its why I don't see much room for standup battles in many of the SF futures you can posit - small force actions yes, but big drawn out shooting matches will end far too quickly - get one side lined up and ready to fight, and the other can obliterate them with airpower a-la the shuttles in Medusa in On Basilisk Station. Have decent anti air, and the Rods from God will take out any massed groups, as in the end of Hells Faire.
What you end up with is either small quantities of really really highly trained special force types, for boarding actions or bodyguard/escort duties, or large groups of police types for civilian control. And bodyguards and police forces have frequently been mixed sex, because they have to protect both genders and people get antsy about male bodyguards for their wives who still have all their parts.

After all, if and when we head off to space, planetary populations are probably going to move towards being relatively homogenous over time if free emigration is possible. Like tends to like and so forth.
Who is your army going to fight? Space navies sure, but large standing armies will be a waste of time.

Its why I can see a place for the slammers style 'small defined wars' with mercenaries - if war is diplomacy by other means, this is just an extreme form of it, where the battles replace the kindergarten game of rock paper scissors... but between corporations, not nations. And they *would* be limited events, because both sides can do accurate cost/benefit projections and know exactly how much they are prepared to spend to achieve a goal.

Give it another one to two hundred years and it is highly possible that national borders become a quaint custom that used to be done in the past, but simply aren't relevant in the modern socially integrated age. Multinational commercial conglomerates like NorAmGrummanMonsanto versus the Shanghai Tokyo and Sakhalin group versus BAEShellKrupp Industries on the other hand, might be fighting over who has dominance in developing the asteroid belt or funding competing colonisation missions to nearly planets.
kukkurovaca
102. Tom Kratman
@Mayhem:

Any of those things are plausible. It's not clear to me that many of them are probable. The Posleen, for example, weren't really stopped by even relativistic bullets but by artillery. Put artillery out there, and someone has to spot for them. If someone is spotting, he needs a guard. and then more guards...

Moreover, leaving the Posleen aside, the enemy will be spotting too. To prevent him getting into position to do that means...infantry.

You might not be aware of it, but infantry already takes about 90% of the casualties. What's a few more? They're comparatively cheap, after all.

Small force actions? There's a concept in Starship Troopers that Heinlein mentioned but never addressed: Combat Ecology. I rather doubt he meant saving the stellar snail darter. I suspect he meant the way opposed weapons and systems and doctrines and organizations work off each other. One counter to the small unit action is to present a slightly larger unit, which is then matched with a still larger unit...until we're at something analogous to Verdun.

And, again, as mentioned above, if you want to own a planet, to use it, you must take it. You might be able to do that by threatening extermination of the populace. If that doesn't work though...ground forces, huge ones for a whole planet. And ground forces to oppose them. That means infantry in some form.
Brian R
103. Mayhem
And, again, as mentioned above, if you want to own a planet, to use it, you must take it.

Only if you want to *conquer* it through main force. If you have two competing corporates though, one might buy it. A takeover bid as it were. Or you could blockade its trade routes and take over that way. Cut off supplies of essential raw materials, and wait a few years for wear and tear to kick in. Or if you're feeling callous, obliterate a city by dropping an asteroid on it and impose a levy on all outgoing trade shipments. Fundamental fact remains - once you control the orbit you control the planet. Why not sent in agitators to replace the ruling political party with one favourable to your cause, and bring them into alliance. And all this still relies on it being a planet full of Homo Sapiens.

One counter to the small unit action is to present a slightly larger unit, which is then matched with a still larger unit

Or until they reach a size where it becomes cheaper and easier to use a KEW to obliterate them. After all, they have to assemble somewhere before the lines can engage.

The Posleen were only stopped by artillery because they were the 'Dumb Ravaging Hordes of Space Insects'. Negotiations were impossible because of the way the whole mileu was designed from the get go. Its an 'us vs the invading hordes' book, you don't want to talk to them, just have a few heroes Stand Their Ground. Change a few assumptions at the start, and *everything* changes. Might not be as riproaring a book, but could be much more interesting in other ways.
Take the Weber/White Starfire books - the Bugs are the same kind of implacable alien horde, but they are *smart*. They have a very good grasp of strategy and tactics, and do a very good job of being the scary bad guys before the alliance of Good Guys can split their homeworlds apart and finally win. And the military losses in that series are heavily borne by the space navies - they need a lot of people to man a spaceship effectively, especially when they start building Death Stars, so each loss is a massive reduction in the pool of skilled technicians. And related to this series, the Terrans are completely mixed gender in all aspects of society, the problematic issues in combat come from mixing *species*.
Both Weber and Drake are extremely knowledgeable in military history. And both have no problems with positing gender integrated militaries in the future of their SF. Why do you? Is it purely a heritage of being infantry instead of Navy or riding a tank?
kukkurovaca
104. Tom Kratman
@ Mayhem

You may have missed it, lots going on and all, but we've had the ability to do anything a KEW from space can do for quite some time now. Yet, interestingly enough, infantry combat has not stopped.

