The Canadian Army Has Its Priorities In The Right Place

While the U.S. defense establishment pays people like Larry Niven to brainstorm worst-case scenarios, the Canadian Army is going one better: paying author Karl Schroeder to write future-war novels.

The Canadian military paid Schroeder to write Crisis In Zefra in 2005. It's a war novel set in a fictional African country 20 years from now. Peacekeepers have to prepare the city for its first democratic vote while fighting off an insurgency. The good guys win, says Schroeder, but "not without consequences." One of the fantastic bits of future tech the soldiers have access to is "smart dust," which lets you set up ad-hoc communications networks wherever you go.

The book has done well enough that the Army has run out of copies. And now the Canadians are hiring Schroeder to write a sequel, Zefra II, all about the challenges Canadian soldiers may face in the year 2040.

Says Lt. Col. Mike Rostek:

It's actually just part of marketing, to say, ‘Hey, we're out there; we're thinking about these things for the future, trying to get better bang for the buck and thinking about what it is that we're going to be doing in the future as part of Canada's national power structure.' The idea is just to put that out there and say, ‘OK, this is fictional. It's science fiction. So have fun with it.'

Schroeder says he was raised as a pacifist, thanks to his Mennonite background, but he does believe that the state has a duty to intervene when there's a crisis in other countries, whether it's a natural disaster or a military crisis. "And, actually, Canada has acted on that philosophy for a number of years, and as a way of employing the army, I'm entirely in favour if it."

It's almost impossible to predict what the world will really be like in 2040, Schroeder admits. But Rostek has a few ideas, including nanotechnology and space elevators. [The Chronicle Herald]