Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Swecon: Brief Notes

This year’s Swecon, ConCeive, was held in Göteborg a week ago. After waking up on the ferry on Friday morning at an hour no civilized being should have to be awake, and then driving through Sweden, we arrived at the scene at about 1 o’clock. The con was supposed to start in a few hours, but there was no hint about it to be seen anywhere. So, we knew we had to be in the right place—this was a Swedish con, after all, known for their “relaxed” ways of con-organizing.

It was raining. And quite cold. At this point, I started to question the wisdom of traveling abroad without a coat (nor an umbrella—but Göteborg was supposed to be sunny and warm!) Nevertheless, unintimidated by the weather, we took a short stross stroll in the city and ate a pizza. Then, we went back to the site and helped to put up stuff for the con.

The site was excellent for this type of event. There was a big room for the main programming, a lounge for sitting around and for the vendor tables, a couple of smaller spaces for the fan room, the audio and video programs and occasional other items, and of course the bar. Which was self-organized, so the prices were very reasonable (although they tended to run out of pretty much everything, as the con went on). My only gripe was that there was no audio equipment in the main “auditorium” and the way to the lounge went through the back of the room so you had to sit in front and listen carefully to make out what the participants were saying. Fortunately, there usually was plenty of room at the front seats.

What I really liked about this year’s convention, was a very warm, gathering-of-friends atmosphere, which I didn’t think was there as much last year in Stockholm. Even though I don’t really know that many Swedish fen, it was very easy to meet people and get into conversations with them. An important aspect of this was the site itself. There was a cozy, relaxed feel to the place, with the humorous guide signs and all. The place seemed made for just lounging around. Maybe it also helped that the con had only about 60 attendees: when you bump into the same persons over and over again, you start to get to know them a bit better along the way.

The organizers were also all very lovely, and even though the con maybe lacked a bit when it comes to being organized and getting things done in time, they came through where it counted. Like when there were three Finns to be put up somewhere at a moment’s notice in the middle of Friday night, after it turned out our intended accommodation had cats (and was thus incompatible with Jukka). Which turned out to be good, because without meeting Mats and staying at his place, we’d perhaps never had gotten exposed to the madly brilliant (or brilliantly mad) Invader Zim. There was a special quality to the Göteborg fandom, that I can’t really put my finger on, but which made us Finns feel very much at home. So much in fact, that we decided to claim them as an adopted part of the Finnish fandom.

The foreign guest of honor, Fluff the Plush Cthulhu Charles Stross, was a good choice. I’m a fan of his books, and have been interested in meeting him for a couple of years now. (But I want to take the opportunity here to clip the wings from the rumor that I had anything to do with inventing the Charles Stross man-bitch squadron. Honestly!) He was a nice fellow, with a good sense of humor, who had interesting things to say. He obviously has some very enthusiastic fans in the Swedish fandom, too. (Note how I carefully avoid saying anything about the Swedish sub-division of the CSMBS here.)

The bar. Where it all happens, I’m told. Well, if you count only the Finns sitting there with their beers while all the Swedes are watching the program, I guess. There will be photo evidence of this within a few days, after the computer has been beaten back into submission.

Ok, to be fair, there was a lot of activity at or around the bar. For example, the very scientificly determined famous-sf-writer-alter-ego test, the bid party for the next Swecon, and of course lots of fen chatting (and, it sometimes felt, at least as many taking pictures of the aforementioned).

Were there any things that were less than good this year? Not many. The scheduling was very off from the beginning (and got worse—except for the av programming, which ran on schedule to the minute), but when the event is this small, things still work out fine, as long as nobody starts to stross stress over it. The “program book” for the convention was even more pathetic than last year’s: something I didn’t think possible. For starters, it didn’t contain any info about the program. That didn’t matter much, though, as there was only one main line of programming, and I was mostly interested in the English-speaking GoH anyway. The banquet left much to be desired. The food seemed to be mostly cold cuts (especially since there was also too little of it, and by the time we got to the table, they’d run out of some dishes), but much was saved by having really excellent ice cream for dessert (the same that is served at the Nobel banquets, we were told), and lots of it. (Cue some locals chanting the Invader Zim ice cream commercial.) So, nothing to get in the way of having a lots of fun, really.

