Imagicon 2 – a report

Imagicon 2 was the Swedish national con for 2009 (Swecon), and it took place 16-18 october. Since I was on the committee for the con I was not able to listen to as many panels as I could have wished. This is not a problem for me since I really enjoy also making a con, not just visiting. The venue was the same as for Stocon 08, i e ”Skarpnäck’s kulturhus”, which is well suited for a medium-sized con. However, this time the bar was managed professionally by Linda Ekenberger and her staff. They did an excellent job!

Anders Reuterswärd, Johan Anglemark, Patrik Centerwall, Gunnar Nilsson, Linnéa Anglemark

I listened to the panel From a Foreign Perspective consisting of Kristina Hård, who writes sf and is a computer scientist with a background in AI, and also teaches creative writing in Lund, the GoH Liz Williams, who also has a master in AI but went back into philosophy, and Lotta Olivecrona who is a radiologist who has written a series of three sf books. The panel was moderated by the British fan Chris Bell. Lotta Olivecrona thought she wrote sf but her characters have telepathy so it might rather be fantasy. Liz Williams commented that women are considered to write from experience, which makes their writing closer to fantasy than to sf. In the discussion it was concluded that names are important and may have to be changed when books are translated. At least Liz and Lotta writes to know the world, in a way like explorers. Thus it is more like being tourists than to be God, which is perhaps more a boy thing.

Present ideas and prejudices are projected onto the future or past, in historical novels. That the stories mirror the present society is easily seen when reading older books.

Ylva Spångberg intervjuar Jörgen Forsberg

De första minuterna när fanhedersgästen Jörgen Forsberg intervjuades av Ylva Spångberg missade jag, men förstod att Jules Verne-magasinet spelat en avgörande roll för hans kontakt med fandom. Liksom jag gick han på SFSFs möten i Observatoriekällaren. Han var på Sam J. Lundwalls kongress på Amaranten 1973, där Donald A. Wollheim var hedersgäst. Kongressen hotades att bli övertagen av Stockholms Tolkiensällskap som lagt beslag på programmet. Detta vaccinerade Jörgen effektivt mot Tolkienismen. SFSF hade planer på att erövra världen, ge ut böcker, sälja, och göra Forum till en stor kulturtidskrift. Lokalerna på Pontonjärgatan användes som bokhandel där Bo K. Eriksson stod och snart blev en inventarie. Det behövdes extra personal så Jörgen hoppade in någon halvdag här och där. Det kom ut ett antal böcker. Några fans kom att tillbringa mycket tid i källaren där, det var Ylva, Bellis, Ahrvid och Roger Sjölander. Om jag förstått rätt gjorde det att det var knepigt att bedriva bokhandeln, och verksamheten packades ner och flyttade till en källare på Tyskbagargatan (jag var själv med och körde en VW-pickup). Kaj Harju började sälja på postorder från källaren. Bokhandeln flyttade snart till Roslagsgatan där man fick dela lokal med Horst Schröder i ”Metropolis”. Det fungerade inte så bra och efter ett halvår, 1985, flyttade SF-delen till Atlasgatan. Där sålde fansen böcker mot att få för 25 kr böcker i timmen. Lokalen var delvis bokhandel och delvis möteslokal för SFSF, men en stor del fylldes efter en tid av en gigantisk tryckpress som aldrig kom i bruk. Bolaget SF-bokhandeln startades 1990, och flyttade 1991 till Gamla Stan.

Åsa Schwarz, Gunilla Olivecrona, Liz Williams, Graham Joyce, Stefan Högberg

Using a well-known setting for your fantasy was discussed in the panel Goblins in the backyard, led by Stefan Högberg. Liz Williams was happy to have a receptive readership which wants to believe and wants to be in a “vampire universe”. She lives in Glastonbury which is a center for New Age activities. Graham Joyce told us that there have always been goblins in his family. He has been sceptical towards them but has also spent half his life accepting them. His grandmother plays a major role in the book The Facts of Life. Thus the episode where a soldier who was fighting in WWII in the African desert but suddenly knocks on the door, is based on a legend in the family. Åsa Schwarz tells us that her parents are a physicist and a mathematician. She studies the area, the backyard, and its history before using it in a book. She likes horror stories, which scare more if they take place in your backyard. Lotta Olivecrona tells about her two sides, the book writer contrasting with the objective radiologist. For her the middle of Sweden is magical since that is where she grew up.

 For Graham Joyce psychology is not only science, but also lots of intuition, and he does not believe in a rational basis for emotional life. Ghosts may be generated by human beings. Liz Williams agreed; spirits may be created by many believing in them. Joyce used Jerusalem for a ghost story and found the city so full of references. He is an atheist, and considers the resurrection of Jesus to be a major ghost story. He criticizes most fantasy stories, except Tolkien’s, for describing hermetic universes which do not intrude on your own reality. The intrusion of supernatural elements usually increases in his own stories.

