The Vietnam Was in Military Science Fiction

by Patrick S. Baker

From the early 1960s to the 1990s, the Vietnam War dominated American military and political thought. The conflict also came to dominate military science fiction. By the 1990s, with America’s military victories in Grenada, Panama and in Desert Storm, most of the ghosts of Vietnam were finally laid to rest.
The Vietnam War is, arguably, the most controversial war in American history. The conflict was part guerilla war, or Counter-Insurgency, with America and her South Vietnamese allies trying to win the “hearts and minds” of the populace with generous foreign aid, civic construction projects, and Special Forces actions. This part of the conflict was the war of the Special Forces, of the small ambush, assassinations, and booby traps. But Vietnam was also a conventional ground war with regular American military and Army of the Republic of Vietnam units fighting conventional battles against Main Force Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army units, in battles like the one in the Ia Drang in 1965, and Hill 937, “Hamburger Hill,” in 1969. In any case, Vietnam was the first war America lost, and that defeat forced a reexamination of the United States’ role in the world.
Vietnam had an influence on the American military which was bifurcated, much like the war. One side of the split was a reluctance to intervene in other countries, especially in guerilla wars, unless the intervention was done with massive force. The other side was the idea that any war could be fought and won with the correct application of technology, or in other words, as a “techno-war.” After all, many of the military successes American forces achieved in Vietnam were directly related to the application of advanced technology. For example, Vietnam saw the first widespread military use of the helicopter, laser-guided munitions, night-vision devices, electronic sensors and the digital computer.
The war generated a number of science fictional works both written and on the screen. Some of these works explored the more universal themes of war, such as lost innocence, the loyalty of men to each other in combat, and moral questions regarding war itself. But Vietnam also produced a literature of disillusionment and bitterness, much like that of the “Lost Generation” of World War I. This new literature of cynicism discussed themes such as the morality of the military draft and whether any duty is owed to a venal and corrupted power structure, as well as disenchantment with America and her values and ideals.  
First References
The first references to Vietnam in science fiction took place in 1963, a year before the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and two years before the commitment of large American combat units to the war. Robert A. Heinlein’s Glory Road was serialized in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction from July to September 1963. The novel was published in hardcover that same year. Glory Road’s first-person narrator is Evelyn Cyril “E. C.” Gordon, usually called “Easy” or “Flash.” In the course of the novel he is renamed Oscar because of the scar on his face. Gordon is a veteran “military advisor” of an unnamed war in Southeast Asia, where he got his scar and which he describes as “…makes Florida look like a desert. Wherever you step it squishes… The bushes are filled with insects and natives who shoot at you.” Clearly Vietnam.
Glory Road is not military science fiction as such, but is described as Heinlein’s one true fantasy novel. Although Heinlein offers scientific explanations for most of the so-called magic in the novel, clearly Glory Road is a sword-and-sorcery tale. The book is not “about” Vietnam; instead the war is used as mere backstory for Gordon, as a combat veteran experienced in close combat, as he adventures with his lady love, Star, along the glory road.
The other science fiction reference to Vietnam in 1963 was The Twilight Zone episode “In Praise of Pip” (written by Rod Serling and directed by Joseph M. Newman), first broadcast on September 27, 1963. The story is one of Serling’s more sentimental. On learning that his adored son, Pip (Bobby Diamond), has been badly wounded in Vietnam, alcoholic bookie Max Phillips (Jack Klugman) experiences remorse for not being a better father. In a show of kindness, Max returns $300 to an unlucky bettor, for which Max is shot by one of his boss’s gunmen. Max kills both the shooter and his boss before stumbling to an amusement park he visited with his then young son. Max sees Pip appear as a ten-year-old boy (Billy Mumy). The park comes to life, father and son relive the past. Suddenly, Pip runs away. Max catches him, and the boy says he has to go because he is dying in Vietnam. Weeping, Max offers God to trade his life for his son’s. Max dies, but Pip survives and returns as a wounded veteran to the park.
