Can science fiction help us prepare for 21st-century warfare?

*Note: This essay was published in the Los Angeles Times print edition on May 28, 2018. It can also be found online here.

The novelist Margaret Atwood recently caused a stir when, during an interview with Variety, she said that the 9/11 hijackers “got the idea” to fly planes into buildings from watching “Star Wars.”

Atwood, the author of “The Handmaid’s Tale” and other dystopian classics, did not have the facts right. The 19 hijackers were not inspired by “Star Wars.” Al Qaeda wasn’t reenacting the destruction of the Death Star.

But the premise of Atwood’s comment was not at all far-fetched. Literature and film have long sought to capture the realities of war, and, in turn, they have influenced thinking about war. There is a direct relationship between real war and “reel” war. Continue reading “Can science fiction help us prepare for 21st-century warfare?”