Science Fiction in the National Interest

Friday, June 29, 2007


The Department of Homeland Security recently joined forces with SIGMA, a group of science fiction writers. DHS plans to mine the writers' ideas about border control, disaster preparedness and terrorist tactics. SIGMA founder Arlan Andrews says sci-fi writers have more to offer than lasers and flying spaceships.

Comments [7]

Fred Strickhouser from Asheville, NC

Mr Andrews comments were offensive. He stated that the Patriot act was writen in fear after 911. That is an outright LIE. That piece of treasonous legislation was writen BEFORE the FIRST WTC bomb attack with the help of the PNAC Neocons that needed a new Pearl Harbor event in order to push through there un-constitutional agenda. Fear is the operative word here. Unfortunately not enough people DIED during that first attack so they had to regroup and arrange a more deadly attack with a higher death toll in order to force the act through a compliant congress. The sad truth is that only one or two congress members even READ the act before voting on it. Those who DID read it voted AGAINST it.

I stopped listening to NPR after the shuttle explosion over Texas. Today was a rare tune-in and now I remember why. NPR is low level corporate media disguised as PUBLIC broadcasting. Propaganda on a barely less offensive scale. I shall now resume my avoidance of All Things NPR and return to the many other more honest sources of information.

Bye Bye

Jul. 02 2007 12:21 PM
L. A. Johnson

I think that it's great that the government is picking the brains of some of the most intelligent and imaginative people in our society. The best SF (in my view, anyway) has always been what I call the 'day after tomorrow' type, where things that might be in the lab today will be in consumers' hands tomorrow- for good or for ill.

More than any other genre, SF's ability to both think outside the box and ask the question 'what if?' makes them the best qualified to help prepare our country for future disasters. I think that the remark made about having people on the ground like the old fashioned Civil Defense is an excellent one. Local people know their neighbors and neighborhoods the best, have the most trust by their neighbors, and in many ways are far more effective than any government entity. I believe in the effectiveness of this approach so much that signed up for Community Emergency Response Team training course- which starts in a couple of weeks.

Jul. 01 2007 07:04 PM
L. Caution from California

The problem with these nightmare scenarios (dirty bombs, nuclear attacks from terrorists, botulism in the water supply, etc.) is that the government has been using them - ever since 9/11 - to justify torture and increasing inroads on civil liberties and basic human rights.

While I suppose it is conceivable that one or more of these things might happen, it seems to me that we're much more likely to be hurt by government-gone-mad attempts to prevent them than by the acts themselves.

Consider: North Korea, an industrialized NATION, had an only moderately successful entrance into the nuclear weapon arena - but we expect guerrillas in the wilds of Afghanistan to launch a nuclear attack in the U.S. ? Or gas attacks: if they're so simple, why has there been no repeat of the saran attacks in Japan? Bacterial attacks: does anybody remember the anthrax attack? Not only has it not been repeated, but we still don't know who was responsible.

We seem to forget that the 9/11 attack involved no special science or knowledge. It was, at bottom, just an unexpected use of a common technology. And all of the terrorist attacks since them have used ordinary bombs, strategically placed.

Nobody wants to be injured or killed by a suicide bomber, but in sheer numbers, way more people die every year in the U.S. in highway accidents than in all terrorist attacks in, probably, the last 50 years.

I'm afraid that these Sci Fi guys are simply giving the government more ways to justify turning us into a totalitarian state that would make Orwell's world of 1984 look like Paradise.

Jul. 01 2007 06:01 PM
Joe Mathis from Franklin, In

Believing that "It is the Governments job to take care of us" is growing in range from a natural or war time disaster to providing asprin for a headache. The more we depend on the Government the further away we get from sane, rational, or common sense problem resolution. I like the Civil Defence approach. We can plan reactions to specific problems ahead of time when are more rational.

Any planning we do can be classified as Science Fiction because "Plans" are futuristic. There are varying degrees but to help ourselves in a disaster period requires us to do some invisioning or the future.

Jul. 01 2007 08:47 AM
Mark O'Green from Trubuco Canyon, CA

Interesting interview. I'd like to hear more. Recent events in the UK demonstrate once again this is a deserving topic.

Also, I have to take issue with the comments by Mr. Maggi. The whole point is to look ahead. Future scenarios, suggestions, and supporting arguments should be examined, not immediately dismissed for political bias. Maggi sounds just like one of the people described early in Dr. Andrew's interview - dismisses ideas for the wrong reasons. I don't care about someone's politics, I want ideas that will work.

Jun. 30 2007 04:19 PM
Steve Maggi from Austin, TX

I don't mind the government fishing for opinions from many fields, but they might want to be more balanced with the politics of the SciFi authors they choose. C'mon, Jerry Pournelle? That guy practically wants a military coup to happen in the US. OTM also seemed to overlook how Larry Niven helped Reagan practically bankrupt the country on SDI or Star Wars as it was called.

Many of these things being pitched aren't terribly new. Sure the government, especially this administration, can lack imagination as it's mired in current problems but SciFi writers don't exactly have a monopoly on good or bad future scenarios. They just make the government's pitch look better by catering to the Nerd Lobby while still wasting a small fortune.

Jun. 30 2007 03:53 PM
Meg Fielding from Long Island, NY

I think it's high time that someone started listening to people who focus on what the future really holds for all of us. The ivory tower politicians certainly don't have a clue! I'm not at all surprised at the scenarios that were suggested in this commentary. Engaging the general populous is vital to having a grassroots infrastructure when the next Katrina or other disaster - natural or man-made hits.

Jun. 30 2007 10:10 AM

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