Posts Tagged 'Johan Anglemark'

Confetti 2014

Göteborg, 4-6 april 2014

Club Cosmos är den äldsta sf-klubben i Sverige, och dess 60-årsjubileum firades med en intim och trevlig kongress i Gamlestadens medborgarhus. Kongressen hade en engelsk hedersgäst, John Meaney, men eftersom det mesta försiggick på svenska blir också denna rapport på svenska.

Kommittén: Lars-Göran Johansson, Louise Rylander, Mats Pekkari, Peter Bengtsson, Thomas Olsson. Saknas på bilden: Jan Fransson, Helena Kiel, Patrik Centerwall

Kommittén: Lars-Göran Johansson, Louise Rylander, Mats Pekkari, Peter Bengtsson, Thomas Olsson. Saknas på bilden: Jan Fransson, Helena Kiel, Patrik Centerwall

Programmet inleddes med en mycket snabb öppningsceremoni följd av ett föredrag om Club Cosmos som hölls av dess ordförande, Louise Rylander. Häpna! startade 1954 och i den fanns en uppmaning att man skulle starta sf-föreningar. Det nappade man på i Göteborg och Lars-Erik Helin och kongressens fanhedersgäst Gabriel Setterborg anmälde till Häpna! att Cosmos Club startat. Den gav ut fanzinet Cosmos News, sedermera ändrat till Cosmos Bulletin. Kjell Rynefors var mycket aktiv skribent i fanzinet, och en samling av hans noveller, Pacifica, finns nu utgiven på Zen Zat förlag. Den kunde man köpa av Ingrid Rynefors som jag då fick en trevlig pratstund med.

På 60-talet blev klubben mer en studentförening, och Tolkien Society of Sweden knoppades av 1968 som Europas första Tolkienförening. På slutet av 70-talet fick föreningen en egen lokal men den förlorade man efter några år och aktiviteten sjönk. Kongressen Akrostikon 2001 som drevs från Uppsala fick stor betydelse för att öka aktiviteten.

Martin Anderssonl Caroline L. Jensen, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Jonas Larsson, Gabriel Setterborg, Alf Nyfors

Martin Andersson, Caroline L. Jensen, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Jonas Larsson, Gabriel Setterborg, Alf Rynefors

Efter en hastig presentation av några andra föreningar, bl a Steampunk i Göteborg och SFSF, vidtog en panel om humor och fantastik med Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf som moderator och Martin Andersson, Caroline L. Jensen, Jonas Larsson, Gabriel Setterborg och Alf Rynefors som paneldeltagare. Gabriel gav en kort historik och pekade på att mycket sf på 50- och 60-talet var satirisk och därigenom humoristisk. Caroline som är aktiv författare tycker att det är svårt att skriva humoristiskt, lika svårt som att skriva erotiskt. Det måste vävas in på ett bra sätt och det lyckas t ex Neil Gaiman med.

Resten av diskussionen blev en listning av humoristiska favoriter: Douglas Adams, Harry Harrison, Terry Pratchett (vars humor varken jag eller Carolina lyckats förstå oss på), Scalzis parodi på Star Trek, Diana Wynne Jones, Lloyd Alexander, Robert Rankin, Jack Vance (som Martin påpekade är Dying Earth-serien fantastiskt humoristisk med sina absurditeter), Michael Swanwick, Jasper Fforde, Avram Davidson och slutligen Roald Dahl, som Caroline anser kombinerar humor och skräck på ett utmärkt sätt. Några filmer nämndes också: Galaxy Quest, Blixt Gordon, The Princess Bride och Stardust.

Glenn Petersen, Sandra Petojevic, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, John Meaney, Stefan Hagel

Glenn Petersen, Sandra Petojevic, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, John Meaney, Stefan Hagel

Det episka anslaget var titeln på nästa panel, och även om John Meaney var underhållande var den inte så förtvivlat givande. Glenn Petersen modererade Sandra Petojevic, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, John Meaney och Stefan Hagel. Glenn som jobbar i SF-bokhandeln visste att läsarna vill ha serier, som Dr Who och Robert Jordan. Författarna i panelen var överens om att det är berättelsen i sig som avgör om det blir en fristående volym eller en serie.

