Posts Tagged 'Jerry Määttä'

Time and Space in Speculative Fiction

Uppsala, April 23, 2013

This academic one-day symposium was organised by Britt-Inger Johansson,  Research Director of ”SALT”, Forum for Advanced Studies in Arts, Languages and Theology at Uppsala Universitet. The symposium took place in the modern, elegant and functional building Blåsenhus and participants were served coffee and lunch. Some thirty people, including four to me known fans, listened to eleven communications in an extremely well-organised and chaired (by Maud Eriksen) event. Abstracts were handed out and were (and are) available on the web-site for the symposium. My only complaints are that some of the papers hardly could be said to deal with the subject matter of the symposium, and possibly in some cases too much time was used to relate the plots instead of analysis.

Phillip Wegner: Detonating New Shockwaves of Possibility: Alternate Histories and the Geopolitical Aesthetics of Ken MacLeod and Iain M. Banks.

The plenary lecture was given by Professor Phillip Wegner from Florida, who was visiting Uppsala. In addition to what is written in the abstract, Wegner talked about variants of alternate history: 1. The nexus story, where the focus is on a crucial point in history (exemplified by Murray Leinster’s “Sideways in Time”). 2. True alternate history – e g “what if the confederacy won”. 3. Parallel world, contemporary with our world. There are of course no clear differences between these, even Leinster’s story can be read as a parallel world story. The discussion of MacLeod’s and Bank’s works is covered in the abstract. In a short history of sf he considered early sf, written during the first two decades of the 20th century, to be modernist literature. With the formation of the pulps it became escapist literature, which ended with the New Wave in the 60’s. He took Bester’s The Stars My Destination as example. The genre has then returned to being an escapist literature, and this is due to Star Wars and economic forces.

Jerry Määttä:  Monuments to Our Ruined Age: The Rhetoric of Ruins in Post-Apocalyptic Narratives.

In this well-illustrated presentation Jerry Määttä divided the remains of an apocalypse into 1. Monuments and famous buildings, like the Eiffel tower or the statue of Liberty, 2. Ruined domestic houses, e g in McCarthy’s The Road, and 3. Ruined infrastructure, i e roads, bridges etc. Post-apocalyptic ruins in sf are often used in a criticism of civilisation, whereas in fantasy they are used to give a background.

Tuomas Kuusniemi: The Time of Tale: Time as Fractal Metaphor in Frank Herbert’s Dune.

The fractal metaphor might be used to describe the different scales of time which are used not only in Herbert’s Dune but in many other literary texts. This should then involve similarities in the plot on various time-scales, but this was not clearly shown in the presentation.

Markku Soikkeli: Time-Travel-Stories and Christian Chronology.

This interesting presentation started with the observation that all stories are actually about travel through time. The omnipresent narrator is similar to a God. Stanislaw Lem used maximal time-loops leading to a fusion of religion and science. Soikkeli gave a reading-list: Karen Hellekson: The Alternate History; Andy Duncan: “Alternate History” (in Cambridge Companion); Michel Foucault: Of Other Spaces; Elana Gomel: Postmodern Science Fiction and Temporal Imagination; Stanislaw Lem: The Time-Travel Story and Related Matters of SF Structuring (in SF Studies).

Daniel Ogden: Disembodied Selves in William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984)

By a description of the characters in Neuromancer, Ogden discussed the similarities between dependence on drugs and on being jacked into a virtual world. The names are part of the cyberpunk setting.

Ingeborg Löfgren: Cavell and Asimov – The Real and the Imagined Human in Philosophy and Literature.

To what extent can artificial humans or robots be used to tell something about real humans? The problem was demonstrated by showing a music video where a robot construct with little more than lips is singing and being very feminine. The story by Asimov, “The Bicentennial Man”, is told from the robots perspective when “he” is mistreated by some “real” humans. We cannot be sceptical to his having a mind. Cavell of the title is the philosopher Stanley Cavell who has discussed these questions in his book The Claim of Reason.

Leila Soikkonen: Confrontations between masculine and feminine in C.L. Moore’s speculative fiction.

