"War has been speculated about in science fiction literature from the earliest days of the genre. From George Tomkyns Chesney's The Battle of Dorking and H.G. Well's War of the Worlds to Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers to Karin Traviss's Wess'har Wars series, science fiction literature has long had something to say about war. Now, it's time to tell some new stories...."
The above is the introduction to Jaym Gates' and Andrew Liptak's Kickstarter for War Stories: Modern Military Science Fiction, a new anthology that will feature stories from Joe Haldeman, Maurice Broaddus, Ken Liu, Karin Lowachee and many more.
Mr. Liptak himself is one of the scholars of the genre (his long-running series on Kirkus about the origins of SF/F is a must-read), and he's been gracious enough to drop by and share a bit about military SF.
I attended a military college, Norwich University, where I studied History. While I wasn't a cadet, the military influences crept into my life in unexpected ways, and looking back, it's inevitable that I went on to study Military History in graduate school. It's of even less surprise to me that, upon graduating and finding free time to read, I had some issues with how military SF presented itself, and I began to write and think more critically about the genre, something that I'd been reading since high school.
Recently, I've been thinking about some of the books that I've read that aren't as widely known as say, Starship Troopers, Ender's Game or The Forever War especially as I work on putting together an anthology of military stories, War Stories.
I've always thought of Nancy Kress's fantastic trilogy (Probability Sun, Probability Moon and Probability Space) as a better version of the show Stargate. Humanity gates around the universe, finds an implacable enemy, and works to interact with an alien race that takes more than 45 minutes to communicate with and completely understand. The alien planet is home to an artifact that might be the key to holding off complete extinction, but there's a nice blend of ethical questions about first contact and genocide that work nicely together amid the backdrop of war.
Warchild, Karin Lowachee
One of the authors that I knew I wanted for War Stories was Karin Lowachee. I loved her book Warchild right when I first started reading it years ago. She takes a look a look at a very different style of war, and through the eyes of a protagonist: a child soldier. Captured at an early age, he's been twisted around to fight against his own species in a much larger conflict.
New Model Army, Adam Roberts
Roberts' novel New Model Army came out recently, and while I had some issues with it initially, it's turned out to be one of those novels that's grown immeasurably on me as time progresses. Roberts breaks down the very conventions of how war is fought now, and builds them up anew. This is a book of two incompatible systems going to war with one another. In a lot of ways, I think that it has the potential to become a very prophetic novel.
Wess'Har Wars series, Karen Traviss
Karen Traviss is widely known for her tie-in work with other military franchises such as Star Wars, Gears of War and Halo, but her own Wess'har Wars series is a stunning group of six books. She grapples with interplanetary diplomacy, population and ecological growth, and the ways in which the very powerful can control the weak. There's a lot to chew over in these novels, and they're laced with lots of hard-edged action and some incredible characters.
Conqueror's Trilogy, Timothy Zahn
Timothy Zahn is another author who's probably better known for his Star Wars novels, but his Conqueror's Trilogy (Conqueror's Pride, Conqueror's Heritage and Conqueror's Legacy) is a fantastic mix of space opera and military SF. A human space fleet comes into contact with an alien race, only to be destroyed moments after transmission of a greetings package, propelling both species to open war, and we follow a captured human officer who works to escape. Zahn does something unconventional here: while Book 1 focuses on the human side of the conflict, Book 2 shifts focus to the alien's perspective, with the third book a mix of the two.
Five military SF tales with new perspectives and very different twists to them. What are some of your favourites of the genre? And don't forget to swing by and support the campaign for War Stories - there's new content on the page almost every day!