Tricon 2010, Cieszyn, Poland, August 26-29, 2010
The combined Eurocon and national cons for Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia took place in Cieszyn in the south of Poland and actually also in the Czech part of that city, Cesky Tesin (unfortunately the website I am using does not like the Polish and Czech characters). To reach this place I flew to Krakow via Prague, and by bus from Krakow to Cieszyn. I had hoped to have a nice bus trip through the landscape that I have never seen, but the little bus was crowded and far from comfortable. Still, I got a view of some landmarks in Krakow and also of the countryside with many mountains. Poland was an inexpensive country and the hotels, Liburnia and Gambit, were perfect for me. The convention in the local university branch was in walking distance. I was there early to put up some posters for Eurocon 2011 in Stockholm, and when I registered I got so many books that I had to go back to the hotel and put them there before the start of the programme at 13.00. The programme had 13 parallels in the university building and 5 in a school in Cesky Tesin! However, the latter ones were mainly on gaming, and only one or two of the slots in the university was in English. Still I admire the organization of such a huge convention, with about 1500 members! The written programme book looked like a WorldCon one, and was absolutely perfect, with three parallel languages.
The first programme item I listened to was a talk by Igor Kniaz, 19th Century Inventions Are Back. He told us that he was from Warsaw and an sf fan since 1999. In a thought-provoking manner he demonstrated that many if not most of the everyday inventions that are used today stem from the 19th century, and also male clothes and ways we live. Thus, the inventions of hoovers and refrigerators made it possible for women to start working in the industry, and the care of women that had been an important task for men earlier was no longer relevant in the 19th century. Other gadgets in the home that were invented then are the safety pin, the sewing machine and the washing machine. Even computers were invented then as implicated in The Difference Engine, even if they were not produced. I just wondered which household inventions in the 20th century that were really new.
Radoslaw Kot and Pawel Ostrowski next talked about Space Opera – Humanity’s Unfulfilled Hope. I found this less interesting, mainly because they did not stick to their own definition of Space Opera, “Adventure stories set in space”. These are a continuation of sea adventure stories, the first of which was The Odyssey. Instead of talking of modern Space Opera, although they mentioned Alastair Reynolds, they concentrated on military sf which to me is quite another genre (and without interest). Thus they talked about mistakes in films like Battlestar Galactica and about David Weber’s books about Honor Harrington.
A bus took us to the Polish-Czech border and from there on a bridge a group walked rapidly on down a street. When we arrived at the central station in Cesky Tesin I registered some doubts in the leading group, but finally they found the open square where we were supposed to meet. There were several groups fans dressed as in Star Wars or as medieval warriors, and the leading figure was a dragon with a spine of umbrellas. The parade went ahead in the direction of the station again, but had to go back and after one more mistake it was on its way towards the Friendship Bridge where the actual opening of the convention took place, with talks by among others the mayor and the chairman of ESFS, Dave Lally. The parade then continued to the corresponding square in the Polish part of the city, Rynek, where we could listen to nice medieval music.
Even in the evening of this first day of the convention, Thursday, there was programming and I listened to Eckhard Marwitz from Germany talking about German SF authors translated into other languages. He gave us a list that did not appear to be complete, but he asked us to send him information to make it more complete. It was interesting and amusing to hear him talk about Walter Ernsting, who did not manage to sell his own books to a publisher but only his translations. However, he succeeded when he gave himself out as being the translator when in fact he was the author! He was active in SF Club Deutschland and wrote short stories in the fanzine Andromeda. According to Marwitz he was also the first maker of the Perry Rhodan series.
Friday started with the General Meeting of the ESFS (European SF Society). Petra Bulic presented a bid for Eurocon 2012 in Zagreb, Croatia, April 27-29 with some introduction already on the Thursday April 26 (petra.bulic at gmail.com). In addition to a bid from London there was also one by Peter Redfarn, OrientExpressCon, in a train from London to Zagreb. Philip Pullman was suggested as GoH. A prebid for 2013 was announced by Borys Sydiuk for a convention in Ukraine, and Dave Lally announced that he will go to a meeting with the organisation International Union of Associations. The votings took place on Saturday morning, when the sitting steering board was reelected.
Gerhard Kraus mentioned that in his country, Luxembourg, there will be an exhibition about Hugo Gernsback celebrating his 100th birthday. This will take place in a national literary centre, from October 2010 to February 2011.
The Guest of Honour Bridget Wilkinson was interviewed by Piotr Cholewa. She told us that she had been suggested as foreign liaison for the Worldcon 1987. Her parents had travelled quite a lot, and she likes to go places. She also knows many languages. An interesting observation she had made is the fannish border through Europe, starting to the east of Finland, down through the Baltic and the border between Denmark and Germany, to the east of the Netherlands and then out to the west. In England she had meetings in her own house, whereas in Poland there had to be an organisation with special localities. Possibly this is due to differences in legislation, but I think there may also be differences in traditions.