Peter Bengtsson, Gabriel Setterborg

Peter Bengtsson, Gabriel Setterborg

Hedersgästen Gabriel Setterborg intervjuades av Peter Bengtsson. Gabriel hade skrivit till Häpna! att det fanns en sf-förening i Göteborg men det var ”lögn”. Tillsammans med Lars-Erik Helin gjordes en blygsam start utan stadgar. På 50-talet hade Wettergrens bokhandel i Göteborg en hel del sf, eftersom ägaren Hartelius var intresserad. Roland Adlerberth var mycket aktiv men inte i föreningen. Han fick tidskrifter från USA, och fungerade som samlingspunkt för Göteborgsfandom, som vid denna tid också innehöll Hans Sidén. I Stockholm bestod navet av Leif Helgesson, Sture Lönnerstrand och Anders Palm.

Gabriel prenumererar på F&SF och Asimov’s, och kan konstatera att den litterära kvaliteten ökat under årens gång. Slutligen fick han erkänna att han är författaren bakom pseudonymen Eric Crane, som skrev Anfall från rymden i serien Atomboken. Han hade arbetat med översättningar åt förlaget men föreslog att han i stället skulle skriva direkt på svenska utan förlaga eftersom det var enklare.

Bellis, Caroline L. Jensen

Bellis, Caroline L. Jensen

Den svenska författarhedersgästen, Caroline L. Jensen, intervjuades av Bellis som hade blivit något försenad så att programmet ändrades. Vi fick veta en hel del om Caroline, utöver att hon skriver skräck. Allt hon ägde försvann i en eldsvåda när hon var 19 år och hon svarade då på en annons om att bli strippa i Köpenhamn för att tjäna pengar. Den karriären hoppade hon av när en väninna mördats av sin pojkvän. Redan innan dess hade hon uppträtt, i Sikta mot stjärnorna som popsångerska innan hon slutade 9:an. Hon är kompromisslös Heavy Metal-fan men lever i skogen och inspireras inte av den musiken. Caroline tävlar i hunddressyr och jobbar ideellt för en brukshundsklubb. Som författare började hon med ett romanförsök i 3:an i gymnasiet. Hennes svensklärare läste alstret på 70 sidor och sa till henne: ”Caroline, det är det här du ska göra”.  Sedan blev hon visserligen refuserad av förlag, men lyckades med den självbiografiska boken om Köpenhamnsstrippan. Hon har skrivit fem romaner och publicerat åtta noveller. Hon har aldrig drabbats av skrivblock men tycker att perioden mellan två romaner är svår. Hon skriver en synopsis men håller sig inte till den. Hon vill sitta i tystnad och skriva, utan någon femåring som stör.

Det läskigaste hon kan tänka sig är religiösa fanatiker, och hon har skrivit om det i det gemensamma projektet Efter stormen (Efterstormen.se). Hon jobbar också som redaktör och lektör, och inte nog med det, hon spökskriver bloggar och böcker utifrån ett råmanus eller idé, och tjänar bra på detta. Att hon inte får någon ”cred” för det bryr hon sig inte om.

Lördagen inleddes med en bokpresentation som Glenn Petersen höll i. Han rekommenderade Lavie Tidhars The Violent Century och Ramez Nahms Nexus, en spännande technothriller med fräcka idéer som att mjukvara nedladdas direkt i hjärnan. Ken McLeods Descent betecknade han som ”bloke lit”, en grabbig roman men häftiga sf-element i en nära, övervakad framtid. Han rekommenderade också Alastair Reynolds Blue Remembered Earth, Stephen Baxters Proxima och Ann Leckies Ancillary Justice.

I panelen Göteborgsfandom från omvärldens synvinkel blev jag inbjuden att delta. Hade jag vetat det tidigare kunde jag ha grävt mig ner i gamla fanzines från 80-talet; jag minns speciellt Cosmos Bulletin och Göteborgs Faanvheckliga. Innehållet handlade sällan om sf, men det var välskrivet och underhållande, med författare som Erik Andersson och David Nessle.