Again, as with Glory Road, “In Praise of Pip” is not “about” the Vietnam War, but rather the war is a plot device to drive the story. Pip could have just as easily been hurt in a car accident, rather than injured in combat, as a cause for Max’s sacrifice. Many think that the character of Pip Phillips was the first Vietnam veteran to appear on a TV series, but in fact that distinction goes to the character of Lincoln Case (Glenn Corbett) in the series Route 66. Case, a former Army Ranger and veteran of Southeast Asia, became one of the two main characters of the show in March 1963.
Star Trek and 1968
As America’s role in Vietnam expanded, so did representations of the war in works of science fiction. At this same time, the various science fiction works start to split into pro-Vietnam war and anti-Vietnam war stances.  
In the course of three years and seventy-nine episodes, Star Trek discussed war a number of times. For example, the first season episode, “Balance of Terror,” was a homage to World War II submarine movies like The Enemy Below or Run Silent, Run Deep. The episode has the USS Enterprise battling an invisible Romulan raider. In “A Taste of Armageddon,” the Enterprise visits Eminiar VII, a planet fighting a war with a neighboring world, Vendikar. The conflict is actually fought virtually, through computers, with the citizens of the warring planets reporting to “disintegration booths” to meet the casualty count of the simulated attacks. In “Errand of Mercy,” the Enterprise races to the peaceful planet Organia to prevent, or resist, an invasion of that world by the Klingon Empire. Also, there are the episodes “Day of the Dove,” “The Omega Glory,” “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” and “The Savage Curtain.” While some of these episodes brushed against Vietnam and some of the concepts flowing from that war, such as the idea of the body count in “A Taste of Armageddon,” most address questions of war and peace more generally.
However, in February 1968, NBC broadcast the most blatant depiction of the war yet in science fiction with “A Private Little War,” written by Gene Roddenberry and Donald G. Ingalls (credited as Jud Crucis) and directed by Marc Daniels. In the episode, the Enterprise visits Neural, Zeta Boötis Three. Captain Kirk had surveyed Neural some thirteen years before as a young lieutenant assigned to the USS Farragut.
What Kirk found on his first visit was a peaceful planet where the humanoid inhabitants, the Villagers and the Hill People, lived side-by-side in harmony, with no technology more advanced than bows and arrows. When Kirk beams down, he sees a group of Villagers ready to ambush a Hill People hunting party. Additionally, the Villagers are using flintlock muskets, a technology they shouldn’t have yet. Kirk interrupts the ambush and reunites with Tyree, his good friend from his previous visit. Tyree is now leader of the Hill People. After an investigation, Kirk discovers the Klingons are equipping the Villagers with the advanced weapons. Some of the Hill People, particularly Tyree’s wife, Nona, want Kirk to arm them with superior weapons, like Federation phasers. But Kirk will only offer flintlocks to preserve the balance of power. Tyree does not want even the flintlocks, because he is peaceful and believes the Villagers will return to their old, peaceful ways. But when the Villagers kill Nona, he accepts the offered weapons.
In a discussion regarding the morals of the situation, McCoy and Kirk have the following exchange:

KIRK: …Bones, the normal development of this planet was the status quo between the Hill People and the Villagers. The Klingons changed that with the flintlocks. If this planet is to develop the way it should, we must equalize both sides again.
MCCOY: Jim, that means you’re condemning this whole planet to a war that may never end. It could go on for year after year, massacre after massacre.
KIRK: All right, Doctor! All right. Say I’m wrong… What is your sober, sensible solution to all this?
MCCOY: I don’t have a solution. But furnishing them firearms is certainly not the answer.
KIRK: Bones, do you remember the twentieth century brush wars on the Asian continent? Two giant powers involved, much like the Klingons and ourselves. Neither side felt they could pull out.
