This is the first of my new Book Recipes series: a short look at how silly and cliched different genres can be – or at least, how people think they can be. To kick things off I’m looking at military science fiction. Pack your laser gun and let’s get started!
- One lantern-jawed hero
- One beautiful yet feisty token female character
- One authority figure you can ignore
- An assorted mix of sidekicks, all of whom can be described as ‘wise-cracking’
- So many lasers
- All the consonants from the awkward bits of the alphabet
- A generous helping of background aliens
- A thinly-veiled political allegory
- One sneering villain (cape-wearing optional)
- Give your lantern-jawed hero a manly, monosyllabic name, a random military title and a big gun.
- Have the authority figure send him on a mission. This will be the only time the hero actually listens to his boss.
- Time for your political allegory. Put it in space, change the names a bit and you’re good to go.
- Introduce your hero to the female lead. They’ll disagree at first, but sexily.
- Battle plans. These are very serious and important, so you must use the word ‘glower’ and make sure that people bang their fists on the table.
- The villain appears. There’s a tense conversation where smirking is involved.
- MORE FIGHTING. The sidekicks can come too.
- The hero returns – wounded! Use this opportunity to have a flirty yet meaningful discussion with the female lead, instead of tending to the shoulder wound all heroes get when they’re not really in serious trouble but want to look tough anyway.
- Want to spice things up? Why not kill off a sidekick?
- The hero and heroine confess their love/attraction/general unspecified tingly feelings…
- …just before the final battle! Don’t forget to keep ignoring the boss.
- LASERS EVERYWHERE
- ALIENS AND THAT
- Was the hero given a specific order? Time to COMPLETELY DISREGARD IT BECAUSE INSTINCT
- Time for the final showdown! Punctuate the hero and villain’s tense conversation with bits of the fight. A kick in the teeth is as good as a paragraph break.
- Worried about the female lead? Don’t be. She’s either captured by now or helping, but from a safe and feminine distance.
- The villain is defeated! Hurrah!
- Make sure your hero is proved right about everything, ever. Medals help with this, as does making out with the female lead.
THE END. Serve with a generous dusting of lasers.
- Finding it difficult to write a realistic setting? Just don’t bother. Tell your readers where and when they are at the beginning of every scene. It’ll look like a ‘star-date’ and it’s less work!
- Not sure what rank to give the hero? It doesn’t really matter, as long as it sounds sexy. Captain and Lieutenant are always safe bets, but anything with the word ‘Brigadier’ in front of it is just going to sound crusty.
- Stuck on naming your planets? Don’t be! Just smash together some of those awkward consonants and say it’s an alien language.
- Want to show how tough your hero and his friends are? Only ever refer to them by surname. The one exception is attractive women – people might forget how hot they are if you treat them just like everyone else!
- Struggling with describing futuristic technology? Say hello to your new best friends: the prefixes ‘holo’, ‘cyber’ and ‘techno’. Slap them on the front of any random word and it’s immediately clear that we are in THE FUTURE.
- Having trouble with your alien background characters? Just make them like people, but green (or blue). Actually coming up with your own unique culture completely from scratch that depends on an ecosystem, society and physiology that is utterly different from humanity would be haaaaaaarrrrrd.
And here’s one I prepared earlier…
The Pinnacle, 4570 AD
Somewhere near the Krebluk System
“Cole,” the Commander said, leaning back in his holo-chair, “do you know why I asked you here?”
Captain Brett Cole, 7th Laser Gunner Corps, stared straight ahead, his chin casting a small shadow on the Commander’s desk. He tried not to look at the red-haired Dr River Kamara, who stood behind the Commander’s chair, holding unnecessary papers and pouting. “No, sir.”
“Dammit, Cole!” the Commander yelled, slamming his fist on his cyber-desk. Something sparked. “You know damn well why you’re here! You took a risk! You snuck into the Kmyth base on Krebluk-6, armed with nothing but a small spoon, and single-handedly blew up Imperator Qrump’s technoport access generator! You put us all at risk! What would the Star Fleet have done if you’d gotten yourself captured?”
River gasped, sexily.
“I didn’t get captured, Commander,” Cole said, “instead, I blew up the whole damn base. Qrump’ll be sitting on his ass for months.”
River leaned forward. It was hot. “Commander,” she breathed, “you know I disagree with Captain Cole’s methods. He’s unorthodox. He’s a renegade. He’s a maverick, a tall maverick who looks good covered in space dirt. But be that as it may–”
The Commander held up a hand. “Thank you, Dr Kamara. But what you fail to realise is that Cole here not only got himself wounded–”
River gasped. It was still sexy. “Wounded?”
Cole nodded. “My shoulder. It’s nothing.”
“– not only got himself wounded, but he also jeopardised our position and put the safety of the entire Star Fleet at risk. He’ll be cleaning the latrines for weeks.”
The Commander got out of his holo-chair and stared out of the technoport viewing area, his hands clasped behind his back. The great purple moon of Gyk-jyk 5 twinkled at them, nearly obscured by the harsh rocks of the Jlkusa Asteroid Belt. A Krebluk spacecraft drifted past. The driver was blue, and he made a rude gesture when he saw them staring.
“Qrump is on the move,” the Commander said. “He’s planning something. Something big. I’ll be putting a strike team together – and you, Cole, will not be anywhere near it.”
“Dammit, Cole! One more wrong move and you’re court-martialled. Do you understand me? If you go anywhere near the strike team’s secret training facility, you’re finished.”
Cole glowered at the Commander.
With one last look at River – who was still totally hot, by the way – he left the office.
He was going to break into the strike team’s secret training facility.
Take this recipe with a pinch of salt.