But all good things, and so on. After the closing ceremony, we enjoyed a great Chinese buffet at a restaurant our local hosts took us to and headed home. Even the journey back was entertaining, thanks to the very good traveling companions, Jukka and Ben. A big thank you to the Göteborg fen for organizing the event, and especially to Mats Pekkari for letting us bunk in his living room, as well as Tomas Cronholm for putting us up for the night in Stockholm before our boat left back for Finland. Oh, and by the way, if you ever happen to be thrown on a boat that is then filled with karaoke-singing madmen, and the only way to keep what’s left of your sanity is to spend the day on the deck (under the very burning sun, unprepared with any protective chemicals), the pharmacies in Finland sell a lotion called “ACO efter sol” that seems to retroactively cancel sunburn quite effectively. Wonderful stuff.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Harry Harrison in Finland Next Month

Sf author Harry Harrison will make a brief visit to Finland during the Jyväskylän kesä festival on July 16–17.

Unfortunately, his visit coincides with the Viikinsaari picnic. Hopefully there’ll be enough traveling fen for both occasions. (I’m still planning to go to Tampere: I can’t spare the whole weekend for the trip, and Jyväskylä is a bit far for a one-day-visit.)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Finnish Sf Novel Nominated for IHG Award

Leena Krohn’s novel Tainaron is nominated for the International Horror Guild Award in the long fiction category. The awards will be presented during the World Fantasy Convention, November 3—6 in Madison.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Swecon, Day One

Arrived in Stockholm. Awake at 20 past 5, goddammit! Continued to Göteborg, where we were quite early. Saw nobody at the con site, and no mention of a Swecon, so we knew we had to be in the right place.

Went to eat. Came back later. Two organizers present. Proceeded to build the con site up (put up guide plaques, tables for performers and vendors, chairs for the audience etc.). And not a cork screw in sight!

People started arriving. Even some programming. Found a cork screw. And the GoH got to the country, only a few hours late. We even found a place to stay for the night. So, all in all, everything is looking swell. Tired now; more to follow later.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Summer Activities

What to do in the summer? Of course there are lots of “ordinary” activities, like going to the beach, hanging out in an outdoors café with friends, and so on. But one needs sfnal activity also. I’ve listed here some fannish events and other stuff of interest for this summer. I’m sure I’ve missed something (comments and additions are welcome), but one would think these would be enough for everybody to find at least something. So, if you happen to be around, stop by and meet other fen!

ESC Summer Picnic
June 11, 16.00

The Espoo science fiction society ESC organizes a picnic to Kauniainen (“the mystical missing city”). Everyone who can be bothered to drag themselves to Espoo is invited.



Midnight Sun Film Festival
June 15 to 19, Sodankylä

The film festival isn’t an sf event per se, but this year one of the guests is Roy Ward Baker, a filmmaker with quite a few sf merits (for example, Quatermass and the Pit and The Vampire Lovers).



Swecon
June 17 to 19, Göteborg, Sweden

Ok, so this isn’t a fandom happening in Finland. But at least three Finns are participating (Jukka, Ben and myself), so it counts. Guest of honor is Charles Stross. Swecon is a totally different animal from Finncon: it’s much smaller and the target audience is the active fandom. Should be fun, again.



Fantasia nyt (Fantasy Now)
July 1 to 3, Oriveden opisto

A weekend workshop for fantasy writers, taught by Markku Soikkeli, Anne Leinonen, Liisa Rantalaiho and Sari Peltoniemi. Admission is 130 € (it includes accommodation and meals), so this is only for those serious about improving their writing skills.

Update: unfortunately, the workshop was cancelled due to lack of attendees.



Kesäretki Suomenlinnaan (Summer picnic to Suomenlinna)
July 9, Helsinki

I don’t actually remember seeing a confirmation about the date, but traditionally it would be this. The fandom is invited to an informal picnic to Suomenlinna, an 18th century sea fortress on the islands just off Helsinki.



