Posts Tagged 'Fandom'

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.

Finncon 2013

Helsinki, Finland, July 5 – 7, 2013

Tommy Persson, Marianna Leikomaa, Jukka Halme, Cheryl Morgan

Tommy Persson, Marianna Leikomaa, Jukka Halme, Cheryl Morgan

Since I did not arrive until 10.30 at the Helsingfors airport I did not make it to the Opening Ceremony at noon. The discussion of the nominations for the Hugo Awards at 13.00 was classic, with Marianna Leikomaa moderating Tommy Persson, Cheryl Morgan and Jukka Halme. This time they started with the short stories since the novels were less interesting. There were only three short stories, due to the fact that a story has to have at least 5 % of the nominations in the category.  ”Immersion” by Finncon’s GoH Aliette de Bodard describes a culture collision, in ”Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson husbands are eaten by their wives, and ”Ken Liu’s ”Mono No Aware” was inspired by Japanese aesthetics and considered sentimental. All three stories were considered good, and no consensus was reached regarding which should win.

Among the novels the only one I would like to read after the discussion is 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, although it is very long. The zombie book Blackout by Mira Grant, the typical Bujold novel, the one-joke novel Red Shirts by John Scalzi and the ”average, competently written middle-eastern fantasy” Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, being part of a series, seem less interesting. The panel would have liked to see M John Harrison’s Empty Space on the ballot.

Mats Strandberg, Sara B Elfgren, Karin Tidbeck, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo, Maria Turtschaninoff

Mats Strandberg, Sara B Elfgren, Karin Tidbeck, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo, Maria Turtschaninoff

The panel about sf and fantasy on both sides of the Baltic Sea was in Swedish (Fantastik på båda sidor av Östersjön).  In Sweden fantasy for children and YA has been done before, e g by Astrid Lindgren and Maria Gripe, so Cirkeln (The Circle) was readily accepted by critics. The successful  books by John Ajvide Lindqvist have made it somewhat easier for critics to accept also fantasy for adults, but Karin Tidbeck was not happy with the reviews of her sf or fantasy dystopia Amatka, since they always started by motivating the review by mentioning works by Karin Boye, Harry Martinson and P C Jersild. A common question in interviews is “Why do you write fantasy (and not “adult mainstream”)”.  Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo was asked “why a vampire novel?” when she had written Svulten (Starved). Karin Tidbeck said that in Sweden good literature is “workers literature” as written in the 40’s by e g Moa Martinson. In a commentary on the tv series Game of Thrones the poet, critic and editor Göran Greider recently wrote that fantasy is a song of praise to fascism. Karin Tidbeck’s formidable success abroad has not been noted at all by the Swedish literary establishment.

Maria Turtschaninoff’s Underfors received good reviews in Finland. Possibly it was easier to accept than her other fantasy novels, since it is set in the real Finland, in “our” world. Selling her books in Sweden has not been easy, which might be due to the publisher being Finnish. Sara B Elfgren and Mats Strandberg considered that they had luck with their book series starting with The Circle, that has already been sold to many countries and translated to 22 languages.

Stefan Ekman

Stefan Ekman

The GoH Stefan Ekman talked about his life as a fantasy researcher. In his thesis he analysed the role of the setting in fantasy, and he is now doing research in several areas:  1. SF and medicine, together with a colleague in medical humanities in Lund. There are lots of patients and different diseases in sf. An example he mentioned is Geoff Ryman’s The Child Garden. 2. He cannot let go of Tolkien, and is now mainly studying the letters. 3. The concept urban fantasy, which has undergone a shift in meaning from the 80’s till now. It is impossible to define but automatically criticises society. 4. Collaborating with an art historian he studies the portrayal of women in role-playing games and how this has changed over the years, e g in Dungeons and Dragons.

Stefan also talked about his thesis. It has now been published by Wesleyan as Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings. He mentioned three kinds of limits: 1. Between the reader and the text, and on that border there is often a map, with names of places. 2. Borders against the ghastly world outside, like in Mythago Wood or Galadriel. This can be compared with the polders in The Netherlands. 3. Nature vs human culture and society, exemplified by China Miéville and Charles deLint.

