Once Upon A Geek – Military Sci-Fi Novels


Van Allen Plexico and The Irredeemable Shag find their joy discussing military science fiction novels, how we found the genre, why we love it, favorite classics, and lesser known authors.  Plus, Van shares the intel on his own upcoming military sci-fi book, ALPHA/OMEGA!

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22 responses to “Once Upon A Geek – Military Sci-Fi Novels

  1. Great episode, Shagg and Van. Sci-fi military books aren’t high on my priority list to read, but I have read a few over the years.
    Ender’s Game was one I really enjoyed, primarily due to my being a teen when I first read it and I could relate to the young protagonists. Most recently I read Old Man’s War, mostly because both Shagg and a friend from high school praised Scalzi online within a day of each other. I’m glad I caved to their peer pressure. It was a great read. Again, it was the characters that drew me in rather than the military action.
    I do have to say, it was a little weird hearing Van talk about something other than Babylon 5. I have been listening to him and Andy Fix discuss one of my favorite shows for the past few years now. That being said, it didn’t surprise me in the least to hear that Shagg and Van met at Dragon Con.
    Thank you both for providing some entertaining discussion to listen to this afternoon.

    1. Paul – So glad you know Van from his other podcasts! He’s a fantastic podcaster!! And I’m thrilled you enjoyed OLD MAN’S WAR! If you liked the characters, the subsequent books might be of interest. Scalzi builds fascinating new characters in each volume!

  2. Great episode, tackling an on-again, off-again genre that I read.

    The theory of British MilSciFi vs. American MilSciFi is interesting, and one that sparks many ideas — especially in the realm of TTRPGs. That being said, like Shagg, I’ve shyed away from the Warhammer 40k books as a rule, because I didn’t know much about the lore for 40k. I did use to read the early wargame rules and source material, but it didn’t lead me to play it (and thus no interest in reading). Very different with the Warhammer Fantasy TTRPG and series of novels, but I digress —

    I will try picking those “Sharpe-ish” Warhammer books, but they’re ridiculously expensive via Amazon for some reason. Meanwhile, will check out other books mentioned to dive back into the genre.

    1. Van’s British vs American MilSciFi theory is fascinating, isn’t it!?!? I’ve been on the look out for Dan Abnett Warhammer 30K books in used book stores. No luck yet. Might have to cave and read digitally.

  3. Shag, I’m only a few minutes into this, and I’m enjoying it despite Van’s support of Auburn University. But I wanted to add some detail to your memory of when you first heard of the Parker novels and Darwin Coke’s adaptation of them. It was 20 March 2022, when I emailed you at the JLI podcast gushing about them. Also, Van’s Parker fandom makes his innate War Eagle-ness so much easier to accept. FYI, Paul Hix loves them, too.

    1. Paul loves the Parker novels, not the Auburn Tigers. Australian doesn’t always mean crazy.

      (It usually does, though.)

    2. “Darwin Coke” should be “Darwyn Cooke.” I blame autocorrect, but then I blame autocorrect for cancer and world hunger, so you know– grain of salt.

      1. Captain Entropy – Your fingers were just having a day! LOL! Since recording that episode, I did pick up the first Darwyn Cooke PARKER adaptation! Can’t wait to read it! And thanks for reminding me of your PARKER email!

  4. Super interesting conversation, though I admit “military SF” has never been my thing. There’s a lot I DON’T consider “military”, just sf that features a military element, a war, etc. I know it’s not popular to like an L.Ron Hubbard book, but Battlefield Earth was also seminal for me, Shag, and I don’t consider it military sf. Not Dune. Nor Star Trek novels even if they sometimes dip in the Dominion War.

    I read Pournelle’s first Janissaries book, which is totally military sf, but once they’re on the planet, really low tech, so maybe you wouldn’t count it. I didn’t then jump on the two next books (I got them all decades ago in a used book store for a song). So I wasn’t lying on social media when I said I couldn’t name a single title. It’s probably because my definition is too narrow (or that I read such books so long ago, I’ve forgotten that’s what they were).

    But love the American vs, British argument. I don’t think it’s JUST for “military” sf, I think the definition might fight with a few tweaks to other types of sf.

