Sunset on the Kohala Coast

Sunset on the Kohala Coast

Words for Wednesday; aloha means “hello,” “hi,” and “goodbye.” Mahalo means “thank you,” and slippah is a noun for a soft-soled foot-covering that might be worn indoors except nobody wears shoes indoors. E Komo Mai means “welcome.”

Books and Writing:

Over at Tor, Sarah Gailey discusses the function of Hermione Granger in the HARRY POTTER books. She’s not exactly a sidekick, because she has her own motives and her own story. (Thanks to File 770.)

Kelly Lassiter sent us this link to a discussion about book reviewing and the difficulties of using a rating system. In their case it’s letter grades. I think we were laughing across all the time zones.


HawaiiCon was held at the Mauna Lani Resort on the Kohala coast of Hawai’i, the big island. This fairly new convention (in its third year) concentrates mostly on visual media like movies and television, and this year’s theme was Star Trek in all iterations. Guests included Walter Koenig (Chekov from ST:TOS), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura from ST:TOS) and Jonathan Frakes (Riker from ST:TNG).

The con has three other tracks though; cosplay/gaming, science and writing. I enjoyed the science track the most because the con was filled with astronomers and astrophysicists, partly because of the telescopes and observatory on the big island. I don’t know of too many other cons that offer “snorkeling with the stars” as an extra, though.

[caption id=”” align=”alignright” /> John Scalzi at the autograph table.

I talked to John Scalzi and Kristine Scalzi for a few minutes in the coffee shop the opening day. Here are a few tidbits: The book he is working on now, due out in 2017, The Collapsing Universe, is set in a completely new fictional world. He said it is not an allegory for what is happening now, although, “it is surprisingly timely.” He also said he has written a character in this book that is “one of the favorite characters I’ve ever written.” The sequel to Lock In, Head On, is due out in 2018.

The panel I was on took place Friday morning at 10:00 am. I was not expecting a large turnout but the room was nearly full. Our topic was “The Language of Writing Science Fiction,” and I shared the table with Marta Randall, writer, editor, teacher and the first female SFWA president. Near the end of the panel, Marta shared a few priceless passages from The Eye of Argon, an ancient novella that has become justly famous for its prose. (Warning: not for the faint of heart or the enamored of grammar.)

At “The Science of Telescopes” we heard from scientists who have been part of the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA); Hinode and the Suburu Telescope projects, as well as the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). From Tania Burchell, former interim director of NRAO, I learned that solar systems do not form the way we previously thought. Until recently, astronomers and physicists believed that from the flat, spinning disks of matter, stars formed by sucking matter into themselves. Sometimes they ejected material, and these ejecta became planets. Now they can see that at the same time stars are forming, smaller balls of matter called planetisms are forming simultaneously. The – okay, I’m just going to call them “baby planets” because I can’t help it – the baby planets draw in matter too. Some of it sticks to them and they grow, but with their weaker gravitational fields, they can’t capture it all, and instead the “spin” sends it into the star. Thus, planets and stars form at the same time, and sometimes the “baby planets” feed the star.

Tania Burchell, Astrophysicist and Star Trek fan.

Tania Burchell, Astrophysicist and Star Trek fan.

The future of science, at least space exploration, is international. Every panelist said that if you know someone interested in a science career, they should also get fluent in at least one other language.

If you ever have the opportunity to see or hear Tania Burchell live, take it. Take it, and bring along every teenaged girl you know who might be interested in science. Boys too. Take everyone. She is awesome.

“The Science of Gaming” was not a panel about the physics of games or the statistics of games or even the neuroscience of games. It was about how much science you choose to put into your role-playing game. Are you going for realism? Then a medieval battle game should contain some kind of disease hazard. My favorite take-away from this panel was a world-building tip we should all take to heart: “Your rules define your reality.”

The Writing Collective: (left to right) J J Adams, Marta Randall, John Scalzi, T.L. Smith

The Writing Collective: (left to right) J J Adams, Marta Randall, John Scalzi, T.L. Smith

Scalzi participated in the “Writing Collective” panel along with J.J. Adams, Marta Randall and T.L. Smith. Frankly, I thought this title was not well thought out, and the description was a bit vague. Basically, this was “describe your writing experience.” Two of the writers, Adams and Smith, are self-published, and it was interesting to hear a range of experiences, from Scalzi’s take on conventional publishing to Smith’s on the need to package, promote and market your own work.

My biggest disappointment was that, for various reasons, I missed every scheduled event with Kate Elliott, who lives in Hawaii.

Seat Turtle

Sea Turtle

The Mauna Lani Resort is part of a state program to raise sea turtles, which are protected, to young adulthood and then release them into the ocean. This meant the decorative salt water pools around the hotel were filled with honu (turtle) which was another bonus. The convention offered a luau and a cosplay contest. This is a small convention and the writing track was the least robust, but it is in a beautiful place.

Next week I will return you to your regularly scheduled programming.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.