I’m a huge Mil-SF (military science fiction) fan. I have been since I discovered Drake and Ringo and I haven’t looked back. I find I’m much more partial to the books by those two authors: epic, ground battles, and the struggle of the common soldier. The grand sweeping space battles tend to leave me cold. But as I am watching my friend Amanda Green deal with reviews on her Mil-SF novel published under a male penname, I am beginning to question my own decisions to write Mil-SF. Like Amanda, I come from a military family, have been exposed heavily to the culture, and studied it for years. She’s better prepared for this than I am, though, and still, she gets reviews from people who know that a woman wrote the book through her open penname, excoriating her for daring to write SF or Mil-SF as a woman.
There is no reason femaleness should preclude being able to write authentic military fiction. What there is is a strong sense of rebellion against having all-female casts pushed down their throats, and fans who have had enough of improbable females in combat settings. But the lashing out needs to some under restraint. Equality and respect as I always argue for. Give Vengeance for Ashes an honest, unbiased read, and see what you think.
Keep in mind something else: her book, my book, and the other book I’m mentioning because it’s on a really good sale (it’s an omnibus edtion for only a dollar, folks, how can you resist that?) are all science ficion. Far from being a representation of the military here, now, it is an attempt to extrapolate outward and forward.
James’s book in particular plays homage to the traditional aspects of the military, with archaic terminology. He also addresses the seemingly impenetrable civilian incomprehension of duty and honor.
Amanda’s book (as Sam Schall) addresses that concept even more closely: when a military officer, betrayed by her political masters, is offered the chance to serve again, what to do?
I find myself musing over the concept of attempting, as a female to break into the difficult field of Mil-SF. Could I do it under my own name, or should I hide under a masculine pretense to avoid the ignorant scorn? Well, I have a while before I’m done with this book to decide. I’ll be watching to see what happens to Sam Schall.