Monday morning dawns

First of all, thank you to everyone who has e-mailed, PM’d called and texted to congratulate me on being nominated for a Hugo. I really appreciate it. It is a huge honor (despite what some are saying) to be included this year, especially when two of my fellow nominees for best fan writer (Dave Freer and Cedar Sanderson) are people I not only co-blog with at Mad Genius Club but who I consider friends and family. And that is all I’m going to say about the Hugos today. That’s not because there is nothing more to say — there is, a great deal. It is because I want to give myself a little more time to think about a measured response in face of all vitriolic attacks coming from certain people who have their noses out of joint over how the nominations turned out this year. But, as I said, there will be more on that later this week. I want the post to be based in fact and not on emotion, which it would be right now because those same people are attacking folks I respect.

So, what to write about today? Good question. One I’m still trying to figure out. ¬†ūüėČ

Fortunately, FB, in the form of Uncle Timmy (Tim Bogeo, a man I greatly respect for all he has done to help promote sf/f and whom I was thrilled to see had garnered a Hugo Nomination for best fanzine). He posted about something he had read that bothered him. It seems, there was someone out there complaining about how much Military SF there is and how he didn’t feel it was a “valid SF area”.

As a fan of such authors like David Weber and Dave Drake, not to mention Heinlein, E.E. Smith and others, I had to go back and read that comment twice. I¬†have a feeling¬†I¬†probably had the same look on my face as I did that Uncle Timmy had. Then the author in me reacted a bit more strongly. After all, under the pen name of Sam Schall, I write Military SF. Still, maybe the outrage I felt was a knee jerk reaction. So let’s think about it for a moment.

Nope. Not knee-jerk.

So, what is Military Science Fiction?

According to Wikipedia (I know, I know. I’m not usually one to like linking to it as an authoritative source but it is one of several sources I’m using right now), Mil-SF is “a subgenre of science fiction featuring the use of science fiction technology, mainlyweapons, for military purposes and principal characters that are members of a military organization involved in military activity; occurring sometimes in outer space or on a different planet or planets.”

According to io9, Military Science Fiction “is a term that applies to anything science fiction that depicts some element of the armed forces.” The article goes on to say, “[t]he stories military science fiction tends to tell are generally not about warfare: they’re about the people caught up in the flow of wartime events, and the impact of warfare on society.”

Mike Resnick, (another Hugo nominee, this time for best editor/short form, and someone else I respect a great deal) has written a wonderful article entitled Military Science Fiction: A Brief¬†History. According to him, as well as to other sources, Mil-SF can be traced back to 1859. Then there was H. G. Wells (I think we’ve all heard/read/watched War of the Worlds). Mil-SF began hitting its stride in the 1930’s and 1940’s with people like E. E. “Doc” Smith and his Lensman series. I’ll let you read Mike’s article. There is a lot of very interesting information there.

So, to the question of whether or not Military SF is a valid for of SF.

I’m sorry, I have a hard time even taking the suggestion that it isn’t seriously. Part of me wonders if those who feel it isn’t are the same ones who subscribe to the belief that violence never solves anything and the only way to deal with bullies is to punish both the bully and the bullies (how else do you explain Zero Tolerance?). Or maybe they are the ones who feel that SF should now only be message fiction and push the message of inclusivity (as long as you are promoting the “right” form of inclusivity).

For what it’s worth, Military SF is a major sub genre of science fiction. As much as we might like to believe we would send exploratory missions deep into space, even colonization ships, we have to face reality. We don’t know what we will find out there. Security for the mission and for the mission personnel must be maintained. Even if we don’t find ET or BEM out there, there is the human factor to take into account.

For me, good Military SF is about the characters, why they do — or don’t do — something. Yes, the military is part of it, but the story is about the characters. Some Mil-SF is very definitely anti-war/aggression/whatever you want to say. The best Mil-SF isn’t necessarily pushing any sort of political agenda. Still, it manages to show that there are good and bad men and women in the military and even the best people can sometimes make bone-headed decisions. How they live with what happens next is what makes the story.

Would science fiction be better off without the likes of Heinlein, Pournelle or Doc Smith? Would it be selling as many books now — or sending as many imaginations flying — without the likes of Bujold, Weber and Drake? I think not. Newer faces on the landscape, such as Brad Torgersen, continue the growth of Military SF with entertaining stories with their own personal twist. Science fiction is better, and stronger, as a result.

The fact that indie authors like Chris Nuttal and Peter Grant (and yours truly to a lesser extent) sell as many books as we do shows that there is a market for Mil-SF. Our readers are those who enjoy a good story and who realize that the military is just one aspect of the story and not the end all, be all. As for me, I will always prefer having books that show honor and courage are good things and that sacrifice is sometimes necessary for the greater good.

But that’s just me, a reader and a writer who is also proud of the fact I come from a family with a long history of military service. Oo-rah!

