Posts Tagged 'Liz Williams'

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.      

Imagicon 2 – a report

Imagicon 2 was the Swedish national con for 2009 (Swecon), and it took place 16-18 october. Since I was on the committee for the con I was not able to listen to as many panels as I could have wished. This is not a problem for me since I really enjoy also making a con, not just visiting. The venue was the same as for Stocon 08, i e ”Skarpnäck’s kulturhus”, which is well suited for a medium-sized con. However, this time the bar was managed professionally by Linda Ekenberger and her staff. They did an excellent job!

Anders Reuterswärd, Johan Anglemark, Patrik Centerwall, Gunnar Nilsson, Linnéa Anglemark

I listened to the panel From a Foreign Perspective consisting of Kristina Hård, who writes sf and is a computer scientist with a background in AI, and also teaches creative writing in Lund, the GoH Liz Williams, who also has a master in AI but went back into philosophy, and Lotta Olivecrona who is a radiologist who has written a series of three sf books. The panel was moderated by the British fan Chris Bell. Lotta Olivecrona thought she wrote sf but her characters have telepathy so it might rather be fantasy. Liz Williams commented that women are considered to write from experience, which makes their writing closer to fantasy than to sf. In the discussion it was concluded that names are important and may have to be changed when books are translated. At least Liz and Lotta writes to know the world, in a way like explorers. Thus it is more like being tourists than to be God, which is perhaps more a boy thing.

Present ideas and prejudices are projected onto the future or past, in historical novels. That the stories mirror the present society is easily seen when reading older books.

Ylva Spångberg intervjuar Jörgen Forsberg

De första minuterna när fanhedersgästen Jörgen Forsberg intervjuades av Ylva Spångberg missade jag, men förstod att Jules Verne-magasinet spelat en avgörande roll för hans kontakt med fandom. Liksom jag gick han på SFSFs möten i Observatoriekällaren. Han var på Sam J. Lundwalls kongress på Amaranten 1973, där Donald A. Wollheim var hedersgäst. Kongressen hotades att bli övertagen av Stockholms Tolkiensällskap som lagt beslag på programmet. Detta vaccinerade Jörgen effektivt mot Tolkienismen. SFSF hade planer på att erövra världen, ge ut böcker, sälja, och göra Forum till en stor kulturtidskrift. Lokalerna på Pontonjärgatan användes som bokhandel där Bo K. Eriksson stod och snart blev en inventarie. Det behövdes extra personal så Jörgen hoppade in någon halvdag här och där. Det kom ut ett antal böcker. Några fans kom att tillbringa mycket tid i källaren där, det var Ylva, Bellis, Ahrvid och Roger Sjölander. Om jag förstått rätt gjorde det att det var knepigt att bedriva bokhandeln, och verksamheten packades ner och flyttade till en källare på Tyskbagargatan (jag var själv med och körde en VW-pickup). Kaj Harju började sälja på postorder från källaren. Bokhandeln flyttade snart till Roslagsgatan där man fick dela lokal med Horst Schröder i ”Metropolis”. Det fungerade inte så bra och efter ett halvår, 1985, flyttade SF-delen till Atlasgatan. Där sålde fansen böcker mot att få för 25 kr böcker i timmen. Lokalen var delvis bokhandel och delvis möteslokal för SFSF, men en stor del fylldes efter en tid av en gigantisk tryckpress som aldrig kom i bruk. Bolaget SF-bokhandeln startades 1990, och flyttade 1991 till Gamla Stan.

