Posts Tagged 'Tommy Persson'

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?

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!

Chicon 7 / 70th Worldcon

Chicago, Ill., USA, August 30 – September 3, 2012

Cloud Gate in Millennium Park

This was my second Worldcon in Chicago. In 1991, when I attended Chicon 5, I had the impression that Chicago was a dirty and shabby town in great need of refurbishing and rebuilding, and evidently that this had been done. Especially the southern part, the ”Loop”, was much nicer and less intimidating. The first couple of days I spent strolling and sightseeing, alone or together with Carolina and Britt-Louise. We visited the Museum of Contemporary Art which had an interesting exhibition about skyscraper and other urban buildings, went up for a drink and superb view in the restaurant in the 95th floor of Hancock Center, took the train to Andersonville and visited the unexpectedly interesting Swedish-American Museum there. I spent almost a day in the excellent but enormous Art Institute of Chicago. A retrospective exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein caused me to upend my view of this artist whom I had previously considered unimaginative and dull.

My mirror image in the Cloud Gate

Britt-Louise Viklund and Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf in the Signature room of John Hancock Center

View from Hancock Center

The convention itself was of course impressing, with somewhere between 5 000 and 6 000 participants. I enjoyed many programme items, and will go into detail below. However, there were also some problems. The programme rooms were located in two separate buildings, connected at three levels, and it was really difficult to get to and find the rooms. Especially frustrating was to see that the small room was absolutely full when you finally found it, so that you had to run to the other building to go to another item instead. Most of the time there were at least two interesting programme items to chose from among about twenty in the programme at each time, but the last day was an unfortunate exception. Many panels were obviously directed towards aspiring authors, and when panelists asked the audience if they were writers most raised their hands. This is different from Swedish cons where most fans are just readers.

Unfortunately several programme items that I was interested in were cancelled. Thus the presentation of Dissertations on Fandom and the discussion Where Are the New Fan Historians? could have been interesting, as could some of the papers in the “academic” track like The Development of Fairy Tales.

Philosophy and Science Fiction

Sandra M. Grayson, Deb Geisler, Dale Cozort

There were several panels on Philosophy and SF. One of them had been moved from Saturday to Thursday and was not announced in the Programme Book but only in the programme sheets which were only given to the first who registered. Still, I thought that this might be interesting even if the description talked about Star Trek. The panel consisted of an expert on black SF writers, Sandra M. Grayson, an American SF fan and writer, Dale Cozort, an Australian SF author, Lezli Robyn, and the moderator Deb Geisler, who is an experienced fan and university professor of communication. In the picture an interesting notice can be seen on the wall: Only 50 people are allowed in the room, which would mean the first three rows out of at least twenty. Strange.

There are many philosophical issues that are discussed in SF, but in this panel only two were discussed and they were rather political or possibly ethical, and based on Star Trek. Having a black character in the original Star Trek series was considered revolutionary, but it was also thought that racial issues were handled less well later, and women were considered to be marginalized. The ”prime directive” in Star Trek (that there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations) was seen not to be followed in real life. Thus, portable radios changed the music of Australian aborigines and the decision to ”help and educate” their children resulted in a ”stolen generation”. Much SF deals with the evilness of humans on other planets, e g LeGuin’s ”The Word for World is Forest” and the film Avatar. Enforcing goodness as in A Clockwork Orange is of course a dreadful measure. Much SF also deals with the superiority of humans over robots, e g Asimov’s robot stories, and there are also stories where the robots take over and have humans as slaves.

The ethics of terraforming Mars was discussed. The possibility to study whether there is any kind of life there has apparently been destroyed now since Curiosity was not sterilized before leaving Earth.

SF Scene in Europe

Debora Montanari, Luigi Petruzzelli, Mike Resnick, Barbara G. Tarn

Being a European myself I thought that it might be interesting to listen to this panel. It consisted of the Author GoH Mike Resnick who was also moderator, and three Italians, two authors, Barbara G. Tarn and Debora Montanari, and a publisher, Luigi Petruzzeli. I was surprised and annoyed that no other Europeans had been invited to the panel in spite of the great many countries represented among the preregistered. Mike Resnick had been invited to cons in France, and the Italians talked about the national con in Italy, Italcon, but e g Eurocons were not mentioned at all, nothing was said about SF cons or authors in e g Germany, and about Scandinavia the Italians just said that only thrillers were published. Instead the Italians talked about self-publishing and the importance of having a good illustration on the front-page, and Resnick talked about SF in China. Fortunately only about twenty people listened to the panel.

