I’ve been absent for a bit. I think two people noticed and got concerned, and to them, I apologize.
My last post was a week ago Thursday. A day before I attended HawaiiCon.
Why the absence? Good question. The four days of the Con were busy, but not that busy. The last six days were mildly busy, but with plenty of time to post something, only I didn’t.
I did read a lot (pretty much all of my fiction; flash, short, and novel-length). Plus, I read other stuff, both fiction and non-fiction. Plus, you know, snacks. Some people can do it, type with one hand as they stuff their face with the other. Not me. Eating interrupts my hunt-and-peck typing.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling blocks are the sheer number of photos I want to share. They are overwhelming. Waves, Hawai’ian ruins, lava, sunsets . . . I don’t know where to start.
But, this post is about our experience at the Con.
The first day, Thursday, started with our usual morning walk and a surprise visitor in the harbor.
Normally, Kailua Kona gets one ship docking in the bay . . . each Wednesday, the Pride of America makes port and disgorges its passengers to the delight of local businesses. However, in the fall and spring of each year, the various cruise lines reposition their ships for the seasons. In doing so, they add Hawaii to their destinations. On this day, it was the Celebrity Solstice. These shots are from the condo we are renting.
The Con was scheduled to open/start at 3:00pm, so we skipped the gym and made it to the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel by around 1:30pm, figuring we would fight the crowds. It turns out this is a small Con and not exactly swamped with fans. Still, it gave us the chance to walk around the grounds . . .
The above shots were taken with my Samsung Note II. Can you believe they now have an exploding Samsung Note 7? . . . I’m really behind the times.
These next ones were taken with my Nikon.
I pondered once before what kind of insect would leave those kinds of marks on the bark of the palm trees . . . well, I’ve worked it out even before witnessing it. The palm trees at resorts and in populated areas get regular maintenance. Meaning, someone climbs the trees to cut older fronds before they fall on unsuspecting tourists. Those marks are made by the metal cleats used to climb the trees.
Anyway, we were there for the opening of the con . . .
I had my Nikon with me, including my 70-200mm lens, so I practiced taking shots at various ISOs as we waited for the start. I finally settled on ISO 4000 as a good choice for ambient light (I did not want to bring my big flash – I find those intrusive and annoying, and I didn’t want to be one of “those” guys).
Here are my sample shots before the opening ceremony.
Those are some of the organizers . . . the wigs are from one of the vendor booths surrounding the main stage.
I thought the Pavillion (HERE is the 7MB PDF of the program booklet; guests, events schedules, and maps are inside) setup could have been done better. The stage was at the center of one of the walls, a section in front held a number of chairs, and a bunch of vendors tables surrounded the whole thing, arranged along the remaining three walls, like a giant letter U.
While it was OK for the opening ceremonies because everyone stopped what they were doing, the din from the various vendors and customers often overpowered even the amplified voices of the speakers when there was a panel scheduled. I would have at least put some acoustical partitions between the seating area and the vendors.
Anyway, the first order of business was a traditional (I presume) Hawai’ian blessing which included chanting and the spreading of salt around the seating area and on the stage. That was done by this lady:
Then came the introduction of the organizers . . .
. . . then I took a picture of the overhead screen . . .
And then I took a photo of Walter Koenig, the guest of honor at the convention. We were all going to help him celebrate his 83rd birthday.
I saw him numerous times over the course of four days, but respecting the rule of not taking photos outside scheduled venues, these are my only photos of him.
I did get numerous photos of the fish pond at the entrance to the hotel . . .
We then attended our first panel, the Psychology of Star Trek. The idea was to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test and have the panelists match us with Star Trek characters based on the results.
Both Melisa’s and my results confused the panelists and they could not match us up with anyone. The problem? They could not score us.
For instance, I ended up exactly equal parts E/I and exactly equal parts J/P, a smidgen more S than N, and a solid T.
So, what am I? Most of the tests I’ve taken in the past score me as INTJ, but the emphasis is on “moderate” for each one of the letters.
They handed me a Ferengi card. Melisa tried to argue that was not me at all, but they had already moved on.
We were looking forward to the next panel, but it was canceled. The alternative we had picked was also canceled. It was not looking good.
