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It’s time for the GOOD LUCK, YUKIKAZE giveaway contest!

by nickmamatas

I walked in to the office this morning to find these waiting for me:

So it’s time to give some away! We’ve been playing essay contest for a while, so I am sure you all know the drill. Just leave some sort of interesting response to the following topic in the comments and then on Friday at noon, Pacific time, I’ll declare four winners. Here’s the topic:

The military has been a major theme in science fiction almost from its inception as a genre. What fuels the fascination with future war, and where does military SF succeed and fail in dealing with the theme. Is too much mil SF just “milporn”, or should the hippies just stop complaining for once?

Let me hear what you think, and you might just win a free copy of Good Luck, Yukikaze!

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11 Responses to “It’s time for the GOOD LUCK, YUKIKAZE giveaway contest!”

  1. Sam M-B says:

    1. I would disagree that the military has been a major theme in sf from its inception. From Frankenstein through HG Wells and Verne and Abbott’s Flatland, onto Burroughs and Arthur Conan Doyle, on to Huxley, CS Lewis, and Orwell and there’s no heavy military focus in sight. Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Bester, and even Heinlein (though he’d go on to write some books we associate as military sf) and onto Wyndham and Vonnegut defined the West’s sf without military themes. It wasn’t until Starship Troopers that military themes were front and center, and still much of the sf of the era was not military focused. Heinlein’s novel, Haldeman’s Forever War, these are definitely not “milporn”. 2. The fascination with future war currently stems from two things: 1. technological advances are usually weaponized and 2. Since the end of the Cold War (which raised an entire generation of authors on the threats of imminent nuclear demise, and showed what modern conventional symmetric nasty warfare can be) there isn’t much “war” to write about — the large-scale conflicts we see today are over quickly in terms of defined battlefields, and a novel about terrorism or assymetric warfare is not typically about the military per se, rather the civilians and urban environments come front and center. Where military sf is focusing on the second, war for the sake of war, it’s certainly tempting to call it “milporn”. But in the former case, when a novel deals honestly with what is going on, it can be an excellent opportunity to attempt to advance our morality and ethics alongside our technology. Hippies certainly shouldn’t complain too much, as there’s as much and as good (I would argue better) military sf which is clearly anti-war than there is “milporn” out there.

  2. Jeff says:

    All war can be considered “future war” at this point if only because humanity has yet to get war “right.” The argument can be made, of course, that war can never be “right” but for now we’ll leave that to those hippies you referred to!

    The moral conundrum that is war is obviously better deciphered in the pages of fiction than on the battlefield and yet one cannot really exist without the other. So we’re left with speculation of all sorts… acceptable casualties versus the tragedy of the individual, mechanization versus the necessity for the human element, and of course one of the oldies but goodies: what is evil and what is good.

    The finest examples of tomorrow’s conflicts can be found, arguably, in Card’s “Ender’s Game” and Haldeman’s “The Forever War.” (I would argue that Verhoeven’s take on “Starship Troopers” makes some very valid statements as well but that would probably spark too much controversy… heh heh) What sends these to the head of the class is they never lose sight of a powerful theme amid all the dandy flash and bang of a good rollicking adventure. “Milporn?” Nah, never. It’s called FANTASY fiction for a reason, kids. But if you can squeak in a little lesson somewhere in between the crunching footsteps of a battle mech and the strafing runs of a silvery battle cruiser… all the better.

  3. Zampalior says:

    La obsesión con la guerra no es algo nuevo, de hecho, ya en la antigua Grecia, Heráclito pensó que la guerra era el motor que mueve el mundo, ¡y vivió hace más de 2000 años!. Así que no debe sorprendernos la popularidad del género militar, al que, en mi opinión, se le añaden a menudo esos elementos fantásticos para evitar dañar los sentimientos de las personas, pues no hay que olvidar que las dos grandes guerras de la humanidad se produjeron hace menos de un siglo, y sus heridas aun no están cerradas.