The Exploration of Gender Roles in Science Fiction

Sara M. Harvey, Graham Sleight, Deirdre Murphy, Paco Ruiz

This is something that I consider SF to be a very good literary form for. The subject was handled by the fantasy author Sara M. Harvey who has a lesbian protagonist in her steampunk novels, Deirdre M. Murphy who has transgender characters in her speculative fiction, and the Spanish author Paco Ruiz. The moderator was Graham Sleight who writes a column in Locus and edits Foundation. The panel started by listing novels where gender roles are treated: Virginia Wolf’s Orlando, which is a mixture of fantasy and SF, LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness where there is a convergence of male and female, and Brave New World where sex and reproduction are disconnected.

It freaks readers out when they don’t know the gender. One example is Delany’s Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, where ”she” is used for all persons, and ”he” is used for someone you are attracted to. We learn at a very young age what a boy is and what a girl is. This is discussed in the short story ”Congenital Agenesis of Gender Ideation by K. N. Sirsi and Sandra Botkin” by Raphael Carter which can be found in the second Tiptree anthology.

One of the panelists had heard a teenage boy saying that the girls are ”dumbing down”. In Sweden I think it is more the boys who have this negative attitude towards learning.

It is socially acceptable for girls to play and dress as boys, but not vice versa. Boy things are ”better”, it is allowed to go up the ladder. Now there are quite many books with girl characters, e g in The Hunger Games. Dressing boys as girls was normal in the 17th century, and even up to the 1930’s boys could be dressed in girl dresses.

A few other works of interest were mentioned. In Asimov’s The Gods Themselves there are three sexes, and Sheri S. Tepper has written about cities with only females and men outside the cities. In Tiptree’s ”The Screwfly Solution” the men murder the women, and the construction of gender is treated in Michael Blumlein’s ”Brains of Rats”. Roz Kaveney’s Rhapsody of Blood – Rituals was also mentioned.

In society male homosexuals are more visible than female ones. It is quite ”normal” for women to go hand in hand. However, lesbians are two steps from the norm (the male) and thus less ”normal” than male homosexuals.

A small child in the audience asked his parents every second ”Can we go now?”. Since it was past ten in the evening that sounded like a good idea. The question was of course very disturbing for the rest of the audience but I mainly felt sorry for this abused child.

Are you a Dickhead?

Jonathan Vos Post, Guy Gillian, Tom Doyle, Bradford Lyau, Alvaro Zinos-Amaro

This panel consisted of Alvaro Zinos-Amaro, who has coauthored a novel with Robert Silverberg, When the Blue Shift Comes, Bradford Lyau, who has been a Dick-fan since he was a teenager and has written his Ph D thesis on French SF, the fan Guy Gillian, the scientist and sf author Jonathan Vos Post, and Tom Doyle as moderator.

Why is Dick so interesting, with at least eight films based on his stories? It is easy to read in whatever you want, they are Kafkaesque, Dick is humane, i e he writes about what it is to be human and asks what we can do for each other. Dick looks at the present whereas Heinlein extrapolated. Another reason may be that he already is popular, which results in a demand for more. There is also a lot of humor in his texts, especially in the early works, e g “Beyond Lies the Wub”, and the later books as e g Valis are concerned with religion.

Books that were specially recommended included The Martian Time-Slip, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, Ubik (a terrific thriller) and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which deals with empathy exploration and how humans become machine-like.

The Bob and Connie Show

As expected it was very entertaining to listen to Robert Silverberg and Connie Willis talk about various things, mainly SF conventions, but also literature. Harriet Becher Stowe, author of Oncle Tom’s Cabin and neighbour of Mark Twain alias Samuel Clemens and the English author Wyndham Lewis were considered to be unappreciated. Ivy Compton-Burnett was also recommended. Among his own works Silverberg considered the historical novel Lord of Darkness to be too little read. He had got stuck in the middle when writing Tower of Glass, but Barry Malzberg called and just told him to write on. Which he did.

