Manticoran News Bureau

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High Admiral Tom Saidak with the crew of HMS Wolf.


Coconuts and Swallows


2014.09.10 CE / 346.06.06 AL (MNB) – For any new recruits who come to the Grayson Space Navy, there is an age-old tradition dating back to time immemorial. After they finish boot camp, the High Admiral administers the oath of service, and then intones, ‘The traditional 72 hour, 2 minute ban on coconuts and swallows will be observed.’ On such a traditional planet as Grayson (some would say stubborn), the references to the carefully-preserved 2D movies of Monty Python live on. Even while their ancestors abandoned technology to settle on a distant planet, even Saint Austin knew they could not possibly give up British Comedy.


The ban was instituted by the last head of the GSN, High Admiral Nicholas Hurst, who would regularly lead his crews to hijack posts on the official TRMN Facebook group, and turn them into major humor/pun/fun fests. The final straw came when Hurst initially started posting pictures of Grayson Swallows—with four wings.  Much “goofiness” ensued afterwards, including Tom Saidak posting a picture of his treecat with a coconut labeled “Mark IV Penetrator.”  ‘It went downhill from there,’ the current high admiral groaned, which led to the point of being told by the Powers That Be to ‘officially knock it off.’  So the ban was put into effect, leading Nicholas to set up the Silly-Esian Confederacy FB page, as well as the total tolerance of humor on the official GSN page. Once Tom was raised to the top post by the Protector, he added two minutes to ban because… why not?


Adam Šiml, XO of the GNS Equinox (BC-68), an early adapter of Grayson cosplay in the Czech Republic.


This rather strange mix of tradition and titillation has infected the GSN. One might argue that it’s even necessary, since the crew of their ships never physically meet, it’s important to keep things light in cyberspace… where a loose comment can easily be misconstrued. In addition to getting together at the occasional convention, or playing World of Tanks online, the FB arena has allowed for these geographically separated people to ‘get together.’


However, sharing the occasional comment on the ship page is not enough for these neobarbs. Many ships have formed role-play groups to simulate the experience of playing together that their distant locations have denied them. These experiences range from the mild to the bizarre. Commander Joseph Barrow’s experience on GNS Covington adds a taste of the surreal: ‘The Master at Arms surveyed his domain… and wondered who put up the two chocolate donut posters, the coffee cup lamp, the expresso maker, the chocolate fountain, the rack of gourmet coffees, the celery juicer, and the gun cleaning station. The last two items didn't seem to go with the general theme, but since it was at least useful, he didn't see the problem.’


Who needs a uniform when you can wear a nice denim shirt? (Courtesy of Rayanne Staubly.)


This role-playing experience was carried by HMS Hydra as they transitioned from a Grayson ship (ex-GNS David) to a Manticoran vessel, probably due to the Commander Barrow’s influence when he transferred to Hydra and became executive officer. He and Lieutenant (SG) Nathan Durbin follow the Grayson tradition as the only two allied officers on that RMN ship, ‘Sometimes, my RMN shipmates snicker or more possibly groan, but when the chips are down in RP we have fun. Our captain must be Grayson at heart (or maybe I've corrupted her to the True Way) since she has a way or a will of her own.’


The concept was so successful that the Andermanis used it as well. Fregattenkapitän Rob Hampson didn’t even bother with a separate RP group with this post: ‘Attention the Ship, this is the XO. Despite rumors to the contrary, we are not transporting Plague victims back to the Empire. Those are simply the Bosun's lab specimens. Do not be alarmed. They are (mostly) harmless. Just keep your vac suits on and sealed and all will be well.’


Captain Martyn Griffiths prefers the denim to his blue suit when meeting with GNS Albion’s crew.


On the rare instances that the spacers of the GSN are seen in public, no one is safe. High Admiral Tom Saidak related a story to illustrate that very point. ‘At BayCon, at the Friday Evening “Meet the Guests” event, my wife and two wonderful lady friends had engineered me being the first Grayson, in full GSN uniform, to introduce my wife, at which point she would introduce her two sister wives.  My fellow BayCon Board members had engineered having David Weber (writer guest of honor) inform my “and your lovely wife” as being promoted to FOBs (Friends of BayCon) which means we get to go to BayCon for a nominal price for as long as BayCon lasts.


‘David Weber, for whatever reason, couldn’t or wasn’t given my wife’s name.  This gave me the opening on the microphone to introduce my wife to David Weber.  She then introduced her sister wives.  I turned to David at that point and told him off microphone “I told you I was Grayson.”  David responded “Oh? [the hunh variant], OH!!!!! [he got it variant].”  Based on his reaction, he had never had a “Grayson” introduce his adult family before.’


Zach White, commanding HMS Beowulf (BC-739), detached to Grayson service for Dragon*Con.


Their humor does not stop them—and perhaps is the secret—from expanding. Thanks to the nature of their correspondence chapters, Grayson ships also have the greatest range of members. There are ships throughout the United States, a couple in the United Kingdom, and two in Europe. Also their members are not often limited to the geography—for example, GNS Glory, which supposedly covers wide tracts of land… in continental Europe, has their bosun living near Las Vegas, one of their crew in Israel, and one of their chiefs in South Africa.


‘However, the Loyalty Toast is always solemnly given (I give you Grayson, the Keys, the Sword, and the Tester!),’ Commander Barrow explains. ‘Then we drink (some more than others) and go back to ensuing hilarity.’ It’s this goofiness which allows this flexibility, the acceptance of the absurd, that let’s geographically separate fans come together and still enjoy the camaraderie that comes with being part of the Fleet. As the commander puts it, ‘the coconuts and swallows are guarded well.’


Love for the Graysons compelled this man to make his own embroidered shirt at LonCon.


Article Copyright © 2014, Bureau of Communications, The Royal Manticoran Navy: The Official Honor Harrington Fan Association, Inc.
CPO Caitlyn Miller, Manager, Manticoran News Bureau, BuComm. All pictures used with permission or used in a way that qualifies as fair use under US copyright law.