Posts Tagged 'Finncon'

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!

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Finncon/Animecon 2011

Åbo/Turku, July 15-17, 2011

SF-ish art in the river Aurajoki

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

Richard Morgan and Nalo Hopkinson: On writing

Richard Morgan and Nalo Hopkinson

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

Tommy Persson

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

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

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

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

Richard Morgan: Black Widow

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

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

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

Richard Morgan’s Guest of Honour Speech

Richard Morgan

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

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

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

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

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

Nalo Hopkinson and Richard Morgan: Cultural Appropriation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kenneth Lindholm, Sofia Sjö, Elisabeth Kronqvist, Ben Roimola

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

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

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

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

The Masquerade


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Closing session with Kati Oksanen

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

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.

Finncon 2009 / Animecon VII

Finncon 2009 in Helsinki was also Animecon. The con was impressive both by being well organized, the many sf fans present (1000?), the huge halls used for program items (in Kaapelitehdas) and perhaps mainly by the very many (10000?) anime or manga fans dressed in cosplay costumes. The event took place in the weekend July 10-12, and the weather was wonderful so the manga fans spent a lot of time outdoors, admiring each others’ costumes. Since many program items were in Finnish we got our own Alien Supplement to the Program Book, in English.

First a few pictures from the Animecon.

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The con

Tommy Persson, Johan Jönsson, J Pekka Mäkelä, Alastair Reynolds, Toni Jerrman

Tommy Persson, Johan Jönsson, J Pekka Mäkelä, Alastair Reynolds, Toni Jerrman

In the gigantic Pannuhalli I listened to the panel Science in Science Fiction. The chairman Tommy Persson started by saying that he considered accuracy to be necessary, and got immediate response from Johan Jönsson who does not notice mistakes since he is a humanist. Accuracy is important but most readers don’t notice mistakes. The idea is what is important. He admits to getting complaints on the science in his short stories. Pekka Mäkelä presented himself as a translator and pointed out that it is difficult to know what liberties you may take when you translate science-related parts of a story. For Alastair Reynolds, who is not only an author but also a space scientist, the story comes first. It must not be stupidly wrong like a square earth, but wormholes can be accepted. The science should be levelled down and be in the background. Toni Jerrman, the editor of the Finnish sf-magazine Tähtivaeltaja, says he is easily fooled but the fans criticize. The author should concentrate on the story rather than getting it correct.

Reynolds finds it hard to keep up with the development in science, and cites Charles Stross who has said that it is impossible to write near-future sf. It is always wrong since the world is rapidly changing. The present is not a particularly difficult period; the period 1910-1920 saw enormous changes. Perhaps the rate of change is less if you go back 200 years. Now genetics is moving rapidly but cosmology has stalled with the big bang. However, keeping up in science is fun, it is not a chore.

Tommy likes Timescape by Greg Benford because it describes the life at the university. This is true also of Greg Egan’s books. He then asks for books with too much science and Reynolds comes up with Greg Egan who can have too much cosmology and Kim Stanley Robinson who has too much geology in the Mars book. Among older books he considers that Herbert’s Dune books have aged better since they are mainly about politics, whereas Hal Clement’s books have aged worse. Reynolds contacts biologists to get the biology correct, but he also admits that the whole point of sf is to be a bit naughty; it must not be too correct.

Jukka Halme, George R R Martin, Adam Roberts, Alastair Reynolds

Jukka Halme, George R R Martin, Adam Roberts, Alastair Reynolds

On writing. In the likewise enormous Merikaapelihalli the GoHs were interviewed on their writing by Jukka Halme. Alastair Reynolds started in his teens. He wanted to write stories after having seen To Russia with Love. He wrote about future history and aliens, and never stopped. In school he regretted that he had to choose between science and arts. He studied physics and math in order to study astronomy, and he thus could not take history or English. He has never studied writing but is now a member of a writer’s group. He also likes reading books on writing and has taught writing. He recommends Brian Stableford’s book on writing sf, and also likes Stephen King’s manual. Most important is to write all the time.

