Posts Tagged 'Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf'



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.

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Finncon/Animecon 2011

Åbo/Turku, July 15-17, 2011

SF-ish art in the river Aurajoki

This Finncon was the last time it was combined with Animecon, which I regret. It is great fun to watch all the cos-players and other dressed-up or disguised young people.

Richard Morgan and Nalo Hopkinson: On writing

Richard Morgan and Nalo Hopkinson

RM started to write noir cyberpunk and now introduces noir into fantasy. When asked why he writes he answers “what are trees for?”. He has always wanted to be a writer, he wanted the job, and just started doing it. It defines him. SF was his first love in literature. It is hard to find the same spark elsewhere.

Tommy Persson

NH writes SF since it is what she has always read. Her father was an author and her mother a librarian. When asked about influences she mentions Samuel Delany and Ursula LeGuin. As a child she read a childrens’s fantasy where the white children choose a castle and the black boy choose a melon. She read “Welcome to the Monkey House” in a Playboy under her father’s bed.

RM mentions Asimov and Poul Anderson as first influences. He liked Anderson’s writing for the human side, the characters, and the cynical and gloomy style which he had not found before. He also mentioned Michael Moorcock and Bob Shaw, and Gibson who he considered to be influenced by Pynchon.

RM writes whenever he can, mainly in the afternoons, and has no favourite spot. Pullman has to write 1500 words a day and is then released. RM recommends that you ignore the market and just write what you want to write. He has not studied or taught creative writing. NH has both studied and taught at Clarion, but this was after she had been published. She was surrounded by books and wrote by example. The workshop at Clarion gets her to think about her own writing.

At present RM is writing on a Sword & Sorcery trilogy and NH a young adult novel with a focus on the body and sexuality. RM comments that the drive for humans is sex and violence.

Richard Morgan: Black Widow

Comic books are dying and replaced by graphic novels. The superhero stuff is left for those who cannot stand that genre literature (sf, crime etc.) gets increasingly good. It is where those hide who cannot cope with complexity. This is a general cultural malaise; there is less challenge. More people want reading that is not challenging.

A teacher who wanted to use Altered Carbon in his teaching said: “You have no right not to be offended”, which is an unusual, and appreciated, American reaction.

The superheroes from the 1930s always have -man in their names. Can we not go somewhere else? American popular culture is extremely macho, as seen by Susan Faludi in Backlash. In Japan this is not the case, there is much more diversification.

Richard Morgan’s Guest of Honour Speech

Richard Morgan

Altered Carbon took 2.5 year to write and it was unpublished for 14 years. It was sent to several publishers and was refused and rejected. Finally it was accepted by Gollancz. He has written comics in other peoples worlds but not fiction, since he doesn’t want to lose control. Market Forces started as a short story that he sent to Interzone, where they disliked the characters. It rests on a ludicrous concept; it was expanded to a novel and it has always been meant to be dark with an unhappy ending.

Writing is a lonely job. Your companion is the squirrel on the ledge. In contrast, videogame writing is very social.

Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is the quintessential Sword & Sorcery, and he also likes Moorcock’s Elric stories. RM rites the fantasy novel that he wants to read. It takes him about a year to write a book. He usually doesn’t know where the story will end. He wants the story to feel true when he writes.

The best hard sf author today is Peter Watts according to RM. SF now appears also in mainstream books, as exemplified by Never Let Me Go, and there is also vampire chic-lit. SF has become furniture in the mainstream arena. It is the same with films, and mainstream thrillers contain sf tropes. The barrier between genres will break down.

RM considers the combined Finncon/Animecon to be a good thing that might get anime people to drift into sf as they grow older. He sees no borders between sf and fantasy and thinks it is important with broadening.

Nalo Hopkinson and Richard Morgan: Cultural Appropriation.

This was an interesting discussion on the author’s obligation when using other people’s culture in fiction. As NH says, “They have given to you, what can you give to them?”. RM says that if you borrow you are a guest, and decorum behoves you. You should try to get it right and convey something true.

Something that is just interesting for you can be a matter of life and death for others. There is a risk that you see objects of curiosity instead of human people, e g when you write about male sex workers. Still, if you write about anything important you will offend somebody. The most offended by RM’s Black Man were white Americans. You are not allowed to have black people who are violent and pissed-off. “Non-political”” fiction doesn’t exist, it just means that it fits your own political ideas. Still, some things are true of all cultures: crime, love of children, and suppression of women.

Read texts from that culture and talk to people, try to blend into the culture and not be a tourist. Look at websites and message boards where the people hang out. RM told about an experience in Harlem. There was a very small number of white faces, and everybody looks at you. You get twitchy and uncomfortable. This “research” was important for writing Black Man, since this feeling must be the same if you are a black man in a white city.

RM recommends Small Island by Andrea Levy. When he was young he read Biggles which was very racist. But his neighbour was black which he didn’t think of. NH thinks that sf readers are supportive of writing in unknown areas.

RM said that the film Avatar actually was about native Americans, in a bad way. It is a movie for white men.

NH’s father had converted to Islam whereas her mother was a Catholic. RM considers that the future of Islam is in the US. It is essential not to demonise or marginalise. The women may be the solution.

Morgondagen i dagens och gårdagens science fiction. Strålande framtid eller bara misär?

Kenneth Lindholm, Sofia Sjö, Elisabeth Kronqvist, Ben Roimola

Den enda svenskspråkiga programpunkt jag lyssnade på var en inte helt lyckad panel som hade sitt ursprung i en antologi med positiva framtidsbilder i sf: Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF (Red: Jetse de Vries). Ben Roimola modererade. Enligt Kenneth Lindholm är det roligare att läsa om en negativ framtid, t ex där jorden går under. Sofia Sjö menade att sf speglar dagens pessimism. Man jobbar igenom traumana utan att ha någon lösning. Elisabeth Kronqvist tyckte att tv-serier som Star Trek och Stargate ofta är positiva.

