military sf

ASK THE READERS | What is the best science fiction for people who “serve” in the military? Thumbnail
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Hint Hint

That’s what i09 asked their readers yesterday. More specifically, they wanted to know what is “the best science fiction to read or watch if you’re actually serving in the military. … What kind of SF gets you through the day (and night)?”

You can guess what sort of suggestions io9’s typical readers will come up with. Or you could brave the comments to find out.

But I’m sure we libertarians would have some quite different suggestions.

We wouldn’t be asking what kind of science fiction gets soldiers engaged in unnecessary, counterproductive, imperialist wars through the day (and night). We wouldn’t be asking what sort of fiction soothes their consciences (if they feel any guilt at all) or reinforces their misguided patriotism. Or what merely helps them pass the time while keeping their minds off of the rigors of war or how much they miss their loved ones.

No, we would ask what kind of science fiction would prick their consciences and awaken them to what their “service” really means:
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MOVIE REVIEW | Battle: Los Angeles Thumbnail

Aaron Eckhart plays SSgt. Michael Nantz

Battle: Los Angeles

One way to determine just how predisposed one is to sci-fi is by comparing one’s opinion of Battle: Los Angeles with one’s opinion of Black Hawk Down. This opportunity is now available to theater-goers because the former movie was made by taking the old reels of the latter movie and digitally inserting aliens. This of course is not literally true (though it gives the good reader a very good idea of what to expect should he purchase tickets) so it’s not a perfect test. Black Hawk Down, as I recall, had some directorial flourishes and humorous moments that were absent from its sci-fi version, while the sci-fi version manages to pull more of a plot together amid all those bullets and explosions (indeed, I remember thinking, after Black Hawk Down, that the moviemakers had saved some money on production by bypassing the screenwriter at the cost of a missed opportunity to make a good movie). These variables aside, the two flicks are remarkably similar and one may take the test at theaters over the next handful of weeks.

For me, adding aliens to the plot, such as it is, went some way towards making the movie a more enjoyable experience. This should not be misconstrued as an endorsement for the movie with no reservations, merely a preference for one military action demo reel over another. As Shakespeare wrote, “If two men ride of a horse, one must ride behind.” If I am going to sit through about 100 minutes of violence and destruction by way of an armed forces recruitment video, there at least ought to be an alien invasion.

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MOVIE REVIEW | Aliens Thumbnail

This time, it’s war.

Aliens Movie Poster

It is possible, however unlikely, that I could shuffle a deck of cards, lay them face down on a table and, in dealing to you the top five, deliver a royal flush. If I dealt to 649,740 people, the odds are good that at least one of them would get poker’s strongest hand, but to the one who actually got it, it would seem almost miraculous, more than he deserved. The cinematic equivalent of a royal flush is what the Alien trilogy received as first a young Ridley Scott, then a young James Cameron, and finally a young David Fincher were chosen to direct its films (some are occasionally moved to insist that there were four Alien movies. I must ask the good reader to accept my assurance that there was no fourth film; any lingering memories of such a thing are probably due to a bad dream).

By all rights, Aliens should have been unremarkable. Following a classic with a classic is next to impossible. Francis Ford Coppola did it, but he followed his own work and brought his same style and vision back to the tale. Aliens would be directed by a Canadian — a near-American! — who was going off a British film that had revolutionized a genre. Although the first installment left unanswered questions, it was not fashioned in such a way that a sequel naturally sprang from its story. For more on what such a situation is likely to produce, the reader may watch the sequels to Psycho and Jaws. If he wishes to explore the top end of the Bell Curve of this particular demographic, he should check out 2010 (The Empire Strikes Back might conceivably be added, but Lucas was still intimately involved with that project and, at any rate, in this reviewer’s humble yet obdurate opinion, Episode V is decidedly inferior to Episode IV).

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