Posts Tagged 'science fiction'

U-Con, Eurocon 2017

U-Con, Eurocon 2017 in Dortmund, June 16-18.

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Arno Behrend, chairman

This was a fairly small Eurocon, with 375 attending members. The venue was some kind of school, with a big hall suitable for the main programme and some smaller rooms, a bar and a dealers’ area. Perfect for the size of the convention. Here are some reports from the programme items. For photos I would recommend the collections posted by e g Marcin Klak, Sergii Paltsun and Joerg Ritter on Facebook. I took some photos but they are not as good. Still, here are a couple. For me, the most interesting items were the presentations of German sf, which obviously is not only Perry Rhodan.

 

Author guests of honour at the opening ceremony:

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Dave Huchinson

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Andreas Eschbach

 

Future Eurocons

Amiens, Nemo, July 19-22, 2018. Pierre Gévart: Theme African sf. The magazine Galaxies has an entire issue dedicated to African sf.

Belfast, Titancon, August 22-24, 2019. Phil Lowes.

Bid: Rijeka, Croatia, Futuricon 2020, October 2-4, 2020.

Another con, that a Lithuanian fan told me about: Lituanicon in Vilnius, September 30, 2017.

Bilingual science fiction, talk by Francesco Verso from Italy

The start of sf is fictionalised ideas, see wardshelley.com for the history of sf. Can be called “the fiction of transformation”. Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby: Speculative Everything. Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming, MIT Press. Verso publishes sf by authors from all over the world (http://www.futurefiction.org ) and in an anthology, Nebula, with English and Italian in parallel. Authors mentioned: Ekaterina Sedia (Russia, USA), Tendai Huchu (Zimbabwe), Efe Tokunbo (Nigeria, Mexico), Pepe Roja, Michalis Manolios (Greece, author of “Aethra”), Xoa Jia translated by Ken Liu, Zhang Ran (China, translated by Ken Liu: Ether), Chen Qiufan (China).

 

German contemporary sf, talk by Martin Stricker

There are approximately 100 million German-speaking readers. Portal: deutsche-science-fiction.de. The longest series is the Perry Rhodan one, but the concept is for me not interesting since world-building is one of the most interesting aspects of sf. List of authors:

Thosrsten Küper, who talked about Second Life at the convention. He writes cyperpunk with underdogs who are revolting. http://kueperpunk2012.blogspot.se/.

Michael K. Iwoleit writes cyberpunk with immortality.
https://iwoleit.wordpress.com/, in English. His story “Das Netz der Geächteten” has won the Deutscher Science Fiction Preis and has just been republished by Tor, http://www.tor-online.de/fiction/2017/05/das-netz-der-geaechteten-michael-k-iwoleit/.

Nadine and Uwe Post write in a unique humorous-satirical style.
http://www.nadine-boos.de/wordpress/ & http://upcenter.de/wordpress/

Heidrun Jänchen. https://heidrunjaenchen.wordpress.com/

Karla Schmidt has weird ideas.
https://karla-schmidt.de/ She has a short story in Clarkesworld #119.

Oliver Henkel writes alternate history. http://oliverhenkel.com/

Frank W. Haubold is a stylish sf author. http://frank-haubold.de/

Wolfgang Jeschke is the most important editor with over 100 anthologies.

Herbert W. Franke is a 90 year old Austrian. His books have been translated by DAW books.

Helmuth W. Mommers writes about life in the future. http://helmuthmommers.de/.

Andreas Eschbach is the most successful German sf author and his Lord of All Things is most well-known. http://andreaseschbach.com/

Andreas Brandhorst won the Kurt Laßwitz Preis 2017 for Omni.
https://andreasbrandhorst.de/

Dietmar Dath has a difficult language and is a radical left-wing author.

Frank Hebben writes stylish cyberpunk. http://www.schwarzfall.de/

Axel Kruse

Nina Horvath is of course a well-known Austrian fan but also a winner of the Deutschen Phantastik Preis 2012 for her story “Die Duftorgel”.
http://ninahorvath.at/

Gabi and Arno Behrend, organizers of U-Con, are also authors.

