S R Algernon returns to the pages of Futures this week with his story Asymmetrical warfare. No stranger to Futures, his first tale, A time for peace, appeared in May 2013. Since then he has bolstered the planet’s defences, played with phlogiston and offered an unusual take on Christmas. This time, he offers an encounter with a noble warrior race. Here he explains how the story came about — as ever, read the story first, as this contains spoilers.
Writing Asymmetrical warfare
I wrote Asymmetrical warfare as a commentary on two conflicting roles of the military. Military service is often promoted as building character, but warfare can destroy families and scar the children and adults who are caught up in it. Our rituals of war often play down this collateral damage and portray death in combat as a sacrifice for the next generation. An alien species with no knowledge of human biology might see our war films and assume that, literally, the carnage of war gives rise to our descendants.
As some starfish can reproduce by being cut into pieces, it seemed like a viable reproductive strategy, particularly if war wounds allow for exchange of genetic material. A species that reproduces in this fashion might easily mistake our wars for courtship rituals and see our wartime narratives from a different perspective. I wrote Asymmetrical warfare to let that perspective play out and gave the character some room to draw its own conclusions when the war did not turn out as planned.