Posts Tagged 'Niels Dalgaard'

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!

Fantasticon 2012

Copenhagen, Denmark, June 1-3, 2012

Klaus Æ. Mogensen

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

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

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

Niels Dalgaard, Jesper Rugård Jensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Ellen Datlow

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

Tatiana Goldberg

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

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

Knud Larn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alastair Reynolds, Niels Dalgaard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Henrik Harksen

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

Alastair Reynolds, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Ellen Datlow

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

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

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

Fantasticon 2010



Copenhagen, Denmark, September 18-19, 2010

Fantasticon 2010 was a small and cosy con, and like in 2009 it took place in the culture house of Vanløse. This time I was accompanied by my wife Margareta, who took lots of notes which have helped me to write this report. I had a good time in the hotel Fy og Bi in Valby in 2009, so we stayed there this time too. The trains are absolutely fantastic in Copenhagen making me, living in Stockholm, quite jealous. Thus there were no problems to get to the con, and it was also very easy to get to Roskilde after the con.

The con was opened by the congress chairman, Flemming Rasch. I had not had time to get accustomed to the Danish so I had problems to understand him. This was followed by Fans in Scandinavia, in Scandinavian; Klaus Æ. Mogensen told us about fandom och cons, and I presented Eurocon 2011 with the aid of Power Point.

Flemming Rasch, Susanne Hodges, Catherine Asaro

The Guest of Honour Catherine Asaro was interviewed by Flemming Rasch and Susanne Hodges. Her first published work was a short story, “Dance in Blue”, for a Christmas anthology, and shortly thereafter Analog published her first story from the Skolian Empire. Many of her stories are part of this family saga, which is hard sf with some military sf. It can also be called planetary romance, and she writes a chapter on that for a textbook. She sees it as a way of looking at our own culture, and asking what is alien in ourselves. She believes that we will get brain implants for intellect enhancement, which might lead to a singularity and possibly a kind of immortality. AIs will also become smarter making it difficult to draw the line between humans and machines. An AI, or rather EI (evolving intelligence), is the main character of the sf novel Sunrise Alley. In the award-winning Quantum Rose, particles from her Ph D thesis in chemical physics are translated into characters, and even the language (“bound state”) reflects the thesis. The story is an allegory, or a fairy tale. She considers there to be similarities between her interests and abilities in the areas math, music and dance; ballet is pattern-oriented.

Catherine Asaro

Even if this sf-con must be considered as a small one, there were several parallels, and it was not always easy to choose. We next listened to Catherine Asaro singing, accompanied by her daughter’s boyfriend on the piano. The couple was good at entertaining us while we had a beer and a sandwich.

 

 

 

 

 

While I was sitting at the Eurocon 2011 table, or rather looking at the huge used books sale, Margareta listened to Thomas Winther interviewing Kaspar Colling Nielsen. Mount København is an absurd and strange book with 17 different stories about the mountain. These are not ordinary short stories and it is not a novel. It took three years to write and a long time with the publisher. He uses notebooks, “China books”, where he for years have written down small ideas for stories, and he reads the story “The pelican” about a doctor who transforms himself into a bird. Another story is about a “manolitic” man, who is magnetic, whereas in “The Tennis Player” a man restrings his racket with guts. One of the stories was from Valby. The publisher made a selection, but Kaspar Colling Nielsen had no impression that this was aimed at making the book easier to sell. A story about how the mountain was built, which took 200 years, was too long to be incorporated. He had sent the manuscript to several other publishers before Gyldendal accepted it. The long time between the acceptance and the actual publishing decision was tiresome.   

Carrie-Lynn Reinhard

 

We then listened to an interesting talk about Superheroes, by Carrie-Lynn Reinhard. She described the results of an international survey, questioning fans about their conceptions about superheroes. She got 112 answers, and the first question was what defines a superhero. He/She should have a sanctioned mission, superpower(s), a secret identity, a codename and a costume motif. The medium is often visual. To have an extraordinary ability was most important in the survey, and a strong moral code was also important. The best known american superheroes were from DC: 1. Superman, 2. Batman; and Marvel: 1. Spiderman, 2. Wolverine. The Phantom (Fantomen) is not a superheroe since he lacks superpower. From Argentine comes The Eternauta who fights against an alien invasion. Borderline superheroes are Robin Hood, Jesus and Pippi Långstrump. We were also shown an entertaining Italian parody of Spiderman.   

