Posts Tagged 'Anna Davour'

Loncon 3 / 72th Worldcon

London, UK, August 14-18, 2014

My wife Margareta and I stayed at Travelodge London City Airport but had not been able to find a reasonable flight to that airport from Arlanda, so we spent the day travelling. At Paddington we got our tickets for the train and ferry for Dublin, actually with much less trouble than I had expected. The final part of the trip was by DLR – the somewhat futuristic Docklands Light Railway. The hotel was OK and fairly close to the convention. We went directly to the venue and since this was Wednesday we did not have to stand in the long queues which we saw on Thursday. ExCel was well suited for the convention although the programme rooms were a bit too small and sometimes the most popular items were in the smallest room. This was especially problematic in the very beginning of the convention when there were few parallel programme items.

Crossing Boundaries: Histories of International SF/F for Children

Catharine Butler, K V Johansen, Michael Levy, Sanna Lehtonen, Patricia Kennan (M)

Catharine Butler, K V Johansen, Michael Levy, Sanna Lehtonen, Patricia Kennan (M)

Michael Levy, an American who teaches sf and children’s literature, had never heard of Enid Blyton, but Harry Potter had amazed American kids.  The reason for the success was considered to be the agreement with the American stereotypes of the British. Regarding stories by Native Americans the question was asked whether it is fantasy if the author actually believes in supernatural phenomena, and this was resolved by the concept “Consensus reality”. What is incredible for kids can be real and vice versa. In order to make them more credible the books are sometimes changed during translation: The Finnish version of Tarzan of the Apes was converted to Tarzan of the Bears. In American adaptations of British books pounds is changed into dollars and madam to mam, which was considered strange. Should difficult words be explained or changed? Children’s vocabulary is expanded by words they do not understand, but the text must still be understandable.

The World at Worldcon: Nordic SF/F

John-Henri Holmberg, Anna Davour, Marianna Leikomaa, Tore Høie (M), Sini Neuvonen

John-Henri Holmberg, Anna Davour, Marianna Leikomaa, Tore Høie (M), Sini Neuvonen

To a large extent this discussion became a listing of authors in the different Nordic countries. The basic literature in Finland is very realistic, and the Finnish SF/F authors are friends and discuss with each other. Johanna Sinisalo has written a retelling of Kalevala. Examples of new Finnish SF/F can be downloaded and found in the anthology It Came from the North. Other web sites with information on Finnish and international SF/F are Partial Recall and Rising Shadows.

John-Henri Holmberg mentioned an interesting distinction between two kinds of SF in Sweden, made by Ulrika Nolte in a German thesis described in the Sweden entry of the SF Encyclopedia. One kind was written by Swedish sf fans in a tradition coming mainly from American and British sf magazines and the stories published in the corresponding Swedish magazines, and includes authors as Sam J. Lundwall, Bertil Mårtensson, Maths Claesson etc. The other kind Nolte called “social fiction” and entails dystopian fiction written since the 1930’s by established Swedish authors like Karin Boye, Tora Dahl and Harry Martinson. This has not previously been noted as a trend. John-Henri also pointed out the reason for the fantasy boom in Sweden in the 1990’s: The first popularity list based on sales instead of criticism was published in 1993.

It was also noted during the discussion that in the Nordic countries we do not read each other’s books. This is sad since there is a lot of good SF/F published at least in Denmark, and Danish is really easy to read even if it is not so easy to listen to. Most Swedes cannot understand Finnish.

Fandom in Fiction

Virginia Preston, Audrey Taylor, Erin Horakova, Lisa Macklem (M)

Virginia Preston, Audrey Taylor, Erin Horakova, Lisa Macklem (M)

Since I have enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret, Sharyn McCrumb’s Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool and several other stories where fandom and fan conventions are described I was curious about this programme item. However, I was somewhat disappointed since the four women on the panel mainly talked about funny scenes on some tv sitcoms that I have not seen (and would surely not have appreciated). In addition to the novels above they mentioned Jo Walton’s Among Others and Fallen Angels by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn. Ahrvid Engholm pointed out the masterpiece of fan writing The Enchanted Duplicator, but there was no mention of e g Barry Malzberg or the recent Osama by Lavie Tidhar which gives a very accurate and entertaining description of a fan convention.

Speculative Biology – An Introduction

This was actually four short lectures with Power Point presentations, and was quite entertaining. The moderator Lewis Dartnell pointed out that the colour of plants is complementary to the colour of the light from the sun, and could thus be quite different from green on other planets. Planets with high gravity might be expected to have balloon plants filled with gas. The convergent evolution of eyes on Earth indicates that the evolution on Earth can be used to predict that on other planets. Darren Naish talked about future or alternative animals on Earth and mentioned an early (1961) book by the pseudonymous Harald Stümpke, in English called The Snouters. He also talked about books by Dougal Dixon who was also present in the panel and whose After Man contains pictures of possible future animals.

Governing the Future

Charles E. Gannon, Nicholas Whyte (M), John-Henri Holmberg, Justin Landon, Liz Gorinsky, Farah Mendlesohn

Charles E. Gannon, Nicholas Whyte (M), John-Henri Holmberg, Justin Landon, Liz Gorinsky, Farah Mendlesohn

Earlier (50s, 60s) SF was essentially positive towards government but today it is either completely outside the story or is described as a failure. According to John-Henri Asimov was a welfare socialist and his robot stories promoted advanced welfare ideas. The cyberpunk authors reran the youth revolt of 1968 that they had experienced when they were 17-18 years; it is clearly anti-government. Europeans are more pro-government than Americans.

Books by Cory Doctorow and Nalo Hopkinson were classified as dystopias by Farah Mendlesohn, and YA dystopias are everywhere.  An example is The Diary of Pelly D by L J Adlington. The book Farah edited as a protest against censorship, Glorifying Terrorism, is now out of print.

In a Proprietary World Who Owns Your Body?

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Simon Ings, Simon Bradshaw (M), Jody Lynn Nye, Richard Ashcroft, Joan Paterson

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Simon Bradshaw (M), Jody Lynn Nye, Richard Ashcroft, Joan Paterson

After some discussion on the ethics of surrogate mothers and transplanting livers to alcoholics a lot of time was spent on HeLa

Simon Ings

Simon Ings

cells and the book about the patient who provided these cells from the beginning, Henrietta Lacks. I find it absolutely bizarre that a patient or her relatives could claim ownership to results obtained in research done on cells from a removed cancer. Finally there was a discussion on a possible development of AIs that help Alzheimer patients – who would own the AI when the patient dies?

Hard Right

Jaine Fenn, David G Hartwell, Neyir Cenk Gokce (M), Charles E Gannon, Alison Sinclair

Jaine Fenn, David G Hartwell, Neyir Cenk Gokce (M), Charles E Gannon, Alison Sinclair

Alison Sinclair is an author of four sf novels (I have read the somewhat juvenile but entertaining Legacies) and 5 fantasy novels, and she is an MD with an interest in evidence-based medicine. Charles E Gannon is the author of the Nebula-nominated novel Fire With Fire, and David G Hartwell has edited sf anthologies and written a history of hard sf. Jaine Fenn is the author of books in the Hidden Empire series, of which I have read the first two. She is liberal, not right.