Margareta Cronholm, Kenneth Lindholm, his son, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf

Några exempel på positiva framtidssyner var: Robert Charles Wilsons Spin och Julian Comstock, som skildrar ett lyckligare 1800-tal, Geoff Ryman’s Air, Lois McMaster Bujolds berättelser, Banks Cultureböcker och Kim Stanley Robinsons skildringar av hur vetenskapen räddar världen.

Tyvärr låg övriga svenskspråkiga programpunkter parallellt med de engelskspråkiga, utom det överraskningsprogram på söndagmorgonen som visade sig överraska genom att utebli.

The Masquerade


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Closing session with Kati Oksanen

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Finally, a very warm thanks to the chairperson Kati Oksanen and her crew for a con with a wonderful atmosphere. I will miss the Animecon in future Finncons!

SFSF:s julmöte 2010

SFSF:s julmöte 19 december 2010

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

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

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

Anna Davour

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

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

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

Finncon 2010

The Finnish yearly con rotates between cities and Finncon 2010 took place in Jyväskylä 16-18 July. I arrived by plane in Helsinki (644 SEK!) already on Thursday morning and spent some hours in the city, visiting two art museums. The Amos Anderson Art Museum was surprisingly dull although the special exhibitions of modern art and photos were worth a visit.

By Jacob Dahlgren

In contrast, Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Art, was far from dull. The architecture in Helsinki was interesting already, and this wonderful building fits nicely, although it is the inside that is most amazing. In the exhibition from the Fire & Rescue Museum I was thrown back half a century (and to the SF of that time) when I looked at the information boards and posters presenting civil defence and fire fighting procedures before and after the nuclear attacks that the artist Jussi Kivi had secured from a former Soviet  underground shelter in Estonia. I then stepped into the Swedish artist Jacob Dahlgren’s 3 D world of coloured bands, reminding me of the new trade mark of the commercial centre in my home commune Sollentuna. I usually get bored trying to look at video installations, but this time I was stunned by several of them. A visit to Kiasma will definitely be on my agenda every time I am in Helsinki! 

Inside Kiasma

I chose to go by plane also to Jyväskylä where the airport was pretty small and located out in the woods. In the afternoon when I arrived I was surprised to find that there was no bus transfer to the city, so I had to take a taxi for more money than the flight from Stockholm. Jyväskylä was a nice city and the main problem was the tropical heat that the hotel room was not equipped to handle. 

I enjoyed walking in the evening when the temperature had fallen slightly. I had planned to take a look at the Wreck-a-Movie event but after quite some time of waiting I gave up. Instead, the first programme item for me was the Hugo discussion. I had some problems to find out where this took place and when I got to the veranda of a villa outside the university area it was crowded and of course very hot. I missed the first comments of the excellent panel, consisting of Cheryl Morgan, Tommy Persson, Jukka Halme and Marianna Leikomaa. They had started with the short stories, which I had found to be an unusually weak category this year. Jemisin’s “Non-Zero Probabilities” was considered to be fantasy rather than sf and to be well written. To me it only was ridiculous. The only story worth reading in my opinion was Will McIntosh’s “Bridesicle”, but if I understood the panel correctly they thought that Resnick’s “The Bride of Frankenstein” might win. The novelette category was much stronger. The panel considered Stross’ contribution “Overtime” to be a weak horror story and not one of his best. “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast” by Eugie Foster was in my opinion an interesting and well written story, and the panel agreed but did not like the ending. The opinions differed regarding the robot-in-love story “Eros, Philia, Agape” by Rachel Swirsky, that was considered sweet and fine but still not very good. The entertaining ”James Bond goes steam punk” story by Paul Cornell, “One of Our Bastards is Missing”, starring prince Bertil of Sweden, might work as part of a novel, which Cheryl Morgan told that it actually was. The story of a world on a Dyson sphere, ”The Island”, by Peter Watts, did not work but was definitely hard sf and I thought it was of some interest but a bit hard to read. My favourite in this category was “It Takes Two” by Nicola Griffith, also hard sf but this time about mind-changing drugs in relation to lesbian love. Really well written and with implications regarding both sex and free will. I got the impression that this might have been the panel’s favourite too. 

Cheryl Morgan, Jukka Halme, Marianna Leikomaa, Tommy Persson

Tommy Persson’s favourite in the novella category was ”Shambling Towards Hiroshima” by James Morrow and he also liked Kage Baker’s ”The Women of Nell Gwynne’s”, which might win because the author died recently. Ian McDonald’s “Vishnu at the Cat Circus” in Cyberabad Days was appreciated by the panel as was also ”Act One” by Nancy Kress, the only story I had read in this category and although I was a bit sceptical when I read it I remember it well, which means that it affected me. 

Over to the novels. Cheryl Morgan thought that Boneshaker (Cherie Priest) was fun, and not traditional steampunk. It has a strong female character. The one she hoped would win was The City & The City by China Miéville. This is an extraordinary story with ethnic groups not seeing each other, but it might not be sf or fantasy. The story about a postapocalyptic America, Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America by Robert Charles Wilson did not interest her, whereas the best one aside from The City & The City was Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente, describing a fantasy city that you can only reach by having sex. As probable winner she put The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi with its postcolapse Thailand. 

Tommy Persson really liked The Windup Girl which is not a fix-up although the characters appear in short stories. He also liked The City & The City, and he found Comstock and Boneshaker entertaining, whereas Palimpsest, although beautifully written, could have been told without sf/f. Marianna Leikomaa commented that the city is the main character in several of the nominated books. She loved Palimpsest but hopes that The City & The City will win. Jukka Halme’s favourites were The City & The City and The Windup Girl and he found Boneshaker entertaining and easy, almost simple. 

