Questionable content suggested by disreputable malcontents
The boy is asleep, the manuscript is locked for a few days, time to blog a little. First off, the WordPress editor still sucks, but at least it now sucks in night mode. I’m going to be taking questions/topics from Twitter tonight, and maybe getting back to my own defense of John W Campbell later this week.
First, @CrusaderSaracen asks about hard vs soft sci-fi in relation to military science fiction.
You can have just about any degree of hardness to your sci-fi and still have good mil sci-fi. The mil aspect is, I believe, more important than sticking strictly to the Campbell one hand-wave rule. That said, the further you slide away from it, the more likely you’re really writing space opera or sword and planet. Some of the seminal works in the genre were written by hard sci-fi writers, and the audience probably has certain expectations. Drop ships that make it to the solar – earthlike planet L1 in a matter of hours? Meh, ok, speeds up the story. Teleportation? Getting colder. Space wizards that can survive a hard vacuum and have the reflexes to block lasers with their energy swords? Bruh, it’s not impossible, but you’re really gonna have to work to keep a mil sci-fi tone.
That said, it can be done. There is some really solid Warhammer 40K military sci-fi, and some of that setting is just batshit insane. Unsurprisingly, most of it is centered on either the Space Marines or the Imperial Guard, and the distinctive character of the particular units plays a fairly large role in all of them. It’s almost like the unit as a whole is its own character, with its own personality and story arc. Take that into account, and you can slaughter space orks with your psychic power sword until the cows come home.
Moving on, @khanj42 asks about the best works of urban insurrection in science fiction.
I’m going to be honest, it’s a less common theme than I would expect, especially given the military history buffs who generally write mil sci-fi. Who wouldn’t want to use something as tense as Hue City, Grozny, or Fallujah as inspiration for a major fictional conflict? Instead, we seem to get many more inspired by the US Civil War (and not cool raider stories), the Napoleonic war, and WW2.
Some of the older Battletech novels actually did touch on urban insurrection. I don’t recall the title offhand, but it was one of the Grey Death Legion books that showed me the value of infantry with a satchel charge against armor in a built up area. The Fall of Hyperion isn’t insurrection per se, but you can imagine suddenly cutting supply lines to a planet sized megacity might cause some civil unrest.
In film, Battle: Los Angeles was quite good. It envisioned us on the receiving end of a technologically superior invader blowing up our urban centers for unknown reasons.
Anime is also rather bereft of urban combat, although I believe Armored Trooper VOTOMS did some (it has been a long time since I rewatched). Sorry I don’t have more, like I said it seems a rich and relatively untapped theme.
Next, @belet_seri asked about the impact of the Iraq war on military thrillers.
Generally disastrous. 1,001 bad SEAL movies, generally with real SEALs getting paid to advise twig-armed Hollywood pretty boys on how to roll through a doorway with no plates in their carriers. Then the obligatory GI Jane kicks a dude’s ass using shitty kung-fu, and we use waaaaaaaay more C4 than was necessary to get the proper Michael Bayness. However, the war also gave us 3 gun as a sport, which gave us Keanu as John Wick, so it wasn’t all bad. (Don’t do Center Axis Relock and don’t overpay for Taran Tactical, though).
Finally, @APF_NYC asks about my writing process.
I started with the ending. Not intentionally, that’s just how it worked out. I ran with a friend’s prompt, and it gave me a great place to finish a trilogy: the end of a war. All I have to do is write three books getting there. No problem.
I sketched out a broad story arc, and three smaller arcs for my main character. I have some distinct themes that I want to hit in each book, as well as some that will carry through the entire series. I came up with a few characters I knew I wanted, and gave them basic back stories for my own reference. And then I outlined.
Massive outlines. My primary workong outline is 34 pages of 11 point single spaced writing. I drill down to the beat level, and try to map out each one. Then when I want to change something, it’s easy to see what else it impacts and how I have to accommodate it. This has proven extremely helpful as I delete scenes and add point of view characters.
That’s all for tonight, folks. Hopefully more to come soon.
Hold your mouth for the war
Use it for what it’s for
Speak the truth about me
Determined- Pantera, Mouth for War