For some examples of quality (imo) Mil-SF, check out these books:

chaplains warThe Chaplain’s War
Brad Torgersen

The mantis cyborgs: insect-like, cruel, and determined to wipe humanity from the face of the galaxy.

The Fleet is our last chance: a multi-world, multi-national task force assembled to hold the line against the aliens’ overwhelming technology and firepower. Enter Harrison Barlow, who like so many young men of wars past, simply wants to serve his people and partake of the grand adventure of military life. Only, Harrison is not a hot pilot, nor a crack shot with a rifle. What good is a Chaplain’s Assistant in the interstellar battles which will decide the fate of all?

More than he thinks. Because while the mantis insectoids are determined to eliminate the human threat to mantis supremacy, they remember the errors of their past. Is there the slightest chance that humans might have value? Especially since humans seem to have the one thing the mantes explicitly do not: an innate ability to believe in what cannot be proven nor seen God. Captured and stranded behind enemy lines, Barlow must come to grips with the fact that he is not only bargaining for his own life, but the lives of everyone he knows and loves. And so he embarks upon an improbable gambit, determined to alter the course of the entire war.

empire corpsThe Empire’s Corps
Christopher Nuttall

You Should Never Speak Truth To Power…

The Galactic Empire is dying and chaos and anarchy are breaking out everywhere. After a disastrous mission against terrorists on Earth itself, Captain Edward Stalker of the Terran Marine Corps makes the mistake of speaking truth to power, telling one of the most powerful men in the Empire a few home truths. As a result, Captain Stalker and his men are unceremoniously exiled to Avalon, a world right on the Rim of the Empire. It should have been an easy posting…

Well, apart from the bandits infesting the countryside, an insurgency that threatens to topple the Empire’s loose control over Avalon, and a corrupt civil government more interested in what it can extort from the population than fighting a war. The Marines rapidly find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of political and economic chaos, fighting to preserve Avalon before the competing factions tear the world apart. They’re Marines; if anyone can do it, they can.

The battle to save the Empire starts here.

star roadTake The Star Road (The Maxwell Saga Book 1)
Peter Grant

Nineteen-year-old Steve Maxwell just wants to get his feet on the star road to find a better homeworld. By facing down Lotus Tong thugs, he earns an opportunity to become a spacer apprentice on a merchant spaceship, leaving the corruption and crime of Earth behind. Sure, he needs to prove himself to an older, tight-knit crew, but how bad can it be if he keeps his head down and the decks clean?

He never counted on the interstellar trade routes having their own problems, from local wars to plagues of pirates – and the jade in his luggage is hotter than a neutron star. Steve’s left a world of troubles behind, only to find a galaxy of them ahead…

And. . . by yours truly

coverforvfaVengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1)
Sam Schall

First, they took away her command. Then they took away her freedom. But they couldn’t take away her duty and honor. Now they want her back.

Captain Ashlyn Shaw has survived two years in a brutal military prison. Now those who betrayed her are offering the chance for freedom. All she has to do is trust them not to betray her and her people again. If she can do that, and if she can survive the war that looms on the horizon, she can reclaim her life and get the vengeance she’s dreamed of for so long.

But only if she can forget the betrayal and do her duty.

For other quality Mil-SF, check out Baen Books and the Baen Free Library.


  1. I couldn’t stop chuckling while reading Dave Freer’s column this morning. Humorous, well done, and not all that antagonistic in response. Just exactly what’s called for in my mind.

  2. So according to the definition given, Jules Verne was a Mil-SF writer. 20,000 Leagues was the story of a man’s reaction against British Imperialism, Master of the World was a story of a man seeking to dominate the world by military means, and Mysterious Island started with Civil War members trapped on a balloon who land on a desolate island controlled by – you guessed it! – the villain of 20,000 Leagues!

  3. I sorta don’t want to write my opinion of anyone who thinks military SF is not a valid form of SF as a whole. It’s not that I don’t have an opinion, it’s just that I don’t want that opinion to divert me from this:
    Here, watch me do back flips: @@@@@
    (runs around, painting walls with neon paint with gold metal flake, multiple colors coming out of the same container)
    (stopped by gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant foxy praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, who checks for fever, makes sure he’s hydrated, then releases)
    (runs outside, bites bark off pine trees, spelling out ‘HUGO NOM For AMANDA’)
    (collapses exhausted, plans next move)
    (wants cake)
    Amanda, I will now eat a piece of cake in your honor. I would ship it to you, but I’d rather eat it.
    Ummm….did I say congratulations? I meant to…

      1. I’ve been so captivated by the Hugo drama that I forgot to congratulate you.

        Congratulations Amanda. I’ve learned a lot reading what you have to say about writing. I think the award is well earned.

        1. Thanks, Angus. I’ve been distracted by the drama as well. It’s sort of like watching a car wreck or fire. You know you shouldn’t look but you just can’t help yourself.

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