Science Fiction and Military Fiction, commonly sliding into the Space Opera territory. At its most basic, Military Science Fiction is Science Fiction that focuses on the military, but the genre has more specific nuances than that. The Protagonist in this genre is normally part of the chain of command (or becomes part of it in progress), while an ensemble cast is The Squad. The story is usually set against the backdrop of a large-scale (space) war but war is optional. The Science Fiction part mostly manifests in futuristic weaponry and vehicles (first of all, Cool Starships), while the organization structure is mostly based upon contemporary US or Commonwealth military. It should come as no surprise that a high percentage of MSF writers are military veterans. Often, the writers would cheat a little by having a Mildly Military organization instead of realistic military for the sake of good story. One particular subgenre of MSF in Video Games is A Space Marine Is You. Another that's especially particular (but by no means exclusive) to anime is the Real Robot Genre.
Tropes commonly used in MSF (in addition to most Military and Warfare Tropes):
- Air Jousting
- Alien Invasion
- Apocalypse How
- Arm Cannon
- Attack Drone (rapidly becoming Truth in Television)
- Boarding Party
- Boarding Pod
- Bug War
- Death Ray
- Drop Pod
- Drop Ship
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom
- Escape Pod
- Forgotten Superweapon
- Galactic Conqueror
- Humans Are Warriors
- Humongous Mecha
- Hyperspace Arsenal
- Kill Sat
- Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better
- Nuke 'em
- Person of Mass Destruction
- Powered Armor
- Putting on the Reich
- Real Robot Genre
- Rock Beats Laser
- Space Cadet
- Space Fighter
- Space Marine
- Space Navy
- Standard Sci-Fi Army
- Standard Sci-Fi Fleet
- Standard Starship Scuffle
- Super Soldier
- The War of Earthly Aggression
- Ye Olde Nuclear Silo
Works with notable Military Science Fiction elements include:
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Multiple Media Franchises
- G.I. Joe.
- Gundam, pretty much every incarnation of it, except G Gundam, Gundam X, Model Suit Gunpla Builders Beginning G, and Gundam Build Fighters.
- The Halo games, books, comics, anime mini-series, etc.
- The Mass Effect series is a mixed bag: part one is pretty clear cut, with military regulations and chain of command playing a major role in the story. In part two, however, Shepard cuts all ties to the Alliance military and goes rogue with the Cerberus, who give their agents full autonomy and only care that the job gets done—the whole "military" aspect of sci-fi quietly leaves the room. In part three, Shepard is back with the Alliance but with the Reapers attacking the galaxy, s/he is left to run around unsupervised, only occasionally reporting back to Admiral Hackett, like s/he did to the Illusive Man in the previous game.
- However, even in part one, Shepard obtains Spectre status quite quickly, at which point s/he is not tied to the Alliance military anymore. S/he technically answers to the Council, but seeing as the latter does not want to have much to do with him/her, Shepard basically acts alone, much like the conventional RPG hero/party. Considering the fact that most members of said party who are later recruited are a) aliens and b) most do not belong to any military organization (anymore) and answer only to Shepard, the "chain of command" and "military regulations part" goes out the window pretty quickly. Strictly speaking, only the prologue missions of 1 and 3 and the ending of 3 can be considered "military SF" in that sense.
- Resident Evil
- Space Battleship Yamato and her various spinoffs and adaptations, such as the live action movie and Space Battleship Yamato 2199.
- Stargate Verse. Not surprising given its Backed by the Pentagon nature.
- Starship Troopers
- Star Trek drifts in and out of the subgenre; later entries in the franchise tend to make it more explicitly military, a tendency which its original creator violently opposed.
- Star Wars, obviously.
- In the EU, the "mainline" series that fits best is Black Fleet Crisis, which is very much a Tom Clancy military/political thriller IN SPACE!
- In the Prequel Era, there's the Republic Commando Series series, following the lives of clone commandos during the Clone Wars.
- The Star Wars themed Star Wars Conquest Game Mod for Mount & Blade.
- Many of the class' stories in Star Wars: The Old Republic count, from an spy infiltrating the enemy to a smuggler making a profit from the conflict. However, it's the Republic Trooper, an elite soldier in the Republic Army, that plays this trope the straightest.
- There's also the "tangential" (that is, not featuring Han, Luke, or Leia as main characters) X-Wing Series, following the life, career, campaigns, and relationships within the elite starfighter squadrons of the universe.
- Wing Commander, particularly the novels by William Forstchen, and Wing Commander Academy.
Anime and Manga
Special mention must be made of Baen Books, which publishes Weber, Drake, Ringo, Pournelle, and Bujold, among others. Baen is probably the foremost Military Science Fiction publisher in literature. Many of Baen's authors, including Drake, Ringo, Michael Z. Williamson, and more, are former or current military.
- Antares by Michael McCollum
- Ark Royal by Christopher Nuttall
- Armor by John Steakley
- The Aux series, by David Gunn.
- Ball Lightning
- Bolo series, originally by Keith Laumer
- The Childe Cycle by Gordon R. Dickson, notably Dorsai! and Tactics of Mistake.
