Eastercon: military panel

At this con I have seen a dozen people who are confusable with people I know back in Boston. That always happens. There is also a guy I would swear was Terry Pratchett if Terry Pratchett weren’t dead. Maybe he is a Terry Pratchett impersonator, and this could become a niche, like Elvis impersonators. The greying, spreading, decline of mobility among fen proceeds apace. Very few teens and 20somethings. Like the engineering clubs for men like my father who hoarded old lathes in their basements and organized bus trips to model train shows, regional fandom seems like a slowly expiring twentieth-century culture.

The Nielsen Hayden generation discovered SF on the proverbial wire bookrack in the drugstore, and could only dream of community. Today the fan in rural Arizona goes online. And there’s probably a cult comics store and a wargame miniature store and a science fiction section in the Barnes and Noble at the regional megamall. There is all of that in Ipswich (comics,wargames, Waterstones, plus Oxfam). No community though, some of the classes I taught with SF examples excepted. Occasionally there is a very sad Suffolk/Essex commercial con with no literary-political content, just swag tables and signings by extras from the big film franchises. Meanwhile my father’s engineering club is at a more advanced state of waste: they cannot pull together the minyan needed to rent a bus to the big show and are barely quorate for meetings at the local industrial museum. Today the young “maker” in Massachusetts joins an Artisans Asylum and starts a craft business. Bowling Alone: the next generation.

Next door to Eastercon there is a gaming convention taking place in the giant tradeshow center. That’s where the teens and twenties are. I’m not sure what they are doing in the halls. BYOC/E-sports says the banner over one entrance. It does look like a much more affordable event, with a Wetherspoons and an all-night Subway, among other outlets, instead of a hotel bar and restaurant, and indoor camping instead of hotel rooms. For the indoor camping people have brought actual tents to set up a specially dimmed exhibition hall. It seems like a wonderful solution to the high cost of cons, although not one that hotels would go for.

I will post some notes on panels attended. If you enjoy them you might like these notes on the food panel at Readercon. But here at Eastercon I am lowering the cognitive load by not trying to match names with what was said. Just ideas. Treating the conversation as co-construction by the hive mind.

I had a radio shift in Ipswich this morning which meant arrived too late for Living in Space and Dinosaurs in Fact and Fiction. But I was just in time for

Military and Combat Writing Q and A (with military and disaster professionals)

“In a battle people cannot see anything outside their tiny foxhole or skirmish.”

“Commanders are supposed to not micromanage. They should not be directing troops but doing overall strategy. But this is hard for them and a major source of downfalls.”

“What they definitely don’t have time to do is to be updating their overlords on the situation and asking for advice, although writers will have them do it for exposition.”

“Many writers don’t get the isolation and the cameraderie. Base made out of shipping containers, someone came or left about once a week and they would have a party then and the commanders had to ask permission to enter because the men needed a space where they weren’t in a room with their commanders. Soldiers would depend on the mail drop and if two went by without a letter, you’d have to console the guy who thought his girlfriend dropped him.”

“What about robots running battle? Felt that humans get it wrong because they’re not flexible enough – always fighting the last battle and always flighting the last skirmish, so robots won’t do better.”

Books mentioned: Iain Banks, The Player of Games; Robert Heinlein, Starship Troopers; Lois McMaster Bujold series. The last two are felt to be relatively realistic portrayals of military people.

Posted on by Diana ben-Aaron
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