The space marine, an archetype of military science fiction, is a kind of soldier who operates in outer space or on alien worlds. Historical marines fulfill multiple roles: ship defence, boarding actions, landing parties, and general-purpose high-mobility land deployments that operate within a fixed distance of shore or ship. By analogy, hypothetical space marines would defend allied spaceships, board enemy ships, land on planets and moons, and satisfy rapid-deployment needs throughout space.
The earliest known use of the term "space marine" was by Bob Olsen in his short story "Captain Brink of the Space Marines" (Amazing Stories, Volume 7, Number 8, November 1932), a light-hearted work whose title is a play on the song "Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines", and in which the protagonists were marines of the "Earth Republic Space Navy" on mission to rescue celebrity twins from aliens on Titan. Olsen published a novella sequel four years later, "The Space Marines and the Slavers" (Amazing Stories, Volume 10, Number 13, December 1936), featuring the same characters using a spaceship with active camouflage to free hostages from Martian space pirates on Ganymede.
A more widely known early example was E. E. Smith's Lensman series. While the first story, Triplanetary and most later sequels (Second Stage Lensmen, Children of the Lens and The Vortex Blaster) do not mention them, passing mentions of marines are made in Galactic Patrol[a] (Astounding Stories, September 1937–February 1938) and Gray Lensman[b][c] (Astounding Stories, October 1939–January 1940), and a more direct mention is made in First Lensman (1950): "Dronvire of Rigel Four in the lead, closely followed by Costigan, Northrop, Kinnison the Younger, and a platoon of armed and armored Space Marines!".
The phrase "space marines" appears in Robert A. Heinlein's "Misfit"[d] (1939) and is again used in "The Long Watch"[e] (1941) which is referenced in his later novel Space Cadet (1948), in all cases before Smith had used the phrase. Heinlein's Starship Troopers (1959) is considered the defining work for the concept, although it does not use the term "space marine". The actors playing the Colonial Marines in Aliens (1986) were required to read Starship Troopers as part of their training prior to filming. Heinlein intended for the capsule troopers of the Mobile Infantry to be an amalgam of the shipborne aspect of the US Marine Corps relocated to space and coupled with the battlefield delivery and mission profile of US Army paratroopers.
As a gaming concept, space marines play a major role in the Warhammer 40,000 miniatures wargame, in which they are genetically altered super-soldiers and the most powerful fighting forces available to the Imperium of Man. In computer games, playing a space marine in action games was popularized by id Software's Doom series, first published in 1993. It is a convenient game back-story as it excuses the presence of the character on a hostile alien world with little support and heavy weaponry. Some critics have suggested it has been overused to the point of being an action game cliché.
In December 2012, online retailer Amazon.com removed the e-book Spots the Space Marine by M.C.A. Hogarth at the request of games company Games Workshop. They claimed the use of the phrase "space marine" infringed on their trademark of the term for their game Warhammer 40,000. In February 2013, the row received a lot of publicity, with authors such as Cory Doctorow, Charles Stross and John Scalzi supporting Hogarth, and Amazon.com then restored the e-book for sale.
In film and television space marines often appear in squads, while in video games the protagonist Marine is usually alone or in very small squads. Depending on the mission, they may be deployed via dropship or another specialised insertion craft. Their battledress varies between media, ranging from equipment comparable to modern-day fatigues (or just being contemporary, such as the equipment of Colonial Marines in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica) to environmentally sealed suits of powered armour. Equipment and weaponry is similarly varied, often incorporating various fictional technologies. Directed-energy weapons are common, though conventional firearms are also used, like the M41A Pulse Rifles the Colonial Marines in the Aliens movie use (which are projectile weapons that use an electric pulse to shoot caseless ammunition). If the marines' armour is particularly bulky, their weapons may be similarly scaled up such as in Warhammer 40,000 where Space Marines carry "boltguns," effectively rocket-propelled grenade launchers, as a standard firearm.
The United States Air Force's Project Hot Eagle considers the use of spacecraft to deliver Marines to a target on the ground. "Within minutes of bursting into the atmosphere beyond the speed of sound – and dispatching that ominous sonic boom – a small squad of Marines could be on the ground and ready for action within 2 hours."
