Military Culture, Universals, and Sentient Cephalopods

I was perusing the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference’s website the other day. (Can’t decide whether I’m daydreaming or actually shopping) and I ran onto a seminar about writing military characters. (past conferences brochures, if you’re looking.)

Now, let’s be honest. Most days, that’s the kind of seminar I’d probably forego in favor of something else. Actually, basically anything else, because I’m not writing a war book, or even a book based on the Planet Earth. (I think we can all agree there are very few United States Marines in space.)

But I do have military characters.

More than one of them.

And they’re pretty major characters.

They’re not human. They’re not from my time period, or my planet, and you can’t look them up on Wikipedia and figure out what they did in the last twenty-seven battles.

I know who won, and who lost, and I know that the guy who lost hasn’t completely given up his cause. I know what the guy who won did in order to win.

But the specific details listed in the seminar aren’t things that would apply. The language is different. The uniforms are different. The weaponry is… well, definitely not current technology.

So, now I’m thinking about universals. The things that arise from function, rather than culture. The things that would be the same in 8th century Greece as in 20th century America. The things that stay the same, whether you’re two-legged foot soldiers or a fleet of talking space squids.

Are there universals? What commonalities do you see? What differences?