 I panelen Kräver fantasy ett eget språkbruk? satt Anders Björkelid som skrivit Ondvinter som ska följas av ytterligare tre delar. Han kallade sig amatörtyckare, medan Nicklas Andersson definierade sig som språkvetare. Stefan Ekman angav sig som proffstyckare som forskar på fantasy. Han försöker livnära sig på fantasy och önskar förlänga tonåren utöver alla gränser. Moderatorn Linnéa Anglemark berättade att hon som språkvetare tänker på språket när hon läser.

Diskussionen inleddes med att Stefan Ekman hänvisade till Encyclopedia of Fantasy för att definiera episk fantasy. I denna räddas något på ett storslaget plan. Begreppet har också diskuterats av C S Lewis i ett Preface to Paradise Lost. I t ex Beowulf räddar en stark hjälte ett land från ett hot, och i Odyséen är det en grupp som genom sina handlingar påverkar hela världen. Panelen ansåg knappast att språket är speciellt i episk fantasy, däremot kan berättartekniken vara viktig. Anders Björkelid ansåg att språket varken ska vara arkaiserande eller modernt, utan så neutralt som möjligt. Kulturella referenser som hänvisar till vår tid måste tas bort. Stefan Ekman gav några exempel på hur enstaka ord kan påverka intrycket: I amerikanske filmer säger tyskar ja och nein, i Harry Potter finns skotska ord instoppade, och Tolkien slänger in enstaka alviska ord för att få hela texten att kännas främmande. Vapen som inte finns hos oss kan få föregivet främmande namn. Han berömmer Christina Brönnestam för att ha hittat ett bra fantasyspråk.

Historiska romaner har alltid en känd verklighet att grunda sig på. Skriver man London skapar läsaren själv en bild, medan i ren fantasy måste författaren skapa allt. Begrepp kan läcka in från annan fantasy, som t ex alver.

Svenskt modernt fantasyspråk kommer till stor del från översättningar, t ex det blommiga språket i Ohlmarks Tolkienöversättning. Plockas engelska ord direkt blir klangen mer exotisk än ursprunget. Fantasysvenskan har blivit engelskklingande. Ett närmast komiskt exempel är ”odöd”, vilket i Norrland betyder ”livfull”. Ett bättre ord är ”vandöd”, och felet kommer sannolikt från översatta äventyrsspel.

Johan Anglemark interviewed Liz Williams, who was born in Gloucester where she now lives. It is an uninteresting, rural place. Her father was a hobby stage magician and her mother a gothic novelist. She still writes although she is in her 80s, and she likes Liz’ books. She got Liz when she was 37, and was glad to get married, not resentful as many today. Liz herself started reading early and wrote fanfiction. She was a lonely, constrained child. Later she studied AI and philosophy of science. She tells that she has not a standard conformist religion, rather a pagan with supernatural beliefs. She taught English after her degree and went to Kazakhstan, and in 1996 she also visited Kurdistan and Uzbekistan for an ongoing education program. Her experiences went into Nine Layers of Sky.

Liz enjoys writing, and she does it mainly in her magic shop. The sense of place and character are important, and literature that preaches irritates her. She has contracts for a series of books, and she tells that the Chen books are most natural to her. The Poison Master is a gothic caballistic romance. She is especially satisfied with Nine Layers of Sky whereas the Inspector Chen books sell best. She markets her books mainly herself. She reads for example Bradley, LeGuin and Vance. She thinks that Mary Gentle’s Rats and Gargoyles started the New Weird, but the guys get all the credit.

Mats Linder, Bellis, John-Henri Holmberg

John-Henri Holmberg, Ylva Spångberg, Roger Sjölander

Med Mats Linder som moderator samtalade Bellis, John-Henri Holmberg, Roger Sjölander och Ylva Spångberg om Nova Science Fiction, en slags fortsättning på den panel som behandlade magasinet på Kontext 2008. Ylva översatte både i den första och den nuvarande inkarnationen, och hamnade i i redaktionen i den nya. För Bellis var jobbet på Nova hans första fasta, och i den nya inkarnationen ingår han dessutom i redaktionen. Han uppskattade den tidigare redaktionslokalen som var idealisk för efterfester. John-Henri berättar att han ger ut Nova så länge han har tid. På 80-talet var utgivningen hyfsat OK, mest p g a att den kunde säljas i kiosker. Då, med distribution via Sesam, gick det att bestämma hur många försäljningsställen som skulle ha Nova, och med Nova på ett av fyra ställen kunde 8000 ex levereras varav 4000 såldes. Presam kräver att minst 20000 ex levereras, vilket ger en alldeles för stor förlust i osålda ex. Nu säljs Nova på 13 ställen, Presstoppbutiker och SF-bokhandelns butiker. Dessutom prenumererar ett 25-tal bibliotek.

Mats står för recensionsavdelningen, och har glidit in på översättandet. Han undrar varför det går så dåligt, och John-Henri svarar att sf inte finns i Sverige längre. Förlagens intresse har flyttats till fantasy, och speciellt till vampyrer.