I confess, I have a hard time understanding it too...

I know David and David reasonably well. I will not speculate as to why they posit problem-free gender-integrated militaries. I will, however, say that neither's knowledge of military history exceeds my own, while my personal, hands on, military experience, at the pertinent level, is exceeded by fairly few.
Brian R
105. Mayhem
In our current world, I'd put it down to two things - no wars between first world adversaries and international agreements between the major powers not to openly put weapons in space that don't need to be broken yet.
The USA is so far ahead of all possible competition at this point that they don't need to invest heavily in space based weapons. If the USSR had stood as the competitive power the foreign advisers advertised them to be for another 50 years, I'd say we would probably have gone a lot further in that direction.

Currently though, the USA is once again fighting in a war they don't really understand and its the boys at the sharp end getting the brunt.* But you still aren't really taking very many casualties compared to civilian and military losses on the other side. Maybe 5-10% at best.

*I remember reading some great articles about Afghanistan, where the locals warlords are using the American forces to settle old scores and expand their territory. Basically one guy makes an anonymous phone call saying So-and-so is working with the Taliban and has information on the whereabouts of Most Wanted #3. BAM, Special Forces go in and snatch Mr So-and-so to find out what he knows. Meanwhile, the first guy goes around knocking off So-and-so's henchmen while the boss is busy, so when he eventually gets released, he no longer has a territory. Link to an example here.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/2010/10/mr_pink_mr_white_and.html
kukkurovaca
106. Tom Kratman
And similar circumstances are every bit as likely to prevail, albeit with different players, in the far future.

In any case, though, no, the Viet Cong and NVA didn't become infantry - very fine infantry, I might add, in all that's important - just as a matter of taste, but because they had the people and the will, and not much else. And be damned to our nukes; be damned to our bombers, which could do pretty much anything a KEW can. And we had to fight them, as infantry, because other things, in that kind of environment, just don't work all that well.

I probably know more horror stories about that kind of thing - I still have my contacts, after all, and still, sortakinda, keep my hand in - than you do. Yes, we're kinda flailing around, and often being played for suckers, in the Rockpile.
Clark Myers
107. ClarkEMyers
#97 -
The Complete Hammer’s Slammers: Volume I (the Slammers seldom involve themselves with infantry except as a faceless opposition but are integrated themselves in tanks & combat cars)
Oddly that's not the way I read and remember the series. FREX on page 105 of the Nightshade hardcover op. cit. we find the story Hangman which opens:
The light in the kitchen alcove glittered on Lieutenant Schilling's blond curls;....All the highlights looked cold to Captain Danny Pritchard as he stepped closer to the infantry lieutenant.
Much of the plot in this particular story is driven by a romantic triangle - and the story is driven by avoiding the disaster that almost follows a romantic entanglement between Lieutenant Schilling of the infantry and Captain Pritchard of the armor.

In fact and properly so I read much of the success of the Slammers as due to the fact that in context the author tends to give the Slammers all the full combined arms of the American Army as he experienced it with armor, artillery and infantry. This sometimes contrasts with other mercenary units which are not combined arms or with small detached groups of Slammers as in the rework of the Nike incident which has a small unit of anti aircraft artillery and a detachment of Slammers used dismounted - no aircushioned vehicles at all for Jack Scritchard's bad knees.
#103 -
Fundamental fact remains - once you control the orbit you control the planet.
Maybe so. Some say until you put a scared 19 year old standing on it you don't control a piece of ground. There's a not bad story based on the notion that the U.S. never used atomic bombs on Japan but cut off the home islands from the rest of the world with overflights. I don't recall that we met promised schedules for NATO intervention in Libya or parts of the former Yugoslavia to bend the populace to our will by controlling the sky. See also the infamous boy scouts quote from Albright.

I mentioned the blind men and the elephant parable above. I'd suggest that indeed people are talking past each other based on a misconception. To quote from The Complete Hammer's Slammers again op.cit. p.392:
From thirty years on , the notion Jerry's Falkenberg series and Joe's Forever War were the same is even more ludicrous than it appeared to me at the time, and what I was doing was third thing yet.
But begging the question of useful similarities and ignoring differences may serve to advance arguments for previously chosen positions. As the saying goes time for me to settle for popcorn and lurking.
Birgit
108. birgit
Or should we perhaps, append metal breasts and arrange for monthly oil leaks so we could call some of them "women?"

