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The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s First Mad Scientist Science Fiction Writing Contest

29 November 2016

From Small Wars Journal:

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command is pleased to announce its first Mad Scientist Science Fiction Writing Contest and will accept submissions between November 22, 2016 and February 15, 2017.

The topic for this competition is “Warfare in 2030 to 2050.”  Writers from all walks of life have the opportunity to contribute ideas that are outside what the Army is already considering about the future.  These stories are being used to explore fresh ideas about the future of warfare and technology. Writers are asked to consider (but not limited to) how trends in science, technology, society, the global economy, and other aspects could change the world in a meaningful way, with implications for how the Army operates in future conflicts.

Link to the rest at Small Wars Journal and thanks to N. for the tip.


47 Comments to “The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s First Mad Scientist Science Fiction Writing Contest”

  1. Sounds like an April first story.

    • “My pet telepath just had your entire army shoot themselves in the foot. You can declare me the winner or I’ll have them aim for their heads next time. Why yes, you are only third in command — or at least you were, you bosses seem to have lost their heads over something …” 😉

    • I write science fiction/mysteries. A relative in the Army sent this notice to me, and I sent it to P.G. This is not a fake story.

      The Army has to plan to deal with all sorts of issues from global climate change to epic disasters and any other issue they identify in society, especially anything that government is failing to plan for. They really want to know what might be coming, and they need ideas on handling issues because the army ends up being the first-responder for problem solving in large scale emergencies. The U.S. Army coordinates with other country’s armies around the globe in all sorts of humanitarian crises. Hurricanes in Guatemala? Earthquake in Argentina? Epic flooding? Guess who helps out.

      Any kind of humanitarian crises that come along, the U.S. Army plans for, trains for, and trains other countries to prepare for. They don’t just fight wars. To plan they need to know what might be coming.

      Got a futuristic idea to improve medical care in a disaster? They need that. It could apply to the battlefield or responding to an earthquake that destroys a city.

      Asking writers to come up with scenarios is a good way to get ideas.

      • I wonder who is paying for this, and what bill they attached it to to push it through the federal legislature. Frankly, they already have, the military, each branch, vast future thinkers. This seems an odd use of taxpayer money. Many of the people at NASA, another part of taxpayer supported ‘explorations’ are brilliant… I really wonder how this came about, the actual process from who thought this up and then went to get the money and how.

  2. I’m pretty sure this is a contest I wouldn’t want to win, seeing as the end goal would be to use my ideas to kill people. I have enough guilt dealing with killing my own made-up characters.

    • Killing people in job lots is trivial.

      The objective of these drills is to complete the mission (win, for various values for “win”) in the most efficient and effective way.

      For example, injuring opponents is sometimes preferable to killing them because each wounded requires one or more other soldiers to protect or evacuate. Other techniques, like manuevering to break up large formations, cutting off units that can then be forced to surrender, disrupting communications, etc. can be quicker, more effective, and less risky.

      If the objective were only to kill that could be achieved at minimun risk by “walking” nukes over enemy territory. But as WWI proved, a war fought solely to kill only achieves that. And usually breeds a followup war.

      Some issues can only be settled by war and war will be with us indefinitely. But there are many ways to fight a war other than indiscriminate killing.

    • The Army does FAR more relief work in the US and around the globe than it does shooting. No one ever thinks of that when they think of the Military. The Army delivers food, cots, and blankets after natural disasters and does Search and Rescue in EVERY country that allows it, fights forest fires here and abroad, and generally does awesome humanitarian stuff. We don’t walk around all day killing people, and I’ve never met a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine who relished doing so. Your ideas could be used to save lives as well.

    • You guys are kidding yourselves if you think the military is looking for ways to better serve humanity. It’s right there in the topic of the contest: “WARFARE in 2030-2050.”

      And no, there’s no such thing as “shoot to wound” training. It doesn’t exist. If an enemy combatant survives getting attacked, it’s only because the attacker missed a critical spot. Soldiers (I was one, Air Force for eight years) are trained to kill. Not kill with impunity, but without hesitation. Wars are won by doing enough damage to the enemy that they lack the personnel, resources, or resolve to win it. That damage is done by, as my drill instructors were fond of saying, “killing people and blowing s*** up.”

      Why don’t we list all of the wars that the U.S. (or any military worldwide, for that matter) has won without visiting massive casualties upon the enemy. Because that wouldn’t actually be a war.