Soikkonen is working on her Ph D thesis on C. L. Moore, and it was very interesting to listen to this gender-scientific analysis of her work.

Katja Kontturi: “I can’t seem to change history! I can only help it happen!”: Problems of magical time travel in Don Rosa’s “Of Ducks and Dimes and Destinies”.

This analysis of the time-travel theme in comics about Magica DeSpell and Scrooge McDuck was entertaining and served as a perfect conclusion to the symposium.

There were three more papers, which I did not consider to be related to the theme of the symposium.

Kontrast – Swecon 2012

Uppsala, October 5 – 7, 2012

Swecon in Uppsala was a hotel convention and apart from the worldcon this year it was the first time I stayed at the hotel where the con took place. It was very convenient to be able to fetch and leave things in the room. The hotel, Gillet, was well suited for the convention, although one of the programme rooms was too long. This would not have been a problem if the con had been less of a success. Now it was one of the biggest sf cons in Sweden with about 450 participants.

Linnéa Anglemark selling antiquarian books

I spent a lot of time with the antiquarian sf books of SAAM, the fund in memory of the deceased fan Alvar Appeltofft. This included transportation to and from the hotel and selling books, which was a very nice experience. Many books I sold were books that I had read with pleasure, but I also sold one Gor book by John Norman. I have tried to read one of them but could not stand it. I managed to listen to some panels and talks, when other fans and gophers took over at the desk.

Anders Björkelid, Joe Abercrombie, Linnéa Anglemark, Anna Bark Persson

The first panel I listened to was Fantasy with a twist: new writing in old clothes. Linnéa Anglemark moderated the discussion with Anders Björkelid, Joe Abercrombie, and Anna Bark Persson. I noted down a few comments. It can be satisfying when clichés are turned around in unexpected ways. An example is the elves in Richard Morgan’s fantasy books which have AIs. However, some readers prefer ”feel-good” reading, while others want surprises. There are also readers who try to control the text, saying ” you don’t want to kill N.N.” Fantasy can be used effectively to discuss gender roles, by using other settings than ordinary life. Steven Brust was recommended as a good fantasy author (I have not read him).

Vesa Sisättö, Gavin Grant, Niels Dalgaard, Jerry Määttä, Lise Andreasen

In the panel Science fiction and the future the first question from the moderator Lise Andreasen was whether sf is dying. The panel consisting of Vesa Sisättö, Gavin Grant, Niels Dalgaard, and Jerry Määttä considered that there is more good, hard sf now than ever before. It has always been a minority taste. Examples are Kim Stanley Robinson and Bruce Sterling. In sf it is possible to step back and look at our society, which is hard to do in other kinds of literature. There are always new things to write about and mainstream writers should if anything have less to write about. A problem can be a tendency to write sf about sf – an ingroup kind of literature that might turn away new readers, but mainstream authors do the same. In sf conversation between authors is fairly common, but this can be awesome for the readers.

In Finland there is a tendency just now to write dystopian novels. Regarding post-singularity stories it was said that when you can do anything as an uploaded individual, nothing matters. A question from the audience about animal stories was answered that they have to be antropomorphic to become interesting. An example is Brin’s Uplift series. Interestingly, cat characters appear mainly in fantasy whereas dogs appear in sf stories.

Peter Watts, Kelly Link, Karin Tidbeck, Lise Andreasen, Marianna Leikomaa

The short story and the idea was the title of a panel with Peter Watts, Kelly Link, Karin Tidbeck, and Lise Andreasen, moderated by Marianna Leikomaa. The panel felt that short stories is the place to go to test ideas. Kelly Link does not write novels, and says that in short stories you rely on the reader to fill in. Peter Watts thinks that in a short story you start in the middle of the story. Endings should both be logical and surprising. Some examples given of authors who mainly wrote short stories were James Tiptree, Jr., Fredrik Brown, and Ray Bradbury. To expand a short story into a novel is fairly common in sf, and it can work. Karin Tidbeck tells that Amatka started as a dream, then was a poem and finally a novel.