The programme item was caused by an article by Paul Kincaid who argued that since hard sf depends on a world with inviolate rules it might have similarities with right-wing politics. The panel acknowledged that military technology always is popular in hard sf which could thus be right-wing. Politicised science as e g creationism is also right-wing, but Lysenkoism was popular in Soviet.  Space Opera might be considered right-wing, and Bank’s Culture novels was his project to save SO for the left.

Analog prints much hard sf, and Hartwell considered half of it to be crap whereas the other half can be superb. The core readers are technologists, not scientists.

Constructing Genre History

Takayuki Tatsumi, Gary Wolfe (M), Suanna Davis, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Ginjer Buchanan

Takayuki Tatsumi, Gary Wolfe (M), Suanna Davis, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Ginjer Buchanan

The average reader is thought not to care about the history of sf. It might be necessary for editors, and an sf teacher said that it is important for her students.  History can act as a gate-keeper if it is thought that you have to read a lot of old books in order to understand the present ones. On the other hand there is an ongoing conversation between authors in their work. This was especially so in the works of Heinlein and Asimov, but even Frankenstein is in the dialogue today. The adaptation of Lukianos, Thomas Moore etc into the sf canon was a way to defend sf, which is no longer necessary since it is not considered odd any more. Paul Kincaid’s blog with its timeline was recommended for those interested in the history.

The discussion turned into descriptions of personal histories of sf reading. When she was young Ginjer Buchanan found almost no sf in the library, only fantasy. She would recommend Alfred Bester rather than Heinlein to new readers and writers. Maureen Kincaid Speller found C S Lewis and Alan Garner in her local library and read a lot of children’s fantasy.

An Anthology of One’s Own

Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Dally McFarlane, Julia Rios (M), Jeanne Gomoll, Ann Vandermeer

Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Dally McFarlane, Julia Rios (M), Jeanne Gomoll, Ann Vandermeer

Pamela Sargent’s three Women of Wonder anthologies had different viewpoints and are a good beginning for finding sf by women. There were also women writers in the 17th century, e g Margaret Cavendish who wrote a feminist utopia in 1666, and the author Frances Stevens (real name Gertrude Barrows Bennett) wrote weird tales in the early 19th century which had a huge influence on H P Lovecraft. McFarlane has edited The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women which contains recent work by women and intends to capture what is happening now. Justine Larbalestier’s books were also recommended, and the June 2014 issue of Lightspeed Magazine, Women Destroy Science Fiction appears interesting.

Content and Form: Writing SF/F in non-Western Modes

Nick Wood, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar (M), Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, J Y Jang

The male white narrative has to be changed so that the centre is set in e g South-East Asia. This means that the surroundings have to be described in detail, otherwise the reader thinks the story is set in England. The Western paradigm has to be seen as one of many.

Stories from the Philippines are often communal and stem from oral traditions. Loenen-Ruiz pointed out that the colonial feeling has to be thrown off. The Western notion that there has to be a conflict in a story should also be challenged.

Interview with John Clute

Jonathan Clements, John Clute

Jonathan Clements, GoH John Clute

Jonathan Clements asked questions in a humorous way. In addition to the usual answers about life and career we got some information on Clute’s ideas. He defends spoilers in reviews. It is intellectual treason not to mention the end of a story. He also defended his introduction of the word “Fantastika” as a collective term for non-realistic literature – just as we already do in Swedish fandom. Fantastika should not contain metaphors, and an example is his novel Appleseed. He says that every sentence in it makes sense.

Finally he recommended Edward James’ exhibition about authors who took part in World War I, that could be seen in the Dealer’s Room and also on the web.

Classics in Speculative Fiction

The major problem with the presentations in the Academic Track was that the authors read their papers rapidly and without contact with the audience. Frances Foster’s “Lands of the Dead in Speculative Fiction” compared ancient heroic journeys like The Odyssey with the modern LeGuin’s Earthsea and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. The German Sibylle Machat made an excellent presentation of her paper “Ancient Philosophers as Characters in Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction”. Bernard Beckett’s Genesis (2006) is set in Plato’s Republic and the conflict between church and science in Robert Charles Wilson’s Julian Comstock has similarities with the conflict between Hellenistic paganism and the Roman church that Julian the Apostate was involved in in the 4th century. Liz Gloyn’s “A Common Thread: Representations of the Minotaur in London” failed to interest me and lacked connections to speculative fiction.

SF: What It Is, What It Could Be

Jeanne Gomoll, Tobias Buckell, Stephanie Saulter (M), Alastair Reynolds, Ramez Naam

Jeanne Gomoll, Tobias Buckell, Stephanie Saulter (M), Alastair Reynolds, Ramez Naam

This panel spent a lot of time on the eternal question why sf is not respected, exemplified as usual with Margaret Atwood who reputedly not considers her books as sf. However, I think her book about sf was fairly positive. Reynolds pointed out the two traditions – Wells and Shelley’s Frankenstein are just a part of general literature, whereas the pulps defined a new line (reminds me of the two kinds of sf in Sweden).

Fantasy vs SF: Is the Universe Looking Out for You?

Stephen Hunt (M), Anne Lyle, Ian R McLeod, Robert Reed, Rebecka Levine

Stephen Hunt (M), Anne Lyle, Ian R McLeod, Robert Reed, Rebecka Levine

One reason for going to Woldcons is of course to listen to authors. I have read many stories by Robert Reed and I have really liked his short stories and been less impressed by his “great space ship stories”. He now told that these stories tend to be more static or conservative than the short stories. SF is considered to be about change whereas fantasy is static. McLeod said that sf is basically one-volume works, since if you want to have change it is very difficult to have it in several volumes. Fantasy may be more engaged with the characters. The tropes used might determine if it is sf or fantasy. However, it is easier to make a dragon than a FTL ship.

The Politics of Utopia

Kim Stanley Robinson, Kathleen Ann Goonan, David Farnell (M), Adrian Hon, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Christina Lake

Kim Stanley Robinson, Kathleen Ann Goonan, David Farnell (M), Adrian Hon, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Christina Lake

Utopian fiction lacks descriptions of how to get there from here. They are often boring, but this is not true of Banks’ Culture novels which have conflicts with other parties at the edges. Challenges for utopias are human nature – people want to have more than others, and there are problems with market economy that underprices natural resources even if this may be democratic. Longevity might increase how natural resources are valued.

Nebula to Interzone: British SF Magazines of the 1950s, 60s and 70s

Malcolm Edwards, Robert Silverberg, Stephen Baxter, Curt Phillips, Gillian Redfearn (M)

Malcolm Edwards, Robert Silverberg, Stephen Baxter, Curt Phillips, Gillian Redfearn (M)

This was probably the most entertaining and rewarding panel I listened to. The GoH Malcolm Edwards showed some of the 14 different magazines that were published in Britain in 1954. Robert Silverberg told that Nebula was the first magazine to publish one of his stories. He liked the magazine with its attractive, archaic typography, which he got shipped to him by Ken Slater. The editor Peter Hamilton was 20 years at that time. His first stories were published as by Bob Silverberg, but Randall Garrett told him that Bob doesn’t look good on the Table of Contents. Silverberg also told about his visit to Loncon 1 in 1957 by air which took 12 h. There were 268 members at the convention.

In its prime Nebula printed 30 – 40 000 copies. The stories were pretty good, and Hamilton was a post-war reader in contrast to

Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg

Ted (John) Carnell who edited New Worlds. His taste had been shaped in the 30s. When Nebula folded Peter Hamilton left the sf field altogether.