In the film category, the panel thought that Avatar would win. The panel considered the best and most important related book to be On Joanna Russ, edited by Farah Mendlesohn. Jack Vance’s self-biography, This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”) was said to be a great book and a pleasure to read, although too much of a travelogue where he explains his writing. 

Finally, Cheryl Morgan announced that she is setting up a publishing company for e-books, Wizard’s Tower Press. She will get things back into print, and have them properly proof-read. There will also be a webzine, Salon Futura

The next programme item also took place in Kirjailijatalo, the authors’ house, or rather on the veranda with its 30 chairs. This was of course not enough when the GoH Ellen Kushner and her wife Delia Sherman talked about Science fiction and research. After a while the other GoH Pat Cadigan joined after having had a look on a particle accelerator. For Delia Sherman research was an everyday activity, since stories for her are things that happen to people. She reads folklore and fairytale, and tells us that the texts about leprechauns and pookahs on the internet are not correct. She prefers to look up historical details rather than constructing an entire world. Art, mythology and folklore are changing and shared, they cannot be copyrighted. Ellen Kushner tells that in the old days you went to your bookshelf or the library. She also criticized the notion that preference for some folklore follows bloodlines. Does she have to be Scottish to appreciate Thomas the Rhymer? 

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

To a question from the audience Delia Sherman answered that anything can be seen as uncanny. It depends on the point of view. She likes to discuss her work before it is finished, and thus not follow Stephen King’s advice. His book on writing can be recommended, but she strongly recommends to read several books on writing, and also not to think too much but rather write with the hindbrain. Pat Cadigan recommended that you should read loved books carefully to find out what it is that you admire. “Look under the hood, squeeze the tires.” Her copanelists added that you should read mindfully, and even type at least a page of your favourite stories. 

The discussions on writing continued in the afternoon in the panel On writing with Saara Henriksson moderating Ellen Kushner and Pat Cadigan. The latter always knew that she wanted to write. She read Judith Merril’s Best of the Year anthologies which were not stratified and contained stories by various authors like John Cheever and Ward Moore, and every shade of sf, fantasy and horror. She stresses the importance of readers and fans, and she wanted to be on the committee for the Worldcon 1976 in Kansas city since she wanted to meet the GoH, Robert A. Heinlein. Her first submission was to Analog when she was ten, in 1963, and her first sale was in 1969. She recommends everyone to send in their work! 

Saara Henriksson, Ellen Kushner, Pat Cadigan

Ellen Kushner has always loved reading, and thought that it must be a pleasure to write. She got praise from adults for her writing, but she never wrote to conclusion. She has written short stories but they always turned out as parts of novels. She has lots of unfinished stories and plans to go back to them, but so far she has not. About her novel Swordspoint she says that it is uncategorizable, being neither fantasy nor mainstream. It took her a year to write the first draft. It is important to first get it done. You can always rewrite! Phase two is to get input from readers. 

Pat Cadigan has a fragment box and keeps it handy. She is a short fiction person, and started by writing half the nights in addition to her day job. Every novel is a different creature. She begins in the middle and retrofits the beginning, which is not easy. 

Ellen Kushner got encouragement from older writers. She had coffee with Gene Wolfe and M. John Harrison wrote her beautiful letters. She admires Gardner Dozois who can both write and edit, with emotion and passion. She loves talking about her work and thinks better when she talks. However, she does not belong to any writer’s groups. In contrast, Pat Cadigan does not talk about her work until it is done. Writing is private. Her husband reads everything when it is ready. If she gets stuck and lost she goes out and tries to find herself. The environment does not matter when she is writing. It can be beautiful, noisy, smelly – it does not matter. When she wrote Mindplayers she had a baby whom her mother cared for, and now she has two children and a 90 year old mother. 

Pat Cadigan wrote a novelization of a movie, that turned out to be much longer than a script, and it contained lots of extra background and character descriptions. For her a good book is when you don’t see the words any longer but just pictures in your head. 

Ellen Kushner says “art feeds art”, and recommends going to museums, listening to music etc. Her aim is to be “read when dead”, to make a difference, affect. This is a sort of immortality. 

The fan table in the main building

The rest of the con took place in a house at the university, and there were many items in Finnish which I unfortunately would not have understood. The participants in the panel Introduction to Mannerpunk – Fantasy of Manners panel were the by now well known couple Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner, moderated by Kati Clements. The title is a pun or joke formed from the comedy of manners, as e g written by Jane Austen. It is not a tragedy since no one dies. There is tension due to rigid rules, and society is a character in the novel. It takes place in the drawing rooms, with everyday social fights. Traditional fantasy is not like that. Kushner read LeGuin’s The Wizard of Earthsea, and liked it better than Tolkien. She tried Jane Austen’s Emma but could not understand it, but suddenly it made sense when she came to college and experienced hierarchy. She calls Georgette Heyer the Jane Austen of the 20th century, and she thinks that women are more interested in human interactions. 

Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner, Kati Clements

The Fourth Street Fantasy convention in Minneapolis was seen by Donald D. Keller as a literary movement, but Kushner prefers to name this movement “mannerpunk” from cyberpunk and call her book “A fantasy of manners”. Interest in human interactions is a rule, and a feature is an interest in language. The “interstitial arts foundation” did an anthology, Interfictions: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing by Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss. 

The paper announces nazis on the moon

Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner has written together. They say that you have to have the same steps, the same approach, the same end goal, and it helps if they love the same authors, in this case Trollope. They give each other assignments, e g to write a scene. Kushner writes dialogue whereas Sherman writes descriptions. 

They want to do new things with the genre, like China Miéville does in The City & the City, which has strangeness without magic. The whodunnit is not the interesting thing in this book. This is the way fiction is going. 

