Posts Tagged 'Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf'

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.

Eurocon 2013

Kiev, Ukraine, April 11 – 13, 2013

I met Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf at the Arlanda airport, and together we managed to get to the Nivki Metro station in Kiev. There our problems started. We asked a girl about the names of the roads and were not quite sure that we had understood each other, and after about a kilometre we asked a lady for the way to Hotel Nivki. She led us in a direction that felt more and more wrong, and suddenly we were at a hotel, but not the one we looked for, and we were almost back where we started. However, after going back quite a long way and on the right way again, we found the road were the hotel should be according to the P1020991aaddress. By looking at the numbers of the houses and from help of some kids we finally found the hotel, situated in a muddy area with large apartment houses in disrepair. At last we got our rooms and had a very Ukrainian dinner with dumplings called varenyky.

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Carolina testing honey.

The next day we were sight-seeing, mainly on foot after a journey in the very efficient and cheap (2 SEK per trip) underground train. We saw lots of churches with golden domes, and went down in the caves of the Lavra monastery which were still used as a shrine, where people kissed the glass coffins. We walked to the Independence Square that we remembered from tv during the “Orange revolution”, where we were harassed by people dressed as Disney characters who tried to convince us to be photographed together with them. Not for free.  In contrast, taking photos of the last statue of Lenin was free. As was trying to understand the words on advertisements when you don’t know the Cyrillic alphabet. It was impossible not to try to read, and when you managed the feeling of revelation was excellent. When I understood that there were actually two Cyrillic alphabets I gave up.

Lenin

Lenin.

The convention took place in a huge convention hall on Thursday and Saturday. The venue was shared with stalls of a market selling everything from candy to various home-made looking articles and one day a large dentistry and the other a large biomedical exhibition. Fortunately the programme items mainly took place in rooms well separated from the main hall. Parts of the programme were open to the public. On the Friday we were instead in a library building at the Polytechnic University, and this venue was much better. Lots of changes in the programme with no information about it made it problematic to get the most out of the convention. It was also a great surprise to find that there was no programme at all on the Sunday.

The opening ceremony – which actually started before the announced time – contained some entertaining singing and dancing Ukrainian kids, but also to our surprise a singing of the national anthem, which also concluded the convention.

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Ilona Volonskaya

Ilona Volonskaya

Fantasy and national mythos: the returning of old gods was a lecture by Ilona Volynskaya from Ukraine, given to an audience of about a dozen. She used to talk about fantasy for young adults, and was convinced that these read fantasy of their own free will. They read more fantasy than sf.  There is, however, a “negative critic paradigm”, that fantasy is childish, a “rudimental tail” of ancient oral tradition, and replaces the real world. They also described the positive paradigm, often given by writers, that fantasy tells about the real world but in a symbolic way and appeals to lofty matters of hope, belief, love and honour. Another vindication of fantasy they gave is that fantasy by being a reteller of old ethnic mythology both may preserve the national identity and spread it as e g the Celtic myths. In fantasy for young children today they perceive ecological paganism; mankind as a fifth element in a world that is living and spirited. Finally they concluded that fantasy is popular because it is associated with the future and develops ideas necessary for the survival and progress of humanity. This sounds a bit bombastic.

Christopher Priest and Olexandr Vasilkivskyi

Christopher Priest and Olexandr Vasilkivskyi.

The Panel: Science Fiction in Great Britain: current state and new trends” should have had Cheryl Morgan as single panelist (sic), but she did not turn up (possibly she had not been asked to participate since this was the case with others in the written programme). The Guest of Honour Christopher Priest was kind enough to replace her.  He talked mainly about his notorious journal note about the Clarke Award 2012, where he criticized the choices on the short-list, and the commotion this resulted in. About awards in general he said that “you don’t think about awards when writing”, and that “people like giving awards”. He also wonders who could talk about the list? You are either on or off the list, and in both cases there are a number of reasons why you cannot criticize it. He commented that there were no women on the list, and that there is an embarrassing lack of women on both committees and lists. He thought this issue had been settled in the 70’s or 80’s, but no. There is also a domination of USA, similar to that in films, where the Oscars are in the category “best film” and “best foreign film”.

To the question why British sf has been so influential in USA and other countries Priest answered that H G Wells was reprinted in the American magazines from 1926, when Wells had himself moved away from sf. The pulp authors imitated Wells and used his tropes. Orwell, Huxley and Stapledon also wrote sf but were outside the community. In the 1960’s the UK economy improved and it was possible to publish magazines, leading to a movement to overthrow the US hegemony. This the Americans have never forgiven.

Anastasiia Rohoza and Serihy Krykun.

Anastasiia Rohoza and Serihy Krykun.

Serihy Krykun from Kiev gave an interesting lecture called Visions of Terror, starting with ancient art and going all the way to the artists of the sf magazines. Unfortunately his Cyrillic letters for the names of the artist made it difficult to follow sometimes. He showed many pictures done by Hieronymus Bosch, as e g the triptych Garden of Earthly Delights (on which Ian Watson based the brilliant The Gardens of Delight). Albrecht Dürer, Rubens, Caravaggio and Rembrandt all could be shown to have made art describing terror, and Goya in his series “Capricious” and “Horrors of war” was of course a master. William Blake depicted the apocalypse, and Gustave Doré is most known for his illustrations of the Bible.  Felicien Rops drew horror in the form of women, and Sidney Simes illustrated the works of Lord Dunsany and William Hope Hodgson. Alfred Kubin was an expressionist and Lee Brown Coye illustrated works by H P Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. The pulp illustrators Virgil Finlay was extremely productive and Hannes Bok gay and uncomfortable. Francis Bacon was also gay, and surrealist, and the Swiss surrealist H R Giger is known for his bio- and erotomechanics.  The magazine illustrators Phillipe Druillet and Frank Frazetta were rapidly mentioned before Serihy had completely run out of time.

I then listened to Anastasiia Rohoza talking about Mandrake – legends and lore. The plant mandragora belongs to the Nightshade family, that also has belladonna and potatoes. These plants have poisonous berries. In medicine mandrake has been used as an anaesthetic for surgery, already by Hippocrates. Rachel and Lea in the Bible found a field of mandrake that was supposed to help fertility, and it is still used for that purpose in Israel. The use in magic is due to the shape of the roots, which can resemble the human body. It has also been shaped by pots to increase this similarity. There is a story on the Internet that a guy consumed a small piece of mandrake, leading to nausea, immobility and sleep, followed by hallucinations, shining strings crossing his view. Mandrake may be found on Sicily and Corsica, but is rare. It is said to be frequent under gallows, and that it shines in the night. According to Theophrastus it should be harvested in twilight, and a magical sword should be used to draw three circles around the plant, that should then be slowly dug up. A black dog is useful for finding it, and you should block your ears with wax so that you do not become dumb from the shrieking sound when it is dug up. In a story by Clark Ashton Smith, “The mandrakes”, a witch and warlock couple used mandrake as a love potion. The witch disappeared and a woman-like mandrake was found in the garden. In another story, by Hans Evers, a mandrake raped a girl. In that story the German (and Swedish) name was used, alruna.

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Mikhaylo Nazarenko

Another interesting talk was Chimerical prose: magic realism, made in Ukraine. Unfortunately the room and time were changed so I missed the first part of what Mikhaylo Nazarenko had to say.  However, I heard about a book about a Cossack, Cossack Marmay, which had been filmed. In the 1970’s there was a lot of chimerical prose in Ukrainian culture.  He mentioned a book about werewolves by someone called Drozd, and a novel about vampires by someone called Galina Parotjak, but when I tried to Google these I got nothing. The latter name should be Halyna Pahutyak according to a comment from Oleh Silin. Apparently very little has been translated to English. The publisher that might do it was said to be Garoslav. But I didn’t find that either. However, in a comment from Michael Burianyk I have received a correction: The publisher is Glagoslav, and can be found on the net.

In the presentation of Shamrocon, the next Eurocon that takes place in Dublin a week after the Worldcon in London, I saw that a new GoH was Andrzej Sapkowski. Of course I was also happy to see our own Ylva Spångberg among the GoHs, and that Sten Thaning from the Eurocon 2011 committee was in that committee too.

Christopher Priest.

Christopher Priest.

Christopher Priest’s GoH speech – announced as an autograph session – started with his observation that there is a lot of terrible sf around, and that we should celebrate the best. He mentioned his background, that the British culture defines him, whereas he did not get any interest in culture from his parents. His father worked for an engineering company and could not understand why his son had so many books.

In the beginning of the 60’s there was a yearning for better things. He wanted to explore the world of imagination, since he had had an unexciting childhood and had to daydream. As a teenager he read US sf and was stimulated by the ideas there. It took boldness to read sf at that time; you had to get used to hear about ray-guns etc. He wanted to consider what would happen to real people in the space ships, and when they arrived.

He had problems to read Asimov’s stories which he considered to be long and complicated and have unbelievable characters. Instead, he liked Ballard’s work, which he found weird, ambiguous, surrealistic and written in an obsessive, beautiful style. In part this is a matter of taste. In Asimov’s work he saw a dead end, commercial, with lots of power in a military future, whereas Ballard’s stories seemed full of encouragement and reminding of Salvador Dali. He read a lot of sf in his teens but not any longer.

His first three novels were sf, especially Inverted World, which was somewhat Ballardian, but also slipstream which he considers to use an unusual way of thinking. Other slipstream works he mentioned were Anna Kavan’s Ice and the films Memento and Being John Malkovich.

He has also used alternate history or counterfactual literature, which is familiar to sf readers. In The Separation peace is negotiated with Germany early in WW 2, and this might have decreased the horrors of the holocaust. It is also slipstream according to Priest.

Most fiction is invented and irrational. There has to be collaboration between the writer and the reader. Realism should only seem to be realistic, not be realistic. But why set the story in the future? By using the fantastic the readers are invited to think, their mind will be involved.

