The Beginning of Conventional WW3 Plans

I’ve talked sometimes about the “you’ve seen so many imitators that the original doesn’t seem so original” effect with regards to fiction. When reading this translated, declassified 1969 Soviet lecture on conventional operations after the monomanical focus on nuclear weapons earlier that decade, I’ve found it applied to history as well. Because a lot of it just seems like later pieces on how a large force would fight conventionally. And there’s more interesting things to it as well.

  • “A future world war is first and foremost a nuclear war.” Similar pieces illustrate that while the Soviets had made plans under the assumption that a World War III would start conventionally, they did not believe that it would end conventionally.
  • This is for front and army level operations, with one frequently replacing the other. This I’ve seen a lot of in translated Soviet field regulations, to include two unit names being used interchangeably, one an echelon below the other. The assumption I’ve always had is that it’s a concession to heavy casualties because your “front” will quickly be worn down to the size of a paper-strength army, your army worn to a paper-strength division, and so on. I could be wrong.
  • The stated rate of advance is 35-40 kilometers a day, a slightly lower one than their later 40-60.
  • Airborne forces are to be used.
  • The “going over to nuclear weapons” section specifically brings up the opponent pushing the button as soon as they start losing badly.
  • With typical Soviet precision, the article estimates “A fighter bomber division is capable, in one day of combat with two to three sorties, of inflicting destruction (up to 20 percent losses) on one to two enemy brigades.”
  • As always, there’s the boilerplate necessary propaganda statements and the obligatory (if quite understandable) reference to World War II.

Weird Wargaming: Artificial Humans

Ok, this is one of the weirdest Weird Wargamings yet, and it depends entirely on what ruleset is being used. Basically, one of my loves is “artificial humans“. The boring thing to do would be to treat them as either normal humans or robots. But there was one attempt at going beyond that.

Now in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, the morphs are treated just like normal units with one exception-all of them, even the strongest, have zero luck. Zero luck means that they have lower hit and dodge rates mixed with massive opponent critical rates. That can definitely be incorporated into various tabletop rules.

Of course, it can make some sense to give them higher stats in other categories to compensate for that. It all depends on what the theme of these artificial humans are. They can be everything from super to expendable, as the Fire Emblem morphs are.

The Most Prominent World War III Books

So what World War III novels have had the most effect on me? Let me see…

Red Storm Rising

Yes, this starts with Tom Clancy and Larry Bond’s epic. I shouldn’t have to explain it. However, there’s stuff I’ve noticed that I might as well share about it. It may be the most prominent book, but it really hasn’t made that many copycats. Hackett is the greater “template” in terms of the war’s conduct. RSR has the war stay conventional from start to finish, and most others have plotnukes of some kind. RSR has an invasion of Iceland that not a lot of other ones have. It’s a little strange that the more dry Hackett has had the most influence on future narratives while the more conventional book of RSR has had more on future wargames, but that’s how it went.

The Red Line

This has significance I totally missed when I first read it. I could understand that creating a weird backstory to have an 198X war in the “present” was there to make it more marketable. Yet it was only after seeing that alternate history WWIIIs have very few works and none by big names that I saw it was arguably necessary. This is why broad perspective is important!

Team Yankee

This I think put the first nail in the “litmus test” coffin. See, my pet peeves were “it has to be bad if it has lots of technical descriptions and lots of viewpoint characters.” Team Yankee had those. And it wasn’t bad at all. Which makes sense in hindsight because it’s still ultimately a star-spangled cheap thriller and cheap thrillers rely near-completely on execution.

Red Army

Oh, it’s just the best World War III novel of all time, in my opinion.

“Effect” series

By reading Harvey Black’s novels so soon after Red Storm Rising, they played a big role in convincing me that the conventional World War III field was bigger than it actually was. I guess it’s like watching two baseball games with knuckleball pitchers back to back, and not seeing any more games for a while after that.

Survivalist: Total War

See, Jerry Ahern’s massive opus technically counts as a World War III novel. And when I read it, I saw something so totally different, a ridiculous and amazing “Western Fist of the North Star”. This book basically made Fuldapocalypse what is now.

Kirov Series

What I found the most likeable about these books was that they worked (to me) while having everything I thought I’d dislike about everything. The pure audacity of the series, and how it uses wargaming sandboxes in a style I’m familiar with makes up for well, a lot of stuff. Even the most mundane and legitimately worst arc in the series is still the result of time travel shenanigans.

A Fascination With Alternate History

I’ll admit that to me, alternate history is fascinating in ways that go beyond the quality of individual works. It’s fun to critique, study, and write about in ways that even very good pieces of “normal” fiction aren’t. This is why I’ve been writing about it on this blog so (comparably) much.

I’ve always liked the “what-if” concept. And I also like strange and obscure divergences. So this makes alternate history, and the way it’s developed, something that very easily appeals to me. And I’ve seen how the genre has developed, because I’ve been following alternate history for a very long time.

In Memoriam, Stuart Slade

Analyst and author Stuart Slade just passed away.

