It was again time for our local two-day SF convention in Tokyo – Hal-Con to which we invite a non-Japanese writer GoH (guest of honor) who is published also in Japan, plus his Japanese cover artist. The guests this year were Hannu Rajaniemi and Noriko Nagano (thanks for coming!).
For the first time we repeated the venue and the convention happened at the Kawasaki International Center where Hal-Con 2011 has happened with Robert Sawyer as the GoH. The Hal-Con GoH’s so far have been Charles Stross, Robert Sawyer, Alastair Reynolds, Joe Haldeman, Peter Watts and now Hannu Rajaniemi.
On the first day, the highlights were a general interview with Hannu san moderated by fellow writer Preston Grassman, and the bi-lingual reading of Hannu san’s short story „Tyche and the Ants“. Hannu read the English original of course, but as a first for Hal-Con, the Japanese version was read by three young voice actors with alternating parts.
I had a little autograph session in the dealer’s room and thanks to Chie san and Rene san for coming! Lol. Next to me sat a Japanese YA author called Tsukasa Tsuchiya, who had as few guests as I did and we had a good laugh. 😉
During the GoH party in the evening, I tried out part one of two virtual reality demonstrations. Goggles and headphone shut you out from the real world and in part one you are inside a giant robot of Pacific Rim style (Gargantia) and bounce around an attack on two (or was it three) ships at sea. I kinda was expecting a kaiju to appear but was disappointed in that regard 😉
I am pretty resistant to motion sickness but felt a bit woozy despite that from the roller-coaster ride the episode put you through. I tried the other demonstration, the next day, Yamato 2199. You at first get a (longish = too long) tour of the ship’s outside, whilst „standing“ on a mobile platform wearing a space suit. At the end of the tour, hostile forces attack the Yamato and there was a bit more action, if far less stomach turning than the robot experience. The Yamato 2199 presentation also suffered from one of the main reasons for why I don’t like most Japanese anime. A „woman’s“ voice explains things to you and that voice is ridiculously high, cute and sounds embarrassingly stupid. = women are cute and stupid and I do NOT agree with that concept one bit.
The second day of Hal-Con was way more busy for me, starting with an excellent panel right in the morning with Hannu, the Japanese SF writer Taiyo Fujii, and myself, moderated by Rene Walling on writing in a second language. Hannu’s mother-tongue is Finnish, mine is German, and even though Fujii san is not writing in English, he checked an English translation of one of his works in detail.
One aspect we dwelled upon was that in Japanese, Finnish and German it’s very easy to make new words – just add nouns or kanji. It’s also easy to make verbs out of nouns and vice-versa in all three languages. Thanks to that we might be taking more freedoms or have less scruples to take them when writing in English. 😉
Another interesting topic was that in Finnish and Japanese you can hide the gender of a person whilst in English (and German) you have to state whether your characters are he/she/or its, otherwise your sentences do not work.
Multilingual people have a quite different approach to language than mono-lingual ones and I for my part am happy for my German background and Japanese capability, even if it makes my English imperfect.
Next up was a difficult to translate panel where a Japanese colleague and I shared the translating. Meiji University professor of information ethics Andrew A. Adams interviewed Hannu on the subject of privacy and information security in the future. The talk covered the privacy setting concept in Hannu’s novel Quantum Thief, current attempts at hiding or finding information by individuals as well as governments (how we don’t know what really happened at Fukushima nuclear power plant or what is happening between Russia and Ukraine, how individuals try to poison networks by randomly adding key-words like bomb or terrorist to unrelated texts, etc.) and that „lies run twice around the world before truth’s got its boots on“. We need a new awareness of how to deal with information, our own, as well as that of others. It will be interesting to see where the story goes, and how we will deal with our future memory.
Finally, it was my turn and I held my by now „traditional“ reading session at Hal-Con. This time I read from the third and last part of my trilogy around the modern day alchemist Hagen Patterson „Give Substance to a Thought“ and from a soon to be published space opera. (by the way, I’m planning to release this one under a male pseudonym, so the reading was not recorded ;-)) Then I got „grilled“ by one of the fans as to whether the space opera is an anti-theses to „normal“ space operas and whether my Hagen trilogy is an anti-theses to „everyone’s dead at the end of the Ring of the Nibelung“. Well, no, not really, the space opera is mainly about the protagonist’s special hearing and the Hagen trilogy is mainly about the ups and downs of Hagen and how he deals with the unusual circumstances he finds himself in. It was a nice dispute, but I’m afraid I got a little bit in the defensive ;-).
Here is the link to the reading from Hal-Con 2014 from my 2nd alchemist novel “To Mix and To Stir“. I’ll upload this year’s reading soon as well.
The dead dog party (the party for the staff at the end of a convention) was great fun and I successfully swapped souvenirs with another fan and got my hands on a signed copy of Katoh sensei’s (he’s my cover artist) a live paint of the aliens from Joe Haldeman’s „Forever War“ two years ago at Hal-Con 13, yeah.
Nothing is decided yet about Hal-Con 2016, but probably see you all there again 😉