Scenario Fictions: A New Hybrid Method
Crisis in Zefra
In spring 2005, the Directorate of Land Strategic Concepts of National Defense Canada (that is to say, the army) hired me to write a dramatized future military scenario. The book-length work, Crisis in Zefra, was set in a mythical African city-state, about 20 years in the future, and concerned a group of Canadian peacekeepers who are trying to ready the city for its first democratic vote while fighting an insurgency. Both the peacekeepers and the insurgents use a range of new technologies, some fantastic-sounding, but all in development in 2005. Needless to say, the good guys win, but not without consequences; the document explores everything from the evolution of individual soldiers' kits to strategic considerations in world of pervasive instant communications. The project ran to 27,000 words and was published by the army as a bound paperback book.
If you'd like to read Crisis in Zefra, you can download it in PDF form.
Crisis in Urlia
In 2010 I was hired to write a followup to Zefra entitled Crisis in Urlia, which was published in May, 2014. Urlia deals with a drought-and-famine situation in a coastal city in the 'Pakistani-Indian plurinational zone.' This city, Urlia, has a population of more than a million but is less than ten years old, having sprung up using new money and Chinese kit-city technologies. A new disease breaks out while a Canadian rapid-response team is on the ground in Urlia, and as the situation threatens to spiral out of control, an increasingly intricate web of alliances, relationships and protocols comes to bear on the problem.
Urlia explores the concept of 'wicked problems' as well as the future of command-and-control in a networked and multi-stakeholder world. One principle whose ramifications are explored is Ashby's Law of Requisite Variety, which states that any control system must have at least as many internal degrees of freedom as the system it models; applied to a scenario where multiple problems intersect--(famine, drought, political instability, disease and corruption), where nobody can even agree on the definition of the problem, there are no single solutions or even any metric to decide when a solution has succeeded--in such chaos, can a traditional military/political machine cope without pursuing the 'radical simplification' of the situation implied by an imposition of martial law and military government? Urlia explores how JIMP policies (Joint, Interagency, Multinational and Public) coupled with new technologies of communication and coordination, might resolve such a difficult situation.
CBC's The Hour, Harper's Magazine weigh in on Zefra
Harper's magazine excerpted Crisis in Zefra in their July, 2007 issue. I savoured the irony--after all, I have a Mennonite background, so the fact that the project I seem to be most known for is a military one is, well, ironic. Also, it's practically every writer's dream to get a book excerpted in Harper's, and some of us lie awake nights wondering how we'll accomplish it; so the fact that it was this one, which, as I was writing it, I'd thought of as having a specialized and ultimately tiny audience ... yeah, ironic.