The Art of Writing Effective Book Reviews

There should have been five panelists but only Sarah Stegall (www.munchkyn.com) and Doug Fratz (SF Site) showed up. A good review should be balanced, and it should be considered that a book rarely is perfect. How does the work fit in the work of this author, and in the rest of the field? To know the field is important as can be seen when mainstream reviewers wrote about The Road without mentioning e g Zelazny’s Damnation Alley. Spoilers should be avoided but may be allowed for the first third of the book. Sometimes the story turns upside down in the end, which makes it difficult to present in a review. Doug Fratz tells that he reviews from a scientific point of view, and considers five elements in literature according to Frost: Character, setting, plot, style, and theme. The plot can actually take place inside a mind, as in Shirley Jackson’s novels. The setting is special for SF where it can vary enormously. In Dune and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy the setting is the main thing. After a discussion of these five elements it is important to consider if the story “works”, and for that you have to use your gut feeling, and then consider why or why not. Did the book fulfill the expectations, and which were they? The expectations may be unconscious, e g in stories about alternate universes.

In literary critic the plot may be discussed more freely, and it is important to relate the work to other works by the author and the genre as a whole. According to Damon Knight the plot can be an “idiot plot”, being of the first order if the hero must be an idiot or second order if everybody except the hero are stupid.

Reviews of SF and fantasy books used to be found in newspapers, but today they should be sought in magazines like Asimov’s, Analog, Locus, Interzone, NY Review of SF, SF Review, and websites.

Jo Walton Reading

Jo Walton

Jo Walton read from her latest book, Turnover, which is about a generation star ship and the name comes from the point where acceleration is changed to retardation when half the journey is done. After that I asked her if she was willing to be Guest of Honor at the convention “Fantastika” in Stockholm in October 2013, and she made me very happy by accepting this.

Filling the Magazines

Stanley Schmidt, Jason Sizemore, Ellen Datlow, Gordon van Gelder, John Joseph Adams

This panel was moderated by Ellen Datlow. John Joseph Adams is editor of the online magazine Lightspeed, which can be read for free and also sells books. New authors are told to rewrite if their submissions are not acceptable. Lightspeed also publishes reprint. Jason Sizemore is the publisher of another free online magazine, Apex Magazine. Stanley Schmidt has been editor of Analog for many years. He edits it for himself, i e he choses stories that he likes. He thinks of himself as a matchmaker between author and reader. Later during the convention we learned that he now retires from the job as editor. The other paper magazine editor in the panel was Gordon van Gelder of F&SF. He says that an ideal issue contains at least one story that is ideal for each reader, but that different stories are ideal for different readers.

Evil in Lovecraft and Tolkien

Philip Kaveny, Jan Bogstad

This was announced as a paper by Philip Kaveny, but in the presentation he was assisted by Jan Bogstad. The paper discussed similarities between these two writers. They have both been reinterpreted, Lovecraft by Derleth and Tolkien by his son Christopher. Both authors were heavily influenced by World War I. Mordor represents Somme, where a folkloristic landscape is destroyed. Both were outsiders who lost their fathers early, and both have written essays on fantasy.

Carolyn Ives Gilman Reading

Carolyn Ives Gilman

Before reading Carolyn Ives Gilman told us that the room we were in, DuSable, was named after the founder of Chicago. She is a historian by profession, and she read from the book Isles of the Forsaken, which has a sequel, Ison of the Isles.

Looking Back 70 Years in Fandom

Dave Kyle, John L. Coker, III, Peggy Rae Sapienza

Impressive! John L. Coker, III, talked with Dave Kyle and Peggy Rae Sapienza about US fandom in the 40’s and 50’s. Chicon 1 in 1940 was Worldcon 2, and we were told lots of anecdotes from these early events. Fans from Denver rode under train-cars since they could not afford a ticket. The second worldcon was less political than the first, where several fans had been excluded. The number of participants was 128, of which 22 came in costume, thus starting the tradition of masquerades at the cons. Contacts were established with British fandom via contacts between Ted Carnell and Forrest J Ackerman.

