Fanatic red lights rhythmically illuminate the bustling cargo bay as a siren billows. Loudly signaling the impending doom of the grey helmeted future soldiers pouring across the cargo bay to lock into their dropship seats. The symphony of organized chaos culminates in a sudden drop of all ships from their high orbiting battle cruisers to an atmospheric free fall to fight an enemy never seen or heard from. The rookie’s eyes widen as they hear their fellow soldiers explode in nearby dropships . All of the advanced weapons and tactical nuclear devices they carry can’t help unravel the knot in their gut as the free fall slows, lands, and releases them on a distant and unknown planet far from earth.
The great “Klendathu Drop” scene from one of my childhood guilty pleasures, “Starship Troopers” (1997).
As part of the continuing series of posts regarding various subgenres of science fiction, I present my personal favorite.
Military Science Fiction
It’s described by Wikipedia as:
” A subgenre of science fiction in which the principal characters are members of a military service and an armed conflict is taking place, normally in space, or on a planet other than Earth.”
To understand this genre , we must see where it began. Many consider the foundation for it set with George Chesney’s “The battle of dorking “ and H.G. Wells’ “The land of ironclads”, but these are merely precdents though. As the noble genre of Science Fiction grew with a new generation, so did the sub genres. This next generation grew with a real appreciation for and understand of sci-fi’s unique ability to transport readers to a place free from their political byists and misconceptions.
To Walk in Another’s Shoes.
This ability is a silver bullet that service members and combat veterans need to give the public the ability to experience even a fraction of emotional complexity of being a veteran and serving in a war.
As a veteran myself, I find comfort in reading the military sci-fi classics. It feels like sharing an experience with an old friend who understands. It may be on a distant world or eons into the future, but the emotions, struggles and human nature are very much the same.
One author who is considered by many to be the father of military science fiction and understood it’s unique ability is Robert Heinlein. With his novel “Starship Troopers” (1958, very different than the film) he painted a word and conflict that soldiers to this day can identify with. Joining up for the wrong reasons then slowly falling in love with the endless toil, fighting in a war that the public doesn’t understand nor seem to care about, a sense of belonging to something greater than you are. Speak to any returning soldier about such issues and they can identify immediately.
Military science fiction literature exploded in the 20th century with the soldiers returning from the Second World War, Korean War and War in Vietnam. Each War bringing a different type of grittiness and /or complexity to the genre.
Some examples of Military Sci-Fi:
Unfortunately the format of military science fiction doesn’t lend itself incredibly well to film as many military sci-fi stories require a somewhat more uncompressed storyline
The Forever War
Command & Conquer
Throughout these examples there are a few themes that remain constant. The obvious, military values such as bravery, duty and sacrifice. These values often times coming into conflict with other themes throughout the story. This being a subcategory of moral philosophy, another major theme in mil-sf are Questions such as “The morality of first strike on an enemy”, “Using soldiers as fodder”, “Should those that protect society (veterans) be the only ones to be allowed to influence the policy of that society?”. Which bring us into another common theme: The extremes of human nature. This genre is chock full of the greatness of human nature in the face of evil. Conversely, it’s also full of examples of the horrible ability of humans to inflict atrocities upon themselves and others.
As a veteran, of course I have not choice but to place this as my personal favorite genre. But it’s my strong opinion that Military science fiction can provide emotion complexity and an honesty that most other subgenres can’t touch.
I have to give mad respect to the Live Action Commercial for Halo: ODST. It’s exactly as how I would imagine it, to the detail. Here it is:
- Brandon M. Brevard