He has written 40-50 short stories and still writes them. A novel takes about six months to write and another six for corrections etc. After writing a novel he is exhausted.

Adam Roberts finds being at the con, with its lots of people, to be a life-changing experience. He has always written novels, which come in fragments first. It is necessary to finish even if it is rubbish. Short stories are more difficult to write since they require compression.

The idea behind his novel Swiftly is that it is set in a world where Brobdignag and its neighbours are true history. He calls it alternative and steam-punky. The idea is new; no one has used Swift’s world before.

His last novel is a thriller, “James Bond in his 70’s”. He prefers to write in a Starbuck Coffee Shop, and he doesn’t pay much attention to his surroundings when he is writing. He despises writers groups. Instead you should write as much as you can, you should finish, and “show, don’t tell”.

G R R Martin wrote about spaceships before school. He wanted to be an astronaut but was not physically fit so he wrote about it instead. He took journalism instead of creative writing, because he needed a day job. “This led to adjectivitis, so he joined Adjective Users Anonymous.” Martin started to write short stories, and wrote for tv. The pay was good and you are in a work situation which is good, since writing can be a lonely profession. The other side of it is that people tell you how and what to write. As a whole it was a good experience. He stopped mainly because what he wrote did not reach the audience since it wasn’t produced.

Martin lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but was born in New Jersey in a federal housing project. His father was a longshoreman who never purchased a car. He went to his first sf con in 1971 in Washington DC, after having sold his first sf story. There “he met his people”. He talks about travelling, and the other way to go places, reading books. His first sf book was Heinlein’s Have Space Suit – Will Travel, which is a book that many started with, e g Connie Willis and Melissa Snodgrass. He remembers that book but not the school pals which is more real? We are our memories.

Tarja Rainio, Marianna Leikomaa, George R R Martin, Päivi Väätänen, Tanja Sihvonen

Tarja Rainio, Marianna Leikomaa, George R R Martin, Päivi Väätänen, Tanja Sihvonen

Saturday started with a panel on The New Breed – Modern Vampire Mythos. George R R Martin started with a description of the Transsylvanian “old breed”, that he wrote about in his novel Fevre Dream. All cultures seem to have some tradition of vampires, illustrated by legends from Africa and China. The classical vampire of Bram Stoker is a soulless creature. The vampire of Fevre Dream is a monster, but Fredrik Pohl has used vampires against nazis and then they were good. The new breed is more like a rock-star and tends to be the hero. The moderator, Tanja Sihvonen, adds that they are a symbol of otherness and therefore popular.

In the tv series True Blood the vampires can survive on synthetic blood. Still, blood is a symbol for life and there is also the relation of blood to genetics and race. Marianna Leikomaa commented that the risk of AIDS today makes blood more connected to death than to life. In the film Lost Boys it is fun to be a vampire; you are young forever, party all night and sleep all day. In books humans often want to be vampires, perhaps because they are sexually appealing. Stoker’s vampire is Victorian. Women should not have or like sex. Vampires have an irresistible force. You are taken, body fluids are mixed, and you lose consciousness.

The vampires of today, for example in Stephenie Meyer’s books, live in trailers and drink beer and are not threatening. The vampires of Poppy Z Brite are sexy and great characters, and the vampires in the Saint-Germain series by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro are old, nice and considerate. They do not reproduce but give pleasure to the woman. There appears to be a class system among those monsters, with vampires being highest, werewolves coming next and at the lowest rank we have the zombies.

