Posts Tagged 'Flemming Rasch'

Fantasticon 2013

Valby, Denmark,  September 7-8, 2013

Opening: Karin Tidbeck, Nene Ormes, Tricia Sullivan

Opening: Karin Tidbeck, Nene Ormes, Tricia Sullivan

Organizers: Jesper Rugård Jensen and Lars Ahn Pedersen

Organizers: Jesper Rugård Jensen and Lars Ahn Pedersen

Fantasticon this year was an intimate and well organized convention in one floor of the building used for the Eurocon in 2007. Since I have been pretty busy with our own convention, Fantastika 2013, some time has passed since the con and the memories are now a bit vague. I listened to some panels in Danish but sadly I have big problems to understand it when spoken.

Thomas Winther, Henrik Harksen, Jakob Friis Andersen

Thomas Winther, Henrik Harksen, Jakob Friis Andersen

Still, I listened to the panel Lovecraft på Dansk (Lovecraft in Danish), with Jakob Friis Andersen, Henrik Harksen and Thomas Winther. I had heard Henrik before, Jakob had translated At the Mountains of Madness and Thomas produces a fanzine about Lovecraft. Should the science be that of the 30’s or should it be altered based on what is known today? It was considered better to have an explanation at the end, as for example regarding the bluff with the Piltdown man.

Bjarne Sinkjær, Asbjörn Rune Bourgeat, Toke Riis Ebbesen, Sven Damgaard Ørnstrup

Bjarne Sinkjær, Asbjörn Rune Bourgeat, Toke Riis Ebbesen, Sven Damgaard Ørnstrup

I read Danish fairly well and was thus interested in the panel Ny dansk fantasy (New Danish fantasy). In this panel Bjarne Sinkjær interviewed some authors. Avalons arm by Svend Damgaard Ørnstrup was defined as “English fantasy”, Natdværgen (The Night Dwarf) by Asbjørn Rune Bourgeat was said to be YA crossover sf/fantasy and is the first part of a trilogy, and Toke Riis Ebbesen was not yet published if I understood correctly. In the discussion fantasy was said to be the dominating way of telling a story, and the power play is of interest since it demonstrates what happens when you have power.

Tricia Sullivan

Tricia Sullivan

Tricia Sullivan, Klaus Æ. Mogensen

Tricia Sullivan, Klaus Æ. Mogensen

I was very happy that Tricia Sullivan was Guest of Honour since I greatly admire her novels and did not visit Åcon this year where she was. The interview was conducted by Klaus Æ. Mogensen. She is interested in the duality between mind and body, identity, and transformations. Now she studies physics, which is unusual for women. She has also experienced sexism in publishing – men are more confident. The 70’s and 80’s were a better time for woman writers. She has written fantasy as Valery Leith, and the reason for this is that she wanted to be free – sf is more rigorous. The publisher wanted another name than that used for sf. Moving to UK enabled her to write about USA, which she does in Lightborn. This novel is not about the future; it has the same cultural references as today but she has put a novel technology into it. In Double Vision there is some martial arts, but she does not believe that it is of any use against sexual harassments. She does not write short stories since that is harder for her.

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Karin Tidbeck, Michael Kamp, Henrik Harksen

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Karin Tidbeck, Michael Kamp, Henrik Harksen

One of the organizers, Lars Ahn Pedersen, moderated the panel Writing in English, that had to be moved to another room when a rock concert started just outside the window. Karin Tidbeck felt that she had to switch to get published, and she thought that there are some benefits to come from a non-English speaking country – Sweden is hot right now. The time at Clarion meant everything for her career, you need someone to read your stuff if it is not your own language. Still, translating is hard since the language is “hardwired” into us; there is a lot of cultural baggage in our words. Some concepts are really hard, as e g “Dansband”. She tries to retain a Scandinavian flavour in her texts. She ends by saying that you have to manage your own language first. Henrik Harksen writes in English since he reads horror in English and gets his ideas there. He has tried to get published in English but almost gave up after several rejections. He now sends his texts to friendly writers to get feedback, and has recently managed to get published. Michael Kamp had similar experiences; he also writes horror which is a narrow field. He writes in English and pays an editor to go line-by-line.

Majbrit Høyrup, Nene Ormes, Tricia Sullivan, Karin Tidbeck

Majbrit Høyrup, Nene Ormes, Tricia Sullivan, Karin Tidbeck

With female Guests of Honour it might seem unnecessary to have a panel called The women men don’t see, but with Majbrit Høyrup as moderator the discussion was revealing and rewarding. Tricia Sullivan started by mentioning an interesting author I haven’t read, Sophia McDougall, who “hates strong female characters”, which are cardboard cut-outs. All the smurfs have lots of character except the female one – it is enough that she is female. George RR Martin has recommended that authors should think of women as humans. According to Karin Tidbeck it has more status to read stories with male heroes. She was discouraged to read stories with female characters. When Tricia Sullivan wrote with “female gaze” instead of “male gaze” she was accused of homosexual writing. She also pointed out that when writing in historic settings you have to consider that the sources are written by men. Nene Ormes pointed out that there is male imaging at all times. The female British authors Tricia Sullivan, Liz Williams and Jaine Fenn were said to sell too little, and Justina Robson to be struggling.