Samtalet gled över på de böcker som också gavs ut av förlaget Laissez Faire Produktion AB. Bellis berättade hur han ändrade namn på en person i Gallaghers glaciär, och Ylva om hur sättarna la till en karaktär i hennes översättning av Nortons Pestskeppet, en slutna rummet-berättelse i rymden. Paret Kuttner-Moores Mutant var för lång för bookomaticmaskinen, så den förminskades intill oläslighet, medan motsvarande problem med Dénis Lindbohms Domedagens skymning löstes av Roger som tog bort elva sidor i följd. För att effektivisera inköptes en fotosättmaskin för 320.000, men att ge ut mer gick inte eftersom det inte fanns köpare. Tyvärr köptes den strax innan datasättningen kom något år senare.

Johan Anglemark interviewed Graham Joyce. For Liz her mother was a model, but for Graham it was his father, the coal miner. The idea of being a writer was utterly remote. Words of more than two syllables gave rise to suspicions of homosexuality. Graham was expected to go down in the mine like his two brothers. However, he managed to wriggle through the net. Alan Garner, who he calls a sort of J K Rowling type, turned him on, and the seed was introduced. Alan Garner started with conventional fantasy and turned into writing very complicated fantasy stories, and he finally had a nervous breakdown.

Graham Joyce comes from Keresley in the Midlands, close to Coventry, which had been the target of the first terror bombing during world war two. It had been rebuilt when he grew up, but it was ugly since it had to be rebuilt rapidly. This is described in Facts of Life. He went to college, wrote a dissertation on Thomas Pynchon for his MA, and has been working as a teacher and for youth clubs. He has felt it to be presumptuous and arrogant to even breathe that you are an author until you have published something. In order to start writing he quit his job and went to Greece with his girlfriend who also quit her job and in two weeks they were married. They went to Lesbos, the island of wild orgiastic women drunk on alcoholic beverages. He wrote lots, and went on to Crete. From there he also sold his first book in 1992.

There is always something that is supernatural in Joyce’s books. He uses the tension between credulity and doubt, and the shuttle between the two positions. Also in his YA fiction there are supernatural elements, and a strong streak of morality. Finally, he mentions that he works on graphic computer games trying to improve the narratives.

Brita Planck, Graham Joyce, Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo, Vesa Sisättö, Mats Linder

In the panel The Noble Art of Critique, with Mats Linder as moderator, Graham Joyce pointed out the difference between critique and review: A review is slightly more accessible or palatable, it comments on the value of a new book or film, and should have less than 900 words. It tells the reader if the book is worth the time and money. A critique, written by a critic, should be about 3000-5000 words, and its job is to find something worth examination. More room is used on antecedent books and background, and it puts the work in a context. Vesa Sisättö writes reviews of YA books for newspapers, and they want descriptions of the story and only few words on if the book is good or bad. Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo finds reviews helpful since you cannot read everything, and Brita Planck agrees that the judgment of the reviewer is important. She wants more critique, and Graham comments that there is not enough criticism in our genre, more analysis is needed. Critique is something you read after reading a book, whereas reviews are read before. As a writer he has no use for reviews whereas critique, even when short, can help him. His work is often reviewed by mainstream reviewers, who according to Johanna, often don’t know about the genre. It is also often reviewed by fossilized sf reviewers, so “we” are also guilty.

Vesa finds it amusing to write reviews of very bad books, and Graham comments that you feel frustration and rage when you read a bad book, and a negative review is your only way to hit back at the publishing department. There is (or was; I cannot find it) a “crap writers dot com” site where the self promotion of authors is attacked, and it is vicious and funny according to Graham. However, he thinks it is best to ignore bad books. He also doesn’t like grading systems as e g stars, and thinks that the reviewer should give the information.

Regarding fans as critics, Johanna loves them, especially when the name of the translator is mentioned. Graham admits that fans have been tremendously important for his career. There is an ongoing conversation in the community, over many years. Brita recommends the site “Vetsaga” that has good essays on sf and fantasy, and Graham mentions John Clute, Paul Kincaid and Farah Mendlesohn as important critics in the field.

Graham Joyce, Hans Persson, Liz Williams, Marianna Leikomaa

The panel The author and her obligations was intended to deal with blogs, and thus the moderator Marianna Leikomaa started by asking what the panelists blog. Liz Williams blogs about her dog. She is fairly selective about what she puts on her blog, and she enjoys the interaction. Graham Joyce also has a blog, but does not write every day. He sometimes comments on the government, and he uses a different voice from that in his stories. The Brits consider it un-British to write about ones writing; the British way is to be self-deprecating. Hans Persson has a review site and has written about the process of writing a book. He has more interaction via Facebook than at work.

What obligations does an author feel? Graham wants to give entertainment and a good narrative. It should celebrate or give rise to thoughts about this life. He feels no obligation to write the same book as before. His books change, and he does not do series. The books are on the edge of genre.

Liz feels an obligation to be professional to the publisher. She also thinks she has an obligation to readers to finish a series, with a rational conclusion. She gets enraged by publishers who stop series, they also have obligations. Graham might write sequels to his YA books, but he has “other fish to fry”. Liz thinks it is unhealthy to be so interested in characters in books that you demand sequels, and she thinks that readers have an obligation not be complete assholes – buy the book if you like it. Graham wants the readers to accept that authors change with time.

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