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By Harry Turtledove, Martin H. Greenberg

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The grand-daddy of stories of this type, H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds, actually saw print in 1898, but since it set the stage for so much that came afterward, I don’t see how I can possibly neglect mentioning it here. Wells was far from the only author interested in the effects of the Industrial Revolution on warfare yet to come. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was, in fact, a small boom in what we would now call technothrillers, stories examining near-future wars with emphasis on the newfangled machines that would make it different from anything that had gone before: ancestors of Tom Clancy, one might say.

And in the end, they’re all too apt to turn inward. Their military skill and vigor need a more promising outlet than this grim business of always fighting off an enemy who always comes back and who has even less to steal than the sentry culture. “So Assyria sacks Babylon; Rome conquers Greece; Percy rises against King Henry; Tamerlane overthrows Bajazet; Prussia clanks into France—” “And Norstad-Ostarik falls on Earth,” finished Lefarge. “Exactly,” said Unduma. “It’s not even unprecedented for the border state to join hands with the very tribes it fought so long.

Beyond lay winter fields, climbing up the valley walls to the hard green blink of glaciers. It must be blowing out there, he saw snowdevils chase ghostly across the blue-tinged desolation. Rusch spoke roughly: “Not much of a planet we’ve got here, is it? Out on the far end of nowhere, a thousand light-years from your precious Earth, and right in the middle of a glacial epoch. ” Rusch sent his hand upward in a chopping motion, to sweep around the alien constellations. Among them burned Polaris, less than thirty parsecs away, huge and cruelly bright.

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