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IMG_20160730_130329 Law Enforcement in Speculative Fiction panel
Left to right: authors Jayme Lee Moyer, Kirk Lynn, Marshall Ryan Maresca, Patrice Sarath, and Joe McKinney on the "Law enforcement in speculative fiction panel".
In addition to being writers, Myke Cole used a police officer, and Joe McKinney is a detective in San Antonio. The rest of the panelists (a total of 6) mostly write speculative fiction that involves some kind of police, much of it being paranormal, urban, or just plain straight fantasy. Thus, police forces they talked about were often the imaginary kind, with names like Yellow Shield. Or if they were mere mortal humans, the specifics of their work consisted largely of dealing with paranormal criminals. So a big part of the discussion revolved around encounters of human cops with supernatural forces.
At the beginning Myke Cole, the moderator, told us that while it was OK to express disagreement, he would not tolerate name calling or insults. I took that to mean that we were gearing up for a lively debate of Black Lives Matter, police brutality, and related topics, which were very much in the spotlight in summer of 2016. However, nothing like that happened. Neither the moderator, nor panelists, nor anyone in the audience voiced any remotely controversial or "hard" questions or remarks.
... except perhaps that Joe McKinney mentioned some incidents from his own experience where women officers were experiencing sexism, and not just from fellow officers, but from the public at large. Two women officers, his colleagues, were trying to subdue a "big dude"; a woman ran from across the street and said: "don't worry, I called the real police". "There are more and more female officers, and I rely on them everyday. I watched female officers deal with that prejudice stoically, fuming quiet rage," said Joe McKinney. So in some of his novels he discussed that issue. He used a novel as a sugarcoated pill. "You have to tell the novel in a way to atract the audience, but while you got their attention, it's a good opportunity to talk about something you think is important, such as women in policing."
Joe McKinney mentioned later on that when he got into writing zombie stories, around 2004 - 2005, there were only 2 zombie books at that time. And that, I must say, is the most science-fictional thing I heard at the whole convention: the fact that there was a time when zombie novels were scarce.