Thursday, June 7, 2012

Gung Ho!

My main character actually has
a lot in common with
Briareos Hecatonchires
from the Appleseed manga.
Yesterday, I had to cover the reception desk here at our department. It’s an unenviable job, and no one likes to do it, mainly because it’s just so boring. The only task I usually get is to answer the phone, and direct the call to somewhere else. And yesterday I was there for an hour and half.

So, I decided to write something. Something new that I hadn’t started yet, but I had been thinking about off and on for a bit. A story about a futuristic grunt. I love military sci-fi, and have read quite a bit of it (though not as much as I would like). Unfortunately, the stuff out there is not all good.

The biggest problem I have with a lot of military sci-fi is the lack of technical accuracy. I mean, sure, it’s sci-fi, so it doesn’t need to be accurate to real-world military, but there should be some elements that give it that “realistic” feel. I actually see this in movies more often than in fiction, but the problem is still valid. Little things like rank, grooming standards (facial hair and haircuts), and lingo. Not to mention military tactics.

Take Heinlein’s Starship Troopers as an example. In the book, he kind of glosses over a lot of the military details, focusing on the socio-political aspects of the war, and on the characterizations. But the movie, despite it being one of my favorites, falls desperately short in many technical areas. The Basic Training sequence is all jacked up. Haircuts are wrong, the layout of the compound is ludicrous (who puts an open live-fire range in the MIDDLE of a training compound?). And then there’s the battle-sequences. Apparently the Mobile Infantry teaches the ancient Persian “Swarming Mob” formation.

In a lot military sci-fi, particularly that which focuses on grunts and ground-pounders, it should be pretty easy to avoid this. Basically, Infantry tactics haven’t really changed much since WWII. That’s 70 years of history. So, if your story takes place 70 years from now, it stands to reason that, while technology will no doubt advance, and even the nature of battlefields will change, the core principals of military training and execution will remain largely intact.

In my story, I will attempt to avoid these pitfalls, while also avoiding saturating it with technical details that are just boring to the average reader (John Ringo, anyone?). I have introduced the main character, and have a basic plot in my head. I’m mining previous story ideas that petered out for things like the “bad guys” and some of the technical aspects. Oh, and lots of kick-ass action and carnage, infantry-style! I suspect it will be novella-length when all is said and done.


Charles Gramlich said...

I'm looking forward to seeing what you do with the genre, man.

Ken said...

Interesting read. I actually went so far as to talk to a friend in the Marines for some weapon/tech accuracy. My mind kinda went numb... Learned a lot though.