Matthias Falke writes space opera.

Dirk van den Boom writes entertainment sf. https://sfboom.wordpress.com/

Michael R. Baier writes space opera. http://www.coruum.com/

SF libraries: Wetzlar http://www.phantastik.eu/ and Villa Fantastica Wien http://www.villafantastica.com/

 

Science fiction in the German Democratic Republic, talk by Karlheinz Steinmüller

Prehistory: The classic Auf zwei Planeten by Kurd Laßwitz. Hans Dominik: Die Macht der Drei (1921) and Treibstoff SR (1939). The films Metropolis (1927) and Frau im Mond (1929), both directed by Fritz Lang.

1950’s: Utopian stories: Heinz Vieweg: Ultrasymet bleibt geheim (1955), Eberhardt del’Antonio: Gigantum (1957), H. L. Fahlberg (pseudonym for Hans Werner Fricke): Betatom (1957), Werner Bender: Messeabenteuer 1999 (1956, for children).

Thrills in utopia could be competition between industries or accidents, and it could also be due to imperialist spies and sabotage.

Comic strip Mosaik by Hannes Hegen, Arthur Bagemühl: Der Weltraumschiff (1952, for children). In the story “Gefangene des ewigen Kreises” (1956) by Günther Krupkat the cosmonauts suffer from space madness (Raumkolle) from being in the small space of the spacecraft. In del’Antonio’s Titanus (1959) there was a nucelear catastrophe.

The film Der schweigende Stern (1960) directed by Kurt Maetzig is based on the story “The Astronauts” by Stanisław Lem.

Steinmüller compared the “prime directive” in Star Trek with ambivalence towards export of revolution in East German SF. Lothar Weise: Das Geheimnis des Transpluto (1962), Hebert Horstmann: Die Stimme der Unendlichkeit (1962), Eberhardt del’Antonio: Heimkehr des Vorfahren (1966).

Heiner Rank: Die Ohnmacht der Allmächtigen (1973).

Critical voices: Günther and Johanna Braun: Der Irrtum des Großen Zauberers (1972), Der Fehlfaktor (1975), Unheimliche Erscheinungsformen auf Omega XI (1974, about a superaffluent society). Erik Simon: Die ersten Zeitreisen (1977, with Reinhard Heinrich), Fremde Sterne (1979), Mondphantome, Erdbesucher (1987). Gert Prokop: Wer stiehlt schon Unterschenkel? (1977).

In the 1980’s there were stories about the many worlds, and there was a statement about what sf is not: Not about the future, not about real science, and not a pedagogic means.

Ekkehard Redlin: “Entpflichtung im Nirgendwo” in the anthology Lichtjahr 3  (1984), deals with how to get rid of obligations. Gottfried Meinhold: Weltbesteigung (1984), Angela and Karlheinz Steinmüller: Andymon (1982).

Censorship: Words to avoid were “bureaucracy” and “generation conflict”. And the the wall came down. Karsten Kruschel: Das kleinere Weltall (1989, short stories),  Andreas Melzer: Vorstoß nach Andromeda (1990), Angela and Karlheinz Steinmüller: Der Traummeister  (1990).

GDR as counterfactual history: Christian von Ditfurth: Die Mauer steht am Rhein. Deutschland nach dem Sieg des Sozialismus (1999).

 

The panel Fake Olds talked about the new story collection Leichter als Vakuum by Angela and Karlheinz Steinmüller.

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Karlheinz Steinmüller, Angela Steinmüller, Erik Simon, Hardy Kettlitz (moderator)

 

I also listened to the entertaining talk by Nina Horvath about her experiences as a TAFF-delegate, an informative talk about possibilities for life on other planets, a panel about fanzines, a talk about science as depicted in fiction and some other programme items.

After the con we went to Düsseldorf to catch the plane to Stockholm, but we had to wait for a couple of hours which we spent walking to the river Rhein and in the Altstadt.

