Wartime lessons

The fall of Afghanistan brings to an end two decades of warfare. It also brings a key lesson for writers: acknowledge complexity.

Wartime lessons
Image: US Army 

I spent much of this weekend consumed with the fall of Afghanistan, and it's left me in something of a dull rage. The country's longest war has run for as long as I've been studying and writing; I was in high school during 9/11, and I ended up at Norwich University for college, America's first private military academy. I was a civilian there, but it was impossible to escape the impact of the wars raging in Iraq and Afghanistan. Classmates of mine would vanish for semesters at a time, talk about enlisting, mourn those friends who they lost in combat.

Like it or not, the global war on terror has shaped how I see the world, and it's informed how I've approached everything from science fiction to history. The fall of the country has brought about a bracket to that time: a solid point in the timeline that is history that we can point to as a moment with a before and after. That's not the full story, of course: the ramifications of what happened in the last twenty years will play out for years and decades to come.

But it's a moment that bears reflection, and I've been thinking about how the real world of warfare and military science fiction intersect, and how military SF has largely failed to grasp the complexities that have spilled out this weekend.