How good is a book written by a committee? Well, this book isn’t written by one. But for one, yes. War Stories from the Future, produced for the Atlantic Council’s Art of Future Warfare project, is one of the most curious, and intriguing, recent exercises in SF commissioning that I’ve come across. It’s also available for free download, in ePub or Mobi format.
The Atlantic Council, based in Washington, D.C., “promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the Atlantic Community’s central role in meeting global challenges. The Council provides an essential forum for navigating the dramatic economic and political changes defining the twenty-first century by informing and galvanizing its uniquely influential network of global leaders.” The Art of Future Warfare project “is driven by the Scowcroft Center on International Security’s mandate to advance thinking and planning for the future of warfare. The project’s core mission is to cultivate a community of interest in works and ideas arising from the intersection of creativity and expectations about how emerging antagonists, disruptive technologies, and novel warfighting concepts may animate tomorrow’s conflicts.” And it has a vision of “A world in which artists — writers, illustrators, directors, videographers — and creativity enjoy a valued place in the defense establishment’s planning and preparation for the future of warfare and social conflict.”
Some may find that scarily like the wolves getting the sheep to write about predation. But the anthology includes submissions by big-name SF authors like David Brin and Ken Liu, who haven’t been tagged with any hint of militarism. We do not appear to be dealing with any type of Orson Scott Card Ender’s Game or Robert Heinlein Starship Troopers jingoism here. Both the stories in the book itself and the topics covered on the Art of Future Warfare project look flat-out fascinating. As well as, in many cases, deeply, and deliberately, scary.
SF has had a long and honorable tradition of warning of the horrors of future war, from Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and H.G. Wells’s The War in the Air on. This looks like a distinguished addition to the corpus. There’s a thought-provoking article built around a panel on the project here. I recommend downloading a copy, both for its intrinsic interest and as a document. And I’d hope it’s not an accurate forecast.