Liksom 2009 hade Finncon 2010 en finlandssvensk programpunkt, 150 år av finlandssvensk fantastik. Ben Roimola ledde diskussionen med Kenneth Lindholm, Petri Salin och Vilgot Strömsholm. Titeln syftar på att Zacharias Topelius 1860 publicerat en berättelse från ett framtida Finland, Simeon Lewis resa till Finland år 5,870 efter werldens skapelse, efter de kristnes tideräkning det 1,900:de. Enligt uppgift en tråkig berättelse men med bl a luftskepp. Tillsammans med många andra finlandssvenska fantastikverk listas den på Enhörningens hemsida. Redan 1851 hade musikkritikern och satirikern A. G. Ingelius utkommit med den gotiska skräckrysaren Det gråa slottet, och i samma genre kom Topelius Den gröna kammaren i Linnais gård 1881 som blev film 1945. Fältskärns berättelser innehåller en hel del fantastik och antologin I Unda Marinas fotspår, berättelser från hav och land, av Gun Spring & Bo-Eric Rosenqvist från 1996 går I Topelius stil. T.A. Engströms Rymdkulan från 1957 är tidstypisk, klar sf, men knappast rekommendabel. Den innehåller svarta plastinylbyxor och kan möjligen vara lämplig för 12-åringar. Bo Carpelans Rösterna i den sena timmen från 1971 är också klar sf med en värld efter kärnvapenkriget. Det märks att det är en 70-talsbok från kalla kriget. Den lyriska stilen lindar alltför mycket in hemskheterna. När den gick som hörspel uppfattades den som verklighet. 

Ben Roimola, Petri Salin, Vilgot Strömsholm, Kenneth Lindholm

Kenneth Lindholm rekommenderade Sebastian Lybecks Latte igelkott och vattenstenen från 2009. Kjell Lindblads Resan till mitten är en fantasy för barn, men handlar om en författare som har svårt att skriva, och ser på dammsugare ur dammtussarnas perspektiv. Björn Kurténs Mammutens rådare om neandertalare ingår i genren paleofiction, ett för mig nytt begrepp som också var ett tema på en av de finskspråkiga programpunkterna. Yvonne Hoffmans Ögonen och andra spökhistorier är spännande och vardagliga spökhistorier, och Merete Mazzarellas November är mörka ihopbundna historier som är kryddade med sf. 

Carolina at the Eurocon table

At the Con presentation Carolina presented Eurocon 2011 in Stockholm, and Kati Oksanen Finncon/Animecon 2011 in Turku/Åbo July 14-17. Turku will be cultural capital in 2011, and the venue will have room for 3000 people. The GoH will be Richard Morgan and Nalo Hopkinson, and the theme myth and VR. The first day, Thursday 14/7, will be focussed on research on sf and fantasy, and Saara Henriksson will lead discussions on writing. There will be an extensive programme in Swedish. 

Kati Oksanen

A very informative and entertaining lecture on The roots of British TV-sci-fi was given by Kristoffer Lawson. He started by stating that a society without sf is a society with problems, where no one strives forward. UK, US and Japan have broadcast sf from early times. Rossum’s Universal Robots was sent by BBC in 1938. The first British TV sf serial was aimed at children, in 1951, followed in 1953 by the serious and scientific The Quatermass Experiment produced by Nigel Kneale. In the US at the same time there were heroic serials, e g Buck Rogers. A spy series, The Avengers, from 1961 had sf elements. Sydney Newman from that serial was also the first Doctor Who. This serial ran 1963-1989 with a new start in 2005. The Tardis and the Cybermen were present from the beginning. In 1965 Gerry Anderson produced the serial Thunderbirds with dolls, and later Space 1999 which had a US feeling and was aimed at that market. The mother of all paranoid serials, The Prisoner, started in 1967, and the year after Nigel Kneale produced another serial, this time a reality show called The Year of the Sex Olympics. Blakes 7 was created by Terry Nation in 1978, and the apparently far out Sapphire & Steel in 1979 by Peter Hammond. Douglas Adam’s The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy is from 1981, and in 1984 Richard Bates produced The Tripods based on a novel by John Christopher. This looked interesting from the film strip, in contrast to the Red Dwarf from 1988, a sitcom in space. After this Star Trek redefined the genre, and in 2005 Doctor Who appeared again. 

When Pat Cadigan was interviewed by Cheryl Morgan, she started in Finnish that I am ashamed to admit that I don’t understand. She told us that she got an Underwood typewriter from her mother and started writing short stories. An early favourite was Robert A. Heinlein, whom she met at a con in 1976. He has readability, and she wanted her work to have that. Tunnel in the Sky changed her life, and she recommends this juvenile for those who have not read anything by Heinlein. It is a rite-of-passage, problem-solving book, but not of the Lord of the Flies-type. 

Cheryl Morgan interviewing Pat Cadigan

Cheryl Morgan expressed admiration for Cadigans ideas – she has come up with computer virus and spam, which can be compared with Arthur C. Clarke’s invention of communication satellites and space lifts. Synners is about computer viruses. Morgan asks how to get women back into writing sf and not fantasy, and Cadigan says that this is up to the woman. The publication rate is low right now and women drop off first. Furthermore, sf is still perceived as a mainly male thing. “Sf for boys, fantasy for girls.” About her own books she says that Synners is better than Mindplayers, and that Tea from an Empty Cup is an accessible mystery that is easy to understand. Fools is a problematic book but won the Arthur C. Clarke Award. 

Build your dream convention was a panel on the ideal sf con, with Sari Polvinen, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf and Johan Anglemark. The con should be organized with a programme, and according to Johan it has to be aimed at fandom. Sari prefers intimate, small cons with discussions rather than panels, and Carolina mentioned Conversation that had a lot of small discussions and a critic as GoH. Programming is important when you don’t know anyone, but Johan has shifted from wanting fannish cons to desiring good programming. Readercon almost killed his ambition since the programming was so good, with lots of professionals. Carolina was irritated by the panels at ArmadilloCon where a lot of authors just showed their own books. 

