Posts Tagged 'Marianna Leikomaa'

Loncon 3 / 72th Worldcon

London, UK, August 14-18, 2014

My wife Margareta and I stayed at Travelodge London City Airport but had not been able to find a reasonable flight to that airport from Arlanda, so we spent the day travelling. At Paddington we got our tickets for the train and ferry for Dublin, actually with much less trouble than I had expected. The final part of the trip was by DLR – the somewhat futuristic Docklands Light Railway. The hotel was OK and fairly close to the convention. We went directly to the venue and since this was Wednesday we did not have to stand in the long queues which we saw on Thursday. ExCel was well suited for the convention although the programme rooms were a bit too small and sometimes the most popular items were in the smallest room. This was especially problematic in the very beginning of the convention when there were few parallel programme items.

Crossing Boundaries: Histories of International SF/F for Children

Catharine Butler, K V Johansen, Michael Levy, Sanna Lehtonen, Patricia Kennan (M)

Catharine Butler, K V Johansen, Michael Levy, Sanna Lehtonen, Patricia Kennan (M)

Michael Levy, an American who teaches sf and children’s literature, had never heard of Enid Blyton, but Harry Potter had amazed American kids.  The reason for the success was considered to be the agreement with the American stereotypes of the British. Regarding stories by Native Americans the question was asked whether it is fantasy if the author actually believes in supernatural phenomena, and this was resolved by the concept “Consensus reality”. What is incredible for kids can be real and vice versa. In order to make them more credible the books are sometimes changed during translation: The Finnish version of Tarzan of the Apes was converted to Tarzan of the Bears. In American adaptations of British books pounds is changed into dollars and madam to mam, which was considered strange. Should difficult words be explained or changed? Children’s vocabulary is expanded by words they do not understand, but the text must still be understandable.

The World at Worldcon: Nordic SF/F

John-Henri Holmberg, Anna Davour, Marianna Leikomaa, Tore Høie (M), Sini Neuvonen

John-Henri Holmberg, Anna Davour, Marianna Leikomaa, Tore Høie (M), Sini Neuvonen

To a large extent this discussion became a listing of authors in the different Nordic countries. The basic literature in Finland is very realistic, and the Finnish SF/F authors are friends and discuss with each other. Johanna Sinisalo has written a retelling of Kalevala. Examples of new Finnish SF/F can be downloaded and found in the anthology It Came from the North. Other web sites with information on Finnish and international SF/F are Partial Recall and Rising Shadows.

John-Henri Holmberg mentioned an interesting distinction between two kinds of SF in Sweden, made by Ulrika Nolte in a German thesis described in the Sweden entry of the SF Encyclopedia. One kind was written by Swedish sf fans in a tradition coming mainly from American and British sf magazines and the stories published in the corresponding Swedish magazines, and includes authors as Sam J. Lundwall, Bertil Mårtensson, Maths Claesson etc. The other kind Nolte called “social fiction” and entails dystopian fiction written since the 1930’s by established Swedish authors like Karin Boye, Tora Dahl and Harry Martinson. This has not previously been noted as a trend. John-Henri also pointed out the reason for the fantasy boom in Sweden in the 1990’s: The first popularity list based on sales instead of criticism was published in 1993.

It was also noted during the discussion that in the Nordic countries we do not read each other’s books. This is sad since there is a lot of good SF/F published at least in Denmark, and Danish is really easy to read even if it is not so easy to listen to. Most Swedes cannot understand Finnish.

Fandom in Fiction

Virginia Preston, Audrey Taylor, Erin Horakova, Lisa Macklem (M)

Virginia Preston, Audrey Taylor, Erin Horakova, Lisa Macklem (M)

Since I have enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones’ Deep Secret, Sharyn McCrumb’s Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool and several other stories where fandom and fan conventions are described I was curious about this programme item. However, I was somewhat disappointed since the four women on the panel mainly talked about funny scenes on some tv sitcoms that I have not seen (and would surely not have appreciated). In addition to the novels above they mentioned Jo Walton’s Among Others and Fallen Angels by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn. Ahrvid Engholm pointed out the masterpiece of fan writing The Enchanted Duplicator, but there was no mention of e g Barry Malzberg or the recent Osama by Lavie Tidhar which gives a very accurate and entertaining description of a fan convention.

Speculative Biology – An Introduction

This was actually four short lectures with Power Point presentations, and was quite entertaining. The moderator Lewis Dartnell pointed out that the colour of plants is complementary to the colour of the light from the sun, and could thus be quite different from green on other planets. Planets with high gravity might be expected to have balloon plants filled with gas. The convergent evolution of eyes on Earth indicates that the evolution on Earth can be used to predict that on other planets. Darren Naish talked about future or alternative animals on Earth and mentioned an early (1961) book by the pseudonymous Harald Stümpke, in English called The Snouters. He also talked about books by Dougal Dixon who was also present in the panel and whose After Man contains pictures of possible future animals.

Governing the Future

Charles E. Gannon, Nicholas Whyte (M), John-Henri Holmberg, Justin Landon, Liz Gorinsky, Farah Mendlesohn

Charles E. Gannon, Nicholas Whyte (M), John-Henri Holmberg, Justin Landon, Liz Gorinsky, Farah Mendlesohn

Earlier (50s, 60s) SF was essentially positive towards government but today it is either completely outside the story or is described as a failure. According to John-Henri Asimov was a welfare socialist and his robot stories promoted advanced welfare ideas. The cyberpunk authors reran the youth revolt of 1968 that they had experienced when they were 17-18 years; it is clearly anti-government. Europeans are more pro-government than Americans.

Books by Cory Doctorow and Nalo Hopkinson were classified as dystopias by Farah Mendlesohn, and YA dystopias are everywhere.  An example is The Diary of Pelly D by L J Adlington. The book Farah edited as a protest against censorship, Glorifying Terrorism, is now out of print.

In a Proprietary World Who Owns Your Body?

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Simon Ings, Simon Bradshaw (M), Jody Lynn Nye, Richard Ashcroft, Joan Paterson

Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Simon Bradshaw (M), Jody Lynn Nye, Richard Ashcroft, Joan Paterson

After some discussion on the ethics of surrogate mothers and transplanting livers to alcoholics a lot of time was spent on HeLa

Simon Ings

Simon Ings

cells and the book about the patient who provided these cells from the beginning, Henrietta Lacks. I find it absolutely bizarre that a patient or her relatives could claim ownership to results obtained in research done on cells from a removed cancer. Finally there was a discussion on a possible development of AIs that help Alzheimer patients – who would own the AI when the patient dies?