- The CoDominium series is the best-known of Jerry Pournelle's works, but is hardly the only example of the exquisitely well-researched military SF he writes. His bibliography also includes the lesser-known but no-less loved Janissaries series, co-authored with Roland Green.
- Confederation of Valor by Tanya Huff.
- David Drake does quite a bit of MilSF. Like with Ringo, below, he's also written in the Honor Harrington series (Drake's Honorverse short story "A Grand Tour" influenced what became the RCN series, with the dashing Captain and his librarian from Hell friend/sidekick as the primary focus). Notable Drake series (an incomplete listing):
- Dirigent Mercenary Corps by Rick Shelley.
- Dread Empire's Fall Trilogy, by Walter Jon Williams.
- Enders Game, by Orson Scott Card
- The Flight Engineer
- The Forever War
- Hellburner by C. J. Cherryh focuses on a moderately realistic Space Fighter and its crew.
- The Helmsman Saga.
- Here Be Dragons by Craig Alan.
- Kris Longknife series, by Mike Shepherd
- Tom Kratman's MilSF works, in addition to his work in Legacy of the Aldenata:
- The Lacuna series by David Adams is basically this.
- The Lensman series, by E. E. “Doc” Smith, is mostly about the adventures of individual Lensmen, but it also features major military actions involving enormous starship formations (usually laden with an overexuberant description of the scale of energies being hurled back-and-forth).
- The Lost Fleet series
- The Man Kzin Wars novels set in Larry Niven's Known Space.
- The Nameless War trilogy by Edmond Barrett
- New Kashubia Series
- Old Man's War
- John Ringo's writing currently spans multiple genres, but he started his literary career writing Military Science Fiction. The MilSF works:
- Remember To Always Be Brave
- Shadow Ops
- Sixth Column
- Star Carrier
- The Sten series, written by two men who are (respectively) ex-CIA and ex-military, craft a very cool saga about a Space Marine who eventually graduates into an Ambadassador.
- Stone King
- Takeshi Kovacs series, particularly Broken Angels.
- The Tau Ceti Agenda Series, by Travis S. Taylor
- Tour of the Merrimack, a series by R. M. Meluch
- Valhalla by Ari Bach features a chapter in the military of 2230 and eleven more chapters in a pseudo-military more militaristic than the main military.
- Theirs Not To Reason Why by Creator/Jean Johnson is a rare example with a female protagonist and an abundance of women in the supporting cast.
- The War Against the Chtorr novels by David Gerrold.
- David Weber's work is primarily in this genre, though he has written pure fantasy works. The MilSF works:
- Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold, has many elements of this, though it varies from book to book.
- Timothy Zahn has played heavily in this field. In addition to his Star Wars Expanded Universe work (his biggest claim to fame in that field probably being The Thrawn Trilogy), he's done, among others, The Cobra Trilogy and The Conquerors Trilogy.
- The History of the Galaxy series by Andrey Livadny. Most books deal with fights between human governments, factions, corporations as well as against aliens. Most protagonists tend to be members of the military (usually the Confederate fleet).
- Spots The Space Marine
- The Osmerian Conflict
- Babylon 5 had its fair share of various nasty conflicts
- Battlestar Galactica
- seaQuest DSV
- Space: Above and Beyond
- Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator
- Battle Zone 1998 and Battlezone II
- Call of Duty
- Command & Conquer:
- The Command & Conquer: Tiberian Series drifts in this direction, beginning Twenty Minutes In The Future and ending with all manner of sci-fi trappings. Especially in fic; double-especially in Tiberium Wars.
- The Command & Conquer: Red Alert Series is Denser and Wackier than Tiberian, focusing on a world altered by time traveling.
- The Contra series. At first it isn't assumed to have sci-fi elements, but the plot involves an alien invasion.
- DUST 514, a Gaiden Game of EVE Online whose backstory has capsuleer technology applied to Powered Armor instead of starships.
- Empire Earth, in the later epochs.
- First Encounter Assault Recon
- The Gears of War games, books, and comics.
- Halo: Master Chief is a Petty Officer ranked SPARTAN-II commando of the UNSC Naval Special Warfare Command.
- Heavy Weapon is a more humorous, cartoony take on the genre.
- Intrusion 2
- The MechWarrior series, set in the same universe as BattleTech.
- Metal Gear. The series involves rogue AIs, clones, as well as the titular walking tanks of the same name.
- Metal Slug. While the series doesn't start off as sci-fi, it becomes this in later sequels, which involve alien invasions and future soldiers.
- Metroid, occasionally. Samus is established as having been in the Galactic Federation Army, and Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime 2, Metroid Prime 3, and Metroid: Other M feature GF soldiers and marines as characters.
- Out Zone
- Section 8 series
- Shadow Complex
- Starsiege, and its pre-/sequels.
- Star Citizen, chiefly the "Squadron 42" storyline section.
- Time Crisis, especially the second game which involves trying to stop a Kill Sat.
- The X-COM series, which has you commanding a multinational military force to combat alien invaders.