Huviretki tienpientareelle (Roadside Picnic)
July 16, Tampere

The traditional Finnish relaxcon that was revived last summer after a few years’ absence. Takes place in Tampere, on Viikinsaari island. No official programming (although for example, last year there was the traditionally fannish paper airplane building and throwing competition). Usually there’s a ruffle, but mainly there’s a barbeque and just meeting other fen. This would be an excellent opportunity to meet fen from all over Finland. Organized by Spektre.



Ropecon
July 22 to 24, Espoo

The largest role-playing event in Finland, Ropecon nowadays attracts over 3000 attendees. This year’s GoHs are Greg Stafford, Bill Bridges and Claus Raasted. If these names say anything to you, or you are otherwise into role-playing, larping or card or board gaming, this might be the event for you. This year, the con’s theme is new weird: “the crossing point where the grey of an ordinary day becomes magic and fey descend into fast-food employees,” as the organizers put it.

Attendance is 10 €/day, or 20 € for the whole event.



Worldcon
August 4 to 8, Glasgow

Not in Finland, obviously, but the main event of the year for quite many fen here, too. It’s been too long since the previous time, and it’s still not too late to decide to go…



Bicycle Picnic
First weekend of August, Turku

This is only a rumor yet, but there’s supposed to be a bicycle picnic on the worldcon weekend in Turku. A small comfort, if you aren’t in Glasgow, though.



Tähtivaeltaja-päivä (Tähtivaeltaja Day)
September 10, Helsinki

The second third minicon under the umbrella of the Tähtivaeltaja zine, held in Dubrovnik (thanks for the corrections, Jukka), a former movie theatre in Helsinki. GoH M. John Harrison.



Atonova
September 17, Turku

The Atorox award and Nova competition results are announced in a minicon in Turku. Usually there’s been a panel discussion or two after the awards ceremonies, and after that, people gather in a pub. Quite a few of the Finnish sf writers usually attend the event.



In addition to these events, there are also the regular pub meatings: in Turku you can find fen in Bar Bremer on the first Thursday of every month.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Results Are In

Hello, Glasgow, and good evening! Here are the results of the Turku jury…

What’s that you say? Wrong competition? Oh, sorry.

Well, anyway, as I said earlier, we had a Hugo theme in today’s mafia. I was positively surprised about how many had read the short stories, and so we had a good discussion of the merits (or lack of) of the nominees. Unfortunately, as it quite often tends to go with these things, people voted the wrong nominees. And so, tied for the first place with Robert J. Sawyer’s Shed Skin (the only piece of decent sf in the bunch, even though the ending was a bit of a letdown) was the totally non-special A Princess of Earth, by Mike Resnick. Next month we’ll tackle the novelettes. Correction: the two stories got an equal amount of points, but based on the number of first places in the votes, Princess was the winner. Shed Skin came in second.

What keeps surprising me every year (even though I don’t think it shouldn’t anymore) is how bland the Hugo nominees tend to be. Innovative and daring stuff—the stuff good sf should be made of—just doesn’t seem to make the cut. As many people seem to value familiarity with things they loved a long time ago over new stuff with ideas, I’d be willing to make a small bet for the Princess in the actual Hugos also.

Other stuff of interest today: quite a bit about Star Wars, Episode III (no surprise there). Which brings to mind something completely different. If I could draw, this would be a cartoon, but since I can’t I’m siccing it on you here.
The setting: an sf convention. A guy in a Darth Vader suit, getting totally sick of being pestered by a teenage nerd, grabs him by the collar and smacks him.
The caption: “The Sith hits the fan”
But I digress. There was quite a lot of talk about sf books this evening. Also, the sfnality of Doctor Snuggles was discussed. It was even suggested that Douglas Adams had written some of his adventures. And what do you know, he did.

After a brief discussion about politics had driven home all but the most enduring (foolhardy?), there was some talk about religious views of fen, and also about possible methods of getting new people to join the fandom. Not as totally unrelated subjects as you might think, but I guess you had to be there. Don’t worry, though, we’re not thinking of starting any new religions. (Or taking over any old ones. Even really old ones.) Or getting into politics either, for that matter.

Tähtivaeltaja Award to Lauren Beukes

The Helsinki Science Fiction Society has announced the winner of this year’s Tähtivaeltaja Award : the best science fiction book published i...