The earliest sf in English is Frankenstein. Mary Shelley developed a novel in gothic form, which was concerned with responsibility. This is an issue not only for scientists today. Sf often describes larger consequences, and if imagination is suppressed we may suffer a lack of freedom.

On a question about the future of books, Priest showed optimism. Today there are other information sources, but books are private, not mass-media. Important people read books.

At the General Meeting of the ESFS there was a spoof bid for the 2015 Eurocon, Mårtenique, proposed by Mårten Svantesson and James Shields, getting zero votes. Instead, the 2015 Eurocon will take place in St Petersburg in the last half of April. A new board for ESFS was elected: Chair: Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Sweden. Vice chair: Saija Kyllönen, Finland. Secretary: Gareth Kavanaugh, Ireland. Treasurer: Vanja Kranjcevic, Croatia. New position as Awards Administrator: Bridget Wilkinson. Thus, there are new persons on all positions, except on the newly invented as Awards Administrator. I think it might have been quite difficult to manage this organisation since fandoms in European countries have different culture and history, in addition to the problematic language barriers. The old committee has done a great job in keeping European fandom together.

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Arno Behrend, Mathias Kunkel and Eckhard Marwitz.

I listened to a presentation of Science Fiction in Germany by Mathias Kunkel and Eckhard D. Marwitz, who also published a fanzine during the convention, ConFact. There are conventions in Germany in Leipzig, Munich and Dortmund, and the latter city is bidding for Eurocon 2017, Dortcon, presented by Arno Behrend. The big German Club is SFCD, Science Fiction Club Deutschland, and there is also a fantasy fandom organised in FOLOW, Fellowship Of the Land Of Wonders. There appears to be little sf written in Germany. Walter Ernsting wrote a lot of Perry Rhodan stories, mainly under the pen name Clark Darlton, Andreas Eschbach has written some sf books e g The Nobel Prize, but there are no longer sf labels on his books. Frank Schätzing has written thrillers and sf, and in his latest, Limit, there is a space elevator. Previously big sellers paid for the stories that the editors wanted, but this is no longer the case. I think this is a general problem when too much power is given to economic forces, e g the company owners.

P1030089aAttila Nemeth talked about Science Fiction in Hungary, and the publishing climate there appeared much better than in Germany. There is a lot of Hungarian sf written after 2000, but unfortunately very little is being translated. The sf magazine Atjaro has taken over after Galaktika that folded in 1995. Galaktika restarted in 2004 and won the ESFS award in 2005. (Thanks to Jonathan Cowie of Concatenation for this amendment. ).

Peter de Weerdt and Frank Roger.

Peter de Weerdt and Frank Roger.

Science Fiction in Belgium was presented by Peter de Weerdt and Frank Roger, who started by telling that they came from the half of Belgium that is speaking Dutch and that they thus had more in common with people in the Netherlands. The Dutch-speaking fandom has organised BeNeLuxCons, and is now planning a Eurocon in 2016 in Antwerpen. The most well-known fantasy author in the Dutch language was said to be Jean Marie de Kremer, a k a John Flanders (1887-1964). There is a Dutch fantasy magazine, Elf Fantasy, and a web portal for Dutch fandom, http://www.ncsf.nl.

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf and Dave Lally at the Closing Ceremony.

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf and Dave Lally at the Closing Ceremony.

The Pan-European Party in the remote Prolisok Hotel was really a very pleasant end to a convention that was perhaps more an interesting than a rewarding experience. I talked to several people from many countries, and the international feeling is the really great thing about Eurocons. The international character continued on the “free” Sunday, when I, Carolina, Frank Rogers, Peter de Weerdt, Pascal Ducommun (Switzerland) and Christopher Priest went sight-seeing in the city, to be accompanied by Bridget Wilkinson and Georges Bormand (France) at the impressive Sophia Cathedral. We then had a late, very Ukrainian, lunch in a restaurant where the interior decoration seemed to P1030129acelebrate the culture during the Soviet era in a nostalgic way. Some of us finally took part in a “ghost walk”, guided by Anastasiia Rohoza, who showed us some gargoyles and the site of a Ukrainian prehistoric shrine that we had missed on our Sunday trip.

Chicon 7 / 70th Worldcon

Chicago, Ill., USA, August 30 – September 3, 2012

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park

This was my second Worldcon in Chicago. In 1991, when I attended Chicon 5, I had the impression that Chicago was a dirty and shabby town in great need of refurbishing and rebuilding, and evidently that this had been done. Especially the southern part, the ”Loop”, was much nicer and less intimidating. The first couple of days I spent strolling and sightseeing, alone or together with Carolina and Britt-Louise. We visited the Museum of Contemporary Art which had an interesting exhibition about skyscraper and other urban buildings, went up for a drink and superb view in the restaurant in the 95th floor of Hancock Center, took the train to Andersonville and visited the unexpectedly interesting Swedish-American Museum there. I spent almost a day in the excellent but enormous Art Institute of Chicago. A retrospective exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein caused me to upend my view of this artist whom I had previously considered unimaginative and dull.

My mirror image in the Cloud Gate

Britt-Louise Viklund and Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf in the Signature room of John Hancock Center

View from Hancock Center

The convention itself was of course impressing, with somewhere between 5 000 and 6 000 participants. I enjoyed many programme items, and will go into detail below. However, there were also some problems. The programme rooms were located in two separate buildings, connected at three levels, and it was really difficult to get to and find the rooms. Especially frustrating was to see that the small room was absolutely full when you finally found it, so that you had to run to the other building to go to another item instead. Most of the time there were at least two interesting programme items to chose from among about twenty in the programme at each time, but the last day was an unfortunate exception. Many panels were obviously directed towards aspiring authors, and when panelists asked the audience if they were writers most raised their hands. This is different from Swedish cons where most fans are just readers.

Unfortunately several programme items that I was interested in were cancelled. Thus the presentation of Dissertations on Fandom and the discussion Where Are the New Fan Historians? could have been interesting, as could some of the papers in the “academic” track like The Development of Fairy Tales.

Philosophy and Science Fiction

Sandra M. Grayson, Deb Geisler, Dale Cozort

There were several panels on Philosophy and SF. One of them had been moved from Saturday to Thursday and was not announced in the Programme Book but only in the programme sheets which were only given to the first who registered. Still, I thought that this might be interesting even if the description talked about Star Trek. The panel consisted of an expert on black SF writers, Sandra M. Grayson, an American SF fan and writer, Dale Cozort, an Australian SF author, Lezli Robyn, and the moderator Deb Geisler, who is an experienced fan and university professor of communication. In the picture an interesting notice can be seen on the wall: Only 50 people are allowed in the room, which would mean the first three rows out of at least twenty. Strange.

There are many philosophical issues that are discussed in SF, but in this panel only two were discussed and they were rather political or possibly ethical, and based on Star Trek. Having a black character in the original Star Trek series was considered revolutionary, but it was also thought that racial issues were handled less well later, and women were considered to be marginalized. The ”prime directive” in Star Trek (that there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations) was seen not to be followed in real life. Thus, portable radios changed the music of Australian aborigines and the decision to ”help and educate” their children resulted in a ”stolen generation”. Much SF deals with the evilness of humans on other planets, e g LeGuin’s ”The Word for World is Forest” and the film Avatar. Enforcing goodness as in A Clockwork Orange is of course a dreadful measure. Much SF also deals with the superiority of humans over robots, e g Asimov’s robot stories, and there are also stories where the robots take over and have humans as slaves.

The ethics of terraforming Mars was discussed. The possibility to study whether there is any kind of life there has apparently been destroyed now since Curiosity was not sterilized before leaving Earth.

SF Scene in Europe

Debora Montanari, Luigi Petruzzelli, Mike Resnick, Barbara G. Tarn

Being a European myself I thought that it might be interesting to listen to this panel. It consisted of the Author GoH Mike Resnick who was also moderator, and three Italians, two authors, Barbara G. Tarn and Debora Montanari, and a publisher, Luigi Petruzzeli. I was surprised and annoyed that no other Europeans had been invited to the panel in spite of the great many countries represented among the preregistered. Mike Resnick had been invited to cons in France, and the Italians talked about the national con in Italy, Italcon, but e g Eurocons were not mentioned at all, nothing was said about SF cons or authors in e g Germany, and about Scandinavia the Italians just said that only thrillers were published. Instead the Italians talked about self-publishing and the importance of having a good illustration on the front-page, and Resnick talked about SF in China. Fortunately only about twenty people listened to the panel.

The Exploration of Gender Roles in Science Fiction

Sara M. Harvey, Graham Sleight, Deirdre Murphy, Paco Ruiz

This is something that I consider SF to be a very good literary form for. The subject was handled by the fantasy author Sara M. Harvey who has a lesbian protagonist in her steampunk novels, Deirdre M. Murphy who has transgender characters in her speculative fiction, and the Spanish author Paco Ruiz. The moderator was Graham Sleight who writes a column in Locus and edits Foundation. The panel started by listing novels where gender roles are treated: Virginia Wolf’s Orlando, which is a mixture of fantasy and SF, LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness where there is a convergence of male and female, and Brave New World where sex and reproduction are disconnected.

It freaks readers out when they don’t know the gender. One example is Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, where ”she” is used for all persons, and ”he” is used for someone you are attracted to. We learn at a very young age what a boy is and what a girl is. This is discussed in the short story ”Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation by K. N. Sirsi and Sandra Botkin” by Raphael Carter which can be found in the second Tiptree anthology.

One of the panelists had heard a teenage boy saying that the girls are ”dumbing down”. In Sweden I think it is more the boys who have this negative attitude towards learning.

It is socially acceptable for girls to play and dress as boys, but not vice versa. Boy things are ”better”, it is allowed to go up the ladder. Now there are quite many books with girl characters, e g in The Hunger Games. Dressing boys as girls was normal in the 17th century, and even up to the 1930’s boys could be dressed in girl dresses.

