HawaiiCon 2016

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 . . . 


Samsung Note II photo

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.

Come Friday, we were there for the early panel, Language of SciFi Writing, Marta Randall and Marion Deeds.


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).


She has a nice smile.

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



The gentleman on the right is Lou Mayo. The lady next to Tim Slater (left) is Stephanie Slater, his wife. 

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. 

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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. . .  my FP ward  . . . chieken shit.

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About disperser

Odd guy with odd views living an odd life during odd times.
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22 Responses to HawaiiCon 2016

  1. AnnMarie says:

    Too bad some of the speakers didn’t stick to the topic of the panel. I, too, would have been miffed. But it sounds like it was interesting enough for you since you’re planning to attend next year. And I got to see Chekov and Riker as they are now!

    Naturally, I enjoyed your many photos, especially of the palm trees.


    • disperser says:

      Like I said, with the exception of one panel that Melisa attended while I was at the workshop, the deviation was not bad or objectionable. It’s just that, as kind of the anal retentive crowd, it caused me a few moments of “hey, that’s not right!”

      And yes, I would do it again.


  2. sandra getgood says:

    I have a tendency to avoid large groups of people whenever possible, and have great respect for your willingness to brave the crowds to talk to (or at least hear ) authors discussing the various aspects of the art of writing. The fact that you are willing to attend the con next year makes me hope that you get to see and hear the people you want to see and hear, without having to battle crowds. And having read some of your work, I can vouch for the quality of your female characters, who are never boring, weak, or unrealistic.
    And, as always, enjoyed seeing your pictures….. walking around the grounds must have given you more pleasure than sitting in a small room with your eardrums being battered by loud percussion, but reading about it all was far less painful than what you endured. Good thing you have a good sense of humor.


    • disperser says:

      Thank you, Sandra.

      Overall, we saw and heard pretty much everything we had flagged on hearing and seeing (except for the costume show). Yes, a few times we diverted from our plans upon encountering walls of people, but it was nothing that ruined the time we had.


  3. renxkyoko says:

    Jonathan Frakes….. I just watched an old Star Trek show…. O_O


    • disperser says:

      Like, the original series? Frakes was in one of the newer shows (but, still old).


      • renxkyoko says:

        The newer ones , of course. He looked so much younger, then, like , in his late 30’s.

        He was also in this show, Fact or Fiction. He did look like he was already in his 40’s . I like that show. I wonder if cable is still rerunning this one.


      • disperser says:

        What a coincidence! . . . I too looked younger when I was in my 30s and 40s.

        . . . but, did not look like Frakes. Or was that tall. I did, however, sport a beard.

        Man, that was 1996 (43 years old) . . . I knew everything back then . . . and knew nothing.


  4. Nice review! At the end of the post I felt like I attended the conference, too. I also liked the John Wayne clip and the drum video. The highlight of this post was your selfie with your hat! But you got your lefts and rights mixed up a tad when you described the people in the photo.


    • disperser says:

      Thank you, and yes, the left and right description is a tad ambiguous, but it can be read either way. I clarified it a bit, but it’s still messy depending on whether one assumes I am describing the photo or speaking from the perspective of the people on the photo.


  5. desleyjane says:

    How interesting. I didn’t realize a con would include so much background – on writing, publishing etc. It sounds like a great event for the most part. Love the Nikon beach shots and the fish pond especially.


    • disperser says:

      There are usually a number of what they call tracks; science track, comics tracks, movie tracks, etc. Within each of the tracks, there may be additional breakdowns.

      For larger cons, some people will just buy tickets for one or two tracks as there is too much stuff to attend everything. This was a small con, but even so, there were concurrent panels we had to choose based on the description. For instance, an astronomy one versus a movie one or even a panel on the influence of Hawaiian culture on SF.

      The reason I was occasionally annoyed is that I would choose a panel base on the description being marginally more interesting than another panel . . . and then, they did not cover what was described.

      Still, like I said, other than a couple of instances, we enjoyed what we heard as being both interesting and informative.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Welcome back! Looks like a lot of those people had been stuffing themselves full of SPAM,
    Like that scenic pictures but the people pics are pretty meaningless, might have been not so had I have been there but I wasn’t so it is ! :)


    • disperser says:

      Glad to be back . . . and I’ll take you to task for that Spam comment. You can certainly comment on my eating habits and I’ll gladly spar with you. Those people don’t know you and you certainly don’t know them.

      There is a saying . . .

      As far as the people being meaningless, not to me. You know how rarely I take photos of people, so it should say something that I was moved to snap a few photos.

      True, some of those are of random people as I photographed to test camera settings and testing lighting. Those shots might not mean anything to you, and I can respect that; they are for the photographers out there.

      The organizers? They work hard at making this work, and me writing about this Con will bring some eyes to the post. They deserve a bit of a spotlight even if the only one I can provide is relatively minuscule. So, yes, they don’t mean anything to you.

      The scientists and writers? Those were taken because I then made the effort to find out more about them and what they are doing. Provided links, even. Now, if you have little interest in writing, fiction, or science, those photos will mean very little to you, and you should rightly gloss over them.

      Frankly, there should be little associated with HawaiiCon 2016 — or a post thus titled — that should be of interest to you.

      Hence my surprise when you take the time to insult people you don’t know and suggest . . . well, I don’t know; what are you suggesting when you tell me those photos were meaningless? Should I only include photos you approve of?

      Telling me you did not care for this post and then adding a smiley after that statement adds nothing of value. (insert appropriate smiley here)

      Now, this might seem an over-the-top reaction, but there are plenty of readers who looked at this post and blew it off without commenting on it or feeling the need to denigrate anyone. If you were searching for something to let me know you read it, you might have gone with “glad you enjoyed yourself, you Spam-eating long-winded wannabe writer”.

      What did you say is the opposite of “bloody good, bloke”?


  7. So cool! Thank you for sharing the Con with us! I was anxious to hear how it went and what you got to do, etc.! Love the photos (Wow! on the fish photos!) and getting to see what you saw. I’ve always wanted to attend a con, and now I really do! Sounds like this one was the perfect size.
    I always grin when John Wayne walks. :-)
    Oh, and I missed you around these parts!
    Yikes and Ack on that “stat” about a person’s age and publishing. But you can defy the odds and the stats and all of that! So don’t quit writing!
    HUGS!!! :-)


    • disperser says:

      We had talked about going to one for years. The closest (and smaller than the big national ones) was PhoenixCon, but we always had things come up. It also does not help that many of the larger cons are always around holidays.

      Not that we celebrated holidays, but it means more people out on the road and traveling.

      This was was very manageable and enjoyable. There is one in Honolulu, but I think that is larger, plus, you know, we’d have to fly there and stay at a hotel. With this one, we drove back to the condo every day, a mere 30 minutes a day.

      Also, thanks for the kind words. People have missed me before, but only because they were poor shots.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. colonialist says:

    You are to be commended for an astonishingly comprehensive set of minutes for this meeting …. these meetings. I think my brain would have made fizzing noises and thrown out sparks from overload.


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