MCCOY: Yes, I remember. It went on bloody year after bloody year.
KIRK: What would you have suggested, that one side arm its friends with an overpowering weapon? Mankind would never have lived to travel space if they had. No. The solution is what happened back then. Balance of power.
MCCOY: And if the Klingons give their side even more?
KIRK: Then we arm our side with exactly that much more. A balance of power. The trickiest, most difficult, dirtiest game of them all, but the only one that preserves both sides.
Regardless of the politics of the episode, that is to say, whether or not the episode was anti-war or pro-war, the parallels between Neural and Indochina are glaring. Kirk actually references the Vietnam War as a “historically” equivalent situation.
In the July 1968 edition of Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Joe Poyer’s story “Null Zone” appeared. In the story, to interdict the Ho Chi Minh trail, Special Forces Lieutenant Philip Schmittzer clears the ground for an impassable “Null Zone” created by air-dropped lethal radioactive waste. This is a war-winning move by the US and brings the Communists’ war in the south to an end. “Null Zone” is less a science fiction tale and more in the mode of a Tom Clancy-like technothriller. “Null Zone” was also overtly pro-war.
In that same month, Galaxy magazine published two competing ads: one that supported the war, signed by such luminaries as Robert Heinlein and Jerry Pournelle; the other, anti-war ad, was signed by the likes of Ursula K. Le Guin, Kate Wilhelm and Judith Merril. These ads demonstrated an explicit divide in the science fiction community between the pro-war “hawks” and anti-war “doves.”
The New Wave
As a literary movement, the New Wave was defined by degrees of experimentation in both form and content. The New Wave focused less on hard science and technology and more on soft sciences, like anthropology and sociology. Born in the mid-60s in magazines like Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds and anthologies like Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions, the movement is generally considered part of a postmodernist tradition and was, in many ways, science fiction’s reaction to the counter-culture mood of the 1960s. By the mid-70s, as the counterculture died out, or became mainstream, so did the New Wave become mainstream.
Written in 1968 and on the other end of the sociopolitical and literary spectrum from “Null Zone” is Ursula K. Le Guin’s  “The Word for World Is Forest” (WWF”). The novella was published in 1972 in Harlan Ellison’s New Wave anthology, Again, Dangerous Visions, and then published as its own book in 1976. The story won the 1972 Hugo Award for Best Novella.
The novella is set on the fictional planet of Athshe, “New Tahiti” to the Earthmen, or “yuman,” colonists, where a logging settlement run by the Earth military has been established. The colony is almost all men; women are imported strictly as “Colony Brides and Recreation Staff”; read that as prostitutes and mail-order wives. The colonists have enslaved the totally non-aggressive native humanoids, the Athsheans, derogatorily called “creechies” by the Earthmen (Terrans). The Terrans treat the Athsheans very brutally. Finally, the wife of one of the natives, Selver, is raped to death by a Terran military officer, Captain Don Davidson. Selver leads a revolt against the colonists, and after several violent encounters manages to get the Terrans to evacuate the planet. However, organized violence is now a part of the previously peaceful Athshean culture.
The analogs between Athshe and Vietnam are obvious, with a primitive and supposedly previously peaceful people defeating a warlike and technologically advanced invader. Besides the anti-war theme, Le Guin also plays on anthropological themes of language and communications, as demonstrated by the title. She also explores states of consciousness such as the lucid dreaming done by the Athshe and ecological themes, such as overlogging and environmental destruction.
“WWF” is not just anti-Vietnam War, but also anti-American military. The villain of the piece is Captain Davidson, who is described as being of “euraf” (European African) descent, but clearly represents Le Guin’s view of the American military in Vietnam. That is to say, Davidson is racist and misogynistic, as well as being a murderer and a rapist, all the while seeing himself as the ultimate expression of manhood and from a superior civilization. Juxtaposed to Davidson is the anthropologist, Raj Lyubov, who is of East Indian descent with a Russian last name. Lyubov is not military, but a scientist who tries to understand and help the Athshean as they are being exploited by the other yumans. But, of course, the military men do not listen to the scientist, which results in the yuman’s ultimate defeat and expulsion from the planet.