A few other works of interest were mentioned. In Asimov’s The Gods Themselves there are three sexes, and Sheri S. Tepper has written about cities with only females and men outside the cities. In Tiptree’s ”The Screwfly Solution” the men murder the women, and the construction of gender is treated in Michael Blumlein’s ”Brains of Rats”. Roz Kaveney’s Rhapsody of Blood – Rituals was also mentioned.

In society male homosexuals are more visible than female ones. It is quite ”normal” for women to go hand in hand. However, lesbians are two steps from the norm (the male) and thus less ”normal” than male homosexuals.

A small child in the audience asked his parents every second ”Can we go now?”. Since it was past ten in the evening that sounded like a good idea. The question was of course very disturbing for the rest of the audience but I mainly felt sorry for this abused child.

Are you a Dickhead?

Jonathan Vos Post, Guy Gillian, Tom Doyle, Bradford Lyau, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

This panel consisted of Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, who has coauthored a novel with Robert Silverberg, When the Blue Shift Comes, Bradford Lyau, who has been a Dick-fan since he was a teenager and has written his Ph D thesis on French SF, the fan Guy Gillian, the scientist and sf author Jonathan Vos Post, and Tom Doyle as moderator.

Why is Dick so interesting, with at least eight films based on his stories? It is easy to read in whatever you want, they are Kafkaesque, Dick is humane, i e he writes about what it is to be human and asks what we can do for each other. Dick looks at the present whereas Heinlein extrapolated. Another reason may be that he already is popular, which results in a demand for more. There is also a lot of humor in his texts, especially in the early works, e g “Beyond Lies the Wub”, and the later books as e g Valis are concerned with religion.

Books that were specially recommended included The Martian Time-Slip, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Ubik (a terrific thriller) and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which deals with empathy exploration and how humans become machine-like.

The Bob and Connie Show

As expected it was very entertaining to listen to Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis talk about various things, mainly SF conventions, but also literature. Harriet Becher Stowe, author of Oncle Tom’s Cabin and neighbour of Mark Twain alias Samuel Clemens and the English author Wyndham Lewis were considered to be unappreciated. Ivy Compton-Burnett was also recommended. Among his own works Silverberg considered the historical novel Lord of Darkness to be too little read. He had got stuck in the middle when writing Tower of Glass, but Barry Malzberg called and just told him to write on. Which he did.

The Art of Writing Effective Book Reviews

There should have been five panelists but only Sarah Stegall (www.munchkyn.com) and Doug Fratz (SF Site) showed up. A good review should be balanced, and it should be considered that a book rarely is perfect. How does the work fit in the work of this author, and in the rest of the field? To know the field is important as can be seen when mainstream reviewers wrote about The Road without mentioning e g Zelazny’s Damnation Alley. Spoilers should be avoided but may be allowed for the first third of the book. Sometimes the story turns upside down in the end, which makes it difficult to present in a review. Doug Fratz tells that he reviews from a scientific point of view, and considers five elements in literature according to Frost: Character, setting, plot, style, and theme. The plot can actually take place inside a mind, as in Shirley Jackson’s novels. The setting is special for SF where it can vary enormously. In Dune and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy the setting is the main thing. After a discussion of these five elements it is important to consider if the story “works”, and for that you have to use your gut feeling, and then consider why or why not. Did the book fulfill the expectations, and which were they? The expectations may be unconscious, e g in stories about alternate universes.

In literary critic the plot may be discussed more freely, and it is important to relate the work to other works by the author and the genre as a whole. According to Damon Knight the plot can be an “idiot plot”, being of the first order if the hero must be an idiot or second order if everybody except the hero are stupid.

Reviews of SF and fantasy books used to be found in newspapers, but today they should be sought in magazines like Asimov’s, Analog, Locus, Interzone, NY Review of SF, SF Review, and websites.

Jo Walton Reading

Jo Walton

Jo Walton read from her latest book, Turnover, which is about a generation star ship and the name comes from the point where acceleration is changed to retardation when half the journey is done. After that I asked her if she was willing to be Guest of Honor at the convention “Fantastika” in Stockholm in October 2013, and she made me very happy by accepting this.

Filling the Magazines

Stanley Schmidt, Jason Sizemore, Ellen Datlow, Gordon van Gelder, John Joseph Adams

This panel was moderated by Ellen Datlow. John Joseph Adams is editor of the online magazine Lightspeed, which can be read for free and also sells books. New authors are told to rewrite if their submissions are not acceptable. Lightspeed also publishes reprint. Jason Sizemore is the publisher of another free online magazine, Apex Magazine. Stanley Schmidt has been editor of Analog for many years. He edits it for himself, i e he choses stories that he likes. He thinks of himself as a matchmaker between author and reader. Later during the convention we learned that he now retires from the job as editor. The other paper magazine editor in the panel was Gordon van Gelder of F&SF. He says that an ideal issue contains at least one story that is ideal for each reader, but that different stories are ideal for different readers.

Evil in Lovecraft and Tolkien

Philip Kaveny, Jan Bogstad

This was announced as a paper by Philip Kaveny, but in the presentation he was assisted by Jan Bogstad. The paper discussed similarities between these two writers. They have both been reinterpreted, Lovecraft by Derleth and Tolkien by his son Christopher. Both authors were heavily influenced by World War I. Mordor represents Somme, where a folkloristic landscape is destroyed. Both were outsiders who lost their fathers early, and both have written essays on fantasy.

Carolyn Ives Gilman Reading

Carolyn Ives Gilman

Before reading Carolyn Ives Gilman told us that the room we were in, DuSable, was named after the founder of Chicago. She is a historian by profession, and she read from the book Isles of the Forsaken, which has a sequel, Ison of the Isles.

Looking Back 70 Years in Fandom

Dave Kyle, John L. Coker, III, Peggy Rae Sapienza

Impressive! John L. Coker, III, talked with Dave Kyle and Peggy Rae Sapienza about US fandom in the 40’s and 50’s. Chicon 1 in 1940 was Worldcon 2, and we were told lots of anecdotes from these early events. Fans from Denver rode under train-cars since they could not afford a ticket. The second worldcon was less political than the first, where several fans had been excluded. The number of participants was 128, of which 22 came in costume, thus starting the tradition of masquerades at the cons. Contacts were established with British fandom via contacts between Ted Carnell and Forrest J Ackerman.

Last Man Standing: Frederik Pohl

Edward James, Elizabeth Anne Hull, Robert Silverberg, Joan Slonczewski, Jim Frenkel

This appreciation of the 92 years old Pohl was a panel with his wife Elizabeth (Betty) Anne Hull, who is also a retired professor and SF expert and editor, the editor at Tor books Jim Frenkel, the SF author Joan Slonczewski, the expert on SF and fantasy Edward James, and Robert Silverberg. Fred proposed to Betty in an ad in Locus. They share an interest in geology that they have practised during their journeys. A manuscript had the title Complexities of Coupled Faults but Jim Frenkel told him that this was too long and would overshadow his name, so it was renamed The Voices of Heaven. Pohl insisted on the title The Space Merchants since it has a connection to the room rents on Madison Avenue at the time. This is a satire, as is also Gladiator-at-Law, both written with Cyril M. Kornbluth. According to Jim Frenkel “The Gold at the Starbow’s End” and “The Mayor of Mare Tranq” are about Jack Williamson. The panel named same favourites, Gateway, The Years of the City, and “Day Million”. In “The Age of the Pussyfoot” Pohl predicted pocket computers.

Why Fantasy Dominates Science Fiction

Scott Lynch, Farah Mendlesohn, Ty Franck, Daniel Abraham, Valerie Estelle Frankel

The panel consisted of fantasy author and Elizabeth Bear’s boyfriend Scott Lynch, “SF fan who writes about fantasy” Farah Mendlesohn, authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck who as James S. A. Corey has written the Hugo-nominated novel Leviathan Wakes, and the moderator Valerie Estelle Frankel who has written books about fantasy, e g Harry Potter. Farah Mendlesohn had some very interesting things to say about why fantasy has come to dominate the market, a change that was most marked in the 80’s and 90’s. The SF became more sophisticated, less accessible, and relied more on intertextuality as seen in e g the works of Banks. At least in Britain science education in schools has not kept abreast with the scientific development. Fantasy relies on science from before 1900, whereas modern SF relies on modern physics that the readers cannot relate to. You have to convince in the story, and according to Farah that is why she thinks Never Let Me Go failed (which I don’t agree with). There is also a role model problem; scientists are not cool any longer.

High fantasy has entered the public mind and is seen on bestseller lists. Lynch admits that a blurb by George R. R. Martin on his books has helped. Fantasy learned to write series before SF started to do that. There were also many good history books published in the 90’s, like Longitude, which might have started many fantasy books.

A negative attitude towards science and technology is seen in much SF for kids, which is not written by SF authors. In the shape of being environmentalist they are actually pagan, and do not accept that earth never was a “natural” planet. Fear of science is also apparent in many technothrillers, like those by Michael Crichton.

A statement by Paul Kincaid was cited, that I think is very relevant and apt: SF is an attitude.

The Secret History of Science Fiction

George R. R. Martin, Mike Resnick, Joe Haldeman, Robert Silverberg

This panel had some outstanding names: Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Joe Haldeman, George R. R. Martin and the late-coming Gardner Dozois. We were thoroughly entertained by the stories from various conventions, but afterwards I had to admit that most of the jokes were either sexist or about alcohol. I don’t think SF was mentioned.

