Defining the Violence
Military science fiction is a term that applies to anything science fiction that depicts some element of the armed forces. The stories that involve futuristic (or early) militaries is varied, and encompass a number of styles of science fiction, from tales that features soldiers as characters, to stories that rely on physics, and everything in between.
This wide range brings together an extensive list of stories that might surprise you. When you think of military SF, the books that pop to mind are ones like Old Man's War, by John Scalzi, City of Pearl by Karen Traviss, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein, A Hymn Before Battle by John Ringo or the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. But what about other books, such as Dune, by Frank Herbert, The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein or Red Mars, by Kim Stanley Robinson, which have the political elements that involve warfare, or stories like River of Gods by Ian McDonald or The Windup Girl by Paolo Bachigalupi that use the military to a limited extent? Where do those fall within the spectrum?
And how do the fictional stories that feature military forces mesh with their real-life counterparts?
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War then, is not a chaotic mess of violence, but directed destruction in the hands of a force that is organized expressly for enforcing the will of the state.
When it comes to science fiction, this is an important idea for futuristic militaries. If military science fiction utilizes military force, there should be an understanding on the part of said fiction that militaries exist for a purpose; otherwise, they act as a mob, organized towards their own goals. Military force, in real life and in fiction, is more than the simple act of picking up a gun and firing at somebody; it is more than organized violence.
Worth a minute. Minor kvetch: Andrew left out some faves (Gordon R. Dickson's Dorsai series, Mack Reynolds' "Frigid Fracas" series, and he missed mentioning the alternate-history SF of people like Harry Turtledove, who created a spell-binding alternate history of a US where they're still fighting the Civil War — in 1943, in his Timeline-191 series.