The audience was asked if they wrote short stories, and about half raised their hands. This surprised me but was about the same as at Chicon 7.

Niels Dalgaard

In Niels Dalgaard’s Guest of Honour Speech he talked about his 38 years in fandom, which started when he read Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles in Danish. This did something to him. He also entered a competition in an sf book with the first prize being a travel to the moon. When he went to cons he was impressed by the easy accessibility of sf authors, e g he talked with Arthur C. Clarke at the Brighton worldcon in 1969. He has had an academic career in sf, with a Ph D and teaching sf at the University of Copenhagen. Since its start he has been very active in SF Cirklen and been the editor of its fanzine Proxima and published many books. He told about a schism in Danish fandom during the last decade, mainly between those who like himself are purists and only are interested in hard, written sf and those who are also interested in fantasy, horror, films and tv series. He thinks that fandom as it was in the 60’s does not exist any more. I do not agree and remember that already in the 50’s and 60’s many fans were interested in films and fantasy – actually the Tolkien society in Sweden was founded by sf fans.

Nene Ormes gave an Introduction to Steampunk, and when I came into the room she was just showing a list of classic steampunk: Moorcock’s The Warlord of the Air, Sterling & Gibson’s The Difference Engine, and Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. In the “new wave” she listed Gail Carriger’s Soulless, Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, and Gordon Dahlquist’s The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters. She also mentioned comic books by Bryan Talbot, The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and Grandville. Steampunk culture consists of clothes, DIY & modding, music, artists & makers, steam songs, and meetings (e g Burning Man). We were shown an mp3 player modded by Anna Davour. Clockwork insects are also popular. Steampunk in film and tv are e g The Prestige, Laputa, Warehouse 13, and Wild Wild West (from 1999).

Nene defines steampunk as aesthetics that mixes technofantasy, neovictorianism, and retrofuturism. It is as if sf had been written before the Victorian era and shows the future. She recommends where there is “the great steampunk timeline” and the site “the steampunk scholar”.

Jerry Määttä

Under the title Why do we like the end of the world? Jerry Määttä talked about catastrophes and showed some clips from films where a single human is surviving: I am legend, 28 days later. He thinks that these show what it is to be human. In Sweden this autumn there have been quite a few books about catastrophes, like Jesper Weithz’ Det som inte växer är döende (What is not growing is dying) and Mikael Niemi’s Fallvatten (Water from falls). He recommended an essay by Susan Sontag on the lure of apocalypses, The Imagination of Disaster. She considers it to be a substitute for religion.

The tulip bubble in the 17th century was similar to the IT bubble, and inspired painters to still lifes with craniums, “memento mori”.

The tv series Life after people was characterized as apocalypse pornography.

Johan Jönsson, Sara Stridh, Anna Davour, Peter Watts, Torill Kornfeldt

Science fiction and the scientist was a very rewarding panel where the panelists demonstrated their different opinions. Johan Jönsson moderated the Ph D student Sara Stridh who was studying kidney function, Anna Davour who has abandoned research in physics and works as science journalist at the radio, Torill Kornfeldt who also was a science journalist but a former biologist, and the author GoH Peter Watts who had also been a biologist.

Having been a scientist might influence the style, since science writing is devoid of style. It should be clear, but on the other hand it should also impress fellow scientists, so that when you do not understand you should suspect that the author is smarter than yourself. When writing sf you have to know enough of the subject so that it doesn’t show, otherwise you might think that you are imaginative when you suggest something that has been known for long. If you know your field you will also know the present questions. On the other hand too much knowledge might hamper your imagination, and scientists who write sf seldom succeed when they write about their specialist area, e g when Alastair Reynolds writes about neutron stars. A couple of cool ideas outside the author’s expert field that were mentioned were the visualisation of virtual reality as space in Gibson’s Neuromancer, the presence of different constants in different parts of the universe in Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, and Delany’s brain-computer interfaces in the 60’s.

In sf the universe follows laws, whereas fantasy has another attitude. Star Wars is fantasy. Sf is driven by curiosity whereas fantasy rests upon faith.