Science Fiction in China

Ruhan Zhao, Yan Wu, Jan Bogstad, Emily Jiang

A math teacher living in USA since 1999, Rhuan Zhao, the chairman of the Chinese SF Association, Yan Wu, a US citizen of Chinese descent, Emily Jiang, and Jan Bogstad who translates SF from Chinese to English, talked about SF in China. It was considered to be chilren’s literature before the Cultural Revolution when it was condemned, but now it is growing under the watchword “march to science”. The turning point was in ’89 when “market socialism” started. The major SF magazine in China is Science Fiction World. Young authors, Yao Wang and Qiufan Chen, have been translated by Ken Liu and published in Clarkesworld Magazine on the net.

Medical Myths and Errors Perpetuated by Genre Writers

C. D. Covington, Lisa C. Freitag, Susan Silverton, Henry G. Stratmann, Brad Aiken

In view of my former profession as a teacher of medical students I thought that this discussion could be interesting. The panel consisted of the Analog author and M D Brad Aiken, the author, cardiologist and researcher Henry G. Stratmann, the endocrinologist, university administrator (“the dark side”) and SF author Susan Silverton (Fern as author), the pharmacist and unpublished author C. D. Covington, and as moderator the lapsed doctor and Ph D student of ethics Lisa Freitag. They started with the effects of head injuries which, especially in films, seldom are as dramatic as in real life. For sepsis it is not enough to chew on a few leaves, and a flat line in EKG is most caused by an electrode that has got off the body. Restoring atmosphere does not repair hematomas as in Total Recall. Actually, reoxygenation causes more problems than anoxia per se. Emptying your lungs before being in a vacuum only very marginally decreases the hazard. Since many in the audience were aspiring authors the panel gave some advice on where to find facts: Pubmed, Wikipedia and Merck Manual.

Surprisingly, a panel with the same title and description was scheduled later in the same day. The panel was completely different, and since I did not go there I do not know if this is a printing mistake or if they actually talked about the same things there.

Collaborations

Charles Stross, Eric Flint

According to the daily newsletter, The Right Stuff, the number of memberships sold was 5019. This is of course impressing, but not when it is compared with the 52 000 attending Dragon*Con that took place at the same time in Atlanta, Georgia. Some of the programme items at Chicon were run together with Dragon*Con, with an internet link, and one of those was Collaborations. In Chicago the panel consisted of Charles Stross and Eric Flint, and in Atlanta sat fantasy novelist and illustrator Janny Wurts, NASA scientist Les Johnson and as moderator SF writer Jody Lynn Nye. All had some experience of collaborations, and we heard that in every collaboration each author has to do two thirds of the job. Question that has to be settled are who is in charge and who does the copy-editing. Collaboration via the internet may change storytelling back to the oral tradition that was not solitary. Technically the internet link between Chicago and Atlanta worked wonderfully with only the occasional pixelation of the picture.

The Future Evolution of the Short Story

Mike Rimar, Barbara Galler-Smith, Ellen Datlow, Eileen Gunn, Donald J. Bingle

Authors Donald J. Bingle and Mike Rimar, author and editor (OnSpec) Barbara Galler-Smith, and editor and moderator Ellen Datlow, discussed short stories. They considered them as training grounds and to be read (or listened to) by commuters. A problem they saw was how to make money by publishing on-line. Big books sell better. “Only short story writers read short stories”. This all sounded bad since I like reading short stories and consider them to be at the core of SF but not of fantasy.

Victorian and Edwardian Science Fiction

Matthew Bernardo, DDavid Malki, Randy Smith

Fan Matthew Bernardo and rev. Randy Smith who edits an anthology talked with the moderator David Malki. When “real” SF started with Frankenstein in 1818 there were also proto-SF like that by Cyrano de Bergerac. Examples of early 20th century SF are the detective stories collected in William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost Finder and the anthology The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. The character Craig Kennedy, created by Arthur B. Reeve, is also on the borderline between SF and detective stories.

Early SF can be found in Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archives. Sam Moskowitz collected some in SF by Gaslight, and much can be found in Hearst Magazines from 1880’s and 1890’s. Some social commentators were E. M. Forster who wrote about an internet-like technology, Samuel Butler (Erehwon) and H. G. Wells. Other examples of early SF are Jules Verne’s Robur the Conqueror, Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and its sequel Easy as ABC that is not as good), Jack London’s The Star Rover, Abbott’s Flatland, and stories by Stevenson, Conan Doyle (Dr Challenger), Mark Twain (time travel) and Poe. In The Inheritors Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford collaborated on a story based on the fourth dimension. George Griffith wrote many early SF stories before 1900, e g The Angel of the Revolution, its sequel Olga Romanova, and the Dr Who-ish Honeymoon in Space. Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith may be called medical SF and his It Can’t Happen Here political SF. Edison’s Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss is an example of early (1898) adventure SF with rayguns, space suits and epic space battles, and William N. Harben’s The Land of the Changing Sun is a classic hollow-earth story.

Getting it Right: Religions

Leigh Ann Hildebrand, Teresa Frohock, P. C. Hodgell, Kameron Hurley, Petréa Mitchell, Guy Consolmagno

This panel, led by moderator P. C. Hodgell, consisted of Leigh Ann Hildebrand who does religion all the time in her theological Ph D studies on “lived religion”, i e what individuals actually do, author Teresa Frohock who has studied many religions and incorporates it in her books, e g Miserere, Kameron Hurley who remixes and reimagines religions in Nebula-nominated God’s War, Pétrea Mitchell, interested in human-computer interactions, and Brother Guy Consolmagno who has written about religion among scientists (God’s Mechanics). The latter wondered who else would carry out all that religion does today, like initiation rituals, marriage, burials etc. (My answer would of course be that that is no problem whatsoever, they can be skipped or performed without religion.)

It “costs” to have a religion and as author you have to show why it is there. You also have to consider if your own religion affects the story. Subconsciously incorporated expressions may show if you are protestant or catholic. You have to challenge your own biases and listen to people, how religion impacts your daily life, and you must not preach your own religion in your books. SF authors tend to treat religion as engineering. In anime there are lots of religious symbols that we do not understand. We do probably the same but we do not see it.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is negative towards religion, Bujold’s work is semireligious and Sheri S. Tepper’s Grass is about religion.

Incorporating the Personal into Speculative Fiction

Gwynne Garfinkle, Cat Rambo, Nick Mamatas, William Shunn, Inanna Arthen/Vyrdolak

Cat Rambo moderated fellow authors Nick Mamatas, Gwynne Garfinkle, Inanna Arthen/Vyrdolak, and William Shunn. Nothing sensational came out of this discussion. Personal experience is important and often the basis for what is written, and even SF stories are often just rewritings of present events but with a new slant. The characters have to be human enough for the reader to be able to relate. Some real life events seem completely unbelievable; they then have to be excluded or rewritten.

Myth and Religion in SF&F

Sara M. Harvey, Brenda Sinclair Sutton, Bradford Lyau, P. C. Hodgell, Martin Berman-Gorvine

Rev. Brenda Sinclair Sutton, author of books about SF Bradford Lyau, costume historian and author Sara M. Harvey, and fantasy author P. C. Hodgell were moderated by author Martin Berman-Gorvine. The latter has written 36, where a future religion is similar to the manicheism of the middle ages. Other examples mentioned were Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Nine Billion Names of God” and “The Star”, and Blish’s A Case of Conscience. It was considered that there is no limit between religion and myth, since at the time it was all true. Someone else said that “myth is false on the outside but true on the inside”. Literalism is often the cause of fundamentalism. There are two different creation myths in the Bible, making it impossible to take it literally. Other examples of books and authors doing a good job of treating myths and religion are Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Lois McMater Bujold, Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, Orson Scott Card, Charles de Lint, and Katherine Kurtz. Robert Charles Wilson’s Mysterium is interesting since in it a gnostic version of Christianity won out in a parallel world.

Magic Realism vs. Traditional Fantasy

Lillian Cauldwell, Cat Rambo, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Nick Mamatas, Kat Richardson

Urban fantasy author Kat Richardson moderated this panel consisting of author Nick Mamata, who also edits Japanese magic realism in the Latin American mode, Dutch horror author Thomas Olde Heuvelt, author Cat Rambo, and author of multicultural magic realism Lillian Cauldwell. The panel had problems defining magic realism, stressing that it should have an element of surprise and wonder, “out there”, or that it is a species of realism that for political reasons has not been able to treat certain phenomena in reality, or that the magical is perceived as a normal thing. Ambiguity is a pleasure of magic realism. A way to indicate the difference is of course to list a few examples. García Márquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi are magic realism whereas the Ring trilogy and T. H. White’s Arthurian books are fantasy. Magic realism may work as a bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness. The session was briefly visited by Bruce Taylor who calls himself Mr. Magic Realism and has a website promoting his view if the genre.

Erle Korshak

In addition to all the scheduled programme items there were a lot of other events going on. I saw that the children were well provided in a special room and also had their own programme, ChiKidz. In a Con Suite we were all welcome to have free bread with peanut butter, salad, fruits and cans of soft drinks, and in the gigantic Concourse there were lots of stalls selling books and fan-related merchandise, as well as memberships to other cons. I sat for two hours at the site selection table, where votes were collected for the only announced bid for Worldcon 2014 (Loncon 3). The Art Show was as usual filled with fairly well done but too cliché illustrations. The exception were those by Youchan even if they were somewhat childish. The Opening Ceremony was performed as a talk show with host John Scalzi, and I was most impressed by Erle Korshak who had cochaired the first Chicon in 1940. The entertaining John Scalzi also presented the Hugo Awards (except when he was himself nominated). In that ceremony there was also an in memoriam of the fans who had died since the last Worldcon, and two Swedes were mentioned, Christoffer Schander and Arne Sjögren.

Of course there was a lot of socialising too, and various constellations of fans went out to dinner. Thus I met another old fan, Gabriel Setterborg and his wife Elisabet, Anders Hedenlund and his daughter Alice, Sten Thaning and Dessy, Tommy Persson, Michael Pargman, Urban Gunnarsson, Erik Fornander, Thomas Recktenwald from Germany, Peter de Weerdt from Belgium, Herman Ellingsen from Norway, Eemeli Aro from Finland, Flemming Rasch from Denmark and several others in addition to Carolina and Britt-Louise.