This panel was very interesting and has been the subject of much debate after the con. There was a similar panel at Fantastika 2013 but I have not seen that it led to any similar debate. And unfortunately I did not listen to that panel.

At the dinner I and Margareta shared a table with Maybrit Høyrup and Bente Riis from the club Science Fiction Cirklen. They very kindly moved to us since we were alone, and we had a very nice time with them. At the morning coffee Tricia Sullivan came over to our table and I could tell her that I am a great fan.

Martin Schjønning, Liz Jensen

Martin Schjønning, Liz Jensen

Liz Jensen was interviewed by Martin Schjønning. She said that novels should not be propaganda vehicles, but voyages of discovery – “what if”. There is a futuristic style in The Rapture and her latest, The Uninvited. She uses a first person narrator; this “gets her away from being me”. In The Uninvited she has to be an anthropologist with Asperger’s, which is an exercise in perception.

SF is optimistic, even if there is an eco-catastrophe. If you have children you have to be optimistic. Still, we live in interesting times, with nasty but necessary shortcuts in GMO and nuclear power. The near future is far more interesting than now or history. For inspiration she reads a lot, newspapers, Google etc. In The Rapture there is a mixture of science and supernatural which she considers could be possible. The precognition in the novel could be similar to the feelings that animals have before an earthquake. Personally I had problems with that aspect in the novel which I otherwise liked.

Being a journalist she has learnt how to structure a story, and she is not shy to go to people for help. Especially scientists are very open.

Her first three novels were comedies, and she has also written satire and love stories. The Rapture and The Univited are parts of a loose trilogy. As influences she mentions Ballard, Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Huxley (The Doors of Perception), H G Wells, and Cormac McCarthy (The Road). And she says that you should trust “the boys in the basement”, the subconscious.

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Karin Tidbeck

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Karin Tidbeck

The Swedish Guest of Honour Karin Tidbeck was interviewed by Lars Ahn Pedersen. She tells that after five weeks at Clarion her stories were longer, more like the American ones. Her stories were exotic and fresh to the Americans. Her novel Amatka has a peculiar history: She started by writing down her dreams, and mapped the place she visited in them. She wrote short prose pieces which were converted to poetry, part of which has appeared in the Swedish journal Lyrikvännen. When Catharina Wrååk at the publishing company Mix asked her for a novel she wrote Amatka in two months, based on the poetry. One question in the novel is “Is it always correct to revolt, even if you hurt other people?” The world that is described was colonized in the ‘70s, with that atmosphere.

She teaches creative writing, especially sf and fantasy, and this makes her consider how she writes. Fantasy and sf are to a large extent heteronormative and she tries to change this.

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Peter Adolphsen, Tricia Sullivan, Karin Tidbeck

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Peter Adolphsen, Tricia Sullivan, Karin Tidbeck

The industrious Lars Ahn Pedersen moderated the final panel about Mixing Genres. Karin Tidbeck told that she writes without thinking of genres, but she can play with the tropes in them. Tricia Sullivan felt that there are now more mixed genres, which she finds liberating. Peter Adolphsen mentioned P K Dick and Svend Åge Madsen as writers of stories in mixed genres. A recent example was Nina Allan’s The Silver Wind, which has an introduction by Tricia Sullivan.

Bjarne Sinkjær, Gudrun Østergaard, Flemming Rasch

Bjarne Sinkjær, Gudrun Østergaard, Flemming Rasch

My wife Margareta made some notes at the programme items I missed. Thus, she listened to Bjarne Sinkjær interviewing Flemming Rasch and Gudrun Østergaard. Flemming has now published his first book in many years, a short story collection “from the drawer”. Several of the stories are humorous. Gudrun says that she is new to the genre – she did not understand until 2002 that she wrote sf. She uses sf for social criticism because she sees sf to give good models by shifting the perspective from the present although that is what she actually writes about. Flemming also thinks that what he writes is in a way social criticism. They both find it harder to surprise the reader today, and consider most so called sf films not to be sf, they just show airships and space pistols.

When asked how they work Gudrun told that she writes down her ideas but most often starts with a description of a mood, then the story goes on by itself. Flemming only writes short stories but he has a plot before he starts, and he changes a lot in rewriting. They think that editors are important, but mainly for improving the language and they also point out characters which have to be better described. The readers today do not accept impossible technology, and sf is more demanding than e g The Da Vinci Code, it has to be sharper, and cut threads which are not good enough. Right now Flemming writes a humorous story set in the far future, whereas Gudrun is in the process of “interviewing” her characters for a new book.