Åsa Schwarz, Gunilla Olivecrona, Liz Williams, Graham Joyce, Stefan Högberg

Using a well-known setting for your fantasy was discussed in the panel Goblins in the backyard, led by Stefan Högberg. Liz Williams was happy to have a receptive readership which wants to believe and wants to be in a “vampire universe”. She lives in Glastonbury which is a center for New Age activities. Graham Joyce told us that there have always been goblins in his family. He has been sceptical towards them but has also spent half his life accepting them. His grandmother plays a major role in the book The Facts of Life. Thus the episode where a soldier who was fighting in WWII in the African desert but suddenly knocks on the door, is based on a legend in the family. Åsa Schwarz tells us that her parents are a physicist and a mathematician. She studies the area, the backyard, and its history before using it in a book. She likes horror stories, which scare more if they take place in your backyard. Lotta Olivecrona tells about her two sides, the book writer contrasting with the objective radiologist. For her the middle of Sweden is magical since that is where she grew up.

 For Graham Joyce psychology is not only science, but also lots of intuition, and he does not believe in a rational basis for emotional life. Ghosts may be generated by human beings. Liz Williams agreed; spirits may be created by many believing in them. Joyce used Jerusalem for a ghost story and found the city so full of references. He is an atheist, and considers the resurrection of Jesus to be a major ghost story. He criticizes most fantasy stories, except Tolkien’s, for describing hermetic universes which do not intrude on your own reality. The intrusion of supernatural elements usually increases in his own stories.

 I panelen Kräver fantasy ett eget språkbruk? satt Anders Björkelid som skrivit Ondvinter som ska följas av ytterligare tre delar. Han kallade sig amatörtyckare, medan Nicklas Andersson definierade sig som språkvetare. Stefan Ekman angav sig som proffstyckare som forskar på fantasy. Han försöker livnära sig på fantasy och önskar förlänga tonåren utöver alla gränser. Moderatorn Linnéa Anglemark berättade att hon som språkvetare tänker på språket när hon läser.

Diskussionen inleddes med att Stefan Ekman hänvisade till Encyclopedia of Fantasy för att definiera episk fantasy. I denna räddas något på ett storslaget plan. Begreppet har också diskuterats av C S Lewis i ett Preface to Paradise Lost. I t ex Beowulf räddar en stark hjälte ett land från ett hot, och i Odyséen är det en grupp som genom sina handlingar påverkar hela världen. Panelen ansåg knappast att språket är speciellt i episk fantasy, däremot kan berättartekniken vara viktig. Anders Björkelid ansåg att språket varken ska vara arkaiserande eller modernt, utan så neutralt som möjligt. Kulturella referenser som hänvisar till vår tid måste tas bort. Stefan Ekman gav några exempel på hur enstaka ord kan påverka intrycket: I amerikanske filmer säger tyskar ja och nein, i Harry Potter finns skotska ord instoppade, och Tolkien slänger in enstaka alviska ord för att få hela texten att kännas främmande. Vapen som inte finns hos oss kan få föregivet främmande namn. Han berömmer Christina Brönnestam för att ha hittat ett bra fantasyspråk.

Historiska romaner har alltid en känd verklighet att grunda sig på. Skriver man London skapar läsaren själv en bild, medan i ren fantasy måste författaren skapa allt. Begrepp kan läcka in från annan fantasy, som t ex alver.

Svenskt modernt fantasyspråk kommer till stor del från översättningar, t ex det blommiga språket i Ohlmarks Tolkienöversättning. Plockas engelska ord direkt blir klangen mer exotisk än ursprunget. Fantasysvenskan har blivit engelskklingande. Ett närmast komiskt exempel är ”odöd”, vilket i Norrland betyder ”livfull”. Ett bättre ord är ”vandöd”, och felet kommer sannolikt från översatta äventyrsspel.

Johan Anglemark interviewed Liz Williams, who was born in Gloucester where she now lives. It is an uninteresting, rural place. Her father was a hobby stage magician and her mother a gothic novelist. She still writes although she is in her 80s, and she likes Liz’ books. She got Liz when she was 37, and was glad to get married, not resentful as many today. Liz herself started reading early and wrote fanfiction. She was a lonely, constrained child. Later she studied AI and philosophy of science. She tells that she has not a standard conformist religion, rather a pagan with supernatural beliefs. She taught English after her degree and went to Kazakhstan, and in 1996 she also visited Kurdistan and Uzbekistan for an ongoing education program. Her experiences went into Nine Layers of Sky.