Last Man Standing: Frederik Pohl

Edward James, Elizabeth Anne Hull, Robert Silverberg, Joan Slonczewski, Jim Frenkel

This appreciation of the 92 years old Pohl was a panel with his wife Elizabeth (Betty) Anne Hull, who is also a retired professor and SF expert and editor, the editor at Tor books Jim Frenkel, the SF author Joan Slonczewski, the expert on SF and fantasy Edward James, and Robert Silverberg. Fred proposed to Betty in an ad in Locus. They share an interest in geology that they have practised during their journeys. A manuscript had the title Complexities of Coupled Faults but Jim Frenkel told him that this was too long and would overshadow his name, so it was renamed The Voices of Heaven. Pohl insisted on the title The Space Merchants since it has a connection to the room rents on Madison Avenue at the time. This is a satire, as is also Gladiator-at-Law, both written with Cyril M. Kornbluth. According to Jim Frenkel “The Gold at the Starbow’s End” and “The Mayor of Mare Tranq” are about Jack Williamson. The panel named same favourites, Gateway, The Years of the City, and “Day Million”. In “The Age of the Pussyfoot” Pohl predicted pocket computers.

Why Fantasy Dominates Science Fiction

Scott Lynch, Farah Mendlesohn, Ty Franck, Daniel Abraham, Valerie Estelle Frankel

The panel consisted of fantasy author and Elizabeth Bear’s boyfriend Scott Lynch, “SF fan who writes about fantasy” Farah Mendlesohn, authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck who as James S. A. Corey has written the Hugo-nominated novel Leviathan Wakes, and the moderator Valerie Estelle Frankel who has written books about fantasy, e g Harry Potter. Farah Mendlesohn had some very interesting things to say about why fantasy has come to dominate the market, a change that was most marked in the 80’s and 90’s. The SF became more sophisticated, less accessible, and relied more on intertextuality as seen in e g the works of Banks. At least in Britain science education in schools has not kept abreast with the scientific development. Fantasy relies on science from before 1900, whereas modern SF relies on modern physics that the readers cannot relate to. You have to convince in the story, and according to Farah that is why she thinks Never Let Me Go failed (which I don’t agree with). There is also a role model problem; scientists are not cool any longer.

High fantasy has entered the public mind and is seen on bestseller lists. Lynch admits that a blurb by George R. R. Martin on his books has helped. Fantasy learned to write series before SF started to do that. There were also many good history books published in the 90’s, like Longitude, which might have started many fantasy books.

A negative attitude towards science and technology is seen in much SF for kids, which is not written by SF authors. In the shape of being environmentalist they are actually pagan, and do not accept that earth never was a “natural” planet. Fear of science is also apparent in many technothrillers, like those by Michael Crichton.

A statement by Paul Kincaid was cited, that I think is very relevant and apt: SF is an attitude.

The Secret History of Science Fiction

George R. R. Martin, Mike Resnick, Joe Haldeman, Robert Silverberg

This panel had some outstanding names: Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Joe Haldeman, George R. R. Martin and the late-coming Gardner Dozois. We were thoroughly entertained by the stories from various conventions, but afterwards I had to admit that most of the jokes were either sexist or about alcohol. I don’t think SF was mentioned.

Science Fiction in China

Ruhan Zhao, Yan Wu, Jan Bogstad, Emily Jiang

A math teacher living in USA since 1999, Rhuan Zhao, the chairman of the Chinese SF Association, Yan Wu, a US citizen of Chinese descent, Emily Jiang, and Jan Bogstad who translates SF from Chinese to English, talked about SF in China. It was considered to be chilren’s literature before the Cultural Revolution when it was condemned, but now it is growing under the watchword “march to science”. The turning point was in ’89 when “market socialism” started. The major SF magazine in China is Science Fiction World. Young authors, Yao Wang and Qiufan Chen, have been translated by Ken Liu and published in Clarkesworld Magazine on the net.

Medical Myths and Errors Perpetuated by Genre Writers

C. D. Covington, Lisa C. Freitag, Susan Silverton, Henry G. Stratmann, Brad Aiken

In view of my former profession as a teacher of medical students I thought that this discussion could be interesting. The panel consisted of the Analog author and M D Brad Aiken, the author, cardiologist and researcher Henry G. Stratmann, the endocrinologist, university administrator (“the dark side”) and SF author Susan Silverton (Fern as author), the pharmacist and unpublished author C. D. Covington, and as moderator the lapsed doctor and Ph D student of ethics Lisa Freitag. They started with the effects of head injuries which, especially in films, seldom are as dramatic as in real life. For sepsis it is not enough to chew on a few leaves, and a flat line in EKG is most caused by an electrode that has got off the body. Restoring atmosphere does not repair hematomas as in Total Recall. Actually, reoxygenation causes more problems than anoxia per se. Emptying your lungs before being in a vacuum only very marginally decreases the hazard. Since many in the audience were aspiring authors the panel gave some advice on where to find facts: Pubmed, Wikipedia and Merck Manual.

