Space Marine Science Fiction: Characteristics of Style

typical weaponry from space marine science fiction

In terms of action, nothing gives up the blood and guts like space marine science fiction. The creation of the genre is generally attributed to Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers. Its apotheosis in film is probably the Alien franchise. Computer games such as Starcraft have also increased its popularity.

Here are the chief style points of the genre: what you’ll see on the screen or page.

Really Big Guns

Space marines don’t into battle carrying some puny phaser that fits in your palm. Their weapons are the size of lawn mowers, and by the look of them, equal to the body mass of all but the most hulkish soldiers. Every round they fire is the size of a potato, bare minimum. And glows in the dark. My guess: probably a lead alloy PLUS a biological element PLUS like a computer virus. For when you need to get something dead three ways at once.

Which is pretty much all the time.

In outer space, a marine knows if he doesn’t have enough firepower to fell an elephant, he’s a stain waiting to happen. Space monsters, listen: no evil is gonna survive up where no one can hear you scream if an ordinary assault rifle can put it down. So you go in there shoulder-strapped with portable Star Destroyer that has flamethrower and chainsaw settings.

And maybe a holy water side-cannon, in case of space vampires. Hey, it happens!

Space Suits

You can’t go toe-to-toe with a horrifying interstellar menace without being encased in bulky mechanized body armor. (How else you gonna carry those guns?) Much of combat in Starship Troopers the novel focuses on the innovations of these suits. This feature was excluded from the film version, commonly attributed to budget constraints. It probably had more to do with how filmmaker Paul Verhoeven found the novel revolting and wouldn’t even read it.

Well, I read it. The suits let you jump super high. And Heinlein wrote it ages before Mario Bros.

The space marines of the Alien film series run around in tank tops and cargo pants, but to supply the requisite bad-ass mechanics, Ripley fights the drooly bug queen in an exosuit cargo loader. Because there’s nothing in outer space you can beat in a wrestling match. Nothing.

For instance:

Hideous Insects

Big guns. Bigger armor. Who are you gonna fight in all that, dudes named Steve? No. Alien space marines just like you but with pointy ears? Fuck no. You are gonna fight giant organic creepy-crawlies with their bones on the outside. Who want to stick pointy bits up every hole in your body. Or tear you some new ones if your outfit is too complicated. Everything in outer space wants to fuck you to death and eat you, in no particular order.

In space marine science fiction, nothing you fight is even remotely human. Your enemies hide in walls and in the floors. They fly out when you open your wardrobe. And even though you are on a space station, you paint your face with camo. Think about that. Xenomorph and xenophobia have a shared root. What if outer space is just like a trillion light years worth of your fear of Canadians? Probably is.

Well, and insects. Are you gonna tell me there are no earwigs on Mars? Something that ugly can probably survive anywhere in the universe.

Lots of Swearing

The Star Trek universe is replete with evil alien races set on conquering, enslaving, or assimilating the entire galaxy. But genocidal or otherwise, pretty much everyone speaks polite English. I don’t know whether this is a product of the universal translator or some weird twenty-fifth-century chivalry, but violence and a potty mouth just don’t go together.

Space marines are different. They swear like a motherfucking space marine. Like fucking every fucking other fucking word.  That’s how you know they are no bullshit: the word fuck. And bullshit.

Space Marine Science Fiction is Pretty Much Awesome

If you venture out into space for infantry combat, you gotta go big or go home. Everything about space marines is big. If it were on a reasonable scale, why not just do it in Hackensack instead? Billy Joel could write a song about it. (Which everyone would hear ‘cause it’s not in space.)

Oh, I almost forgot! I wrote a space marine science fiction novel! You should check it out. It’s called The Killbug Eulogies.

Leave a Reply