His The Big One books were some of the first “niche” AH (as in, not stuff that you could see in normal booksellers like Harry Turtledove) that I read. For all my criticism of them, they played an undeniable role in getting me into, for lack of a better word, “weird alternate history”. They were among the first pieces of alternate history I read that weren’t from mainstream authors like Turtledove. I liked the weirder gimmicks inside them.

RIP.

On Mack Bolan

So with the release of Blood Vortex, the Harlequin/Gold Eagle era of Mack Bolan concluded. After reviewing that book, I have a couple more thoughts.

The first is that there simply wasn’t much attention paid to it outside the existing fandom. Nader Elhefnawy has commented that in 2015, the rest of Gold Eagle, a once-big imprint, getting folded attracted literally no comment. Likewise for the end of Mack Bolan, and I can add to that by saying the responses to my Blood Vortex review amounted to “Wait they were still making Mack Bolans?” This isn’t surprising, as the series was an irrelevant shell for years and years.

What I find more interesting is how every Mack Bolan movie project has fallen through. Some of this could just be bad luck, but it implies that, for all the success of the books (at a time before visual media could match its visceral qualities), the character was, unlike his inspiration The Punisher, never truly that marketable.

Now for the biggest surprise I had when reading the later, non-Pendleton Bolans. What I’d expected was for the multiple authors to result in the books being extremely erratic in quality, ie comic books. Yet what I found, albeit based on a small sample size, was strangely the opposite. There was a bit of difference in quality, but there was a lot more similarity.

Whatever the author, the Gold Eagle Bolans I’ve read all have had the same issues with a consistency I haven’t seen among cheap thrillers made by different writers in different settings. Nearly all of them would go into ridiculous detail on the character weapons, but would make gigantic mistakes about anything vehicle-based or bigger that one glance at a Wikipedia page could have corrected. All of them felt filled with obvious padding in spite of their short-to-very-short length. All of them had, to one degree or another, stilted and clunky prose. And all of them were jumbled and had huge issues with their plots (even by cheap thriller standards).

I don’t know the reasons why this was the cause. Whether it was the editors pushing it, the authors just getting into a routine (especially given the undoubtedly tight release schedule), or something else, I don’t know. But it was there, and it was one of the things that made me less eager to read them.

It’s strange. The Executioner (which was originally intended as a one-off!) ended up with so many books and so many more it clearly influenced, including a popular Marvel character. Yet so much of it was also disposable throwaway literature, cheap even by the standards of cheap thrillers.

Different Sports What-Ifs

Of all the theorized “what if this successful and physically talented athlete played a different sport” questions, the most interesting, in my eyes, is American football. This is because that sport involves a wide array of roles that each require a different physical quality and skill set.

The least satisfying is baseball, because the skill sets there are not immediately obvious. Yet you can argue that baseball is interesting because it has the most definite stats. Jim Thorpe and Bo Jackson were incredibly strong physically, but neither was more than decent as a baseball player. Looking at Jackson’s batting stats and just his batting stats, you’d see power but a ton of strikeouts and few walks-the sort of numbers you’d associate more with a Dave Kingman-style lummox over a wall-jumping acrobat.

Then there’s Brian Jordan, who was also a football-turned baseball player and was also a low-walk slugger, but didn’t strike out as often as Jackson did. However, there was an aspiring football running back who ended up playing baseball instead. And he was one of the best walk-drawers (and baserunnners, and players in general) of all time. I speak of Rickey Henderson. So I want to say that, for any obviously talented player in another sport, the likeliest path for them in baseball is the “low-walk slugger” approach, but Henderson’s path means you never know.

The Genre I Haven’t Read

I’ve read a lot of books of many, many different types, as this blog makes clear. However, there’s one genre I simply have demonstrated no interest in for a long time.

Westerns.

Now, this isn’t a dislike of them, just a personal taste. And as always, personal tastes can change. But my disinterest in westerns has been remarkably consistent for a remarkably long time. While I had to have read at least one western, I can’t remember the title of any off the top of my head. I can remember the title of one that I bought a long time ago, Whiskey River, but also that I didn’t actually read it. This may be the only genre where I’ve seen more movies than read books in. Because I have seen (and enjoyed) the classic Westerns The Magnificent Seven and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

As for why, even I’m a little baffled. But I think it’s because they’re ultimately historical fiction (which isn’t really my favorite) and in a specific historical period that also isn’t exactly the one I’m most interested in.

The Oderpocalypse

This could only have been produced in a very short time period, after the Berlin Wall and end of the Warsaw Pact but before the actual breakup of the USSR. Because of this, this RAND report looks interesting, especially in its “long-term” ramifications.

Having an intact, hostile USSR but no Warsaw Pact means that to threaten Germany, it has to move through Poland first, can only put two fronts against Germany directly due to Poland not being that wide (the third has to either be a reserve/second echelon or swing through the Czech Republic), and puts the initial front line considerably farther to the east, with the Oder river being the first big obstacle. It’s an interesting piece.