Ben Roimola, Jenny Wiik, Mia Franck, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo, Maria Turtschaninoff

Ben Roimola, Jenny Wiik, Mia Franck, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo, Maria Turtschaninoff

In a presentation of Finland-Swedish fantasy four authors were interviewed by Ben Roimola. Jenny Wiik has recently published Bildbindaren (The Picture Binder) that is a book with a portal and internet, written mainly for pre-teenagers. She appreciated the feedback she got from the publisher, Schildt-Söderströms. Mia Franck had done research in the fantastic genres and has now written the novel Martrådar about mares which suck out the sexual lusts, after a writing course with Monica Fagerholm. She writes for youthful adults. Svulten (Starved) is Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo’s third novel and deals with obsession, decadence and idling. She has been interested in vampires for a long time, and this novel is a homage to the classic vampires, although female. Maria Turtschaninoff presented Arra at the last Finncon in Helsinki. It started with one person, and the world grew. Anaché takes place in a neighbouring country and also starts with the story of one person. The publisher considered it to be her best book, and I agree and am looking forward to read more by her.

Aliette de Bodard, Tom Crosshill

Aliette de Bodard, Tom Crosshill

The GoH Aliette de Bodard was interviewed by Tom Crosshill, who started by calling her texts “new new wave”, a fresh kind of sf, where identity is important. She is French by birth, lived in USA for a long time and now lives in France. Her father is French and her mother Vietnamese, and she has been well aware of being different. She works as a scientist and computer engineer, and is moonlighting in writing. Still, there is not much hard-core science in her fiction. She is more interested in how science influences people.

There is a pronounced “non-western” aspect in her writing. She has read ancient Vietnamese and Chinese texts. They have a different history of literature, and in that tradition brotherhood and studying together are more important than love. The stories are less plot-driven, and concern family. When she has adopted these ideas she has got rid of most of the misogyny. In her universe there are different cultures, and she is trying to show that different cultures have different merits.

In addition to her sf she has written a fantasy series, Obsidian and Blood, set in the Aztec culture before the Spanish invasion. It has devout warriors and magic that works. There is often a crime element in her books; they are speculative fiction thrillers. Regarding the state of the genre she sees two strands, the Golden Age stories emphasising science and ideas, and the more experimental stories. She appreciates the current discussion among authors, although it is not always friendly. Obviously I have to read On a Red Station, Drifting, in addition to the short stories by her that I have read and liked in Asimov’s and Interzone.

The panel On Writing took place in the hall Pannuhalli where a large ventilating fan dominated over the panellists and the moderator, Tom Crosshill. Still, I heard the Finnish GoH J Pekka Mäkelä point out that good writing leads to good reading, and that he makes a draught first and then the first and last sentences. Peter Watts tries to explore an idea when he writes, rather than aiming for entertainment. He considers himself to be a foul-tempered court jester, and he writes what he would like to read. And so does Aliette de Bodard.

Jakob Löfgren

Jakob Löfgren

The talk by Jakob Löfgren about fandom was interesting. It was called From fiction to reality. Fans under the microscope, and the speaker was a Ph D student in Nordic Folklore or ethnology at Åbo Academy.  He started out by an attempt to define fandom with references to studies from the 90’s and the present century, but he did not mention the origin of sf fandom as we know it. With a lot of references he characterised fandom as based on affection, being playful, a social group and a participating culture. Fandom provides a common identity with its own cultural expressions based on affectionate play. The cultural expressions that he mentioned were cons, cosplay, fan fiction including slash, filking, and buying and collecting stuff. It also includes artistic communication in small groups, and it depends on tradition, with repeated events like cons.  This description might be correct for fans of a special character or series, like Star Trek fans, Harry Potter fans and Sherlock Holmes fans, but I find it incomplete or even inaccurate for sf fandom, where fans and pros meet on an equal basis, pros quite often are fans and often have their origin in fandom where they started out by publishing short stories in fanzines. Even the Wikipedia article on fandom gives a better description of sf fandom.