The robots are not men or women, the people who tell them what to do are.
If today's infantry only works with stupid young men who are too interested in big phallic guns that is probably because the military system was set up by men. If more women were in charge they might do things differently like making weapons small enough to be practical or letting robots fight each other instead of boys.
kukkurovaca
109. mdauben
Although a few stand out - Full Metal Panic is probably a good one with Sergeant Mao as the leader for ground parties and Tessa as the commander in charge of Mithril. Although Tessa is immediately subverted as she has supercompetent *male* subordinates, there are very few other females on the sub.

I don't think Tessa is a terribly great example, myself. While she does have moments of brilliance as a combat commander, much of the time the weight of command seems to be carries by her male XO, while she is portrayed as a school girl with a debilitating crush on a military subordinate.

A better example from Japanese manga and anime might be Major
Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell. She is portayed as a highly competent leader, if somewhat asexual. Perhaps an even better example (albeit from a novel series rather than manga) would be Balsa from the Moribito (Guardian) books. She demonstrates emotional connections to the people around her, without undermining her position as the uberwarrior of the series.
Leigh Butler
110. leighdb
Tom Kratman @ 87:

Sexual attraction is not a cultural more. How you act on sexual attraction is. Young men believe their sexual impulses simply *cannot* be controlled because we tell them so, and give them implicit permission to be just as irrational as they want to be.

And you know, this is all a very familiar song and dance. It happens every time we, and especially the military, are told that this thing that was "always" this way? Doesn't have to be this way, and in fact cannot be this way any longer.

And every time, everyone protests that it is *impossible*, can't be done, nosiree bob. It is *impossible* that black men can serve in the military. Okay, maybe black men can serve, but it is *impossible* that they can serve in mixed units with white men. Okay, maybe they can serve in mixed units, but it is *impossible* that gay men can serve. Okay, maybe gay men can serve, but only if they don't *tell* us they're gay. Okay, maybe they can tell us they're gay, but it is *impossible* blah blah blah.

Same shit, different day. And every time, it turns out that the impossible... wasn't.

I forget who said it originally, but paraphrased: don't make the mistake of being on the wrong side of history, Mr. Kratman. You're right, I can't predict with absolute certainty that the current trend of integration will continue, but I can certainly *hope* that history turns out to keep going with this process of humanity slowly but surely pulling its head out of its collective ass, and I can continue to contribute by advocating that process, even if only on a comment thread on the Internet.

If that makes me a wild-eyed unreasonable liberal... well, wait, I'm a woman. I thought we were all - how did you put it? - "cold, rational, mature, calculating beings". It is *impossible* that I could be both, surely!

Or, column B, sweeping generalizations are crap, and you do both genders a disservice by attempting to argue that they are all unalterably tarred with the same brush, whether it was meant to be a compliment or not.
kukkurovaca
111. W. Lancaster
"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

Arther C. Clark - Hazards of Prophecy: The Failure of Imagination" in Profiles of the Future (1962)

I was going to write something longer but I think Clark sums up my feelings pretty well. I do not think many things are impossible, especially in sociality. If there is one thing humans do extremely well it is adapt, our entire survival depends on it, and it makes any statements that "Humans are ..." extremely hard to defend.

Now, making a perfectly gender equal society might be difficult, but difficult challenges has never been something Sci Fi has shied away from.

*edit* Like Leigh, I have also heard the argument that woman can't do X because they can't work with men. In my case it was in coal mining. It wasn't a valid argument then, and I don't think it is here.
kukkurovaca
112. Davd Drake
Dear Ms Bourke,

I'm not politically correct; I have many attitudes which even I find regrettable.

But.

In even the earliest Hammer stories I was showing women (and gays) in positions of authority in both civil and military arenas.

I didn't expect commendation for that in the '70s, but I think I deserve something better than a slap in 2012 for a sort of sexism which I was condemning in print before you (I suspect) were born.

Sincerely,
Dave Drake
Clark Myers
113. ClarkEMyers
110 -
Sexual attraction is not a cultural more. How you act on sexual attraction is. Young men believe their sexual impulses simply *cannot* be controlled because we tell them so, and give them implicit permission to be just as irrational as they want to be.
An interesting thing to say. As a clustered premise it deserves to stand alone for examination. Such interesting conclusions follow.
kukkurovaca
114. Tom Kratman
@Birgit

I'd be interested to see how you would make the M4 smaller and lighter than it is, or what you would replace it with that is smaller and lighter, but still, of course, effective. Some way that isn't as much wishful thinking as the notions here about gender mixed units, I mean.
kukkurovaca
115. Dbroussa
I suspect that one reason that we don't see more SciFi books that explore other cultures than Anglo-European ones in the future is that we are primarily reading in English and the market for SciFi in English appears to be the largest (perhaps due to the size and cultural hegemony of the US and its economic hegemony). Thus, perhaps there is some great sub-saharan SciFi with neo-Zulu's roaming the stars...or not.

