milSF Without Story: "Ironclads" by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Ironclads - Adrian Tchaikovsky

As a seasoned SF reader, I've always disagree strongly with the assessment of milSF as glorification of war; "The Forever War", after all, betrays the political strand of extreme dubiousness about war that also exists in science fiction, a strand demonstrated also in novels such as John Scalzi's “Old Man's War”, but that could equally be seen in “Veteran” by Gavin Smith (which contains a number of other left-wing themes) and the aforementioned New Model Army by Adam Roberts, which is deeply entrenched in liberal, democratised thinking about war, glorifying it to some extent but also attacking it. The fact is this: milSF has a certain concern, and that isn't to show war in its grand scale and all its effects, but to show it from the perspective, normally, of the troops. Dan Abnett's “Gaunt's Ghosts” is a great example of a series that does this - a Warhammer 40k spinoff series, I might add - without glorifying war as a whole, beyond the fact that certain characters believe in the glory of war; to deny that soldiers may think war is glorious is to simplify it in the exact opposite way that you accuse milSF of doing, but is just as problematic and perilous. That's all just scratching the surface, without looking at the glorification of war in fantasy such as Terry Brooks' “Sword of Shannara” and Markus Heitz' “The Dwarves”, either. War and milSF are not the same. War has been a topic for Story since forever but the mil SF tends to have more weapon, tactics, etc., stuff, I guess. But the way that conflict is treated varies a lot and is more complex than it's been given credit for. A few things: the "military fantasy" that viewers get drawn into in “Battlestar Galactica” IS the fact that only the military can save humanity (as microbes were the saving grace in Well's “War of the Worlds.”) Yeah, civilian government, yada, yada - except one that is mightily curtailed by the state of martial law that's imposed, figuratively if not actually (would have made a much better story if they'd offed the civilians for purported collaboration with the Cylons, imposed full conscription and then all died in the end, lol)

 

 

If you're into milSF, read on.