Mythcon 31 Report
By Jan Long
What an exciting spot to hold a Mythcon — right on the edge of Mt. Doom! There were about 70 people present and nearly all of us combined Mythcon with an extended vacation. (My husband, Jeff, and I spent a few days on Oahu before flying to the Big Island for the rest of our trip.)
Our conference location was in Kilauea Military Camp (a vacation spot for the military actually) in Volcanoes National Park. A short walk from the camp and you were within sight of the largest of Kilauea’s craters, Halemaumau. The buildings on the site were built with local materials — lava rocks — and some buildings were being remodeled. Our cabin was quite cozy nonetheless (we had a fireplace). There was no need for air conditioning in the elevations; in fact, I needed a sweat shirt in the evenings.
Weather that weekend was rather wet; the remnants of a tropical storm blew ashore so we had one full day and night of rain (but no thunder or lightning — according to the locals, that’s a rare thing in Hawaii). However, there was still sunny weather where we all had plenty of opportunities to go sight seeing around the park.
As for the conference, we got things going with a morning ceremony with a Hawaiian chanter invoking Pele’s good graces. We offered her flowers and our prayers, with the traditional procession following.
Our guest of honor was Steven Goldsberry, author and scholar of Hawaiian myths and legends. He recited many of these legends by reading several excerpts from his book, Maui the Demigod, thus making the stories come alive. His charming wife, U’i, complemented Steven with stories of her youth (she’s of Polynesian descent). She even treated us to an impromptu hula dance during our luau on Sunday evening.
Discussions during the weekend obviously centered around Polynesian myths and legends. I was amazed to hear so much about the goddess, Pele. She is still very much on Hawaiians’ minds! David Bratman gave a wonderfully informative talk on the Inklings and their experiences in the Pacific Rim. Diana Glyer had two very thoughtful papers, one on Joy Davidman’s book Weeping Bay and the other on “Ciriticism and Conflict Among the Inklings.” The local chapter of the Mythopoeic Society, Sammath Naur, held its own servey, asking us what our favorite fantasy books of all time were. (LOTR was on top, of course!) The top vote getter received just 22 votes, while the rest of the list quickly dwindled to 1 and 2 votes each. What we all agreed upon was that our favorite books have been around for many years, so not too many recent favorites (such as Harry Potter) made the list.
Evening activities were their usual kooky fun. The Not Ready for Mythcon Players enacted a Lord of the Rings-like episode of Hawaii Five-O (it really was quite funny). Darci Hill scripted a reading based on the Chronicles of Narnia (yours truly was the narrator). While waiting for events to unfold during one evening, several of us (started by me, I think) gave our renditions of various TV theme songs. Best part was when Mike Glyer sang Mr. Ed‘s theme song!
The banquet was held at the 150+ year old hotel restaurant called the Volcano House. Their view of Halemaumau is spectacular! What was especially eerie that evening was when the fog rolled in over the mountains and “filled” in the craters. Jeff and I went to dinner there once more before leaving Hawaii, and again, the fog rolled in! If you can get to the Big Island, plan to stay at this hotel, or at least eat dinner there. Marvelous!
We had a real luau on Sunday evening (the food was authentic luau chow at least — we dined in the not-so-authentic main hall of the camp). Salmon, rice, noodles, pork (wrapped and cooked in taro leaves), poi (sorry, it still tastes like Elmer’s glue to me) and a coconut gelatin dessert (haupia) were featured.
Most of us took time to tour the park; I think Jeff and I went sight seeing on about 5 separate occasions (including the times we toured the park AFTER the con!). Most of the craters within the Kilauea caldera were calm, except for Halemaumau. On our last day of vacation, Halemaumau was steaming quite a bit and its seismometer was much busier than any of the other ones in the park. We have vivid memories of the myriad colors and smells. Jeff and I spent much of the rest of our vacation looking for petroglyphs (our maps said you could find them all over the island), but we could only find them in Volcanoes Park. The Hilo side of Hawaii is still very desolate. If you want typical vacation stuff (shopping, golfing, condos), go to the Kona side.
Mythcon wrapped up on Monday am, as usual with our singing the many traditional Mythcon carols. The folks in the Sammath Naur group must think us crazy indeed — this was their first Mythcon — but I hope they’ll be able to make more cons in the future.
After Mythcon, Jeff and I stayed in a bed and breakfast called the Hobbit House! Located on a mountain near the southern part of the Big Island, it was indeed Shangri-La! Residents along this stretch of “road” (I use the term loosely) have to generate their own power! Our host, Bill Whaling, is an inventor, who is marketing a new macadamia nut cracker. He is also a genius with fixing windmills (he works on the large array of windmills which help to generate power for the island). Our hostess, Darlene Whaling, is plenty busy with the B&B business and her efforts are superb. This B&B is peculiar in that only one family may stay at a time, because you have the whole house to yourself. It features a full kitchen, living room, one bedroom and a gloriously huge bathroom. Again, since we were on the mountaintop, there was no need for air conditioning. If you’re interested in staying here, please contact Bill and Darlene at hobbit@aloha net. (Preview their place on the web: http://hi-hobbit.com/island/.) Worthwhile and reasonable rates, even though you must have a 4-wheel drive vehicle to drive to their place. Bill, by the way, also built their home (the B&B is built on the back end of their home). It is a work of art.
August is actually a good time to visit Hawaii. (Any time is a good time to visit Hawaii!) There were lots of families getting that last vacation before school starts (we mainly found them basking on the beaches of Oahu). Yet the weather is fine: hot near sea level and in the deserts, refreshing in the mountains. It is not particularly the rainy season (though hurricane season does begin), but it rains every day for a minute and then changes its mind. Now you know why the Hawaiians are so proud of their state symbol, the rainbow.
As for Mythcon, super special this year! Next year, it’s back to Berkeley. Aloha for now.
(Reprinted with permission from the November 2000 issue of Beyond Bree)