Military science fiction

From Academic Kids

Military science fiction is a subgenre of science fiction where interstellar or interplanetary conflict and its armed solution (war) make up the backdrop of the story. One definition of military science fiction is science fiction in which the main characters are part of the chain of command.


Typically, the conflict is assumed to be inevitable (Humans vs. inhuman bugs, Democracies vs. Dictatorships, ...), and the military approach is not questioned. Traditional military values (discipline, courage, chain of command) are stressed, and the action is described from the point of view of a soldier or officer. Technology is advanced and often described in detail. In some stories technology is fairly static, wars are not primarily won by R&D or even logistics, but by willpower and military virtues. In other stories technological changes are central to plot development.

Thus, while the original Star Wars movies have an armed conflict as backdrop, they would not usually be considered military sf. Most Star Trek series are not part of this genre, although Deep Space Nine borrows some of the genre conventions in later seasons. Similarly, Babylon 5 is a borderline case. Space: Above and Beyond is clear military sf, but the Lensmen cycle by E.E. Doc Smith is not.

A growing tendency in military science fiction, largely due to the conservative authors who have dominated the genre in recent years, is to portray democratic government as bloated, inefficient and openly antagonistic to its military protectors (who as the protagonists are typically portrayed as good and noble) and liberals exclusively as out-of-touch ivory tower academics and idealists who must invariably be protected from themselves. However, military science fiction has been and continues to be written from liberal viewpoints and military sf like Joe Haldeman's The Forever War, which criticizes the military, is not unknown.

While much military science fiction is pure entertainment, and caters to a similar audience as historical and modern military novels, some authors manage to work within the genre conventions while posing interesting new questions. An example is Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game novel, where children are trained from a young age to fight for humanity.

A very popular series, recommended by some as the intro to this subgenre is David Weber's on-going Honor Harrington series, which comes with 'reasonably' self-consistent technology, believable plot, and at least some character depth. Another of the defining authors of the genre is David Drake, with many of his works, especially the Hammer's Slammers series. Other important authors include Jerry Pournelle (A Spaceship for the King, Falkenberg's Legion and Janissaries_series series), S. M. Stirling (The_General_series, Draka series), and John Ringo (The Legacy of the Aldenata, Empire_of_Man, and The_Council_War series).

Many current military science fiction books are published by Baen Books.

Selected list of military science fiction novels and series:


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