1977’s Study War No More was edited by Joe Haldeman. It is what might be termed an anti-Military SF anthology, one that asks contributors “if not war, then what else?”
Introduction (Study War No More) • (1977) • essay by Joe Haldeman
While war has long been a human institution and while it still serves to keep those in power in power, perhaps nuclear weapons make war too risky. What other alternatives are there?
“Basilisk” • (1972) • short story by Harlan Ellison
A former POW survives capture and torture to return home, only to discover that his survival has turned him into a pariah. When he refuses to leave his home, his neighbours form a lynch mob, at which point the ex-POW shares with his former friends the unique insight that trauma has given him.
Standard Ellison: none of the characters are nice; anyone who isn’t a monster at the beginning will be one at the end.
The Dueling Machine • (1963) • novella by Ben Bova and Myron R. Lewis [as by Ben Bova]
The Dueling Machines allow interstellar polities to resolve conflicts with simulated combat: all the thrill of battle, none of the capital investment or fatalities. Gladiator Odal has found a way to kill his real-life opponents using the Dueling Machines. It’s up to the Machines’ inventor to find out how this is being done and then put a stop to it.
Readers of a certain vintage may be able to work out part of Odal’s secret from the fact this story was originally published in Analog. Said readers will also not be terribly surprised to learn the only woman in the story is a “girl” and that one of the minor characters entertains himself with movies of so-called primitive dancing girls. National Geographic AD 3000.…
I can’t see a reason why the powers that be needed a mechanism as ornate as the Dueling Machine. A simple go board would serve the same ends without the exploits Odal discovers. Oh, well. People like their shiny toys.
Rather interestingly, Odal may be outmanoeuvred by the end of this story but his employer, Kerak, manages to walk away with most of the marbles. It’s oddly downbeat for a story of this vintage. Is there any evidence that Bova planned from the start to expand the story into the 1969 novel?
“A Man to My Wounding” • (1959) • short story by Poul Anderson
Nuclear weapons have made mass warfare a suicidal gesture. Violence has morphed: now assassins hunt heads of state. That was how it was supposed to work, anyway. One player decided to focus on the long game and change the rules.…
The story ends on a despairing note but really, the number of deaths involved are much smaller than they would have been in a conventional war.
“Commando Raid” • (1970) • short story by Harry Harrison
An American commando unit invades a backward village, in an attempt to improving the local standard of living. Why? Humans have finally realized that a rising tide floats all boats; disasters and setbacks are global as well. This outrages one of the commandos, an Alabaman.
There’s no particular reason that the intervention had to take the form it did other than authorial whim. The story was written to mislead readers as to exactly what was going on.
Readers interested in a nuanced view of non-Americans (and Alabamans) should look elsewhere.
“Curtains” • (1974) • short story by George Alec Effinger
Unconventional warfare or not, even the best battle plan can be undone by a logistical screw up.…
Mercenary • [Joe Mauser] • (1962) • novella by Mack Reynolds
Humans finally saw reason. They abandoned all weapons developed after 1900. They transformed Western capitalism into People’s Capitalism, under which even the lowest of the Lowers owns enough stock to provide a guaranteed annual income, if not hope of social advancement.
Organizations now settle their differences with small-scale battles. Born into the lower classes, Joe Mauser schemes to claw his way up the ladder of America’s caste system by gaining victory in battle (which will depend on his ability to find loopholes in the rules).
The punchline for People’s Capitalism is that sure, everyone gets stock but the rich still own most of it; the poor get just enough to afford the drugs that keep them from rioting. What a cynical guy Reynolds was. What he wasn’t was an especially adept writer, which is a pity because he had some interesting ideas. His prose may trudge, but it trudges through worlds that differ from the more quotidian imaginations of his contemporaries.
“Rule Golden” • (1954) • novella by Damon Knight
The alien emissary brought with it universal peace, in the form of inescapable empathy. Now all the alien needed to do was survive the spread of empathy across all Earth.
Every human institution that depends on ignoring other people’s distress collapses over the course of the story. That may not matter in the long run because the induced empathy trigger works on every tetrapod. Pretty much every wild tetrapod predator goes extinct. Because this is one of those stories about a grand transformation and not the long term consequences, we don’t get to see how it plays out. The alien is sure we’ll deal with the ecological effects. I am not. Either way, it’ll leave a mark in the fossil record.…
“The State of Ultimate Peace” • (1974) • short story by William Nabors
Even a small lapse can leave a man vulnerable, whether the man is a guard unaware of a sniper or a senior officer unaware of the possibility of sexually transmitted pacifism.
“By the Numbers” • (1973) • essay by Isaac Asimov
After excoriating humans for hypocrisy, Asimov calls for universal computerization on the grounds that properly programmed machines in a totally wired world could reduce corruption, optimize taxation, and eliminate war as inefficient.
Yes. Well. Could. Not will. Next brilliant idea?
“To Howard Hughes: A Modest Proposal” • (1974) • short story by Joe Haldeman
Nations will never give up war, not even if they damage themselves in a nuclear conflict. It’s up to the richest man in the world and a small army of accomplices to force the world to disarm.
The 1970s were (as previously established) a golden age as far women entering the field went. You would never know it from many of the anthologies. Study War No More is a case in point: there are no women authors. That might explain the dearth of women characters and why, when there are women, they are called “girls.”
I liked the idea of the anthology more than I did the actual anthology. My problem may be that writers have raised their game in the decades since most of these stories were published. I don’t think Reynolds, for example, would be published by any of the Big Five publishers if he were starting out today. Well, maybe Baen would bite. Baen author Eric Flint would appreciate a fellow leftie.
Or perhaps the problem is that the answers the authors had for “if not war, then what else?” tended to be modified forms of war: the staged battles of Reynolds, the assassinations of Anderson, Bova’s Dueling Machine. Pity, because I am sure at least one good anthology could suggest some better answers.
Perhaps the next version of this could even ask a woman or two what she thought. Or the editors could recruit some Quakers. Some female Quakers.
Study War No More is out of print.