Hal-Con 2019 Report

This year marks the 10th Anniversary of Hal-Con Japan, which took place at the Kawasaki International Center, April 13-14, 2019, with international guest of honor Lavie Tidhar and Japanese guest of honor Misato Hisa. Past years have included writers like Ken Liu, Ann Leckie, Hannu Rajaniemi, Joe Haldeman, and Alastair Reynolds, with the goal of broadening the science fiction community here in Japan and fostering a more inclusive approach to the field among fans and writers.

Lavie Tidhar, Preston Grassmann (by Preston Grassmann)

Tidhar’s publications in Japan include the Bookman Histories trilogy, The Violent Century (nominated for the Seiun Award), and A Man Lies Dreaming. I interviewed him and we talked at length about alternate histories, including Tim Powers and his unique approach to world-building – how stories can be developed by finding unusual connections between historical events. We discussed the influence of classic SF writers, ranging from C.L. Moore to Asimov, Clarke, and Simak (to mention a few). We talked about his recent work and his forthcoming publications, which included a weird western featuring a town of clowns and an alternate Arthurian legend with aliens. His descriptions left everyone in a state of bewilderment and anticipation – if anyone can pull off such wild ideas (with brilliance), it’s Tidhar. It was a memorable discussion with great questions from the audience.

Aside from Misato Hisa’s work as a creature designer for the TV series Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger (TV Asahi), his comics have been published widely in magazines like Comic Ran Twins and Monthly Heroes. His work spans a range of themes, including alternate histories, space kaiju, and crossover mythologies based on Japanese history, some of which were discussed on his interview panel on Saturday. He talked about his unique approach to building stories around a climax and the process of developing his work in manga.

New Writers Panel: Nozomi Ohmori, Mitsuhiro Monden, Yugen Yashima, Haruka Mugihara, and Kagetora Tennomaru (by Preston Grassmann)

There were over 40 events at this year’s conference. Following the opening program and the initial guest of honor interviews on Saturday, there was a panel with Tidhar and Nozomi Ohmori. They discussed the challenges of editing anthologies and Tidhar’s work on The Apex Book of World SF. A ghost story event in the afternoon celebrated the oral traditions of Japan, while a well-attended panel on paranormal romance discussed turning vampires (and other paranormal beings) into glittery creatures of endearment.

On Sunday morning, Tidhar joined Masato Hisa for an interesting discussion about steampunk and American comics. This was followed by wide-ranging panels on editing, screenwriting, cooking, and art. Once again, there was a dealer’s room and an art-show, collecting many of the illustrations from previous years along with new work by prominent creators.

Hal-Con has remained true to its stated purpose and has proven to be the best conference in Japan for those interested in the literary side of science fiction. I can only hope it will continue to attract great writers and artists and expand its global reach.

Preston Grassmann

This report and more like it in the June 2019 issue of Locus.

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