The philosopher and Batman expert Carsten Fogh Nielsen talked about Superheroes and Philosophy. Comics with superheroes have been attacked both with the argument that they are dangerous for the young, and the argument that they are just entertainment. However, art is always a lie since no depiction is complete. As soon as something is popular the elite is horrified – this will destroy society and democracy! Later on it is considered harmless and mild, and then it may be incorporated in the culture, e g that drawers of comics make fine art. And suddenly it is considered that the superheroes maintain the law and protects society against evil.

Liz Jensen, Tricia Sullivan, Tomas Cronholm

Liz Jensen, Tricia Sullivan, Tomas Cronholm

Flemming Rasch moderated the panel about Science in Fiction, with Tricia Sullivan, Liz Jensen and me. The original reasons for science in sf, as proposed by Gernsback, was for education and for prediction. This is not the reason today; it is rather the stimulating effect, the sense of wonder that can be achieved. Tricia Sullivan has been an author for 20 years. Perhaps she writes more fantasy but she wants to include science, and she feels a pressure to be correct when she writes about science. Liz Jensen says that she uses and abuses science, and she does not want to be completely wrong and be revealed as ignorant, but she has no performance anxiety. She is married to a scientist and has two children who also are scientists.

Do readers know enough science to understand the science in the literature? It has to be believable even if you do not have to understand, and science is so important in society today that it would be strange if it was missing in any literature. Media and literature also drive the interest; forensic science became hot after application in a tv series. Old sf is mechanic, it is more complicated today and much that was predicted has become reality.

Utopias were often based on science, but today dystopias are written which show how dangerous science can be. Still, it is sad that there are so many dystopias for young – why not more about the possibilities? Lots of science is missed by the genre, like e g neuroscience.

Science in fiction does not have to be true, thus FTL travel is common in sf. It has to be distinguished from magic where it not even has to be made plausible. There is a contract between the reader and the writer – any scenario is acceptable but you have to stick to it.

Liz Jensen tells that she checks the facts with scientists. There is a problem with writing about environmental problems – they develop so slowly! Actually this is the same problem as with real space ships.

There are stories set in scientific environments as e g laboratories, and there is a website dealing with this kind of literature. Connie Willis and Gregory Benford have written sf set in believable research institutions.

You do not read sf to learn science, that is better done by reading non-fiction. There have been attempts to use sf stories in the classroom, but there is a danger of killing the pleasure of reading. The two authors deny that there is any educational perspective in their writing. However, the stories may help in looking at the world in new ways.

When we were in Copenhagen we also visited some museums. In the Design Museum I was fascinated by an illustrated book, and by an email exchange with an employee there, Anja Lollesgaard, I was informed that the pictures were done by the Russian artist and architect Iakov Chernikhov, and his futuristic visions can be seen on the web. Some of them remind me of Piranesi.

Finally, thanks to the organizers, and to Henrik Harksen and Martin Schjønning for corrections to the text above.

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Chicon 7 / 70th Worldcon

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

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park

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

My mirror image in the Cloud Gate

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

View from Hancock Center

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

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

Philosophy and Science Fiction

Sandra M. Grayson, Deb Geisler, Dale Cozort

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

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

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

SF Scene in Europe

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

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

The Exploration of Gender Roles in Science Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you a Dickhead?

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

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

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

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

The Bob and Connie Show

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

The Art of Writing Effective Book Reviews

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

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

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

Jo Walton Reading

Jo Walton

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

Filling the Magazines

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

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

Evil in Lovecraft and Tolkien

Philip Kaveny, Jan Bogstad

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

Carolyn Ives Gilman Reading

Carolyn Ives Gilman

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

Looking Back 70 Years in Fandom

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

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

Last Man Standing: Frederik Pohl

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

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

Why Fantasy Dominates Science Fiction

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret History of Science Fiction

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

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

Science Fiction in China

Ruhan Zhao, Yan Wu, Jan Bogstad, Emily Jiang

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

Medical Myths and Errors Perpetuated by Genre Writers

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

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

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

Collaborations

Charles Stross, Eric Flint

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

The Future Evolution of the Short Story

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

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

Victorian and Edwardian Science Fiction

Matthew Bernardo, DDavid Malki, Randy Smith

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

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

Getting it Right: Religions

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

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

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

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

Incorporating the Personal into Speculative Fiction

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

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

Myth and Religion in SF&F

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

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

Magic Realism vs. Traditional Fantasy

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

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

Erle Korshak

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

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

Peter de Weerdt, Tommy Persson

Alice Hedenlund and The Carrot Cake

Anders Hedenlund continuing on The Carrot Cake, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf

Fantasticon 2012

Copenhagen, Denmark, June 1-3, 2012

Klaus Æ. Mogensen

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

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

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

Niels Dalgaard, Jesper Rugård Jensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Ellen Datlow

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

Tatiana Goldberg

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

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

Knud Larn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alastair Reynolds, Niels Dalgaard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henrik Harksen

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

Alastair Reynolds, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Ellen Datlow

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

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

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

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.

 

 


Swecon i Stockholm 15-17 juni

Västerås 17-18 november