Åbo/Turku, July 15-17, 2011
This Finncon was the last time it was combined with Animecon, which I regret. It is great fun to watch all the cos-players and other dressed-up or disguised young people.
Richard Morgan and Nalo Hopkinson: On writing
RM started to write noir cyberpunk and now introduces noir into fantasy. When asked why he writes he answers “what are trees for?”. He has always wanted to be a writer, he wanted the job, and just started doing it. It defines him. SF was his first love in literature. It is hard to find the same spark elsewhere.
NH writes SF since it is what she has always read. Her father was an author and her mother a librarian. When asked about influences she mentions Samuel Delany and Ursula LeGuin. As a child she read a childrens’s fantasy where the white children choose a castle and the black boy choose a melon. She read “Welcome to the Monkey House” in a Playboy under her father’s bed.
RM mentions Asimov and Poul Anderson as first influences. He liked Anderson’s writing for the human side, the characters, and the cynical and gloomy style which he had not found before. He also mentioned Michael Moorcock and Bob Shaw, and Gibson who he considered to be influenced by Pynchon.
RM writes whenever he can, mainly in the afternoons, and has no favourite spot. Pullman has to write 1500 words a day and is then released. RM recommends that you ignore the market and just write what you want to write. He has not studied or taught creative writing. NH has both studied and taught at Clarion, but this was after she had been published. She was surrounded by books and wrote by example. The workshop at Clarion gets her to think about her own writing.
At present RM is writing on a Sword & Sorcery trilogy and NH a young adult novel with a focus on the body and sexuality. RM comments that the drive for humans is sex and violence.
Richard Morgan: Black Widow
Comic books are dying and replaced by graphic novels. The superhero stuff is left for those who cannot stand that genre literature (sf, crime etc.) gets increasingly good. It is where those hide who cannot cope with complexity. This is a general cultural malaise; there is less challenge. More people want reading that is not challenging.
A teacher who wanted to use Altered Carbon in his teaching said: “You have no right not to be offended”, which is an unusual, and appreciated, American reaction.
The superheroes from the 1930s always have -man in their names. Can we not go somewhere else? American popular culture is extremely macho, as seen by Susan Faludi in Backlash. In Japan this is not the case, there is much more diversification.
Richard Morgan’s Guest of Honour Speech
Altered Carbon took 2.5 year to write and it was unpublished for 14 years. It was sent to several publishers and was refused and rejected. Finally it was accepted by Gollancz. He has written comics in other peoples worlds but not fiction, since he doesn’t want to lose control. Market Forces started as a short story that he sent to Interzone, where they disliked the characters. It rests on a ludicrous concept; it was expanded to a novel and it has always been meant to be dark with an unhappy ending.
Writing is a lonely job. Your companion is the squirrel on the ledge. In contrast, videogame writing is very social.
Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is the quintessential Sword & Sorcery, and he also likes Moorcock’s Elric stories. RM rites the fantasy novel that he wants to read. It takes him about a year to write a book. He usually doesn’t know where the story will end. He wants the story to feel true when he writes.
The best hard sf author today is Peter Watts according to RM. SF now appears also in mainstream books, as exemplified by Never Let Me Go, and there is also vampire chic-lit. SF has become furniture in the mainstream arena. It is the same with films, and mainstream thrillers contain sf tropes. The barrier between genres will break down.
RM considers the combined Finncon/Animecon to be a good thing that might get anime people to drift into sf as they grow older. He sees no borders between sf and fantasy and thinks it is important with broadening.
Nalo Hopkinson and Richard Morgan: Cultural Appropriation.
This was an interesting discussion on the author’s obligation when using other people’s culture in fiction. As NH says, “They have given to you, what can you give to them?”. RM says that if you borrow you are a guest, and decorum behoves you. You should try to get it right and convey something true.
Something that is just interesting for you can be a matter of life and death for others. There is a risk that you see objects of curiosity instead of human people, e g when you write about male sex workers. Still, if you write about anything important you will offend somebody. The most offended by RM’s Black Man were white Americans. You are not allowed to have black people who are violent and pissed-off. “Non-political”” fiction doesn’t exist, it just means that it fits your own political ideas. Still, some things are true of all cultures: crime, love of children, and suppression of women.
Read texts from that culture and talk to people, try to blend into the culture and not be a tourist. Look at websites and message boards where the people hang out. RM told about an experience in Harlem. There was a very small number of white faces, and everybody looks at you. You get twitchy and uncomfortable. This “research” was important for writing Black Man, since this feeling must be the same if you are a black man in a white city.
RM recommends Small Island by Andrea Levy. When he was young he read Biggles which was very racist. But his neighbour was black which he didn’t think of. NH thinks that sf readers are supportive of writing in unknown areas.
RM said that the film Avatar actually was about native Americans, in a bad way. It is a movie for white men.
NH’s father had converted to Islam whereas her mother was a Catholic. RM considers that the future of Islam is in the US. It is essential not to demonise or marginalise. The women may be the solution.
Morgondagen i dagens och gårdagens science fiction. Strålande framtid eller bara misär?
Den enda svenskspråkiga programpunkt jag lyssnade på var en inte helt lyckad panel som hade sitt ursprung i en antologi med positiva framtidsbilder i sf: Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF (Red: Jetse de Vries). Ben Roimola modererade. Enligt Kenneth Lindholm är det roligare att läsa om en negativ framtid, t ex där jorden går under. Sofia Sjö menade att sf speglar dagens pessimism. Man jobbar igenom traumana utan att ha någon lösning. Elisabeth Kronqvist tyckte att tv-serier som Star Trek och Stargate ofta är positiva.
Några exempel på positiva framtidssyner var: Robert Charles Wilsons Spin och Julian Comstock, som skildrar ett lyckligare 1800-tal, Geoff Ryman’s Air, Lois McMaster Bujolds berättelser, Banks Cultureböcker och Kim Stanley Robinsons skildringar av hur vetenskapen räddar världen.
Tyvärr låg övriga svenskspråkiga programpunkter parallellt med de engelskspråkiga, utom det överraskningsprogram på söndagmorgonen som visade sig överraska genom att utebli.