Peter de Weerdt, Tommy Persson

Alice Hedenlund and The Carrot Cake

Anders Hedenlund continuing on The Carrot Cake, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf

Fantasticon 2012

Copenhagen, Denmark, June 1-3, 2012

Klaus Æ. Mogensen

Like the last Fantasticon I visited in 2010 this con was also located in Vanløse, where the ”culture house” is well suited for this kind of event. I first listened to Klaus Æ. Mogensen who entertained with a show called SF Covers: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Quite often covers are directly misleading and sometimes the features displayed have no connection whatsoever to the content of the book. In the book shown there are no skateboards, blonde girls, rainbow dragons, Valley girl fashions, or palm trees. There is, however, a passing mention of cats. Found at goodshowsir.co.uk.

Alastair Reynolds, Tue Sørensen, H. H. Løyche, Lars Ahn Pedersen (m)

At Finncon last year in Turku I listened to a panel discussing optimistic science fiction, where the anthology Shine was mentioned. At the present con there was a similar panel, entitled If the world doesn’t end: Optimistic science fiction, with a group of authors and fans. According to the GoH Alastair Reynolds Shine had not had any impact; it did not change anything. He considers that sf got it right – it is a better world now, with e g the Internet and Google translator, and he is optimistic about the climate change – we will manage. H. H. Løyche likes to write dystopias since they are more colourful, and Tue Sørensen likes to read utopian stories even if it is difficult to envisage a perfect society since it is likely that many will not like the basic ideas. Reynolds tries to mix dystopias with utopias. Negative stories have always existed, e g the Bible and Gilgamesh. In New York in the late 1800s horse manure was a major problem, which changed with the subways. Reynolds considers that the same will happen with peak oil. In 50 years we will look back at the oil problem as we now do on the horse manure problem. He is also optimistic regarding space engineering which will get progressively cheaper, and in medicine we will manage antibiotic resistance. A problem may be sudden catastrophes, like an eruption of a volcano in Yellowstone. A warning 100 years ahead is OK, but one week?

Niels Dalgaard, Jesper Rugård Jensen

Niels Dalgaard and Jesper Rugård Jensen talked about Niels E. Nielsen and Danish science fiction, unfortunately in Danish which made me miss quite a lot. Nielsen was considered to be the Morten Korch of science fiction. Korch wrote romantic stories about rural Denmark. There was no literary tradition in Nielsen’s family. He was both influenced by American culture and critical to the politics of USA. He spent some time in Germany during the war and the ruins he saw appears in his books. Especially in the beginning he wrote stories about a thirld world war with nuclear weapons. Thus, in Kunskapens träd (The tree of knowledge) people did not dare to have sex after the war due to the risk of getting a damaged child, and in To sole stod up (Two suns rose) the second sun is an exploding atom bomb. The latter book describes a return voyage reminding of The Odyssey. Later he wrote stories about disasters due to ecological catastrophes and pollution, and another theme was totalitarian states and the protest against them.

The short stories are more humoristic and varied than the novels. Many describe space travel and are hard sf. His Martian stories are similar to Bradbury’s, and many short stories are sentimental.

Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Alastair Reynolds, Nicolas Barbano, Gert Balling (m)

In the Science café: The mad scientist and the end of the world a panel discussed not only the mad scientists but also realistic portrayals of scientists in fiction. Frankenstein is a classic example of the mad scientist, at least in the films. The mad scientist disappeared due to more pressing world problems, but seems to have returned in the introduction to the new Hulk film and in Fringe. According to Klaus ”Evil Morgenstern” ”Mad bankers” are a more serious problem and there should be a film about them. Realistic scientists appear in the films Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Contact, and in Perdido Street Station. I could add the scientists in books by Gregory Benford (Cosm) and Robert J. Sawyer (Frameshift).

I went to listen to another panel, but Margareta stayed on: The scientist today has a low value in society, research does not give status in the West. Nicolas Barbano is seen as the geek (nörd) by other film makers, and according to Reynolds a scientist is the same as someone with Asperger in the media. This is seen e g in quiz programmes where culture has status. This attitude in the media is discussed in Denmark as a reason for the problems to recruit to science-based education programmes. Forensics on film and tv has caused problems for the education programmes since those who apply are “wanna bees” and have not understood what the subject is.

Reynolds has earlier worked at ESA where many were sf readers and also worked with ideas from sf texts, and it happens that a clue in sf leads to an idea that can be developed in reality. Thus “count down” is not necessary but stems from sf. However, when Reynolds “came out” at ESA many others came up to him and confessed. But they kept quiet since many really dislike sf and they took care of their careers. Still he sees a difference. In the 70s a film maker was rejected if he asked for help from a scientist, but this is not the case today. Sf terms are used today to name craters on the surface of Titan since mythologies are exhausted as sources.

Ralan Conley (m), Henrik Harksen, H. H. Løyche, Ellen Datlow, Knud Larn

The panel Stories we haven’t seen: The good short story started with the question what makes a good short story. Ellen Datlow considered the character to be most important. If there is no character she doesn’t get interested. The character does not have to be an actual person, rather a voice. For Knud Larn the storytelling is most important and the first ten lines has to grip him. The character could be a tree or even the setting. Henrik Harksen thought that the ideas are most important, like they are in H P Lovecraft’s stories. In horror stories the atmosphere is most important.

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Ellen Datlow

The GoH Ellen Datlow was interviewed by Lars Ahn Pedersen. She worked in a library, went to college and travelled a lot, came to Copenhagen in 1972. She came to Omni and worked with Ben Bova and Robert Sheckley. Omni closed in 1997, she went to Sci Fi Channel and its web magazine Sci Fiction which closed in 2005. She has done the horror for The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and works now for NightShade and others as free-lance editor. For the future she is most worried about the possibilities to get paid in the new electronic delivery systems for literature.

Tatiana Goldberg

Tatiana Goldberg delivered an interesting talk about Creature design from a psychological perspective. Anthropomorphism enables relating and empathy, e g by mimicking human facial expressions and showing emaciated or twisted figures. Visual cues may be positive, as childlike big eyes and appealing features, or negative where common anxieties or phobias are incorporated (insect eyes, spiders), associations with death and disease and elements of disgust, like open sores. Cognitive dissonance, which is disturbing to the psyche, can be e g anthropomorphic vs monstrous, human vs not human, innocence vs danger, beauty vs beast and mechanical vs biological. Fear of the unknown might have had survival value, and is most effective when we scare ourselves. This can be achieved by showing that something is wrong, but not what is wrong, and by engaging the imagination or by unpredictability and symbolism. Human anxiety, especially repressed, sexual anxiety (penis and vagina in the film Alien), violence, shaking off moral and societal norms, existential anxiety about life and death and meaninglessness (the film Psycho). The drive to deal with our own anxiety should be engaged.

She uses these ideas herself when she produces her horror comics.

Knud Larn

Knud Larn shared his knowledge about the unknown one of science fiction’s fathers, J.-H. Rosny aîné. His first novel, Nell Horn, was probably written in London since it is a realistic novel set in the London slum. After moving to Paris he wrote the prehistoric adventure Les Xipéhuz, and he then wrote several novels about aliens, parallel worlds, vampires, doppelgängers and witchcraft. Brian Stableford has translated several of these French novels to English , e g Les Xipéhuz, Another World, The Death of the Earth and The Navigators of Space in The Scientific Romances of J.-H-. Rosny Aîné.

In the future in Mort de la terre there is no longer any water and biological life has been substituted by mineral life and in a novel about Mars women give birth when they think about men. Rosny was an evolutionist in contrast to Verne who has change in the titles but has static stories. Rosny can be considered the father of hard sf since science drives the story.

Alastair Reynolds, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Jesper Jørgensen. The moderator Flemming Rasch was not yet there.

The panel Living in space started with a collection of film clips, e g space wheels for artificial gravity. This is not needed if robots are used instead of humans. The moon is easier to colonize than Mars which is too far away, but habitats are even easier. Why should we leave earth at all? One reason can be that there might be risks for humanity, and it is always wise not to have all eggs in the same basket. The tests with biodomes have not been successful so far. Perhaps the attempts have not been serious enough, or they have been too complicated or earthlike.

Stig W. Jørgensen (m), Niels Dalgaard, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Flemming Rasch

Recent trends in science fiction novels was a panel discussing a couple of recent famous novels. Niels Dalgaard talked about Connie Willis’ Blackout and All Clear, which he found to be far too long. The time travel part in them described all problems which have already been discussed in sf. The stories are repetitious with endless chases to find each other. But on the other hand Willis obviously loves the period (the London Blitz) and she has done her research but unfortunately does not follow her own rule not to put it all in. The stories touch upon the question of free will, but this is done much better by Kage Baker who writes a much better “time opera”, i e stories where the technicalities of time travel are taken for granted as space opera ignores the problems with space travel. Still, the books work as historical novels, where the people from the future discover the past together with the reader. Unfortunately the future Oxford is very similar to our own times.

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf started the discussion about The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack by Mark Hodder. This is a steampunk novel from an alternate London about 1850, based on the legend of a man who assaulted women and then rapidly disappeared by jumping. The story contains gene-manipulated birds, dogs who can deliver letters, flying velocipedes and of course zeppelins. The book is funny and the described London is smelling. The characters are interesting and you don’t have to read the sequels. Possibly steampunk books with its Victoriana have another audience than sf readers.

Flemming Rasch had been assigned Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City which reads like a cyberpunk novel. It is a crime story with a cyberpunk girl and animals as familiars, but has no real sf elements. Since it is set in South Africa it can be said to be part of a trend where the story takes place in other countries, like in many of Ian McDonald’s books. It is a mixture of urban fantasy, cyberpunk and new weird, and reads like Tim Powers. The animals are used as punishment for criminals; you cannot survive if the animal dies.