Hard Right

Jaine Fenn, David G Hartwell, Neyir Cenk Gokce (M), Charles E Gannon, Alison Sinclair

Jaine Fenn, David G Hartwell, Neyir Cenk Gokce (M), Charles E Gannon, Alison Sinclair

Alison Sinclair is an author of four sf novels (I have read the somewhat juvenile but entertaining Legacies) and 5 fantasy novels, and she is an MD with an interest in evidence-based medicine. Charles E Gannon is the author of the Nebula-nominated novel Fire With Fire, and David G Hartwell has edited sf anthologies and written a history of hard sf. Jaine Fenn is the author of books in the Hidden Empire series, of which I have read the first two. She is liberal, not right.

The programme item was caused by an article by Paul Kincaid who argued that since hard sf depends on a world with inviolate rules it might have similarities with right-wing politics. The panel acknowledged that military technology always is popular in hard sf which could thus be right-wing. Politicised science as e g creationism is also right-wing, but Lysenkoism was popular in Soviet.  Space Opera might be considered right-wing, and Bank’s Culture novels was his project to save SO for the left.

Analog prints much hard sf, and Hartwell considered half of it to be crap whereas the other half can be superb. The core readers are technologists, not scientists.

Constructing Genre History

Takayuki Tatsumi, Gary Wolfe (M), Suanna Davis, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Ginjer Buchanan

Takayuki Tatsumi, Gary Wolfe (M), Suanna Davis, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Ginjer Buchanan

The average reader is thought not to care about the history of sf. It might be necessary for editors, and an sf teacher said that it is important for her students.  History can act as a gate-keeper if it is thought that you have to read a lot of old books in order to understand the present ones. On the other hand there is an ongoing conversation between authors in their work. This was especially so in the works of Heinlein and Asimov, but even Frankenstein is in the dialogue today. The adaptation of Lukianos, Thomas Moore etc into the sf canon was a way to defend sf, which is no longer necessary since it is not considered odd any more. Paul Kincaid’s blog with its timeline was recommended for those interested in the history.

The discussion turned into descriptions of personal histories of sf reading. When she was young Ginjer Buchanan found almost no sf in the library, only fantasy. She would recommend Alfred Bester rather than Heinlein to new readers and writers. Maureen Kincaid Speller found C S Lewis and Alan Garner in her local library and read a lot of children’s fantasy.

An Anthology of One’s Own

Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Dally McFarlane, Julia Rios (M), Jeanne Gomoll, Ann Vandermeer

Alisa Krasnostein, Alex Dally McFarlane, Julia Rios (M), Jeanne Gomoll, Ann Vandermeer

Pamela Sargent’s three Women of Wonder anthologies had different viewpoints and are a good beginning for finding sf by women. There were also women writers in the 17th century, e g Margaret Cavendish who wrote a feminist utopia in 1666, and the author Frances Stevens (real name Gertrude Barrows Bennett) wrote weird tales in the early 19th century which had a huge influence on H P Lovecraft. McFarlane has edited The Mammoth Book of SF Stories by Women which contains recent work by women and intends to capture what is happening now. Justine Larbalestier’s books were also recommended, and the June 2014 issue of Lightspeed Magazine, Women Destroy Science Fiction appears interesting.

Content and Form: Writing SF/F in non-Western Modes

Nick Wood, Aliette de Bodard, Amal El-Mohtar (M), Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, J Y Jang

The male white narrative has to be changed so that the centre is set in e g South-East Asia. This means that the surroundings have to be described in detail, otherwise the reader thinks the story is set in England. The Western paradigm has to be seen as one of many.

Stories from the Philippines are often communal and stem from oral traditions. Loenen-Ruiz pointed out that the colonial feeling has to be thrown off. The Western notion that there has to be a conflict in a story should also be challenged.

Interview with John Clute

Jonathan Clements, John Clute

Jonathan Clements, GoH John Clute

Jonathan Clements asked questions in a humorous way. In addition to the usual answers about life and career we got some information on Clute’s ideas. He defends spoilers in reviews. It is intellectual treason not to mention the end of a story. He also defended his introduction of the word “Fantastika” as a collective term for non-realistic literature – just as we already do in Swedish fandom. Fantastika should not contain metaphors, and an example is his novel Appleseed. He says that every sentence in it makes sense.

Finally he recommended Edward James’ exhibition about authors who took part in World War I, that could be seen in the Dealer’s Room and also on the web.

Classics in Speculative Fiction

The major problem with the presentations in the Academic Track was that the authors read their papers rapidly and without contact with the audience. Frances Foster’s “Lands of the Dead in Speculative Fiction” compared ancient heroic journeys like The Odyssey with the modern LeGuin’s Earthsea and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. The German Sibylle Machat made an excellent presentation of her paper “Ancient Philosophers as Characters in Post-Apocalyptic Science Fiction”. Bernard Beckett’s Genesis (2006) is set in Plato’s Republic and the conflict between church and science in Robert Charles Wilson’s Julian Comstock has similarities with the conflict between Hellenistic paganism and the Roman church that Julian the Apostate was involved in in the 4th century. Liz Gloyn’s “A Common Thread: Representations of the Minotaur in London” failed to interest me and lacked connections to speculative fiction.

SF: What It Is, What It Could Be

Jeanne Gomoll, Tobias Buckell, Stephanie Saulter (M), Alastair Reynolds, Ramez Naam

Jeanne Gomoll, Tobias Buckell, Stephanie Saulter (M), Alastair Reynolds, Ramez Naam

This panel spent a lot of time on the eternal question why sf is not respected, exemplified as usual with Margaret Atwood who reputedly not considers her books as sf. However, I think her book about sf was fairly positive. Reynolds pointed out the two traditions – Wells and Shelley’s Frankenstein are just a part of general literature, whereas the pulps defined a new line (reminds me of the two kinds of sf in Sweden).

Fantasy vs SF: Is the Universe Looking Out for You?

Stephen Hunt (M), Anne Lyle, Ian R McLeod, Robert Reed, Rebecka Levine

Stephen Hunt (M), Anne Lyle, Ian R McLeod, Robert Reed, Rebecka Levine

One reason for going to Woldcons is of course to listen to authors. I have read many stories by Robert Reed and I have really liked his short stories and been less impressed by his “great space ship stories”. He now told that these stories tend to be more static or conservative than the short stories. SF is considered to be about change whereas fantasy is static. McLeod said that sf is basically one-volume works, since if you want to have change it is very difficult to have it in several volumes. Fantasy may be more engaged with the characters. The tropes used might determine if it is sf or fantasy. However, it is easier to make a dragon than a FTL ship.

The Politics of Utopia

Kim Stanley Robinson, Kathleen Ann Goonan, David Farnell (M), Adrian Hon, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Christina Lake

Kim Stanley Robinson, Kathleen Ann Goonan, David Farnell (M), Adrian Hon, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Christina Lake

Utopian fiction lacks descriptions of how to get there from here. They are often boring, but this is not true of Banks’ Culture novels which have conflicts with other parties at the edges. Challenges for utopias are human nature – people want to have more than others, and there are problems with market economy that underprices natural resources even if this may be democratic. Longevity might increase how natural resources are valued.