Appearances in fiction
Books and short stories
|Author||Title||Year(s) published||Unit name|
|Bob Olsen||"Captain Brink of the Space Marines"||1932||Space Marines|
|Bob Olsen||"The Space Marines and the Slavers"||1936||Space Marines|
|E. E. Smith||Lensman series||1934–1954||Galactic Marines|
|Robert A. Heinlein||"Misfit"||1939||Space Marines|
|Robert A. Heinlein||"The Long Watch"||1941||Space Marines|
|Theodore Cogswell||"The Spectre General"||1952||Imperial Space Marines|
|Carey Rockwell||Treachery in Outer Space||1954||Space Marines|
|Carey Rockwell||Sabotage in Space||1955||Space Marines|
|Eric Frank Russell||Wasp||1957||Space Marines (Sirian Combine)|
|Robert A. Heinlein||Starship Troopers||1959||Mobile Infantry|
|Harry Harrison||The Stainless Steel Rat||1961||Space Marines|
|Andre Norton||Star Hunter||1961||Space Marines|
|H. Beam Piper||Little Fuzzy||1962||Space Marines|
|H. Beam Piper||The Cosmic Computer||1963||Space Marines|
|Joe Haldeman||The Forever War||1974||United Nations Exploratory Force (UNEF)|
|Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle||The Mote in God's Eye and related novels||1975||Imperial Marines|
|David Weber||Starfire series||1990–Present||Federation Navy Marine Corps|
|Jerry Pournelle and S. M. Stirling||The Prince or Falkenberg's Legion series||1976–1993; 2002||CoDominium Marines|
|Orson Scott Card||Ender's Game||1985||Marines|
|David Weber||Honor Harrington series||1992–Present||Royal Manticoran Marine Corps (RMMC) of the Star Kingdom of Manticore, et cetera|
|David Sherman and Dan Cragg||StarFist series||1997–Present||Confederation Marine Corps|
|Ian Douglas||1998–Present||United States Marines Corps, United Star Marine Corps|
|R. J. Pineiro||"Flight of Endeavour"||2001||United Nations Security Council Space Marines|
|John Ringo||2005–Present||Allied Space Marines|
|John Varley||Rolling Thunder||2008||Martian Naval Corps|
|M.C.A. Hogarth||Spots the Space Marine||2012||Space Marine|
Films and television
|Director||Title||Year(s) published||Unit name|
|Michael E. Briant||Doctor Who serial "Death to the Daleks"||1973–1974||Marine Space Corps|
|George Lucas||Star Wars||1977–Present||Galactic Marines of the Grand Army of the Republic, originally known as the 21st Nova Corps. The Rebel Alliance has an entire regiment of Space Operations, nicknamed "Rebel Marines".|
|Lewis Gilbert||Moonraker||1979||United States Marine Corps on a space shuttle armed with lasers|
|Leiji Matsumoto||Star Blazers||1979–1984||Ground combat units found on the 11th planet are known as "Space Marines"|
|James Cameron||Aliens||1986||United States Colonial Marine Corps|
|Jeff Segal||Exosquad||1993–1994||Exofleet Jumptroops|
|Douglas Netter and J. Michael Straczynski||Babylon 5||1994–1998||EarthForce Marine Corps (also known as "Gropos" or "GROund POunderS")|
|Glen Morgan and James Wong||Space: Above and Beyond||1995–1996||United States Marine Corps Space Aviator Cavalry|
|John Weidner||Space Marines||1996||United Planets Marines|
|Keiji Gotoh||Kiddy Grade||2001–2002||GOTT Marine Corps|
|Allan Kroeker, David Straiton, et al.||Star Trek: Enterprise||2003–2005||Military Assault Command Operations (MACO)|
|David Eick and Ronald D. Moore||Battlestar Galactica||2004–2009||Colonial Marine Corps, Colonial Marine Corps Reserve|
|Brad Wright and Robert C. Cooper||Stargate Atlantis||2004–2009||United States Marine Corps attached to the Atlantis Expedition|
|James Cameron||Avatar||2009||Former Marines and mercenaries working with the RDA Corporation on Pandora.|
|Ronald D. Moore, Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi||For All Mankind||2021||United States Moon Marines, members of the USMC who are an astronaut security and tactical force on the moon.|
|Title||Publisher||Game type||Year(s) published||Unit name|
|Starship Troopers||Avalon Hill||Board wargame||1976||Mobile Infantry|
|Traveller||Game Designers' Workshop||Role-playing game||1977||Star Marines, Terran Confederation Marine Corps, Imperial Marine Force, Solomani Marine Corps, and Zhodani Consular Guard|
|Space Marines||Fantac/Fantasy Games Unlimited||Wargaming; Tabletop game; Dice game||1977/1980||Terran UnionGuard Heavy Infantry, Azuriach Heavy Infantry|
|Starfire series||Task Force Games; Starfire Design Studio||Board wargame||1979–present||Federation Navy Marine Corps|
|Space Marines||Asgard Miniatures||Science Fiction Miniature Line||1982–present||Space Marine/Space Trooper. The miniatures in this line were created for use with Laserburn and are currently available through Alternative Armies|
|Star Frontiers||TSR, Inc.||Role-playing game||1982–1985||Space Marine. The career name for NPCs with a focus in beam weapons.|