Jakob Löfgren had studied fandom in the small British village Wincanton where Discworld fans celebrate Hogswatch weekends together with Terry Pratchett. He described an extreme variant of fandom where the people of the village took on the personality of characters in the Discworld books. This is pretty far from the fandom I know, even if there are masquerades at some cons.

Markus Rosenlund

Markus Rosenlund

The science journalist and sf fan Markus Rosenlund gave an entertaining talk called something like The twilight zone between science and magic (Skymningszonen mellan vetenskap och magi). He started by citing Arthur C. Clarke:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The risk of being burnt at the stake has been high for those who have challenged the present conceptions, and even today you can be ostracized for revolutionary ideas like cold fusion. He gave an overview of scientific revolutions with some entertaining anecdotes, like the one where Heisenberg and Schrödinger were driving a car and was stopped by the police. – Do you know how fast you were driving? – No, but I know where we are. – Did you know there is a live cat in the luggage boot? – No, but now we know.

Markku Soikkeli, Aliette de Bodard, Stefan Ekman, Tom Crosshill

Markku Soikkeli, Aliette de Bodard, Stefan Ekman, Tom Crosshill

SF as metaphor was discussed by Aliette de Bodard, Stefan Ekman and Markku Soikkeli with Tom Crosshill as moderator. SF can be read in different ways and what looks like a metaphor may actually be the described, imagined reality.

There should be a message and the text should deal with real-world issues, but not so much that it turns into mainstream. If the writer tries too hard with the message the text may end up as propaganda and is no longer interesting to read.

The predictive aspect of sf is not important and it is usually impossible to foresee breakthroughs. The text should instead deal with where we think the society is going now and what impact the technologies do to us as a society and as people. The text should make the reader think in new ways.

Eemeli Aro, Syksy Räsänen, Caitlin Sweet, Karin Tidbeck

Eemeli Aro, Syksy Räsänen, Caitlin Sweet, Karin Tidbeck

The less serious panel Speculative tv-series was led by Eemeli Aro, who asked the public for ideas for new tv-series which the panellists then had to describe. The panel consisted of Syksy Räsänen, Karin Tidbeck and Caitlin Sweet, who entertained us with stories about daycare of baby vampires and space sheep. Still, this is not the kind of programme item I like best.

Alexandra Davydova, Irina Lipka

Alexandra Davydova, Irina Lipka

East is calling – State of Moder Russian SF: Last year 776 original sf books were published in Russia. This was mentioned by the two Russian fans Alexandra Davydova, who is also a writer and game constructor, and Irina Lipka. The presentation showed that there really are quite many Russian sf authors, and a lot of sf is also translated from English. Unfortunately many translations are done very fast and also not by professionals and involving piracy. There is a lot of fantasy for mass consumption. Not much Russian sf or fantasy has been translated into English, but exceptions are Metro 2033 by Dmitri Glukhovsky, the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko and books by Max Frei. Serious authors dislike to have their books labelled sf. And if they have written sf before they easily ”forget” them. Just like in Sweden.

We saw a film based on Karin Tidbeck’s short story “Who is Arvid Pekon?”, entitled Kim jest Arvid Pekon? since it was made in Poland. It was made by a Swede, Patrick Eriksson, who went to a film school in Poland. He found a complete old switchboard in the cellar of the school, and used it for the filming. In the story old-time phone operators are answering calls. The film was very good and even scarier than the story.

Caitlin Sweet, Sara B Elfgren, Mats Strandberg, Nene Ormes, Jussi Ahlroth

Caitlin Sweet, Sara B Elfgren, Mats Strandberg, Nene Ormes, Jussi Ahlroth

The Sunday programme was not as well-filled as those for the other days. In the morning I listened to a panel called Soundtracks for books, led by Jussi Ahlroth. While writing, the authors listened to playlists or music chosen by others in a café or pub. Nene listens to scores from movies she hasn’t seen – if she has seen them she gets disturbed. She also listens to Philip Glass. They talked a lot about music that I don’t know, and also commented on lists of music on the back of some books. No one in the panel listens to music while reading, which I find strange. When I read I often listen to music that I know well, like string quartets by Beethoven or Shostakovich.