Authentic was for a time edited by Ted (E. C.) Tubb who was very active. He wrote pretty good stories with quick action. When he wrote what he wanted he was very British. One example is his first novel, Saturn Patrol. The scientist Bert (Herbert) Campbell had started Authentic that had been called Science Fiction Fortnightly for a period. It was equal to New Worlds and had often American authors. Silverberg had stories in Authentic.

In the 50s magazines were replaced by books, first paperbacks and then hardcovers. Another reason for the death of the magazines in USA was that the distributor American News Company folded in 1958. Astounding, Galaxy and F&SF had other distributors and survived.

The World at Worldcon: French and Francophone SF/F

Elizabeth Vonarburg, Antoine Rouaud, Pierre Pevel, Tom Clegg (M), Bradford Lyau, Eric Senabre, Laurence Suhner

Elizabeth Vonarburg, Antoine Rouaud, Pierre Pevel, Tom Clegg (M), Bradford Lyau, Eric Senabre, Laurence Suhner

Since there was no blackboard or projector which could have been used it was very difficult to get the names of authors mentioned in this panel. It was also problematic that one of the participants did not speak English and relied on the moderator for translation. Clegg asked what stories had made an impact when the panellists were 14, and the answers included Jules Verne, Perry Rhodan, Michael Moorcock, Isaac Asimov etc. No fantasy was written in French. An interesting observation by Laurence Suhner was that Swiss SF/F has been influenced by myths and tales and the dangerous nature. This appears similar to the situation in Finland.

French SF/F can be found translated into English at Blackcoat Press, and the author Yves Ménard writes in English. Solaris is a Canadian francophone SF/F magazine, and in France there are Galaxie and Bifrost.

What is Science?

Andrew Jaffe, Richard Dunn, Richard Ashcroft (M), Ada Palmer, Anthony Fucilla

Andrew Jaffe, Richard Dunn, Richard Ashcroft (M), Ada Palmer, Anthony Fucilla

Unfortunately this discussion took place in the smallest room of the convention that in addition had windows in two directions and thus became awfully hot especially since it was very crowded. One of the panellists, Anthony Fucilla, had to leave after a while since he felt unwell. This was unfortunate since his view of science was ancient: Science should be used to prove that God exists.

Ada Palmer is a historian of the Renaissance and Enlightenment and told that in the 17th century there was no difference between philosophy and science. Da Vinci worked for the Duke and no collaboration was allowed. Bacon’s view was that science and religion should cooperate in order to improve the world. Authority has been replaced by empirism, and this change took mainly place in Galilei’s time. She also advocated teaching of scientific method in other courses than science, e g history.

Richard Dunn is a historian of Science who listed some boundary cases of different kinds like economics, string theory and acupuncture. Discussions are essential and result in consensus which is as close to truth as we can come.  The cosmologist Andrew Jaffe considered that science involves data gathering and forming of hypotheses. Most of the time scientific orthodoxy is right, and random things happen all the time. To sort this out can be difficult, and there can be bias when scientists stop doing experiments when the theory has been validated. An example given was a demonstration of gravity waves which was first believed to be true until it was revealed that false data had been injected.

A professor of Bioethics, Richard Ashcroft, warned against misinterpretations of large datasets which can show correlations although there is no causation, as is quite popular in the newspapers.

The World at Worldcon: The state of British SF

Jo Fletcher, Simon Spanton, Glyn Morgan (M), Lesley Hall, Paul March-Russell

Jo Fletcher, Simon Spanton, Glyn Morgan (M), Lesley Hall, Paul March-Russell

What has changed since last Worldcon in UK 2005? The recession made life difficult for publishers, and at the same time there was an explosion of new authors. Book chains have gone down and mainstream publishers went down, giving room for small SF/F publishers and ebooks. Thus, the field has not narrowed. The diversity has increased, since Britain now is very diverse. Labelling of books can be narrowing, e g New Weird, but booksellers need the labels.

What is impressing? Chris Beckett, especially his short story collection that has a cross-over appeal and has been praised by the general public.

The community, fandom, has been good but nobody else hears the discussions. The market listens to cultural assessments. Dr Who fans might come to cons and see the novels, but there is a marginal overlap between visual and literature readers. Still it is extraordinary that people read as much as they do. They read on iPhones which are always there. People still want a story.

Academia’s reception of sf has possibly improved slightly. It is possible to get support for conventions and loads of students want to do research in the field.

The Canon is Dead. What Now?

Kate Nepveu (M), Connie Willis, Joe Monti, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Chris Beckett

Kate Nepveu (M), Connie Willis, Joe Monti, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Chris Beckett

Like in the discussion of Genre History, most panellists had their own canons. Thus Chris Beckett had read sf from the 60s onward, and found most of it in his dad’s shelf. Connie Willis defended the general canon and at Clarion she told the members 50 classic sf stories they should read. One reason is that she does not want to read stories with an excellent idea that she has to confess was used already by Bradbury. Another reason is that some gimmicks should not be used again, and a third that the old stories really are good. An example of a book that suffers from lack of knowledge of the sf canon is John Updike’s Toward the End of Time.

Beckett considered it to be optional for the reader to know the old works, but many in the panel found a pleasure in finding influences and dialogues with older books. Thus Stross’ Saturn’s Children is in dialogue with Asimov’s robot stories (and Heinlein’s Friday), Ancillary Justice reminds of The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Dark Material is a response to the Narnia books. Have Spacesuit Will Travel is a parody of earlier space operas. For a canon of short sf the panel recommended The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction, and Connie Willis lists her favourites on her blog.

We Can Rebuild You

Neil Clarke, Cherry Potts (M), Marieke Nijkamp, Tore Høie, Helen McCarthy

Neil Clarke, Cherry Potts (M), Marieke Nijkamp, Tore Høie, Helen McCarthy

This interesting panel raised more questions than it answered. SF usually does not represent disabled people, and the question is to what extent disabilities should be “cured”. This might just be a convenient way to tidy up. Aging can be seen as a disability whereas post-traumatic shock during World War I was not considered as such. Upgrades can be both from disabled and from “normal”, to superhuman.

Health records at hospitals and from implants can be misused if the security is incomplete, and leak to employers and insurance companies. Although security in hospitals is not a priority area it was felt that the benefits outweigh the problems and some privacy has to be sacrificed.

Two books on disabilities and prejudices: Elizabeth Moon’s Speed of Dark where treatment of autism leads to decrease in artistic ability, and Louis McMaster Bujold’s  books where spacers having four arms are subjected to prejudices.

Ian M Banks, Writer and Professional

John Jarrold, Andrew McKie, Ken MacLeod (M), Michelle Hodgson, David Haddock

This panel had been announced to be a discussion of the career and work of the recently deceased GoH, but the panellists mainly related anecdotes from their meetings with him. He was said to have had a slight OCD and was interested in minutiae. He seldom lost the thread and entertained in every sentence. His aim was to entertain strangers. His last work, The Quarry, written before his diagnosis is strangely enough about a man who knows he is dying of cancer.

The Culture was invented as a stage for his characters, and is a society that is really good. He was an atheist and a socialist and in favour of Scottish Independence – “Let England go”. The novels that the panel especially recommended were Use of Weapons, Player of Games, Feersum Endjinn, and Walking on Glass.

