11 February 2019

Writing Military Sci-Fi As a Means of Self Exploration by Damien Larkin

This post is written by author Damien Larkin. More about the author AND his book after his guest post. 

Military Science Fiction – the first time I heard of this genre when I was younger, I remember trying to reconcile the “military” part with the “science fiction” part. Wasn’t Sci-Fi all about exploring strange new worlds and seeking out alien civilisations and so forth?

The roots of this sub-genre can be traced back to the late nineteenth century with H.G Wells but began to forge its own identity as the entire Sci-Fi genre gained wider acceptance and interest. Galvanised by Robert A. Heinlein’s 1959 “Starship Troopers”, military Sci-Fi rose in popularity during the 1970s. For a generation of soldiers who served in the Vietnam War, it became an outlet to understand and rationalise the horrors of what they had witnessed. Joe Haldeman’s “The Forever War” was written by the author as a counter-argument to Heinlein’s philosophies, while David Drake’s “Hammer’s Slammers” dealt with the horrors of war amongst other themes.

Military Sci-Fi has continued to grow and evolve into the twenty-first century with legions of fans worldwide fascinated by vivid writing, epic battle scenes, strange new technology and plenty of alien enemies to subdue!

I decided to pen Big Red based on my own experiences as a soldier in the Irish Reserve Defence Forces. I rate those years as some of my fondest; I enjoyed the camaraderie, the practical skills, discipline and doing my bit. It was an amazing experience and as a neutral country, the likelihood of us being ever utilised for war was minimal.

My first military fantasy novel dealt with child soldiers fighting a losing war and allowed me to explore some of the themes that would later go into Big Red. I was fascinated with concepts of indoctrination and dehumanising the enemy as an instrument to achieve victory on the battlefield. The story in Big Red allowed me to not only take a look at this but also focus on the point of view of an average soldier: without any say in the mission or operation, yet willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Writing has been an amazing outlet for me to explore not just my past experiences, but as a way to get to know myself better. While drawing loosely on events from my life and that of other people’s, I’m able to create characters with great depth and it’s these characters that I find the most fascinating. As part of my world building process, I try and put my feet in the shoes of every character I create. I want to know their background, their outlook and their reasons for acting the way they do. This technique alone has helped me to understand so many other people’s experiences and empathise with their point of view, even if I don’t agree with it.

One of my goals as a writer isn’t just about understanding myself but understanding as many people as I can in this short life. And for that, I will always be grateful.

About the book, Big Red

Suffering the side effects of Compression travel, soldier Darren Loughlin wakes up screaming from a gunshot wound that isn’t there. Despite a fractured memory, he is forced to recount his year-long tour of duty on Mars to uncover the mysterious fate of Earth’s off-world colonies and the whereabouts of his shattered Battalion.

With time running out, Darren recalls his tour of duty with the Mars Occupation Force in New Berlin colony, their brutal MARSCORP masters, and the vicious war against the hostile alien natives.

But as he exposes the truth, Darren suspects he is at the centre of a plot spanning forty years. He has one last mission to carry out. And his alien enemy may be more human than he is…

About the author, Damien Larkin

Damien Larkin is a full-time stay-at-home father of two loud (but happy) young children and a part-time Planning Analyst. He enjoys turning terrifying nightmares into novels and currently resides in Dublin, Ireland.

Find out more about the author by visiting his website, https://www.damienlarkinbooks.com/.


  1. Thank you, William! I had a great experience writing it. I hope you'll consider checking it out when it lands in May!


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