Hey, do you like looking at pictures of other people’s vacations? Well, then you’ll want to check out my JoCo Cruise 2016 Flickr photo set, which is just that very thing! In addition to pictures of islands and such, it has snaps of the performers, concerts, two types of monkey made from inanimate objects, and, of course, a phalanx of waiters waving their arms about. As they do. Plus: Me in a hot pink tie! You don’t want to miss that.
I will note that all the pictures this year were taken with my cell phone camera, which is fine but which of course has close-up muddiness because of having a tiny sensor. Next year — because yes, I’m planning to be on the boat again next year — I think I will bring a proper camera, for proper photos, taken properly. We’ll see how that goes.
Yes, yes, you say, that’s all fine, but tell us about the cruise itself? Well, since you asked, it was pretty good! As many of you know, I am co-head of the cruise’s literary track (with Pat Rothfuss), and we were delighted this year to have N.K. Jemisin, Allie Brosh (who we shared with the main stage), Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction as participants. They were all, in a word, fabulous (plus! Michael Ian Black, who came to the boat for his comedy skills, nevertheless did a reading of his most recent work, Navel Gazing, and did a writing track panel, so I’ll claim him after the fact). With the exception of one thing, all the writing track panels and presentations went off without a hitch, which made the cruise an especially happy one for me.
(The one thing that hitched? The ship running crew drills during N.K. Jemisin’s reading, with means sirens blaring, messages coming up on the intercom, and crew members running around and slamming doors. This was frustrating for her and the audience, and embarrassing for me, and something we obviously will keep in min for future cruises. That Nora nevertheless gave a kickass reading that garnered her a standing ovation is a testament to her writing and presenting skills. Seriously, people, read her stuff, and if you can, see her read her stuff. It’s amazing.)
I was also happy this year that my family got to come with me on the trip. Last year because of scheduling issues I went on the cruise alone, which was fine but which made me realize how much better a tropical paradise is when you have people you love with you. Having Krissy and Athena (and Hunter, Athena’s beau) with me this year made it a much happier experience. Family! It’s a good thing.
Other personal highlights of the cruise (not all of them, otherwise we’d be here for hours):
* Almost missing the boat in St. Maarten because the excursion we went on ran late, which caused twenty of us to run the better part of a mile after the official “on board” time to make it before the ship cast off. We made it in part because Hunter, being young and fast, sprinted the whole way to tell them the rest of us were on our way. Because he did, Hunter was the hero of the day, we were not stranded in a foreign country, and the whole story, which is best told live and with gesticulation, goes down as an amusing experience rather than an “oh, shit” moment. Which is why it’s a highlight, and not its opposite.
* Having an “in conversation” panel with Nora where we talked about worldbuilding, writing, the culture of science fiction and fantasy today, and a number of other subjects. Nora is super-smart and opinionated and also I’m a fan of both her and her writing, so I was as much of an audience member for that as I was a participant. Okay, I’m going to stop fanboying Nora now.
* Staying up late to talk aliens with John Hodgman, John Roderick and Michael Ian Black, and, yes, it was just as awesomely nerdy as you might have expected it to be (I think Ted Leo might have been involved as well? It was late, man, and I was soooo high (note: I was not actually high)).
* Staying up late another night to do cryptic crosswords with Ted Leo and Aimee Mann and a rotating cast of contributors. I was, I should note, mostly a spectator, because it turns out I am really shit at these sorts of crosswords. But I did get one right, which earned me a smile of approval from Aimee Mann, which thrilled both the teenager version of me who loved the song “Coming Up Close” and the adult version of me who actually knows her as a person.
* Speaking of Mann and Leo, watching them rehearse with Jim Boggia, Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick was like getting a living room concert from some of my favorite musicians. I kept very very very quiet so they wouldn’t kick me out.
* Watching Matt Fraction, Kelly Sue DeConnick, and John Hodgman geek out over Hamilton, the musical (and also the soundtrack). I mentioned to Hodgman I was saving my ears until I could see it on stage and he looked at me like someone who said he only breathes oxygen when he absolutely has too, i.e., he clearly thought I was daft. Well, maybe I am (holds breath).
* The goodbye concert, which is always great, but which this year featured an especially fine tribute to David Bowie. It was all amazing, but watching Jean Grae blow out “Moonage Daydream” is very likely going down in my personal list of Top Musical Experiences, Ever.
* Really, just getting to hang out with all the performers and their families and friends is amazing. But equally great: Hanging around and having conversations with the “Seamonkeys” (as the JoCo Cruise folks call themselves). Everyone is smart and kind and fun to talk and be with. As performers, one of the things which makes the JoCo Cruise such a great experience is the fact that the Seamonkeys are always willing to go with you, wherever it is you’re going. But also, as a nerd, the great experience is that wherever you’re going, you’re not alone. There’s always someone willing to nerd out with you. I love it, which is why I keep coming back.
Speaking of which: JoCo Cruise 2017 is open for booking. You really should go, if you can. It’s great. It’s always great. And next year we have a whole boat to ourselves! Which means it’s probably going to be especially great. Come along. You won’t regret it.