Merja Polvinen, Fionna O'Sullivan, Stefan Ekman, Tommy Persson

Merja Polvinen, Fionna O’Sullivan, Stefan Ekman, Tommy Persson

Other aspects of reading practices were discussed in the panel How do we read?, moderated by Merja Polvinen. Interestingly, the entire panel was irritated by too extensive descriptions of characters, e g faces, hair colour etc, and I agree with this. They visualise when reading, and this dominates over hearing, although bells or music may be heard. Merja distinguished different types of reading: skimming, scanning and deep-reading, but Tommy Persson did not consider the first two as reading – he reads every word even when reading purely for pleasure. Stefan Ekman admitted to being a story junkie and descriptions of places stops him in the track. He can also deep-read and spend an hour for a paragraph. Nowadays I can enjoy quite extensive descriptions of nature even if it slows down the story.

Mats Strandberg, Sara B Elfgren, Johan Anglemark

Mats Strandberg, Sara B Elfgren, Johan Anglemark

Johan Anglemark interviewed Sara Bergmark Elfgren and Mats Strandberg, the successful authors of The Circle and other books in the Engelsfors series. It was nice to listen to, but did not add very much to what I already knew.

Tom Crosshill, Emmi Itäranta, Karin Tidbeck, Aliette de Bodard

Tom Crosshill, Emmi Itäranta, Karin Tidbeck, Aliette de Bodard

Once more Tom Crosshill was used as moderator, this time in the discussion entitled Writing in a foreign language. The authors Tom Crosshill, Aliette de Bodard, Karin Tidbeck and Emmi Itäranta shared their experiences of writing in English although their native tongue was Latvian, French, Swedish or Finnish. Karin Tidbeck learnt English by playing World of Warcraft. She has translated her stories herself and found that Swedish is comparably passive, almost paraplegic, and cannot be directly translated. She also point out that there is a lot of cultural baggage in a word that is never fully understood by a foreigner.  Emmi Itäranta had been to a Creative Writing course in England. She found it helpful to write in both languages in parallel. Finnish has a small number of words but a complex grammar, whereas English has an extensive vocabulary. For Aliette de Bodard it was revealing to have her work translated into French, which has much longer sentences than English. She also thanked God for the Internet, that has taken down a lot of barriers. It is now much easier to publish in a foreign country.

Naturally there was a lot of talk between programme items and at the party on Saturday evening. I especially enjoyed the discussions in that evening where a Chinese fan, some Swedish fans and some Russian fans talked about fandom and conventions in our countries. I have bought a membership in the Russian Eurocon that takes place in St Petersburg in 2015, and look forward to it!

P1030523aThis was an excellent Finncon. Many thanks to the organisers! In central Helsinki I saw alien creatures so obviously the entire city was involved in the convention. Next year Finncon is in Jyväskylä which is less readily available from Sweden. Still, I hope to go there!

Läs också Johan Jönssons utmärkta rapport!

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

Stockon 2

Stockholm, 22-24 augusti 1958

Stockon 2 är den första sf-kongress jag deltagit i. Det finns en rapport om kongressen i HÄPNA! nr 10 1958, författad av Gabriel Setterborg. Jag har tagit fram också den rapport som Alvar Appeltofft skrev i Union SF nr 9 1958; den kan ha intresse för den fanhistoriskt intresserade: Stockon 2

Deltagare på Stockon 2. Foto Karl-Ewert Wetterlund.

Av Sture Hällström har jag fått ett gruppfoto (aningen skadat av tidens tand), och med bl a hans hjälp har några av personerna på bilden kunnat identifieras: Stockon2BildNamn Självklart är jag mycket tacksam om någon kan ge ytterligare namn på personer på bilden! Den stora bilden i bakgrunden har Sven O. Emilsson (Gripsborn) gjort.

