This collection of 15 original essays offers new perspectives in armed conflict as a central aspect of science-fiction and fantasy writing. Looking past the superficial conventions associated with ray guns and aliens, swords and sorcerers, the contributors show how writers in the genre today are not so much imagining war more fully as they are completely "re-imagining" it. Science-fiction and fantasy writing is no longer mired in epic or chivalric models but is responding to new and more complex "real-world" motivations for armed aggression: advances in weaponry, shifts in the theatres of war, and changes in battlefield conditions. Most of the papers were presented at the annual J. Lloyd Eaton Conference on Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, the field's most prestigious international gathering. The trend throughout the book is away from critical interest in stories of spatial or territorial conquest and toward works that deal with topics related to wars of temporal logistics and the internalisation of the combat zone, including urban street violence, gender conflicts, and resistance to runaway technology.
The essays range from studies of the semantics and linguistics of warfare in science fiction to a critique of Osip Senkovsky's "Fantastic Journeys of Baron Brambeus"; from writer Joe Haldeman's assessment of the impact of his Vietnam experiences on his fiction to inquiries into a shared author/reader agenda in novels concerning potential mass destruction, including Stephen King's "Dead Zone" and M.J. Engh's "Arslan". The collection also charts new directions in writing, such as the anti-apocalyptic science fiction of Samuel R. Delany, and embraces new modes of presentation, particularly computer animation and the "bande dessinee", or illustrated narrative, as exemplified by French novelist Philippe Druillet's "La Nuit". Musician Bob Marley, film actor/directors Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Lee, and the cyberpunk film classics "Terminator" and the "Road Warrior" series are among other topics discussed. Together, the essays reinforce the editors' contention that the true function of these fantasies and science fictions is neither nostalgia nor fancy, but analysis.
The contributors treat the texts they examine as a means not of playing war games, but of understanding the role of war in the present and the future.