Wednesday 7 September 2011

Military Science Fiction and the Overcoat of Subgenre

I read a great military science fiction story in Analog, the other day. What struck me was how character driven it was. All the science fictiony bits I thought I could pull off. (I often do this, if I read a story I like, I immediately wonder if I could have written it.)

So, I'm in the middle of a new military science fiction short story. In a moment of inspired originality, I've decided to take elements from one of the most famous battles of all time: Battle of Thermopylae, you know, The Battle of the 300.

It's coming along very nicely with 2000 of first draft finished in a couple of hours. Even though it's going to be character driven, it's still a lot more action based than I usually write. I've got a hive mind element in there, which is leading quite nicely to questions about authority and command. I'm  finding the mechanics of action quite challenging.  So it's good for me.

And because it's military science fiction I'm having to include conflict, something that doesn't always find an overt way into my stories.

It's interesting how the sub-genre shapes story. Even thought there's scope to play, I'm hoping to incorporate some possibly over the top lyrical stuff.

So, my kind readers. Do you stick to the same genre/sub genre? Do you find the conventions useful or restrictive? Any military science fiction writers out there? If so, I'd love it if you could post some links to resources or your stories.


  1. I'm all over the place, usually. I currently have a completely mainstream story on submission, as well as a modern ghost story, a paranormal horror, a soft sci-fi tale, a New Weird medieval fantasy, and a vampire story.

    My current WIP is pretty much sword & sorcery.

    Conventions have always intrigued me. I like how they define the story's genre no matter what the subject matter is. A dramatic piece about losing a parent will be a science fiction if there's a spaceship involved, or a horror story if something jumps out from behind a wall, or a fantasy if it takes place in some vaguely medieval castle where horses are the primary mode of transportation and letters are sent by raven.

    I like them because I've always wanted to break them. I used to dream that one day I would tackle all of the mainstays--vampire, zombie, space opera, high fantasy, etc.--and shatter everyone's preconceptions of each particular genre. I'm more modest today, but I still strive to be as different as possible by reversing or totally abandoning conventions in favor of something new.

  2. Oh yes, I love playing around with the genres too. Such fun. I like the sound of new weird medieval fantasy.

    I think traditional fantasy could definately do with a little stirring up. I like crime, too. I'm trying to include noir elements, into well, SF (that's not new) but into fantasy-- that would be interesting. And in fact is the premis of the Damnations and Dames anthology. Got my story in for that one. But I'd like to do some more.

  3. You got me thinking here. Shame on you.

    I wanted to say that the different subgenres were like suits; some I fit into naturally, some uncomfortably, and some not at all. But then I realized I don't really write conscious genre. I write, and then discover it fits into a genre (generally Swords & Sorcery, urban fantasy, dark fantasy or horrorly type stuff). When I consciously try to write genre stuff (specifically sci-fi) I get all rashy and sweaty and look for an excuse to leave the date in the middle of the appetizer.

  4. That's fascinating Michael. I always know what genre I'm going to be writing. And often it acts as seed for me. Like this story, I thought: I will write a military SF story. I'm jealous of your way, sounds more authentic.