I Can’t Do That, Dave: artificial intelligence, imagination, and fear

Tony Ballantyne (M), Tricia Sullivan, Madeline Ashby, Timothy Anderson, Anthony Fucilla

From a robots’ point of view humans are slow meat, but according to Peter Watts the difference is not marked. The brain may still be better for a lot of purposes. Robots that are similar to people are inefficient. AIs are still given information; they cannot pick it up, and are so far less efficient than humans. Still, in the future it may be important to program them that we are special, since it is their definition that is important.

To grant citizenship to AIs is too early. There are still issues with women, aborigines etc. and when it becomes something to consider we have probably moved beyond states and citizenship. A superpact for AIs seems more likely.

Some books that were mentioned: Sarah Zettel’s Fool’s War, where AIs are downloaded into human bodies, Cory Doctorow’s Makers and Charles Stross’ Rule 34.

Interzone and Beyond: British SF magazines of the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s

Gareth L Powell, Wendy Bradley, David Pringle, Malcolm Edwards, Chris Beckett (M)

Gareth L Powell, Wendy Bradley, David Pringle, Malcolm Edwards, Chris Beckett (M)

At the Eastercon in 1981 there was a profit which traditionally should be used for a party. Instead, the organisers proposed to start an sf magazine. At the same time a group in a London pub had the same idea, and the group of eight together started Interzone in 1982 (for details see link). Extro had started slightly before, but folded. Many authors started in Interzone: Stephen Baxter, Charles Stross, Geoff Ryman, Greg Egan, Chris Beckett, Eric Brown. Beckett was especially thankful for the extensive rejection letters which learnt him a lot. He corresponded with Interzone’s Lee Montgomery who he thought was a man, whereas she thought Chris was a woman.

Powell had no friends who read sf and for him Interzone was proof that there were others reading sf. Bradley considered Interzone to have been a bit depressing and blokey. For many years Pringle was the sole editor, and he told that the contributors mainly were British and not so much from USA and Canada. It tried to revive hard sf, “radical hard sf”, which was taken over by cyberpunk. The circulation was 5 – 6 000. The most gross and discussed story was Brian Aldiss’ Horsemeat.

There are now other outlets, e g online sites where people can read for free. It may be difficult to find the good stuff and there is a need for curated spaces, like ARC magazine and Strange Horizons. Today it is not possible to make a living from a magazine, nor from writing short stories.

London and Other Futures

Simon Ings, Anne Charnok, Dev Agarwal, Helen Pennington, Nick Hubble (M)

From this panel I have noted some books: The early (1885) post-apocalypse After London by Richard Jefferies and John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids with its blind people that has an intertextual connection to Wells’ “In the Country of the Blind”. Ken McLeod’s Intrusion describes an extrapolation of surveillance and Ings’ Headlong takes us to West London. Ballard’s The Flood appears to be set in London. I might add some that I have read recently: Ben Aaronovitch’s The Rivers of London and Chris Wooding’s The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, but there are of course many more.

The Bottom Up: The Fantastical World of Human Waste

This late-night talk was given by Rachel Erickson who among other things works as a guide for tourists to find free toilets in London. This interest has led her to study the history of toilets, and she mentioned e g how urine was collected and used in the Roman Empire. A novel where faeces plays a major role is the satirical The Dark Light Years by Brian Aldiss.

When Genres Collide: Does SF/F have its own form?

Nick Harkaway, Peter Higgins, Amanda Bridgeman, Darlene Marshall, Duncan Lawie (M)

Nick Harkaway, Peter Higgins, Amanda Bridgeman, Darlene Marshall, Duncan Lawie (M)

Marshall writes romance and defines it as describing two people who meet and make a journey to a common destination. The panel considered sf to be more flexible than romance and mainstream, and considered Sense of Wonder to be specific for sf. A recent example is Ancillary Justice, and I fully agree. It makes you see things in a new and different view, and can push boundaries – “I did not expect that”. In general military sf and space opera are narrow and not as open as other sf.

If a story today is not sf it is instead historical: There are no emails, no sms etc. Interaction has become necessary. There is a weird resistance against acknowledging this in literature today. An author as Greg Bear is close to the now and thus to mainstream.

Critical Diversity: Beyond Russ and Delany

Aishwarya Subramanian, Erin Horakova, Andrew Butler (M), Liz Bourke, Fabio Fernandes

Aishwarya Subramanian, Erin Horakova, Andrew Butler (M), Liz Bourke, Fabio Fernandes

Contemporary queer criticism and criticism concerning marginalised groups can be found in writings by Kameron Hurley, Aishwarya Subramanian, Fabio Fernandes , Cheryl Morgan and Maureen Kincaid Speller, at the web sites Strange Horizons and Tor.com and in LA Review of Books.

Science Fact and Science Fiction

David Southwood showed impressive pictures of the comet 67P taken from the probe Rosetta. He also talked about Wells’ War of the Worlds and how the story of Martians in London was a criticism of Brits in Africa and the wiping out of the Tasmanians. He mentioned the radio adaptation by Orson Welles and recommended a musical starring Richard Burton.

When Dan Dare went to Venus in 1950 the planet was known to have a dense, cloudy atmosphere, and the guess then was that it rained and had tropical forests. Sadly, this has turned out be wrong.

I Am The Law

Melinda Snoddgrass, Liz Zitzov, Simon Bradshaw (M), Francis Davey

Bradshaw introduced the subject by distinguishing three historical origins of law: God’s law, the King’s law and the Common law, the latter being based on how judges have decided before. Most law today are constructed by administration. Other “laws” may be just based on shame, like local laws regarding trespassing cows. In sf Bujold is good on law, but her stories are not especially sf. Women decide on family matters and the tax law is judged by men.  Barry Malzberg is said to write about tax law. Another author who writes about law is Max Gladstone, and in Susanna Clarke’s  Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell there is a court in London for magical issues.

Your Atoms, From Star to Star

This popular scientific talk by Jane Greaves was entertaining and dealt with the formation of atoms and how they have been reformed and recycled several times since the Big Bang.

They Do It Differently

Karoliina Leikomaa, Cristina Macia, Ian Watson (M), Fabio Fernandes, Shaun Duke

Karoliina Leikomaa, Cristina Macia, Ian Watson (M), Fabio Fernandes, Shaun Duke

With Karoliina Leikomaa from Finland, Fabio Fernandes from Brazil, Shaun Duke from Florida and Ian Watson originally from UK but now in Spain together with Cristina Macia this panel could cover a couple of national fandoms. Actually the similarities are more surprising than the differences, and many of the problems are the same. In order to get more young participants at the conventions the fee could be zero for all as in Finland or for just those under 26 as in Sweden.

Thomas Olsson, Martin Andersson, Helena Kiel, Margareta Cronholm

Thomas Olsson, Martin Andersson, Helena Kiel, Margareta Cronholm

During the convention we met a lot of fans from various countries, and the bidding tent for the Helsinki in 2017 bid acted as a meeting point for Scandinavians and others. Still the enormous amount of people (8.000) and the large convention site made me miss several Swedish fans who definitely were there. The fast food area did perhaps not serve the most delicious food but it made it possible to meet other fans at lunch.

Confetti 2014

Göteborg, 4-6 april 2014

Club Cosmos är den äldsta sf-klubben i Sverige, och dess 60-årsjubileum firades med en intim och trevlig kongress i Gamlestadens medborgarhus. Kongressen hade en engelsk hedersgäst, John Meaney, men eftersom det mesta försiggick på svenska blir också denna rapport på svenska.