Johan Anglemark, Helena Andersson, Niels Gudjónsson, Linda Karlsson, John Meaney, Jan-Olof Nyman

Johan Anglemark, Helena Andersson, Niels Gudjónsson, Linda Karlsson, John Meaney, Jan-Olof Nyman

Panelen Nordisk mytologi i sf/f modererades av Johan Anglemark, och panelisterna var Helena Andersson, Niels Gudjónsson, Linda Karlsson, John Meaney och Jan-Olof Nyman. Den senare inledde med att tala om att allt som sägs om vikingar i serien Vikings på History Channel är fel. Däremot verkar John Meaneys uppfattning att homosexuella vikingar jagades vara korrekt, så som det framställs i Absorption. Intresset för vikingar och de gamla myterna har varit kontroversiellt i Sverige sedan nazismen utnyttjat dem i sin propaganda, och speciellt har socialdemokraterna drivit detta. England kristnades före Sverige och myterna påverkades av detta; de skrevs om för att verka mer hedniska. Så är också fallet med Snorri Sturlusons nedteckningar. Däremot rekommenderade Jan-Olof Nyman Poul Andersons Time Patrol-berättelser, John Meaney böcker av Henry Treece och Niels Gudjónsson den tecknade serien Valhalla av Peter Madsen.

Glenn Petersen, John Meaney

Glenn Petersen, John Meaney

John Meaney intervjuades av Glenn Petersen, och vi fick veta att sf-intresset startade när han var fem år och följde med till ett bibliotek. Där fastnade han för en berättelse om en pojke som åkte till månen som fripassagerare. Han skrev korta berättelser som uppsats vid elva års ålder; han fascinerades av oändliga reflektioner i speglar och rekursiva uttryck (”denna mening är en lögn”). Han förstördes slutgiltigt av A E van Vogt med The World of Null A. (van Vogt må ha varit en usel författare men han har definitivt påverkat många sf-författare, t ex Dick, och också läsare – jag fascinerades tidigt av TidmaskinenThe Weapon Shops of Isher). Han studerade vid Birminghams universitet och har en examen i fysik och IT. Kontakt med fandom fick han genom Rog Peyton på bokhandeln Andromeda som tog med honom på kongress.

Som Thomas Blackthorne skriver han nära framtids-thrillers, och nämner att inledningen i Edge är en sann historia.  Han skriver också gotisk sf, kallad fantasy i USA: Bone Song och Dark Blood. Hans nästa bok blir en samtidsthriller utan sf-inslag.

Jag har läst To Hold Infinity, Absorption och Edge, och kommer absolut att läsa fler böcker av John Meaney. Jag gillar hans stil och personteckningar, och frågan är om han inte är allra bäst i nära framtids-thrillern Edge, där personerna får kämpa med svåra etiska frågor.

Emil Jonasson, Karl-Johan Norén, Anna Davour, John-Henri Holmberg

Emil Jonasson, Karl-Johan Norén, Anna Davour, John-Henri Holmberg

Kreativitet och fandom pratades det om i en panel med John-Henri Holmberg, Emil Jonasson, Karl-Johan Norén och som moderator Anna Davour. Det var trevligt att lyssna på men så värst mycket kom väl inte fram. Den första fan-aktiviteten var att skriva sf, men så är det inte alls i dag. I Kina ger fans feedback mellan avsnitt i följetonger. Karl-Johan satt där som omskapare av Bellmansånger i fannisk anda och Emil Jonasson som steampunkare som skapar kläder och utstyrsel.

Pål Eggert

Pål Eggert

Pål Eggert höll ett föredrag om Socialt arbete och fantastik. Liksom Chris Beckett är han både socialarbetare och författare. Det avgörande för att man ska fungera i samhället är att man har en känsla av sammanhang och att skeenden är logiska med klara orsakssamband. I Lovecrafts texter framkallas skräck genom avsaknad av logik, t ex genom att vinklar är omöjliga. Hemlösa personer kan också sakna sammanhang genom att de lever vid sidan om, i utkanten, de har andra prioriteringar, egna koder och lagar. Pål nämnde också att vampyr från början var en förbannelse som t ex självmördare kunde drabbas av.

