There are two definitions of the word “romance”: 1) a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with love, and 2) a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life. In fiction, we talk so much about the first definition that we sometimes lose track of the second.
Military science fiction is all about that second definition, the romance of exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life-forms and new civilizations, and making war on them. Sometimes those interstellar warriors have a little bit of that first definition of romance along the way.
In Jean Johnson’s epic military science fiction series, Theirs Not to Reason Why, her protagonist, known only as Ia, tries her level best to avoid any romantic entanglements. Ia, who is said to be the “Prophet of a Thousand Years,” hopes that by steering a very narrow course between potential futures that only she can see, she will be able to save not just her own people, but all sentient races from the annihilation that lies centuries beyond her death. But in order to save the future, she must sacrifice the life she might have led for a military career she never wanted, and recruit dozens of followers into a cause for which they might never know the reason why. Ia’s amazing story begins with A Soldier’s Duty, and continues in An Officer’s Duty and Hellfire. Her journey makes for compelling reading.
In the Confederation series written by Tanya Huff, our heroine is Torin Kerr, a tough-as-nails Staff Sergeant in the interplanetary Confederation Space Marines. The fun part of this military SF series is that Torin is one of the most snarktastic point-of-view characters that you will ever have the pleasure of meeting, and that she sees the Confederation military from the perspective of someone who works for a living. She is, and she remains, a senior combat NCO and never an officer. Her gender and her species are important parts of her identity but they don’t stop her from getting her job done. Ever. The series starts with Valor’s Choice. Torin is too busy taking care of her soldiers to find romance within the ranks of the Marines, but that doesn’t stop her from running into love outside the Corps. In the last book in the series, The Truth of Valor, her attempt at civilian life runs afoul of some pirates, and she ends up calling on her old buddies in the Marines.
People don’t generally think of Old Man’s War by John Scalzi as having any romance in it, but it really does. The first three books in his Old Man’s War series, Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, and The Last Colony, have this romantic subplot running through this awesome military science fiction/space opera story. John Perry and his wife signed up to join the Colonial Defense Force on their 75th birthdays. She didn’t quite make it, but he did. Then he found out, both what happened to the old men and women who got taken off Earth to join the CDF, and to the ones who signed over their bodies but died before they could go. He spends years trying to get the woman who was created from his wife’s DNA to fall in love with him all over again. He also starts out fighting aliens and ends up fighting his own government. It’s awesome.
If you’re wondering about the title of this post, this was also the title of a panel at this year’s World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio. It seemed like an appropriate post for Veterans Day week!