What’s in a Genre: Military Fiction

by | Jan 9, 2015

Last Updated:
Jan 9, 2015

When I started this series of ‘What’s in a Genre’ I expected to be researching definitions to clarify what a reader expected when they chose a category. I didn’t realize how many genres would have such fuzzy boundaries!

Military fiction is another of those. What I thought would be a five minute “yup, it’s a story involving the military” ended up being a forty-five minute diversion to blogs, Wikipedia, Goodreads lists, and some pensive moments.

The first surprise is that there is a split between military fiction and military science fiction. Who knew?

Book Country insists that military fiction is a fictionalized narrative of a real war and historical accuracy is important. Huh, that isn’t at all what I was picturing. Then I stumbled upon military science fiction.

According to Wikipedia, military science fiction is a sci fi story where the main characters are part of a military organization or involved in military activity. The part that really caught my attention was:

  • Traditional military values of bravery, sacrifice, sense of duty, and camaraderie are emphasized, and the action is usually described from the point of view of a soldier or officer. Typically, the technology is more advanced than that of the present and described in detail. In some stories, however, technology is fairly static, and weapons that would be familiar to present-day soldiers are used, but other aspects of society have changed. For example, women may be accepted as equal partners for combat roles.

THIS sounds like the definition I was expecting and hoping for. Not only are women accepted as equal partners in combat (and military leadership!), but the concept that technology isn’t all advanced, instead society is altered, fits my WIP perfectly! Except I’ve already ruled out sci fi as a main genre for Friends of my Enemy in the post on the definition of sci fi as a genre! Well drats.

Military fantasy scifi? I thought I was writing a genre mishmash!

Military fantasy scifi? I thought I was writing a genre mishmash!

But this feels like such a close fit. Which is what got me skimming recommended military fiction books on Goodreads. Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, Red Storm Rising, Patriot Games, Rainbow Six, and Clear and Present Danger all lead the list. OK, those are not even close to the book I’m writing. The military science fiction list is a little more akin to what I’m working on, but still I wouldn’t compare Friends of my Enemy to Dune, Ender’s Game, or Starship Troopers!

I would compare it to other dystopian novels where fighting to change a controlled way of life is expected. Sort of like Hunger Games! Surprisingly, on both the Goodreads list of genres readers have shelved the Hunger Games and on Amazon’s listing of Mocking Jay, military or military science fiction doesn’t even make the cut. Dystopian is there, as is action and adventure, and science fiction. Science Fiction wasn’t the first genre that came to mind with the Hunger Games series. After all, Katniss used a bow! BUT… there is a lot of technology in that world, and without it the games couldn’t exist!

Which makes me rethink the genre for Friends of my Enemy. There is only a small amount of futuristic technology, but it is a very important bit! Still the problem might not be that Friends of my Enemy or even Hunger Games and Divergent shade toward the sci fi, but that we are missing a genre: military dystopian?

Or is dystopian, by definition, also military?

I guess without a military dystopian genre, I will label Friends of my Enemy as military science fiction. Soldiers and military action comprise three quarters of the plot – the other quarter being the ever so important problematic dystopian government, of course!

So yeah to finding another genre for my WIP… and maybe even coming up with a new sub genre. 😉

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Written by: Autumn

Autumn is a best selling indie author, conservationist, & world traveler with plans for many more adventures both real and fantastical! She is currently settled in the wilds of Maine with her small dragonish dog and husband, searching for a portal to another world.

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