A good book about science and how it works is Bellwether by Connie Willis. I completely agree and I think that it is her most entertaining book.

Jerry Määttä (far to the left due to a cold), John-Henri Holmberg, Niels Dalgaard,
Mats Linder

As I looked through the programme for Kontrast I had problems to understand what the panel The Contrarians would be about. Was it global warming contrarians? This was not the case, and the panel instead discussed authors and critics who had criticised the present view and execution of sf. Mats Linder led the panel discussion which at first only was between Niels Dalgaard and Jerry Määttä, since John-Henri Holmberg had been delayed. According to Jerry, being contrarian is quite mainstream in sf, and many sf writers have been contrarian at some point. Niels pointed to the new wave writers who were also political contrarians, being more left-wing. He considered Barry Malzberg to have behaved badly when he wrote rude things about other authors, and he mentioned Stanislaw Lem who was thrown out of SFWA after having said nasty things about all US authors except Philip K. Dick. In Thomas Disch’s The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of sf authors are criticised for not letting sf live up to its potential; he saw mental laziness in other authors.

Jerry pointed out that the canons are different inside and outside the sf community: Heinlein is a major author inside, while Delany, Dick and LeGuin are major authors outside. John-Henri added that Bradbury was appreciated outside the sf world when he under a short period did his good stuff. Jerry, who has studied Wyndham, thinks that he was contrarian in his time by e g trying to reach woman readers, but Ballard and Aldiss were at least initially critical. In Denmark Bradbury was a “gateway drug” for many fans and he was published in slick magazines.

According to John-Henri Kim Stanley Robinson writes traditional sf, and he thinks that today’s contrarians may be John Varley, Allan Steele, and Joe Haldeman. They try to recreate the feeling that they got when they were teenagers. Heinlein was a contrarian who reoriented sf, and even during his late period he was contrarian when writing about aging and sex.

John-Henri considered that cyberpunk also was a result of a wish to relive the teenage period. The manifesto written by Sterling is actually a parody. Niels considered it unwise to write manifestos on what other authors should write, as exemplified by the mundane manifesto by Geoff Ryman. He also criticised steampunk for being alternate history that is hardly contrarian and rather escape literature, although it sometimes is feminist. John-Henri does not see much interesting now. The 70’s were enormously dramatic, with female writers coming in and gender issues being discussed.

Karin Waller, Mats Strandberg, Sara Bergmark Elfgren, Nene Ormes, Ola Skogäng

Fantastic literature set in Sweden of today was discussed in a panel consisting of Karin Waller from the Science Fiction Book Shop in Malmö, the authors of the popular Cirkeln (The Circle) Mats Strandberg and Sara Bergmark Elfgren, Nene Ormes who has just published the sequel to her Udda verklighet (Odd Reality), and the comic book author Ola Skogäng. The magic city Engelsfors in Cirkeln and its sequels is a mixture of the Swedish town Fagersta and the tv series Twin Peaks. It is a depressed small city. The Sweden in these books is “here and in a time just passed”. Popular music, facebook and technical gadgets are avoided since they can rapidly be outdated. The authors think that it is better to include older music and techniques.

Udda verklighet takes place in Malmö with only minor changes. There are a lot of alleys and gargoyles. In Ola Skogäng’s comic books the main character is a big bear, and the setting is a twisted Stockholm with mummies, werewolves and vampires. He lives in Enköping which is boring. The readers like that the stories take place in Stockholm, but the editor wanted the setting to be New York instead.

Naturally there were awards ceremonies, and the sound expert of many cons, Jonas Wissting, got the Alvar. There were also a release party for new books by Karin Tidbeck and the GoHs Joe Abercrombie and Kelly Link, and the hotel had an excellent bar providing beer. Since I was busy packing up the unsold books I missed the closing ceremony where the head of the Fantastika 2013 committee, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf received the spirit of Swecon for release on October 18 in Sickla in the Stockholm area. However, after delivering the books I returned and had a good time in the dead-dog party at Pipes of Scotland.