I took a few more photos at the pond as I waited for the panel Avenues of Publishing.
That panel was a bit of a disappointment . . . it really was about only one avenue. A local author talked about how she had self-published her book through Amazon. It was nothing I did not already know.
But, the next one, Keeping it Real, was a pleasant surprise. It was John Scalzi and Kate Elliot speaking about writing. Also stuff I already knew (I listed to a lot of stuff on writing), but it was entertaining as both authors are accomplished speakers and make good use of humor.
And, so ended the first day.
A few things of note here . . .
I’m sitting in the back row. These are small conference rooms. Five rows of chairs with eight chairs each. It’s Friday, and most of the chairs, you will note, are empty. There were even fewer people on Thursday. The other thing you don’t know is that at least three of the people listening are astrophysicists.
That was a common theme throughout the weekend. Astrophysicists interested in what authors had to say (the guy in the front row is taking notes) and authors interested in what astrophysicists had to say.
The final observation is that the panels on Thursday and Friday — with exception of the Walter Koenig solo which spilled well into the hallway and we could not even get near to — were lightly attended. “Lightly attended” plays right in my wheelhouse.
The talk itself was somewhat interesting, but most of it was yet another topic I’m already familiar with . . . avoid writing stereotypical female roles. I won’t go into it here, but I think I tend to write strong women characters, and in fact, I think I write more women characters than I do men, and when I do write male main characters, the women are not in the story as mere decorations.
If I sound a bit defensive here it’s because as a white older male, I sometimes — and not just at this talk — felt I was being told I am the root of all problems relating to science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and writing in general. I mean, perhaps once I get published I will be, but for now, I’ll hold my head high and say “Nah ah! Not me!”
Anyway, the next panel with Kate Elliot solo was also good as she went into the history of her writing career.
The guy at the end was the moderator, offering questions and leading the discussion when the audience had no questions. The panel was supposed to deal with where she gets her ideas for stories (she writes mostly fantasy), but right off the bat, she changed the topic to the differences and struggles of publishing as a woman versus as a man.
Mind you, it was still very interesting hearing about her life, but it might have been even more interesting hearing how to come up with magic systems, quests, and other things relating to writing fantasy.
That was a common theme throughout the weekend. We would go to a panel that sounded interesting, and invariably the topic would be changed to something else. Yes, with the exception of one panel, the topics were still interesting, but honest, it got annoying after a while. I would have preferred having no topic and just going in there without any prior expectations.
The above panel was better attended and dealt with The Science of Telescopes. The lady at the far left in the above photo was the moderator and I’m sorry to say I don’t know her name. The bearded guy is Timothy Slater. The center guy is Derek Buzasi. The lady in the red costume is Tania Burchell. To her left (right of her in the photo) is Ramsey Lundock (note, that profile is older. He’s now associated with ALMA). To his left (right of him on the photo), an old guy who took one of the few panel photos of this whole Con.
Dr. Buzasi and Heather Preston (I believe they either are or were once married) joined Dr. Slater and a few other experts to talk about Exoplanets.
One thing I came away with . . . all these individuals were enthusiastic about their fields, their enthusiasm was contagious, and they are all seriously smart individuals.
There were other stars of various Star Trek or related shows in attendance. At the Pavillion, we saw . . .
Don’t recognize the man? The title of the panel was Jonathan Frakes on Directing.
For them who don’t know who he is . . .
Note his walk as he leaves . . . he was asked about that. He modeled it after John Wayne’s distinctive walk.
The next panel of interest was The Writing Collective discussing the process of getting from writing to publishing . . . sort of.
The lady on the left is the local writer I mentioned earlier whose name, unfortunately, I don’t remember, then Marta Randall, John Scalzi, T. L. Smith, and the moderator (whose name I also don’t know).
There were some conflicting things here . . . again, lots of talk about inclusion and diversity, social issues, deep themes and topics and such, but Scalzi writes what he calls “vanilla stories” and he is by far the most successful writer on that panel (or any panels).
His books are basically space adventures modeled after Starship Troopers, by Heinlein. I don’t want to claim any airs for myself, but if I were to compare my writing to anyone, it would be him. Action, fast paced, smart protagonists, strong women. I will dare say we write similar dialogue, as well. Obviously, he does it better. More on that later.