Stig W. Jørgensen had read China Miéville’s Embassytown, which was not New Weird but traditional, space operatic sf with FTL and life on other planets. The setting is used to discuss the philosophy of language, and the main protagonist is the language. The aliens have a concrete language and cannot lie, but with the aid of the humans they develop a symbolic use of words. It was considered to be fun and easy to read, and the description of addiction was interesting. The characters are hollow, wooden, and are just tools.

Ellen Datlow, Lars Ahn Pedersen (m), Nicolas Barbano

The panel The fairy tale in modern fiction mainly dealt with films and was thus less interesting. Ellen Datlow mentioned the retellings by Angela Carter and Tanith Lee, and the anthology series that started with Snow White, Blood Red. There was a discussion on definitions and borders, and Datlow divided the fantasies into religious stories, myths, creation myths and fairies. Obviously there is much overlap, and stories which could be used in retellings may be found in e g Russia, Japan and in old Arabian tales. Naturally H. C. Andersen was also mentioned.

Alastair Reynolds, Niels Dalgaard

The GoH Alastair Reynolds was interviewed by Niels Dalgaard. Early in life he watched Star Trek, The Time Machine and Fantastic Voyage, and when he was seven or eight he started to read sf that he found in a magazine aimed at little boys. He read an easily understundable A. C. Clarke story and the robot stories by Isaac Asimov, and he was then set for life. Being a scientist he has never been intimidated by science. His take on new space opera started with Revelation Space, that has no FTL and thus no galactic civilization. Instead, it makes the galaxy seem huge. He found Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix to be an eye-popping novel with all the new science, genes, nano, AI etc. He also mentioned another early cyberpunk novel, Michael Swanwick’s Vacuum Flowers, where a human-derived hive mind rules the Earth.

In Asimov’s The Naked Sun a person drops his glasses which brake, and he considers this to be highly unlikely in the future described. I think it is even more unlikely that smoking will be allowed on space ships as in Revelation Space or on Mars as in Terminal World.

A new series of space operas, translated into Danish, have far-out crazy ideas. Merlin is an egotistical womanizer who has fun and tries to save the universe.

Terminal World describes a weird planet where technology is impossible in certain areas. It is a planetary romance with a doctor figure who becomes an angel in the book. The story has steampunk aesthetics from the 20s or 30s, and strange cities around high mountains which the characters believe are space elevators, but are actually entrances to the hyperspace transportation mechanism inside the planet, which is Mars. This is not revealed in the book however. There will probably not be a sequel.

Blue Remembered Earth is a kind of mundane sf, optimistic and realistic. It is not overly violent. Humanity is diverging, and elephants have implants to interact with humans. There will be two sequels.

Reynolds likes writing, both short stories and novels. He worked hard to become an sf writer, and the reward now is when he has written a scene that works. He is now writing a Dr Who story.

Henrik Harksen

In the talk Cthulu at the End of the World Henrik Harksen proposed that August Derleth never understood H. P. Lovecraft’s philosopy even though he was responsible for saving Lovecraft’s work for posterity by founding Arkham House and publishing Lovecraft there. Lovecraft was an atheist who did not believe in his invented monsters whose purpose was to create an atmosphere and show that the cosmos does not care about us. This is rather an “antimythos”, in contrast with the Cthulhu Mythos introduced by Derleth. In Lovecraft’s stories, e g The Call of Cthulhu, there is an external apocalypse where the universe dies. This is not the case in stories by the catholic Derleth, who writes about Good and Evil and how the demon is averted. The books by Brian Lumley about Titus Crow are a continuation of the Derleth mythos rather than the philosophy of Lovecraft.

Alastair Reynolds, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Ellen Datlow

In The last panel with the GoHs and Klaus Æ. Mogensen Ellen Datlow told that there are opportunities today for non-Americans to get published in the US, taking as an example Aliette de Bodard. The convention conventions where also discussed, and both GoHs had been surprised by the drinking, e g in the panels. Alastair Reynolds called Real Ale real boring. They were both quite happy with the system of no fees for invited guests, but were worried about the possibilities to get paid for writing in the future. Reynolds considered the problem to be similar to the music business that had found ways to get paid, and also suggested Crowd funding.

Saturday night there was a banquet, which is not so usual at cons any longer. This is pity since it is an extra opportunity to talk to other fans. I talked a little with the Finnish NoFF delegate, Tomi Mäntylä from Turku and the old Danish fan Joen Juel Jensen.

After this excellent con I and Margareta did some sight-seeing in the Carlsberg Brewery area which is now being used for flats, shops and various other purposes. The elephants are still there.

Kontakt / Eurocon 2012 / SFeraKon

Zagreb, Croatia, April 26-29, 2012

Together with Carolina I arrived in Zagreb already on Monday April 23. At the airport we met Frank Beckers from Belgium and were most kindly transported to the hotel in a car by one of the local fans, who also showed us how to get into the center of the city from the hotel.

Carolina buying honey.

We used the days before the convention to have a look at the town and surroundings, and we managed to taste some local specialities. Zagreb is a beautiful city with an atmosphere reminding of Vienna although only a few words were comprehensible. However, English was fairly well understood. There were lots of outdoor cafés in the streets, where you could get something to drink but nothing to eat, not even a cake to the coffee.

We went to a market in a tent on the central square, where Carolina bought honey.

The Castle in Varazdin

On Tuesday 27 we took a bus to the former capital Varazdin, passing by trees in flower, small grape vineyards and even a stork in its nest on a pole. In this beautiful city we had a look at the castle which also had a small museum inside, and the cemetery that was dominated by clipped thuja trees.  We also managed to look around in an art museum by contacting the curator.  The  paintings were more interesting than good, but there was one Rubens.

Carolina having tea with strukli.

In a café we had tea with a cottage cheese strudel, called Strukli. Due to misunderstanding of the bus time-table we had to spend more than an hour in a café at the bus station, since we were not well prepared for the heavy rain. In the café we had to listen to a debate between a mother and a smoking man, and we were as bored as her daughter. Fortunately we had our books.

Carolina and Frank Beckers in Samobor

The next day Carolina, Frank Beckers and I went to the small village Samobor and did all that it was famous for: We climbed to the castle ruin from the 13th century, we had a look in the museum, we had tea with the delicious custard-filled cake kremsnite which was about as difficult to eat as a Napoleon cake, and finally Carolina bought a pot of local mustard.

The castle ruin in Samobor.

Carolina and Frank Beckers in the castle ruin of Samobor.

 

 

Back in Zagreb we went to the Museum of Broken Relationships. Zagreb has many museums but this was possibly the strangest. The exhibition consisted not so much of various small articles as of the stories connected to them, relating the end of marriages and friendships. Many were quite banal but some were gripping. On another day we visited the Contemporary Art Museum after a long walk out of the city. The works there were heavily influenced by the Balkan wars. At the Archeological Museum I found an ancient marble triskelion,

Marble triskelion, 16th-14th century BC

and at the Mimara Museum the most impressing were a bronze statue from the first century AD found in the waters outside Croatia, and a small painting by Hieronymus Bosch.

Carolina and Bridget Wilkinson at the market.

The convention felt very international. I stayed in the hotel International that also served as venue for the first 1.5 days. Thus I had breakfast together with fans from various countries and made plans for excursions. For example, the group that visited the Contemporary Art Museum consisted of me and Carolina from Sweden, Frank Beckers, Frank Roger and Peter de Weerdt from Belgium and Bridget Wilkinson from UK. At one breakfast I talked with Bridget Wilkinson about sf  poetry. She recommended Edwin Muir’s The Horses.

Workshop for children.

Although I am not quite sure I guess the number of participants was about 1000. There was a gamer’s room and a large dealer’s room where most books naturally were in Croatian. There were tables where it was possible to become a member of the Eurocons 2013 (Kiev) and 2014 (Dublin) as well as presupporter of the Worldcon in London 2014. In the art exhibition I was impressed by some photomontages with elf-like creatures on spiderwebs or branches, done by Zdenko Basic. In a Reader’s Corner various authors read from their work, and a small bar served beer and sandwiches if you were willing to make a donation (they were not allowed to sell…). I talked for a while with Pierre Gevart at a table for French sf. He recommended Xavier Mauméjean’s Rosée de feu and Roland Wagner’s Reves de gloire, if I wanted to try some French sf. He also had the magazine Galaxie for sale, but it contains mainly English texts translated to French.

For me, the programme started on Thursday afternoon with an interview of the GoH Darko Macan, conducted by the chairperson of the congress, Petra Bulic. Macan had always dreamt of being a cartoonist but has found that he is a better writer than artist. He wrote the short story “Koda” directly into a book that he was editing. He has also written a YA book about three girls, and he has done a lot of reviewing. However, reviewing killed hos enjoyment of reading: You are not looking for fun; you are looking for mistakes. Due to his many activities Petra Bulic named Darko Macan an “SF renaissance man”; a label that stuck with him for the rest of the convention.

GoH Tim Powers, Cheryl Morgan and Charles Stross.

It was also interesting to hear that the Ministry of Culture in Croatia and the City of Zagreb granted scholarships and funding for anthologies by Croatian sf authors which are published for the SFeraKons.

The interview of Charles Stross was amusing as usual, and he covered a lot of different subjects during the hour. He mentioned that he wrote fewer and fewer short stories, but in order to get a Hugo he now wrote one per month. We were told that the founder of PayPal wanted to use his money for mining of asteroids. Stross himself had been invited to a conference regarding what we should investigate in order to make a starship in the next hundred years. Saturn’s Children was his tribute to Heinlein, and in order to understand it you should have read Friday. It is very hard to make anything new in sf now, and according to the author Nick Mamatas the life span of an art form is about 70 – 80 years.