Across the Atlantic, the Vietnam War received similar treatment by British New Wave authors. These writers saw Vietnam as a sign of a future of unending war and American tyranny. For example, J. G. Ballard’s “The Killing Ground,” published in 1969, has America with twenty million men under arms. The US is fighting a set of losing wars against various National Liberation Armies (NLAs) in Eurasia. On a side note, the National Liberation Front was the official name in English of the Viet Cong. Three decades after the original conflict in Indochina, the whole world is now Vietnam writ large.
In Ballard’s story, the Thames Valley is occupied by the beleaguered Americans huddled in their base camps. Three American soldiers are captured by an NLA patrol near the memorial to President Kennedy at Runnymede. The NLA patrol murders the captive Americans so they can continue to move rapidly. Ironically, the atrocity takes place right next to some old graffiti on the Kennedy memorial that reads: “Stop US Atrocities in Vietnam.” Just a few minutes after the new atrocity, the NLA patrol is wiped out by the Americans.
Michael Moorcock addresses the same themes in the third Jerry Cornelius book, 1971’s A Cure for Cancer. Jerry is confronted by American troops invading Britain in a “police action,” despite the fact that the US homeland is, in fact, collapsing internally. During the invasion, London is subjected to a bombing and defoliation campaign by the US Air Force, just like Vietnam.
The Forever War
Joe Haldeman’s The Forever War, published in book form in 1974, a year after the last US combat troops left Vietnam, is the definitive science fiction novel about the Vietnam War. The Forever War is no New Wave experiment in style, form, or content, but is the hardest of hard science fiction novels; a scientifically accurate, military science fiction story, told first-person.
The book’s narrator is William Mandella, a physics student drafted into the United Nations Expeditionary Force (UNEF) along with 99 other young people; all the elite recruits have IQs of at least 150, are highly educated, healthy, and fit. After a grueling training period on Earth and on Charon, a planet beyond the orbit of Pluto, during which several of the recruits are killed, Mandella and the rest are shipped off to battle the enemy alien Taurans. Equipped with advanced fighting suits, the UNEF’s first ground battle is a slaughter. The Taurans don’t seem to understand ground combat, and under hypnotic compulsion, the human soldiers kill all but one of the enemy. Mandella and his lover, Marygay Potter, fight again and again, but each time the Taurans get better at combat. They both get horribly wounded and have to regrow limbs. Because of the time dilation effect, only a few years pass for the soldiers, while decades and centuries pass on Earth. William and Marygay are separated after years together. Mandella leads a company in the last battle of the war, and when he and the survivors return home they find that the war had started by mistake and the whole thing had been a useless waste of 1147 Earth-years and uncounted lives.
The novel was first published as a set of separate novellas in Analog. “Hero,” which became the first part of the novel, was published in June 1972. “We Are Very Happy Here Now,” published in November 1973, and “The Best of All Possible Worlds” in November 1974 became the middle parts of the book, although both stories were heavily edited by the magazine’s editor, Ben Bova. The 1974 version of the novel, which won the Hugo and Nebula Awards, was heavily edited and not the definitive version. The final, complete “author approved” version was published in 1991.
Haldeman, a draftee combat veteran of Vietnam, wrote The Forever War as a conscious metaphor for the war. There are multiple parallels between the UNEF and the US Army in Vietnam; for example, inadequate training for combat conditions, like the UNEF does cold weather training in Missouri when it should be training on cryogenically cold planets. Equipment doesn’t work right, sometimes injuring or killing soldiers. Earth forces never really learn much about the enemy Taurans, certainly not enough to defeat them. The Taurans get better and better at fighting as the war goes on. The final and definitive parallel is that the wars were both ultimately futile.
