Looking for a short story about a group to troupe fighting staged military conflict as performance for assessed points. It isn't Mack Reynold's "Mercenary", and contains a reference to another "troupe" performing a "battle of Maldon" scenario

  • Are the members of the troupe humans or androids?
    – Joe L.
    Apr 29, 2015 at 21:51
  • Is the "staged military conflict" a tank battle, or is it a battle of horse cavalry, or spaceships with force fields and ray cannons, or bows and arrows, or what?
    – user14111
    Apr 29, 2015 at 22:02
  • They are human. Troupe appears to be about platoon size, narrator appears to be sergeant-equivalent. Background scenario is similar in some ways to "Mercenary" in that conflicts are fought within restricted areas using regulated types of hand weapons and assessed or marked by some sort of adjudicator.
    – Ben
    Apr 30, 2015 at 2:44

1 Answer 1


I believe this is "Curtains" (1974) by George Alec Effinger. First published in Fantasy & Science Fiction, it was anthologized in Haldeman's Study War No More.

Performing troupe fighting a staged military conflict (Sargent Weinraub is reading a review of their last performance):

"'And then there's Delta Company,'" said Weinraub, continuing to read from the magazine, "'a rather shabby troupe seemingly dedicated to defending our borders in the tritest ways imaginable. This week, in preparation for the first great offensive of the war, rumored to be a massive invasion of the European enemy's homeland. Delta Company attempted to consolidate its gains of the previous months. There was no secret about the importance of this performance. But, for some reason, the company dragged out the oldest, silliest ploy known to modern warfare. Dressed in civilian clothes, the company divided itself into two equal "gangs" and staged a sort of teen-age street fight. I don't know about my colleagues, but I myself have grown excessively weary of such tired examples of low-level creativity.'"

Another troupe performing the Battle of Maldon:

"I don't know," said Sgt. Weinraub. "Some South American company did the Battle of Maldon thing. You know, a losing cause but loyal warriors, fighting to the last man to avenge the death of their stupid leader. I would have figured that would really tickle the audience, the whole company of them going out in a huge blaze of glory. But the review just said something about 'pyrotechnic nonsense.' They want simple basic stuff these days. The tear-jerkers aren’t getting points anymore."

You can read the story as originally published in the August 1974 copy of F&SF at the Internet Archive.

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