Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Pub Meeting on Thursday

Where did July go? And where was the scorching hot weather we’re supposed to have now that the global warming has taken effect (if you believe all the people ranting about that last summer)?

Come discuss the sfnality of the world as we know it (or any other interesting subjects that come to mind) on Thursday at Bar Bremer (six o’clock). This month’s mafia zine has stuff about books and tv (an introduction to Heroes + others) for example, plus con reports from this year’s Finncon.

(By the way, if you’d like to have a copy of my zine, and can’t come to Bremer but are coming to the Roadside picnic on Saturday, drop me a note and I’ll bring you a copy.)

Usva Camping

The Usva summer camp for sf writers was last week. Anne has collected notes from participants’ blogs (and has a few of her own too).

Friday, July 27, 2007

Finncon Products at Viikinsaari

 If you’re coming to the Viikinsaari picnic a week from now (and why wouldn’t you be), you will have an opportunity to purchase some official Finncon 2007 merchandise there (see pictures). The friendly Finncon organizers are bringing some over just for you.

Although this was the first Finncon shirt ever I didn’t purchase myself (because I think they are just fugly), you should of course judge for yourself. And if you like them, seize the opportunity and get some!

Risingshadow in English

The (probably) most active Finnish sf forum, Risingshadow, has just published a sister site  in English. Like its Finnish counterpart, the site is going to host sf news, discussion forums, and a sf book database. It’s not quite clear—at least to me—what the site is hoping to achieve (the book & writer database won’t concentrate on books published in Finnish; I’m not sure why the world needs yet another sf book listing, and I remain sceptical that the Risingshadow users would want to discuss things in English on another forum in addition to their usual hanging-out place), but hopefully that will become clear in the future. It remains to be seen also, if the discussion forum will focus more on sf than the Finnish one (where you have to wade through a bunch of general-interest-to-young-people topics to get to any discussion related to sf at all), but I’d say that this might be a promising place if you want to get in touch with Finns who read sf.

The English-language site can be found at en.risingshadow.net, and the Finnish one has moved to fi.risingshadow.net.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tamfan 2007

Tamfan is the sometimes-annual-and-sometimes-not fantasy minicon, held in Tampere and organized by the Smial Morel. This year’s con date is Saturday, September 29, and the place is Tampereen Yo-talo (Kauppakatu 10).

The guest of honor this year is the Kuvastaja-award-winning author Ilkka Auer.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Roadside Picnic 2007

The traditional findom picnic to Viikinsaari will take place on Saturday, August 4. The boat to the island leaves from Laukontori at noon (plus on the hour, if you want to arrive later), and you’ll find fandom barbequing at the gazebo on the far end of the island.

The picnic is a long-standing tradition in the Finnish fandom, and is an excellent opportunity to meet fen and get into touch with people from other cities, so I warmly recommend attending!

The return-ticket to the island costs 7 euros. Fandom will pretty certainly move to a bar somewhere around 5 PM at the latest—otherwise we would be in great danger of having to watch a tango performance by Eino Grön…

Fantastic Society at Åbo Akademi

For a little while now, there’s been a “society for the weird” at Åbo Akademi, founded by Vilgot Strömsholm. It covers science fiction, fantasy, anime, hacking, literature, etc. They have around 30 members, and new ones are welcome. Those interested can contact Vilgot via e-mail.

(via Enhörningen)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Åcon 2 in May

Åcon was so much fun that we’re going to do it again next year. The (tentative at this point) dates are May 1–4, 2008 (yes, it starts on May Day). More info will follow later, but mark the dates on your calendar now. The membership fee will be the same as last time, 20 €.

Finncon Links

Words and pictures about this year’s Finncon:

Photos:

Video clips:

Other stuff:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Notes from Finncon

Finncon started on Saturday morning with opening words from captain Pirk; the warm-up act was Mike Pohjola with his appropriately lame puns (he continued much of the same during the day as a host/announcer for many of the program items). Pirk’s opening words were moderately funny (but then I’ve never found him more than that, so your mileage may vary), but only in Finnish despite all the foreign guests in the room, which was maybe not the best decision. Also, the opening ceremony didn’t note any of the guests of honor in any way, which I found a bit odd.

