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What Are the Different Types of Military Fiction?

By Daphne Mallory
Updated May 23, 2024
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There are several different types of military fiction for fans of the military-related novel. Some types are historical and are based around fictional characters and their actions within a real historical conflict. Other fiction types center on specific branches of the military, such as a nation’s army, air force, or navy. Military science fiction is a popular genre that often tells a futuristic story while using subtle commentary on current military training or actions. Another type of military fiction is known as an alternate history, in which the author creates a story based on recreating historical conflicts, often with the side that lost the conflict emerging victorious in the story.

The historical military fiction novel is often considered the most common type of novel within this genre. In this type of novel, the author selects a real historical conflict, such as the American Revolutionary War or Great Britain’s war in the Falklands. The main characters in these novels are often soldiers, and the author recreates battles from the historical conflict through the characters’ eyes. History buffs often know the conclusion of this type of novel, because these books are usually based on famous battles. While the battle scenes are usually fairly accurate, the author will often weave an adventure story through the plot, based on the actions of the central characters. Examples of popular authors in this genre include Bernard Cornwell and Jeff Shaara.

Military fiction is sometimes based on a specific branch of military service. For example, the author will write a book that details fictional characters going through boot camp in the U.S. Marine Corps or Navy SEALs or the adventures of a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. These books are often more detailed in the technical aspects of the military, such as weaponry and communications equipment. Alhtough they’re noted for their technical accuracy, these books are often based on entirely fictional military conflicts. Tom Clancy is one of the most well-known authors in this branch of military fiction.

Alternate history stories often present a lot of different possibilities for military fiction. In this genre, a historical military conflict is often at the center of the action. The side that actually lost the war is often the victor, however. This allows the author to consider the consequences that military conflicts would have had if their outcomes had been different. For example, many military fiction stories in this genre have explored how the world would have been impacted if Germany and Japan had prevailed in World War II or if the Confederacy had won the American Civil War. Alternate histories will sometimes even incorporate elements of science fiction, such as an alien invasion happening during a conflict between two rival nations. Harry Turtledove and Robert Harris are examples of authors in the alternative history genre of military fiction.

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