View From a Hotel Balcony, 10/3/19: Canberra

It’s a nice view. I’m here for the “Science Fiction and the Future of War” seminar, at which I’ll be giving the keynote address in a couple of hours. Canberra and Australia are enjoying the beginning of their spring, and apparently there is a flower festival going on, so tomorrow during my time off I’ll be doing and taking a probably ridiculous number of photos there. My sleep schedule is still a little off, and I woke up at 3am. But then again sometimes I wake up at 3am at home, too, so there’s that.

If you live in Canberra and you are not going to the seminar today (as most of you probably are not) but will still like to see me, I’ll be at Conflux on Sunday, along with many other science fiction writers and fans. Come see me there. These are, alas, my only Australian events this year.

10 thoughts on “View From a Hotel Balcony, 10/3/19: Canberra

  1. Enjoy Floriade – it’s better from the air so the Ferris wheel is a must. Another glorious day ahead in Canberra! HMU if you want any tips for great places to eat or things to do. The National Film and Sound Archives (quite near you just at the top of the ANU) has a fun retro video games exhibition at the moment and we had quite a nostalgic trip there earlier this week. Fab nerdy fun.

  2. John, bud, you might want to stay south of the Equator for a while longer, maybe this will blow over.

  3. I agree with the Ferris Wheel, although it costs roughly a million Australian dollars. Be advised that more people than the population of Canberra go to Floriade each year (I’ve heard NightFest is amazing, but it’s not free so I’ve never been), so going on Friday rather than a weekend is a good idea. Our public transport isn’t great, excited though we are about the new train/tram thingy that allegedly goes from civic to Gungahlin every ten minutes or so. If you want a lift, someone in the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild can look after you. There are a lot of us. My email is fellissimo@hotmail.com in the unlikely event you get stuck somewhere.

    I recommend the Chinese restaurant in the main square at the Australian National University, plus a bunch of other eateries of various kinds. There’s also a Lebanese Film Festival at the ANU at the moment, part of the ANU film group ($15 for a week’s membership). The restaurant is very close to the theatre room, and a Harry Hartog book shop.

    Questacon is cool too (there’ll be Floriade traffic over the Commonwealth Bridge). It’s oriented to kids but/and one of the funnest things to do in Canberra.

    Having written all that, I suspect you’ll be trying to write at least a bit this weekend. I just really like Canberra (mainly because I’ve seen other capital cities around the world, and they tend to suck).

  4. Do you know if recordings/transcripts of any of the speeches will be available after the conference?

  5. I dunno man. I dont think science fiction generally does a very good job of depicting future war. Story telling is almost always personal, things always happen for a reason, the death of a character is always calculated, and the protqgonist generally determines the outcome of the war. All of this is an outcome of the scarce economy of the readers attention. Nothing is introduced into a story unless there is a reason for it later. So everything makes sense. If it doesnt, readers tend to stop reading.

    Actual war is an impersonal mob of hundreds of thousands, shit just randomly goes wrong, death is random, and victory is either the result of concerted effort of hundreds of thousands, or sometimes it doesnt matter what you do, victory isnt possible.

    The rule of thumb for writing is that if you have something hinge on a completely random event, have that happen towards the beginning of the story. Stories that have the ending determined by the cavalry just randomly showing up at the end with no mention of their existence prior to that will tick most readers off.

    But wars are a function of a lot of things, including luck. Napolean lost because of rain. In a story thats about as bad an ending as the aliens all just die from our bacteria. When mortars are raining down on the heroes position and their stuck in the open, the hero is as likely to die as the nameless guy who showed the hero a picture of his girl back home. Do that in a story, and readers get as angry as they did at game of thrones knocking “main” people off.

    I suppose scifi might come up with some tech ideas once in a while for a weapon. But lightsabers are stupid. The mech suits in live, die, repeat, are stupid. Even green skinned super soldiers throwing themselves into a meat grinder doesnt make sense. The tech is pretty clearly heading toward remote controlled drone swarms with ai to manage formations and deal with targeting. Future war for those with the tech will become completely impersonal, waged from a keyboard in the back of a vehicle of some sort. Problem is that doesnt make for an easy to appeal to the masses kind of story. Need one hero to fight the one and only boss in hand to hand combat.

    The drone attack on arab oil production is more likely the future of war. A hundred thousand drones of weights from half a pound to a hundred pounds, with ai to recognize targets, human or structural, dropped from a hundred thousand feet up and a hundred miles out, swarming in a massive zerg rush, is the future of war. Its hard to write a typical story in that though. No people on the attacking side, and just a whole bunch of death and destruction where the other side is wiped out in five minutes. And a carpet of drones on the ground maintain the new status quo.

    The closest thing ive seen that presents this is Edith in spiderman far from home. Once peter lost control of edith, and it was controlled by a villian willing to use it to its full effect, the story should have rightly ended because there would be no counter to it. But instead, spiderman gets through edith, to fight the villian in hand to hand combat, where victory was achieved when the combatants were less than a couple feet apart.

    The future of war fighting isnt going to look like anything that we call a story today.

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