Surprisingly, a panel with the same title and description was scheduled later in the same day. The panel was completely different, and since I did not go there I do not know if this is a printing mistake or if they actually talked about the same things there.

Collaborations

Charles Stross, Eric Flint

According to the daily newsletter, The Right Stuff, the number of memberships sold was 5019. This is of course impressing, but not when it is compared with the 52 000 attending Dragon*Con that took place at the same time in Atlanta, Georgia. Some of the programme items at Chicon were run together with Dragon*Con, with an internet link, and one of those was Collaborations. In Chicago the panel consisted of Charles Stross and Eric Flint, and in Atlanta sat fantasy novelist and illustrator Janny Wurts, NASA scientist Les Johnson and as moderator SF writer Jody Lynn Nye. All had some experience of collaborations, and we heard that in every collaboration each author has to do two thirds of the job. Question that has to be settled are who is in charge and who does the copy-editing. Collaboration via the internet may change storytelling back to the oral tradition that was not solitary. Technically the internet link between Chicago and Atlanta worked wonderfully with only the occasional pixelation of the picture.

The Future Evolution of the Short Story

Mike Rimar, Barbara Galler-Smith, Ellen Datlow, Eileen Gunn, Donald J. Bingle

Authors Donald J. Bingle and Mike Rimar, author and editor (OnSpec) Barbara Galler-Smith, and editor and moderator Ellen Datlow, discussed short stories. They considered them as training grounds and to be read (or listened to) by commuters. A problem they saw was how to make money by publishing on-line. Big books sell better. “Only short story writers read short stories”. This all sounded bad since I like reading short stories and consider them to be at the core of SF but not of fantasy.

Victorian and Edwardian Science Fiction

Matthew Bernardo, DDavid Malki, Randy Smith

Fan Matthew Bernardo and rev. Randy Smith who edits an anthology talked with the moderator David Malki. When “real” SF started with Frankenstein in 1818 there were also proto-SF like that by Cyrano de Bergerac. Examples of early 20th century SF are the detective stories collected in William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki the Ghost Finder and the anthology The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. The character Craig Kennedy, created by Arthur B. Reeve, is also on the borderline between SF and detective stories.

Early SF can be found in Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archives. Sam Moskowitz collected some in SF by Gaslight, and much can be found in Hearst Magazines from 1880’s and 1890’s. Some social commentators were E. M. Forster who wrote about an internet-like technology, Samuel Butler (Erehwon) and H. G. Wells. Other examples of early SF are Jules Verne’s Robur the Conqueror, Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and its sequel Easy as ABC that is not as good), Jack London’s The Star Rover, Abbott’s Flatland, and stories by Stevenson, Conan Doyle (Dr Challenger), Mark Twain (time travel) and Poe. In The Inheritors Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford collaborated on a story based on the fourth dimension. George Griffith wrote many early SF stories before 1900, e g The Angel of the Revolution, its sequel Olga Romanova, and the Dr Who-ish Honeymoon in Space. Sinclair Lewis’ Arrowsmith may be called medical SF and his It Can’t Happen Here political SF. Edison’s Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss is an example of early (1898) adventure SF with rayguns, space suits and epic space battles, and William N. Harben’s The Land of the Changing Sun is a classic hollow-earth story.

Getting it Right: Religions

Leigh Ann Hildebrand, Teresa Frohock, P. C. Hodgell, Kameron Hurley, Petréa Mitchell, Guy Consolmagno

This panel, led by moderator P. C. Hodgell, consisted of Leigh Ann Hildebrand who does religion all the time in her theological Ph D studies on “lived religion”, i e what individuals actually do, author Teresa Frohock who has studied many religions and incorporates it in her books, e g Miserere, Kameron Hurley who remixes and reimagines religions in Nebula-nominated God’s War, Pétrea Mitchell, interested in human-computer interactions, and Brother Guy Consolmagno who has written about religion among scientists (God’s Mechanics). The latter wondered who else would carry out all that religion does today, like initiation rituals, marriage, burials etc. (My answer would of course be that that is no problem whatsoever, they can be skipped or performed without religion.)

