Last week, here in the US, we celebrated Veterans Day. It’s kind of funny actually because it seems as if any holiday that has a particular national slant has become an occasion to honor veterans. For instance I saw a number of posts about veterans on Labor Day! Well, no, I wanted to say, this is the day we honor workers as opposed to bosses or people in service-oriented jobs. But that’s OK. I don’t think veterans can get enough recognition.
At any rate, the real Veterans Day falls on November 11 every year and is an outgrowth of what was originally called Armistice Day. The holiday celebrated the peace treaty ending World War I, when it was still called The Great War. In 1938 that holiday became a national commemoration of veterans, not to be confused with Memorial Day celebrated in May which honors those who died in the service of their country.
Little did the people back in 1938 imagine how many wars were in our future or how many more people would serve in the military and become veterans.
In thinking about the military, I had to wonder about the place of armed forces in speculative stories. Perhaps most famous are the Storm Troopers of Star Wars, but other stories, particularly dystopian fantasy such as Hunger Games, include a strong military—as part of the side of evil. In contrast, those fighting injustice are usually less organized, more determined, a bit rag-tag, but extremely effective.
In the world of fantasy, the military represented in Lord Of The Rings is not so different. Sauron’s forces have a hierarchical structure, and they seem well-equipped and organized, though clearly not as uniform as the Storm Troopers of The Empire.
In contrast, those fighting Sauron were a loose coalition, uncertain who was the real leader or what their primary goal should be. They were clearly over matched until Aarogan and Frodo turned the tide.
I’m trying to think of stories that have the military on the side of good. Some, such as Jill Williamson’s Blood of Kings series, have two armed forces in conflict. Patrick Carr’s Staff and Sword series also depicted various armed forces colliding with one another. On the other hand, Paul Regnier’s Space Drifters series seems to align with the traditional “organized military is on the side of evil” format.
What other speculative stories depict military forces? Do both sides have trained and armed troops, or is one vastly superior in numbers and power, only to be confronted by a band of rebels who are out “gunned” and out manned, but who fight well in spite of the odds against them?
More appropriate to Veterans Day, do any speculative stories feature veterans? Or does the story end when the war is over?
Give us your best recommendations for books with one type of military or the other as a key component and any that feature veterans.