      • Warfare has moved beyond the simple act of one person killing another they can see thru their rifle site though, hasn’t it? How about Non lethal weaponry instead of bullets and missiles, such as the Active Denial System? Cyber Warfare and Space warfare, men and women a few thousand miles away from the bullets and bombs, such as what is happening with drones? Asymmetrical warfare, or 4th Generation Warfare, Operations other than War? After the Haiti earthquake, the airports control tower was useless, the relief flights numerous and unorganized, and in less than a week a team of Air Force Combat controllers with a few radios and a card table were running more flights out of Port Au Prince more efficiently than anything prequake. Not warfare maybe, but less stressful or involved?

        “Why don’t we list all of the wars that the U.S. (or any military worldwide, for that matter) has won without visiting massive casualties upon the enemy. Because that wouldn’t actually be a war.”

        The Falklands War of 82 had less than 1000 killed. The recent Georgia-Russia fight was three to five thousand. The Kargil War of 1999 was about 5000 casualties, which in a country with the population of India isn’t that “massive”. The War of 1812 was about 20k overall casualties on all sides, but that was more of a draw than anything else. The American Indian Wars had about 75k total killed in fighting over about 100 years, but quite a bit more were killed by infectious decisions.

        But, after the fully industrialized warfare of the 20th century, massive takes on a whole new perspective. Estimates for US killed in the First Gulf War went as high as 30k before the fighting started. And I doubt anyone involved in any of those conflicts I listed above would say they weren’t in a war.

        • Right, so thousands and thousands of people are killed to win an armed conflict of any appreciable scale. That’s what I said.

          Anyway, at no point did I say that the only thing the military does is kill. What I did say is that this specific writing contest has a very specific goal, and that is to glean ideas for future warfare. Says so right in the title and description. If the title was “Response to Global Catastrophes and Humanitarian Crises 2030-2050” I would’ve responded differently. I’m interested to see the winning entries. Maybe I’ll change my tune then, maybe not.

          Yes, there are non-lethal alternatives. Those non-lethal alternatives will never, ever be used in any type of armed conflict with an enemy force where they’re shooting real bullets. Those methods are for crowd control, and they’re not even effective yet.

          Why anyone is taking exception to the statement that the military’s primary way of waging warfare is and will always be killing the opposition, I’ll never know.

          • “Yes, there are non-lethal alternatives. Those non-lethal alternatives will never, ever be used in any type of armed conflict with an enemy force where they’re shooting real bullets.”

            I don’t know, a few of those systems at every US embassy across the world would probably be quite useful.

            “Why anyone is taking exception to the statement that the military’s primary way of waging warfare is and will always be killing the opposition, I’ll never know.”

            Because it reflects a pre-21st Century warfare mindset with regards to what warfare could and should encompass?

            The request is for future ways to fight. Or maybe, to borrow from Sun Tzu, to “win without fighting.”

            Warfare has become more than just simple killing because were getting to a point where a military doesn’t have to kill in large numbers to win. As history as shown during a war you can lose every significant military battle you fight in (resoundingly so even), but if you win the public relations battle you can still come out on top.

            How about an EMP weapon detonated over a large troop formation, or a fleet of ships? Virtually no casualties immediately caused, but those troops are now out of the fighting.
            What if the GPS constellation is destroyed or rendered useless before a soldier fires his rifle? Or the communication satellites? Or a combination of both? What if in the process of doing that, the only two launchpads those replacements can be launched from are destroyed?
            How about computer virus/worm that infiltrates a military logistical computer systems and shakes them up like my three year old nephew and his etch a sketch? If you can’t get your guns and butter from A to B in a timely manner, what then?
            Lot of options out there, and very few involve direct fighting these days.

            • I’m going to surrender before this discussion kills me.

              • And I win without killing you.

                Warfare, 21st Century style. 🙂

                If its any consolation the guys I play tabletop games with talk about this sort of stuff incessantly, but then they majority of them are all affiliated with the CGSC and other training groups at Leavenworth. Some of the stuff they have come up with is off the wall to say the least. But it makes the game days a fun time.

      • Actually, the military switched to lower caliber high velocity ammo (5.56mm) from the WWII and Korean war ammo precisely because of a shoot-to-wound philosophy.

        It’s long been a subject of debate.