Kommittén: Lars-Göran Johansson, Louise Rylander, Mats Pekkari, Peter Bengtsson, Thomas Olsson. Saknas på bilden: Jan Fransson, Helena Kiel, Patrik Centerwall

Kommittén: Lars-Göran Johansson, Louise Rylander, Mats Pekkari, Peter Bengtsson, Thomas Olsson. Saknas på bilden: Jan Fransson, Helena Kiel, Patrik Centerwall

Programmet inleddes med en mycket snabb öppningsceremoni följd av ett föredrag om Club Cosmos som hölls av dess ordförande, Louise Rylander. Häpna! startade 1954 och i den fanns en uppmaning att man skulle starta sf-föreningar. Det nappade man på i Göteborg och Lars-Erik Helin och kongressens fanhedersgäst Gabriel Setterborg anmälde till Häpna! att Cosmos Club startat. Den gav ut fanzinet Cosmos News, sedermera ändrat till Cosmos Bulletin. Kjell Rynefors var mycket aktiv skribent i fanzinet, och en samling av hans noveller, Pacifica, finns nu utgiven på Zen Zat förlag. Den kunde man köpa av Ingrid Rynefors som jag då fick en trevlig pratstund med.

På 60-talet blev klubben mer en studentförening, och Tolkien Society of Sweden knoppades av 1968 som Europas första Tolkienförening. På slutet av 70-talet fick föreningen en egen lokal men den förlorade man efter några år och aktiviteten sjönk. Kongressen Akrostikon 2001 som drevs från Uppsala fick stor betydelse för att öka aktiviteten.

Martin Anderssonl Caroline L. Jensen, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Jonas Larsson, Gabriel Setterborg, Alf Nyfors

Martin Andersson, Caroline L. Jensen, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Jonas Larsson, Gabriel Setterborg, Alf Rynefors

Efter en hastig presentation av några andra föreningar, bl a Steampunk i Göteborg och SFSF, vidtog en panel om humor och fantastik med Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf som moderator och Martin Andersson, Caroline L. Jensen, Jonas Larsson, Gabriel Setterborg och Alf Rynefors som paneldeltagare. Gabriel gav en kort historik och pekade på att mycket sf på 50- och 60-talet var satirisk och därigenom humoristisk. Caroline som är aktiv författare tycker att det är svårt att skriva humoristiskt, lika svårt som att skriva erotiskt. Det måste vävas in på ett bra sätt och det lyckas t ex Neil Gaiman med.

Resten av diskussionen blev en listning av humoristiska favoriter: Douglas Adams, Harry Harrison, Terry Pratchett (vars humor varken jag eller Carolina lyckats förstå oss på), Scalzis parodi på Star Trek, Diana Wynne Jones, Lloyd Alexander, Robert Rankin, Jack Vance (som Martin påpekade är Dying Earth-serien fantastiskt humoristisk med sina absurditeter), Michael Swanwick, Jasper Fforde, Avram Davidson och slutligen Roald Dahl, som Caroline anser kombinerar humor och skräck på ett utmärkt sätt. Några filmer nämndes också: Galaxy Quest, Blixt Gordon, The Princess Bride och Stardust.

Glenn Petersen, Sandra Petojevic, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, John Meaney, Stefan Hagel

Glenn Petersen, Sandra Petojevic, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, John Meaney, Stefan Hagel

Det episka anslaget var titeln på nästa panel, och även om John Meaney var underhållande var den inte så förtvivlat givande. Glenn Petersen modererade Sandra Petojevic, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, John Meaney och Stefan Hagel. Glenn som jobbar i SF-bokhandeln visste att läsarna vill ha serier, som Dr Who och Robert Jordan. Författarna i panelen var överens om att det är berättelsen i sig som avgör om det blir en fristående volym eller en serie.

Peter Bengtsson, Gabriel Setterborg

Peter Bengtsson, Gabriel Setterborg

Hedersgästen Gabriel Setterborg intervjuades av Peter Bengtsson. Gabriel hade skrivit till Häpna! att det fanns en sf-förening i Göteborg men det var ”lögn”. Tillsammans med Lars-Erik Helin gjordes en blygsam start utan stadgar. På 50-talet hade Wettergrens bokhandel i Göteborg en hel del sf, eftersom ägaren Hartelius var intresserad. Roland Adlerberth var mycket aktiv men inte i föreningen. Han fick tidskrifter från USA, och fungerade som samlingspunkt för Göteborgsfandom, som vid denna tid också innehöll Hans Sidén. I Stockholm bestod navet av Leif Helgesson, Sture Lönnerstrand och Anders Palm.

Gabriel prenumererar på F&SF och Asimov’s, och kan konstatera att den litterära kvaliteten ökat under årens gång. Slutligen fick han erkänna att han är författaren bakom pseudonymen Eric Crane, som skrev Anfall från rymden i serien Atomboken. Han hade arbetat med översättningar åt förlaget men föreslog att han i stället skulle skriva direkt på svenska utan förlaga eftersom det var enklare.

Bellis, Caroline L. Jensen

Bellis, Caroline L. Jensen

Den svenska författarhedersgästen, Caroline L. Jensen, intervjuades av Bellis som hade blivit något försenad så att programmet ändrades. Vi fick veta en hel del om Caroline, utöver att hon skriver skräck. Allt hon ägde försvann i en eldsvåda när hon var 19 år och hon svarade då på en annons om att bli strippa i Köpenhamn för att tjäna pengar. Den karriären hoppade hon av när en väninna mördats av sin pojkvän. Redan innan dess hade hon uppträtt, i Sikta mot stjärnorna som popsångerska innan hon slutade 9:an. Hon är kompromisslös Heavy Metal-fan men lever i skogen och inspireras inte av den musiken. Caroline tävlar i hunddressyr och jobbar ideellt för en brukshundsklubb. Som författare började hon med ett romanförsök i 3:an i gymnasiet. Hennes svensklärare läste alstret på 70 sidor och sa till henne: ”Caroline, det är det här du ska göra”.  Sedan blev hon visserligen refuserad av förlag, men lyckades med den självbiografiska boken om Köpenhamnsstrippan. Hon har skrivit fem romaner och publicerat åtta noveller. Hon har aldrig drabbats av skrivblock men tycker att perioden mellan två romaner är svår. Hon skriver en synopsis men håller sig inte till den. Hon vill sitta i tystnad och skriva, utan någon femåring som stör.

Det läskigaste hon kan tänka sig är religiösa fanatiker, och hon har skrivit om det i det gemensamma projektet Efter stormen (Efterstormen.se). Hon jobbar också som redaktör och lektör, och inte nog med det, hon spökskriver bloggar och böcker utifrån ett råmanus eller idé, och tjänar bra på detta. Att hon inte får någon ”cred” för det bryr hon sig inte om.

Lördagen inleddes med en bokpresentation som Glenn Petersen höll i. Han rekommenderade Lavie Tidhars The Violent Century och Ramez Nahms Nexus, en spännande technothriller med fräcka idéer som att mjukvara nedladdas direkt i hjärnan. Ken McLeods Descent betecknade han som ”bloke lit”, en grabbig roman men häftiga sf-element i en nära, övervakad framtid. Han rekommenderade också Alastair Reynolds Blue Remembered Earth, Stephen Baxters Proxima och Ann Leckies Ancillary Justice.

