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My Curious Month – Lessons from Game of Thrones and the value of FICINT

Since our last instalment of My Curious Month, the team at GC have been enamoured with the final season of Game of Thrones. The battle for Westeros has reached fever pitch, lead characters are dropping like flies and thankfully the PME ecosystem has got on board so we can justify our bingeing under the veil of professional mastery.

One of Australia’s favourite military podcasters, Mick Cook, along with Alex Ward and Ryan Grauer, have given us the down and dirty on the tactical blunders of Jon and Daenerys at the battle of Winterfell. Joe Byerly has given us an excellent book listof everyone’s favourite strategist, Tyrion Lannister, over at Modern War Institute. And we’re eagerly awaiting the release of the book Winning Westeros: How Game of Thrones Explains Modern Military Conflict,with chapters from a huge swathe of the military PME network.

Whilst specific Game of Thrones articles have taken the spotlight this month, the use of fiction to explore matters of military importance deserves discussion in its own right. Launched by August Colein 2018, the term FICINT (Fiction Intelligence) has blossomed as a novel means of exploring possibilities of future warfare to inform and guide military and national security development. A master of the genre himself as co-author of Ghost FleetA Novel of the Next World War, with P. W. Singer, as well as a huge back catalogue of short stories—many of which have been paired with a wee dram by Austin M. Duncan and Tyler Quinn via From the Green Notebook–Cole has introduced a creative outlet for many to engage in the debate, freeing thinking to the art of the possible through narrative. If you want to know more on the concept and its inception check out this episode of The Dead Prussian Podcast.

But do you have to be a creative writer to gain value from fiction for military development? Nope. A big component of the concept is flipping the switch from mindless consumer to critical thinker when engaging in the viewing or reading of science-fiction, fantasy and other forms of fiction. Tom Bittner published a piece for us last year on Sci-Fi TV as a form of PMEand Mick Ryan and Nathan K. Finney have published a number of articles highlighting works of fictionthat can improve military thinking across the tactical, operational and strategic levels of war.

If you were keen to have a punt at some FICINT of your own however, here are GC’s tips to get you started.

  1. Read lots! We have provided a number of examples above; however, if you still want more check out The Cove, and War on The Rockswho have supported FICINT initiatives over the past 12 months.
  2. Start Small– you don’t have to write a Man Booker Prize winning novel on your first hit out, try a short story which sits somewhere between 1000 – 5000 words.
  3. Click Send– once you’re happy with the product, share it! We’d love to see it and give it a home, however a number of platforms are regularly running FICINT comps which may also be a means of providing inspiration on a topic. Divergent Options and Small Wars Journal are partnering in a 1000 word writing competition on small wars which can include ‘alternative futures… or alternative history’ a great starting point for a cross over from the purely analytical to analytical fiction.

Watching, reading, writing, imagining; our guilt at mercilessly consuming everyone’s favourite HBO fantasy drama is expunged. We haven’t wasted the month and nor have you. Instead you’ve reaped the benefits of a healthy dose of FICINT, this curious month.

Nick Alexander is a current serving Combat Health Officer, member of the Military Writers Guild and Communications Director at Grounded Curiosity.