The Mercenary
Even while Ben Bova was publishing the stories in Analog that ultimately became The Forever War, he was also publishing the stories that became Jerry Pournelle’s 1977 novel The Mercenary. The stories are “Peace With Honor” in May 1971, “The Mercenary” in July 1972, and “Sword and Sceptre” in May and June 1973. These works were the start of Pournelle’s Falkenberg’s Legion series. Also included in the series is the novel West of Honor, published in 1976, followed by Prince of Mercenaries, published in 1989. Then Go Tell the Spartans (1991) and Prince of Sparta (1993), both written with S. M. Stirling, completed the series. The whole series was collected, placed in internally consistent order with about 20,000 words of transitional material in 2002’s The Prince.
Pournelle comes from a very different place than Haldeman, technologically and militarily. Pournelle is a Korean War veteran and holds a PhD in Political Science, whereas Haldeman is a Vietnam veteran and holds degrees in physics and astronomy. Falkenberg’s Legion versus The Forever War reflects these differences. In Pournelle’s fictional universe, technology, especially military technology, is frozen at a late 20th century level of development with the exception of faster-than-light interstellar space travel. The combat in West of Honor and The Mercenary is consciously modeled on 20th century conventional warfare norms. One battle is taken straight from the memoirs of an Ethiopian Korean War veteran. The various battles are fought with rifles, artillery and helicopters, with definable front lines and recognizable enemies. Only in the later novels, Prince of Mercenaries, Go Tell the Spartans and Prince of Sparta, is guerilla war examined.
Even Pournelle could not avoid the echoes of Vietnam in his early works. In The Mercenary, the declining US and Russia combine to create the CoDominium, the first world government. Falkenberg fights for the CoDominium, even though it is utterly corrupt. In America, the government is a de-facto single-party tyranny with a mere false front of democracy. The US population has split into two classes, “Taxpayers” with the right to vote, living the good life, and the disenfranchised “Citizens,” who are confined to enclaves called “Welfare Districts.” These ideas are extrapolated from a disillusioned post-Vietnam war era America.
While not pro-war—the battle scenes are too horrific for that—the Falkenberg’s Legion stories are pro-military. The military leaders are good and honorable men, not like their venal and corrupt political masters in the CoDominium. They fight honorably for good causes. Ultimately, the wars are not futile wastes, but accomplish worthwhile goals, such as the salvation of whole worlds.
Only in the later novels of the series does the government become worthy of fighting for. The fictional Spartan governmental system is Pournelle’s very ideal of good government, with democratic, monarchical and constitutional concepts blended to create a near utopia. The people serving in the Spartan government are dedicated and selfless, much like the soldiers who fight for them, even the mercenaries. It is the Helots, the guerillas, who are brutal and evil, especially their leadership. 
Hammer’s Slammers
David Drake, creator of Hammer’s Slammers, holds degrees in history and Latin and is a Vietnam veteran. He served as an enlisted interrogator with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, “The Blackhorse Regiment,” in 1970 in Vietnam and Cambodia and saw the war from the loader’s hatch of a tank. The first Slammers story, “Under the Hammer,” was printed in Galaxy in October 1974; it was followed the next month by “The Butcher’s Bill.” In 1979 all the then existing Hammer’s Slammers stories were collected in the book Hammer’s Slammers. Since then Drake has written five novels, including At Any Price (1985), Counting the Cost (1987), Rolling Hot (1989), The Warrior (1991), and The Sharp End (1993), and numerous short stories in the Hammerverse, and these works have been published in three omnibus volumes under the title The Complete Hammer’s Slammers: Volumes 1, 2 and 3, published in 2006 and 2007.