Nebula to Interzone: British SF Magazines of the 1950s, 60s and 70s

Malcolm Edwards, Robert Silverberg, Stephen Baxter, Curt Phillips, Gillian Redfearn (M)

Malcolm Edwards, Robert Silverberg, Stephen Baxter, Curt Phillips, Gillian Redfearn (M)

This was probably the most entertaining and rewarding panel I listened to. The GoH Malcolm Edwards showed some of the 14 different magazines that were published in Britain in 1954. Robert Silverberg told that Nebula was the first magazine to publish one of his stories. He liked the magazine with its attractive, archaic typography, which he got shipped to him by Ken Slater. The editor Peter Hamilton was 20 years at that time. His first stories were published as by Bob Silverberg, but Randall Garrett told him that Bob doesn’t look good on the Table of Contents. Silverberg also told about his visit to Loncon 1 in 1957 by air which took 12 h. There were 268 members at the convention.

In its prime Nebula printed 30 – 40 000 copies. The stories were pretty good, and Hamilton was a post-war reader in contrast to

Robert Silverberg

Robert Silverberg

Ted (John) Carnell who edited New Worlds. His taste had been shaped in the 30s. When Nebula folded Peter Hamilton left the sf field altogether.

Authentic was for a time edited by Ted (E. C.) Tubb who was very active. He wrote pretty good stories with quick action. When he wrote what he wanted he was very British. One example is his first novel, Saturn Patrol. The scientist Bert (Herbert) Campbell had started Authentic that had been called Science Fiction Fortnightly for a period. It was equal to New Worlds and had often American authors. Silverberg had stories in Authentic.

In the 50s magazines were replaced by books, first paperbacks and then hardcovers. Another reason for the death of the magazines in USA was that the distributor American News Company folded in 1958. Astounding, Galaxy and F&SF had other distributors and survived.

The World at Worldcon: French and Francophone SF/F

Elizabeth Vonarburg, Antoine Rouaud, Pierre Pevel, Tom Clegg (M), Bradford Lyau, Eric Senabre, Laurence Suhner

Elizabeth Vonarburg, Antoine Rouaud, Pierre Pevel, Tom Clegg (M), Bradford Lyau, Eric Senabre, Laurence Suhner

Since there was no blackboard or projector which could have been used it was very difficult to get the names of authors mentioned in this panel. It was also problematic that one of the participants did not speak English and relied on the moderator for translation. Clegg asked what stories had made an impact when the panellists were 14, and the answers included Jules Verne, Perry Rhodan, Michael Moorcock, Isaac Asimov etc. No fantasy was written in French. An interesting observation by Laurence Suhner was that Swiss SF/F has been influenced by myths and tales and the dangerous nature. This appears similar to the situation in Finland.

French SF/F can be found translated into English at Blackcoat Press, and the author Yves Ménard writes in English. Solaris is a Canadian francophone SF/F magazine, and in France there are Galaxie and Bifrost.

What is Science?

Andrew Jaffe, Richard Dunn, Richard Ashcroft (M), Ada Palmer, Anthony Fucilla

Andrew Jaffe, Richard Dunn, Richard Ashcroft (M), Ada Palmer, Anthony Fucilla

Unfortunately this discussion took place in the smallest room of the convention that in addition had windows in two directions and thus became awfully hot especially since it was very crowded. One of the panellists, Anthony Fucilla, had to leave after a while since he felt unwell. This was unfortunate since his view of science was ancient: Science should be used to prove that God exists.

Ada Palmer is a historian of the Renaissance and Enlightenment and told that in the 17th century there was no difference between philosophy and science. Da Vinci worked for the Duke and no collaboration was allowed. Bacon’s view was that science and religion should cooperate in order to improve the world. Authority has been replaced by empirism, and this change took mainly place in Galilei’s time. She also advocated teaching of scientific method in other courses than science, e g history.

Richard Dunn is a historian of Science who listed some boundary cases of different kinds like economics, string theory and acupuncture. Discussions are essential and result in consensus which is as close to truth as we can come.  The cosmologist Andrew Jaffe considered that science involves data gathering and forming of hypotheses. Most of the time scientific orthodoxy is right, and random things happen all the time. To sort this out can be difficult, and there can be bias when scientists stop doing experiments when the theory has been validated. An example given was a demonstration of gravity waves which was first believed to be true until it was revealed that false data had been injected.

A professor of Bioethics, Richard Ashcroft, warned against misinterpretations of large datasets which can show correlations although there is no causation, as is quite popular in the newspapers.

The World at Worldcon: The state of British SF

Jo Fletcher, Simon Spanton, Glyn Morgan (M), Lesley Hall, Paul March-Russell

Jo Fletcher, Simon Spanton, Glyn Morgan (M), Lesley Hall, Paul March-Russell

What has changed since last Worldcon in UK 2005? The recession made life difficult for publishers, and at the same time there was an explosion of new authors. Book chains have gone down and mainstream publishers went down, giving room for small SF/F publishers and ebooks. Thus, the field has not narrowed. The diversity has increased, since Britain now is very diverse. Labelling of books can be narrowing, e g New Weird, but booksellers need the labels.

What is impressing? Chris Beckett, especially his short story collection that has a cross-over appeal and has been praised by the general public.

The community, fandom, has been good but nobody else hears the discussions. The market listens to cultural assessments. Dr Who fans might come to cons and see the novels, but there is a marginal overlap between visual and literature readers. Still it is extraordinary that people read as much as they do. They read on iPhones which are always there. People still want a story.

Academia’s reception of sf has possibly improved slightly. It is possible to get support for conventions and loads of students want to do research in the field.

The Canon is Dead. What Now?

Kate Nepveu (M), Connie Willis, Joe Monti, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Chris Beckett

Kate Nepveu (M), Connie Willis, Joe Monti, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, Chris Beckett

Like in the discussion of Genre History, most panellists had their own canons. Thus Chris Beckett had read sf from the 60s onward, and found most of it in his dad’s shelf. Connie Willis defended the general canon and at Clarion she told the members 50 classic sf stories they should read. One reason is that she does not want to read stories with an excellent idea that she has to confess was used already by Bradbury. Another reason is that some gimmicks should not be used again, and a third that the old stories really are good. An example of a book that suffers from lack of knowledge of the sf canon is John Updike’s Toward the End of Time.

Beckett considered it to be optional for the reader to know the old works, but many in the panel found a pleasure in finding influences and dialogues with older books. Thus Stross’ Saturn’s Children is in dialogue with Asimov’s robot stories (and Heinlein’s Friday), Ancillary Justice reminds of The Left Hand of Darkness, and The Dark Material is a response to the Narnia books. Have Spacesuit Will Travel is a parody of earlier space operas. For a canon of short sf the panel recommended The Wesleyan Anthology of Science Fiction, and Connie Willis lists her favourites on her blog.