Catherine Asaro, Carrie-Lynn Reinhard, Rikke Schubart, Niels Dalgaard, Tue Sørensen

The panel discussion Researching the fantastic genre was moderated by Tue Sørensen. Niels Dalgaard mentioned that he had written a Ph D thesis about Danish SF but was thrown out of the university. Rikke Schubart had not yet been thrown out although she was teaching about computer games, TV and films. She started with horror fiction and films, then action films, and wrote a book on what they are all about. She has also written fiction, e g with vampires, and she is fascinated by emotions, especially bad ones like disgust, repulsion and anger rather than romance. Carrie-Lynn Reinhard, whom we had listened to just before, had studied how people use virtual realities, like Second Lifeor when watching a film. Catherine Asaro told us about her research in sf, where she had studied the planetary romances of E R Burroughs and M Z Bradley. She also used some research in her hard sf, when she tried to understand e g what the light would be on a planet with a certain tilt of the axis. She also does some scientific research in the university, but now she mainly teaches.

The moderator wanted to know how the research was done, and Niels Dalgaard answered that he went through gaudy magazines e g looking for mad scientists. For Rikke Schubart it took two years just to find out what she was interested in. You need to collect very much information in order to know that you do not need to know it. Carrie-Lynn Reinhardt uses questionnaires and wants fans to answer. You need to get allowance from a review board in order to do studies today. It is easier to study phenomena on internet where you don’t risk to hurt anyone. Catherine Asaro has used the library catalogue at Harvard, and gets the article via mail. She often uses Wikipedia for a start and then checks by looking up the references. She also mentions that she looked for a Jack Vance book in the Baltimore SF Society, where there are thousands of books.

Finally the moderator wanted to know how others react to their work. Catherine Asaro’s colleagues say: “You write what?”, “Are you still in high school?”, unless you win an award. Carrie-Lynn Reinhardt’s friends think she is cool. Fan culture is accepted since it makes money. The effects of games, with sex and violence, are of interest and grants are provided. Rikke Schubart first tried the department of comparative literature but there it was considered trash. She changed to the department for film and media, where her interests were accepted. Niels Dalgaard had no other department to go to. He was frustrated and wanted people to know what sf is before they look down upon it. This panel was interesting but would have gained by more interaction between the panelists who instead gave short lectures

The young, Danish author Camilla Wandahl was interviewed by Flemming Rasch, and Margareta listened. She has written sf since she was young, and in 2003 she had a short story in a competition at Fantasticon for stories written for those under 17 years. She won, and won also in 2005, and her contribution was published in an anthology. She knew nothing about fandom before; it was the competition that attracted her. She has not read much sf but has seen some films. She has worked in a writer’s group which generated a novel manuscript that has so far not been published. A good thing with these courses is that you learn how to handle a rejection; that you can send the manuscript again after a time. Hjerte i vente is her first accepted novel. She had good help from the editor; after five turns with the manuscript the contract was signed. From this she learned to prepare her manuscripts several timed before they are assessed. The first reviews pointed out that young authors write for young readers about young persons. After some novels she joined a group writing detective stories, where 15 pages were to be delivered every fortnight. In this way she wrote a YA detective story about four 13 year old youngsters who find a mystical role-playing book. She finds it difficult to write about children today because they live in secluded environments, they are in school or in leisure centers and are fetched by their parents, they are not as free as before. It is a challenge to create a thrilling setting and situation where they lose their mobiles and have to manage by themselves.