In Steven Erikson: Meeting with the Guest, Anna Kontek asked questions in Polish which together with the answers were translated by Anna Studniarek. He thinks the characters are more important than the story, and he is interested in making a comment on this world but in a way so that you do not recognize it. Fantasy can otherwise be escapism. His universe is open-ended, and anything is possible, but he does not want to put in elves and trolls or the medieval kings and warlords. His world was created by role-playing when he studied archaeology, and he was inspired by Roger Zelazny. He collaborated in this with another archaeology student, Ian Cameron Esslemont. They were irritated over the bad realism in role-playing games, e g the location of cities. He majored in archaeology and has a minor in the history of classes. He thinks that there should be a sense of continuity since cultures interact and change.
Asked for a favourite character he says that as an author you cannot have that, you have to have compassion and understanding for all. He admires Robin Hobb for her technique, and mentions Alan Garner and Don DeLillo as models. On George R R Martin he says that both kill off their heroes, and Martin had told him not to write so fast! He tends to read sf rather than fantasy, and he says that he might write a stand-alone sf novel.
On Saturday afternoon I listened to a lecture on Lem and Communism by Wojciech Orlinsky, the question being, was he a communist or an anticommunist? Apparently Lem hid an anticommunist manuscript inside a crime story, but he evaded the question by saying that he was not dignified enough to consider himself an anticommunist. His stories from 1949-1955 have not been translated, and include some stories that can be considered anticommunist, e g “The Magellan Nebula”. Another socialist drama from 1951, “Paradise”, is apparently a parody, enthusiastically supporting communism. He hated his final novel, Fiasko, that was written 1987 under the new rule. It is an answer to his early pulp fiction.
Together with the other Swedish fans I walked to the big Sport Hall for the Award Ceremony. We took places at the very front, but this did not stop the organizers from asking for me and Sten in the loudspeaker. It was announced that Eurocon 2012 will be held in Croatia, and awards were presented. To our surprise and pride we had to get up and accept two prizes for Swedes, in the category Spirit of Dedication. The Swedish author Lars Jakobson received the prize in the subcategory “An artist, author of one or more works”, and the film Metropia or rather its authors Fredrik Edin, Martin Hultman, Stig Larsson and Tarik Saleh in the subcategory “An author of a performance (film, play, ballet, etc.)”. The “symbolic object” was this year a stone obelisk, which Sten had some problems taking through customs.
Fandom is a way of life was chaired by Aleksandra Cholewa, and discussed the organisation of fandom in some European countries. Petra Bulic started by telling us that in Croatia there are clubs for Star Trek, fantasy and sf in general. Cons are held in three cities, and one con is an sf writers con with just 50 participants. There is no national society, and the three largest clubs organize the cons.
Sten Thaning told about the organisation in Sweden, where there are a few clubs and cons are mainly held in the university cities. Bridget Wilkinson said that in UK the Eastercon is the big con, and there is also NewCon. The situation in Ireland was described by Dave Lally. The big con, Octacon, is held in October, and there is also a literary con. He listed some Irish webzines: Slovobooks, Lostcarpark and Albedo One. And he admitted to being a vexillologist and to being fascinated by borders, so after the con he would search out the spot where Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia meet.
Dave Lally was also in charge of the feedback session, Eurocon – what worked, what still needs improvement. Since we will host the Eurocon 2011 I had some interest in this. There was a desire for more links on the web site, and there was some confusion since much information was only given in Polish. The location in two parts of the city was not appreciated, since it took too much time to change place even if there were buses. The toilet signs were confusing – it is not self-evident that a circle means female and a triangle male. There was a wish for a thematic list in the congress booklet, and it would have been good to have a room just for chatting. There was a lack of social space. There were also some complaints on the general behaviour: Mobile phones should be switched off, especially if you sit in a panel. And too many came too late to, or in the middle of, some programme items, which can be quite disturbing. Other tips were to have guided walking tours before and after the con.
Since we had a fan table promoting Eurocon 2011 in Stockholm, I missed quite a few of the apparently interesting programme items, e g two on Philip K. Dick, and I did not see the GoH Orson Scott Card at all. Still it was a very nice con and I am sincerely grateful to the organizers.
Since I stayed a day in Cieszyn I could do some walking myself, and had a look on this interesting and beautiful city. The sight-seeing I had planned for Krakow, however, was spoiled by heavy rain. I managed to take a look on the old city, and to save myself from the weather I looked in a huge galleria. Since the shops were the same as in Stockholm I went out in the rain again.