Liz enjoys writing, and she does it mainly in her magic shop. The sense of place and character are important, and literature that preaches irritates her. She has contracts for a series of books, and she tells that the Chen books are most natural to her. The Poison Master is a gothic caballistic romance. She is especially satisfied with Nine Layers of Sky whereas the Inspector Chen books sell best. She markets her books mainly herself. She reads for example Bradley, LeGuin and Vance. She thinks that Mary Gentle’s Rats and Gargoyles started the New Weird, but the guys get all the credit.

Mats Linder, Bellis, John-Henri Holmberg

John-Henri Holmberg, Ylva Spångberg, Roger Sjölander

Med Mats Linder som moderator samtalade Bellis, John-Henri Holmberg, Roger Sjölander och Ylva Spångberg om Nova Science Fiction, en slags fortsättning på den panel som behandlade magasinet på Kontext 2008. Ylva översatte både i den första och den nuvarande inkarnationen, och hamnade i i redaktionen i den nya. För Bellis var jobbet på Nova hans första fasta, och i den nya inkarnationen ingår han dessutom i redaktionen. Han uppskattade den tidigare redaktionslokalen som var idealisk för efterfester. John-Henri berättar att han ger ut Nova så länge han har tid. På 80-talet var utgivningen hyfsat OK, mest p g a att den kunde säljas i kiosker. Då, med distribution via Sesam, gick det att bestämma hur många försäljningsställen som skulle ha Nova, och med Nova på ett av fyra ställen kunde 8000 ex levereras varav 4000 såldes. Presam kräver att minst 20000 ex levereras, vilket ger en alldeles för stor förlust i osålda ex. Nu säljs Nova på 13 ställen, Presstoppbutiker och SF-bokhandelns butiker. Dessutom prenumererar ett 25-tal bibliotek.

Mats står för recensionsavdelningen, och har glidit in på översättandet. Han undrar varför det går så dåligt, och John-Henri svarar att sf inte finns i Sverige längre. Förlagens intresse har flyttats till fantasy, och speciellt till vampyrer.

Samtalet gled över på de böcker som också gavs ut av förlaget Laissez Faire Produktion AB. Bellis berättade hur han ändrade namn på en person i Gallaghers glaciär, och Ylva om hur sättarna la till en karaktär i hennes översättning av Nortons Pestskeppet, en slutna rummet-berättelse i rymden. Paret Kuttner-Moores Mutant var för lång för bookomaticmaskinen, så den förminskades intill oläslighet, medan motsvarande problem med Dénis Lindbohms Domedagens skymning löstes av Roger som tog bort elva sidor i följd. För att effektivisera inköptes en fotosättmaskin för 320.000, men att ge ut mer gick inte eftersom det inte fanns köpare. Tyvärr köptes den strax innan datasättningen kom något år senare.

Johan Anglemark interviewed Graham Joyce. For Liz her mother was a model, but for Graham it was his father, the coal miner. The idea of being a writer was utterly remote. Words of more than two syllables gave rise to suspicions of homosexuality. Graham was expected to go down in the mine like his two brothers. However, he managed to wriggle through the net. Alan Garner, who he calls a sort of J K Rowling type, turned him on, and the seed was introduced. Alan Garner started with conventional fantasy and turned into writing very complicated fantasy stories, and he finally had a nervous breakdown.