Camilla Wandahl is now a full-time author and earns her living from royalties and lecture fees. The society “HUF” (www.huf.dk), “hopeful young authors”, helps in application for grants, finding lecture opportunities, writing CV, making web page etc. (Which sounds extremely good!) She writes every day, even if only for half an hour or two pages, but in the writer’s group they write four times 20 min every day and discusses the texts in between. This produces much text in a weekend. She barely reads any adult books other than detective stories, but she reads YA books for inspiration, and now mainly realistic books since she wants to build identification objects for youngsters. She initially thought that it would be easier to write fantasy, but it also demanded its skill. It is not possible just to add a dragon. She does not always know the end of the book she is writing but she often writes a one page synopsis. She tries to write “first time”-stories: Love, deceit, boy/girl, and is not interested in writing for adults. Is there any risk that someone else writes the same story? A consolation is that there only are seven archetypical stories, and everyone writes them again and again. The library fee can be granted to anyone who has participated in an anthology; she knows all ways of financing from HUF. She believes that YA sf is coming. Her advice to others is to write much and often, and rewrite, and if possible join a writer’s group. She has her own blog about writing, http://www.camillawandahl.dk.

Svend Kreiner, Jeppe Larson, Niels Dalgaard, Flemming Rasch, Stig W. Jørgensen

The sf novel of the decade is a good idea for a panel, and the members of the panel had decided before which six books they chose. Flemming Rasch moderated the discussion, and Stig W. Jørgensen started by suggesting Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Years of Rice and Salt. It is an alternate history, and goes back to e g Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. It tells about an aggravated pest epidemic. There are no historic persons but Islam gets an Age of Enlightenment in Samarkand. There are new world wars during the story of the book that spans from the 14th century to the future. It is a moral book in ten parts. The character’s thinking is dominated by a reincarnation theme. 

The literary scholar Niels Dalgaard supports the interest in that book and that it represents the core of the alternate history trend. The book reflects historical interpretations. He also proposes Spin by Robert Charles Wilson, in which the rotation of Earth is increased making it isolated from the rest of the universe, with an accompanying time displacement. How would humanity react? It is good old sf, and there is a sequel, Axis. 

Jeppe Larson would have chosen Pushing Ice by Alastair Reynolds, which takes a big perspective of the universe, with references to Arthur C Clarke and other classics. It is new Space Opera with Sense of Wonder. But the main characters are atypical, and there is super science like in the 30s, making one suspect that it is a parody. Two women are the main characters, but they lack characteristics.

Svend Kreiner preferred River of Godsby Ian McDonald (one of the GoHs at Eurocon 2011). The story takes place in a future India, that has collapsed. The main plot is a conflict between AIs and humans. Stig Jørgensen reads as a tourist, it is the background that is interesting. The book is demanding and should be reread a lot. It appears to be inspired by Neuromancer and is an example of neocolonialism. 

Charles Stross’ Halting State takes place in an on line game. The main characters are a policeman, an insurance manager and a young nerd in the IT-business. It is a typical example of a “close to now”-book.  

The last book was Flood by Stephen Baxter, where a group is kidnapped and in the meantime there is a catastrophe, and when the kidnapped persons return they look at a new world. There are many references to early sf, like Heinlein. The sequel, Ark, is not as good.

In the final discussion it was concluded that everyone likes Spin and The Years of Rice and Salt. It was remarked that there was no female author. Svend Kreiner suggests a new author, Neal Asher, who might be interesting in the future. 

Flemming Rasch, Jeppe Larson, Catherine Asaro, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Asmus Kofoed

The hard science programme item, that Swedish cons today often lack, was entitled The future of space exploration, and Flemming Rasch moderated the panel consisting of Asmus Kofoed, Klaus Æ. Mogensen, Catherine Asaro and the cyber scientist Jeppe Larsen. We went to the moon before we really had the technology. Now we have the technology but lack the incentive. It takes ten years to build a space program but the US changes its government every eight year. There has to be a commercial drive, like interesting metals or 3He for fusion power, that might be found on the moon.

How would we travel further than the moon? Plasma engines for faster travel, and perhaps robots instead of humans. Possibly nanomachines which could send back information. A space elevator is another possibility, but could be vulnerable to lightning, terrorists etc. 

What could we expect to meet? Most likely robots, with their own civilisation. A possible reason why we have not met any other life is that it could be very strange. We might not recognize it as life. 

After the con we went to Roskilde and had a look at the impressive Viking ships.

 

 


Swecon i Uppsala 26-28 maj

Worldcon 75, Helsingfors 2017

Eurocon 2017 i Dortmund