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Mårten Svantesson, Anders Hedenlund

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Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Mårten Svantesson

 

 

 

AI & Robots in film, TV and literature

ConFuse 2015 was also Swecon, taking place in Linköping in August. Since I missed several programme items I am very glad that Jonas Wissting has recorded them and Oskar Källner released the recordings at the web site Sweconpoddar.

Panel discussion at ConFuse 2015: AI & Robots in film, TV and literature

Report based on a sound recording from August 8 at 8.00 pm, posted here.

Participants: Tommy Persson, Thomas Padron-McCarthy, Madeline Ashby, and Oskar Källner. Moderator: Patrik Centerwall.

The panel was asked about favourite robots and the answers were quite varied: Data in Star Trek since he wanted to be human looks like a human whereas the Tachikoma robots from the manga Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex look more like spiders who talk in voices of little girls but are vicious. The “tin-can” butler robot in the movie Robot and Frank, the knife missile drones in Banks’ Culture universe and the thinking bomb no 20 in the movie Dark Star were also among the favourites.

For Madeline Ashby, the fascination with AI is based on her catholic upbringing. The AI or robots are created in our own image and thus expected to be good. Like in the Eden myth this did not work, and they can reflect the worst in us. Her own stories deal with reproduction and since the parents built you they could also screw it up. Thus her AI stories can be considered to be about families. Oskar Källner also thought that strong AI would be our children; they would be like us but different, and this raises the question “what is a human?”

For Tommy Persson the fascination is based on the idea that people want something magical in their brains that is completely different from the processes in an AI, which is “not real thinking”. Thomas Padron-MacCarthy stressed that we like strange creatures but we don’t seem to have any aliens or mermaids and instead we consider AIs and robots.

The panel considered the robots to have become much sexier with time. Frankenstein’s monster was a disfigured hodge-podge who had no companions and no normal life, whereas today the robots are intended to be attractive, which makes some stories to be about objectification. Tin-can robots have become humanoid robots, and from a threat they have sometimes become helpful like in the movie Interstellar. In Big Hero 6 there was a helpful medical robot and in Short Circuit (Nr 5 lever!) the robot was cute.

The more alien a robot is, the more Madeline Ashby believes in it. Oskar Källner points out that a strong AI would have a perception that would be very different from ours. If a robot behaves like a human it is not credible. On the other hand, in Asimov’s stories it is the humans which are unconvincing.

Asimov’s three laws were a good idea at the time and are a part of the sf legacy. The stories are human-computer interaction stories which are actually written in a fairy-tale mode where you can have a magic wish but have to be very cautious to wish exactly right. Today when military funds pay for AI development the three laws cannot be used, and when a company develops a robot the main law is that this must not cause the company to be sued.

The panel was sceptical towards the warnings from e g Stephen Hawkings about the threat that future AIs might pose against humanity, when they become too smart. Why would the AIs care and be against us? Why would they have any drive for survival?

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.

Confetti 2014

Göteborg, 4-6 april 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter Bengtsson, Gabriel Setterborg

Peter Bengtsson, Gabriel Setterborg

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

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

Bellis, Caroline L. Jensen

Bellis, Caroline L. Jensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glenn Petersen, John Meaney

Glenn Petersen, John Meaney

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pål Eggert

Pål Eggert

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

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

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

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

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

Svensk fandom åker spårvagn

Svensk fandom åker spårvagn

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

Katja Lindblom. I bakgrunden Åsa Lundström

Katja Lindblom. I bakgrunden Åsa Lundström

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

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

Fantasticon 2013

Valby, Denmark,  September 7-8, 2013

Opening: Karin Tidbeck, Nene Ormes, Tricia Sullivan

Opening: Karin Tidbeck, Nene Ormes, Tricia Sullivan

Organizers: Jesper Rugård Jensen and Lars Ahn Pedersen

Organizers: Jesper Rugård Jensen and Lars Ahn Pedersen

Fantasticon this year was an intimate and well organized convention in one floor of the building used for the Eurocon in 2007. Since I have been pretty busy with our own convention, Fantastika 2013, some time has passed since the con and the memories are now a bit vague. I listened to some panels in Danish but sadly I have big problems to understand it when spoken.