Stross’ Laundry stories are Lovecraftian spy stories, and they have been converted into role-playing games. Laundry Files #4, The Apocalypse Codex, is a tribute to Peter O’Donnell, creator of Modesty Blaise. The ideas for the Merchant Princes series came from H. Beam Piper and Robert Zelazny’s Nine Princes in Amber.

He admits to making mistakes in Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise; he got the stuff wrong regarding FTL and time travel. In “Palimpsest” the time police does not make these mistakes.

Regarding Christopher Priest’s famous comments on the shortlist for the Clarke Award he says that Priest wants sf to be respectable in terms of the literature in the 1970s. Stross writes fiction for the 2000s.

Glasshouse is his slowest selling novel, and thus there will probably not be a sequel since the agent does not want it. It could be about the grandchildren 200 years later. I am not sure whether a sequel actually is needed to this his most entertaining and thought-provoking novel.

Stross was pessimistic regarding space colonization. We have a complicated echosystem, i e some ten thousand microorganism species in the gut. Our technological infrastructure is much bigger than we usually think. Still, one possibility could be to fill Valle Marineris on Mars with oxygen and nitrogen and roof it over. This would give us a colony the size of  Germany.

After the opening ceremony we were served a glass of very good red wine and could have a look at the contestants of the Masquerade. We then went to a brewery to drink and eat. I and Carolina sat at a table with three Slovenian authors, Martin Vavpotic, Bojan Ekselenski and Andrej Ivanusa. At least a steampunk novel, Clockworks Warrior by Vavpotic, is available in English in electronic form. These authors told that they were starting a fandom in Slovenia, shaped after the successful fandom in Croatia. We were also joined at the table by the GUFF winner, Kylie Ding from Perth who had first visited the Eastercon Olympus.

Tim Powers writes fantasy in a real history setting, and he tries to minimise the effort needed for the necessary suspension of disbelief. He mentioned this in his interview. It is still escapism. He lets his subconscious handle any messages and recurrent themes. His stories may also be defined as secret history. To make a story he tries to find interesting events or enigmatic puzzles, and connects them. He was a friend of Philip K. Dick and had him living in his house when Dick’s house had blown up in the early 70s. Of Dick he said that he was rationally funny and generous. He invented a poet, William Ashbless, who was at the same time invented by James Blaylock, and this led to a collaboration with poetry “written” by this author. The novels he himself recommends are Declare, The Anubis Gates and Last Call. He does not like doing sequels. However, sometimes characters appear who have already been mentioned in an earlier novel.

Finally, he talked about German translations. When he saw them, they contained a few pages that he had not written, and which were set in another typeface. At the most exciting moment one of the characters asked if there was time for some soup? Another one answered “what kind of soup?”, and when they had had their delicious soup of a certain brand the story conrinued. Apparently this is a story he has told before but it is a good one. Interestingly, the powers went in the middle of Powers’ talk. It went almost completely dark.

Dmitry Glukhovski

It was interesting to listen to the interview of Dmitry Glukhovski even if I sometimes was surprised and disagreed. The dystopia Metro 2033 was based on the presence of the biggest nuclear shelter of the world, the Moscow metro. The time is 20 years after the war, when the world has shrunk to the metro. He used the subway two hours daily for six years going to and from his school, and he got tips of the presence of an underground city. He published the story on line and had visitors influence the story, chapter by chapter. Civilisation is fragile and can disappear in one generation. In the Soviet Union, nationalsocialists were renamed fascists since socialism cannot by definition be bad.

He considers himself to be part of a disappointed generation, bored of ideology. In the novel many subscribe to ideologies which they do not believe in. The mutants, or blacks, or in US “the dark ones”, symbolise immigrants. There is no love-line in Metro 2033, but there is friendship. There is also a lot of aggressivity, and like Richard Morgan he considers this to be impossible to throw away. We always fight and there is conflict in every movie. I am not sure I agree with this pessimistic view; conflict does not have to result in violence as can be seen from many novels, even sf novels. And even if inborn aggressivity has been necessary for the evolution of mankind, I believe that culture may provide sufficient barriers to reduce violence significantly. He stated that peace is unnatural. In Sweden we have had peace for 200 years and it definitely does not feel unnatural.

Metro 2034 is not a sequel but more of an antipode. There are different characters, and it is a different genre. He will not make a third novel in this series. Other authors are writing in different languages in the same universe. There are 24 novels describing the situation in Russia, Italy, Scotland, Cuba and other countries.

Surprisingly, he has disdain for contemporary Russian sf authors. They write action without ideas. In contrast, he appreciated the Strugatski brothers. Finally he says that sf is a fairy tale adapted to scientific facts.

Several hours on Friday were spent listening to motivations for nominations for ESFS awards, and the voting on Saturday also took up too much time. This is a pity since there were quite many interesting programme items that I missed. I was the last presenter of nominations, and naturally my computer suddenly refused to work when it was connected to the projector. I had to restart and I just had to apologize.

Winners of the SFERICA awards.

Of most interest in the ESFS voting was what country would host Eurocon 2014. Ireland won over the bid from Romania, and the Eurocon 2014 will take place in Dublin a week after the Worldcon in London. The Eurocon 2014 was named Shamrokon. The awards are listed on the web for the con. Ian McDonald, who was nominated from both Sweden and UK, got the award for Best Author. The other Swedish nominations did not result in any awards.

The award ceremony started with the SFERICA (little SFERA) awards for best children’s work on a given sf theme. All elementary and high schools in Croatia are invited, and about 1500 entries are received every year. From them about 40 are chosen for awards. This seems to be a very efficient way of recruiting new fans, not only among the children but also among their parents who were present at the ceremony. To organize this must be a real challenge, and I am very impressed!

The lecture entitled “Supernatural Beings and Phenomena in the Legends of Istria” sounded interesting, and the lecturer Evelina Rudan from the University of Zagreb was obviously an expert of the field. Unfortunately she spent most of her lecture describing the methods she had used to collect the legends. However, she briefly explained a few of the phenomena: There appears to be descriptions of fairies (“vila”), werewolves (“vukodlak”) and an impossibility to have sexual relationships in marriage caused by magical methods (“kljuka”). She also mentioned a hero (“krsnik”) who protects the community and predicts the future.

The sf scholar, author and fan Milena Benini gave a talk called “100 years of Andre Norton”, that was a delight to listen to. In Andre Norton’s texts there is no explicit sex and relatively little explicit violence, making them perfectly enjoyable for all. Her first published novel, The Prince Commands, is set in a small ficticious European country. During the war she wrote an alternate history spy trilogy, and after the war she worked as a children’s librarian. She used the pen name Andre North for her space operas. Star Man’s Son is an early (1952) YA dystopian space opera, and Sargasso Space (1955) seems quaint today but contains the essence of space opera. In 1963 she got tired of space and started her Witch World series, amounting to more than 75 novels and several collections of short stories. These were partly written together with fans, and she had a lot of communication with fans. She liked fan fiction and edited it making it consistent with her world.

In Witch World magic works, but only by women, and you have to be a virgin. Male magic is weak and despised. The society is a matriarchy. This is Earthsea in reverse, since in Earthsea male magic works but female is weak. Both authors discuss the male/female relation. Andre Norton describes a functional family, and she also introduced different races, consisting of people and not automatically inferior.

Andre Norton was not critically acclaimed but has a long list of awards, mainly for life-time achievements. She lived for 93 years. Two authors who were tutored by her are Mercedes Lackey and Louis McMaster Bujold.

In the lecture “Making the Reader Believe It!” Tim Powers talked about his methods for writing. He writes interesting episodes on cards and puts them on the floor and changes the order until he is satisfied. He makes a calendar with events for each day. He suggest that you throw away the first three pages and the last three pages of your draft, and all pages that the reader would skip. Dialogue should read as if you were eavesdropping, and it should not be too helpful. He does not believe in writer’s groups.

One of the more curious programme items was a lecture and demonstration called “Wireless Energy Transmission with Tesla Magnifiers” by Davor Jandrijevic. Nikola Tesla was born in what is now Croatia and there is a statue of him in Zagreb, but he made most of his work in USA. In the lecture we were presented with several schedules and diagrams providing the theoretical background for some demonstrations. From one antenna to another power was demonstrated to flow as shown by the lightening of a fluorescent lamp. People from the audience were invited to hold fluorescent lamps which also started to glow. To me this just shows that there was an electric field, as can also be shown with an ordinary electromagnetic field detector. The practical use for transfer of significant amounts of energy still has to be demonstrated.

Dmitry Glukhovsky, John Berlyne, Cheryl Morgan, Bella Pagan, Charles Stross, Neven Anticevic, and Luka Sucic (moderator).

In the panel on E-publishing Charles Stross claimed that ebooks are taking over the market in US much faster than anyone has realised. Cheap paperbacks will soon disappear. Bella Pagan said that this was not the case in other countries. The panel indicated some advantages like the possibility to carry many books or read erotica on the tube, but how can you show off when you have no bookshelves – a screen with shifting covers? Different readers have different codes, ePub readers use XHTML which allows Javascript whereas the Kindle used by Amazon uses old HTML without this possibility. Amazon was also accused of discounting paperbacks in order to discredit e-book publishers.

To me the prices of new e-books are ridiculously high, comparable to hardcover books, and this is not because I don’t understand that the paper and binding are a small part of the total cost. But a hardcover book can be read by many persons for at least a century or two, whereas the e-book may not be borrowed or resold and has a likely life-span of a decade.