Sari Polvinen, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Johan Anglemark

Cheryl Morgan stressed the importance of topic selection for panels, and to have proper moderators who contacts the other members of the panel. Programme items may be submitted from members of the con. This is done at WisCon, but according to Johan this does not work in Sweden since people are too shy. He also suggests that panel subjects are tested first by the committee. 

For Carolina, the idea of a con is a sort of family reunion, where you meet your friends. An efficient way to get involved is to be a gopher. Another way is to have quizzes etc, as they have at Redemption according to Tommy Persson. Sari points out that hotel cons make for good interaction, and for her the relaxacon Åcon is perfect. The number of members should be a couple of hundreds. For Carolina Eastercons are perfect, and Johan wants at least 300 members. He thinks that programming is good in Sweden, but a problem is that the panellists are not sufficiently prepared. He finds it fascinating that the authors come for free. The GoHs are very important, and it is important that they want to participate. 

To this discussion I would like to add: I appreciate that conventions are different; I want to be surprised. And I think that cons can serve to recruit new members to fandom, i e they should not only be directed towards fans but also to those interested in subjects close to sf/f.

Urban fantasy was discussed by a panel where Marianna Leikomaa started by defining this genre as stories where the city is a character, and Johan Jönsson added that it should be a contemporary setting. Delia Sherman modified this to a requirement for an industrial setting that hasn’t to be today. The important thing is that the country is left behind. Magical things can occur also in cities. “The city is the new forest.” Powerful urban fantasy has to be about this, and how to deal with this situation. Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf points out that this is not what people think of when they see the term urban fantasy – what do you get in bookshops? Marianna answers that you get paranormal romance, and the panel tried to draw the line between these two genres. Twilight is an example of paranormal romance. 

Delia Sherman, Johan Jönsson, Marianna Leikomaa, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf

Urban fantasy is highly mannered and formal, like Palimpsest and Jeff VanderMeer’s books. Terri Windling has written many stories about a border town situated between fairy and mundane, in Neverwhere the city is very important, and Charles de Lint is important in the genre. Gormenghast is perhaps not really urban fantasy, but has probably influenced e g China Miéville by its grotesqueries. He writes from a deep knowledge of cities. In urban fantasy the city is used as a metaphor, describing a compressed society. 

Some vampire stories could be classified as urban fantasy, like Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite, The Vampire Tapestry by Suzy McKee Charnas, where the vampire is interested in eating dinner and is very considerate. This could have happened in a city, and this is Delia’s favourite vampire book. 

Johan says that not much urban fantasy is published in Sweden. One example is the recent Udda verklighet by Nene Ormes. The setting is a strange city, and the story is clearly at the heart of urban fantasy. Delia Sherman’s own The Changeling, a children’s book, has been translated into Swedish, and is absolutely urban fantasy. Marianna mentions Johanna Sinisalo’s Not before sundown which is a sort of urban fantasy. 

Cheryl Morgan, Ellen Kushner, Pat Cadigan

The final panel was called Dreaming of reality, where we listened to Ellen Kushner, Pat Cadigan and Cheryl Morgan. I wrote down some interesting expressions: “All fiction is made up but sf/f is more made up”, ascribed to Neil Gaiman, and “Sufficient magic is indistinguishable from science”, ascribed to Jonathan Lethem. “In dreams you should follow your ethical compass since it might not be a dream.” “In life there is always an option”, says Ellen Kushner, and she loves to have her characters have dreams. The sf writer and editor Scott Edelman blogs his dreams, and Pat Cadigan based her stories in the collection Dirty Work on her dreams. The others say that they cannot remember dreams; they are as candy floss. If Pat Cadigan wants real life she goes out. Since all fiction is fantasy, why not write it big? 

Not an Anime con, but still...

Fans at the sauna

I volunteered as driver for the dead dog party at a sauna in the woods close to the city. This was a very nice ending to a well organized, entertaining and rewarding con, and I am deeply grateful to the organizers. I took a bus to the airport and had some time to look around, so I found a little lake close by.

Odyssey 2010

The 2010 Eastercon was perhaps not the most rewarding of the Eastercons I have visited, but still really enjoyable. A strike at British Airways took half a day away from my visit but on the Thursday I went to central London. First I went to Islington for a visit to a small Italian art museum, The Estorick Collection, where there was a special Futurist exhibition, also showing other examples of how motion has been depicted in art. From there I walked to Fantasy Centre, but the building was being renovated and the shop was “open as usual”, which apparently meant that it was closed during daytime. On my way to the Underground I passed London Metropolitan University, which looked like a cubist’s dream. 

London Metropolitan University

 
From Covent Garden I walked to Forbidden Planet which however is not as good as the SF Book Shop in Stockholm. With Jason Fforde’s Shades of Grey in the rucksack I continued to Piccadilly Circus and took shelter from the rain in a Waterstone’s before going back to my hotel close to Heathrow airport and the con. 
 

Nik Whitehead

  
Odyssey provided an unusually broad programme, and the first item I listened to was a serious scientific talk about the evolution of the universe as exemplified by the Life of a Hydrogen Atom. Nik Whitehead gave an interesting talk starting with the birth of the universe, where the main remaining question is why the universe inflated. The transformations in stars are well-known, but the fate of the universe could be the Big Freeze, in 1014 years, the no longer very popular Big Crunch in some 100 billion years or the Big Rip in just over 20 billion years. 
  
 

Juliet McKenna

Juliet McKenna discussed Homer’s Odyssey – The World’s First Fantasy Novel. She had found this to be quite modern in many ways, with modern ethics, where individuals shape their own destiny, as opposed to decisions by gods. The story is a rite of passage, and describes what it means to be a man, a hero. Women are positively depicted, and Penelope is a strong woman. There is no after-life, and the characters are opposed to blood-feuds, which also makes it modern. Finally, McKenna recommended some books about Homer’s Odyssey. Bettany Hughes is an academic who has written several books on the subject. For a lighter reading she recommended Charlotte Higgins’ It’s All Greek to Me, whereas Moses Finlay’s The World of Odysseus might seem a bit dated.   
 
