Yeah. Uh. February got way more exciting than it was supposed to be.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has eaten up a lot of my attention, understandably.
I have relatively little commentary to make as a science fiction author of occasional military SF, given that I write about fiction, but I will offer a reminder that war is a bad thing, and the place it’s important to focus our sympathies is with those who are suffering, and those who can alleviate that suffering.
There is a myth that war is in some sense ennobling, that fighting against an unjust invasion is righteous. Make no mistake – fighting off Russia is absolutely necessary, especially given the scale of attacks on civilians, but be aware that the righteousness of taking that action will at some point in the future be used to mask far less moral objectives.
For a blatantly obvious example of this, look at Putin talking about ‘De-Nazifying’ Ukraine. That was a righteous fight in 1944, but it’s obviously being used as a mask for utter horror right now.
War is a bad thing, and it will lead to more bad things down the line – abuses of power, suffering of the innocent, and worse. Military hardware and skills don’t evaporate into mist when a war ends, after all. And part of me is terrified about what the ramifications of what’s happened the past few days will be in five years, ten years, twenty years.
At the same time, however, I can tell you what the ramifications are for doing nothing.
The Grad is a kind of rocket launcher. Generally called an MLRS – multiple launch rocket system – these fire vast numbers of rockets packed with warheads comparable to artillery shells – specifically, around four or five artillery shells for each rocket. They make very big explosions, and they fire in salvos that rain down like hail – Grad means ‘Hail’ in Russian. These are being used right now against Ukrainian cities like Kharkiv which, if this kind of bombardment continues, possibly won’t exist by the end of next week.
This literal crime against humanity is being perpetrated by a nation-state which owns nuclear weapons. The regime who are willing to do this – Putin et al – are not doing this for reasons that benefit anyone in this world other than the kleptocratic dictators on top. Whatever their reasons are – and those reasons are murky – capitulating to them invites them to do it again, and again, and again.
War is a terrible thing. It makes the world a worse place, and it erodes human dignity. I don’t want there to be wars in this world, I don’t want lives lost, and at the same time I want to see Ukraine’s territorial forces push the Russians out of their borders and I want to see cruise missiles hitting Grads and tearing them to pieces all week.
Orwell’s 1984 provided one word commonly applied to this phenomenon – Doublethink – which is not actually about this phenomenon. Doublethink is forced indoctrination to accept multiple contradictory beliefs in such a fashion as to submit to a worldview imposed by someone else. Sadly, I am only caught in standard cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy. With one side of my heart I hope no one dies, and I am pained about reports of transport planes being shot down with hundreds of soldiers’ lives lost. With the other, I am thrilled by the same event and hope it happens again.
This conflict between sympathy and blood-lust leaves me feeling tarnished somewhere deep inside me. I have no easy solution to offer, except to say that going too far down either path – a pacifism so complete as to say ‘let Putin have his way, just stop the loss of life’ and a hawkish desire to cry for NATO to invade Moscow – is where I, personally, would find myself not merely tarnished, but corroded and corrupted.
So. I’m going to spend some time and energy trying to remain balanced in that regard, staying relatively tarnished without slipping into the mud, and I am going to suggest that you find a charity or organization assisting either those suffering the deprivations of war in general, or those in Ukraine in specific. (I am always a fan of Médecins Sans Frontiéres – https://www.msf.org/ )
Personally, I am sending what support I can afford to Ukraine’s journalists, who are ultimately responsible for making sure the story of what goes on in that country does not go unseen or unheard. The more the world knows of what is going on, the more we are collectively able to decide how we respond.
If you’d like to follow suit, I’d like to suggest one of the two following GoFundMes:
One generally supporting media groups in Ukraine by a consortium of multiple groups: https://www.gofundme.com/f/keep-ukraines-media-going
And one specifically supporting the Kyiv Independent, a group formerly from the Kyiv Post who resigned in order to preserve the values of editorial independence: https://www.gofundme.com/f/kyivindependent-launch
As ever, thank you so much for your interest in me and my work, and your supporting me. On the writing-front, I am still revising my next self-published work (Mouse Cage), but otherwise… everything’s a lot more quiet over here than in the rest of the world. I hope the month treats you well.