Fantasticon 2010



Copenhagen, Denmark, September 18-19, 2010

Fantasticon 2010 was a small and cosy con, and like in 2009 it took place in the culture house of Vanløse. This time I was accompanied by my wife Margareta, who took lots of notes which have helped me to write this report. I had a good time in the hotel Fy og Bi in Valby in 2009, so we stayed there this time too. The trains are absolutely fantastic in Copenhagen making me, living in Stockholm, quite jealous. Thus there were no problems to get to the con, and it was also very easy to get to Roskilde after the con.

The con was opened by the congress chairman, Flemming Rasch. I had not had time to get accustomed to the Danish so I had problems to understand him. This was followed by Fans in Scandinavia, in Scandinavian; Klaus Æ. Mogensen told us about fandom och cons, and I presented Eurocon 2011 with the aid of Power Point.

Flemming Rasch, Susanne Hodges, Catherine Asaro

The Guest of Honour Catherine Asaro was interviewed by Flemming Rasch and Susanne Hodges. Her first published work was a short story, “Dance in Blue”, for a Christmas anthology, and shortly thereafter Analog published her first story from the Skolian Empire. Many of her stories are part of this family saga, which is hard sf with some military sf. It can also be called planetary romance, and she writes a chapter on that for a textbook. She sees it as a way of looking at our own culture, and asking what is alien in ourselves. She believes that we will get brain implants for intellect enhancement, which might lead to a singularity and possibly a kind of immortality. AIs will also become smarter making it difficult to draw the line between humans and machines. An AI, or rather EI (evolving intelligence), is the main character of the sf novel Sunrise Alley. In the award-winning Quantum Rose, particles from her Ph D thesis in chemical physics are translated into characters, and even the language (“bound state”) reflects the thesis. The story is an allegory, or a fairy tale. She considers there to be similarities between her interests and abilities in the areas math, music and dance; ballet is pattern-oriented.

Catherine Asaro

Even if this sf-con must be considered as a small one, there were several parallels, and it was not always easy to choose. We next listened to Catherine Asaro singing, accompanied by her daughter’s boyfriend on the piano. The couple was good at entertaining us while we had a beer and a sandwich.

 

 

 

 

 

While I was sitting at the Eurocon 2011 table, or rather looking at the huge used books sale, Margareta listened to Thomas Winther interviewing Kaspar Colling Nielsen. Mount København is an absurd and strange book with 17 different stories about the mountain. These are not ordinary short stories and it is not a novel. It took three years to write and a long time with the publisher. He uses notebooks, “China books”, where he for years have written down small ideas for stories, and he reads the story “The pelican” about a doctor who transforms himself into a bird. Another story is about a “manolitic” man, who is magnetic, whereas in “The Tennis Player” a man restrings his racket with guts. One of the stories was from Valby. The publisher made a selection, but Kaspar Colling Nielsen had no impression that this was aimed at making the book easier to sell. A story about how the mountain was built, which took 200 years, was too long to be incorporated. He had sent the manuscript to several other publishers before Gyldendal accepted it. The long time between the acceptance and the actual publishing decision was tiresome.   

Carrie-Lynn Reinhard

 

We then listened to an interesting talk about Superheroes, by Carrie-Lynn Reinhard. She described the results of an international survey, questioning fans about their conceptions about superheroes. She got 112 answers, and the first question was what defines a superhero. He/She should have a sanctioned mission, superpower(s), a secret identity, a codename and a costume motif. The medium is often visual. To have an extraordinary ability was most important in the survey, and a strong moral code was also important. The best known american superheroes were from DC: 1. Superman, 2. Batman; and Marvel: 1. Spiderman, 2. Wolverine. The Phantom (Fantomen) is not a superheroe since he lacks superpower. From Argentine comes The Eternauta who fights against an alien invasion. Borderline superheroes are Robin Hood, Jesus and Pippi Långstrump. We were also shown an entertaining Italian parody of Spiderman.   

