Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Since I’ve been reading Military SF lately —

This post at DIAL H FOR HOUSTON caught my eye:

Today’s offering? Rick Shelley’s Lieutenant Colonel.

If you didn’t figure it out from the title, or the cover, Lieutenant Colonel is Military Sci-Fi (Mil-SF for short), a genre devoted to chronicling how and why people are gonna shoot at each other in the future. And, also unsurprisingly, Lieutenant Colonel is the fifth book in Shelley’s “DMC” series, with each earlier book having sequential titles like Lieutenant, then Major, then Captain, and so on. Not exactly creative, but what can you do.

In any case, this series centers around a dude named Lon Nolan as he works his way up through the ranks in the Dirigent Mercenary Corps (from which we get the “DMC” acronym). Lon is your typical officer– professional, honorable, and … kind of boring. Dude makes Honor Harrington seem like Hamlet. Wait, no, that’s not a good analogy, ’cause Harrington gets shit done. But I digress.

I suppose I might perfectly well like the series in question, but here’s the part I wanted to share with you all:

Hah hah hah!

Let me see, one of my favorite Military SF series is Tonya Huff’s Valor series. Okay: Fake swear words, check. Primitive alien savages, yep, check that box in the first book. Bugs, probably some of the Other species are like bugs. Power armor, check. I would be surprised if there’s never a Sun Tsu quote, but I don’t remember any in particular. On the other hand, the cover features someone with a gun, but it’s not a laser rifle — shoots bullets of some kind, I believe. And the series isn’t published by Baen — it’s DAW (I just checked). No monarchy, whether presented as a good thing or otherwise . . . nope, don’t think you can win at Bingo with this one. I can think of some that come much closer — I wonder if this Bingo board was put together with an eye toward Falkenberg’s Legion?

There are a few boxes missing, though:

At some point we see a reprise of The Battle of Rorke’s Drift. I’ve seen that in at least three novels, probably more. At this point I can recognized Rorke’s Drift a mile away.

At some point someone says something like, “We’ll make a solitude and call it peace.” It’s a good quote. Very effective. I’m sure I’d use it myself if I were writing a MilSF story.

I’m sure there are others, too, but those are the ones that spring to mind.

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7 Comments Since I’ve been reading Military SF lately —

  1. Pete Mack

    Rorke’s Drift, yes, or perhaps Duffer’s Drift, or Camerone.
    “You are soldiers in order to die, and I am sending you can die” — Baen Author.
    Another phenomenon is Napoleonic war in Space. (It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s certainly a venerable tradition. Charles Stross did a good sendup in Singularity Sky: the Napoleonic fleet gets eaten by nanotech.)

  2. Rachel

    Yeah, Napoleonic war was of course David Weber’s thing in the Honor Harrington series — but hey, if you design the technology juuuust right, it’s plausible. Or reads as plausible, which is all you really need…

  3. Allan Shampine

    Getting the technology right is always tricky!
    A common problem with man vs. alien stories, particularly ones where the earth gets invaded, is handling different technology levels. That is, the sides need to be sufficiently evenly matched for there to be a story. That’s pretty tricky under the best of circumstances, and when you have Earth getting invaded in anything like the modern era, it’s particularly difficult.

  4. Craig N.

    There definitely ought to be a Boot Camp entry (that was fully half of the MilSF prototype) as well as Allan’s Implausibly Equal Technology, but I admit I’m not instantly thinking of plenty more options to fill out a full bingo sheet.

    Isn’t it usually “They make a desert and call it peace”? It’s translated from the Latin anyway, so I guess it could go both ways. Maybe generalize it to “Classical Latin quote,” in fact, to parallel Sun Tzu.

  5. Rachel

    I grant you, equalizing technology is hard to do plausibly. But making the aliens stupid is not a very good workaround imo. It’s a blatant weight on the human side of the scale and it’s lazy plotting. What I’d do is bounce ideas off my clever friends until I came up with something better.

  6. Pete Mack

    I think David Drake does a much better Napoleonic War in Space. He does it by explicitly making the technology ridiculous, rather than trying to hand-wave it to plausibility. But then he gets to make a series in honor of Patrick O’Brian, which is a fine thing to do.

  7. Rachel

    I’ve never actually gotten into Drake’s work. But I like the idea of just making the technology ridiculous. And of course an homage to Patrick O’Brian is always a fine idea.

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