Kontrast 2012 was an excellent con with a broad programme where a lot of fans seemed to have a very good time. The committee can really be proud!

Science fiction-dag på Tekniska museet

Stockholm, 10 december 2011

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

Musiken i sf

Jörgen Städje

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

John Wyndham och det brittiska imperiets undergång

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

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

Jerry Määttä

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

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

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

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

Martin Rundkvist

Epokernas kamp

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

Från spel till roman

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

Erik Granström och Anders Blixt

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


Genesis/Nemesis – a game of world creation

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

Vad händer nu inom sf och fantasy

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

Eurocon 2011

Stockholm, June 17-19, 2011

Eurocon 2011 was the first Eurocon in Sweden, and the largest ever Swedish sf convention with 746 members from 33 countries. There have been quite many con reports already on the web and in fanzines, but I have assembled some of my own accounts of panels and interviews. Since I was a member of the con committee I was fairly busy and could not listen to more than a few of the programme items.

Kurser och seminarieserier om fantastik (Courses and seminar series on science fiction and fantasy)

Anna Åberg, Stefan Ekman (moderator), Anna Höglund, Kristina Hård, Maria Nilson, Jerry Määttä

Anna Höglund ger kurser i skräck och fantasy vid Linnéuniversitetet. Hon berättade att kvalitetskravet var samma oberoende av vilka författare som behandlas och alltså oavsett gengre. På hennes kurser blir kraven snarast högre. Jerry Määttä instämde, studenterna hade blivit chockade över de höga kraven på en sommarkurs om fantasy i Växjö. Kraven i Uppsala är för höga eftersom studenterna upplevde att de ändå inte fick någon prestige av att gå en kurs om sf.

Sf-författaren Kristina Hård som både gått kurs och undervisar i Lund berättade att det ekonomiska onekligen spelar in och då är det en fördel med distanskurser som kan klara av många studenter. Genusvetaren Maria Nilson vid Linnéuniversitetet ansåg att det var självklart att ha en kurs i feministisk sf på hennes institution, och kurser inom populärkultur motiveras med att de ger ekonomiska förutsättningar för forskning inom området. Dessutom är kurserna motiverade genom att något i samhället gör att området intresserar, och då bör universitetet svara på behovet.

Anna Åberg från KTH berättade att studenterna där är mycket ambitiösa och inser hur otroligt viktig populärkulturen är för att ge folk i allmänhet deras världsbild. Jerry Määttä smyger in The Time Machine i litteraturlistan när han undervisar svensklärare. Det är effektivare än att ge kurser.

Kurslitteraturen varierar kraftigt mellan olika kurser. Kristina Hård använder länkar på nätet medan kurser i feministisk sf har teoretisk litteratur av Haraway och i narratologi. På sf-kursen i Uppsala krävdes att man läste 15 romaner med tonvikt på 50-talets sf, samt två kursböcker, Adam Roberts Science fiction och The Cambridge Companion, senare utbytt till The Routledge Companion som Jerry ansåg vara bättre.

I Uppsala händer det mycket just nu; sf kommer in i andra kurser som t ex i ekokritik. Samtidigt kan karriärvägarna vara ett hinder genom att det i Uppsala krävs att man först är en seriös litteraturvetare. På KTH saknas kontinuitet och för det krävs att kursen kommer in i ett program. Vid Linnéuniversitetet ökar man legitimiteten genom att ha magisterstudenter i vampyr och makt. Anna Höglund startar ett nätverk för forskare inom skräck och fantasy.

Guest of Honour Interview: Elizabeth Bear talks to Nene Ormes

Elizabeth Bear, Nene Ormes

The interview was recorded for television by UR/Kunskapskanalen, and those doing it were not satisfied with the beginning so Nene Ormes had to do a restart, which was bad for the flow. Nene started by telling that she is one of Bear’s fan girls and that she was impressed by the large number of works that Elizabeth Bear had produced, amounting to 16 novels and 60 short stories.