Catherine Asaro, Carrie-Lynn Reinhard, Rikke Schubart, Niels Dalgaard, Tue Sørensen

The panel discussion Researching the fantastic genre was moderated by Tue Sørensen. Niels Dalgaard mentioned that he had written a Ph D thesis about Danish SF but was thrown out of the university. Rikke Schubart had not yet been thrown out although she was teaching about computer games, TV and films. She started with horror fiction and films, then action films, and wrote a book on what they are all about. She has also written fiction, e g with vampires, and she is fascinated by emotions, especially bad ones like disgust, repulsion and anger rather than romance. Carrie-Lynn Reinhard, whom we had listened to just before, had studied how people use virtual realities, like Second Lifeor when watching a film. Catherine Asaro told us about her research in sf, where she had studied the planetary romances of E R Burroughs and M Z Bradley. She also used some research in her hard sf, when she tried to understand e g what the light would be on a planet with a certain tilt of the axis. She also does some scientific research in the university, but now she mainly teaches.

The moderator wanted to know how the research was done, and Niels Dalgaard answered that he went through gaudy magazines e g looking for mad scientists. For Rikke Schubart it took two years just to find out what she was interested in. You need to collect very much information in order to know that you do not need to know it. Carrie-Lynn Reinhardt uses questionnaires and wants fans to answer. You need to get allowance from a review board in order to do studies today. It is easier to study phenomena on internet where you don’t risk to hurt anyone. Catherine Asaro has used the library catalogue at Harvard, and gets the article via mail. She often uses Wikipedia for a start and then checks by looking up the references. She also mentions that she looked for a Jack Vance book in the Baltimore SF Society, where there are thousands of books.

Finally the moderator wanted to know how others react to their work. Catherine Asaro’s colleagues say: “You write what?”, “Are you still in high school?”, unless you win an award. Carrie-Lynn Reinhardt’s friends think she is cool. Fan culture is accepted since it makes money. The effects of games, with sex and violence, are of interest and grants are provided. Rikke Schubart first tried the department of comparative literature but there it was considered trash. She changed to the department for film and media, where her interests were accepted. Niels Dalgaard had no other department to go to. He was frustrated and wanted people to know what sf is before they look down upon it. This panel was interesting but would have gained by more interaction between the panelists who instead gave short lectures

The young, Danish author Camilla Wandahl was interviewed by Flemming Rasch, and Margareta listened. She has written sf since she was young, and in 2003 she had a short story in a competition at Fantasticon for stories written for those under 17 years. She won, and won also in 2005, and her contribution was published in an anthology. She knew nothing about fandom before; it was the competition that attracted her. She has not read much sf but has seen some films. She has worked in a writer’s group which generated a novel manuscript that has so far not been published. A good thing with these courses is that you learn how to handle a rejection; that you can send the manuscript again after a time. Hjerte i vente is her first accepted novel. She had good help from the editor; after five turns with the manuscript the contract was signed. From this she learned to prepare her manuscripts several timed before they are assessed. The first reviews pointed out that young authors write for young readers about young persons. After some novels she joined a group writing detective stories, where 15 pages were to be delivered every fortnight. In this way she wrote a YA detective story about four 13 year old youngsters who find a mystical role-playing book. She finds it difficult to write about children today because they live in secluded environments, they are in school or in leisure centers and are fetched by their parents, they are not as free as before. It is a challenge to create a thrilling setting and situation where they lose their mobiles and have to manage by themselves.