As to the sense of a fully integrated SciFi military be it space, marines, or infantry, many of the problems can be sovled via SciFi...uterine replicators, cloning, etc can all remove the requirement for women to bear and raise the next generation. Hormone management, partial reversile lobotomization, insanely strict moral codes, or completely loose moral codes could all manage the sex in the ranks aspect (to whit LTC Kratman's example of the UN forces in A Desert Called Peace, Piers Anthony's Bio of a Space Tyrant, or in Haldeman's Forever War where the women were called up on to serve sexually as part and parcel of their enlistment). There are myriad ways to handle the issues of strength via tech, genetic modifications, etc. But all of that also misses a central point of SciFi as a literary tool. That point is that SciFi is a mirror to our culture that allows us to explore how technology MAY change things for the better of the worse. So, it is always going to be firmly rooted in current events, cultures, and mores. Look at all of the SciFi in which the graet conflict of the future was still US/Soviet?

Lastly, in reagrds to combat load...even as we make individual pieces lighter, we are now starting to make the troops have to worry about power and thus carry power packs in their person to allow the use of the radios, computers, rangefinders, GPSs, etc. That is only going to increase and only going to get heavier (until we revolutionize power storage). I remember my wife complaining about a show called Space Rangers in which they used slug throwers as opposed to lasers. I pointed out that the slug was very efficient as a damage delivery system and lasers were very inefficient...that may change, but perhaps we should not assume that it would...and if we do...then it will change many other aspects of our lives (a la Gibson and his Cyberpunk distopias)
kukkurovaca
116. Tom Kratman
@Leigh

The problem with what you're positing is that the only possible problem is straight white male intolerance. It takes a heroic level of ignorance - really heroic, I salute you - to make and sustain that assumption. Sadly, however, that is not the sum total of the problem, as mentioned, over and over, as if to a brick wall, above.

Oh, you're still rational. After all, if you get what you want, you get to feel all gooey and great inside while _others_ take all the risks to make you feel that way.
kukkurovaca
117. dbroussa
Clark, in regards to #113, yes...it displays a remarkable, willful, ignorace of why cultures evolved into family units with the men going out an hunting while the women gathered and what that selection did to the human species. Why culture demanded that men stay with their offspring and the effects that had on species survivability.
Leigh Butler
118. leighdb
@ 116:

I made no such assumption, unless you are assuming that by "humanity", I was only referring to straight white men, in which case the "making assumptions" problem is not on my end. Please show me where I said that only straight white men can be racist, or homophobic, or sexist. Otherwise I have to dismiss your argument as the straw man it so obviously is.

As for your other statement, if we follow your implication to its logical conclusion, then no one is allowed to have opinions on military policy unless they are a member of that military. As U.S. military policy is, ultimately, determined by civilians, for whom I and other civilians vote into or out of office, your argument there isn't so much fallacious as it is flat out wrong.
kukkurovaca
119. Bannon
So... some people really feel the need to make sure every single comment is responded to, huh? I mean, we're talking DAYS worth of dedication here.

Impressive.*

*this word may not reflect the commentor's actual sentiments.
kukkurovaca
120. Tom Kratman
@Leigh:

Nonsense. It is not assumption, but logical inference, that when you posit things that were precisely straight, white male intolerance as being the same as things which are not straight, white male intolerance, you are seeing everything as straight, while male intolerance.

Oh, you can have an opinion...legally. What you can't apparently have is an opinion that anyone who has any experience in the matter ought to listen to.

Policy can be set by civilian voters. Policy is then checked by the enemy, who gets a much more important vote.
Liz Bourke
121. hawkwing-lb
@David Drake:

I respect you immensely, and enjoy your books a hell of lot. However, I feel the subgenre presently under discussion has not moved forward much from where it was in the 1970s.

I do regret, though, that my use of hyperbole for effect regarding your work from the '70s and '80s caused you personal offence. I was hoping to start a conversation about where the genre is now, while acknowledging there should perhaps be room for more than there was then. It is entirely possible I've overgeneralised, since it's been several years since I reread your Hammer's Slammers books. If that's the case - and I trust you when you say it is - I apologise.

