My latest Science Fiction book, Making Waves (sequel to Inside Out), came out last months and, like Inside Out, it’s an adventure story, focussed on a handful of characters, with a bit of humour and some hopefully thrilling action. But underneath all that, it’s a story of claims to territory by a superpower armed with overwhelming military might and potential for mass destruction, against the people determined to claim independence in their own home.
Although it’s set more than 2 centuries in the future, I was not attempting to be prescient. What happens in my book and what is happening now in Ukraine is what has happened times beyond count in the past. I wasn’t even being prophetic in putting my superpower in the hands of a messianic narcissist, incapable of swerving from his own fixed ideas, whether founded on reality or not. We have been here before. We will almost certainly be here again.
War crimes are on the agenda. In my book there are no war crimes, or crimes of any sort because the war is fought in a region without law, and anything is permitted, unless a greater force stops it. Decisions as to what counts as a war crime, even on Earth, in the present day, can be decided in the ivory towers of a dignified but toothless court, but in reality, all that matters is what either side can get away with. We may deplore Putin’s indiscriminate shelling of civilians or the Blitz on London ordered by Hitler, but we got away with Dresden and Hiroshima, because we won. Is Putin afraid of condemnation for anything he does in Ukraine? It’s no different to what he did in Syria and he got away with that.
The actions of Bomber Command in World War II illustrate an issue that war always throws up. When it comes to a fight for existence, can either side maintain the moral high ground or do both inevitably end up doing unspeakable things? Where do we draw the line? At a willingness to sacrifice our own civilians, or is even that acceptable to ensure survival of others?