Friday, January 25, 2013

Shilling SF to fund weapons research


I thought it was The Onion and not io9.

That was my immediate reaction when I read the following headline: Physicist aims to publish science fiction to raise $2 million for laser weapons.

Apparently, physicist Adam Weigold is on Kickstarter to get help in publishing his science fiction novel, Dragon Empire.  The plot of the novel is said to entail a war between the U.S. and China involving laser-powered EMP weapons that change the face of warfare forever, "especially strategy and tactics."  From the article, it even looks like he has a sequel planned called Lightning Gun, complete with a Captain America-esque logo in the corner.  Once sufficient funds are secured, Weigold states he will funnel them into design and development of his superweapons which he describes as:

"High-energy lasers can create an ionized ball of plasma by ripping electrons from molecules in the air — enough to generate a small EMP pulse that could knock out the electronic sensors and guidance systems of missiles. That means an F-35 fighter jet armed with a kilowatt-class laser could theoretically become invincible against a swarm of missiles."

Hoo-boy.  Normally, I am in full support with equipping our troops with the best in weapons systems.  This time, I can help but sense the twinge of nausea in my stomach at this news.

First of all, Dragon Empire doesn't even sound like good science fiction, making it somewhat of a dirty mark on the face of the genre.  There's futuristic technology involved, sure, but that's not all it takes for good science fiction (that is a subject for another post.) In fact it sounds more like something geared towards the armchair general, "I drive an mega SUV," Tom Clancy technothriller reader.  Or perhaps even the "stop the greenies!" work of Michael Crichton or at worst, something out of the Left Behind series.  If this Dragon War were to be re-pitched as something along the "men's adventure" pulp variety, well, that would be different.  I know it sounds like I'm splitting hairs, but science fiction is personal to me and I therefore take this personally.

You see, science fiction is ideally a force for social progress (check this link for examples.)  That is a principle point that I stick to when having one of my ubiquitous arguments with literary fiction types over the merits of so-called "genre literature." The giant writers of science fiction stood for ideals and wanted to change things.  They were as Old Testament prophets, wailing aloud to authority "this is wrong!" Greed, tunnel-vision thinking, environmental destruction, they saw it all and they didn't like it. They weren't about war.  They were about stopping it.

I can't imagine they'd approve of the genre they helped create be in any way supportive of developing more things to kill people.


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1 comment:

  1. UPDATE: "Lightning Gun" is NOT the title of a sequel, or so it seems in this report from Futurismic:
    http://futurismic.com/2013/01/10/science-fiction-and-science-part-i-youre-doing-it-wrong/

    By the by, the article gets right at what I'm talking about in the post.

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