SF/F Genre Glossary

What is Military Science Fiction?

This is a continuation of the Speculative Fiction Genre Glossary Project posts. For the complete genre index click here.

Military Sci-Fi
GOSU-B by Ukitakumiki

What is Military Science Fiction?

A subgenre of science fiction that focuses on military exploits and features main characters who are military personnel. These stories place an emphasis on tactics, military values, and combat.

Literary Examples:

  • Starship Troopers by Heinlein
  • Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  • Hammer’s Slammers by David Drake

Further Reading:


    1. T. S. Bazelli Author

      This genre is not really something I’m interested in. In general I’m drawn to stories driven by characters, and the military aspect is not a big draw for me. So sorry! I have no recommendations. Do you have any??

      1. Military SF is one of those genres I’ve somewhat assumed that I don’t like. However, I can propose a couple of additions to the list that might emphasize the characters more than the military aspect.

        My sambo enjoys the Honor Harrington books by David Weber. She is a character-driven reader so I would guess that these have strong characters, but I have not read the series.

        I have read Joe Haldeman’s Forever War, which was a story I liked. However, it was part of a college class and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up otherwise. What I liked was the exploration of time-dilation associated with war and how society changes around the main character and how he deals with those changes.

  1. Hmm…I read Clive Cussler’s The Spy once, though it is largely a historical mystery/thriller with military undertones (lots of techno-naval jargon, too). That’s probably the closest thing to military sf that I’ve read, haha. (To be honest, military stuff just scares me…yet I’m currently writing about a semi-major character that has some military background and is bound to have a larger role in my next project. Don’t know how that happened. o_O)

    1. Tiyana, there’s a character (male) in my WIP who has a military background, and he’s ended up playing a larger role than I anticipated because the book was ending up unbalanced between male and female, with the female characters basically driving everything, and I like there to be a balance. This guy injected some testosterone into the proceedings, some tactical training and taciturnity (to alliterate a bit) and then everything was cool.

      1. I’m glad I’m not the only one this has happened to!

        I do like the idea of having military personnel in my story, though I’m not entirely comfortable with dwelling on those types of characters. There’s a potential to rant here, so I’ll just leave it at that, lol.

        In any case, I’m thinking that maybe I should give some of my…suspicions about military fiction a run for their money and pick up something by Scalzi. I might be pleasantly surprised!

  2. I agree that Starship Troopers is probably the archetype for this particular genre.

    Hmm. I wonder, though, if Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game counts as Military SF. The entire thing is about military training in space for a distant war against bug-like aliens… but it’s an intensely character-driven novel. (And a really good read that I’d recommend if you haven’t picked it up yet; it’s a very different take on the “chosen one” trope, for instance.)

  3. Starship Troopers, in addition to being called everything from “pro-military” to “fascistic,” is known in some circles for something else, too, which I wrote about here:

    Overall, it’s not one of my favorite Heinlein novels (I’ve read most of them). In the 1960s, I groked Stranger in a Strange Land like everybody else, but over the years The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress has stuck with me the most. I do need to write about that someday soon.

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