|Metroid series||Nintendo||Action-adventure game||1986–present||Galactic Federation Marine Corps/07th Platoon|
|Princess Ryan's Space Marines||Simulations Tacticals (SIMTAC)||1/285 Scale Tabletop Miniatures Game||1986||Princess Ryan's Space Marines|
|Warhammer 40,000 series||Games Workshop||Miniature wargaming; Tabletop game; Dice game||1987–present||Adeptus Astartes (Imperial Space Marine) Chapters, and also, to an extent, Chaos Space Marines.|
|Wing Commander franchise||Origin Systems, Inc.||Space combat simulation||1990–1999||Terran Confederation Marine Corps|
|Duke Nukem series||3D Realms||First-person shooter; Platform||1991–present||Earth Defense Forces (EDF)|
|Doom series||id software||First-person shooter||1993–present|
|Quake series||id software||First-person shooter||1996–present||SMC (Space Marine Corps) Marines, GDF (Global Defence Force)|
|Outwars||Microsoft||Third-person shooter; Tactical shooter||1998||Colonial Marines|
|StarCraft series||Blizzard Entertainment||Real-time strategy||1998–present||Confederate Marine Corps, the Dominion Marine Corps, the Alliance Marine Corps, the Alpha Corps, the United Earth Directorate Powered Infantry and numerous more|
|Ground Control||Sierra On-Line||Real-time tactics||2000||Crayven Corporation's Marines|
|Halo series||Microsoft Game Studios||First-person shooter; Real-time strategy||2001–present||United Nations Space Command Marine Corps and the elite Orbital Drop Shock Trooper divisions (special forces qualified for drop pod insertion).|
|Red Faction series||THQ||First-person shooter; Third-person shooter||2001–present||Earth Defence Marine Corps (E.D.M.C.) and Earth Naval Guard (E.N.G.)|
|Natural Selection||Unknown Worlds Entertainment||First-person shooter; Real-time strategy||2002–2007||Frontiersmen (human space marines)|
|TimeSplitters 2||Eidos Interactive||First-person shooter||2002||Space Marines (Sergeant Cortez and Corporal Hart)|
|Killzone series||SCEE||First-person shooter||2003–present||Interplanetary Strategic Alliance Marines|
|TimeSplitters: Future Perfect||Electronic Arts||First-person shooter||2005||Space Marines (Sergeant Cortez) (This got changed during scripting as it was pointed out that Space Marine might infringe on Games Workshop name.)|
|Mass Effect series||Microsoft Game Studios; Electronic Arts||Action role-playing game; Third-person shooter||2007–present||designated personnel of the Systems Alliance Navy (no branch independence)|
|Dead Space series||Electronic Arts||Survival horror; Third-person shooter||2008–present||USM Marine Corps (a branch of the Earth Defense Force)|
|Turok||Touchstone Interactive||Action game; First-person shooter||2008||Marines (also referred to as Commandos)|
|Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard||D3 Publisher||Action game; Third-person shooter||2009||Space Marines|
|Alien Swarm||Valve||Action game; Third-person shooter; Shoot-em-up; Top-down||2010||Space Marines – the game can be single player or 4 players co-op. There are 4 classes with 2 characters for each class: Officer, Special Weapons, Medic and Tech.|
|Warhammer 40,000 Armageddon||Slitherine||Turn-based strategy||2014||Space Marines|
- "Helmuth is after us, foot, horse, and marines."
- "'Don't be a dope,' a captain of Marines muttered in reply."
- "... have a boat-load of good, tough marines on hand..."
- "The parade ground voice of a First Sergeant of Space Marines cut through the fog and drizzle..."
- "Space marines, arms reversed and heads bowed, stood guard around [the coffin]..."
- Prucher, Jeff (2007), Brave new words: the Oxford dictionary of science fiction, Oxford reference online, Oxford University Press, p. 205, ISBN 978-0-19-530567-8
- Bleiler, Everett F. and Bleiler, Richard, Science-Fiction: The Gernsback Years, Kent State University Press, 1998, pp. 315–317
- "Preparing for Battle: Casting and Characterization", Superior Firepower: The Making of Aliens, Alien Quadrilogy – Disc 3, 2003, 20th Century Fox
- Adams, Ernest (February 2001). "Dogma 2001: A Challenge to Game Designers". Gamasutra. Retrieved 2007-11-13.
4. There shall be no...space marines
- Barnett, David (7 February 2013). "Superheroes, space marines and lawyers get into trademark fight". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
- "Row blows up over ownership of 'space marine' term". BBC News. London. 8 February 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
- "Marines in Spaaaaaace!". Defence Tech.org. September 19, 2005. Retrieved 2006-04-03.
- Social Policy for Effective Practice, A Strengths Approach. 2016-10-16. ISBN 9781497006140.