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Thread: Attack of the Bugmen! Heinlein & Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers

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    Attack of the Bugmen! Heinlein & Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers

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    Robert Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers is a genre-defining classic of science fiction. First published in 1959, Heinlein’s work is audacious in propounding aristocratic militarism, will-to-power, social inequality, and contempt for liberal and mercantile values. Starship Troopers describes the path of a young man, Johnny Rico, from uncertain recruit to achieving the rank of Field Officer in an interstellar war against the “Bugs,” a species of giant arachnids. Most readers will be familiar with the themes and popularity of Starship Troopers, if not due to the original book then because of Paul Verhoeven’s movie adaptation, which, like the film Fight Club, has eclipsed its source material in the mainstream consciousness.

    Both the book and its movie counterpart have found enduring popularity as a coming-of-age fable of guts, grit, determination, wits, and the making of a young man. The film is obviously in line with Heinlein’s original intent, but what is less well-known is how explicit the book is in its rejection of American egalitarianism and its celebration of a sort of moral nihilism. Starship Troopers is so brazenly militaristic that it has become a Right-wing pop-cultural reference point, from the time of its original publication to the present-day memes based on the film. It is an enduring work, and its archetypes, heroes, and uncompromising ethos have the highest relevance to us today, since, like Rico, we find ourselves deep in an existential conflict with an alien civilization.

    The Troopers novel begins with Rico recounting how he “always gets the shakes” before a capsule drop – being launched from planetary orbit to the surface in a fragile capsule in order to wreak extraordinary havoc on the victims below. Rico and his fellow Mobile Infantrymen are characterized from the outset as having human frailty, in contrast to the astonishing savagery of their weaponry and powered armor, and yet they are the toughest men nonetheless. A regular Mobile Infantryman carries city-flattening ordnance, tactical hydrogen bombs, flamethrowers, and other sundry nastiness, and can jump-jet over buildings with ease. But Heinlein’s emphasis is not on the technological framework around the man but on the men themselves, specifically men at war. Troopers centers on the comradery, tensions, and give-and-take between troops, as well as the lived experience of military training and the soldiers’ flaws and ambitions, as well as their relation to the military as an institution.

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    A good thread to compliment your topic, Groenewolf:
    Aside from an ever increasing number of mortals who have willfully chosen to worship Satan and his minions, our battle has always been against the powers and principalities operating surreptitiously throughout this twisted world.

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