Johan Anglemark moderated the panel European Fandom Today. He came to fandom in the early 80s, and mentioned that Swedish fandom has had contacts in Scandinavia and UK and to a lesser extent in USA. Roberto Quaglia with 21 years in fandom knows both the Italian and Romanian fandom. The former is closed and split into different parties, and the Eurocon in Fiuggi was to a large extent a media con. There is a popular portal, Fantascienza, and a lot of fans, but these do not go to cons and do not feel as a part of fandom. Romanian fandom used to be very big but is rapidly shrinking. 

Kirill Pleshkov, Roberto Quaglia, Gérard Kraus, Johan Anglemark

According to Gérard Kraus the fandom in Luxemburg is small and not organized. There will be an exhibition celebrating Hugo Gernsback who was born in Luxemburg. Kirill Pleshkov with 20 years in Russian fandom told that there are usually thousands of participants at Russian cons, but they are mainly professionals. The programmes are in Russian. Cheryl Morgan mentioned Finncon which she likes. It has been very big since it has been an Animecon at the same time, but this will no longer be the case. She also mentioned a free French con at the end of May with very little programming in English.    

Elizabeth Counihan, Edward James, Nik Whitehead, Ian M. Banks, Martin McGrath

  
The panel debate on Utopia – How the Concept Has Developed in Philosophy and SF took place in the large hall called Commonwealth, where it was almost impossible to write any comments due to lack of light. The discussion was interesting with Ian M. Banks, Elizabeth Counihan, Edward James and Martin McGrath with the moderator Nik Whitehead. According to Edward James the utopias of today are not static in contrast to those of the 19th century. American utopias are mainly libertarian, and it is possible to have fun in modern utopias as demonstrated by Joanna Russ in The Female Man and Samuel R. Delany in Triton
 
The hotel Radisson Edwardian Heathrow that hosted the con is an excellent hotel in many ways but some of the rooms that were used were very far away so you had to spend quite a lot of time running in stairs and corridors. Since the program items used all the 60 min there was no time for these changes of room which was a pity since interesting items often were far apart. There should be at least a 10 or 15 min break between programme items! 

John Jarrold, Claire Brialey, Caroline Mullan, David Hebblethwaite, Niall Harrison

The panel BSFA Survey of British SF Writers with Claire Brialey, David Hebblethwaite, John Jarrold and Caroline Mullan, moderated by Niall Harrison, would have been more rewarding if the results of the survey had been presented and not just discussed. Writers move around more inside the genre, as exemplified by Charles Stross and now also Richard Morgan. Dave Hutchinson’s stories set in Eastern Europe were recommended, and it was mentioned that paranormal romance has a big section in Australian bookshops. Actually this is something I noted to my surprise when I was there in 1999. 

Liz Williams, Kari Sperring, Nickey Barnard, Edward James, Raven Dane

 
The film King Arthur (2004) has been much criticised, but I enjoyed it, and was glad to hear that Raven Dane also liked it. The other panelists in Arthur and Merlin – Modern Interpretations were Nickey Barnard, Edward James and Liz Williams with the moderator Kari Sperring. Another reworking that sounded interesting is Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve. Mary Stewart’s books on Arthur got me hooked a long time ago, and it was mentioned that her Merlin was an engineer. According to Edward James Mallory’s story is wrong since there were no castles at that time. Historians may also be wrong since they get captured by the legend and lose their professionalism. I noted that it would be interesting to read Kari Sperring and Raven Dane. 
 

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf showing a flying saucer

  
 

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf gave an amusing talk called Patent Your Flying Saucer! showing patent applications for some very strange spacecraft and appliances that could be useful in space, such as a helmet with plants in it to provide you with the oxygen needed. Space ships should of course be driven by the whatness of light…       

At the Worldcon Bid Launch Party it was announced that there will be a bid for a Worldcon in London 2014. The venue will be in the Docklands.

Mike Cobley, Julian Headlong, Paul McAuley, Martin McGrath

Paul McAuley

Saturday morning started out with the question Living Forever – Is it a Good Thing? with Mike Cobley as moderator. Julian Headlong started with some historical roots like Gilgamesh, Morpheus and the tree of immortality. Paul McAuley wondered whether it is immortality if you make a clone and kill the original, and Martin McGrath commented that eternal life has not always been considered a blessing and mentioned the Sisyphos myth. It was mentioned that the cancer patient from whom HeLa cells originally were taken can be considered to be immortal since her cells live on. By extension bacteria are immortal since they divide. (But then we are all immortal?) Greg Benford was said to be working on longevity by breeding nematodes for it in a biotech company. The consequences were discussed. Breeding has to stop (and to me that is a major drawback that definitely makes it undesirable), or a small core of people could live forever. Probably the technology would spread if it exists, like the mobile phones. A comment from Paul McAuley that rings only too true while going through old papers in the attic was that after 40 you become a curator for your own life.      

Iain M. Banks, Jane Killick

The Guest of Honour Interview of Iain M. Banks was performed by Jane Killick, and was very entertaining, with humorous descriptions of a writer’s life.      

Ben Goldacre

This was followed by another entertaining talk, Bad Science – Ben Goldacre. He writes a column in Guardian where he exposes various questionable claims concerning nutrition, pharmaceuticals, and health scares.        

