another big mrxak topic
It's that time again, folks...
Here's some past topics of discussion, feel free to bump any of these if you have anything to comment. Despite the original themes, many of them went on to discuss other big ideas in science fiction and plug-in development, so be sure to check them out if you missed any.
Space Travel and Governments
Population Growth and Economic Evolution in a Space-Faring Civilization
Government Systems and Politics
On Relative Sizes of Spacecraft
Economic Systems and Space Corporations
The Downfall of Civilization
This topic will be about military hierarchies. The idea is to discuss various systems and hopefully help plug-in developers and storywriters figure out what sorts of ranks people might earn, or who people might talk to as part of a story, while advancing through it.
Militaries are generally, minus some occasional politics and corruption, the only true meritocracies in existence today. People gain power in a meritocracy through skill and accomplishment, which makes for an efficient and capable fighting force. While it's true historically that the wealthy classes would hold officer positions while lower classes would serve as enlisted personnel, and even today there are political systems which reward party loyalty more than merit, many militaries around the world have officer candidate schools that recruit from the enlisted soldiers, field commissions do occur, and advancement up through the ranks in both the officer and enlisted categories is accomplished through showing merit.
When it comes to storytelling, one has to decide several things. How does the political climate relate to military promotion? Does the political system in place interfere frequently with high level military appointments and promotions, or does the military handle such things internally and independently? How easily do soldiers move up from enlistment to becoming commissioned officers? Was every officer once an enlisted man or woman, or is there a direct route to a commission? One should also not forget warrant officers, which fit between enlisted and officer, and often play an important role in the operations of militaries. How do warrant officers reach their position, and do they routinely earn a full officer commission? How political does the awarding of certain medals and honors and ceremonial positions get?
Next, one should also decide upon the ranks themselves. Thanks to the likes of Star Trek and others, we've come to see space as another vast ocean, the spaceships, ships, and thus use naval ranks in much of our science fiction. Is this most appropriate for your story? Would an air force context be more realistic, as air forces tend to be where we get our astronauts? Instead of a Captain leading a ship, how about a Colonel? Air force ranks also avoid some unfortunate analogs, such as the seaman recruit being the lowest ranked sailor, not exactly the best name for the lowest rank in a space navy. There are handwaves for this, such as "crewman" and "spacer" and in some cases a mix of marine ranks for enlisted personnel to get you "private". Plenty of stories avoid the issue altogether and just don't have people of those ranks ever mentioned, but that's sort of cheap.
Speaking of marines, does your space navy have them for ground combat and ship boarding, or do the same people who fly the spaceships fight in close quarters too? Do you have all the usual branches of military might, with either space as a new branch or as part of another branch? When your space fleet arrives to conquer a planet, are they dropping battleships into the oceans and airplanes to patrol the skies, and tanks to cover the land, each with its own separate military command structure? Do you unify all the military forces into one hierarchy, and if so, do you mix the ranks together, or choose one naming system and run with it? Are there joint commands, or are they carefully isolated? How are special forces operations conducted and commanded? Have the military branches changed, over time, with branches merging or splitting? What consequences has that had for rank names and structures?
How does the military fit into your government? Is the military the government? Is there strong or weak civilian control over it? Is there strong support or opposition to the military within the civilian political systems? Is there a separate department or cabinet position for the military command structure, or multiple such positions for different branches of military? Is there a military supreme commander of forces who takes orders from the chief civilian(s) of the government, or is the civilian leader of the government the direct boss of the troops by way of various individual commands? What sorts of orders and decisions can be made at various levels of government and the military hierarchies?
That should hopefully get the ball rolling. I may expand this out to various political civilian systems, and command structures for things such as disaster relief, organized crime, and governmental appointments like "drug czars", but I wanted to focus on the military to start. Feel free to preempt me and start talking about those things before I get around to it, and any other topic you think relates or is interesting.