On September 14 of this year I turned 60. To celebrate, I got up at 4:10 in the morning so I could catch the 5:30 Airport Express bus to the Oakland airport. From there I caught a 9:30 Hawaiian Airlines flight to Kona. The flight lasts about five hours, but because of the magic of time zones and a rotating planet, I got there at about 12:30 pm local time. The air was moist, hot and smelled of jet fuel and plumeria.
My friend Marta Randall met me and soon we were in her car tooling north to the Kohala Coast, specifically the Muana Lani Resort and Hotel, where Marta was a VIP at HawaiiCon 2016.
I really enjoyed HawaiiCon, but to be perfectly honest my favorite parts were spending time with Marta, who is a writer, editor teacher and friend, and Linda Kane, artist, film-maker, writer and friend. Marta and I shared the table at the panel on the “The Language of Writing Science Fiction” and it was great fun. To my surprise, nearly 30 people showed up for it – and they were an engaged, interactive audience, with lots of good questions and comments. And, the Con provided leis to panelists!
I was also pleasantly stunned by the opulence of the hotel. When we got to the desk to check in, the desk clerk handed us each a moist cool washcloth. When you’ve been out in the humidity, this is pleasant little perk. My familiarity with island resorts ended with the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and the Muana Lani was a lot like that place. You could schedule expeditions; you could snorkel, there were three restaurants on the resort grounds (and you could charge everything to your room if you wanted). There was a nice beach for early-morning walking and evening spectacular-sunset viewing. It even had those chaise lounges with the blue cushions like you see on TV. It had a coffee shop. And our room had that infinity-mirror thing that is so cool.
And none of that really addresses the actual convention.
HawaiiCon started as a media con. This was its third year, and their media tie-in was Star Trek. They had Nichelle Nichols, Jonathan Frakes and Walter Koenig as guests of honor, which, I have to say, I found pretty impessive.
A couple of things make HawaiiCon special. One is that it’s in Hawaii. The other is that they have a robust science track, with a lot of physicists and astrophysicists because of the observatories on the islands. In past years they’ve have geologists and volcanologists and I’ve sure marine biologists would be a welcome addition. My favorite three panels were all astronomy or astrophysics based.
The Con has a solid gaming/cosplay track, and a writing track that is in its infancy. This year’s Writer Guest of Honor was John Scalzi. Once again, Scalzi impressed me with his professionalism and generosity on and off the dais. He is witty, funny and informative on a panel and he also makes sure all participants get time to speak. In one panel he was on, he was next to a person who was, er, well, chatty. An audience member asked a question that seemed obviously directed to Scalzi. As he leaned forward to answer, Chatty Person grabbed the ball and bolted for the end zone. Scalzi could have slumped back, could have sighed, done some small thing to make it obvious he had been interrupted, or at least pre-empted. He did not. When Chatty Person was done he added his observations. He could have exercised a tiny bit of star-ego and shown up Chatty Person as oblivious and a little rude. He opted not to.
The first day of the convention I ran into John and his wife Kristine in the coffee shop. Except for the barista there was no one else there. I was wearing my Con lanyard. I recognized them and I choked –not from nerves, but from writerness warring with politeness. They were sitting at the coffee bar enjoying a cold drink; isn’t this a private moment? On the other hand, the Con has started, aren’t they (or at least he) fair game? While I dithered, John said, “Hi, how are you?” It was a nice ice-breaking moment that I appreciated. And then of course I peppered him with questions.
HawaiiCon also had some medieval cosplayers and SCA members who demonstrated medieval combat. These stalwarts deserve some kind of special award for dressing and engaging in active exercise in eight degrees with eight-five percent humidity… or maybe they deserve psych-evals. I don’t know which, but they were informative and interesting.
My biggest disappointment? For a variety of reasons, I never connected with fantasy writer Kate Elliott on a panel or during signings, and that had been one of my goals. I did get her fantasy Black Wolves, though, and that was a great read, so maybe it’s not a total loss and maybe I’ll meet her next year.
I would also like to see more conventionally-published writers included. Right now, the small population of writers skews toward indie and self-published. That’s great, but it’s not the only way to go, and conventionally published writers in the speculative fiction field have a wealth of knowledge to share. Marta and I are doing some groundwork to reach out to traditional writers and see if we can’t lure them to the glorious island of Hawai’i.