By Richard C.
This week let’s mobilize your imagination for the military themes in Science Fiction. In fact, I have so much to say about it that we’re starting early with the first of three installments. Diverse opinions on the issue of war notwithstanding, Military SF can launch a reading experience altogether exhilarating, touching, educational, and dangerous — one of near and far-reaching futures where the technology and experience of military training may change, but the pressure on soldiers, veterans, and civilians does not. Military SF is more than merely action and explosions. If we agree with astronaut Mae Jemison, that…
“Science fiction helps us think about possibilities, to speculate – it helps us look at our society from a different perspective…”
… then Military SF, too, can challenge and entertain us, can help us to look at possible science and military futures in different ways. So let’s check this checklist out!
Military SF can span the galaxy or knock on our front doors. In Earth Strike: Star Carrier, human exploration among the stars draws aggressive attention from the Sh’daar Empire, a group of creatures staunchly set against too much technological progress in their galaxy.
Or picture aliens hovering in Earth’s orbit and ready for war in Harry Turtledove’s In the Balance, a tremendous alternate history set at the height of World War II. Read and watch historical figures from that all-consuming conflict as they form alliances (ones we can hardly imagine in our history) and face an even greater threat from above.
Politics and the media are not casualties of war in Military SF. In Beyond the Frontiers: Dreadnaught, a war hero woken from cryogenic freeze is called upon for more than just a major battle. And just like the generals and governments of ancient Rome, the human Alliance soon fears the power and popularity of its inconvenient hero, Captain John “Black Jack” Geary. In Passage at Arms, an embedded journalist narrates the true, harrowing experience of a desperate crew fighting a distant enemy. But do civilians really want to know the truth about war? The soldier/veteran experience is center-stage here, and the strain of war in space is almost too palpable. Some call this book a Das Boot in space, but it reminds me more of Johnny Got his Gun. My favorite quote is:
“People are schooled from childhood to contain their animal violence. Society does a fine job. Then we take the kids and make them warriors. We’re a curiously contrary breed of ape.” – Passage at Arms
Check in tomorrow for our next Science Fiction Checklist Challenge: Military SF Part II