Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Jul 16, 2007

Military Science Fiction/Fantasy Tropes

I mentioned this genre briefly in my last post and I thought I would go a bit more in-depth. I'm not a big fan of the "Military" sub-genre in fantasy and science fiction because, although most of what I have seen evidences a great deal of benevolence, the books also seem to have exactly the same plot. It goes a little something like this:

A mind-numbingly exhaustive description of opposing factions, political structures, houses, animals that BY GOD cannot have the same name or body structure as any actual Earth mammal (unless the author is Mercedes Lackey) but DAMN they sure ACT just like an Earth mammal, vehicles, weaponry, alliances, military units, and matters arcane. This description vies with novels like War and Peace and Les Miserables for complexity.

Reader: You aren't seriously expecting me to remember all that, are you? And why do several of the factions have very similar names?

Author: Shh! No talking!

At some point during this description, the protagonists are introduced:

Main Protagonist (MP): Hi! I'm misunderstood! Also, I have angst!

Secondary Protagonist (SP): Shut up, you pansy!

MP: Jerkface!

SP: Momma's Boy!

A disaster ensues which forces them to work together, during which the MP kicks major butt.

SP: Wow, you kick major butt!

MP: Yeah, I have (pick one: implants/magical ability/special forces training}.

SP: Apparently I misjudged you!

MP: You aren't so bad yourself!

SP: You know, it's going to get awkward if we keep acting seperately. It could slow the action down or something!

MP: Yeah! Let's form the Protagonist Mutual Admiration Society (PMAS)!

PMAS: Okay!

Another battle, rife with exquisitely detailed descriptions of gore, carnage, destruction, and the names of many political factions/creatures/weapons/military maneuvers.

PMAS: Whew! War is hell!

Reader: No shit.

Antagonists: We're evil!

Reader: Where the heck did you come from?!

Antagonists: Little do you know, but we are actually behind the gore, carnage, destruction, etc.

Reader: What? Why?

Antagonists: We just get off on being evil! Watch us smirk in a self-satisfied way at how invincble we are!

Reader: Is it just me, or do they seem kind of stupid?

Author: Shh! No talking!

Another battle which is amazingly similar to the previous battle.

Antagonists: Ouch!

PMAS: Bitch! Where's my money!

Ambiguous Guys (AG): Wow, they kick ass! Hey, ass-kickers! Let us welcome you to our home in a fashion that leaves serious doubts as to our motivations/allegiances!

PMAS: Okay!

AG: We've noticed that you have some serious firepower there!

PMAS: Yes, and we know all about military tactics, too!

AG: Hmm . . . perhaps you can assist us in defeating our enemies!

PMAS: Okay!

More battles, each more drawn-out, gory, and nerve-wracking than the last.

AG: You are getting your butts kicked here! What are you going to do!

PMAS: Arm the locals!

AG: Yes, that always works! You guys are so cool, can we join the PMAS?

PMAS: Okay!

Training Montage.


Secondary Protagonist: (dies)

Main Protagonist: OMG you killed Kenny! You bastards! KILL THEM ALL!!!

The Epic Battle of more than fifty pages of exquisite descriptions of carnage, gore, etc. etc. etc. ensues.

Reader: Zzzzzzzzz.

Author: (kicks Reader)

Reader: Huh? What?

Author: You're missing the best part!

PMAS: Yeah! We won!


PMAS: (smacks)Dude, you're being evil!

MP: Oops. Um, can I go back to having angst then?

PMAS: . . .

PMAS: Fine, kid, knock yourself out.

MP: (smacks himself in the forehead and falls to the ground unconscious)

PMAS: That was great! Well, the book's over, let's stand around congratulating ourselves until the Author wraps this up!

Author: Little do they know that another, bigger evil army awaits them!

PMAS/Reader: WHAT!?!

Author: Come on, I've got four more books worth of epic gory descriptions here! And I haven't gotten past C in my Military Arcana dictionary!


BryanG said...

Very funny! :)

I never read any military SF until recently - 3 by John Ringo (Counsel Wars series) and 2 by John Scalzi (Old Man's War, Ghost Brigades). I liked the Scalzi books. The Ringo books were just OK, I recognized some of the MSF cliches you illustrated.

Jennifer Snow said...

I actually reviewed Old Man's War a while back, I thought it was reasonably good.

I'm glad you thought it was funny, I have a mixed history of trying to be funny on purpose. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. However, I can be very funny when I'm not trying, so I guess it works out.

AlidCat said...

*Le sigh*
Its so true, and inaccurate only in the fact that the little mini-plot you have going on there also applies to fantasy rpgs (the whole going back to being angsty, is told as "hey look! we preserved the peace, meaning a return to the norm, and a complete segregation from that 'other' evil influence, yay!), and alot of comics. Maybe we could set up a madlib for the lot o' them:)

Jennifer Snow said...

I get sick of the idea that you can never really solve anything, sometimes.