WindyCon, Building a Military SF Library, and Freehold
Next weekend I will be attending the WindyCon 35 science-fiction convention in Chicago. The event’s theme is military science fiction, and Baen Books’ John Ringo is the guest of honor, along with author Eric Flint, Star Trek’s and Babylon 5’s Walter Koenig, and artist David Mattingly.
I’m a Cold War veteran, and I spent most of my hitch in the Strategic Air Command’s 22nd Heavy Bomber Wing. And like most veterans, I learned pretty quickly that the old adage that advises “Don’t volunteer for anything!” is essential unless you want to subject yourself to dreadful humiliation or great risk. So, when I logged on the WindyCon site to make some suggestions for panel discussion topics, I had no idea that I was, in fact, volunteering to be a panel member. But that’s what happened, and I’ll be participating in the panel about Building a Military SF Library - What are the great books of military SF? What does any aspiring military SF writer need to have in a reference collection? Panelists tell you.
The session is scheduled for Saturday at 7 p.m., Nov. 15, in Ballroom C (C6, to be exact). While it’s a totally unexpected privilege for me, and my first time to be on a convention panel, I’m very honored and happy that Roland J. Green, the author of some of my all-time favorite military science-fiction series (Starcruiser Shenandoah, The Peacekeepers) will also be a panel participant.
On Friday evening I don’t want to miss the panel discussion titled Liberal Military SF: Does It Exist? - Can a writer be a liberal and a military SF writer? Is there something in military SF that requires a conservative outlook? Not counting the revolutionaries, are there any good portrayals of liberals in the genre?
Somehow I’m not surprised that Michael “Mad Mike” Z. Williamson will be a panelist on that one. Mad Mike almost got me in trouble in 2005 while I was living in Armenia. I was enjoying myself in an Internet café in the capitol city of Yerevan and, thanks to the Baen Free Library, I came across Williamson’s first novel, Freehold. To be generous I will just say that I didn’t like it much. The libertarian paradise it portrayed was as unbelievable to me as any Soviet propaganda about a future world of “pure communism”. But that’s not what almost got me into an unpleasant situation. The adult content in Freehold did. In fact, I think Williamson went way, way beyond erotica and crossed the line into pornography with his detailed descriptions of lesbian and group sex acts by the novel’s characters.
And, in Armenia, possessing, reading, and downloading pornography can get you into big, big trouble. Trouble like the interior of an old Soviet prison cell. And, quite frankly, I didn’t expect content like that when I started reading the story. Baen’s other online stories contain nothing like what I saw in Williamson’s book.
Lucky for me, the Internet café proprietors and their up-stream service providers didn’t detect the lewd text and, yes, they do monitor and sometimes block adult content in Armenia and in many of the other post-Soviet Republics. No militsia thugs wearing big CCCP service caps appeared to beat me up, extort money, or haul me to KGB headquarters. But it did put me off of reading any more of Williamson’s books. I’ve seen his comments that say “It was my first novel. I’ve learned a lot since then,” but, on his own website, his response to the subject of the controversial sexual content in Freehold is pretty flip.
I got a bad feeling, too, about such sexually explicit content being available on Baen’s online library with no warning, no disclaimer, no parental advisory, and, as a parent, that gives me the creeps.
Earlier this year, at Dayton’s Marcon sf convention, I told Baen publisher Toni Weisskopf about my experience in Armenia and my concerns. She urged me to give Mad Mike another try, to read some of his later work, but first impressions are lasting ones. And I have too many good books from other authors on my to-read list, thank you all the same.
Until next time, D’os Vadanya,