    1. Battlefield Earth is soooooo good! And agreed, I don’t consider it military sci-fi. I was just saying if DUNE qualifies as military sci-fi, then and only then would Battlefield Earth also qualify.

      Glad you enjoyed the discussion!

  5. Great conversation, and I think this is the best guest from Alabama you’ve had on the show since the Ted Lasso episode. I agree with everything both of you said about what’s behind the appeal of military sci-fi. I think the Warhammer 30K premise sounds interesting because you can do it as a religious metaphor for corruption (and falling prey to corruption because you think you’re shiny and good — Galatians 6:1) or as a metaphor for conventional warfare versus warfare by other means.

    My favorite of the books you mentioned (that I’ve read) was Ender’s Game. I was a cadet in a military academy full of (somewhat older) gifted kids when I read it, so it spoke to me. And Alpha/Omega sounds great — especially Omega, which sounds like it’s about unconventional warfare, as the DoD defines it. Thanks, as always, for telling us where we might find our joy!

  6. This may be the best episode you’ve done. I really enjoyed it. Great guest, great topic. Pitching Van’s book as, “Galactica meets Space 1999” certainly made me want to buy it!

    1. Andy – “This may be the best episode you’ve done”? Wow, that’s high praise, especially considering YOU were on episode 2!!! And I knew BSG/Space 1999 would grab your interest specifically! LOL!

  7. Shag,

    So, I’m not a fan of military science fiction, but I’m always fascinated to hear what people like or dislike about a particular literary genre. Especially when those speaking are as knowledgeable as your guest. I found Van’s insights to be very interesting and informative.

    I am curious though, Shag, to know what you noticed in your second reading of The Expanse that made you like it. And why did you not like it after your first reading?

    1. Steve – Thanks for listening and the nice compliments for my guest! Van was fantastic.

      With reading The Expanse, I’m having a hard time putting my finger on why I struggled the first time. Just speculating here… but in the book the “space zombies” came across a lot more like sludgy monsters, whereas in the show they came across as infected humans. Also, the variation in writing styles for chapters (due to having 2 writers) may have put me off. There is definitely some slower parts of the book, but they didn’t bother me the second time around. Finally, I may have simply enjoyed the 2nd reading more because I knew where it was going. Not sure, but thanks for asking!

  8. I do have a question in the podcast the x-wing books where mentioned does any one know if you can start any where with that series of books or does have to start at book 1 ? Also I looked up that old man’s war series shag mentioned definitely gonna have to look into picking up book one of that series in the future.

    1. Hi Bucky – Thanks for listening. For the STAR WARS X-WING books, I’d recommend starting with Michael Stackpole’s first book. The first four books form a story arc, so I think you might enjoy reading those four in order. Also, glad OLD MAN’S WAR interested you!

  9. Hey, Shag – always a joy to hear a new episode, even if the topic isn’t my thing. I wanted to reassure you as a fan of Heinlein your take on Moon is a Harsh Mistress isn’t unfounded, as I found the language a slog as well. The only reason I got through it was because it was an assignment for a college course on Science Fiction and Fantasy.
    Also, big thumbs up to John Scalzi, although I mostly read his non-fiction and non-military stuff. If you haven’t seen them, a few of his more lighthearted but still meaningful stories have been adapted for Love, Death & Robots over on Netflix. I particularly enjoy the Three Robots episodes.

    Thanks again, can’t wait for next time!

    1. Hi Keroleen – Thanks for the support on the language in THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS!

      Thanks for the tip about the John Scalzi Netflix stories!! I forgot to mention on the show he was also the Creative Consultant on one of my favorite shows, STARGATE UNIVERSE!

      Thanks for listening!

  10. Back in my college and grad school days, I was big into the BattleTech novels. (If those aren’t considered military sci-fi, then they are as close as I’ve ever gotten to the genre). I would spend many a weekend hunting for the next book in that series at my local Half Price Books. Actually, my first encounter with Michael Stackpole’s work was through his BattleTech novels, and it was because I enjoyed them so much that I gave his X-Wing series a try (and promptly fell in love with those stories as well).

    Thanks for another amazing episode. I learned about a lot of authors and books that I’d never heard of before.

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