Maria Candia, Maria Turtschaninoff, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo

Maria Candia, Maria Turtschaninoff, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo

Finncons höjdpunkt var en svenskspråkig panel om Ny finlandssvensk fantasy. Maria Candia, som skriver sf på finska, samtalade med författarna Maria Turtschaninoff och Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo. Panelen inleddes med att Maria T läste ur sin bok Arra. Legender från Lavora som jag sedan köpte ute i den stora mässhallen. Enligt Hannele finns det ingen ny homogen finlandssvensk fantasy, i så fall möjligen bilderböcker. Hanneles bok Fem knivar hade Andrej Krapl ser hon knappast som en fantasybok själv. Temat är liksom för Finncon resan både i denna och i Arra. Båda böckerna är uppbyggda som klassisk vardag, och det handlar mycket om att finna sig själv. Hanneles bok startar i en lerig by där allt är brunt och vardagligt. Det är en drömmens verklighet men konkret utifrån en konkret geografi, dock utan namn. Miljön finns på Finlands karta, den bygger på riktiga ställen. Geografin i Marias bok finns däremot bara i hennes huvud, men den har en klart nordisk touch. Handlingen är förlagd till Lavoras forntid. Vi följer en vardaglig kamp, med kvinnohjältar som städar och väver. Det finns ändå magiska element. I fantasy måste man få in läsaren i en fiktionsvärld, och för detta krävs igenkänningselement. Det är då lättare att åstadkomma den nödvändiga “suspension of disbelief”. Hanneles bok är mer realistisk. Det är en konkret värld men ändå surrealistisk med drömlika personer.

På frågan om hur mycket av de själva som finns i personerna svarar Maria att hon finns i alla, t ex har hon vävt. Hannele förklarar att på en gång är huvudpersonen helt hon själv och samtidigt är allt fiktion. Hon stjäl från sig själv och sin omgivning. Det roliga med fiktion är att man får vara någon annan.

Som förebild anger Maria Irmelin Sandman Lilius, och hon känner sig språkligt påverkad av henne. Indirekt har då också Tove Jansson påverkat henne. Maria nämner också Maria Gripe och Astrid Lindgren, och att hon dessutom läst mycket utländsk fantasy. Hannele svarar ungefär detsamma men tillägger Kalevala och Eddan. Dessutom har hon förebilder i den surrealistiska traditionen i finländsk teater och bildkonst. Så har Svenska teatern gett Sagan om ringen, och radioteatern har haft en fantasyserie med en medeltida touch. Frågan om de skriver noveller besvaras med att ingen köper dem. Och slutligen konstateras att finlandssvensk fantasy knappast säljs i Sverige, vilket känns egendomligt och tragiskt. Sf-bokhandeln har inte dessa författare, men jag lyckades köpa Hanneles genom AdLibris.

Arra läste jag när jag kommit hem, och den levde synnerligen väl upp till mina förväntningar. De magiska elementen smygs på en så långsamt så att man inte blir förvånad när Arra flyger. Och huvudpersonen engagerar genom sitt utanförsskap och hennes sätt att bemästra detta.

Riktigt lika givande var inte den inte att lyssna på Vilgot Strömholms föredrag med titeln Ursäkta mig, finns det någon finlandssvensk fandom. Det finns tydligen en organisation kallad Föreningen för underliga intressen vid Åbo Akademi, papperstidningen och websidan Enhörningen, en finlandssvensk Tolkienförening, Lindon, och Helsingforsfandom har pubmöten varannan torsdag.

Maria Turtschaninoff, Linnéa Anglemark, Johan Jönsson

Maria Turtschaninoff, Linnéa Anglemark, Johan Jönsson

Panelen Läslampan leddes av Enhörningens redaktör Ben Roimola, och handlade om svensk fantastik. I panelen satt Maria Turtschaninoff, Johan Jönsson och Linnéa Anglemark. Johan presenterade sig som tidigare ledare för Cathaya och berättade att han har websidan Vetsaga. På Finncon skulle egentligen Irmelin Sandman Lilius varit hedersgäst men det krockade men en resa. Hon hoppas komma på en annan con. Hennes novellsamling Mänskors och fåglars vingar hade gjort stort intryck på Maria när hon läste den efter att ha lånat den på biblioteket. Det var en aha-upplevelse att man kan skriva vuxenlitteratur på ett fantastik-sätt, och hon lyfter fram känslan för det absurda och humorn. Marias språk har påverkats av Sandman Lilius; hon beskriver det som en osmos in i hennes eget. Hon läser en novell, och rekommenderar också Fru Sola-trilogin.