We Can Rebuild You

Neil Clarke, Cherry Potts (M), Marieke Nijkamp, Tore Høie, Helen McCarthy

Neil Clarke, Cherry Potts (M), Marieke Nijkamp, Tore Høie, Helen McCarthy

This interesting panel raised more questions than it answered. SF usually does not represent disabled people, and the question is to what extent disabilities should be “cured”. This might just be a convenient way to tidy up. Aging can be seen as a disability whereas post-traumatic shock during World War I was not considered as such. Upgrades can be both from disabled and from “normal”, to superhuman.

Health records at hospitals and from implants can be misused if the security is incomplete, and leak to employers and insurance companies. Although security in hospitals is not a priority area it was felt that the benefits outweigh the problems and some privacy has to be sacrificed.

Two books on disabilities and prejudices: Elizabeth Moon’s Speed of Dark where treatment of autism leads to decrease in artistic ability, and Louis McMaster Bujold’s  books where spacers having four arms are subjected to prejudices.

Ian M Banks, Writer and Professional

John Jarrold, Andrew McKie, Ken MacLeod (M), Michelle Hodgson, David Haddock

This panel had been announced to be a discussion of the career and work of the recently deceased GoH, but the panellists mainly related anecdotes from their meetings with him. He was said to have had a slight OCD and was interested in minutiae. He seldom lost the thread and entertained in every sentence. His aim was to entertain strangers. His last work, The Quarry, written before his diagnosis is strangely enough about a man who knows he is dying of cancer.

The Culture was invented as a stage for his characters, and is a society that is really good. He was an atheist and a socialist and in favour of Scottish Independence – “Let England go”. The novels that the panel especially recommended were Use of Weapons, Player of Games, Feersum Endjinn, and Walking on Glass.

I Can’t Do That, Dave: artificial intelligence, imagination, and fear

Tony Ballantyne (M), Tricia Sullivan, Madeline Ashby, Timothy Anderson, Anthony Fucilla

From a robots’ point of view humans are slow meat, but according to Peter Watts the difference is not marked. The brain may still be better for a lot of purposes. Robots that are similar to people are inefficient. AIs are still given information; they cannot pick it up, and are so far less efficient than humans. Still, in the future it may be important to program them that we are special, since it is their definition that is important.

To grant citizenship to AIs is too early. There are still issues with women, aborigines etc. and when it becomes something to consider we have probably moved beyond states and citizenship. A superpact for AIs seems more likely.

Some books that were mentioned: Sarah Zettel’s Fool’s War, where AIs are downloaded into human bodies, Cory Doctorow’s Makers and Charles Stross’ Rule 34.

Interzone and Beyond: British SF magazines of the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s

Gareth L Powell, Wendy Bradley, David Pringle, Malcolm Edwards, Chris Beckett (M)

Gareth L Powell, Wendy Bradley, David Pringle, Malcolm Edwards, Chris Beckett (M)

At the Eastercon in 1981 there was a profit which traditionally should be used for a party. Instead, the organisers proposed to start an sf magazine. At the same time a group in a London pub had the same idea, and the group of eight together started Interzone in 1982 (for details see link). Extro had started slightly before, but folded. Many authors started in Interzone: Stephen Baxter, Charles Stross, Geoff Ryman, Greg Egan, Chris Beckett, Eric Brown. Beckett was especially thankful for the extensive rejection letters which learnt him a lot. He corresponded with Interzone’s Lee Montgomery who he thought was a man, whereas she thought Chris was a woman.

Powell had no friends who read sf and for him Interzone was proof that there were others reading sf. Bradley considered Interzone to have been a bit depressing and blokey. For many years Pringle was the sole editor, and he told that the contributors mainly were British and not so much from USA and Canada. It tried to revive hard sf, “radical hard sf”, which was taken over by cyberpunk. The circulation was 5 – 6 000. The most gross and discussed story was Brian Aldiss’ Horsemeat.

There are now other outlets, e g online sites where people can read for free. It may be difficult to find the good stuff and there is a need for curated spaces, like ARC magazine and Strange Horizons. Today it is not possible to make a living from a magazine, nor from writing short stories.

London and Other Futures

Simon Ings, Anne Charnok, Dev Agarwal, Helen Pennington, Nick Hubble (M)

From this panel I have noted some books: The early (1885) post-apocalypse After London by Richard Jefferies and John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids with its blind people that has an intertextual connection to Wells’ “In the Country of the Blind”. Ken McLeod’s Intrusion describes an extrapolation of surveillance and Ings’ Headlong takes us to West London. Ballard’s The Flood appears to be set in London. I might add some that I have read recently: Ben Aaronovitch’s The Rivers of London and Chris Wooding’s The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, but there are of course many more.

The Bottom Up: The Fantastical World of Human Waste

This late-night talk was given by Rachel Erickson who among other things works as a guide for tourists to find free toilets in London. This interest has led her to study the history of toilets, and she mentioned e g how urine was collected and used in the Roman Empire. A novel where faeces plays a major role is the satirical The Dark Light Years by Brian Aldiss.

When Genres Collide: Does SF/F have its own form?

Nick Harkaway, Peter Higgins, Amanda Bridgeman, Darlene Marshall, Duncan Lawie (M)

Nick Harkaway, Peter Higgins, Amanda Bridgeman, Darlene Marshall, Duncan Lawie (M)

Marshall writes romance and defines it as describing two people who meet and make a journey to a common destination. The panel considered sf to be more flexible than romance and mainstream, and considered Sense of Wonder to be specific for sf. A recent example is Ancillary Justice, and I fully agree. It makes you see things in a new and different view, and can push boundaries – “I did not expect that”. In general military sf and space opera are narrow and not as open as other sf.

If a story today is not sf it is instead historical: There are no emails, no sms etc. Interaction has become necessary. There is a weird resistance against acknowledging this in literature today. An author as Greg Bear is close to the now and thus to mainstream.

Critical Diversity: Beyond Russ and Delany

Aishwarya Subramanian, Erin Horakova, Andrew Butler (M), Liz Bourke, Fabio Fernandes

Aishwarya Subramanian, Erin Horakova, Andrew Butler (M), Liz Bourke, Fabio Fernandes

Contemporary queer criticism and criticism concerning marginalised groups can be found in writings by Kameron Hurley, Aishwarya Subramanian, Fabio Fernandes , Cheryl Morgan and Maureen Kincaid Speller, at the web sites Strange Horizons and Tor.com and in LA Review of Books.

Science Fact and Science Fiction

David Southwood showed impressive pictures of the comet 67P taken from the probe Rosetta. He also talked about Wells’ War of the Worlds and how the story of Martians in London was a criticism of Brits in Africa and the wiping out of the Tasmanians. He mentioned the radio adaptation by Orson Welles and recommended a musical starring Richard Burton.

