Seven elements military Science Fiction should contain, from the perspective of a former servicewoman and lifelong SF reader.
I read Best Military SF of the 20th Century because I was curious whether military SF worked well in the short form. The preface, by Harry Turtledove, was a historical perspective of military SF. But as I read this collection of reprints, I realized that many weren’t military SF.
From those I considered military or military-flavored SF, I answered my question. In my opinion, military SF doesn’t work well in the short form. In this “best of” collection, some selections felt like novellas and two were the beginnings of what would be best-selling genre novels (Enders Game, by Orson Scott Card, and Dragonrider, by Anne McCaffrey).
After that I read Brandon Sanderson’s short story (or novella) Firstborn, which was fairly good—then went on a novel-length military SF reading binge. I find the novel-length military SF gives me my “fix,” what I need, and the shorter forms aren’t as satisfying. BTW, I’d never read Jack Campbell’s The Lost Fleet series, but now I’m hooked with the first book (see sidebar).
Through this binging I began to wonder: Why does military SF usually need a longer form? What are the identifying elements of military SF? I came up with seven essential elements military SF should have. The first element covers extrinsic values, while the remaining are intrinsic:
1. The minimal extrinsic requirements, a.k.a. “the Editor’s laundry list for military SF”
These are the features an editor ticks off when reading a synopsis. As with all building blocks of fiction, they’re tools and they’re only as good as their wielder: Read more »