This first part is the set-up for the stories. Mr. Zahn’s story will start in the next Snippet.
Battle Luna – Snippet 01
by Travis S. Taylor, Timothy Zahn and Michael Williamson
The idea for this book came about during a panel discussion that I was moderator for at a science fiction conviction. It was LibertyCon in Chattanooga, Tennessee in July of 2014. The panel was something along the lines of “Space Warfare: What would war in space really be like?” On this panel were, from the far left facing the crowd Timothy Zahn, Dr. Charles E. Gannon, John Ringo, and then myself, Dr. Travis S. Taylor.
Now if you have never seen a panel with any these particular individuals you must understand that each of us, well, we are self-proclaimed experts in most all matters regarding military science fiction, science fiction, future science, military science, blowing stuff up, world building, world killing, lightsaber construction, lightsaber destruction, faster than light travel space travel, slower than light space travel, alien invasions, invading alien worlds, graphic violence, blowing stuff up (we’re so good at that one I decided to say it twice), and in particularly we are all excellent at sitting on panels and taking control of them for our own individual nefarious public relations purposes. In other words, moderators hate us because they can’t keep us between the ditches.
Lucky for me I was appointed moderator of this mixed herd of rancor monsters, space bugs, crabpus, and Posleen godkings. I have known most of these fellows since I started science fiction and I realized a long time ago that you can lead the crabpus to water, but there is nothing stopping the mutated looking mixture of giant octopus and crab claws from turning around and snapping you in half, chewing you up, and then defecating you out over a large alien cliff. So, I did the best thing I could think of when it came to moderating such a crew. I pretty much let them talk about whatever the hell they wanted too and interrupted every so often reminding them that we were supposed to be talking about war in space and how different or the same it might be.
Then, finally, an idea popped into my head. Tim Zahn seem to catch onto it almost as soon as I came up with it. I interrupted the panel dead sentence; I forget who was talking but I’ll bet you a dime to a Death Star that it was Ringo.
“Alright, I have an idea. We’re going to do a real-time simulation.” I interrupted. “Tim, you and I have Ringo and Chuck surrounded.” We actually did as they were sitting between us.
“You’re gonna need more forces, Doc.” Ringo laughed.
“So, here’s the deal,” I continued. “Ringo and Chuck’s team are holding Fort Tranquility Base on the Moon. Tim and I have you surrounded with an equal sized force. We’ll be Blue Force and y’all can be Red Force. Now we also must assume that we will get no reinforcements for let us say, three days or so. John, Chuck, how does Red Team hold the fort? Tim, how does our Blue Team take it?”
“Ah! I like this.” Tim smiled with a very intrigued look on his face. He could do this I was certain. After all he was wearing all black, they’d never see him coming. “What level of weapons can I have? Rayguns? Transporters? Lightsabers?”
“Good question, Tim. Okay, we need some rules.” I responded as I realized that my LibertyCon mug was completely empty of whatever it was I was drinking at the time. Hey, it was a con; I’d been talking all day; I was thirsty. “Already established no reinforcements for three days. We’ll say that is our level of space travel. It is modern assuming we still had a space program worth its weight in anything. Also, we can allow for better space suits. We’ve been on the Moon long enough to build a fort there so our suits and buggies and similar infrastructure should be better than we have now but only in a ‘we’ve built more of them so they fit better and work better way’ and not in a ‘we invented unobtainium and impervium’ kind of way. Bullets, missiles, bombs, and no rayguns other than laser systems we already have but we can allow them to be half the size and twice the power output maybe. No new energy sources. How’s that?”
For the most part they all agreed. I could tell Tim wanted more details on the weapons, but, before I could get more out John jumped in doing the two-gun mojo.
“I want claymores.” He said. “Before we were attacked we put them all around the facility creating a perimeter of death.”
“Hmm.” I thought about that for a second. “Do you have any established satellites for recon, comms, gps, etc. in orbit around the Moon?”
“I would think we would if we had established a base there already,” Chuck added.
“Great! Then the first thing I plan to do is set off every single one of those mines as soon as I can. With no atmosphere on the Moon to slow the shrapnel down you’re going to be launching small chunks into orbit. That should do wonders for knocking out your eyes and ears in orbit above.” I smiled triumphantly.
“No atmosphere and less gravity certainly changes how we think about this.” Tim was contemplating his first move. “Recoil might be an issue also. We need a list of weapons that would be safe to use in the lunar environment.”
“What is our building made of?” Ringo asked. “I mean, is it a tin can or rock?”
“Let’s say it has been there a year or two and it was made using lunar materials fashioned into something like concrete. You could do sandbags, or I guess, lunar regolith bags.” I answered.