Camilla Wandahl is now a full-time author and earns her living from royalties and lecture fees. The society “HUF” (www.huf.dk), “hopeful young authors”, helps in application for grants, finding lecture opportunities, writing CV, making web page etc. (Which sounds extremely good!) She writes every day, even if only for half an hour or two pages, but in the writer’s group they write four times 20 min every day and discusses the texts in between. This produces much text in a weekend. She barely reads any adult books other than detective stories, but she reads YA books for inspiration, and now mainly realistic books since she wants to build identification objects for youngsters. She initially thought that it would be easier to write fantasy, but it also demanded its skill. It is not possible just to add a dragon. She does not always know the end of the book she is writing but she often writes a one page synopsis. She tries to write “first time”-stories: Love, deceit, boy/girl, and is not interested in writing for adults. Is there any risk that someone else writes the same story? A consolation is that there only are seven archetypical stories, and everyone writes them again and again. The library fee can be granted to anyone who has participated in an anthology; she knows all ways of financing from HUF. She believes that YA sf is coming. Her advice to others is to write much and often, and rewrite, and if possible join a writer’s group. She has her own blog about writing, http://www.camillawandahl.dk.

Svend Kreiner, Jeppe Larson, Niels Dalgaard, Flemming Rasch, Stig W. Jørgensen

The sf novel of the decade is a good idea for a panel, and the members of the panel had decided before which six books they chose. Flemming Rasch moderated the discussion, and Stig W. Jørgensen started by suggesting Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt. It is an alternate history, and goes back to e g Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. It tells about an aggravated pest epidemic. There are no historic persons but Islam gets an Age of Enlightenment in Samarkand. There are new world wars during the story of the book that spans from the 14th century to the future. It is a moral book in ten parts. The character’s thinking is dominated by a reincarnation theme. 

The literary scholar Niels Dalgaard supports the interest in that book and that it represents the core of the alternate history trend. The book reflects historical interpretations. He also proposes Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, in which the rotation of Earth is increased making it isolated from the rest of the universe, with an accompanying time displacement. How would humanity react? It is good old sf, and there is a sequel, Axis. 

Jeppe Larson would have chosen Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, which takes a big perspective of the universe, with references to Arthur C Clarke and other classics. It is new Space Opera with Sense of Wonder. But the main characters are atypical, and there is super science like in the 30s, making one suspect that it is a parody. Two women are the main characters, but they lack characteristics.

Svend Kreiner preferred River of Godsby Ian McDonald (one of the GoHs at Eurocon 2011). The story takes place in a future India, that has collapsed. The main plot is a conflict between AIs and humans. Stig Jørgensen reads as a tourist, it is the background that is interesting. The book is demanding and should be reread a lot. It appears to be inspired by Neuromancer and is an example of neocolonialism. 

Charles Stross’ Halting State takes place in an on line game. The main characters are a policeman, an insurance manager and a young nerd in the IT-business. It is a typical example of a “close to now”-book.  

The last book was Flood by Stephen Baxter, where a group is kidnapped and in the meantime there is a catastrophe, and when the kidnapped persons return they look at a new world. There are many references to early sf, like Heinlein. The sequel, Ark, is not as good.

In the final discussion it was concluded that everyone likes Spin and The Years of Rice and Salt. It was remarked that there was no female author. Svend Kreiner suggests a new author, Neal Asher, who might be interesting in the future. 

Flemming Rasch, Jeppe Larson, Catherine Asaro, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Asmus Kofoed

The hard science programme item, that Swedish cons today often lack, was entitled The future of space exploration, and Flemming Rasch moderated the panel consisting of Asmus Kofoed, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Catherine Asaro and the cyber scientist Jeppe Larsen. We went to the moon before we really had the technology. Now we have the technology but lack the incentive. It takes ten years to build a space program but the US changes its government every eight year. There has to be a commercial drive, like interesting metals or 3He for fusion power, that might be found on the moon.

How would we travel further than the moon? Plasma engines for faster travel, and perhaps robots instead of humans. Possibly nanomachines which could send back information. A space elevator is another possibility, but could be vulnerable to lightning, terrorists etc. 

What could we expect to meet? Most likely robots, with their own civilisation. A possible reason why we have not met any other life is that it could be very strange. We might not recognize it as life. 

After the con we went to Roskilde and had a look at the impressive Viking ships.

 

 

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.


Swecon i Stockholm 15-17 juni

Worldcon 75, Helsingfors 2017