Thomas Winther, Henrik Harksen, Jakob Friis Andersen

Thomas Winther, Henrik Harksen, Jakob Friis Andersen

Still, I listened to the panel Lovecraft på Dansk (Lovecraft in Danish), with Jakob Friis Andersen, Henrik Harksen and Thomas Winther. I had heard Henrik before, Jakob had translated At the Mountains of Madness and Thomas produces a fanzine about Lovecraft. Should the science be that of the 30’s or should it be altered based on what is known today? It was considered better to have an explanation at the end, as for example regarding the bluff with the Piltdown man.

Bjarne Sinkjær, Asbjörn Rune Bourgeat, Toke Riis Ebbesen, Sven Damgaard Ørnstrup

Bjarne Sinkjær, Asbjörn Rune Bourgeat, Toke Riis Ebbesen, Sven Damgaard Ørnstrup

I read Danish fairly well and was thus interested in the panel Ny dansk fantasy (New Danish fantasy). In this panel Bjarne Sinkjær interviewed some authors. Avalons arm by Svend Damgaard Ørnstrup was defined as “English fantasy”, Natdværgen (The Night Dwarf) by Asbjørn Rune Bourgeat was said to be YA crossover sf/fantasy and is the first part of a trilogy, and Toke Riis Ebbesen was not yet published if I understood correctly. In the discussion fantasy was said to be the dominating way of telling a story, and the power play is of interest since it demonstrates what happens when you have power.

Tricia Sullivan

Tricia Sullivan

Tricia Sullivan, Klaus Æ. Mogensen

Tricia Sullivan, Klaus Æ. Mogensen

I was very happy that Tricia Sullivan was Guest of Honour since I greatly admire her novels and did not visit Åcon this year where she was. The interview was conducted by Klaus Æ. Mogensen. She is interested in the duality between mind and body, identity, and transformations. Now she studies physics, which is unusual for women. She has also experienced sexism in publishing – men are more confident. The 70’s and 80’s were a better time for woman writers. She has written fantasy as Valery Leith, and the reason for this is that she wanted to be free – sf is more rigorous. The publisher wanted another name than that used for sf. Moving to UK enabled her to write about USA, which she does in Lightborn. This novel is not about the future; it has the same cultural references as today but she has put a novel technology into it. In Double Vision there is some martial arts, but she does not believe that it is of any use against sexual harassments. She does not write short stories since that is harder for her.

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Karin Tidbeck, Michael Kamp, Henrik Harksen

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Karin Tidbeck, Michael Kamp, Henrik Harksen

One of the organizers, Lars Ahn Pedersen, moderated the panel Writing in English, that had to be moved to another room when a rock concert started just outside the window. Karin Tidbeck felt that she had to switch to get published, and she thought that there are some benefits to come from a non-English speaking country – Sweden is hot right now. The time at Clarion meant everything for her career, you need someone to read your stuff if it is not your own language. Still, translating is hard since the language is “hardwired” into us; there is a lot of cultural baggage in our words. Some concepts are really hard, as e g “Dansband”. She tries to retain a Scandinavian flavour in her texts. She ends by saying that you have to manage your own language first. Henrik Harksen writes in English since he reads horror in English and gets his ideas there. He has tried to get published in English but almost gave up after several rejections. He now sends his texts to friendly writers to get feedback, and has recently managed to get published. Michael Kamp had similar experiences; he also writes horror which is a narrow field. He writes in English and pays an editor to go line-by-line.

Majbrit Høyrup, Nene Ormes, Tricia Sullivan, Karin Tidbeck

Majbrit Høyrup, Nene Ormes, Tricia Sullivan, Karin Tidbeck

With female Guests of Honour it might seem unnecessary to have a panel called The women men don’t see, but with Majbrit Høyrup as moderator the discussion was revealing and rewarding. Tricia Sullivan started by mentioning an interesting author I haven’t read, Sophia McDougall, who “hates strong female characters”, which are cardboard cut-outs. All the smurfs have lots of character except the female one – it is enough that she is female. George RR Martin has recommended that authors should think of women as humans. According to Karin Tidbeck it has more status to read stories with male heroes. She was discouraged to read stories with female characters. When Tricia Sullivan wrote with “female gaze” instead of “male gaze” she was accused of homosexual writing. She also pointed out that when writing in historic settings you have to consider that the sources are written by men. Nene Ormes pointed out that there is male imaging at all times. The female British authors Tricia Sullivan, Liz Williams and Jaine Fenn were said to sell too little, and Justina Robson to be struggling.

