What’s military science fiction, you ask? Fiction in the style of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA would be the short answer. Stories about interplanetary conflict that emphasize military strategy and play-by-play descriptions of battle scenes. To get the long answer, read our Q&A with Military SF Landmark author Jack Campbell. His Lost Fleet series recounts the adventures of naval officer Jack Geary, who “comes back from the dead” to help the Alliance stand up to its enemies—the Syndicate Worlds.
NG: There are 15 books in the Lost Fleet universe. What’s the secret to your world’s longevity? Do you have advice for writers who want to write military science fiction worlds that make readers readers keep coming back?
JC: There are several different things that have enabled me to keep the stories coming in the Lost Fleet universe. The first is that the initial scenario gave me so much to work with. I had been thinking for years about how to successfully write a long “retreat in space” story. That’s a lot harder than it may sound, because it requires a combination of technologies and ways of fighting that allow a beleaguered force to survive and continue trying to reach safety. I had the classic long retreat book as a model (Xenophon’s March of the 10,000), which had been used by other writers in the past, and I wanted to make what I was doing feel real. During the same period that I was thinking about how to do that story, I had also been thinking about sleeping hero legends, which are common in societies around the world. Such legends (like that of King Arthur) say that the hero is not dead, but sleeping, and will someday return when needed. They are probably based on real people who were, well, real people, not awesome heroes. I wondered what it would be like for someone to awaken from a long sleep and discover that they were now thought to be an awesome hero, and that everyone was expecting them to save the day. After years of thinking about these two ideas, I suddenly realized that they fit together perfectly. Both required a lot of background to make them work, so the Lost Fleet stories began with a double dose of background. That gave me a lot to build interlocking storylines about.