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NAVYCON, where the Navy and science fiction meet, comes to Annapolis coronavirus style

The U.S. Navy and science fiction will converge in Annapolis Thursday at the second NAVYCON.

Well, digitally.

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NAVYCON, last held in 2017, will use Zoom to hold the conference online, said Commander Claude Berube, director of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.

NAVYCON 2020 will be held in partnership between the Naval Academy and BuNine Consulting. Speakers featured will include those from the Navy, the Army and the Australian Army, according to a press release.

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It will run from 7-10 p.m. Thursday. Registration is still open, Berube said, and will be until the minute before the event starts or it hits 500 registrants.

As of Tuesday, 250-300 people signed up, Berube said. That’s already a much larger crowd than in 2017, when the first NAVYCON was held. The first event was limited by space so only up to 80 people could attend.

“The advantage of that, too, is to see it, to be here in person ... means that you’re local or you happen to be in Annapolis at the time,” Berube said. “We now have, the ability to be like everybody else [and] to offer this across the country or the globe.”

Berube will give opening remarks, followed by comments from Lt. Kayla Barron, the 54th Naval Academy graduate to become an astronaut. Some of the speakers will be live panelists calling in via Zoom, Berube said. Others will be prerecorded.

For those who cannot attend NAVYCON live, it will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube, he said.

There is great energy among the participants, Berube said. They each have a different take on science fiction in general, as well as different components of the genre.

Berube admits it seems a little light-hearted, and there might be some who wonder why the Navy would hold such an event. The Naval Academy teaches a holistic approach.

Some midshipmen compete in athletics. They take classes ranging from poetry to chemistry to political science.

“So this is simply part of a broader educational view,” Berube said. “What can we learn from science fiction?”

While the event is called NAVYCON, the event is open to anyone, Berube said. For some, it might be three hours to get away from all the news of COVID-19.

“And I think that’s the appeal that science fiction and other kinds of fiction have always had to readers or viewers is that it takes us out of the reality,” he said. “But by the same token, there are going to be lessons here that can also be applied to 2020 United States.”

Berube said he is looking forward to all of the speakers.

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But given that this is the first time it is being held online, Berube said what he is most looking forward to is a smooth event without technical glitches.

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