While certainly based on Drake’s experiences in Vietnam, he largely avoids overt politics and anti-war sentiments to focus on action, character, technology and combat’s effect on individuals. But he is clearly referencing the superior technology of the American Army when compared to that of the Viet Cong, or North Vietnamese. Drake has the Slammers fighting with air-cushioned tanks weighing more than 150 tons, with advanced artificial intelligence and electronics. These tanks are supported by advanced artillery and air-cushioned combat cars. All these vehicles are fusion-powered and heavily armed with powerguns, weapons that fire high-energy plasma, and range from 20 mm to 200 mm aperture size.
Later works of Drake about the Slammers moved beyond Vietnam as a historical context. For example, Counting the Cost (1987) is based on the Nika Revolt of 532 AD Constantinople. Only 1989’s Rolling Hot has a Vietnam War inspiration: the 1968 Tet Offensive.
This Time It’s War
By the late 1980s the Vietnam War had become more myth and less an actually experienced inspiration for science fiction. One example of how the war had become mythologized within science fiction is the 1987 movie Aliens (written and directed by James Cameron, produced by Gale Anne Hurd). Both Cameron and Hurd are too young to have fought in the war and neither one joined any military service, so their knowledge of Vietnam, and of the military, was merely second-hand. However, the actor that played Sergeant Apone, Al Matthews, was a US Marine Corps Vietnam veteran. He led the “military training” the actors playing the Colonial Marines underwent, no doubt adding to the “realism” of the film.
Aliens is a direct sequel to Alien (written by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett, directed by Ridley Scott). Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the sole survivor of the first movie, is saved after years in suspended animation. No one in authority believes her story of the alien. The planet, LV-426, is in fact now home to a terraforming colony. Contact with the colony is lost, and Ripley hesitantly returns to the planet with a platoon of Colonial Marines. They soon learn that most of the colonists are hosts for alien offspring. A series of ferocious battles follow in which most of the marines are killed and their dropship is destroyed. This leaves Ripley, Marine Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen), and a girl colonist survivor, Newt (Carrie Henn), as the only survivors, marooned on the planet. The colony's fusion reactor is damaged and about to explode. Newt is captured, and while rescuing her, Ripley discovers and destroys the alien’s egg chamber. The survivors manage to escape in a remote-controlled shuttle. Ripley discovers that the alien queen has stowed aboard. Ripley and the queen fight a final battle.
The film plays on most of the military tropes that emerged from Vietnam. The multi-ethnic nature of the platoon. The tough, professional and capable black NCO, who really leads the platoon. The distant and incompetent junior officer who gets people killed. The way the grunts are allowed to individualize their uniforms; for example, Hudson (Bill Paxton), the platoon joker, paints a skull and cross bones on his body armor and Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) forgoes a helmet for a red bandana tied around her head. The Colonial Marines land from a dropship, like US Marines landed from helicopters. The enemy hides in dark and unknown places to ambush the marines. The marines have the advantage of high-tech firepower, but lack the advantage of numbers and local knowledge.
However, Aliens does not play on the politics of the war. In the film, the aliens are the aggressors and the marines fight for survival and to protect the civilians. Also, Ripley and the survivors achieve a sort of victory, as the fusion reactor explodes, destroying the alien threat.
The Veteran Experience
One of the more pernicious myths to come out of the Vietnam War was that of “the crazy veteran.” In this myth, the Vietnam veteran is so damaged by his combat experiences that he is unable to readjust to civilian life and turns to drugs, alcohol or crime. The other aspect of the crazy veteran myth is that of the avenger, or vigilante, veteran. In this case, the veteran returns home to see it taken over by criminals. The vet then collects a team of his military buddies and they use their fighting skills to wage a war on the criminals. In another version, the veteran or his loved ones are the victims of a crime, and he uses his combat skills for revenge. The mildest form of this myth is where the vet is so isolated and dislocated by a massively changed civilian world that he reenlists for lack of any better alternative.
