Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Battle Room

a Wired article on the simultators -virtual reality- the US Army is using to train its soldiers these days.

The War Room

...In Orson Scott Card's novel, Ender, a young prodigy, is enlisted to play war games that turn out to be real. Recruits like Stehling have been training for Ender's mission all their lives. They pound on Halo in the garrison and launch strikes on Game Boys while riding in tanks. On their days off, they pile into the multiplex to see blockbusters crafted by the same technicians of verisimilitude who will now train them how to save their buddies' lives while blowing the enemy out of the zip code. At night the soldiers at Fort Sill head to the Dragon West, a bar outside the city limits where dancers in thongs whisper scripted endearments and tease them with glimpses of paradise. Many of them aren't old enough to order a beer, and they're nine weeks away from Baghdad.

Immersive scenarios, high-payoff targets, limited lethality, people simulators, networked fires. These young warriors will live, play, fight, and die in the Matrix.

leaving aside the question of using simulators to train kids to go to war -making it all seem like a giant video game-, whatever happened to science fiction? how come there aren't any more Ender's Game stories out there? perhaps i'm just missin' out -after all, i've spent most of the last three years doing nothing but reading books for class and books related to other books i've read for class. (reading Niall Ferguson's Colossus just because we read Empire for Mearsheimer, for example) any suggestions for modern science fiction that's really absorbing?

it's been a good run the last few days: philip pullman's His Dark Materials, The Edge of the Sword (i forget the author), Ender's Game. and The Wee Free Men waiting for me. (i've left it this long because it doesn't have my favourite -the Night Watch's Sam Vimes- in it; i suppose if i really like it i'll have to go hunt down A Hat Full Of Sky) any new suggestions to add to the list -particularly pullman-esque ones- will be received with eternal gratitude.


At 1:40 PM, August 25, 2004, Blogger The Legal Janitor said...

Hi J.,

Ok, I don't know if you've ever read Dune by Frank Herbert, but its absolutely stunning. You have to take a look. If you like the the first book "Dune", then you should read the rest of the series. You won't be able to put it down.

After you read the book, you might also want to check out the Television adaptation from the Sci-Fi channel. There are 2 three-part series, "Dune" and "Children of Dune". If you've read the books, I reconmmend skipping the first of the series, as its only somewhat good. The real gem is "Children of Dune". The soundtrack will blow you away, and while the script stays true to the book, it doesn't drag or leave you bored.

At 8:53 AM, August 26, 2004, Blogger J. said...

yup, reading Dune is a major part of any good science fiction education. that's how we sucked my brother in -he's addicted to the series. i really liked Dune, though have not read any of the sequels - i feel like the point has been made.

i've also heard good things and bad things about the Dune miniseries, but have not yet had a chance to watch it. someone i know owns it, though, so i might get a look in on it sometime in the next year.

At 1:49 AM, August 27, 2004, Blogger The Legal Janitor said...

Well, you do get the feeling that Frank Herbert only planned for one book. The sequels are really quite good however, at least up till the end of "God Emperor of Dune". Many fans apparently don't like Brian (Frank's son) meddling with the canon by writing the prequels, but I actually found the pre-prequels to be quite interesting e.g. The Butlerian Jihad et al.

It appears that Frank took a very Heideggerian view of humanity, that somehow humans are open-ended systems capable of breaking free from any sort of determinism. This might also explain his seeming disdain for computers and machines, which he thought limited human potential.

Watch "Children of Dune". Trust me, you won't regret it. "Dune" is tacky at times, but plainly honest. "CoD" is more polished, but the overall acting and feel is truly Frank Herbert's vision. If you don't mind a little copying, I can actually make copies of the DVDs for you... heh


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