    Por otra parte, con todo ese tiempo, nuestros escritores han aprendido a reflejar a la perfección los horrores de la guerra, pero, personalmente hay un apartado al que creo que deberían dedicar mucho más tiempo, y este es la caracterización de los personajes, pues en muchas novelas de este genero, los personajes parecen seguir unos estereotipos reusados hasta la saciedad, y, en muchos casos, los personajes individuales son más bien anécdotas frente al conflicto que está tratando el autor. Sin embargo, y por terminar esto con una nota positiva, he de decir que no todo está perdido, y es que hay libros como “All you need is kill” en los que los personajes no solo no son estereotipos planos, sino que te acompañaran durante el resto de tu vida.

  4. Susanna says:

    Sam M. has an excellent point – the earliest science fiction was concerned much more with scientific discoveries and fantastic voyages rather than with military- and war-related topics (though H.G. Wells DID write some future-war fiction). I believe the first future war novel was The Battle of Dorking, published in 1871. I think readers are fascinated by future war fiction because, as with dystopias and post-apocalyptic narratives, they prey on our fears because they display potential enemies as scarily viable threats (see the German menace in pre-world war British future war fiction and the “yellow” menace in that of America; a Muslim attack could be today’s version, though just as prejudiced and politically incorrect as those of the past).

    I actually can’t think of any military sci-fi that I’ve read, so I can’t answer the last question. I prefer to stick to dystopias and post-apocalyptic novels, because I’m a peace-loving hippie who prefers to see how society may end up causing its own destruction rather than reading about fantastical military exploits.

  5. Drax says:

    Well, I like it when items explode and armies are routed as much as the next guy, but I don’t think there’s any way a writer can really sway a discerning reader of serious SF with “milporn.” Seriously. Even (or especially) if the writer is crazy and buys it him/herself, I just don’t see a reader with half a brain buying that shit of GEARS! and TROOPS! and ARMOUR! for half a second. Does that make sense? (I knew I shouldn’t have written anything.) Anyway, I guess I’m saying the question is either fairly moot, or i be too stupid to fully comprehend its magnitude. Where’s my book?!

  6. Suzanne says:

    Hmmm. It seems to me that what we tend to like in our stories is the triumph of good over bad against great odds. Most of us grew up with good vs. bad being a geopolitical thing personified in nations, the struggle being a moral one fought with the instruments of war, and that conflict being omnipresent in our lives. As a result, military SF can be (it isn’t always, but often is) kind of a cheap & easy framework to build a story on where you’re counting on your audience to supply the moral connotations and emotional/psychological context of the struggle for you — we’re cheap dates when it comes to Us vs. Them. The truly excellent military SF has always been the stories that don’t take the easy road, and don’t let us sit comfortably with the default context we want to bring to that table.

    Or it could just be because stuff that goes BOOM is cool.

  7. nice&toasty says:

    To be honest, I don’t read much military fiction in the first place, scifi or otherwise, so I can’t really complain about the state of the genre. As long as “milporn” doesn’t start invading bookshelves everywhere, I don’t see it as a problem.

    That’s not to say that I don’t like war stories though. In times of peace, they’re exciting; in times of war, it’s something you can relate to. War stories are okay, and if they’ve got to focus on the military aspect of it, I’d like for it not to resemble the present-day military too much. I was in air cadets when I was younger, and though I thought it was kind of cool, I didn’t exactly have the time of my life getting sore feet every Wednesday night…so I’m biased.

    inb4 army/navy people start. They see me (barrel) rolling, they be hating.

  8. yin says:

    (To the tune of Edwin Starr’s War)
    War, huh, yeah
    What is it good for
    If there ain’t a story
    War, huh, yeah
    What is it good for
    If it don’t make you think twice
    Say it again, y’all

    basically, i think war for the sake of war, or senseless violence, etc, is rather pointless. SF is a vehicle/style/means/insert appropriate word for shaping new stories and new ways of viewing and exploring humanity, and so war in military-SF should have a greater meaning or be a means of character development. the best example i can think of here is, of course, Scott Card’s Ender/Bean series – mired in a hopeless situation where Ender can only move inexorably towards his fate, which is to reluctantly fight a war he doesn’t want to fight – that lends meaning to the bloodshed. (of course, monologues and battle-narratives are seamlessly interwoven, which is key…)