        • Felix, there is no shoot to wound philosophy in the military. It. Does. Not. Exist.

          You are trained to shoot center mass, because it’s the biggest target. It also, coincidentally, is where the vital organs are kept. If the guy dies, the job is done. If he doesn’t die but is still out of the fight, great.

          No soldier is taught to wound. They are trained to kill, because the other guys are trying to kill them.

          • The soldiers may hit the center mass but the guns are designed to wound. They lack the stopping power for outright kills except at closest range. It’s on purpose and it’s a long festering issue with the troops.
            And a fact.

            • Felix, I like you, but you’re dealing in myths here. Also, you’ve moved the goal posts from the “shoot to wound” philosophy (which was wrong) to “the guns are designed to wound” (which is also wrong).

              I figure we both have better things to do with our time, so I’m going to move on from this and go back to celebrating my early and stirring NaNoWriMo victory.

              • Dan. I’m not entering the fray. But my father served during the transition from battle rifles to the pea shooters we use now. He’ll tell you, without a doubt, that the M-16 and derivatives are far less deadly then the old M-14.

                He blames it on bean counting. Less money per shot. Ammo cost reasons.

                It’s also clear that at that time the Viet Kong had a policy of wounding over killing, as that took more men out of the fight as they carried out the wounded.

                Also. Shooting to wound has never been a military training philosophy. That’s obvious. Even in my namby pamby days in the Air Force we shoot to kill. But that is different than the bean counters making rifles that wound.

                Logistically, in warfare wounding is far better than killing.

                I have no clear stance on this, I’ve not studied enough, but my father very firmly believes that 3 things led to the adoption of a lower caliber rifle. Cost, ammo capacity which is better for lower trained troops, and wounding over killing.

                EDIT: Please note I am VERY MUCH open to being wrong. And I’ll tell my dad he’s wrong too…but you better be damn sure before I tell him because he’s Devil Dog still, 60 years old and still eats flies and s***.

                • There’s “less deadly” as in “not able to explode a guy with as much energy.” From a data standpoint, that’s accurate.

                  Then there’s “the guns are designed to wound and can only kill at close range,” which is complete nonsense. Look up the lethality (or accuracy) data for the M16 or M4, for example.

                  I can’t imagine any of this will change the opinion your dad has carried for like 40 years, though.

                  Also, the bean counters don’t make the guns.

                • Also, where is it “clear” that the VC preferred wounding to killing? Where are people coming up with this stuff? The VC, like any other army, would wipe out a platoon in a heartbeat, and then, if anyone was alive, they’d take them,prisoner.

                  If you don’t shoot to kill in a firefight, you die. It’s that simple.

                  No military shoots to wound. Period.

                • Dan, I’m not going to beat this to death but consider that there is a difference between what soldiers do and what the military, the organization, does.
                  Soldiers are taught to shoot to kill, yes.
                  And they prefer the weapons that given them, individually, the best chance at success.

                  But the guns they have been given for nearly sixty years are sub-optimal for that. That it hasn’t changed in two generations says it is policy. It doesn’t have to make sense at the trooper level for it to make sense at the macro, organizational policy level. Different criteria at work.

                  This is hardly new: in the 18th century it was policy to send out soldiers with single shot rifles long after repeaters and automatics were available. And it carried through well into the 20th.

                  Soldiers have been griping about lack of stopping power for decades and the issue has gone unaddressed. Yet right now there is an ongoing procurement for Army handguns and one of the top criteria in the RFP is added stopping power. Because handguns are close in and small unit operations weapons. MPs and such. The policy *there* is changing. Those gripes they listen to.

                  It’s all about macro level planning, which is where the fruits of these outreach efforts go. Individual soldier training probably won’t change but the policies might.

              • agree Dan that there are some WWi, WWii, Nam, Korea, Falklands, Gulf, Iraq, Afghanis, etc fantasies floating around for decades now, some are half right and others totally wrong, depending on many factors. But then one would perhaps have had to be there in person, to know what a hell. And there are plenty of fairy stories amongst some vets too, from long ago, from short ago and now, since forever.

                Thing is, war is not purgatory. It’s unrelenting hell. For citizens, innocents, warriors, the land, the rivers, the animals,the children, the pregnant women, the elders, the young, the middle aged and yet to be born. Hell.