Vlatko Juric-Kokic and Milena Benini

The panel “Steampunk in Literature” started with the moderator Milena Benini naming Tim Powers “the father of steampunk”, and he described how it all started. The Victorian era has been thoroughly studied and described in several volumes, and he, together with Jeter and Blaylock, realised that this could be a gold-mine for the setting of stories. Immediately Charles Stross, named anti-steampunk, critised this since you tend to ignore the late-Victorian holocausts and colonial atrocities performed by the British empire. He was worried by any positive descriptions of empire-builders, and felt that steampunk is escapistic literature, to which Tim Powers answered that yes, it is, but so are for example Westerns, they are not accurate either. The zeppelins are actually post-Victorian, but Ivana Delac is not interested in the science part, she writes fantasy. According to Vlatko Juric-Kokic the Victorian era was the las time when artist could produce beautiful things, then they were mass-produced. But Stross objected that they were mainly cast-iron everyday things, and we now look at the Victorian objects through “Bauhaus” – the charm comes from the distance.

Bella Pagan and John Berlyne

The talk entitled “How the Publishing Industry Works” started with John Berlyne talking for a very long time about what a literary agent does, unfortunately without saying anything more than that they have guide-lines on the website and that they send the manuscript to several editors which surprised me. This was absolutely forbidden when I sent scientific papers to journals. Bella Pagan who is an editor talked about what they do after the deal with the agent. First they edit which might involve rewriting the whole book, then copyediting with checking grammar, sense and style in every sentence, then finally proofreading. The author is involved and checks all stages. About a year before publishing a cover is chosen and the author is asked for a blurb.

I then went to a panel on graphic novels in the south-east Europe, but this was obviously intended for fans who knew all about these novels. It would have been much better if a computer with Power-Point had been used to show examples and titles.

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Dave Lally and Petra Bulic.

We could see from the programme book that there was a lecture about Stieg Larsson. Both the lecture and the abstract were in Croatian however, but the abstract contained the words “SF fan”.

Finally the chairman of ESFS, Dave Lally, led a discussion with the chairpersons of the present and the last Eurocons, Petra Bulic and Carolina, about “How to Run Eurocons”. Since the present convention was very enjoyable and in all ways successful there was not much discussion. Obviously the SFeraKon committee is used to running big conventions!

A more direct impression of the convention and some interviews, a few actually in English, can be found here.

Science fiction-dag på Tekniska museet

Stockholm, 10 december 2011

Traditionellt brukar SFSF ordna ett julmöte som samlar ett halvdussin Stockholmsfans, bestående mest av styrelsen. Lokalen har varit Forodrims källarlokal på Kungsholmen eller helt enkelt Carolinas vardagsrum. Denna gång samarbetade man med Tekniska museet som upplät en stor lokal, Stallet, som dessutom innehöll ett mindre kafé. Ungefär ett femtiotal personer dök upp, men av dessa var många barn som var mest intresserade av ballongtillverkning i Maria Ballongprinsessan Byquists regi. Barnen var naturligtvis inte helt tysta men genom att det fanns en utmärkt ljudanläggning gick det bra att ha föredrag parallellt med detta.

Musiken i sf

Jörgen Städje

Dagen inleddes med att Jörgen Städje presenterade ”sf-musik”, dvs filmmusik från t ex Forbidden Planet, Star Trek Voyager, Close Encounters of the Third Kind och 2001 (An der schönen blauen Donau) och elektronisk musik av bl a Ralph Lundsten.

John Wyndham och det brittiska imperiets undergång

Jerry Määttä höll ett föredrag om sin forskning kring John Wyndham, som han bedrivit på SF Foundation i Liverpool under ett halvår. Där finns det mycket omfattande John Wyndham Archives, som han fick tillgång till.

John Wyndham kallades John Harris till vardags och han slog igenom brett, troligen genom sin jordnära stil och goda personteckningar. Den engelska nya vågen hade egentligen Wyndham att tacka för mycket men Aldiss och Ballard kritiserade honom för hans ”cozy catastrophes”, en beteckning som är klart missvisande enligt Jerry. Wyndham säljer fortfarande bra och Jerry hittade hans böcker i de bokhandlar han besökte. Trots hans popularitet finns det inte mycket forskning kring Wyndham, men David Ketterer har skrivit en biografi, Trouble with Triffids. Eftersom Wyndham brände alla privata brev har Ketterer fått pussla ihop hans liv med ledning av broderns anteckningar och änkans dagböcker.

Jerry Määttä

Varför fick då Wyndham sådant genomslag? Jerry förklarar det med att han slog an en nerv med sina symboliska gestaltningar av kriser efter världskrigen, som innebar att det brittiska imperiet föll samman. Hans mest populära bok är nog The Day of the Triffids. Som Triffidernas uppror var det den första boken som marknadsfördes som science fiction i Sverige. Till denna återkom Jerry på slutet.

I The Kraken Wakes (1953), Vidundret vaknar på svenska, smälter isarna och London översvämmas, vilket känns påtagligt aktuellt. Vidundret hindrade också sjöfarten liksom att tyskarna hindrade den under kriget, ”Britain rule the waves” gällde inte längre. England blev sönderbombat med ransonering och andra umbäranden, ”won the war but lost the peace”. The Chrysalids (1955), på svenska Den stora hemsökelsen är en efterkatastrofenroman om tillståndet efter ett kärnvapenkrig. En perverterad kristendom förföljer de nya som är telepater, vilket enligt Jerry ska tolkas som att traditionalister hindrar utvecklingen i England.

The Midwich Cuckoos anser han vara Wyndhams bästa bok, som förvånansvärt nog inte översatts till svenska. I den är barnen inte bara telepater utan dessutom helt lika varandra. I den senaste engelska utgåvan har Adam Roberts ett förord där han förklarar att barnen ska symbolisera judiska barn. Det anser Jerry vara osannolikt med tanke på att de är gyllenblonda, och snarare är nazityska. Hur som helst beter sig barnen inte som de vuxna, och de ger en bild av det uppväxande släktet och dess ungdomskultur i England på 50-talet. Fientligheten mot barn- och ungdomskultur finns enligt Jerry fortfarande i Storbritannien, t ex med speciell lagstiftning, och detta har kritiserats av UNICEF.

The Day of the Triffids har filmatiserats åtminstone tre gånger. Katastrofen kan ses som en skildring av Blitzen, och skildringen visar olika sätt att klara sig. Ska samhället utvecklas åt vänster eller höger? Triffiderna har av David Ketterer föreslagits symbolisera nazityskar som invaderar, men Jerry menar att det snarare handlar om att de av Storbritannien koloniserade och förtryckta folken slår tillbaka genom en invasion. Triffidernas sätt att kommunicera genom att slå på sina stammar liknar djungeltrummor, och slagen med giftiga grenar kan symbolisera piskor som ofta fått symbolisera kolonialt förtryck. Wyndham beundrade Wells och The Day of the Triffids kan vara inspirerad av The War of the Worlds. I den är då marsianerna egentligen britterna, som invaderar kolonierna.

Martin Rundkvist

Epokernas kamp

Martin Rundkvists föredrag om epokernas kamp, dvs hur man kan tolka blandade fynd inom arkeologin, har jag avnjutit tidigare (se BEM 4 sid 27) men den smygande övergången från vetenskap till fantastik var lika underhållande denna gång. Tyvärr medgav inte tiden att han fick dra den slutliga poängen men helt nödvändig var den faktiskt inte.

Från spel till roman

Under titeln ”Från spel till roman” samtalade Erik Granström och Anders Blixt om sina fantasyromaner. På 70-talet spelade de Dungeons and Dragons och konstruerade spel utifrån dessa erfarenheter. Anders karakteriserade fantasyspel med orden ”muskler, magi, monster och mångfald men stillastående”, och som samhällsvetare tyckte han att just det stillastående var onaturligt. I hans bok Spiran och staven sker en utveckling, och tiden är upplysningstid med ”industrimagi”, dvs ganska sf-artat. Eriks värld Trakorien är snarare renässans, och han intresserar sig för ekonomi och makt. Att han är veterinär märks på de namn han sätter på platser i världen. Det har behövts många nya namn till det nya rollspel Svavelvinter som baseras på boken Svavelvinter som i sin tur baserades på rollspelet Svavelvinter, ungefär som skett med en del bokbaserade filmer. Trakorien bygger på renässansens Italien, Sumer och Akkad, republiken Rom och vår samtid.

Erik Granström och Anders Blixt

En skillnad mellan roman och rollspel är att i rollspel finns inga egentliga personligheter, medan i romanen är psykologin och utveckling av personerna viktig. En likhet är ändå att i båda tänker författaren på alternativa skeenden, ungefär som i ett schackspel. För Anders är det viktigt att ha slutet klart för sig, annars kommer han ingen vart. Det är farligt med alltför mycket bihistorier, och avskräckande exempel är då George R R Martin och Robert Jordan som båda excellerar i bihistorier så att det blir oklart vart berättelsen egentligen är på väg.

Roos

Genesis/Nemesis – a game of world creation

Under ledning av Roos fick några fans testa rollspelet Genesis/Nemesis. Vi skulle bilda några förföljda grupper med hotad kultur som flyr till en fjärran planet 2080, och det blev samer, socialdemokrater och sf-fans. Handlingen styrdes av en Tarot-kortlek och Roos och deltagarnas tolkningar av dessa, och det hela gav en liten inblick i hur det kan fungera, speciellt för oss som aldrig tidigare spelat denna typ av rollspel.

Vad händer nu inom sf och fantasy

Sista programpunkten skulle vara en presentation av vad som händer inom sf och fantasy, och jag, Carolina och Gabi Rehbinder hade förberett oss för detta. Eftersom det inte var så vansinnigt många som skulle lyssna omformade vi detta till en gruppdiskussion, och vi hade då stor glädje av den stora mängd böcker som Gabi tagit med och som hon bredde ut på golvet mellan oss. Det stod helt klart att det finns en mångfald olika utvecklingslinjer inom både sf och fantasy, och att det dessutom görs många korsbefruktningar mellan olika genrer och delar av dessa.


Swecon i Uppsala 26-28 maj

Worldcon 75, Helsingfors 2017

Eurocon 2017 i Dortmund