    also, while not strictly military or SF, Fate/Zero is a pretty good example of a gripping war story with excellent character development – it works, i think, because we are given insights into their motives for entering the Holy Grail War, and the parts they play, their ideals, and even their fighting styles — all these things paint complex pictures of the characters and make them come alive, and reflect variously the different facets of humanity. even those that find poetry in slaughter (like Uryu Ryuunosuke – i couldn’t help but want to see his creations of bloodshed, as perverse as that sounds…). in short, war = vehicle for story. war without a reason is dull and pointless.

  9. ratchet573 says:

    Military science fiction works just like any other, it feeds on the human fascination of what will happen next. Military fiction, especially in America, is a big genre and I personally like military fiction for it’s realistic portrayals of battle and things that could happen on Earth. Likewise with military science fiction, it gives us a look at what could happen in our backyards in fifty, one hundred, one hundred fifty years. It allows us a glimpse at future weapons, future politics, and shows a new front that we may end up fighting on, space. We fight on sea, on land, in air, but at some point we may have to fight in space.

    Military fiction also usually tells a fairly sprawling story depending on how large the war is. We see many main characters, one of which we can usually relate with, and we see either one huge main bad guy or a group of them. It’s kind of patriotic almost, you root for your side as you read the book like you are actually there.

    It’s like the fantasy epics that many people like almost. There is a good side with an army, there is a bad side with an army, the good guys go on a fantastic journey and fight many major battles, and they eventually confront that final evil in a huge climactic battle. The only difference is the fight is not playing out in Mordor, the fight is playing out in a much more tangible place.

  10. Tahu5Fan says:

    Maybe it’s because I don’t pay much attention to it, but I haven’t noticed a “rise” in military use in science-fiction. Probably because I’m not that interested in the military. I try to keep an open mind which is why I even bothered with the Destroyermen series from Taylor Anderson. When done right, the fighting and war can be played as something that is not glorious and not think about it like it’s the greatest thing in the universe (like how Sontarans think of war.)

    Unfortunately, when a people’s way of life or economic system is threatened, the response is to fight; usually on a large scale. It’s the kind of thing that makes the combination of fiction and scienece-fiction. Sci-fi deals with issues that on an epic scale like the stars going out. And usually that kind of thing follows many battles or a war. So I don’t think there should be much complaining.

  11. Marc McKenzie says:

    Many may not like military science fiction, but it is a sub-genre of science fiction, just like space opera and cyberpunk, for instance.

    Military SF is as much a reflection of the time it is written–as well as being a glimpse at war in the future. STARSHIP TROOPERS still engenders strong feelings nearly sixty years after its publication, but it is a product of its time–post WWII, early Cold War–and reflects this in the view of the Bugs and the respect for authority.

    By contrast, THE FOREVER WAR is post-Vietnam–and it shows. It was also more character-driven and shows a much harsher view of authority, especially the “higher ups”. It can be said that YUKIKAZE has more in common with THE FOREVER WAR than STARSHIP TROOPERS.

    I wouldn’t say that too much military SF is “milporn”, at least most of the military SF I’ve read that was written in the latter 20th century and certainly draws from the wars in Vietnam, the Middle East, Bosnia and Kosovo, and Iraq and Afghanistan. There is a much harsher, less trustful view of the military, and if the question “Why do we fight” is brought up, the reason is not some boastful patriotic line, but a far more simple one–survival.

    Ultimately, novels such as THE FOREVER WAR, YUKIKAZE, and ARMOR show that the future will not be some grand utopia–that sadly, the specter of war will remain and continue to haunt us. The sobering truth they tell is that war is not an aberration, but a very human thing. Perhaps that could explain why some shun military sf–most of the novels show that in the future, instead of becoming advanced enlightened beings, people will still be, well, flawed human beings. It’s not something that most will accept.

    As Ryosuke Takahashi (ARMORED TROOPER VOTOMS) put it, “So long as there are human beings, there will always be war.”

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