Tag Archives: SF&F

Military Sci-Fi & Fantasy – Who gets it right?

The Military SF panel I was on at DetCon1 did not get to a lot of the topics we had hoped to cover (partially due to a ‘hijacking’ panel member and partially due to the fact that we only had 50 minutes!) and several con attendees asked me follow-up questions in the days after. I love Military SF&F, and enjoy talking about it, so I’m glad so many others wanted to keep talking about it, too.

The most popular question is always: so who gets it right? Not every Military SF&F writer who has been in the military gets it right. Sometimes this is because the person is far removed from their time in the service, other times because they are writing what they don’t really know (a desk jockey writing about special forces missions, for example), it’s possible they aren’t that great at writing or storytelling, and sometimes they are just sensationalizing it or following a cheesy trope trend in order to supposedly give the audience what they want.

That last one disturbs me the most, because I like to think that SF&F readers are smarter than that, and because it is damaging to military members to continue to be stereotyped. There are especially quite a few military SF&F stories that get women in the military wrong (really badly wrong) and even take us a step – or many steps – backwards, despite supposedly taking place in a better future.

People are still writing books where the square-jawed, beefy, swashbuckling white male hero serves in an all-male unit while blowing many things up and saving the day. If there are women, they are often just there as a sex object, motivation tool for the main character, or a secretary.  One panel member last week rightly called some of the worst stories “war porn” – that is, nothing but loads of gore and things going boom, and glorifying war… with no real plot to speak of and very cliche’d one-dimensional characters.

But enough on all that depressing stuff. What I really like to talk about is the people who get it right. These include both people who have served and those who have simply done their homework very well. I’ll list them here in both categories, and the branch the author served in if applicable, if I can easily find it. This list is, of course, limited to what I have read and what I enjoyed. Please share your own recommendations in the comments!

Note that there can be some debate about how ‘military’ some of these are. I include anything involving professional military members, mercenaries, civil defense forces, rebel fighting groups, and fights big enough to be considered battles under the umbrella for my own personal definition. That can be debated in the comments as well!

Good Military SF&F written by authors who have served (in no particular order):
Paksennarion series (fantasy, Elizabeth Moon, US Marine Corps)
Familias series (sci-fi, Elizabeth Moon)
Valor series (sci-fi, Tanya Huff, Canadian Naval Reserve)
Forever War series (sci-fi, Joe Haldeman, US Army)
Starship Troopers (sci-fi, Robert Heinlein, US Navy)
Dune (sci-fi, Frank Herbert, US Navy)
Lost Fleet series (sci-fi, John Hemry writing as Jack Campbell, US Navy)
Stark’s War series (sci-fi, John Hemry)
Paul Sinclair series (sci-fi, John Hemry)
The Healer’s War (fantasy, Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, US Army)

Good Military SF&F written by civilian authors (also in no particular order):
Old Man’s War series (sci-fi, John Scalzi)
Vorkosigan series (sci-fi, Lois McMaster Bujold)
Ender’s Game series (sci-fi, Orson Scott Card)
Liaden series (sci-fi, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller)

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Filed under Book Reviews, Geeking out, Opinion pieces

Geekness Day with #SingleHopGeeks

Apparently I’m kind of a failure as a geek because I didn’t even know there was such thing as Embrace Your Geekness Day, which is July 13th (not to be confused with Geek Pride day on May 25th, by the way).  But since a very nice lady from SingleHop was cool enough to ask me to do some interview questions to celebrate Geekness Day, well, now I know.  And the more you know

I do think we’re probably starting to take this new multitude of made-up holidays a little far.  Like is there a “Cats on the Internet” day yet?  There seems to be one for just about everything now.  But in the spirit of fun, here we go with the questions.

1.    What makes you a geek?

I’ve been in love with space and SF&F (books, TV, and movies) since I was a kid.  My dad pretty much raised us on SF&F – to the level of bringing us along to Star Trek conventions from the tender age of seven or so.   We were always encouraged to help ourselves to anything on the many bookshelves around the house, and my mom took us to the library at least once a week to restock.  Let’s just say my love of books is very well rooted.

I’ve always been huge space enthusiast, other than a brief stint around age five when I, for some strange reason I can no longer remember, wanted to be a dentist.  Now I have masters in both Aerospace Engineering and Space Studies.  I may never get to be an astronaut, but maybe if I’m a successful enough engineer I can afford that ticket on Virgin Galactic someday!

I’ve also been incredibly fortunate to marry a fellow geek, and now we are those people who decorated our daughter’s nursery with a space theme. I will probably embarrass her horribly when she’s a teenager by wearing a Kaylee costume in public or showing people the pictures of her dressed as GIR for Halloween (her request!).

2.    What is your proudest geek moment?

Every time I am able to participate in STEM outreach events of any kind.  Whether it’s being part of a SeaPerch competition or sitting on a “Women in STEM” panel at a con, I love getting to be an advocate for STEM education and let kids – girls especially – know that STEM fields are not only really cool, but well within their reach if they work hard and ignore the haters.

Also, memorizing the Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune.

3.    What is your geek motto/favorite geek quote?

Laugh it up, fuzzball.

4.    Who is your geek role model?

Anyone who likes what they geek out about enough to be vocal/visual about it in public.  It takes a special, brave kind of person to dress up in costume or tell the whole world that they love something geeky and why.

5.    Which SingleHopper geek do you most relate to? Why?

Is it bad if I admit I had never heard of SingleHop before?  I am apparently failing at all kinds of geek stuff today!

6.    How familiar are you with SingleHop’s product offerings (dedicated servers, private cloud hosting, managed hosting, etc.)?

See above.

7.    Anything else you think we should know?

These questions made me think of the days of those email surveys we young people all sent around to each other in the heydey of AOL.  Oops, did I just date myself?

Share your answers to these questions in the comments if you like!

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Filed under Geeking out