Johan Jönsson rekommenderar John Ajvide Lindqvists debutroman Låt den rätte komma in. Det är en väldigt svensk skräckroman. Tyvärr har hans böcker blivit gradvis sämre efter denna.

Linnéa lyfter fram Tove Jansson. Muminböckerna är bra medicin mot lätt depression. Det gäller speciellt de två sista som inte är barnböcker: Pappan och havet och Sent i november. De handlar om samma situation. I den förra reser Muminfamiljen ut till en liten ö, och i den senare berättas om hur de kvarvarande reagerar.

Ben visar upp P C Jersilds efterkatastrofenroman Efter floden.

Alastair Reynolds

Alastair Reynolds

When Alastair Reynolds Speaks and Reads, he talks about the relation between sf and science. He starts by describing his own sf. Revelation Space and its successors take place in the same universe. It is far future sf whith a house of suns. He is now a full time writer but was a scientist working on e g pulsars. Space opera is hard sf having fun. Old space opera took place in the solar system which was possible when we didn’t know so much as today. Thus, Weinbaum could write A Martian Odyssey and Clarke The Sands of Mars, but Dune was written after the Mariner expedition and it was then necessary to go out further. In the 70’s stories were written about space habitats which were even bigger in the 80’s, with Bruce Sterling’s Schismatrix and Joe Haldeman’s Worlds. In the 90’s we got the new Mars books, Paul McAuley’s Red Dust, Ian McDonald’s Desolation Road and Greg Bear’s Moving Mars. There were also stories located to outer planets and moons, like Ganymede in Greg Benford’s Against Infinity. In the recent The Quiet War Paul McAuley describes human life on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. These could have life in the salt water present.

Planets are now found everywhere by several methods, mainly by observing the wobbling of the star as the planet rotates around it. Thus Epsilon Eridani has a planet as Reynolds luckily assumed when he wrote The Prefect.

More speculative is the spin-off from string theory, the presence of brane-worlds, parallell to our own. Gravitons might slip between the brane-worlds allowing communications and disturbances. Why we are present in just this universe could be explained by The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (also a book by Barrow and Tipler), stating that the cosmological constants in this universe are suited for life.

Where do we go in the next 30-40 years? Probably we will go back to the mind-blowing technology of Apollo, and return to the moon. Perhaps we will be back there already in 2020.

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Marianna Leikomaa, Cheryl Morgan

The panel in the Hugo 2009 Discussion presented themselves. Cheryl Morgan is a member of the Hugo Awards Marketing Committee and has actually won a Hugo award, Tommy Persson votes for the Hugo, and Ben Roimola has read the nominees for ten years.

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Tommy Persson, Adam Roberts, Ben Roimola

Adam Roberts was also in the panel, and in the short story category he liked “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” since it was exciting and properly written. Also Cheryl Morgan preferred this but thought that Chiang’s “Exhalation” would win (which it did). No one in the panel voted for the excellent “Shoggoths in Bloom” among the novelettes. Instead they preferred Kessel’s pastiche “Pride and Prometheus or James Alan Gardner’s love story. The panel also missed the winner in the novella category, and instead voted for my favourite, “Truth” by Robert Reed or the unreadable and incomprehensible “True Names” which tries and, sadly, fails to describe different levels of reality in a computer. By showing pictures Cheryl Morgan demonstrated the superiority of the artist Shaun Tan over the other nominees. As best related book both Cheryl Morgan and Adam Roberts preferred Rhetorics of Fantasy by Farah Mendlesohn, but as Cheryl Morgan predicted John Scalzi won instead. Adam Roberts was seriously worried about the short-list for the novel category. They are all young adult books and very traditional. He hated Stephenson’s book but thought it was the best, since Stephenson actually did something new. Tommy liked Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and Ben predicted, correctly, that it would win. Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother was criticized for infodumping and for being a political runt and ploddingly written. Scalzi’s book was considered to be an unsuccessful attempt to write from the viewpoint of a 14 year old girl.