The Jenny Casey trilogy started as a duology. Much of the story takes place in Canada, where readers were excited to be noted. Jenny Casey is an Iroqui-Canadian. Elizabeth Bear started writing these books in the mid 90s. About Carnival with its world New Amazonia she said that it is what would result if you put Joanna Russ and Robert Heinlein in a box until they fight. And that anybody’s utopia is someone else’s hell.

Her fantasy series The Promethean Age is actually two duologies and Nene would rather label them secret histories. They were conceived at a boring dinner that she had to partake in with her then faculty spouse. It is based on the concept that the Shakespeare dramas were actually written by Edward deVere. There may come more volumes in this series.

The New Amsterdam series is steampunk for girls according to Elizabeth Bear. Seven for a Secret takes place in 1937 and Germany has occupied England, and The White City takes place before. She does not want to use the label alternate history where one thing turned out differently. She wrote one story of six pages which nearly killed her because you have to think too much. She prefers the term contrafactual which is less rigorous.

Elizabeth Bear tells that she climbs, runs, practices yoga and also is into fencing and archery. Besides writing stories on paper she participates in writing hyperfiction online with a group called Shadow Unit. The other members are Emma Bull, Sarah Monette and Will Shatterley. Together with Sarah Monette she has published A Companion to Wolves, about mad people who binds with wolves, and two other novels in that series.

The interesting Jacob’s Ladder trilogy was only mentioned as being a mixture of fantasy and sf, whereas Nene praised the poetic language of the Emma of Burden series. This was the first book she wrote but it was too weird according to her publisher. The middle book was written first, then the prequel and finally the sequel. She often works in this nonlinear way when she constructs her stories.

Feminist SF

Panel description: Female sf authors started to write about gender roles in the 60s and 70s. Were there any predecessors? Which books are most representative for the subgenre feminist sf? Which have survived best, and which authors write feminist sf today? Do male and female readers differ in their preferences for sf? John-Henri Holmberg (JHH), Amanda Downum (AD), Maria Nilson (MN), Klaus  Mogensen (KM), Anders Qvist (moderator) (AQ).

The panel description was written at a time when Ulrika von Knorring had accepted to be on the panel. She has written an essay, Not embarrassed to read science fiction. Women reading science fiction. Unfortunately she could not come to Eurocon 2011. At the start of the discussion the guest of honour Elizabeth Bear (EB) accepted an invitation from the moderator to sit on the panel.

I could not listen to the discussion, but have instead listened to the recording done by Jonas Wissting. The following is just a summary of the names of specific books and authors.

MN: Gilman’s Herland, Piercy’s He, She and It and LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. (Used in her course on feminist sf.) Doris Lessing.

JHH: Ursula LeGuin, Joanna Russ.

AD: Caitlín R. Kiernan, Catherynne M. Valente.

EB: Suzy McKee Charnas, her own Carnival (Response to Charnas’ books.)

KM: Ursula LeGuin, Doris Piserchia, Sheri S. Tepper.

AD: C. J. Cherryh: The Pride of Chanur. (Lions in space, females do all the hard work and males are delicate.)

EB: Early works: C. L. Moore, André Norton, Leigh Brackett (“No Woman Born”).

KM: First feminist sf: Aristophanes’ Lysistrate.

MN: Around 1900: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Mary Bradley Lane.

EB: Mary Wollstonecraft, feminist and mother of Mary Shelley. Signs of that in Frankenstein.

JHH: Simone de Beauvoir, feminism in Europe, Betty Friedan in USA.

MN: Donna Haraway, feminist philosopher collaborating with Joanna Russ.

KM: Strong female characters doesn’t make it feminist sf: Books about Honor Harrington and Anita Blake are not feminist.

EB: Nalo Hopkinson.

MN: Scott Westerfeld, Justina Robson.

JHH: Carol Emshwiller.

EB: Geoff Ryman: Air, Unconquered Countries.

AQ: Joan Slonczewski.

EB: Lois McMaster Bujold (how childbearing dominates). Feminist?

MN: Marge Piercy.

EB: Melissa Scott: Shadowman. Vonda N. McIntyre: Dreamsnake.

