War - and battles, and smaller-scale conflicts - are something of a staple in science fiction and fantasy. If it's not central to the story, it tends to be part of the backdrop, not least because conflict drives story, and having two or more groups vying to control something (or someone), preferably with a high body count along the way, is a pretty effective way to push a storyline and to make life difficult (if not totally miserable) for your characters.
So, how many times have you read an interesting book and got to a battle, or a fight, and been left going huh? (Maybe I'm just fussy, but I'd guess something like 2/3 of what I read, with the usual exceptions, fall into this category. Most of the rest are smart enough to realize that writing a fight scene or a battle is hard and find a way not to write it.)
Here's the thing: it's bloody difficult to write battles well. It's just as difficult to write one-to-one fighting well. Whoever is point-of-view is either watching, in which case they're not seeing everything, or they're in the thick of it, in which case they're so loaded on adrenaline or sheer terror (sometimes both) that their perceptions are warped. Somehow the writer has to take that and turn it into something that gives an overview of what's actually going on while it's creating the illusion of actually being the point of view character's point of view.
And that's without a basic understanding of strategy - which is essential. All those space battles in the old-school space operas? I never really saw the point. They're either naval warfare with a different backdrop, or World War One dogfights with a different backdrop. Very few books cover things like why any group is going to go to the colossal expense and risk of space warfare when there's no apparent reason for it (if you can build a Death Star or equivalent, why the heck do you care about some back end of nowhere planet?). It's almost as bad as the fantasy races perpetually at war with each other for reasons that amount to "because".
When you add in the joys of supply chain logistics (which is, admittedly, rather more germane to fantasy than science fiction - but only because science fiction tends to deus ex out the distances and timeframes involved. The batteries and ammunition never seem to run out. At least swords never run out of ammo. But anyway...) and in-fight tactics, there's a lot for an author to juggle. Personally, I usually have to play out the entire thing several times while I'm writing it, from several different perspectives, before I can 'see' how things play out. Then I can write it with the portion of it seen by my point of view character while dropping in enough information that a reader can fill in the blanks. I'm not quite far enough gone to move little models around on grids, but that's a good chunk of what happens in my head. Along with crude emoticons on the models' faces to indicate what their general perspective is. (Admittedly, in Impaler the enemy perspective is usually 'WTF???' - but that's mostly because Vlad makes extensive use of night and surprise attacks to give his forces an edge. Okay, a lot of edges, and all of them very sharp. The blunt stakes happen after he's won.)
After learning medieval warfare and early renaissance warfare and battle tactics and becoming damn near a walking encyclopedia on how wars were fought during Vlad's time, it's incredibly frustrating to see battles written by someone who doesn't know "more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery". Maybe I've just been spoiled, but it seems to me like a lot of what gets published, the battle happens because someone's outline says there is one, and the end result is what the plan says it should be. It's kind of like the Final Battle for the Fate of The World is there because the book (or the mega-series) isn't done until you've had one.
What do you think? (And if what you think is 'Kate should not be posting when she's this tired because she's about as coherent as a politician in a lie detector', please don't bother. I know).