Adam Roberts Speech was interesting and dealt with the nature of sf and what in sf that captured his heart. He disagreed with Farah Mendlesohn’s recent book Rhetorics of Fantasy, where sf and fantasy is divided into categories according to “type of story”. There is a similar problem with The Encyclopedia. In this way you miss what is marvelous in the story. Fans like similarities and by division into categories it is easier to find what you like. However, you have to ignore a lot to put Beowulf and Terminator 3 in the same category.

Sf is metaphorical literature. It does not reproduce our world but it is concerned with our world. Poetry works by a metaphorical process, and sf is a poetic process. Sf provides the transport or ecstasy that is Sense of Wonder, and does that better than any other literature. The breaking out of the grid is absolutely contrary to the possibility of categorizing. Thus he got a profound sense of transcendence from reading The Lord of the Rings when he was 8 or 9 years old, but copying these books misses this completely.

Adam Roberts mentions that Ballard (Crystal World) and P K Dick see the world in an alienated way. By resonance this is also true of Jack Vance. He himself tries to take sf and “fuck it up” in different ways, like estranging books by making parodies. The Office is a marvelous parody of reality tv, causing laughter. Laughter is hard to explain. It could be caused by fear, embarrassment or disrupting cultural hierarchies, and be an escape from the grid. Comic authors of sf are e g Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. The best humour touches on something profound. His own comic sf book is Yellow Blue Tibia. He names the three best writers of the 20th century: Bulgakov, Wodehouse and Samuel Beckett. Wodehouse has a flawless style that makes you laugh.

During the final discussion Roberts comments that writing is a more immersed form of reading, and it is no problem to be both an author and critic. The best sf critic today is Roger Luckhurst. Finally he derogates fandom by the expression “fans are slans” and explains the categorizing of literature with the pleasure people get from it.

The Sunday started with a discussion between Alastair Reynolds and Antti Oikarinen on the subject Journey into Space. The first step is to go up in orbit. Using a cannon would crush the travellers, and linear accelerators are expensive. Marshall T Savage has suggested seven steps to colonize Mars. He is considered crazy but had some good ideas. Arthur C Clarke suggested the space elevator in 1979. It would take several days to go out to space in the elevator. Another possibility is a high tower that can be inflated, but according to Reynolds this would not work. Another project, called Orion, uses atom bombs under a plate at the end of the star ship.

The second step is to go from orbit. Probably new techniques will come, e g based on antimatter or fusion. The third step is to go to other stars, and one possibility is to use generation ships but this would surely lead to sociological problems. Freezing could be a solution since this has been done with mice already. The blood has to be replaced very rapidly to assure medical stasis.

Cheryl Morgan, Marianna Leikomaa, Johan Anglemark, Jukka Halme

Cheryl Morgan, Marianna Leikomaa, Johan Anglemark, Jukka Halme

In the Book Talk Cheryl Morgan, Marianna Leikomaa and Johan Anglemark discussed under the chairmanship of Jukka Halme, who first asked for the last really good book that they had read. Morgan picked Palimpsest by Catherynne Valente, which is a book where you go into a fantasy world. Marianna mentioned George R R Martin, and Johan the secondary fantasy world of Jasper Fforde. Jukka had found Thunderer by Felis Gilman. This is new weirdish fantasy, reading as easily understandable China Miéville. The mention of Miéville triggered the suggestion of his The City and the City and Un Lun Dun, but the latter was considered to be minor Miéville by Johan and Jukka, who instead mentioned José Saramago.