The main venue was the good old university building familiar from earlier Jyväskylä conventions. It wasn’t nearly as packed as Paasitorni last year, and the air conditioning was working better too (maybe because it wasn’t so damn hot outside this year). Even so, the place was quite crowded. I tried just hanging out for a while, but even though a lot of the anime program was happening in other buildings, the main lobby was still pretty packed, mostly with young people in anime costumes, so browsing the tables wasn’t that much fun and I quickly tired of it. In addition, the vendors’ tables were a big disappointment if you wanted to browse a lot of sf books and other such stuff—you can say the tables had a variety of stuff only if you count selling both manga and anime as variety. The fandom tables were packed away in a corner, with poor visibility and little room to browse and talk to people behind the tables.

The program clearly strived for diversity. There was a physics lecture (with dancing), Bollywood, mythical creatures of Finnish folk tradition, several items about queer & porn, writing, publishing and translating, fandom, and so on. And a lot of talk about manga and anime. On the other hand, a couple of sf fen with a more traditional taste said there were very few items that interested them, especially if one didn’t want to see very basic discussions such as “myths in science fiction” once again. Perhaps the thing that most bothered me in the programming was that there were no guest of honor speeches—usually my favorite con items—at all. Jukkahoo did a good job being very jamesliptonish (despite what he himself claims) on his GoH interviews, but come on—six guests of honor and not one speech!

Speaking of the GoHs: they were all wonderful people, and I’m glad I got to talk with them. Some I had met before (the Haldemans and of course Cheryl Morgan) and it was really nice to see them again. Liz Hand was great, and even though I didn’t talk to Ellen Datlow much, she too seemed to be a very interesting person with a lot of stories to tell. Nevertheless, I think this time there were too many guests of honor for an event this size. The reason to have a guest of honor is to bring a couple of individuals into the spotlight to celebrate their achievements. When there are just two days of con programming, there is no way you can bring in six guests of honor and not have them get lost in the crowd—at least to a degree—as just a few more people in the foreign-language panel discussions. I’m pretty sure the guests themselves didn’t feel unappreciated, though, which is of course the most important thing.

Another little snafu with the guests was the hassle with the other foreign “special guests” of the con. It didn’t seem it was clear to even the organizers themselves—not to mention to the audience—who was what, how they came to be, and what the heck were these special guests anyway. My suggestion to future con committees is to forget any extra categories such as “special guest”, “special foreign guest”, etc. Just have the guests of honor, and the rest are attendees. You can of course advertise some especially interesting members of the convention for example in the program book, if you like—and this would be a good opportunity to mention also for example people doing unusually many program items, in addition to prominent people traveling to the con from far away. But try to remember that the guests of honor should be special to avoid the PR mess this year seemed to have on their hands.

There were a couple of foreign fen visiting Finncon again this year. Not quite as many as last year (or at Åcon), but I met at least Tommy, Michael, and Ahrvid from Sweden, and Klaus and Tue from Denmark there. I think this is a good thing and hope the trend continues and grows—although very different from “normal” cons abroad (or maybe exactly because of that), I’m sure Finncon has a lot to offer to foreign visitors also. There’s plenty of programming in English available, and of course the guests of honor to meet. So if you’re reading this outside of Finland, mark the dates July 26–27, 2008 on your calendar for a trip to Finncon in Tampere.

This year’s con claims to be the biggest yet—around 7000 unique visitors—but didn’t feel nearly as crowded as last year’s. So in this sense the logistics were a lot better and distributing the program to several buildings a little distance apart seems to have worked. Still, I thought the “good old Finncon feeling” was largely missing from the con site (for reasons I mentioned earlier: being mostly crowded by anime fans and the lack of sf vendors and societies). Fortunately it could be found in the nearby restaurant, the legendary Sohwi, which the older fen seemed to gravitate towards on several occasions. Spending time in the bar has always been a big part of the fun of going to a Finncon, but sometimes it really seemed that’s where the real con and most of the science fiction discussion was this year. The evening party on Saturday was great fun, and the place was excellent (largely thanks to the big patio). I missed most of the masquerade because it was so hot inside I basically just grabbed my drink and dashed outside for air, but there were some gorgeous costumes, and the chaos costuming competition (where you made your costume on the spot with stuff provided by the organizers) was a terrific idea.