Henry Gee, Clare Boothby, David Clements, Jennifer Rohn

Some SF authors like Gregory Benford and Robert J. Sawyer have described life in the scientific laboratory in a way that I have found fairly accurate, being an old lab rat myself. The panel LabLit – Fiction Set In the Laboratory dealt with mainstream literature set in the lab. It was moderated by the scientist Clare Boothby and the participants were the astrophysicist David Clements, Henry Gee who is in charge of the SF in Nature, and Jennifer Rohn who is a scientist who has written LabLit and has a website devoted to it. She expressed her surprise over the rarity of novels set in the lab as contrasted with detective or police stories. This might reflect an attitude towards science with people being afraid and seeing scientists as wizards. Another problem could be the plot; trying to get funding might be less interesting than finding the murderer. Fermat’s Last Theorem and Longitude are popular examples, as are also novels by C. P. Snow. Kim Stanley Robinson’s Antarctica was also considered to be LabLit. The goal of LabLit could be normalization of science by for example removing the erroneous stereotype of the evil scientist who is working alone.        

Bridging the Gap: Del Lakin-Smith, Lee Harris, Danie Ware, Paul Cornell

Bridging the Gap – SF/F and Social Media sounded fun but it was actually quite boring to listen to people having contact via Twitter on their advanced phones instead of talking.      

Oliver Morton, Phil Huggins, John Coxon, Jonathan Cowie

The panel Geoengineering – A Broader Perspective was a discussion of ideas raised in the George Hay Lecture which I did not listen to. Still, there were some issues of interest in the discussion between Jonathan Cowie, Phil Huggins and Oliver Morton with the moderator John Coxton. Reducing the amount of sunlight might be achieved by solar sails or aerosols, and more CO2 could be taken up by the oceans if the algae growth was increased by iron addition. Acidification of oceans is a problem since this reduces the dissolved carbonic acid.     

Farah Mendlesohn, Edward James, Graham Sleight

The critics couple Farah Mendlesohn and Edward James, together with the Foundation editor Graham Sleight and the moderator Owen Dunn, had a discussion on Reading Critically. None of these has a background in literary critics; they have studied history and philosophy. Edward James cannot turn off being a historian when he writes about literature.   

Owen Dunn

  • In critics you do not have to worry about spoilers since they are meant to put the work in the historical context.
  • A better word than reading critically could be reading thinkingly, with a set of tools for reading more intensely.
  • Critics can sometimes find things that the author did not know or realise.
  • Mack Reynolds’ utopian novels are written in an awful style but are historically interesting.
  • Sf books are often responses to criticism of other books. This apostolic succession has to be understood and may be a reason why other people blank off.
  • As a critic, you cannot tell an author that he should have written another book, as exemplified by Adam Roberts’ critic of Farah Mendlesohn’s book about fantasy.      

Nicholas Jackson

Since the geometry of the hotel was very Euclidean I staid and listened to Nicholas Jackson describing Non-Euclidean Geometry, which was entertaining but hardly mind-bending.       

    

    

Paul McAuley, Michael Owem, Sharon Reamer, Gary Stratmann, Stephen Gaskell

 Big Biology – What Are the Biggest Biological Tropes in SF? Paul McAuley started by discussing the limits, e g is micro-RNA life, and Gary Stratmann thought that life on other planets probably would have arisen in similar ways as here, with carbon-based life, whereas the moderator Sharon Reamer wondered if arsenic could be used instead of phosphorous. Liquid water may be present on some of the moons in the solar system like Triton and Ganymede, making life possible there. Stephen Gaskell raised the reasonable question, has life arisen more than once on earth? There is extreme life on earth, extremophiles, like archaebacteria, and this indicates that life as we know it may be present on other moons or planets.   

Alastair Reynolds

The GoH talk by Alastair Reynolds suffered from computer problems making all pictures to be in black-and-white, and much of the talk was the same as the one I heard at Finncon 2009. Since it was dark in the lecture hall it was difficult to write, but I have a note that he considered Paul McAuley’s Eternal Light to be good hard sf and he also recommended Arthur C. Clarke’s early The Sands of Mars although it is no longer accurate.   

The  Eastercon Bid Session resulted in Illustrious as the Eastercon 2011 in Birmingham Metropole Hilton and the themes military sf and sf throught the ages. For 2012 Eastercon will get back to London Heathrow with another ancient greek name, Olympus.       

Tony Cullen, Ruth O’Reilly

 Not the Clarke Awards was interesting as usual. Claire Brialey moderated the panel composed of Tony Cullen, Edward James, Ruth O’Reilly and Graham Sleight. From 40 books on a long list six have been chosen for the shortlist. First to go from that list was Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding, since it did not have the same quality as the others. It was considered to be entertaining steampunk, but misogynist and shallow. Next to go was Far North by Marcel Theroux, a cold postapocalyptic story reminding of McCarthy’s The Road. It was considered to be an interesting take on apocalypse, with likeable characters, but more a book about society than sf. Next to go was Adam Roberts’ novel Yellow Blue Tibia which is a novel about sf rather than sf. Roberts uses sf as a critic of sf. However, it is also a comment on society, the story works and it has a sense of atmosphere. Galileo’s Dream is not a novel where Kim Stanley Robinson appears to have had fun, it is preachy and overly long. It takes place mainly in Galileo’s own time and would have been better if it had only been a history novel. It was slow to read and Robinson can do better. Next to go was Gwyneth Jones’ Spirit, a Monte Christo story with a female hero. It is a standalone and a good book, and the most sf-nal. Although the main character is very well drawn it was hard to fell passionate. The City and the City by China Miéville was considered to be the most worthy, and did actually win. It describes an aspect of city life, that you can avoid seeing beggars and homeless people. It appears to be set in the late Soviet Union. Ruth O’Reilly did not think that it worked as a novel, it had a destructive plot. Tony Cullen did not agree, and also thought that it made you think. It is not much sf, but feels like sf and the “breach” (when you see people in the other, parallel, city) is sf or fantasy. Although I have not read the other books I am quite content with this winner; a very original and thought-provoking sf where the “science” is psychology or sociology.       