What I don't do is retract my point about the genre as a whole.
kukkurovaca
123. Bele
I know some people here might not like it or believe what kratman has to say to them i give this advice.

First go here. It is a Blog by a Naval officer infact alot go there.
http://cdrsalamander.blogspot.com/
Now the navy is a pretty liberal organization and you can tell that by the blogs owner and many of his posters. And basicly everything kratman has said has been shown to be evident in a large amount on this site.

Whats more it shows the problems with unrealistic expectations and the problems that evolve.

The reality is this Men and Women evolved differently. For instance women can see colors better than men. Is that sexist? No. So why is it sexist to point out the reality that men are geneticly built to be stronger and also geneticly and culturaly programed to act differently.

Now this is one of my views........
I work right now in a shop where everyone is men however i have worked in many places sometimes men are a minority.

And i have noticed "DRAMA" is far worse with women than men. Even my rather liberal sister HAS agree'd and she hates it. This causes problems.....lots of problems that in general society we cant deal with. And because the military is in a FAR more demanding and uncompromising world you get problems when people from outside try to transport Their choosin view into it.
kukkurovaca
124. Smart_Alex
Has there ever been a situation in the military in which a commanding officer has shown preferential treatment for one equally qualified junior officer over another? I'm guessing, yes. And yet, somehow, some way, the military has managed to survive.
kukkurovaca
125. Tom Kratman
@ Smart Alex:

That will be valid when liking is the same as loving and spitting the same as swallowing, when the mild preference of liking is equal to the major preferences that come from loving. Until then, it's BS.

Not that that kind of preference is good, in any case, but the notion that "because we have a level of bad we must therefore tolerate and encourage a mugh higher level of bad" is just thoughtless nonsense.
Irene Gallo
126. Irene
Mr. Kratman,

I have unpublished your last comment due to insensitive language, it is bordering on insulting members of our community.

You have your say many, many times on this thread. Please let others have a chance to speak and spot dominating the conversation.

Irene
Leigh Butler
128. leighdb
@ 120:

As I have personally experienced or been witness to sexism from women, racism from non-white persons, and homophobia from gay people, not to mention any and all combinations of all of the above, your inference is, frankly, false. But even if it were true, it is still a strawman argument, as bringing it up does nothing to address the actual point I was making in my earlier comment.

My point in bringing up racial and homosexual integration in the military was *not* to make the point that the military or any subset thereof is racist or homophobic. My point was to highlight a trend in which people who were unquestionably very much experts in military matters professed opinions on military social policy which were later proven wrong. Repeatedly.

My point is *not* to assert that my opinion must be absolutely correct, because I never said any such thing. In fact, I said in so many words that I was not certain that the trend toward integration would continue, only that I hoped it would. My point *is* that your argument from authority rather loses credibility when you examine the frankly dismal track record of how often military experts have been incorrect in their dire predictions of how the troops would handle social change within their ranks.

My point is not that I must be right; my point is that you could be wrong, and that recent history suggests that, in fact, this is much more likely to be the case than most military experts would care to admit.

(Edit: last bit expanded because I hit post too quick)
kukkurovaca
129. Smart_Alex
@125 Hmm... I didn't specify the reason, or how bad it was. Let's try this:

Has there ever been a situation in the military in which a commanding officer has shown preferential treatment for one equally qualified junior officer over another for a really terrible, gruesome reason, way worse than love? I'm still guessing, yes. And yet, somehow, some way, the military has managed to survive.

Also, calm down.
kukkurovaca
132. David A Drake
Dear Liz,
Thank you. I of course accept your apology. (I guess I should say I'm referring to post 121.)
I think there's a major difference between now and 1970 in Military SF (and in space opera) in that now gender is an issue. This is the same difference regarding slavery in the US between 1780 and 1830. People (explicitly or not) must take sides.
When I started writing the Hammer stories in the early '70s, nobody noticed. Literally. Likewise with my use of gay characters. I think in part that because neither gender nor orientation was an issue in the stories--it just was; but also, people weren't used to noticing female officers, period.
Heck, you didn't.
Best wishes,
Dave
PS: I used to get lumped in with Jerry Pournelle. More recently it's been with John Ringo and Dave Weber.
I'm on friendly terms with all three men, but I'm very different--not least in that I have no ideology whatever.
DAD
Irene Gallo
133. Irene
Hi Guys,

At Tom Kratman's insistence, I have banned him. He has now enlisted others in passing on messages for him to continue to commandeer the conversation.

Everyone has had plenty of time to say their piece. We will close this thread to comments for now.
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