In spite of being plagued with illness, adversity, and plain bad luck, Jyväskylä managed to put up a con that ran smoothly and pretty well on time, with no major problems visible to the attendees, and they deserve credit for that. Thanks for the con, I’ll see you in Tampere in a year!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Anne Leinonen Wins Atorox

Anne Leinonen took the jackpot this year: she won the Atorox award for the best Finnish short story published in 2006, and in addition had three other stories in the top ten (including one co-written with Petri Laine). This is the second Atorox for Anne.

Atorox top 10 in 2007:

  1. Anne Leinonen: Toisinkainen (Portti 1/2006)
  2. Hannu Rajaniemi: Elegia nuorelle hirvelle (Portti 2/2006)
  3. Carita Forsgren: Fyto ja Ygg (Portti 2/2006)
  4. Jenny Kangasvuo: Yhtä kohtua puoliksi yksin (Portti 3/2006)
  5. Petri Laine ja Anne Leinonen: Kuvat eivät valehtele (Portti 2/2006)
  6. Anne Leinonen: Koska he olivat liian pyhiä (Valkeita lankoja, WSOY 2006)
  7. Miina Supinen: Alkumereen (Kosmoskynä 4/2005)
  8. Jenny Kangasvuo: Sudenkulku (Usva 2/2006)
  9. Anne Leinonen: Hiekkameren jumalat (Valkeita lankoja, WSOY 2006)
  10. Boris Hurtta: Puut kuin purjeet laivan (Portti 1/2006)

Nova 2007

The Nova short story competition winners were announced at Finncon a moment ago. This year the first place was a tie between two stories. The top five this year is:
  1. Anne Alasirniö: Merestä sinä olet tullut
    Niilo Sevänen: Talven portti
  2. Timo Saarto: Varrella virstan
  3. Timo Saarto: Poika ja tinasotamies
  4. Liisa Nurro: Luostarin ikkuna

Jyväskylä

Arrived in Jyväskylä just in time to miss all of today’s programming. Which had looked interesting, with all the science and writing and stuff, but nobody I talked to had seen any of it, so I can’t confirm there actually was any programming today. Also there were rumors of the organizers having lost Joe Haldeman somewhere in France for over a day, but everything is ok now.

The restaurant Sohwi served good food, but stopped doing so regrettably early. The tabletop hockey tournament Finnconkampen was won (once again) by Pasinen (a new collective term we made up for all the persons called Pasi Something-nen, because there are too many of them in fandom). Next year’s Swecon has a special buy-Tommy-more-beer discount for the duration of this Finncon only. The con proper starts tomorrow with a short Pirkinning.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Off to Finncon

Heading for Jyväskylä. Or was it St. Petersburg? I forget…

(I see there’s some online reporting of the event already.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Atorox Thoughts

The Atorox award for the best Finnish sf short story of 2006 will be given at Finncon on Saturday. The award is decided by the Finnish fandom (it’s “our Hugo”), and this year there were a couple of changes in the process (for the better). First, artificial limitations on how many voters a sf society can have no more exist (this change is more psychological than real, as individuals were able to vote separately also before, but I think it’s easier to participate as a member of an “official association jury” than a single individual). This is clearly a good thing and revitalizes the award, which I think shows in new groups having the largest jurys: Risingshadow 13 voters, Deathwriters 7, and Spektre also 7. It will be interesting to see if this has an effect on what kinds of stories will be succesful—especially when this year some of the older societies (HSFS, HySFK, and the Tolkien society, I’m looking at you) didn’t manage to send in a single vote between them. Shame on you!

Another new thing this year is the completely revamped vote counting system. Instead of giving points to stories, the voters just rank the best of them in order (using single transferable vote, pretty much as in the Hugo voting). I’m sure this is a good thing because it both simplifies the voting process and makes it pretty hard for an individual voter to game the system. Explaining to the audience how the results were calculated might be a lot more complicated than before, but on the other hand I’m pretty sure that only a very small minority will care about the technical details anyway.