    • But good luck in the contest! 🙂

  3. That is far more imaginative than the Army leadership usually is. As an Army vet, I may have to look into this!

    Pro patria vigilans!

  4. I thought they always looked to sci-fi / Tom Clancy writers for ideas.

    Years ago, either A&E or AMC did the “pop up video” format for the first Predator movie. In the “behind the scenes” segment they mentioned that the movie was screened for the Pentagon (or some branch of the military). An officer saw the Predator’s invisibility device and stood up and shouted, “I want that!” and then the military started developing one.

    This time they’re just openly soliciting ideas. I would hope they wouldn’t take the “Build the Death Star” foolishness seriously — we live on ONE planet, can’t truly travel to others, and you want to build a planet killer?! Because how could that go wrong? — but I would like to see them game out scenarios that are more likely to be a problem.

    Fer instance, what if there’s a Carrington Event / EMP attack? I guess that’s technically an infrastructure problem, but lots of cars seem to have computers in them, and I wonder how mobile would the army be if their Jeeps and tanks can’t start because the computers in them don’t work? Or how can they rescue anyone if their nav systems fail?

    “CIA annex, we are officially lost. Neither Google nor Siri know where the eff you are,” said Glenn Doherty, apparently, but at least could use his cell phone in Benghazi.

    And then of course, what if some terrorist makes a 28-Days-Later zombie? Or they develop a bomb that behaves like the comet in Lucifer’s Hammer? The armies in those stories did not handle the situation well …

    This contest could actually be useful. I think failure to anticipate / prevent problems can sometimes really be a failure of imagination. Writers can help with that 🙂

    • For that matter, a pure EMP stand-off weapon would make Navies obsolete overnight. Most ships would be sitting ducks and subs would be caskets. Probably a good idea to provide fallback modes.

      One thing that *has* been openly discussed is all militaries’ dependence on national positioning satellite constellations (GPS,GALILEO, BeiDou, IRNSS, GLONASS) for precision targeting, which pretty much guarantees the next global war will begin with an attack on orbital assets.

      So the next big war is not going to be WWIII, but rather SWI; Space War one. Which is why all the major powers have active space combat commands. The US “hides” it within the Air Force (which should properly be renamed US AeroSPace Force) but both Russia and China keep their Space Combat arms separate from their Air Combat arms.

  5. Thanks for the tip.

  6. Giant robots. Somebody write a story about giant robots.

  7. This is great, and I for one think it is high time this anti-Mad-Scientist nonsense gets squashed firmly. Baseless prejudice! Maybe we wouldn’t be so prone to building Death Rays if we just got a *little* appreciation!

    This is not the first time the military/government has approached spec-fic writers for brainstorming ideas, too. I know Greg Bear and others have done projects.

    • Most of the mad scientists I know of either work for NASA, DARPA, Lockheed-Martin, BAE, or write SF. The most prominent these days is Travis Taylor of the Rocket City TV show on National Geographic.

      The NASA Eagleworks guys get most of the press but they are well past mad scientist territory into Seaton/DuQuesne territory. If we’re ever getting off this mudball before the asteroid hits, they’ll be the ones to get us there.

    • Footfall?

      EDIT: There’s a scifi brain trust in that one.

  8. Bah. This crap is easy.

    Invent cat vids.

    Inflict on target.

    Everyone adopts a kitten.

    Destroy GDP.

    I’ll be hugging my kitty when the bombs fall.

    • Hugging kitty right now!

      • Okay well she didn’t like that, she prefers being admired from a distance I guess…

      • I’ll be tending to these claw wounds now. Accidentally hugged kitty without permission. Misread cryptic signs. It happens.

        I’ll be out of the fight for a few.

        Surely the army will utilize this intel.

      • Kitty’s back!

        I think. She just ran past. Good thing I’m not manning the nuclear codes because I wouldn’t care about that because, well, kitty ran past!

      • Hahaha she purring now!

        I just opened a can of tuna. Kitties love tuna.

        OMG I think we just got nuked and I could have stopped it if I hadn’t been distracted.

        Damn you Putin and your tricksies! Using love to defeat my peeps!

      • Okay apparently there were no nukes.

        Phew. Kitty will be pleased when I tell her…or will she?

  9. a’;jf aepo48 poa;’s ‘asdpi

  10. Thank you PG. Love your site. I’ll quit now. 🙂

  11. Sounds like a fun contest. I’ll take a run at this.

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