I panelen Göteborgsfandom från omvärldens synvinkel blev jag inbjuden att delta. Hade jag vetat det tidigare kunde jag ha grävt mig ner i gamla fanzines från 80-talet; jag minns speciellt Cosmos Bulletin och Göteborgs Faanvheckliga. Innehållet handlade sällan om sf, men det var välskrivet och underhållande, med författare som Erik Andersson och David Nessle.

Johan Anglemark, Helena Andersson, Niels Gudjónsson, Linda Karlsson, John Meaney, Jan-Olof Nyman

Johan Anglemark, Helena Andersson, Niels Gudjónsson, Linda Karlsson, John Meaney, Jan-Olof Nyman

Panelen Nordisk mytologi i sf/f modererades av Johan Anglemark, och panelisterna var Helena Andersson, Niels Gudjónsson, Linda Karlsson, John Meaney och Jan-Olof Nyman. Den senare inledde med att tala om att allt som sägs om vikingar i serien Vikings på History Channel är fel. Däremot verkar John Meaneys uppfattning att homosexuella vikingar jagades vara korrekt, så som det framställs i Absorption. Intresset för vikingar och de gamla myterna har varit kontroversiellt i Sverige sedan nazismen utnyttjat dem i sin propaganda, och speciellt har socialdemokraterna drivit detta. England kristnades före Sverige och myterna påverkades av detta; de skrevs om för att verka mer hedniska. Så är också fallet med Snorri Sturlusons nedteckningar. Däremot rekommenderade Jan-Olof Nyman Poul Andersons Time Patrol-berättelser, John Meaney böcker av Henry Treece och Niels Gudjónsson den tecknade serien Valhalla av Peter Madsen.

Glenn Petersen, John Meaney

Glenn Petersen, John Meaney

John Meaney intervjuades av Glenn Petersen, och vi fick veta att sf-intresset startade när han var fem år och följde med till ett bibliotek. Där fastnade han för en berättelse om en pojke som åkte till månen som fripassagerare. Han skrev korta berättelser som uppsats vid elva års ålder; han fascinerades av oändliga reflektioner i speglar och rekursiva uttryck (”denna mening är en lögn”). Han förstördes slutgiltigt av A E van Vogt med The World of Null A. (van Vogt må ha varit en usel författare men han har definitivt påverkat många sf-författare, t ex Dick, och också läsare – jag fascinerades tidigt av TidmaskinenThe Weapon Shops of Isher). Han studerade vid Birminghams universitet och har en examen i fysik och IT. Kontakt med fandom fick han genom Rog Peyton på bokhandeln Andromeda som tog med honom på kongress.

Som Thomas Blackthorne skriver han nära framtids-thrillers, och nämner att inledningen i Edge är en sann historia.  Han skriver också gotisk sf, kallad fantasy i USA: Bone Song och Dark Blood. Hans nästa bok blir en samtidsthriller utan sf-inslag.

Jag har läst To Hold Infinity, Absorption och Edge, och kommer absolut att läsa fler böcker av John Meaney. Jag gillar hans stil och personteckningar, och frågan är om han inte är allra bäst i nära framtids-thrillern Edge, där personerna får kämpa med svåra etiska frågor.

Emil Jonasson, Karl-Johan Norén, Anna Davour, John-Henri Holmberg

Emil Jonasson, Karl-Johan Norén, Anna Davour, John-Henri Holmberg

Kreativitet och fandom pratades det om i en panel med John-Henri Holmberg, Emil Jonasson, Karl-Johan Norén och som moderator Anna Davour. Det var trevligt att lyssna på men så värst mycket kom väl inte fram. Den första fan-aktiviteten var att skriva sf, men så är det inte alls i dag. I Kina ger fans feedback mellan avsnitt i följetonger. Karl-Johan satt där som omskapare av Bellmansånger i fannisk anda och Emil Jonasson som steampunkare som skapar kläder och utstyrsel.

Pål Eggert

Pål Eggert

Pål Eggert höll ett föredrag om Socialt arbete och fantastik. Liksom Chris Beckett är han både socialarbetare och författare. Det avgörande för att man ska fungera i samhället är att man har en känsla av sammanhang och att skeenden är logiska med klara orsakssamband. I Lovecrafts texter framkallas skräck genom avsaknad av logik, t ex genom att vinklar är omöjliga. Hemlösa personer kan också sakna sammanhang genom att de lever vid sidan om, i utkanten, de har andra prioriteringar, egna koder och lagar. Pål nämnde också att vampyr från början var en förbannelse som t ex självmördare kunde drabbas av.

Det är inte så vanligt med bankett på svenska kongresser längre, kanske mest för att de blivit för stora, men göteborgarna hade också denna gång en ordentlig fest med tal och musik, t o m väl mycket musik faktiskt eftersom det blev svårt att prata. Det serverades god indisk mat som möjligen kunde ha blivit ännu bättre med ris.

Patrik Centerwall, Simon Lundin, Caroline L. Jensen, Martin Andersson

Patrik Centerwall, Simon Lundin, Caroline L. Jensen, Martin Andersson

Sist på lördagen, dvs innan det blev NoFF-auktion, var det en panel om Monster, och så sent på kongressen var det väl rätt att den inte var så seriös. Patrik Centerwall ledde panelisterna Simon Lundin, Caroline L. Jensen och Martin Andersson. Här nämndes tentakler, zombies, varulvar och vampyrer (av vilka de två senare ansågs mer ”användbara”). Det mest skrämmande Martin Andersson kunde tänka på var en novell om en blomma av Clark Ashton Smith. Monster vi kan komma att få träffa är mylingen och skogsrået.

Svensk fandom åker spårvagn

Svensk fandom åker spårvagn

På söndagen åkte vi veteranspårvagn (nåja, den var yngre än jag) till Slottsskogen och vandrade upp till Observatoriet där vi guidades av Katja Lindblom. Vi fick en visning av teleskopen men det regnade så taket var stängt över dem. Katja höll ett trevligt och informativt föredrag om exoplaneter, som det ju blir fler av varje dag. Deaddoggen avhölls på en pub där jag blev sittande och pratade mest med Åsa Lundström och Michael Pargman.

Katja Lindblom. I bakgrunden Åsa Lundström

Katja Lindblom. I bakgrunden Åsa Lundström

Allt som allt en trevlig liten kongress. Numera blir det inte så mycket bokköp, men den här gången köpte jag i alla fall samlingen Pacifica med Kjell Rynefors noveller och två böcker av Anna Vintersvärd, en roman och en steampunkantologi. Och när jag kom hem beställde jag från Adlibris två böcker av Caroline Jensen, Patrik Centerwalls novellsamling och historiken över Club Cosmos.

Läs också Arina Pingols trevliga rapport! Hon var på andra programpunkter, men var också mycket nöjd med kongressen.

Kontrast – Swecon 2012

Uppsala, October 5 – 7, 2012

Swecon in Uppsala was a hotel convention and apart from the worldcon this year it was the first time I stayed at the hotel where the con took place. It was very convenient to be able to fetch and leave things in the room. The hotel, Gillet, was well suited for the convention, although one of the programme rooms was too long. This would not have been a problem if the con had been less of a success. Now it was one of the biggest sf cons in Sweden with about 450 participants.

Linnéa Anglemark selling antiquarian books

I spent a lot of time with the antiquarian sf books of SAAM, the fund in memory of the deceased fan Alvar Appeltofft. This included transportation to and from the hotel and selling books, which was a very nice experience. Many books I sold were books that I had read with pleasure, but I also sold one Gor book by John Norman. I have tried to read one of them but could not stand it. I managed to listen to some panels and talks, when other fans and gophers took over at the desk.