One last thing: my Atorox predictions this year. Or guesses, more like it, because I’m usually pretty lousy in these things. But anyway, here goes: based on my general feeling about the stories, both how “Atorox-winner-y” they feel to me, and the comments I’ve heard from a few other people, I’m picking three stories I think will be in the top five.

The first story is Fyto ja Ygg by Carita Forsgren. A bit unusual view on the “aliens conquer the Earth” theme, and might appeal to people who like the more traditional sf. Another pick is Toisinkainen by Anne Leinonen. Also science fiction, aliens, and other planets. A solidly written story, even if it didn’t appeal to me personally at all. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see this as number one. My third pick is my absolute favorite this year, Elegia nuorelle hirvelle by Hannu Rajaniemi. A splendid mix of post-singularity feel and traditional Finnish elements, this story would make an excellent representative of Finnish sf also abroad. I fear this is a bit too far-out for many readers, and therefore won’t win (even though it deserves to), but I’m hoping that enough voters see its greatness to at least make top five. Well, we’ll see the day after tomorrow.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

R.I.P. Leena Peltonen

Sad news from Juhani Hinkkanen: Leena Peltonen, one of Finnish fandom’s most prominent members since pretty much the beginning, died on July 5 in Tampere after a long illness. Leena was there during the early days of the Turku Science Fiction Society, the Tampere Science Fiction Society & its zine Portti, and Aikakone which she edited for a decade. Beside her knowledge and passion about science fiction and fantasy, she was also known for her culinary skills as well as translating, among others, such sf notables as Roger Zelazny, Robert E. Howard, Peter S. Beagle, M. John Harrison, and Colin Greenland into Finnish.

I can’t say I was ever very close with Leena (even before the falling out she had with some parts of fandom, me included, in the early 90s), but she definitely had an impact on my coming to contact with fandom. The first time I remember hearing about other people who were into science fiction was sometime in the late 1980s reading issues of Aikakone in the local library, and a couple of articles on Aikakone also lead to finding out about the world of comics outside what was available in the local general store. Just today, I was cleaning up some of my papers and came across what probably was my first “official” contact with fandom: a response letter about a short story I’d submitted to Aikakone in the late 80s. The story was far from publishable, but Leena’s comments were sharp, insightful and encouraging. That the story never got finished had to do with other things completely—a better critique a fledgling writer couldn’t have hoped for. A big personality is gone and will be missed.

Leena Peltonen sitting beside Juhani Hinkkanen
Leena at the roadside picnic in Tampere a couple of years ago

Update: there will be a memorial event at Finncon on Saturday (6 PM to 8 PM, Lyhty at the university campus), and a memorial book will be at the info in the main building for the duration of the convention.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Tähtifantasia Award Nominees

There’s going to be a new sf award in Finland—Tähtifantasia (“Star Fantasy”)—for translated fantasy literature. The award is given by the Helsinki sf society (publisher of Tähtivaeltaja) that also administers the Tähtivaeltaja award for best science fiction book published in Finnish.

The nominees for the first Tähtifantasia award are:
  • Valkoiset omenat (White Apples), by Jonathan Carroll (published by Loki-Kirjat)
  • Uuskummaa? Modernin fantasian antologia, by Jukka Halme (ed., Kirjava)
  • Miekkamyrsky 2 (A Storm of Swords, 2nd half), by George R. R. Martin (Kirjava)
  • Unohdettu Ombria (Ombria in Shadow), by Patricia A. McKillip (Otava)
  • Pyhimysten ja mielipuolten kaupunki (City of Saints and Madmen), by Jeff VanderMeer (Loki-Kirjat)
This is a very impressive collection of nominees for the first award. Although, from looking at them, I think it’s pretty obvious one aim of the new award is to focus on non-traditional fantasy that breaks traditional genre boundaries (and the award committee pretty much says so themselves), and therefore it feels a bit silly to me to add a new award specifically for the fantasy “genre” instead of widening the scope of the Tähtivaeltaja award to cover all fantastic literature. There’s some discussion on this on Babek nabel (from the other side of the fence too).

The award jury consists of critic Toni Jerrman, writer Anne Leinonen, critic Elli Leppä, and journalist Vesa Sisättö. The winner will be announced in August.

Pub. Meet.

Today. Bar Bremer. Six. See you!

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...