John "Old Man's War" Scalzi interviewed Karl "Sun of Suns" Schroeder on his blog today. Karl is the best world-builder in science fiction today, a mad imagination harnessed to an incisive scientific mind.
5. You've done some writing for the Canadian Military. What was that about, what was it like, and what did the Canadian military learn from you (and vice-versa)?
In a word, weird.
You have to understand, I come from a Mennonite background, so the idea that I would have anything to do with the military never occurred to me–until I realized that the Canadian military is primarily a peacekeeping force (ignoring the fact that we had the fourth largest army in the world at the end of World War II) and the philosophy governing foreign affairs in Canada is something known as "human security" which basically says that individual rights trump national rights: people are more important than their governments. So when Canadian military researchers came to me asking that I take the results of their foresight exercises and build a fictional world to show them all meshing together, I said "huh?" and then jumped at it.
The result was "Crisis at Zefra", an adventure, cautionary tale, and technological fable about a peacekeeping mission gone bad in a mythical African city, set twenty years in the future. I'm told the U.S. Marines are big fans of "Zefra."
One thing I've learned working with the military is that some of the most flexible and open-minded thinkers are there. The people I've worked with in the Canadian army are keenly aware that the future will not be like the past, and that planning for the last war (or, indeed, war as such) is a bad idea.
Update: Crisis at Zefra, mentioned above, is available as a downloadable PDF from the Canadian military's website — thanks to everyone who pointed this out!