It “costs” to have a religion and as author you have to show why it is there. You also have to consider if your own religion affects the story. Subconsciously incorporated expressions may show if you are protestant or catholic. You have to challenge your own biases and listen to people, how religion impacts your daily life, and you must not preach your own religion in your books. SF authors tend to treat religion as engineering. In anime there are lots of religious symbols that we do not understand. We do probably the same but we do not see it.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is negative towards religion, Bujold’s work is semireligious and Sheri S. Tepper’s Grass is about religion.

Incorporating the Personal into Speculative Fiction

Gwynne Garfinkle, Cat Rambo, Nick Mamatas, William Shunn, Inanna Arthen/Vyrdolak

Cat Rambo moderated fellow authors Nick Mamatas, Gwynne Garfinkle, Inanna Arthen/Vyrdolak, and William Shunn. Nothing sensational came out of this discussion. Personal experience is important and often the basis for what is written, and even SF stories are often just rewritings of present events but with a new slant. The characters have to be human enough for the reader to be able to relate. Some real life events seem completely unbelievable; they then have to be excluded or rewritten.

Myth and Religion in SF&F

Sara M. Harvey, Brenda Sinclair Sutton, Bradford Lyau, P. C. Hodgell, Martin Berman-Gorvine

Rev. Brenda Sinclair Sutton, author of books about SF Bradford Lyau, costume historian and author Sara M. Harvey, and fantasy author P. C. Hodgell were moderated by author Martin Berman-Gorvine. The latter has written 36, where a future religion is similar to the manicheism of the middle ages. Other examples mentioned were Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Nine Billion Names of God” and “The Star”, and Blish’s A Case of Conscience. It was considered that there is no limit between religion and myth, since at the time it was all true. Someone else said that “myth is false on the outside but true on the inside”. Literalism is often the cause of fundamentalism. There are two different creation myths in the Bible, making it impossible to take it literally. Other examples of books and authors doing a good job of treating myths and religion are Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Lois McMater Bujold, Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, Orson Scott Card, Charles de Lint, and Katherine Kurtz. Robert Charles Wilson’s Mysterium is interesting since in it a gnostic version of Christianity won out in a parallel world.

Magic Realism vs. Traditional Fantasy

Lillian Cauldwell, Cat Rambo, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Nick Mamatas, Kat Richardson

Urban fantasy author Kat Richardson moderated this panel consisting of author Nick Mamata, who also edits Japanese magic realism in the Latin American mode, Dutch horror author Thomas Olde Heuvelt, author Cat Rambo, and author of multicultural magic realism Lillian Cauldwell. The panel had problems defining magic realism, stressing that it should have an element of surprise and wonder, “out there”, or that it is a species of realism that for political reasons has not been able to treat certain phenomena in reality, or that the magical is perceived as a normal thing. Ambiguity is a pleasure of magic realism. A way to indicate the difference is of course to list a few examples. García Márquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude and Yann Martel’s Life of Pi are magic realism whereas the Ring trilogy and T. H. White’s Arthurian books are fantasy. Magic realism may work as a bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness. The session was briefly visited by Bruce Taylor who calls himself Mr. Magic Realism and has a website promoting his view if the genre.

Erle Korshak

In addition to all the scheduled programme items there were a lot of other events going on. I saw that the children were well provided in a special room and also had their own programme, ChiKidz. In a Con Suite we were all welcome to have free bread with peanut butter, salad, fruits and cans of soft drinks, and in the gigantic Concourse there were lots of stalls selling books and fan-related merchandise, as well as memberships to other cons. I sat for two hours at the site selection table, where votes were collected for the only announced bid for Worldcon 2014 (Loncon 3). The Art Show was as usual filled with fairly well done but too cliché illustrations. The exception were those by Youchan even if they were somewhat childish. The Opening Ceremony was performed as a talk show with host John Scalzi, and I was most impressed by Erle Korshak who had cochaired the first Chicon in 1940. The entertaining John Scalzi also presented the Hugo Awards (except when he was himself nominated). In that ceremony there was also an in memoriam of the fans who had died since the last Worldcon, and two Swedes were mentioned, Christoffer Schander and Arne Sjögren.

Of course there was a lot of socialising too, and various constellations of fans went out to dinner. Thus I met another old fan, Gabriel Setterborg and his wife Elisabet, Anders Hedenlund and his daughter Alice, Sten Thaning and Dessy, Tommy Persson, Michael Pargman, Urban Gunnarsson, Erik Fornander, Thomas Recktenwald from Germany, Peter de Weerdt from Belgium, Herman Ellingsen from Norway, Eemeli Aro from Finland, Flemming Rasch from Denmark and several others in addition to Carolina and Britt-Louise.