When Dan Dare went to Venus in 1950 the planet was known to have a dense, cloudy atmosphere, and the guess then was that it rained and had tropical forests. Sadly, this has turned out be wrong.

I Am The Law

Melinda Snoddgrass, Liz Zitzov, Simon Bradshaw (M), Francis Davey

Bradshaw introduced the subject by distinguishing three historical origins of law: God’s law, the King’s law and the Common law, the latter being based on how judges have decided before. Most law today are constructed by administration. Other “laws” may be just based on shame, like local laws regarding trespassing cows. In sf Bujold is good on law, but her stories are not especially sf. Women decide on family matters and the tax law is judged by men.  Barry Malzberg is said to write about tax law. Another author who writes about law is Max Gladstone, and in Susanna Clarke’s  Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell there is a court in London for magical issues.

Your Atoms, From Star to Star

This popular scientific talk by Jane Greaves was entertaining and dealt with the formation of atoms and how they have been reformed and recycled several times since the Big Bang.

They Do It Differently

Karoliina Leikomaa, Cristina Macia, Ian Watson (M), Fabio Fernandes, Shaun Duke

Karoliina Leikomaa, Cristina Macia, Ian Watson (M), Fabio Fernandes, Shaun Duke

With Karoliina Leikomaa from Finland, Fabio Fernandes from Brazil, Shaun Duke from Florida and Ian Watson originally from UK but now in Spain together with Cristina Macia this panel could cover a couple of national fandoms. Actually the similarities are more surprising than the differences, and many of the problems are the same. In order to get more young participants at the conventions the fee could be zero for all as in Finland or for just those under 26 as in Sweden.

Thomas Olsson, Martin Andersson, Helena Kiel, Margareta Cronholm

Thomas Olsson, Martin Andersson, Helena Kiel, Margareta Cronholm

During the convention we met a lot of fans from various countries, and the bidding tent for the Helsinki in 2017 bid acted as a meeting point for Scandinavians and others. Still the enormous amount of people (8.000) and the large convention site made me miss several Swedish fans who definitely were there. The fast food area did perhaps not serve the most delicious food but it made it possible to meet other fans at lunch.

Finncon 2013

Helsinki, Finland, July 5 – 7, 2013

Tommy Persson, Marianna Leikomaa, Jukka Halme, Cheryl Morgan

Tommy Persson, Marianna Leikomaa, Jukka Halme, Cheryl Morgan

Since I did not arrive until 10.30 at the Helsingfors airport I did not make it to the Opening Ceremony at noon. The discussion of the nominations for the Hugo Awards at 13.00 was classic, with Marianna Leikomaa moderating Tommy Persson, Cheryl Morgan and Jukka Halme. This time they started with the short stories since the novels were less interesting. There were only three short stories, due to the fact that a story has to have at least 5 % of the nominations in the category.  ”Immersion” by Finncon’s GoH Aliette de Bodard describes a culture collision, in ”Mantis Wives” by Kij Johnson husbands are eaten by their wives, and ”Ken Liu’s ”Mono No Aware” was inspired by Japanese aesthetics and considered sentimental. All three stories were considered good, and no consensus was reached regarding which should win.

Among the novels the only one I would like to read after the discussion is 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, although it is very long. The zombie book Blackout by Mira Grant, the typical Bujold novel, the one-joke novel Red Shirts by John Scalzi and the ”average, competently written middle-eastern fantasy” Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, being part of a series, seem less interesting. The panel would have liked to see M John Harrison’s Empty Space on the ballot.

Mats Strandberg, Sara B Elfgren, Karin Tidbeck, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo, Maria Turtschaninoff

Mats Strandberg, Sara B Elfgren, Karin Tidbeck, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo, Maria Turtschaninoff

The panel about sf and fantasy on both sides of the Baltic Sea was in Swedish (Fantastik på båda sidor av Östersjön).  In Sweden fantasy for children and YA has been done before, e g by Astrid Lindgren and Maria Gripe, so Cirkeln (The Circle) was readily accepted by critics. The successful  books by John Ajvide Lindqvist have made it somewhat easier for critics to accept also fantasy for adults, but Karin Tidbeck was not happy with the reviews of her sf or fantasy dystopia Amatka, since they always started by motivating the review by mentioning works by Karin Boye, Harry Martinson and P C Jersild. A common question in interviews is “Why do you write fantasy (and not “adult mainstream”)”.  Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo was asked “why a vampire novel?” when she had written Svulten (Starved). Karin Tidbeck said that in Sweden good literature is “workers literature” as written in the 40’s by e g Moa Martinson. In a commentary on the tv series Game of Thrones the poet, critic and editor Göran Greider recently wrote that fantasy is a song of praise to fascism. Karin Tidbeck’s formidable success abroad has not been noted at all by the Swedish literary establishment.

Maria Turtschaninoff’s Underfors received good reviews in Finland. Possibly it was easier to accept than her other fantasy novels, since it is set in the real Finland, in “our” world. Selling her books in Sweden has not been easy, which might be due to the publisher being Finnish. Sara B Elfgren and Mats Strandberg considered that they had luck with their book series starting with The Circle, that has already been sold to many countries and translated to 22 languages.

Stefan Ekman

Stefan Ekman

The GoH Stefan Ekman talked about his life as a fantasy researcher. In his thesis he analysed the role of the setting in fantasy, and he is now doing research in several areas:  1. SF and medicine, together with a colleague in medical humanities in Lund. There are lots of patients and different diseases in sf. An example he mentioned is Geoff Ryman’s The Child Garden. 2. He cannot let go of Tolkien, and is now mainly studying the letters. 3. The concept urban fantasy, which has undergone a shift in meaning from the 80’s till now. It is impossible to define but automatically criticises society. 4. Collaborating with an art historian he studies the portrayal of women in role-playing games and how this has changed over the years, e g in Dungeons and Dragons.

Stefan also talked about his thesis. It has now been published by Wesleyan as Here Be Dragons: Exploring Fantasy Maps and Settings. He mentioned three kinds of limits: 1. Between the reader and the text, and on that border there is often a map, with names of places. 2. Borders against the ghastly world outside, like in Mythago Wood or Galadriel. This can be compared with the polders in The Netherlands. 3. Nature vs human culture and society, exemplified by China Miéville and Charles deLint.

Ben Roimola, Jenny Wiik, Mia Franck, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo, Maria Turtschaninoff

Ben Roimola, Jenny Wiik, Mia Franck, Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo, Maria Turtschaninoff

In a presentation of Finland-Swedish fantasy four authors were interviewed by Ben Roimola. Jenny Wiik has recently published Bildbindaren (The Picture Binder) that is a book with a portal and internet, written mainly for pre-teenagers. She appreciated the feedback she got from the publisher, Schildt-Söderströms. Mia Franck had done research in the fantastic genres and has now written the novel Martrådar about mares which suck out the sexual lusts, after a writing course with Monica Fagerholm. She writes for youthful adults. Svulten (Starved) is Hannele Mikaela Taivassalo’s third novel and deals with obsession, decadence and idling. She has been interested in vampires for a long time, and this novel is a homage to the classic vampires, although female. Maria Turtschaninoff presented Arra at the last Finncon in Helsinki. It started with one person, and the world grew. Anaché takes place in a neighbouring country and also starts with the story of one person. The publisher considered it to be her best book, and I agree and am looking forward to read more by her.

