Copenhagen, Denmark, September 18-19, 2010
Fantasticon 2010 was a small and cosy con, and like in 2009 it took place in the culture house of Vanløse. This time I was accompanied by my wife Margareta, who took lots of notes which have helped me to write this report. I had a good time in the hotel Fy og Bi in Valby in 2009, so we stayed there this time too. The trains are absolutely fantastic in Copenhagen making me, living in Stockholm, quite jealous. Thus there were no problems to get to the con, and it was also very easy to get to Roskilde after the con.
The con was opened by the congress chairman, Flemming Rasch. I had not had time to get accustomed to the Danish so I had problems to understand him. This was followed by Fans in Scandinavia, in Scandinavian; Klaus Æ. Mogensen told us about fandom och cons, and I presented Eurocon 2011 with the aid of Power Point.
Even if this sf-con must be considered as a small one, there were several parallels, and it was not always easy to choose. We next listened to Catherine Asaro singing, accompanied by her daughter’s boyfriend on the piano. The couple was good at entertaining us while we had a beer and a sandwich.
While I was sitting at the Eurocon 2011 table, or rather looking at the huge used books sale, Margareta listened to Thomas Winther interviewing Kaspar Colling Nielsen. Mount København is an absurd and strange book with 17 different stories about the mountain. These are not ordinary short stories and it is not a novel. It took three years to write and a long time with the publisher. He uses notebooks, “China books”, where he for years have written down small ideas for stories, and he reads the story “The pelican” about a doctor who transforms himself into a bird. Another story is about a “manolitic” man, who is magnetic, whereas in “The Tennis Player” a man restrings his racket with guts. One of the stories was from Valby. The publisher made a selection, but Kaspar Colling Nielsen had no impression that this was aimed at making the book easier to sell. A story about how the mountain was built, which took 200 years, was too long to be incorporated. He had sent the manuscript to several other publishers before Gyldendal accepted it. The long time between the acceptance and the actual publishing decision was tiresome.
The panel discussion Researching the fantastic genre was moderated by Tue Sørensen. Niels Dalgaard mentioned that he had written a Ph D thesis about Danish SF but was thrown out of the university. Rikke Schubart had not yet been thrown out although she was teaching about computer games, TV and films. She started with horror fiction and films, then action films, and wrote a book on what they are all about. She has also written fiction, e g with vampires, and she is fascinated by emotions, especially bad ones like disgust, repulsion and anger rather than romance. Carrie-Lynn Reinhard, whom we had listened to just before, had studied how people use virtual realities, like Second Lifeor when watching a film. Catherine Asaro told us about her research in sf, where she had studied the planetary romances of E R Burroughs and M Z Bradley. She also used some research in her hard sf, when she tried to understand e g what the light would be on a planet with a certain tilt of the axis. She also does some scientific research in the university, but now she mainly teaches.
The moderator wanted to know how the research was done, and Niels Dalgaard answered that he went through gaudy magazines e g looking for mad scientists. For Rikke Schubart it took two years just to find out what she was interested in. You need to collect very much information in order to know that you do not need to know it. Carrie-Lynn Reinhardt uses questionnaires and wants fans to answer. You need to get allowance from a review board in order to do studies today. It is easier to study phenomena on internet where you don’t risk to hurt anyone. Catherine Asaro has used the library catalogue at Harvard, and gets the article via mail. She often uses Wikipedia for a start and then checks by looking up the references. She also mentions that she looked for a Jack Vance book in the Baltimore SF Society, where there are thousands of books.
Finally the moderator wanted to know how others react to their work. Catherine Asaro’s colleagues say: “You write what?”, “Are you still in high school?”, unless you win an award. Carrie-Lynn Reinhardt’s friends think she is cool. Fan culture is accepted since it makes money. The effects of games, with sex and violence, are of interest and grants are provided. Rikke Schubart first tried the department of comparative literature but there it was considered trash. She changed to the department for film and media, where her interests were accepted. Niels Dalgaard had no other department to go to. He was frustrated and wanted people to know what sf is before they look down upon it. This panel was interesting but would have gained by more interaction between the panelists who instead gave short lectures
The young, Danish author Camilla Wandahl was interviewed by Flemming Rasch, and Margareta listened. She has written sf since she was young, and in 2003 she had a short story in a competition at Fantasticon for stories written for those under 17 years. She won, and won also in 2005, and her contribution was published in an anthology. She knew nothing about fandom before; it was the competition that attracted her. She has not read much sf but has seen some films. She has worked in a writer’s group which generated a novel manuscript that has so far not been published. A good thing with these courses is that you learn how to handle a rejection; that you can send the manuscript again after a time. Hjerte i vente is her first accepted novel. She had good help from the editor; after five turns with the manuscript the contract was signed. From this she learned to prepare her manuscripts several timed before they are assessed. The first reviews pointed out that young authors write for young readers about young persons. After some novels she joined a group writing detective stories, where 15 pages were to be delivered every fortnight. In this way she wrote a YA detective story about four 13 year old youngsters who find a mystical role-playing book. She finds it difficult to write about children today because they live in secluded environments, they are in school or in leisure centers and are fetched by their parents, they are not as free as before. It is a challenge to create a thrilling setting and situation where they lose their mobiles and have to manage by themselves.