JHH: Nicola Griffith. Fabulous heroine and same-sex relations described as totally normal.

MN: Justina Robson’s Quantum Leap stories, about power.

EB: Tricia Sullivan: Maul.

And of course the panel missed a lot, e g James Tiptree, Jr. A good site is

Women, Men and Neuters in SF and Fantasy

Panel description: SF and fantasy allow testing of male and female roles, and have also been used to discuss the biology and sociology of sex. The Tiptree Award is one example of how important this use of sf/f is. Another example is neuter characters in stories, which both Elizabeth Bear and Ian McDonald have used. Which queer sf and fantasy stories have been most important and innovative and which should we read today? What authors are most representative today? Johan Jönsson, Kristina Knaving, Ian McDonald, Elizabeth Bear, Cheryl Morgan, Kari Sperring. (moderator).

Cheryl Morgan has kindly put a recording of this panel on her website, see

Johan Jönsson, Cheryl Morgan, Elizabeth Bear, Kristina Knaving, Ian McDonald, Kari Sperring

After the introduction of the panel members the moderator Kari Sperring started with the observation that although sf is considered to be a literature of the mind it is often used to explore the physical and psychological limitations of the body. How has sf changed in this respect from the masculine Gernsback era to now when we have e g Justina Robson, Hal Duncan and Elizabeth Bear who look at gender as a continuum and at the body as something that is infinitely malleable?

Cheryl Morgan recommended Bear’s Jacob’s Ladder series, where a transhuman future is described and genders exist but are much more fluid than now. Bear borrowed an idea from Vonda McIntyre (Dreamsnake), where a person has no pronoun. Our language genders everything. Interestingly, this is not the case in Chinese and in Finnish where the sex is not noticed in the language like it is in most other languages. Kristina Knaving points out that in The Left Hand of Darkness “he” is used throughout, but in the addendum The Winter’s King LeGuin uses “she” instead. Even if it is the same universe you get an entirely different view. On the other hand there are five genders in Melissa Scott’s Shadowman. In Delany’s Triton there is a colossal number of genders, and ordinary slime molds have 573 genders.

Until the early sixties we had a binary set of genders in sf and fantasy. Delany was openly gay in the 60s, which is much easier today. Homosexuality is the topic of Hal Duncan’s The Sodomite, and Ian McDonald’s Brasyl contains homosexuality which is usually not noted. Heinlein’s Friday, which actually contains a nice gay man, is in many ways terrible. As Cheryl Morgan has noted in an essay it can be read as a metaphor for trans people. John Varley’s Steel Beach is an example of failure to describe trans people. It is obvious that he had not met trans people and had to guess how they react and live.

Elizabeth Bear’s Carnival has tropes from the 60s/70s, and the story shows that gender has no relation to the capacity for violence.

Other stories of interest that were mentioned are Kelly Eskridge’s Mars stories, where the gender of the character Mars is never revealed, Mary Gentle’s Ilario that contains a hermaphrodite, and Carl Jonas Love Almqvist’s Drottningens juvelsmycke (The Queen’s Tiara) with the androgynous Tintomara.

Impressions from some other programme items

Elizabeth Bear

In her Guest of Honour Speech, Elizabeth Bear stressed the importance of wide views. We have a golden age now, which could be called the rainbow era, where a multitude of different voices can be heard. It is important that both the literature and its fandom are inclusive.

In the panel Myths in SF and Fantasy Elizabeth Bear told that she gets inspiration from myths, and she is not retelling but takes archetypes and tropes. She is not interested in the Greek myths.

M D Lachlan describes the collision between Viking and Christian religions, and for Ian McDonald it is important how mythology underpins the characters. Indians know their mythology much more than Westerners. Zelazny has used a quasi-Hindu mythology in his sf and celtic myths in the Amber series.

There are also modern myths, like James Bond and Buck Rogers, and films can use myths in a dangerous way as exemplified by the persecution of non-Scots in Scotland after the release of Braveheart.