Peter de Weerdt, Tommy Persson

Alice Hedenlund and The Carrot Cake

Anders Hedenlund continuing on The Carrot Cake, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf

Finncon/Animecon 2011

Åbo/Turku, July 15-17, 2011

SF-ish art in the river Aurajoki

This Finncon was the last time it was combined with Animecon, which I regret. It is great fun to watch all the cos-players and other dressed-up or disguised young people.

Richard Morgan and Nalo Hopkinson: On writing

Richard Morgan and Nalo Hopkinson

RM started to write noir cyberpunk and now introduces noir into fantasy. When asked why he writes he answers “what are trees for?”. He has always wanted to be a writer, he wanted the job, and just started doing it. It defines him. SF was his first love in literature. It is hard to find the same spark elsewhere.

Tommy Persson

NH writes SF since it is what she has always read. Her father was an author and her mother a librarian. When asked about influences she mentions Samuel Delany and Ursula LeGuin. As a child she read a childrens’s fantasy where the white children choose a castle and the black boy choose a melon. She read “Welcome to the Monkey House” in a Playboy under her father’s bed.

RM mentions Asimov and Poul Anderson as first influences. He liked Anderson’s writing for the human side, the characters, and the cynical and gloomy style which he had not found before. He also mentioned Michael Moorcock and Bob Shaw, and Gibson who he considered to be influenced by Pynchon.

RM writes whenever he can, mainly in the afternoons, and has no favourite spot. Pullman has to write 1500 words a day and is then released. RM recommends that you ignore the market and just write what you want to write. He has not studied or taught creative writing. NH has both studied and taught at Clarion, but this was after she had been published. She was surrounded by books and wrote by example. The workshop at Clarion gets her to think about her own writing.

At present RM is writing on a Sword & Sorcery trilogy and NH a young adult novel with a focus on the body and sexuality. RM comments that the drive for humans is sex and violence.

Richard Morgan: Black Widow

Comic books are dying and replaced by graphic novels. The superhero stuff is left for those who cannot stand that genre literature (sf, crime etc.) gets increasingly good. It is where those hide who cannot cope with complexity. This is a general cultural malaise; there is less challenge. More people want reading that is not challenging.

A teacher who wanted to use Altered Carbon in his teaching said: “You have no right not to be offended”, which is an unusual, and appreciated, American reaction.

The superheroes from the 1930s always have -man in their names. Can we not go somewhere else? American popular culture is extremely macho, as seen by Susan Faludi in Backlash. In Japan this is not the case, there is much more diversification.

Richard Morgan’s Guest of Honour Speech

Richard Morgan

Altered Carbon took 2.5 year to write and it was unpublished for 14 years. It was sent to several publishers and was refused and rejected. Finally it was accepted by Gollancz. He has written comics in other peoples worlds but not fiction, since he doesn’t want to lose control. Market Forces started as a short story that he sent to Interzone, where they disliked the characters. It rests on a ludicrous concept; it was expanded to a novel and it has always been meant to be dark with an unhappy ending.

Writing is a lonely job. Your companion is the squirrel on the ledge. In contrast, videogame writing is very social.

Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword is the quintessential Sword & Sorcery, and he also likes Moorcock’s Elric stories. RM rites the fantasy novel that he wants to read. It takes him about a year to write a book. He usually doesn’t know where the story will end. He wants the story to feel true when he writes.

The best hard sf author today is Peter Watts according to RM. SF now appears also in mainstream books, as exemplified by Never Let Me Go, and there is also vampire chic-lit. SF has become furniture in the mainstream arena. It is the same with films, and mainstream thrillers contain sf tropes. The barrier between genres will break down.

RM considers the combined Finncon/Animecon to be a good thing that might get anime people to drift into sf as they grow older. He sees no borders between sf and fantasy and thinks it is important with broadening.

Nalo Hopkinson and Richard Morgan: Cultural Appropriation.

This was an interesting discussion on the author’s obligation when using other people’s culture in fiction. As NH says, “They have given to you, what can you give to them?”. RM says that if you borrow you are a guest, and decorum behoves you. You should try to get it right and convey something true.