This panel was very interesting and has been the subject of much debate after the con. There was a similar panel at Fantastika 2013 but I have not seen that it led to any similar debate. And unfortunately I did not listen to that panel.

At the dinner I and Margareta shared a table with Maybrit Høyrup and Bente Riis from the club Science Fiction Cirklen. They very kindly moved to us since we were alone, and we had a very nice time with them. At the morning coffee Tricia Sullivan came over to our table and I could tell her that I am a great fan.

Martin Schjønning, Liz Jensen

Martin Schjønning, Liz Jensen

Liz Jensen was interviewed by Martin Schjønning. She said that novels should not be propaganda vehicles, but voyages of discovery – “what if”. There is a futuristic style in The Rapture and her latest, The Uninvited. She uses a first person narrator; this “gets her away from being me”. In The Uninvited she has to be an anthropologist with Asperger’s, which is an exercise in perception.

SF is optimistic, even if there is an eco-catastrophe. If you have children you have to be optimistic. Still, we live in interesting times, with nasty but necessary shortcuts in GMO and nuclear power. The near future is far more interesting than now or history. For inspiration she reads a lot, newspapers, Google etc. In The Rapture there is a mixture of science and supernatural which she considers could be possible. The precognition in the novel could be similar to the feelings that animals have before an earthquake. Personally I had problems with that aspect in the novel which I otherwise liked.

Being a journalist she has learnt how to structure a story, and she is not shy to go to people for help. Especially scientists are very open.

Her first three novels were comedies, and she has also written satire and love stories. The Rapture and The Univited are parts of a loose trilogy. As influences she mentions Ballard, Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, Huxley (The Doors of Perception), H G Wells, and Cormac McCarthy (The Road). And she says that you should trust “the boys in the basement”, the subconscious.

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Karin Tidbeck

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Karin Tidbeck

The Swedish Guest of Honour Karin Tidbeck was interviewed by Lars Ahn Pedersen. She tells that after five weeks at Clarion her stories were longer, more like the American ones. Her stories were exotic and fresh to the Americans. Her novel Amatka has a peculiar history: She started by writing down her dreams, and mapped the place she visited in them. She wrote short prose pieces which were converted to poetry, part of which has appeared in the Swedish journal Lyrikvännen. When Catharina Wrååk at the publishing company Mix asked her for a novel she wrote Amatka in two months, based on the poetry. One question in the novel is “Is it always correct to revolt, even if you hurt other people?” The world that is described was colonized in the ‘70s, with that atmosphere.

She teaches creative writing, especially sf and fantasy, and this makes her consider how she writes. Fantasy and sf are to a large extent heteronormative and she tries to change this.

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Peter Adolphsen, Tricia Sullivan, Karin Tidbeck

Lars Ahn Pedersen, Peter Adolphsen, Tricia Sullivan, Karin Tidbeck

The industrious Lars Ahn Pedersen moderated the final panel about Mixing Genres. Karin Tidbeck told that she writes without thinking of genres, but she can play with the tropes in them. Tricia Sullivan felt that there are now more mixed genres, which she finds liberating. Peter Adolphsen mentioned P K Dick and Svend Åge Madsen as writers of stories in mixed genres. A recent example was Nina Allan’s The Silver Wind, which has an introduction by Tricia Sullivan.