Camilla Wandahl is now a full-time author and earns her living from royalties and lecture fees. The society “HUF” (www.huf.dk), “hopeful young authors”, helps in application for grants, finding lecture opportunities, writing CV, making web page etc. (Which sounds extremely good!) She writes every day, even if only for half an hour or two pages, but in the writer’s group they write four times 20 min every day and discusses the texts in between. This produces much text in a weekend. She barely reads any adult books other than detective stories, but she reads YA books for inspiration, and now mainly realistic books since she wants to build identification objects for youngsters. She initially thought that it would be easier to write fantasy, but it also demanded its skill. It is not possible just to add a dragon. She does not always know the end of the book she is writing but she often writes a one page synopsis. She tries to write “first time”-stories: Love, deceit, boy/girl, and is not interested in writing for adults. Is there any risk that someone else writes the same story? A consolation is that there only are seven archetypical stories, and everyone writes them again and again. The library fee can be granted to anyone who has participated in an anthology; she knows all ways of financing from HUF. She believes that YA sf is coming. Her advice to others is to write much and often, and rewrite, and if possible join a writer’s group. She has her own blog about writing, http://www.camillawandahl.dk.
The sf novel of the decade is a good idea for a panel, and the members of the panel had decided before which six books they chose. Flemming Rasch moderated the discussion, and Stig W. Jørgensen started by suggesting Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt. It is an alternate history, and goes back to e g Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. It tells about an aggravated pest epidemic. There are no historic persons but Islam gets an Age of Enlightenment in Samarkand. There are new world wars during the story of the book that spans from the 14th century to the future. It is a moral book in ten parts. The character’s thinking is dominated by a reincarnation theme.
The literary scholar Niels Dalgaard supports the interest in that book and that it represents the core of the alternate history trend. The book reflects historical interpretations. He also proposes Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, in which the rotation of Earth is increased making it isolated from the rest of the universe, with an accompanying time displacement. How would humanity react? It is good old sf, and there is a sequel, Axis.
Jeppe Larson would have chosen Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, which takes a big perspective of the universe, with references to Arthur C Clarke and other classics. It is new Space Opera with Sense of Wonder. But the main characters are atypical, and there is super science like in the 30s, making one suspect that it is a parody. Two women are the main characters, but they lack characteristics.
Svend Kreiner preferred River of Godsby Ian McDonald (one of the GoHs at Eurocon 2011). The story takes place in a future India, that has collapsed. The main plot is a conflict between AIs and humans. Stig Jørgensen reads as a tourist, it is the background that is interesting. The book is demanding and should be reread a lot. It appears to be inspired by Neuromancer and is an example of neocolonialism.
Charles Stross’ Halting State takes place in an on line game. The main characters are a policeman, an insurance manager and a young nerd in the IT-business. It is a typical example of a “close to now”-book.
The last book was Flood by Stephen Baxter, where a group is kidnapped and in the meantime there is a catastrophe, and when the kidnapped persons return they look at a new world. There are many references to early sf, like Heinlein. The sequel, Ark, is not as good.
In the final discussion it was concluded that everyone likes Spin and The Years of Rice and Salt. It was remarked that there was no female author. Svend Kreiner suggests a new author, Neal Asher, who might be interesting in the future.
The hard science programme item, that Swedish cons today often lack, was entitled The future of space exploration, and Flemming Rasch moderated the panel consisting of Asmus Kofoed, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Catherine Asaro and the cyber scientist Jeppe Larsen. We went to the moon before we really had the technology. Now we have the technology but lack the incentive. It takes ten years to build a space program but the US changes its government every eight year. There has to be a commercial drive, like interesting metals or 3He for fusion power, that might be found on the moon.
How would we travel further than the moon? Plasma engines for faster travel, and perhaps robots instead of humans. Possibly nanomachines which could send back information. A space elevator is another possibility, but could be vulnerable to lightning, terrorists etc.
What could we expect to meet? Most likely robots, with their own civilisation. A possible reason why we have not met any other life is that it could be very strange. We might not recognize it as life.
After the con we went to Roskilde and had a look at the impressive Viking ships.