Det är inte så vanligt med bankett på svenska kongresser längre, kanske mest för att de blivit för stora, men göteborgarna hade också denna gång en ordentlig fest med tal och musik, t o m väl mycket musik faktiskt eftersom det blev svårt att prata. Det serverades god indisk mat som möjligen kunde ha blivit ännu bättre med ris.

Patrik Centerwall, Simon Lundin, Caroline L. Jensen, Martin Andersson

Patrik Centerwall, Simon Lundin, Caroline L. Jensen, Martin Andersson

Sist på lördagen, dvs innan det blev NoFF-auktion, var det en panel om Monster, och så sent på kongressen var det väl rätt att den inte var så seriös. Patrik Centerwall ledde panelisterna Simon Lundin, Caroline L. Jensen och Martin Andersson. Här nämndes tentakler, zombies, varulvar och vampyrer (av vilka de två senare ansågs mer ”användbara”). Det mest skrämmande Martin Andersson kunde tänka på var en novell om en blomma av Clark Ashton Smith. Monster vi kan komma att få träffa är mylingen och skogsrået.

Svensk fandom åker spårvagn

Svensk fandom åker spårvagn

På söndagen åkte vi veteranspårvagn (nåja, den var yngre än jag) till Slottsskogen och vandrade upp till Observatoriet där vi guidades av Katja Lindblom. Vi fick en visning av teleskopen men det regnade så taket var stängt över dem. Katja höll ett trevligt och informativt föredrag om exoplaneter, som det ju blir fler av varje dag. Deaddoggen avhölls på en pub där jag blev sittande och pratade mest med Åsa Lundström och Michael Pargman.

Katja Lindblom. I bakgrunden Åsa Lundström

Katja Lindblom. I bakgrunden Åsa Lundström

Allt som allt en trevlig liten kongress. Numera blir det inte så mycket bokköp, men den här gången köpte jag i alla fall samlingen Pacifica med Kjell Rynefors noveller och två böcker av Anna Vintersvärd, en roman och en steampunkantologi. Och när jag kom hem beställde jag från Adlibris två böcker av Caroline Jensen, Patrik Centerwalls novellsamling och historiken över Club Cosmos.

Läs också Arina Pingols trevliga rapport! Hon var på andra programpunkter, men var också mycket nöjd med kongressen.

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 tor.com 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!

Finncon 2010

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

By Jacob Dahlgren

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

Inside Kiasma

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

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

Cheryl Morgan, Jukka Halme, Marianna Leikomaa, Tommy Persson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

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

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

Saara Henriksson, Ellen Kushner, Pat Cadigan

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

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

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

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

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

The fan table in the main building

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

Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner, Kati Clements

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

The paper announces nazis on the moon

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

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

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

Ben Roimola, Petri Salin, Vilgot Strömsholm, Kenneth Lindholm

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

Carolina at the Eurocon table

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

Kati Oksanen

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

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

Cheryl Morgan interviewing Pat Cadigan

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

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

Sari Polvinen, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Johan Anglemark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheryl Morgan, Ellen Kushner, Pat Cadigan

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

Not an Anime con, but still...

Fans at the sauna

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

Odyssey 2010

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

London Metropolitan University

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

Nik Whitehead

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

Juliet McKenna

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

Kirill Pleshkov, Roberto Quaglia, Gérard Kraus, Johan Anglemark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf showing a flying saucer

  
 

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf

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

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

Mike Cobley, Julian Headlong, Paul McAuley, Martin McGrath

Paul McAuley

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

Iain M. Banks, Jane Killick

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

Ben Goldacre

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

Henry Gee, Clare Boothby, David Clements, Jennifer Rohn

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

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

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

Oliver Morton, Phil Huggins, John Coxon, Jonathan Cowie

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

Farah Mendlesohn, Edward James, Graham Sleight

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

Owen Dunn

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

Nicholas Jackson

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

    

    

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

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

Alastair Reynolds

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

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

Tony Cullen, Ruth O’Reilly

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

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

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

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

Liz Williams, Elizabeth Counihan

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

Terry Edge, Sabine Furlong, Elizabeth Counihan

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

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

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

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

Andrew Patton

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

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

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

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

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


Swecon i Stockholm 15-17 juni

Worldcon 75, Helsingfors 2017