“Okay. Rock and sandbags.” John seemed to be okay with that. “Military forts have been made out of that stuff for millennia so this wasn’t anything new to worry about.”
The panel went on like this for almost an hour and when it was done neither team had held or captured a damned thing. We were still arguing about the things we had and/or could use. I pointed out to the group that this would make a great idea for an anthology where we set up the rules of the engagement and then we each wrote our own version of the battle just to study where this could take us. We all got excited about it. Think about it. Not only would it be a fun story, but this is Pentagon simulation and DARPA think-tank kind of stuff. It would be cool.
So, I immediately chased down Toni Weisskopf, God Empress, of Baen Books and told her of the idea. She agreed that it sounded fun.
“But, Toni, I’d like to have the experts in military SF that we could get anyway on this anthology. Who would that be? I mean David Drake and David Weber are likely to contracted up and busy. I’d like to get Mike Williamson perhaps.”
“Mad Mike would be good,” she said. “But this isn’t really the Davids thing. I think with the addition of Mike you four really are the nuts and bolts science fiction military experts in the business.”
“Aw shucks ma’am,” I didn’t really say that, but I thought it. What I did say was, “Okay then. The five of us do a twenty thousand word short story of our own take on Battle Luna. Ringo came up with the name. What do you think?”
“Who’s going to write up the rules?” she asked.
“Well, Tim had some ideas?”
“Great! Tim it is. You write up an intro and Tim writes up the rules. Then each of you write up a version of the battle. Then you edit it and we’ve got ourselves a book.” She said.
So, here it is. Battle Luna. But alas, along the way I somehow managed to let Ringo and Gannon slip out of the herd of space bugs, rancors, Posleen godkings, and crabpus. Chuck was too contracted up and Ringo got busy killing zombies to no avail. What I did do was get Mike Williamson on board and two new writers that I really enjoyed working with on the project. I think you’ll like them as well. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did writing it.
I’d also like to point out that the story concept has morphed and evolved over time. We decided to add some more SF to the plot and I added a bit of “revolution” as in American Revolution to the back story. So, what we ended up with was a Battle Luna rich with specific battles, events, and an overarching story of a Free Luna! One day in the not to distant future there might be thirteen colonies on the Moon ranging from tourist to mining to manufacturing to science colonies. And one day, the governments of the Earth are very likely to want to overly tax those colonies based on the goods they generate, the infrastructure needs they have, and whatever other money is to be made there. Anywhere fortunes can be made, government will eventually want a piece of it – a big piece of it. And this is likely what might happen under such circumstances. It is certainly what has happened in the past and as we all know history is like a Mandlebrot set in time repeating itself over and over and over with slight variations here and there. But hey, that’s what makes humanity interesting ain’t it! That said, let’s go to the Moon. And LETS GET IT ON!
Added here is a bit of a back and forth between Tim and I about what our rules would be from the start. And as typical between us, we started out with rules and great intentions and then ended up doing whatever the Hell we wanted to.
Okay Tim, here we go. As we discussed at the con let’s keep the tech to what we have now plus no more than 20-50 years with no new physics breakthroughs. We should maybe have a list of 10 to 20 weapons that we can choose from. Perhaps we allow each author to develop 1 device/weapon/tool themselves for originality if they desire. But the rule on that weapon is that it can’t be new physics just new engineering.
I’ll start up on an introduction chapter to introduce the Red and Blue teams and the story behind the engagement which Ringo and I already brainstormed. The general premise is that the Red Team is holding the base. They took a team of scientists there to test a new type of energy source. Let’s say it is a quantum vacuum energy collector, but they moved the experiments to the Moon because small, very very small, tests on Earth went really wrong and blew up like city blocks with a microchip sized experiment. So these guys were being altruistic and cautious.
Big note from hindsight here: We didn’t use any of that stuff from the above paragraph. Tim actually came up with a much better idea called The Mimic. You’ll see as you read through.
But, the Blue Team fears they are building a WMD to wipe out an entire continent or more. And even if it is just a new energy source it would destabilize the market and change the balance of power on Earth. So, neither team is good or bad. They are just Red and Blue. There should be heroes on both sides as well as baddies. Also, I think we should allow it to be permissible to set off the device as a doomsday alternative to keep it out of the enemy hands. This, of course, is a last stitch effort that would kill everybody Red and Blue.
Okay, everyone feel free to chime in on this and or start writing. Let’s get the dialog open and the writing started.
The writing then started and it took us nearly 4 years to get to the end of this book. And it looks a lot different from the proposed evolution in the paragraphs above. But that’s okay, I like how it turned out. I hope you will as well!