Vampire panel: Karoliina Leikomaa (moderator), Elizabeth Bear, Kristina Hård, Anna Höglund, Anna-Liisa Auramo, Stig W. Jørgensen

The panel The Changing Image of the Vampire concluded that it is the monster with a thousand faces, that is different in different eras. They have symbolized how it is to let go of someone who has died, which collides with the modern sexually oriented interpretation. They are by-products of the society but are not a part of it.

The vampire myth is based on a Christian taboo against drinking blood, which is stated in the Bible. Interestingly eternal life is connected to drinking blood in Christianity.

Another taboo is that against sexuality which dominates the myth in Victorian times. This taboo is motivated by the risks connected to pregnancy. Today sexuality is not evil any longer, and this change can be seen by comparing Dracula with True Blood.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is actually a modern novel that can be read as urban fantasy. Other good vampire stories are those by Anne Rice. It is important that you can identify with the vampire, who is an outsider.

Att skriva fantastik för barn och unga (Writing sf and fantasy for children and young adults)

Mattias Lönnebo, Niklas Krog, Pia Cronholm, Sara Bergmark Elfgren

Detta referat bygger helt på Margaretas anteckningar, eftersom jag inte kunde vara där och lyssna.

Panelens moderator bibliotekarien Pia Cronholm inledde med att fråga om det finns särskilda villkor för att skriva för barn och unga, och om man ser sin publik på idéstadiet eller om det växer fram under skrivandet.

Mattias Lönnebo censurerar sig nog litet och använder enklare ord; försöker skriva roligt. Också läsa lätt-böcker läses av barn. Lotta Olivecrona försöker tänka på vad hon gillade i den åldern. Hon skriver utifrån egna erfarenheter och vill visa att hon tar ungas problem på allvar även om hon har distans till dem.

Förlagen har tydliga målgrupper, 10-12-åringar, 15+ osv. Pia frågar om boken verkligen måste vara kort, Harry Potter klämdes ju av nybörjare. Kan det vara så att man misstror barnen? Har förlagen krav? Bonnier Carlsen anger 10000 ord, 124 sidor och bild på vartannat uppslag. För 15+ ska böckerna vara på 500-600 sidor. Astrid Lindgren har inget tillrättalagt språk men det har ju fungerat ändå.

Illustrationerna kan behövas för att måla upp världen. Det kan också vara avskräckande med knökfull text. Det går inte att bara skriva miljö utan det behövs bilder eller spännande händelser som ger miljön på köpet. Egentligen är det bättre att barnen använder sin egen fantasi.

Bokens början är viktig, särskilt för barn. Det kan vara bra att börja med något läskigt för att sätta tonen. Det kan också vara bra med en smygande stegrad spänning. Andra knep är flash forward och dröm. Beskrivningen ska vara tillräcklig för att läsaren ska kunna skapa egna bilder men helst inte mer.

Måste det vara en trilogi? Är det Sagan om ringen som lagt mönstret? Man vill inte överge en värld man byggt upp. Karaktärerna kan utvecklas. Det är synd att skrota allt efter en bok!

Den engelska fantasylitteraturen har blivit mörkare ̶ gäller det också svenska böcker, är de dystopier? Traditionellt ska en saga ha ett lyckligt slut, hur är det i Sverige? Nej, lyckliga slut var ett 1800-talsfenomen. Sagorna var tillrättalagda då. Många av dagens författare har läst vuxenböcker i genren och de är ofta hemska. Sorgliga slut sitter kvar längre, de blir ett sätt att sätta intryck. Det är en utmaning att skapa hopp i eländet.

Det finns också genrehybrider där man blandar realism och fantasi. Det övernaturliga kan vara en bra klangbotten i den grå vardagen. Man blandar också sf och fantasy, vilket ibland kallas science fantasy.

Som författare tycker man att man har ansvar för läsarna. Man måste ta hand om karaktärernas känslor. Barn är väldigt känsliga för ironi och oväntade slut. Det måste gå att gissa eller förstå. Varning för “and it was all a dream”!

Eurocon 2023 Uppsala 8-11 juni

Dieselverkstaden, Sickla 13-14/8 2022