When asked for good entertainment, Marianna picked Justina Robson’s Quantum Gravity series, and Morgan suggested Adam Roberts latest, Yellow Blue Tibia, where Stalin demands an sf story of alien invasion, which then really happens. She also likes Liz Williams’ Inspector Chen series. Johan was entertained by Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword, but says that you should begin with Sword’s Point. Jukka suggests the sword and sorcery of Jeff VanderMeer, and David Gemmel who has written a reenactment of Troy.

As the best science fiction book, Cheryl Morgan chose Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin or Axis, I am not sure which she meant. Marianna’s choice was Ian McDonald’s Brazil or River of Gods, and Morgan added his Desolation Road to this list. Johan picked The Jiddish Policeman’s Union stating that it technically is sf, and Jukka also took an alternate history but instead the steampunkish Mainspring by Jay Lake, and the author Adam-Troy Castro. Other authors and books that were mentioned were Paul McAuley, Kari Sperring (Living with Ghosts, often at Eastercons), Seamus Heaney (Beowulf), M John Harrison (Nova Swing), John Meaney, Tim Powers, Zoran Živković, Daniel Abraham and Graham Joyce (The Facts of Life).

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Irma Hirsjärvi, Parris McBride, Cheryl Morgan

In the last panel I listened to three female fans talked about fandom. This panel was not announced before and I have no title. Irma Hirsjärvi from Finland has written a Ph D thesis about Finnish fandom, Faniuden Siirtymiä. Suomalaisten science fiction fanien verkostot (Mediations of fandom. Networks of the Finnish science fiction fandom, 2009). She interviewed lots of sf fans. The first signs of a fandom were seen in the 50:s, the first sf society was founded in Turku in 1976, the first Finncon took place in 1986, was supported by the Ministry of foreign affairs since 1995 and was combined with the Animecon since 1999. She met sf by reading Burroughs, and she read in solitude.

Parris McBride, George R R Martin’s partner, started by pointing to the greatest thing that happened to fandom, the appearance of girls in the 70:s. Cheryl Morgan went to role-playing cons in 1976, and was encouraged by Martin Hoare to go to an Eastercon. She then went to Australia and now lives in San Francisco. McBride says “we won” – the biggest tv series and films are sf, and in the states twice as many sf books are sold as mystery books. She found fandom when she lived as a hippie and sf reader in the 60:s. She contacted fans in the area, but did not meet them, and went to her first con in 1974. Then she “had found her home, came home to her tribe”. Morgan agreed that everybody is an sf reader today. Some want to put up the walls of the ghetto again.

Irma Hirsjärvi started to talk about the political aspects of sf fandom, and McBride commented that there is a broad spectrum of political views, but when fans or authors meet they distinctively avoid political discussions since this rapidly leads to feuds. Morgan agreed that fans may be inherently right- or leftwing.

McBride calls American fandom the grandfather of fandom. It gave women freedom to be sf writers. Gay, lesbian and bi are respected in fandom. In a sexist group started in 1989 no broads were allowed. This started a fight because it was against the idea of fandom. However, Morgan had to propose via her boyfriend since then men listens.

Fandom is non-profit, but media fandom may be profit-driven. Members of worldcon committees pay for their memberships, and any profit is transferred to the next worldcon. Finncon is funded by cultural foundations. Cons in the US or the UK are not funded. In the US there is less taxes and no funding of any culture, whereas in the UK taxes are used to support “high” culture like opera, classical music but not sf or pop concerts.

In the fan room: Ahrvid Engholm, ?, Kenneth Lindholm, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Jesper Svedberg

In the fan room: Ahrvid Engholm, ?, Kenneth Lindholm, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Jesper Svedberg

That was the last I saw of the spectacular event called Finncon/Animecon 2009. Together with Carolina I walked to the central station and took the bus to the airport. 


Stockholm 15-17 juni

Västerås 17-18 november

10-11 februari