This blog post does not contain spoilers.
Is military science fiction ‘fascist’?
Starship Troopers. The famous book by Robert A. Heinlein, is plagued by misconceptions. In this short blog post, I will argue that it is not ‘fascist.’ My main point is that military culture is not unique to fascism. Although Starship Troopers is not my favourite book, I highly recommend it. It’s an enjoyable read, with flair and heart. I’m excited to read more from Heinlein.
Allegations that the book supports fascism peaked when the film adaption came out in 1997. This is because of the views by the screenwriter and director. Verhoeven, the director, wanted to parody fascism. This is no surprise, as he labelled Heinlein’s work as a ‘very bad book’ and quite ‘right-wing.’ He also didn’t read it. Yes, the director of a film adaption never read the source material. That’s the first red flag. You can’t critique a novel or a film without reading it.
Starship Troopers is not a fascist book. Yes, it is a positive depiction of the military. But that doesn’t make a book fascist.
The book features a ‘utopia’ that has a heavy military presence. Yet fascism is not the only political theory that exalts the military. Throughout history, a variety of governments have glorified their military. Fascism does not have a monopoly on that, and never will.
If you argue that Starship Troopers is fascist for ‘glorifying’ the military, then you require evidence. As for now, the argument proposed by Verhoeven is unconvincing because it is based on a false presumption. Glorifying the military is not unique to fascism, and I wish more readers would acknowledge that point.
Nearly all countries in the world have a military culture. That’s why we can’t presume that a heavy military is fascism. It’s not true. Saying that requires ignoring enormous chunks of history. And that’s something I do not endorse. Can fascist governments use the military to excess? Yes! But they are not the only ones.
I believe that Heinlein is called a fascist because he has opinions that are “wrong”. That’s unfair, and considering Heinlein is no longer around to defend himself, this situation leaves a sour taste. The evidence that Starship Troopers is fascist is razor thin already, and is made worse when the author can’t speak for himself.
As I look over at Starship Trooper’ society, I don’t think it is a flawless utopia. As an example, I don’t want only the military to have voting rights. But Heinlein doesn’t want that either. Instead, he’s toying around with ideas. That’s a crucial point of fiction writing: exploring concepts.
It’s a must in utopian fiction, and results in dynamic storytelling. Military science fiction is a fantastic subgenre to explore ideas. That’s why I encourage authors to pursue their interests. The possibilities are endless.
In conclusion, fiction is not ‘fascist’ because it ‘glorifies’ troops. Warfare dates back centuries. Books aren’t automatically fascist when they revere the military. I wish such nuances were acknowledged by Hollywood.
What are your thoughts? Comment below. Please recommend your favourite military science fiction books.