Again, I did not hear anything new but it was interesting hearing it from published authors who are well known in their fields if not by the public at large.
And, so ended day two.
Saturday was the first day of my writing workshop with John Scalzi. That was not until 1:00pm, and we both wanted to attend a panel of astrophysicists discussing the Science of Star Trek.
Again, not quite as described, but there was another problem with this panel . . . within ten minutes of it starting, the place was standing-room only, with more coming in. It was hot, it was uncomfortable (I gave up my seat to a person with a cane) because I was surrounded by people in large costumes, and the topic had shifted to something less interesting . . . we walked out.
Saturday was more crowded, it being the weekend and all, and hence less fun. It turns out most of the panels were overcrowded, and after my workshop, we left. We had planned on staying for the costume competition, but we both agreed the three hours wait was not worth it.
The above is a picture from the workshop. It was good, but it was less a workshop and more a lecture on various aspects of writing and publishing. Again, not much new, but I did hear variations and new takes on some things I already knew. Twenty-five dollars for listening to a successful writer talk about various aspects of the craft for four hours (the second part of the workshop was on Sunday) was a tremendous deal.
One bad thing, bad as in annoying, was an unscheduled session of Taiko Drums right outside the conference and panel rooms. This is what it sounded like inside the workshop for the first half hour of it.
Let me tell you that it does not sound as bad on the video as it did in person. Those drums are loud. I’ll do a different post on the drums as I want to process some animations and show a few videos, but here’s one of the videos now.
Just before the above, we caught a panel that, as far as I can tell, was not scheduled.
Those are all actresses — or, female actors — speaking about the roles available to them in SciFi and Fantasy. We only hear a bit of it but it dealt with the treatment of women in films and TV shows more as objects than as people, both on the issue of how they are required to dress and their actual roles.
A short while after this, having left for a bit, we came back to the Pavilion to hear the panel on voice acting . . .
It was also interesting. At first glance, it sounds as if it would be a fairly easy job (Vin Diesel as Groot) but apparently it’s pretty grueling.
That was the end of Saturday since we did not want to wait around for the costume show. Speaking of which, there were many great costumes. I did not take any photos because the protocol is to ask for permission, and that involves personal interaction. Also, many of the costumes, while great-looking, were of characters I did not know.
Sunday I just went for the second part of the workshop. During that time, Melisa attended a few more panels. One that was interesting (more astrophysics) and one that was supposed to be one thing but ended up being another and not that good, at that. By then, we were ready to call it quits.
One important thing I learned during the second part of the workshop is also something I already knew but bears repeating . . . Scalzi stressed the fact he was very lucky and that a confluence of a number of factors led to his first sale and subsequent success.
He said he was lucky. I say he is also talented, but the point he made is that there are lots of talented writers, but luck does play a part, and there is no way around it. You can do all the right things, and never catch a break. or, you can catch a break, but nothing comes from it.
Oh, wait . . . there was one other thing. Someone — no, not me — asked him about being older and getting published. Understand, I joke about my age, but it’s not something that concerns me. Or, at least, it didn’t until Scalzi’s answer.
He said most writers find success in their thirties, but that’s an average. The youngest Campbell Award winner was in their twenties and the oldest in their fifties. The age spread of nominees is a little wider, but still . . . 50s. That is some years behind me.
I do think that as one gets older the chances of publishing fiction get lower . . . in part is that writing is a personal thing. Meaning, one’s experiences, one’s social and cultural references, one’s frames of references, all start to be less relevant as time passes and the world changes. I think it’s literally more difficult to connect with a broad range of the population when one draws on experiences that are twenty or more years old. Certainly, attitudes change, but also entertainment itself and expectations from said entertainment change with each generation.
If younger generations have even half the contempt for people my age as I have for them, I’ll never sell any books.
I must say that we both enjoyed HawaiiCon 2016, but we enjoyed Thursday and Friday more than Saturday and Sunday. That ties directly to fewer people and a more personal panel experience because one has the chance to speak to the panelists when there are only ten people attending as opposed to eighty or more.
Also, this is still a small Con. We definitively plan on attending next year, but if it grows to the likes of other Cons I’ve read about, we’ll probably pass on it.
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