Anders Björkelid, Joe Abercrombie, Linnéa Anglemark, Anna Bark Persson

The first panel I listened to was Fantasy with a twist: new writing in old clothes. Linnéa Anglemark moderated the discussion with Anders Björkelid, Joe Abercrombie, and Anna Bark Persson. I noted down a few comments. It can be satisfying when clichés are turned around in unexpected ways. An example is the elves in Richard Morgan’s fantasy books which have AIs. However, some readers prefer ”feel-good” reading, while others want surprises. There are also readers who try to control the text, saying ” you don’t want to kill N.N.” Fantasy can be used effectively to discuss gender roles, by using other settings than ordinary life. Steven Brust was recommended as a good fantasy author (I have not read him).

Vesa Sisättö, Gavin Grant, Niels Dalgaard, Jerry Määttä, Lise Andreasen

In the panel Science fiction and the future the first question from the moderator Lise Andreasen was whether sf is dying. The panel consisting of Vesa Sisättö, Gavin Grant, Niels Dalgaard, and Jerry Määttä considered that there is more good, hard sf now than ever before. It has always been a minority taste. Examples are Kim Stanley Robinson and Bruce Sterling. In sf it is possible to step back and look at our society, which is hard to do in other kinds of literature. There are always new things to write about and mainstream writers should if anything have less to write about. A problem can be a tendency to write sf about sf – an ingroup kind of literature that might turn away new readers, but mainstream authors do the same. In sf conversation between authors is fairly common, but this can be awesome for the readers.

In Finland there is a tendency just now to write dystopian novels. Regarding post-singularity stories it was said that when you can do anything as an uploaded individual, nothing matters. A question from the audience about animal stories was answered that they have to be antropomorphic to become interesting. An example is Brin’s Uplift series. Interestingly, cat characters appear mainly in fantasy whereas dogs appear in sf stories.

Peter Watts, Kelly Link, Karin Tidbeck, Lise Andreasen, Marianna Leikomaa

The short story and the idea was the title of a panel with Peter Watts, Kelly Link, Karin Tidbeck, and Lise Andreasen, moderated by Marianna Leikomaa. The panel felt that short stories is the place to go to test ideas. Kelly Link does not write novels, and says that in short stories you rely on the reader to fill in. Peter Watts thinks that in a short story you start in the middle of the story. Endings should both be logical and surprising. Some examples given of authors who mainly wrote short stories were James Tiptree, Jr., Fredrik Brown, and Ray Bradbury. To expand a short story into a novel is fairly common in sf, and it can work. Karin Tidbeck tells that Amatka started as a dream, then was a poem and finally a novel.

The audience was asked if they wrote short stories, and about half raised their hands. This surprised me but was about the same as at Chicon 7.

Niels Dalgaard

In Niels Dalgaard’s Guest of Honour Speech he talked about his 38 years in fandom, which started when he read Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles in Danish. This did something to him. He also entered a competition in an sf book with the first prize being a travel to the moon. When he went to cons he was impressed by the easy accessibility of sf authors, e g he talked with Arthur C. Clarke at the Brighton worldcon in 1969. He has had an academic career in sf, with a Ph D and teaching sf at the University of Copenhagen. Since its start he has been very active in SF Cirklen and been the editor of its fanzine Proxima and published many books. He told about a schism in Danish fandom during the last decade, mainly between those who like himself are purists and only are interested in hard, written sf and those who are also interested in fantasy, horror, films and tv series. He thinks that fandom as it was in the 60’s does not exist any more. I do not agree and remember that already in the 50’s and 60’s many fans were interested in films and fantasy – actually the Tolkien society in Sweden was founded by sf fans.

Nene Ormes gave an Introduction to Steampunk, and when I came into the room she was just showing a list of classic steampunk: Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air, Sterling & Gibson’s The Difference Engine, and Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. In the “new wave” she listed Gail Carriger’s Soulless, Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, and Gordon Dahlquist’s The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters. She also mentioned comic books by Bryan Talbot, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Grandville. Steampunk culture consists of clothes, DIY & modding, music, artists & makers, steam songs, and meetings (e g Burning Man). We were shown an mp3 player modded by Anna Davour. Clockwork insects are also popular. Steampunk in film and tv are e g The Prestige, Laputa, Warehouse 13, and Wild Wild West (from 1999).

Nene defines steampunk as aesthetics that mixes technofantasy, neovictorianism, and retrofuturism. It is as if sf had been written before the Victorian era and shows the future. She recommends tor.com where there is “the great steampunk timeline” and the site “the steampunk scholar”.

Jerry Määttä

Under the title Why do we like the end of the world? Jerry Määttä talked about catastrophes and showed some clips from films where a single human is surviving: I am legend, 28 days later. He thinks that these show what it is to be human. In Sweden this autumn there have been quite a few books about catastrophes, like Jesper Weithz’ Det som inte växer är döende (What is not growing is dying) and Mikael Niemi’s Fallvatten (Water from falls). He recommended an essay by Susan Sontag on the lure of apocalypses, The Imagination of Disaster. She considers it to be a substitute for religion.

The tulip bubble in the 17th century was similar to the IT bubble, and inspired painters to still lifes with craniums, “memento mori”.

The tv series Life after people was characterized as apocalypse pornography.

Johan Jönsson, Sara Stridh, Anna Davour, Peter Watts, Torill Kornfeldt

Science fiction and the scientist was a very rewarding panel where the panelists demonstrated their different opinions. Johan Jönsson moderated the Ph D student Sara Stridh who was studying kidney function, Anna Davour who has abandoned research in physics and works as science journalist at the radio, Torill Kornfeldt who also was a science journalist but a former biologist, and the author GoH Peter Watts who had also been a biologist.

Having been a scientist might influence the style, since science writing is devoid of style. It should be clear, but on the other hand it should also impress fellow scientists, so that when you do not understand you should suspect that the author is smarter than yourself. When writing sf you have to know enough of the subject so that it doesn’t show, otherwise you might think that you are imaginative when you suggest something that has been known for long. If you know your field you will also know the present questions. On the other hand too much knowledge might hamper your imagination, and scientists who write sf seldom succeed when they write about their specialist area, e g when Alastair Reynolds writes about neutron stars. A couple of cool ideas outside the author’s expert field that were mentioned were the visualisation of virtual reality as space in Gibson’s Neuromancer, the presence of different constants in different parts of the universe in Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, and Delany’s brain-computer interfaces in the 60’s.

In sf the universe follows laws, whereas fantasy has another attitude. Star Wars is fantasy. Sf is driven by curiosity whereas fantasy rests upon faith.

A good book about science and how it works is Bellwether by Connie Willis. I completely agree and I think that it is her most entertaining book.

Jerry Määttä (far to the left due to a cold), John-Henri Holmberg, Niels Dalgaard,
Mats Linder

As I looked through the programme for Kontrast I had problems to understand what the panel The Contrarians would be about. Was it global warming contrarians? This was not the case, and the panel instead discussed authors and critics who had criticised the present view and execution of sf. Mats Linder led the panel discussion which at first only was between Niels Dalgaard and Jerry Määttä, since John-Henri Holmberg had been delayed. According to Jerry, being contrarian is quite mainstream in sf, and many sf writers have been contrarian at some point. Niels pointed to the new wave writers who were also political contrarians, being more left-wing. He considered Barry Malzberg to have behaved badly when he wrote rude things about other authors, and he mentioned Stanislaw Lem who was thrown out of SFWA after having said nasty things about all US authors except Philip K. Dick. In Thomas Disch’s The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of sf authors are criticised for not letting sf live up to its potential; he saw mental laziness in other authors.