Bjarne Sinkjær, Gudrun Østergaard, Flemming Rasch

Bjarne Sinkjær, Gudrun Østergaard, Flemming Rasch

My wife Margareta made some notes at the programme items I missed. Thus, she listened to Bjarne Sinkjær interviewing Flemming Rasch and Gudrun Østergaard. Flemming has now published his first book in many years, a short story collection “from the drawer”. Several of the stories are humorous. Gudrun says that she is new to the genre – she did not understand until 2002 that she wrote sf. She uses sf for social criticism because she sees sf to give good models by shifting the perspective from the present although that is what she actually writes about. Flemming also thinks that what he writes is in a way social criticism. They both find it harder to surprise the reader today, and consider most so called sf films not to be sf, they just show airships and space pistols.

When asked how they work Gudrun told that she writes down her ideas but most often starts with a description of a mood, then the story goes on by itself. Flemming only writes short stories but he has a plot before he starts, and he changes a lot in rewriting. They think that editors are important, but mainly for improving the language and they also point out characters which have to be better described. The readers today do not accept impossible technology, and sf is more demanding than e g The Da Vinci Code, it has to be sharper, and cut threads which are not good enough. Right now Flemming writes a humorous story set in the far future, whereas Gudrun is in the process of “interviewing” her characters for a new book.

The philosopher and Batman expert Carsten Fogh Nielsen talked about Superheroes and Philosophy. Comics with superheroes have been attacked both with the argument that they are dangerous for the young, and the argument that they are just entertainment. However, art is always a lie since no depiction is complete. As soon as something is popular the elite is horrified – this will destroy society and democracy! Later on it is considered harmless and mild, and then it may be incorporated in the culture, e g that drawers of comics make fine art. And suddenly it is considered that the superheroes maintain the law and protects society against evil.

Liz Jensen, Tricia Sullivan, Tomas Cronholm

Liz Jensen, Tricia Sullivan, Tomas Cronholm

Flemming Rasch moderated the panel about Science in Fiction, with Tricia Sullivan, Liz Jensen and me. The original reasons for science in sf, as proposed by Gernsback, was for education and for prediction. This is not the reason today; it is rather the stimulating effect, the sense of wonder that can be achieved. Tricia Sullivan has been an author for 20 years. Perhaps she writes more fantasy but she wants to include science, and she feels a pressure to be correct when she writes about science. Liz Jensen says that she uses and abuses science, and she does not want to be completely wrong and be revealed as ignorant, but she has no performance anxiety. She is married to a scientist and has two children who also are scientists.

Do readers know enough science to understand the science in the literature? It has to be believable even if you do not have to understand, and science is so important in society today that it would be strange if it was missing in any literature. Media and literature also drive the interest; forensic science became hot after application in a tv series. Old sf is mechanic, it is more complicated today and much that was predicted has become reality.

Utopias were often based on science, but today dystopias are written which show how dangerous science can be. Still, it is sad that there are so many dystopias for young – why not more about the possibilities? Lots of science is missed by the genre, like e g neuroscience.

Science in fiction does not have to be true, thus FTL travel is common in sf. It has to be distinguished from magic where it not even has to be made plausible. There is a contract between the reader and the writer – any scenario is acceptable but you have to stick to it.

Liz Jensen tells that she checks the facts with scientists. There is a problem with writing about environmental problems – they develop so slowly! Actually this is the same problem as with real space ships.

There are stories set in scientific environments as e g laboratories, and there is a website dealing with this kind of literature. Connie Willis and Gregory Benford have written sf set in believable research institutions.

You do not read sf to learn science, that is better done by reading non-fiction. There have been attempts to use sf stories in the classroom, but there is a danger of killing the pleasure of reading. The two authors deny that there is any educational perspective in their writing. However, the stories may help in looking at the world in new ways.

When we were in Copenhagen we also visited some museums. In the Design Museum I was fascinated by an illustrated book, and by an email exchange with an employee there, Anja Lollesgaard, I was informed that the pictures were done by the Russian artist and architect Iakov Chernikhov, and his futuristic visions can be seen on the web. Some of them remind me of Piranesi.

Finally, thanks to the organizers, and to Henrik Harksen and Martin Schjønning for corrections to the text above.

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!

Time and Space in Speculative Fiction

Uppsala, April 23, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Swecon i Stockholm 15-17 juni

Worldcon 75, Helsingfors 2017