Advantages Interesting, entertaining and thought provoking reading
Disadvantages None, though it isn't to everybody's taste.
I like to read and I certainly like science fiction and military science fiction though not exclusivly. But what is science fiction I sometimes hear you ask? You have to know where I am coming from to have an idea where I am going, so a brief history is in order.Science Fiction in general.
The roots of this can be traced as far back as writing and even mythology(1). It was the 18th century that gave the novel its form. With the ending of the 19th century and the dawning of the 20th more works were being written, though they did not have the appellations of Science Fiction. In Britain during the late 19th century the term "scientific romance" was used.The rise of the 20th century and the growth in the magazine industry especially in America gave rise to many icons, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, even the Barsoom stories from Edgar Rice Burroughs.
However is was in the late 1930's that John W Campbell became the editor of "Astounding Stories" and set matters on a firm footing. He insisted that there had to be a logical rationale for every thing in the story from the science and technology to the form that a society might take. Many a famous author grew up under his firm tutelage and so there was what is sometimes called a "Golden Age" in story writing characterized by hard SF stories celebrating scientific achievement and progress.Whilst science fiction has provided criticism of developing and new technology it has also been responsible for innovation and new technology. Arthur C Clarke wrote about geo-synchronous satellites years before there were any. Robert A Heinlein wrote about moving roads, (bigger than the moving pavements we have in airports) Waldo's (remote manipulators) and water beds as just some examples. Some current research is so unlikely that even the scientists working in that field think they are in a science fiction story. What was a fictional idea some years ago can be today’s technological marvel and "must have" gadget. Just think of the proliferation of personal computers, a device that "There is no market for" said a major corporation.
Military science fiction.
Military science fiction took off, I feel, after the Vietnam conflict. Many returning veterans were alienated from their society and some wanted to express themselves about their feelings. It took some time for it to develop into a recognised sub genre, though there had been several stories that can be thought of as in that field.
We can look at these historical events and try to make their lessons available to a newer generation. One that doesn't always find the history of its own country a suitable topic of study, unless it’s to reinforce some particular prejudice.Military science fiction is NOT about glorifying way. Only those who have lived through one will truly hate it. Military science fiction can just as easily highlight the horrors and futility of war. It does however express those soldierly virtues of bravery, sacrifice, sense of duty, and camaraderie. Glory may only be visible at a distance, up close it’s noisy, smelly and terrifying.
As an example let us look at "Starship troopers" by Robert A Heinlein published in 1959. To this day it isn't understood by many trendy lefties, if I may use such an expression. They believe that it advocates a right wing military dictatorship. Even the film that they made in 1997 maintains the fiction. Director Paul Verhoeven says his satirical use of irony and hyperbole is "playing with fascism or fascist imagery to point out certain aspects of American society... of course, the movie is about 'Let's all go to war and lets all die". The dress uniforms certainly seem to reflect Nazi Germany's Waffen SS in colour and insignia. Of course he does admit to not having actually read the book all the way through.The book is about nothing of the sort. The hero, Juan (Johnny) Rico, is from the Philippines living in Argentina, something the film makers conveniently forgot. The soldiers came from every country in the world. Race, creed and colour have no place in this novel and there is limited mention of any of them. That is why the film makers could get away with using mainly white actors. In the book a world society was formed by veterans returning from a major war and only veterans of military service can vote but everybody can volunteer to serve a two year hitch to get that right. The right to vote has to be earned by service to the people through the state and not just in a military combat role. Voting is a privilege not a right. It is a society based on service, discipline, patriotism (human race not country), self sacrifice and comradeship. It does advocate Capital and corporal punishments for offences and all to be held in public. Justice not only has to be done but has to be seen to have been done. Many things that some persons seem to hate. On a minor point, the book dress uniform was maroon tunic with light blue trousers not the field grey of the film.(#)
In 1975 an anthology of short stories called Combat SF was published that saw in its pages many of the themes and series that were to come, from David Drake's "Hammers Slammers"(2) via Keith Laumer’s "BOLO"(3) to Fred Saberhagen's "Berserkers"(4). This was probably the first time that many of these stories saw print.Now we have many writers and authors and not only men, Some notable women writers have written along these lines. Tanya Huff's "Confederation" novels and Elizabeth Moon's "Familias Regnant universe" and "Vatta's war" stories come to mind (5).
Among the male authors we have David Drake, David Weber, John Ringo, Michael Z Williamson and Travis S Taylor. There are of course many other writers, more that I can conveniently list.You may note that the writers represented are from Western countries. During the "Cold War" there was very little science fiction produced from any soviet country. After all they already had the perfect society and how can you better perfection? I did read one story by a Polish writer that dealt with a third world war in three lines! Naturally the Soviets won.
Some may say that this is all rather far fetched, that a lot of the weapons are all "Buck Rogers Gee Wiz" stuff. Certainly there are stories with advanced weapons but there are also stories where the weapons of WWI and earlier are not out of place. Soldiers of that time, if they could read these stories, would find themselves intimately familiar with the weapons and tactics.Good science fiction writers have the facility to make such future developments seem practical. They can invent a universe and a method of star transport that imposes certain limits which then takes the 'Form follows Function' dictum to heart. So in David Drake's "Lightning’s" universe you have sail powered ships with a situation similar to the Royal Navy of the 18th century, where as David Weber's "Honorverse" starships are more reminiscent to late 19th and Early 20th century pre dreadnaught battleships with a 'Wall' of battle to utilise a broadside armament. When you read these stories and totally immerse yourself into the writings they can achieve a level of 'realness' for you which can lead to many a fan writing to the author concerned and sometimes having a profound effect on that author's story lines.
It seems that these writers are doing something right as in many forums dedicated to military science fiction you can find among the contributors many serving and past members of military forces. Whilst I am not a frequent contributor to any forum, I do like to see what is being written and talked about. Military personnel often feel that they are barely tolerated by civilians and misused by politicians. I still like to read Kipling. A bit of metal and ribbon seem a poor reward for a life.Perhaps I should end with a quote from David Weber,
So, I would urge people to read, books, magazines and even electronic books. You may not like what dooks I do, but I don't object to that; I may not like what books you do, so we are even. But please read and encourage children to read, There is a whole vast universe out there waiting to be discovered. Once we dreamed such big dreams and now we seem to have shrunk. Let your imagination roam free.1, There are robots in The Iliad, if you know where to look.
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