Military Sci Fi

Kill 'em All, Let Xvgnhtr Sort 'em Out!

Let me open by offering a small disclaimer here: I generally dislike Military Sci Fi.

It's not that the military and war aren't legitimate topics. I have written (persuasively, IMn/sHO) on military topics and military figures. (Refer to MacKenna and Nature's Way for details.) But those works were focussed on the human side of war and its cost to the participants, rather than on 'bang-bang-shoot-em-up'. After all, the basic premise of any dramatic writing is to put your characters in a stressful situation and watch them struggle to get out of it. That is the fundimental essence of good military sci fi.

Unfortunately, most of the military fi (genre and otherwise) I've seen adheres to the weary 'bang-bang-shoot-em-up' trope. And who can fault the authors for this dismal lack of imagination? The Death Star is super-cool, after all. But it must be said that some of the worst writing I've seen from the New York houses was rude, crude and vulgar...military sci fi.

And too, it appears that many Military Sci Fi writers use the genre as their personal emotional crutch. (One prominent writer openly admitted in one of his books that he was venting some of the emotional turmoil he built up from his real life war experience.) While I wish him well, a novel series paid for by the readers shouldn't be his therapy vehicle (IMn/sHO).

The essential problem, as I see it, is that too much military sci fi focusses on the action aspect at the expense of the characters' personality and even humanity. Military fi authors tend to get caught up in the technical end of things (a perpetual 'You know, Bob...' moment) or let the testosterone of their creations overwhelm them, while others (as mentioned earlier) effectively infodump their problems on us.

It's not that hard to get it right, but you have to shuck off the 'several hundredweight of munitions', as Robert Heinlein referred to in Starship Troopers, and look at the fragile sack of protoplasm lugging all those shiny toys around. If anyone has fears, doubts and frustrations to agonize over, it would be a soldier about to go into battle. And those powerful emotions are the essence of good writing in any genre.

One of the best examples of good military Sci Fi has to be 'Ender's Game', by Orson Scott Card. I recommend you read it before pursuing the 'military fi' trope any further.

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