Graham Joyce comes from Keresley in the Midlands, close to Coventry, which had been the target of the first terror bombing during world war two. It had been rebuilt when he grew up, but it was ugly since it had to be rebuilt rapidly. This is described in Facts of Life. He went to college, wrote a dissertation on Thomas Pynchon for his MA, and has been working as a teacher and for youth clubs. He has felt it to be presumptuous and arrogant to even breathe that you are an author until you have published something. In order to start writing he quit his job and went to Greece with his girlfriend who also quit her job and in two weeks they were married. They went to Lesbos, the island of wild orgiastic women drunk on alcoholic beverages. He wrote lots, and went on to Crete. From there he also sold his first book in 1992.

There is always something that is supernatural in Joyce’s books. He uses the tension between credulity and doubt, and the shuttle between the two positions. Also in his YA fiction there are supernatural elements, and a strong streak of morality. Finally, he mentions that he works on graphic computer games trying to improve the narratives.

Brita Planck, Graham Joyce, Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo, Vesa Sisättö, Mats Linder

In the panel The Noble Art of Critique, with Mats Linder as moderator, Graham Joyce pointed out the difference between critique and review: A review is slightly more accessible or palatable, it comments on the value of a new book or film, and should have less than 900 words. It tells the reader if the book is worth the time and money. A critique, written by a critic, should be about 3000-5000 words, and its job is to find something worth examination. More room is used on antecedent books and background, and it puts the work in a context. Vesa Sisättö writes reviews of YA books for newspapers, and they want descriptions of the story and only few words on if the book is good or bad. Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo finds reviews helpful since you cannot read everything, and Brita Planck agrees that the judgment of the reviewer is important. She wants more critique, and Graham comments that there is not enough criticism in our genre, more analysis is needed. Critique is something you read after reading a book, whereas reviews are read before. As a writer he has no use for reviews whereas critique, even when short, can help him. His work is often reviewed by mainstream reviewers, who according to Johanna, often don’t know about the genre. It is also often reviewed by fossilized sf reviewers, so “we” are also guilty.

Vesa finds it amusing to write reviews of very bad books, and Graham comments that you feel frustration and rage when you read a bad book, and a negative review is your only way to hit back at the publishing department. There is (or was; I cannot find it) a “crap writers dot com” site where the self promotion of authors is attacked, and it is vicious and funny according to Graham. However, he thinks it is best to ignore bad books. He also doesn’t like grading systems as e g stars, and thinks that the reviewer should give the information.

Regarding fans as critics, Johanna loves them, especially when the name of the translator is mentioned. Graham admits that fans have been tremendously important for his career. There is an ongoing conversation in the community, over many years. Brita recommends the site “Vetsaga” that has good essays on sf and fantasy, and Graham mentions John Clute, Paul Kincaid and Farah Mendlesohn as important critics in the field.

Graham Joyce, Hans Persson, Liz Williams, Marianna Leikomaa

The panel The author and her obligations was intended to deal with blogs, and thus the moderator Marianna Leikomaa started by asking what the panelists blog. Liz Williams blogs about her dog. She is fairly selective about what she puts on her blog, and she enjoys the interaction. Graham Joyce also has a blog, but does not write every day. He sometimes comments on the government, and he uses a different voice from that in his stories. The Brits consider it un-British to write about ones writing; the British way is to be self-deprecating. Hans Persson has a review site and has written about the process of writing a book. He has more interaction via Facebook than at work.

What obligations does an author feel? Graham wants to give entertainment and a good narrative. It should celebrate or give rise to thoughts about this life. He feels no obligation to write the same book as before. His books change, and he does not do series. The books are on the edge of genre.

Liz feels an obligation to be professional to the publisher. She also thinks she has an obligation to readers to finish a series, with a rational conclusion. She gets enraged by publishers who stop series, they also have obligations. Graham might write sequels to his YA books, but he has “other fish to fry”. Liz thinks it is unhealthy to be so interested in characters in books that you demand sequels, and she thinks that readers have an obligation not be complete assholes – buy the book if you like it. Graham wants the readers to accept that authors change with time.


Swecon i Stockholm 15-17 juni

Worldcon 75, Helsingfors 2017