Something that is just interesting for you can be a matter of life and death for others. There is a risk that you see objects of curiosity instead of human people, e g when you write about male sex workers. Still, if you write about anything important you will offend somebody. The most offended by RM’s Black Man were white Americans. You are not allowed to have black people who are violent and pissed-off. “Non-political”” fiction doesn’t exist, it just means that it fits your own political ideas. Still, some things are true of all cultures: crime, love of children, and suppression of women.

Read texts from that culture and talk to people, try to blend into the culture and not be a tourist. Look at websites and message boards where the people hang out. RM told about an experience in Harlem. There was a very small number of white faces, and everybody looks at you. You get twitchy and uncomfortable. This “research” was important for writing Black Man, since this feeling must be the same if you are a black man in a white city.

RM recommends Small Island by Andrea Levy. When he was young he read Biggles which was very racist. But his neighbour was black which he didn’t think of. NH thinks that sf readers are supportive of writing in unknown areas.

RM said that the film Avatar actually was about native Americans, in a bad way. It is a movie for white men.

NH’s father had converted to Islam whereas her mother was a Catholic. RM considers that the future of Islam is in the US. It is essential not to demonise or marginalise. The women may be the solution.

Morgondagen i dagens och gårdagens science fiction. Strålande framtid eller bara misär?

Kenneth Lindholm, Sofia Sjö, Elisabeth Kronqvist, Ben Roimola

Den enda svenskspråkiga programpunkt jag lyssnade på var en inte helt lyckad panel som hade sitt ursprung i en antologi med positiva framtidsbilder i sf: Shine: An Anthology of Optimistic SF (Red: Jetse de Vries). Ben Roimola modererade. Enligt Kenneth Lindholm är det roligare att läsa om en negativ framtid, t ex där jorden går under. Sofia Sjö menade att sf speglar dagens pessimism. Man jobbar igenom traumana utan att ha någon lösning. Elisabeth Kronqvist tyckte att tv-serier som Star Trek och Stargate ofta är positiva.

Margareta Cronholm, Kenneth Lindholm, his son, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf

Några exempel på positiva framtidssyner var: Robert Charles Wilsons Spin och Julian Comstock, som skildrar ett lyckligare 1800-tal, Geoff Ryman’s Air, Lois McMaster Bujolds berättelser, Banks Cultureböcker och Kim Stanley Robinsons skildringar av hur vetenskapen räddar världen.

Tyvärr låg övriga svenskspråkiga programpunkter parallellt med de engelskspråkiga, utom det överraskningsprogram på söndagmorgonen som visade sig överraska genom att utebli.

The Masquerade


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Closing session with Kati Oksanen

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Finally, a very warm thanks to the chairperson Kati Oksanen and her crew for a con with a wonderful atmosphere. I will miss the Animecon in future Finncons!

Finncon 2010

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

By Jacob Dahlgren

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

Inside Kiasma

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

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

Cheryl Morgan, Jukka Halme, Marianna Leikomaa, Tommy Persson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman

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

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

Saara Henriksson, Ellen Kushner, Pat Cadigan

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

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

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

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

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

The fan table in the main building

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

Delia Sherman, Ellen Kushner, Kati Clements

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

The paper announces nazis on the moon

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

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

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

Ben Roimola, Petri Salin, Vilgot Strömsholm, Kenneth Lindholm

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

Carolina at the Eurocon table

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

Kati Oksanen

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

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

Cheryl Morgan interviewing Pat Cadigan

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

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

Sari Polvinen, Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, Johan Anglemark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheryl Morgan, Ellen Kushner, Pat Cadigan

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

Not an Anime con, but still...

Fans at the sauna

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

Condense – den tunga kongressen

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

I Bottnaryds kyrka

I Bottnaryds kyrka

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

Babels torn i Bottnaryds kyrka

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

Näsduksträd

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

Kongresslokalen, Fräntorps Folkets Hus

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

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

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

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

Sten Thaning, Justina Robson, Tommy Persson

Justina Robson

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

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

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

Patrik Centerwall, Nene Ormes

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

Nene Ormes

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

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

Stefan Ekman

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

Helena Kiel, Henrik Otterberg

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

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

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

Gunilla Jonsson,Carolina Gómez Lagerlöf, ?, Katja Lindblom

Helena Kiel

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


Swecon i Uppsala 26-28 maj

Worldcon 75, Helsingfors 2017

Eurocon 2017 i Dortmund