Ben Bova is the author of more than a hundred works of science fact and fiction, including Able One, Leviathans of Jupiter and the Grand Tour novels, including Titan, winner of John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation in 2005, and in 2008 he won the Robert A. Heinlein Award "for his outstanding body of work in the field of literature." He is President Emeritus of the National Space Society and a past president of Science Fiction Writers of America, and a former editor of Analog and former fiction editor of Omni. As an editor, he won science fiction’s Hugo Award six times. Dr. Bova’s writings have predicted the Space Race of the 1960s, virtual reality, human cloning, the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars), electronic book publishing, and much more. He lives in Florida.
Battle Station Battle Station"Where do you get your crazy ideas?"Every science fiction writer has heard that question, over and over again. Sometimes the questioner is kind enough to leave out the word "crazy." But the question still is asked whenever I give a lecture to any audience that includes people who do not regularly read science fiction.Some science fiction writers, bored by that same old question (and sometimes miffed at the implications behind that word "crazy"), have taken to answering: "Schenectady!" There's even a mythology about it that claims that members of the Science Fiction Writers of America subscribe to the Crazy Idea Service of Schenectady, New York, and receive in the mail one crazy idea each month--wrapped in plain brown paper, of course.Yet the question deserves an answer. People are obviously fascinated with the process of creativity. Nearly everybody has a deep curiosity about how a writer comes up with the ideas that generate fresh stories.For most of the stories and novels I have written over the years, the ideation period is so long and complex that I could not begin to explain--even to myself--where the ideas originally came from.With "Battle Station," happily, I can trace the evolution of the story from original idea to final draft."Battle Station" has its roots in actual scientific research and technological development. In the mid-1960s Iwas employed at the research laboratory where the first high-power laser was invented. I helped to arrange the first briefing in the Pentagon to inform the Department of Defense that lasers of virtually any power desired could now be developed. That was the first step on the road to what is now called the Strategic Defense Initiative.My 1976 novel Millennium examined, as only science fiction can, the human and social consequences of using lasers in satellites to defend against nuclear missiles. By 1983 the real world had caught up to the idea and President Reagan initiated the "Star Wars" program. In 1984 I published a nonfiction book on the subject, Assured Survival. In 1986 a second edition of that book, retitled Star Peace and published by Tor Books, brought the swiftly developing story up to date.Meanwhile, from the mid-1960s to this present day, thinkers such as Maxwell W. Hunter II have been studying the problems and possibilities of an orbital defense system. While most academic critics (and consequently, most of the media) have simply declared such a defense system impossible, undesirable, and too expensive, Max Hunter has spent his time examining how such a system might work, and what it might mean for the world political situation.I am indebted to Max Hunter for sharing his ideas with me; particularly for the concept of "active armor." I have done violence to his ideas, I know, shaping them to the needs of the story. Such is the way of fiction.Another concept that is important to this story came from the often-stormy letters column of Analog magazine more than twenty years ago. Before the first astronauts and cosmonauts went into space, the readers of Analog debated, vigorously, who would make the best candidates for duty aboard orbiting space stations. One of the ideas they kicked around was that submariners--men accustomed to cramped quarters, high tensions, and long periods away from home base--would be idealfor crewing a military space station.So I "built" a space battle station that controls laser-armed satellites, and placed at its helm Commander J. W. Hazard, U.S. Navy (ret.), a former submarine skipper.I gave him an international crew, in keeping with the conclusions I arrived at in Star Peace: Assured Survival, that the new technology of strategic defense satellites will lead to an International Peacekeeping Force (IPF)--a a global police power dedicated to preventing war.Once these ideas were in place, the natural thing was to test them. Suppose someone tried to subvert the IPF and seize the satellite system for his own nefarious purposes? Okay, make that not merely a political problem, but a personal problem for the story's protagonist: Hazard's son is part of a cabal to overthrow the IPF and set up a world dictatorship.Now I had a story. All I had to do was start writing and allow the characters to "do their thing."The ideas were the easiest part of the task. As you can see, the ideas were all around me, for more than twenty years. There are millions of good ideas floating through the air all the time. Every day of your life brings a fresh supply of ideas. Every person you know is a walking novel. Every news event contains a dozen ideas for stories.The really difficult part is turning those ideas into good stories. To bring together the ideas and the characters and let them weave a story--that is the real work of the writer. Very few people ask about that, yet that is the actual process of creativity. It's not tough to find straw. Spinning straw into gold--that's the great magical trick!