The Vietnam veteran experience is best illustrated in science fiction by two works: One is Haldeman’s novella “You Can Never Go Back,” written in 1974, which became part of the “Sergeant Mandella” chapter in the 1991 and later versions of The Forever War. The other is Timothy Zahn’s 1985 Cobra.
In the novella, Mandella and Potter return to Earth 26 years after they left, but only four years have passed for them. The world the veterans return to is vastly changed. The economy is now based on food rations and calories, not money. Getting any kind of job is difficult and can only be done through a black-market arrangement. About one-third of the world population is homosexual; even Mandella’s mother has a female lover. Plus, the world is incredibly violent, with armed robbery and rape common crimes. When his mother dies because she lacks basic healthcare, Mandella and Potter attempt to settle down with Potter’s parents on a farm. But marauders attack the homestead and murder Potter’s parents. Now, with nothing left connecting them to Earth, the two reenlist out of sheer desperation and go back to the war.
In the fifth chapter of Cobra, titled “Veteran,” Jonny Moreau returns home from fighting the alien Trofts. During the war, Jonny had been a “Cobra,” the ultimate guerilla soldier. Jonny has had weapons implanted in his body—lasers in his little fingers and an anti-tank laser in his ankle. Sonic weapons have been placed in his abdomen, his bones have been laminated to make them unbreakable, servomotors greatly increase his strength, endurance and agility. All of these devices and his combat reactions are controlled by a nanocomputer embedded in his skull. By the time Jonny gets home, most of the weapons have been removed except the finger lasers and the nanocomputer, but he is still immensely strong, with unbreakable bones.
On his return home, Jonny can’t get any job but labor work, because of his great physical strength, but it sets him apart from the civilian population. Then one night a group of juveniles attempt to run him down in a game of “chicken,” called “turkey hop.” Sensing danger, the Cobra computer throws Jonny into combat mode. He leaps out of the way and destroys the car with his finger lasers, killing the two teenagers inside, all without conscious thought on Jonny’s part. This, of course, creates great unease and anxiety among Jonny’s fellow citizens, such that even when the ex-Cobra rescues ten men from a fire, their fear of Jonny is still evident. In desperation, Jonny finally re-ups and ships out to a new colony world where his weapons and training will be put to good use.  
Now Myth and History
The science fiction “about” Vietnam has closely paralleled the perception of the war in the collective consciousness of America and the world. In the early 60s America’s involvement in Vietnam was small and mere background noise to most people in the US. This phase is reflected by Glory Road and “In Praise of Pip,” where the war is mere backstory, or simple plot device. By the late 60s and into the early 70s, after years of major combat, Americans were largely aware of the war and were split into pro-Vietnam War and anti-Vietnam War camps. This is noted in the different “politics” demonstrated in “Null Zone” and “The Word for World Is Forest.” At this time the British and American science fiction communities, mostly in the New Wave movement, showed their anti-war sentiments in such stories as Ballard’s “The Killing Ground” By the time The Forever War and “Under the Hammer” were published, the specific anti-Vietnam war/pro-Vietnam war politics were jettisoned from science fiction in favor of larger and more general anti-war sentiments and combat veterans coming to terms with their war experiences through writing.
From the 90s military science fiction became dominated by post-Vietnam War military veterans, such as John Ringo, Tom Kratman, Mike Williamson and Brad Torgersen, to name a very few, in what might be a golden age of military science fiction. Their stories are generally military-positive, likely because their military experiences were much different from the experiences of the Vietnam War veterans. First, the military draft was eliminated in 1973, so all of them were volunteers. All served, or are still serving, during the military revitalization started under President Reagan. The conflicts they fought in were generally short and victorious for America, leaving out the so-called Global War on Terror. Lastly, without a military draft, there were no significant anti-war or anti-military movements comparable to that in the 1960s and 70s.
Also, by the time Ringo, Kratman, Williamson and Torgersen and contemporaries started to write, the Vietnam War had moved from the realm of direct memory to the realm of history and myth.


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