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Military science fiction is 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 another planet. A detailed depiction of the conflict, the tactics used to wage it, and the role of a military service and the individual members of that service forms the basis for a work of military science fiction. The stories often take features of actual past or current Earth conflicts, with countries being replaced by entire planets or galaxies of similar characteristics, battleships replaced by space battleships and certain events changed so that the author can extrapolate on what might have occurred.



Traditional military values of bravery, sacrifice, sense of duty, and camaraderie are stressed, and the action is usually described from the point of view of a soldier or officer.[1] Typically the technology employed is more advanced than present-day, and described in detail. In some stories, however, technology is fairly static, and weapons that would be familiar to present-day soldiers are employed, but other aspects of society have changed: for example, women being accepted as equal partners in combat roles. Wars are not primarily won by research and development, or even logistics, but by willpower, bravery, tactical foresight, and other military virtues. In many stories technological advances are central to plot development.


Military science fiction dates back at least as far as George Chesney's story "The Battle of Dorking."[2] Other works of fiction followed, including H.G. Wells's "The Land Ironclads." Eventually, as science fiction became an established and separate genre, military science fiction established itself as a subgenre. One such early work is H. Beam Piper's Uller Uprising (1952) (based on the events of the Sepoy Mutiny). Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers (1959) is another pivotal early work of military SF, along with Gordon Dickson's Dorsai (1960), and these are thought to be mostly responsible for spreading this sub-genre's popularity among young readers of the time.

The Vietnam War resulted in veterans with combat experience turning to write science fiction, including David Drake and Joe Haldeman. Throughout the 1970s, works such as Haldeman's The Forever War and Drake's Hammer's Slammers helped expand the popularity of the genre.[2] Short stories also were popular, collected in books like Combat SF, edited by Gordon R. Dickson. This anthology includes one of the first Hammer's Slammers stories as well as one of the BOLO stories by Keith Laumer and one of the Berserker stories by Fred Saberhagen. This anthology seems to have been the first time SF-stories specifically dealing with war as a subject were collected and marketed as such. The series of anthologies under the group title There Will be War edited by Pournelle and John F. Carr (nine volumes from 1983 through 1990) helped keep the category active, and encouraged new writers to enter it.


A number of authors have presented stories with political messages of varying types as major or minor themes of their works.

David Drake has often written of the horrors and futility of war. He has said, in the afterwords of several of his Hammer's Slammers books (1979 and later), that one of his reasons for writing is to educate those people who have not experienced war, but who might have to make the decision to start or support a war (as policy makers or as voters) about what war is really like, and what the powers and limits of the military as a tool of policy are.

David Weber has said that:

"For me, military science-fiction is science-fiction which is written about a military situation with a fundamental understanding of how military lifestyles and characters differ from civilian lifestyles and characters. It is science-fiction which attempts to realistically portray the military within a science-fiction context. It is not 'bug shoots'. It is about human beings, and members of other species, caught up in warfare and carnage. It isn't an excuse for simplistic solutions to problems."[3]


Military science fiction is seen in an array of media, including books, movies, TV and anime, and games.

See also


  1. ^ Waterson, Rick (2008-11-14). "Welcome to Windycon 35!". Windycon Program Book (Palatine, Ill.: ISFiC) 35: 1.  
  2. ^ a b "Defining the Genre: Military Science Fiction". Fandomania. 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-11.  
  3. ^ Interview by Stephen Hunt


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