On Luck In Practical Warfare

The following essay is an excerpt taken from Col. South’s upcoming book, his commentary on “The Art Of War”, and is exclusively available to readers of the Planets Magazine. The original essay was based on the text of a speech delivered before the Federation War College on Charmed World shortly before the first League War.

I’ve been studying Sun Tzu my entire professional life, from the Academy on. He’s the ultimate authority on the art of war, and in crisis after crisis in which I’ve found myself, his “Art Of War” has held the answer. Thirteen short chapters, less than twenty thousand words, dating from long before the age of space flight — and yet it is as valid and useful today as when it was first written.

If there exists a factor in warfare which Sun Tzu neglects, however, it must certainly be that of luck. I’ve seen too many people die due to random chance, too many attacks fail due to the influence of the unforeseeable, to neglect the power of luck in combat — and yet all he ever observes on the subject is that to rely on it is to lose. 

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Riding The Ghost Train

[Scene: Filthy Side Street, Charmed World]
[Music: “Let The Good Times Roll” on a scratchy L.P.]
[Shot: Train horn, discordant chord, D# major. Camera pans up past a sign reading “Single Resident Occupancy”, then across the elevated rail line and zooms in on an open window. Two men are inside, talking; one’s dressed for the street, one for the gutter.]


“How often do the trains go by?” he asked out of curiosity.

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