Jerry pointed out that the canons are different inside and outside the sf community: Heinlein is a major author inside, while Delany, Dick and LeGuin are major authors outside. John-Henri added that Bradbury was appreciated outside the sf world when he under a short period did his good stuff. Jerry, who has studied Wyndham, thinks that he was contrarian in his time by e g trying to reach woman readers, but Ballard and Aldiss were at least initially critical. In Denmark Bradbury was a “gateway drug” for many fans and he was published in slick magazines.

According to John-Henri Kim Stanley Robinson writes traditional sf, and he thinks that today’s contrarians may be John Varley, Allan Steele, and Joe Haldeman. They try to recreate the feeling that they got when they were teenagers. Heinlein was a contrarian who reoriented sf, and even during his late period he was contrarian when writing about aging and sex.

John-Henri considered that cyberpunk also was a result of a wish to relive the teenage period. The manifesto written by Sterling is actually a parody. Niels considered it unwise to write manifestos on what other authors should write, as exemplified by the mundane manifesto by Geoff Ryman. He also criticised steampunk for being alternate history that is hardly contrarian and rather escape literature, although it sometimes is feminist. John-Henri does not see much interesting now. The 70’s were enormously dramatic, with female writers coming in and gender issues being discussed.

Karin Waller, Mats Strandberg, Sara Bergmark Elfgren, Nene Ormes, Ola Skogäng

Fantastic literature set in Sweden of today was discussed in a panel consisting of Karin Waller from the Science Fiction Book Shop in Malmö, the authors of the popular Cirkeln (The Circle) Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren, Nene Ormes who has just published the sequel to her Udda verklighet (Odd Reality), and the comic book author Ola Skogäng. The magic city Engelsfors in Cirkeln and its sequels is a mixture of the Swedish town Fagersta and the tv series Twin Peaks. It is a depressed small city. The Sweden in these books is “here and in a time just passed”. Popular music, facebook and technical gadgets are avoided since they can rapidly be outdated. The authors think that it is better to include older music and techniques.

Udda verklighet takes place in Malmö with only minor changes. There are a lot of alleys and gargoyles. In Ola Skogäng’s comic books the main character is a big bear, and the setting is a twisted Stockholm with mummies, werewolves and vampires. He lives in Enköping which is boring. The readers like that the stories take place in Stockholm, but the editor wanted the setting to be New York instead.

Naturally there were awards ceremonies, and the sound expert of many cons, Jonas Wissting, got the Alvar. There were also a release party for new books by Karin Tidbeck and the GoHs Joe Abercrombie and Kelly Link, and the hotel had an excellent bar providing beer. Since I was busy packing up the unsold books I missed the closing ceremony where the head of the Fantastika 2013 committee, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf received the spirit of Swecon for release on October 18 in Sickla in the Stockholm area. However, after delivering the books I returned and had a good time in the dead-dog party at Pipes of Scotland.

Kontrast 2012 was an excellent con with a broad programme where a lot of fans seemed to have a very good time. The committee can really be proud!

November: SF- och fantasydag

Uppsala, 5 november 2011

Uppsalafansen med Johan Jönsson som huvudarrangör ordnade en endagskongress i centrala Uppsala som blev välbesökt och mycket lyckad. Lokalen, kulturhuset Grand, fungerade utmärkt genom att en våning användes för fika och försäljning mm och en våning användes för föredrag och paneldiskussioner. Jag har rapporterat från kongressen i SFSFs fanzine SF-Forum nr 118, men vill tillägga att Anna Davour hade ordnat en intressant utställning av sf-böcker för att illustrera sf:s utveckling. Vid varje bok fanns en kort beskrivning av innehållet och relevansen för utvecklingen. Utställningen skymtar på bilden nedan, och vilka böcker som var med i utställningen kan man hitta här.

SF- och fantasydag i Uppsala. Bokutställning i bakgrunden.

SFSF:s julmöte 2010

SFSF:s julmöte 19 december 2010

Familjen Alroth (David, Nanna, Janne, Jacob) och Anna Davour i mitten

Mårten Svantesson, Gunnar Gällmo, Anna Gustafsson Chen, Ahrvid Engholm

Traditionellt har SFSF ett julmöte som många gånger varit hemma hos ordförande Carolina, men i år var vi i Forodrims lokaler på Kungsholmen. Ett 15-tal fans hade mött upp för att dricka glögg med lussekatter, äta julskinka och risgrynsgröt, prata sf, ge varandra julklappar och inte minst, lyssna på Anna Davour (Åka) som pratade om steampunk. Som vanligt kunde jag inte låta bli att anteckna.

Anna Davour

Åka berättade att Jeter, Blaylock och Powers skickade runt en bok mellan sig om hur det var att vara fattig i London förr, och att detta kanske var det utlösande för steampunk. Jeters första var Infernal Devices, medan Powers Anubisportarna i själva verket är pre-viktoriansk. Utmärkande för steampunk är den synliga teknologin – kugghjulen syns, och på Åkas blog om steampunk i Sverige finns en bild på en mekanisk fågel som hon modifierat så att den är genomskinlig. Åka nämnde också steampunkmusik, och eftersom jag missförstod en hel del av vad hon berättade (jag lyssnar aldrig på den typen av musik) har jag rättat i enlighet med ett mail hon skickade: Abney Park vill vara steampunk efter att ha tröttnat på goth, medan andra annekteras av olika obskyra skäl, som Doctor Steel, ett slags industri-hiphop, och Rasputina som klär sig i viktorianska underkläder och spelar cello. Den svenska boken Expeditionis planeta Teitus som nyligen recenserats i DN är ett utmärkt exempel på steampunk. Åka retar sig dock på språkfel: ”äro” används inte bara i pluralis. Åka tror att den stora toppen på steampunkeran kanske är förbi, och kanske det nya är varianten dieselpunk, som bygger på 30-talets Art Deco. Ett exempel på detta är filmen Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, som jag faktiskt sett själv med behållning.

Steampunk i sin moderna form startade (kanske) 1987 med Jeters Infernal Devices, och Jeter var den som uppfann namnet steampunk. 1995 kom Paul Di Filippos The Steampunk Trilogy, och 2009 exploderade fältet efter en artikel i New York Times. Nu publiceras massor av steampunk. Välkänd är Cherie Priests Boneshaker, men Åka irriterar sig på att fokuset så helt ligger på prylar och attribut. De är roliga, men inte som bärande ingrediens i litteratur. Samtidigt gillar hon inte puristerna som tycker att det absolut måste finnas en anknytning till vår egen värld, ungefär som alternativhistoria. Novellsamlingarna Steampunk och Steampunk Reloaded innehåller historier i helt andra världar. Där finns berättelser om barnarbetare, gruvmiljöer och ångteknik, och ren fantasy.

Åka avslutade den trevliga genomgången med en egen idé till alternativhistoria, som ledde till att jazzen utvecklades i Sverige i stället för i USA. Den hoppas jag att man får läsa med tiden!


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