MILITARY IN FICTION #1 – An Introduction

*Get the Podcast HERE

For more details, as well as a list of resources on military history and culture, check out my resources page.


Welcome to my series of articles on creating a realistic military environment in your fiction.  I’d like to offer this brief introduction before we get into the actual articles to give you a better idea as to the scope and purpose of this series.

For those of you that haven’t been following my blog or have no idea who I am, let me offer a brief introduction.  I’m Joe Zieja, a budding author of fantasy and science fiction.  I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but only since 2010 have I really thought of it as a potential career.  Since then I’ve been published just over a dozen times in magazines and anthologies and written three novels, one of which I actually believe may be worth reading.

I’ve spent ten years in the military, and as with any profession, such a long period of immersion tends to discolor your perception of how entertainment media portrays it.   That is, it can be annoying when fiction in any form – movies, TV, books – gets it wrong.  Given that I embody a relatively unique cross-section of the population in the juxtaposition of military man and fiction writer, I thought perhaps I could contribute to the writing community by offering some insight into an increasingly shrinking percentage of mankind.

When I got invited to speak at WORLDCON this year in Chicago on this very topic, I thought I would develop a sort of primer, a repository of advice on varying topics on how to portray a realistic military in fiction.  Thus, this series was born.

I don’t write about modern military events in any form.  Frankly, living it every day doesn’t make me want to integrate it into my hobbies that much.  But I do include military elements in my fiction, as do many (if not most) speculative fiction writers.  Science fiction and fantasy routinely deal with wars and militaristic bodies, whether they are bandits, the king’s army, or a roving group of space pirates.  That’s what makes what I have to say relevant to you as a writer.

I’m not approaching this from a prescriptive angle.  That is, my focus isn’t on telling you precisely how to write.  Instead, I want to offer a window into a microcosm that many people don’t have access to.  The key to making these articles useful is extrapolation; the first step to writing a realistic military environment is learning about ones that already exist and then applying that to your world.  So I’m going to take you through a wide variety of topics dealing with militaries on a very general level that also incorporates a unique insider point of view that you don’t get from reading books by military historians.  These will include things like capturing the vibe of a military unit, rank structure and organization, the human element, technology, and lingo.

This isn’t exclusively for authors either.  If your interest in military affairs is piqued but you don’t necessarily know where to start, this will probably satisfy some of your curiosity.

I have no set amount of articles, nor do I have an iron-clad list of topics.  I want feedback from you via comments, and to inspire discussion that will take what I have written and develop it.  So, at the end of each of these articles, please leave comments at the end.  I want to know, primarily, if what I’m doing is useful to you, and, if not, how I can make some changes to make it so.

I’m looking forward to starting a dialog, and, if you’re going to WORLDCON this year, I’m looking forward to meeting you there.

I invite you to follow my blog, leave comments, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.  These articles will all be available on a new page at the top of my website, and I plan on releasing all of these in podcast form as well.  Then you’ll have me coming out of the speakers of your car or headphones, which is just a little weird.

Thanks for reading,



Leave a Comment

  1. Hi Joseph. I just stumbled across your website and am looking forward to reading all your Military in Fiction articles as time permits. It looks like you’ve put a tremendous amount of work into them.

  2. Hello Mr. Zieja, I clicked on the link to get the podcast, and it took me to a page that said the link was moved to a different location or removed. I was wondering if there was anywhere else I would be able to find these podcasts?

    • Hey Ian – sorry you’re having trouble, but thanks for bringing that up. I just notice that SoundCloud arbitrarily removed some of my mp3s. I’ll have to find and re-upload them. I’ll fix them soon!

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