Aliette de Bodard, Tom Crosshill

Aliette de Bodard, Tom Crosshill

The GoH Aliette de Bodard was interviewed by Tom Crosshill, who started by calling her texts “new new wave”, a fresh kind of sf, where identity is important. She is French by birth, lived in USA for a long time and now lives in France. Her father is French and her mother Vietnamese, and she has been well aware of being different. She works as a scientist and computer engineer, and is moonlighting in writing. Still, there is not much hard-core science in her fiction. She is more interested in how science influences people.

There is a pronounced “non-western” aspect in her writing. She has read ancient Vietnamese and Chinese texts. They have a different history of literature, and in that tradition brotherhood and studying together are more important than love. The stories are less plot-driven, and concern family. When she has adopted these ideas she has got rid of most of the misogyny. In her universe there are different cultures, and she is trying to show that different cultures have different merits.

In addition to her sf she has written a fantasy series, Obsidian and Blood, set in the Aztec culture before the Spanish invasion. It has devout warriors and magic that works. There is often a crime element in her books; they are speculative fiction thrillers. Regarding the state of the genre she sees two strands, the Golden Age stories emphasising science and ideas, and the more experimental stories. She appreciates the current discussion among authors, although it is not always friendly. Obviously I have to read On a Red Station, Drifting, in addition to the short stories by her that I have read and liked in Asimov’s and Interzone.

The panel On Writing took place in the hall Pannuhalli where a large ventilating fan dominated over the panellists and the moderator, Tom Crosshill. Still, I heard the Finnish GoH J Pekka Mäkelä point out that good writing leads to good reading, and that he makes a draught first and then the first and last sentences. Peter Watts tries to explore an idea when he writes, rather than aiming for entertainment. He considers himself to be a foul-tempered court jester, and he writes what he would like to read. And so does Aliette de Bodard.

Jakob Löfgren

Jakob Löfgren

The talk by Jakob Löfgren about fandom was interesting. It was called From fiction to reality. Fans under the microscope, and the speaker was a Ph D student in Nordic Folklore or ethnology at Åbo Academy.  He started out by an attempt to define fandom with references to studies from the 90’s and the present century, but he did not mention the origin of sf fandom as we know it. With a lot of references he characterised fandom as based on affection, being playful, a social group and a participating culture. Fandom provides a common identity with its own cultural expressions based on affectionate play. The cultural expressions that he mentioned were cons, cosplay, fan fiction including slash, filking, and buying and collecting stuff. It also includes artistic communication in small groups, and it depends on tradition, with repeated events like cons.  This description might be correct for fans of a special character or series, like Star Trek fans, Harry Potter fans and Sherlock Holmes fans, but I find it incomplete or even inaccurate for sf fandom, where fans and pros meet on an equal basis, pros quite often are fans and often have their origin in fandom where they started out by publishing short stories in fanzines. Even the Wikipedia article on fandom gives a better description of sf fandom.

Jakob Löfgren had studied fandom in the small British village Wincanton where Discworld fans celebrate Hogswatch weekends together with Terry Pratchett. He described an extreme variant of fandom where the people of the village took on the personality of characters in the Discworld books. This is pretty far from the fandom I know, even if there are masquerades at some cons.

Markus Rosenlund

Markus Rosenlund

The science journalist and sf fan Markus Rosenlund gave an entertaining talk called something like The twilight zone between science and magic (Skymningszonen mellan vetenskap och magi). He started by citing Arthur C. Clarke:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” The risk of being burnt at the stake has been high for those who have challenged the present conceptions, and even today you can be ostracized for revolutionary ideas like cold fusion. He gave an overview of scientific revolutions with some entertaining anecdotes, like the one where Heisenberg and Schrödinger were driving a car and was stopped by the police. – Do you know how fast you were driving? – No, but I know where we are. – Did you know there is a live cat in the luggage boot? – No, but now we know.

Markku Soikkeli, Aliette de Bodard, Stefan Ekman, Tom Crosshill

Markku Soikkeli, Aliette de Bodard, Stefan Ekman, Tom Crosshill

SF as metaphor was discussed by Aliette de Bodard, Stefan Ekman and Markku Soikkeli with Tom Crosshill as moderator. SF can be read in different ways and what looks like a metaphor may actually be the described, imagined reality.

There should be a message and the text should deal with real-world issues, but not so much that it turns into mainstream. If the writer tries too hard with the message the text may end up as propaganda and is no longer interesting to read.

The predictive aspect of sf is not important and it is usually impossible to foresee breakthroughs. The text should instead deal with where we think the society is going now and what impact the technologies do to us as a society and as people. The text should make the reader think in new ways.

Eemeli Aro, Syksy Räsänen, Caitlin Sweet, Karin Tidbeck

Eemeli Aro, Syksy Räsänen, Caitlin Sweet, Karin Tidbeck

The less serious panel Speculative tv-series was led by Eemeli Aro, who asked the public for ideas for new tv-series which the panellists then had to describe. The panel consisted of Syksy Räsänen, Karin Tidbeck and Caitlin Sweet, who entertained us with stories about daycare of baby vampires and space sheep. Still, this is not the kind of programme item I like best.

Alexandra Davydova, Irina Lipka

Alexandra Davydova, Irina Lipka

East is calling – State of Moder Russian SF: Last year 776 original sf books were published in Russia. This was mentioned by the two Russian fans Alexandra Davydova, who is also a writer and game constructor, and Irina Lipka. The presentation showed that there really are quite many Russian sf authors, and a lot of sf is also translated from English. Unfortunately many translations are done very fast and also not by professionals and involving piracy. There is a lot of fantasy for mass consumption. Not much Russian sf or fantasy has been translated into English, but exceptions are Metro 2033 by Dmitri Glukhovsky, the Night Watch series by Sergei Lukyanenko and books by Max Frei. Serious authors dislike to have their books labelled sf. And if they have written sf before they easily ”forget” them. Just like in Sweden.

We saw a film based on Karin Tidbeck’s short story “Who is Arvid Pekon?”, entitled Kim jest Arvid Pekon? since it was made in Poland. It was made by a Swede, Patrick Eriksson, who went to a film school in Poland. He found a complete old switchboard in the cellar of the school, and used it for the filming. In the story old-time phone operators are answering calls. The film was very good and even scarier than the story.