For a book to win the award there has to be consensus in the committee, which might make it difficult for really pioneering and outstanding books to win. The shortlist might be more interesting, and this year the panel considered it to be very interesting. The panel suggested that Ursula K. LeGuin’s Lavinia and Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War could have been added to the shortlist.   

Farah Mendlesohn, Graham Sleight, Ruth O’Reilly, Chris Hill

An extra panel was called What do we Mean when we say Mainstream: Iain Banks’ black and white novels. This sounded interesting so I listened to Chris Hill, Graham Sleight, Ruth O’Reilly and Farah Mendlesohn, who first tried to define “mainstream”: Stories where the foreground consists of what happens in society and the characters, with a consensus of the world that is usually assumed. It is acceptable to readers who are not genre readers. If it can be read as metaphor it could be acceptable as mainstream, e g Michel Faber’s Under the Skin. Banks’ mainstream novels were considered to be politically pessimistic and have an interest in families, like Italian movies, e g The Crow RoadComplicity is a crime novel that the panel did not like. As the best mainstream novels they mentioned The Wasp Factory, The Bridge and The Crow Road. His books have naïve characters and quite a few are set in Scotland. He is not an easy author, and you have to pay attention to how they are written. Walking on Glass is difficult to read, and Dead Air is his weakest. Excession, Player of Games and Use of Weapons are three well-written Culture novels. M John Harrison’s Viriconium was mentioned as influence, and Banks was considered to be a gothic novelist with grimy cities and moral. He writes about vast physical structures like buildings and bridges. Transition is an sf novel with space ships, and was not liked by the panel. It is similar to Chris Beckett’s Traveller stories.   

Liz Williams, Elizabeth Counihan

 The Guest of Honour Interview of Liz Williams was performed by Elizabeth Counihan, and I noted one additional fact that I did not know: Liz Williams does not like children, which explains the harsh treatment she gives them in the excellent book The Ghost Sister. There children are put out into the wilderness with no help, in order to learn how to survive, and thus become adult.        

Terry Edge, Sabine Furlong, Elizabeth Counihan

Elizabeth Counihan was also present in the panel Fantasy and SF – Differing Attitudes to YA and Adult Readers. The other participants were Terry Edge and the moderator Sabine Furlong. Rowling’s Harry Potter-books were thought to be boarding school stories with fantasy decorations. The panel liked to read YA fiction since the stories are good yarns. Diana Wynne Jones’ stories were considered to be complicated but good, whereas Twilight and its followers got kids to read. It was asserted that YA fantasy is read by working class children. Technically YA in UK is written for the age group 13-18 years, but in Germany it is written for the 10-14 years old ones.   

Raven Dane, Esther Friesner, John Coxon, Donna Scott, Jonny Nexus

Humour in SF and Fantasy was discussed by the dark fantasy writer Raven Dane, the writer and editor Esther Friesner, the humour fantasy author Jonny Nexus (Gamenight) and the writer and stand-up comedian Donna Scott with John Coxon as moderator. The panel declared that Nebula awards never were given for funny fantasy. Pastiche novels cover the market now, e g by Terry Pratchett (best: Equal Rights) or Tom Holt. The best humour makes you think after laughing. The cartoon history of the world makes you think all the time. The comedy market in general is closed today, e g Punch is no longer published. Web comics are read, and the examples given were The Order of the Stick, Super Stupor and The Lord of the Peeps. An idea on how humour works was the exclusivity: some jokes are fun just because only you (you think) understand it.   

Caroline Mullan and Greg Pickersgill discussed Fandom as Gerontocracy, i e the eternal problem of the lack of rejuvenation in fandom. This was fun but I have not noted more than that the fanroom at cons is now obsolete.       

Andrew Patton

Another eternal question was raised by Andrew Patton in the lecture Intelligent Life in the Universe: Still a Believable Concept? The benefit of this was a list of interesting books: Intelligent Life in the Universe by Carl Sagan and LS Shklovskii from 1966, Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe by Peter Ward and Donald E. Brownlee from 2000 (arguing that the moon is necessary but rare), and the recent (2010) The Eerie Silence – Are We Alone in the Universe? by Paul Davies.        

Jane Killick moderated a panel called Researching Fantasy – How Do You Research the Imaginary? MD Lachlan writes werewolf stories and doesn’t think that it is necessary to do research. He is not inventing a world and finds it enough to do research on Wikipedia to get details. Jaine Fenn mainly writes space opera, and her background in role-playing helps her to have e g the economic system in her head. She leaves out things that the reader can figure out, and she does not describe details that are of no interest to the protagonist. Liz Williams does research before writing, and for her it is not a conscious choice what to leave out for the reader to fill in.       

Finally I listened to a panel on Clarke’s Law – Is Today’s Technology “Magic” to Most People? The only note I made was the statement from the moderator Martin Easterbrook: “We have a name for alternative medicine that is tested, and that is medicine.”       

OK, it was a great con, and if any organizer, panelist or lecturer reads this I would like to thank you. Since I can only be at one item at a time and also had to spend time selling memberships to Eurocon 2011, to say nothing of time spent drinking beer and buying books, I missed a lot of the programme. Much of the programme did not interest me at all, like Sock Knitting or Bondage Workshop, but still there were often several interesting items at the same time making it difficult to choose.   

The day after the con I went to visit Tate Britain for a look on Turner’s paintings and watercolours (which I don’t think I have seen before). I strolled along outside the House of Parliament where there were huge barricades which could apparently withstand a tank, possibly and hopefully just at that time because of the coming elections. In the National Gallery I enjoyed an exhibition of works by the Danish 19th century painter Christen Købke before I continued to Foyle’s, the book shop I try to visit every time I am in London. From the cosy atmosphere there it was shocking to enter Hamley’s toyshop on Regents Street. It was crowded with kids but the real problem was the absolute segregation into a girls’ floor with dolls and kid cosmetics, and a boys’ floor with toy cars and toy guns.      


Stockholm 15-17 juni

10-11 februari