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Halo's Master Chief Is A Major Literary Figure

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The books tying in with the Halo game may be bringing younger readers who've never heard of Heinlein to military science fiction, says John Scalzi, author of Old Man's War. We wrote to Scalzi to ask his thoughts about the "milSF" sub-genre's prospects, and he was pretty upbeat, if not quite Souza-esque. His thoughts, below the jump.


David Drake says that the genre of military SF contracted in the late 1990s, due to too many "opportunists" jumping into the genre, and the downsizing of the U.S. military.

I freely admit to being one of those who opportunistically jumped into the genre: I wrote Old Man's War in no small part because I walked into a bookstore in late 2000, saw lots of milSF (including books by what I called the "Three Davids" — Drake, Feintuch and Weber), and said "well, I guess I'll try writing that, then." But since OMW wasn't published until 2005, I can't be blamed for anything that happened before then. Not my fault, dude.


Do you think that the genre has rebounded since then?

My impression at the moment is that military science fiction is doing fine; the sales of the sub-genre are brisk relative to most other SF sub-genres, especially if you expand "milSF" to include the Halo series of books, which are pretty much outselling everything else in SF at the moment (give or take a Star Wars tie-in). We're all still getting our clocks cleaned by fantasy, but that's par for the course these days. But in SF, milSF is chugging along fine.

Is the audience for books like Old Man's War the same as the people who were reading Drake's books in the early 90s?

I'm sure there's overlap; from what we know of OMW's audience it contains a fairly wide spectrum of readers. I'm pretty sure I and David Drake (then and now) share some readers.

Now, if we grant that the Halo books qualify as milSF (which I think we should), I doubt that there's much overlap there at all, since in the early 90s the people who are reading the Halo books today were, like, five. What Drake and other milSF folks can hope for in that case is that the readers of the Halo books do a little stretching and try other books of a milSF bent (i.e., "Hey, this doesn't have Master Chief in it, but it still might be cool.")