Caitlin Sweet, Sara B Elfgren, Mats Strandberg, Nene Ormes, Jussi Ahlroth

Caitlin Sweet, Sara B Elfgren, Mats Strandberg, Nene Ormes, Jussi Ahlroth

The Sunday programme was not as well-filled as those for the other days. In the morning I listened to a panel called Soundtracks for books, led by Jussi Ahlroth. While writing, the authors listened to playlists or music chosen by others in a café or pub. Nene listens to scores from movies she hasn’t seen – if she has seen them she gets disturbed. She also listens to Philip Glass. They talked a lot about music that I don’t know, and also commented on lists of music on the back of some books. No one in the panel listens to music while reading, which I find strange. When I read I often listen to music that I know well, like string quartets by Beethoven or Shostakovich.

Merja Polvinen, Fionna O'Sullivan, Stefan Ekman, Tommy Persson

Merja Polvinen, Fionna O’Sullivan, Stefan Ekman, Tommy Persson

Other aspects of reading practices were discussed in the panel How do we read?, moderated by Merja Polvinen. Interestingly, the entire panel was irritated by too extensive descriptions of characters, e g faces, hair colour etc, and I agree with this. They visualise when reading, and this dominates over hearing, although bells or music may be heard. Merja distinguished different types of reading: skimming, scanning and deep-reading, but Tommy Persson did not consider the first two as reading – he reads every word even when reading purely for pleasure. Stefan Ekman admitted to being a story junkie and descriptions of places stops him in the track. He can also deep-read and spend an hour for a paragraph. Nowadays I can enjoy quite extensive descriptions of nature even if it slows down the story.

Mats Strandberg, Sara B Elfgren, Johan Anglemark

Mats Strandberg, Sara B Elfgren, Johan Anglemark

Johan Anglemark interviewed Sara Bergmark Elfgren and Mats Strandberg, the successful authors of The Circle and other books in the Engelsfors series. It was nice to listen to, but did not add very much to what I already knew.

Tom Crosshill, Emmi Itäranta, Karin Tidbeck, Aliette de Bodard

Tom Crosshill, Emmi Itäranta, Karin Tidbeck, Aliette de Bodard

Once more Tom Crosshill was used as moderator, this time in the discussion entitled Writing in a foreign language. The authors Tom Crosshill, Aliette de Bodard, Karin Tidbeck and Emmi Itäranta shared their experiences of writing in English although their native tongue was Latvian, French, Swedish or Finnish. Karin Tidbeck learnt English by playing World of Warcraft. She has translated her stories herself and found that Swedish is comparably passive, almost paraplegic, and cannot be directly translated. She also point out that there is a lot of cultural baggage in a word that is never fully understood by a foreigner.  Emmi Itäranta had been to a Creative Writing course in England. She found it helpful to write in both languages in parallel. Finnish has a small number of words but a complex grammar, whereas English has an extensive vocabulary. For Aliette de Bodard it was revealing to have her work translated into French, which has much longer sentences than English. She also thanked God for the Internet, that has taken down a lot of barriers. It is now much easier to publish in a foreign country.

Naturally there was a lot of talk between programme items and at the party on Saturday evening. I especially enjoyed the discussions in that evening where a Chinese fan, some Swedish fans and some Russian fans talked about fandom and conventions in our countries. I have bought a membership in the Russian Eurocon that takes place in St Petersburg in 2015, and look forward to it!

P1030523aThis was an excellent Finncon. Many thanks to the organisers! In central Helsinki I saw alien creatures so obviously the entire city was involved in the convention. Next year Finncon is in Jyväskylä which is less readily available from Sweden. Still, I hope to go there!

Läs också Johan Jönssons utmärkta rapport!

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.

Condense – den tunga kongressen

Göteborgskongressen Condense ägde rum mellan 18 och 20 juni 2010, en tid det kunde vara skönt att inte vara i Stockholm. Förberedelsen innebar denna gång att fylla bilen hos Johan Anglemark med banankartoner innehållande SAAM-antikvariatet. Vi åkte sedan från Stockholm till Göteborg genom ett soligt sommar-Sverige, och passade på att titta på Bottnaryds träkyrka och speciellt målningarna av mäster Anders Falck från 1695.

I Bottnaryds kyrka

I Bottnaryds kyrka

Efter att ha begrundat det hemska öde som kan vänta i gafians käftar, den undflyende enhörningen och svårigheterna att läsa sf på annat än svenska, engelska och danska fortsatte vi mot norra Göteborg för att till slut hitta fram till Apple hotell som faktiskt var lika sjabbigt på insidan som på utsidan men i gengäld bjöd på middag och stor frukostbuffé. Mindre kul var att vattnet försvann under lördagskvällen. Visserligen var inte det hotellets fel men man kunde möjligen ha tänkt sig att personalen skulle ha försökt att skaffa fram något mer än 33 cl Loka för tvätt och tandborstning.

Babels torn i Bottnaryds kyrka

Vi kom ner redan på torsdagskvällen och hade alltså en hel del tid på fredagen. Medan Margareta gick på ett jobbrelaterat möte vandrade jag runt i botaniska trädgården och lyckades hitta det träd som förser hela världen med näsdukar.

Näsduksträd

Mycket spårvagn blev det vilket onekligen är trevligt, i alla fall när man sitter i den och inte i en bil bredvid. Spårvagn alltså till Eriksberg och Eriksbergshallen som inrymde utställningen And There Was Light som uppgavs innehålla verk av da Vinci, Rafael och Michelangelo. Och visst var det trevligt att beskåda da Vincis La Bella Principessa men för 245 kronor per person hade man väntat sig lite fler original, färre reproduktioner och mindre pladder i hörlursguiden som närmast var ett måste för att man skulle få ut något av utställningen. Rekommenderas ej. Då var det betydligt mer givande att besöka Röhsska museet.

Kongresslokalen, Fräntorps Folkets Hus

Kongresslokalen Fräntorps Folkets Hus var från 50-talet med väl bevarad karaktär; riktigt trevlig men möjligen lite för liten. Speciellt saknades en ordentlig vimmelyta, och SAAM-antikvariatet hade svårt att bli exponerat och utnyttjat för de spontana diskussioner som är en speciell poäng med de gamla böckerna. Mängder av sf-illustrationer på väggarna gav den rätta atmosfären. Programmet var inte så omfattande, speciellt söndagen kändes tunn, men i gengäld var det omväxlande både till form, med paneler, föredrag och diskussioner, och till innehåll med fysik, litteratur, författare och fandom. Dessutom förekom film, spel, tävlingar och auktion, men från dessa aktiviteter kan jag inte rapportera. Baren var liten men utmärkt och tillhandahöll öl och mackor samt dessutom frukost! På lördagen serverades prinsesstårta.

