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On the way to work yesterday I saw this io9 news item about a possible Starship Troopers TV series:

There are two massive problems with adapting Starship Troopers to the screen, but I’m only going to talk about one of them here[1].

The one that I’m going to talk about lies in the fact that the realisation of how technology would be used was always one of Heinlein’s strong suits, combined with his professional attitude towards the military.

In terms of the former consider “The door irised open” from The Door Into Summer. That one line not only established that the technology was different, but inserted it into everyday life. It reified the technology, made it useful and not a gimmick.

The other classic Heinlein example is the treatment of mobile phones in Space Cadet, which I’ve written about before.

The same is true of the powered suits in Starship Troopers: the realisation of how the suits would be used is something that any adaptation is likely to get wrong.

Horribly wrong.

The problem isn’t putting the suits on screen[2], the problem is putting them on screen intelligently.

In terms of Heinlein’s attitudes towards the military, he thought about how the suits would be used by an army. So Heinlein thought about dispersion, movement, formation, he included techniques such as bounding overwatch[3] and then scaled these things up to the range and power of the suits.

Another aspect was the level of planning and preparation that went into the operations. OK, that sometimes went horribly wrong as it did with the first Klendathu battle, but it was always there. Writing this post made me wonder if Heinlein was influenced by the planning for Operation Overlord in terms of the details that made it into Starship Troopers.

Now, what are the chances that we would see any of that on screen? Hundreds of meters of separation between characters? Properly overlapping fields of fire, covering maneuvers, the general sense of tactical discipline and planning?

Or are we more likely to see the mob mentality of the never to be sufficiently damned Starship Troopers movie?

I’m guessing that any adaptation we see of Starship Troopers will be made of stupid. Until a good adaptation proves me wrong, I’m going to greet news of Starship Troopers adaptations with “Oh dear” and several expletives deleted.

[1] The politics and social schema are another rant entirely, one I may write later. However that’s more a problem with the book itself, not a technical issue that will cripple an adaptation.

[2] Cf: Iron Man. Which also proves that a truly amazing live action Bubblegum Crisis is at least technically possible. Not that we’ll ever see that either.

[3] Although not actually named as such.