Inge R. L. Larsson, Justina Robson, Nene Ormes, Peter Bengtsson

The opening of the con included the opening of the Russian doll to let out the spirit of fandom which is now traditional at Swecons. The Guest of Honour Justina Robson was interviewed by Peter Bengtsson, and she mentioned some influences: A favourite author is Robert Holdstock, whose Mythago Woods series becomes more and more sf as time goes on. She mentions Lewis Carroll, and likes Richard Morgan’s charismatic energy and how he puts his ideas in the background. She also mentions China Miéville and Kelley Armstrong who writes about werewolves and witches, and especially the early works by Ursula K. LeGuin. Justina Robson also likes the mind-bending stories by James Tiptree, Jr., and the completely alien aliens of Octavia Butler and her descriptions of racial prejudice.

Regarding her own work I noted that she had thought for a long time about the characters in Living Next Door To the God of Love and that she likes the characters. I found that book hard to read but it has stuck in my memory. Her plans for the future include sf with nanotechnology, looking like fantasy but actually being sf.

Sten Thaning, Justina Robson, Tommy Persson

Justina Robson

Justina Robson participated in the subsequent panel debate on whether there is a difference between hard/heavy and soft/light sf, together with Sten Thaning and Tommy Persson. Her opinion was that hard sf is extrapolation that has to be explained, whereas no explanation is needed in soft sf. Still, her Silver Screen is hard sf although not much is explained. Mundane sf is a sort of soft sf, where e g FTL is not allowed. Biology is no longer excluded from the “hard” sciences. Historically soft sf has human interest whereas technology dominates in hard sf. She wondered whether these distinctions really are of interest today. Fantasy where the rules are clearly defined could be called hard fantasy. Two hard sf authors are Alastair Reynolds and Greg Egan. Finally it was stated that sf should not be mistaken for predictions of the future.

Diskussionen vid Frukost med boktips med Johan Frick som ledare skulle mått bra av att fler åhörare släppts in. Nu blev det mest hans egna rekommendationer som i och för sig var intressanta: Paul McAuley’s The Quiet War, som dock hänger intimt ihop med efterföljaren Gardens of the Sun; Peter Watts’ hårda sf Blindsight, Catherynne Valente’s Palimpsest och Alastair Reynolds’ Terminal World, som till skillnad från hans tidigare inte är hård sf utan snarare påminner om China Miéville.

Från panelen Finns det mer sf än vi ser? med Nene Ormes, Marianna Leikomaa och Per Åkerman har jag noterat Nenes kommentarer om att vi lever i en sf-värld med intelligenta hus, Google etc, vilket sannolikt förklarar varför hennes kunder i sf-bokhandeln i Malmö frågar efter magiska böcker snarare än sf. Den sf som finns i böckerna är redan sann.

Patrik Centerwall, Nene Ormes

Patrik Centerwall gjorde en sällsynt lyckad hedersgästintervju av Nene Ormes. Förutom att hon är författare och arbetar i sf-bokhandeln i Malmö driver hon debutantbloggen på webben. Om sin egen debut med Udda verklighet berättar hon att boken såldes slut redan före recensionsdagen, vilket stämmer med ett sug efter svensk fantasy och sf. Tidigare har hon varit sagoberättare, t ex i live, rollspelare, och läst mycket fantasy som Inger Edelfeldt och Katharine Kerr. Hon har jobbat som arkeolog och som reseledare i Egypten för Temaresor. Hennes debutbok var också hennes examensarbete på författarskolan på Lunds universitet . Där fick hon ta mycket skit för att hon skrev fantasy – hennes lärare frågade, ”tror du på det där själv?” Hon fick en ny handledare, Therese Granwald, som förstod henne och som gav henne en lista över rekommenderad litteratur, som innehöll Nenes egna favoriter.

Nene Ormes

Patrik tycker att boken Udda verklighet känns svensk. Hon berättar då att hon gillar att skriva på svenska, som hon ser som ett fantastiskt språk som är som gjort för att berätta sagor på. Hon tycker också om gömda, okända platser, som det finns många av i Malmö. Hon berättar om en port hon hittat som inte fanns när hon efter några år sökte upp den igen. ”Udda” i boken är en person, som inte vill sticka ut. Andra personer i boken har verkliga förebilder men har förstås ändrats. Hon beskriver boken som ”urban fantasy”, egen vardag med fantasy pålagt.

Martin Cederwall höll ett fascinerande föredrag om strängteori. Riktigt hur strängar med en storlek runt Planck-längden, 10-35 m, förklarar hur det kan finnas flera parallella universa långt från varandra förstod jag nog inte. Och lite bekymmersamt blev det när han ansåg att vi inte kan räkna med några experimentella bevis för att strängteorin är riktig än på flera hundra år.

Stefan Ekman

Stefan Ekmans seminarium, Vad innebär det att forska om fantasy? handlade förstås om hans doktorandprojekt Writing Worlds, Reading Landscapes: An Exploration of Settings in Fantasy. Han konstaterade att världen är viktig i fantasy och sf, och kan t o m vara huvudperson. Ofta lånas berättelsen från gamla myter och sagor, men sätts i en annan värld som blir central. Forskning på fantasyvärldar saknas. Det man kan studera är hur världarna är konstruerade. Fantasyböcker har ofta en karta i början, och Stefan har funnit att det gäller för 33 % av det som kallas fantasy. Mellan fantasyvärlden, faerie, och den vanliga världen kan det finnas en skarp gräns som i t ex Gaimans Stardust. I Encyclopedia of Fantasy beskrivs begreppet ”poldern” som är den begränsade fantasyvärlden, en liten miljö som måste upprätthållas genom att gränsen försvaras. Exempel är Lothlorien i Tolkiens värld och Holdstocks Mythago Wood. Detta kan ses som en extremkonservativ, nationalistisk idé och ett försök att bevara det förflutna. Många moderna fantasyverk tar ställning för eller emot detta.

Helena Kiel, Henrik Otterberg

Intressant var också Henrik Otterbergs föredrag om Philip K. Dick, och speciellt handlade det om hans forskning kring Androidens drömmar, som lett till att han hittat referenser till René Descartes och kyrkofadern Isidor genom namnen Rick Deckard och John Isidore. Detta ger extra djup åt bokens innehåll kring artificiella och biologiska varelsers rättigheter och fria vilja.

Karl-Johan Norén, Johan Anglemark, Michael Pargman, Sten Thaning, Hans Persson

Under kongressen röstades om vilken svensk kongress som skulle vara Swecon 2011. Eftersom det inte fanns något motbud var det självklart att det blev Eurocon 2011, men det firades i alla fall med bubbel samtidigt som kommittén försökte sälja medlemsskap.

Gunilla Jonsson,Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, ?, Katja Lindblom

Helena Kiel

Till slut infångades den fanniska anden och Helena Kiel förslöt den ryska dockan. En mycket trivsam kongress, som avslutades med Dead Dog Party på The Rover inne i Göteborg.


Swecon i Stockholm 15-17 juni

Worldcon 75, Helsingfors 2017