Yeah, I know, I have been a Very Bad Blogger recently. That’s partly because I have been traveling a lot, and partly due to what appears to have been a particularly bad allergic reaction to something that flowers in Finland in June (I’ve not had a problem in May or July). Those of you wondering what Zombie Cheryl looks like should have been at the Helsinki Mafia meeting in St. Urho’s (it’s a pub) on Thursday night. For those of you with an interest in Caribbean folklore, the way to making a living person seem like one of the walking dead is to feed them anti-histamines. Or at least it is in my case.
I am now in London, despite the best efforts of Frankfurt airport to do impressions of Chicago O’Hare. Today I will be doing a presentation skills training course at the Central School of Speech & Drama. Because it is all very well being confident enough to stand up and blather on in front of a few hundred friendly fannish folks at a convention, but if you want to keep the attention of a very large and potentially hostile audience then you need to learn about things like posture, intonation, pacing and so on. Thanks to the good folks at Gendered Intelligence I am getting this course for free, for which I am duly grateful.
Of course it is not exactly ideal to turn up at such a event with a head and throat full of phlegm. Thankfully I no longer sound like a bullfrog talking from the bottom of a pool of sludge. I kid you not. On Thursday I was actually gurgling when I tried to talk.
Then tonight I get to go home. I plan to spend tomorrow horizontal, and paying no more attention to the world than is necessary to cheer on Lewis and write a report on the race for Kevin who will still be asleep when it happens.
I’m still traveling around Finland and trying to catch up after several days of Archipelacon. So that you don’t get too bored, here’s one I prepared earlier. It is a review of Naomi Novik’s latest novel, Uprooted, which is a very fine book indeed. You can read the review here.
Well, that was fairly full-on.
First up on Sunday was my LGBT Superheroes talk. Ten minutes before I was due to start the room was already full to overflowing. Program Ops made inquiries, and we were moved to a much bigger room, which almost filled. I got through 73 slides in 35 minutes, which I was quite impressed with. The audience seemed to enjoy it. As I have said before, I can’t put the slides online because I’m not sure of the copyright situation, but when I get some time I will put together a reading list.
I had an hours to re-inject myself with coffee before the academic program session that I was due to present in. First up was Anders Sandberg, a philosopher from Oxford who gave a great overview of science fiction’s attempts to portray lifeforms more intelligent than us. My paper went OK, and I got a couple of really good questions. Thankfully there were no Fan Studies experts in the audience. (Irma couldn’t get in — the room was packed out — but she did check the paper out before I presented it.) Also in the session we had a great paper on Cat Valente’s “Silently and Very Fast” by Merja Polvinen.
There is a plan for an Archipelacon special edition of Fafnir. Hopefully all three of those papers will be in it.
Then there was lunch, followed swiftly by a two-hour panel on translations with Ian Watson, Sini Neuvonen, Tanya Tynjälä. Again there will be a reading list, but not right now as I need time to put it together. A special guest in the audience was Finnish author, Maria Turtschaninoff, who has recently signed a 3-book deal with Pushkin Press for what she described as feminist epic fantasy. Book 1 should be available early in 2016. To find out more about Maria and the books, check out the new edition of Finnish Weird.
After another brief respite there was closing ceremonies, at which I had to announce the masquerade results. All the guests were effusive in their praise of the event. Obviously they were being polite to some extent, but I have talked to them all, and to many of the other overseas visitors, and everyone seems to have had a great time. Lots of people were talking about wanting to come back to Finnish conventions again. We seem to have created a lot of goodwill for the Helsinki Worldcon bid. I am so proud of my Finnish and Swedish friends right now.
After dinner there was the dead dog party. Farah introduced me to a couple of lovely young men from Iceland and muttered something about organizing a convention. Sounds like a good idea to me. Sjón as Guest of Honor, of course. And maybe Tuppence Middleton.
Parties have been taking place around the pool at the main hotel. It wasn’t nearly as warm as Anaheim, and there are no guest rooms attached to the pool deck, but there was a lot more seating and a good bar. Some bottles of whisky may have found their way into the party as well. I got back to my hotel at around 2:00am. It had not got fully dark, and was showing signs of morning.
Over breakfast this morning a few friends and I were batting around the idea of holding a convention in conjunction with the Midnight Sun Film Festival. We’d have to persuade them to have an SF theme for the event, and get the Wachowskis as Guests of Honor, but it seems a suitably mad project. Finnish fandom can do anything, it seems.
I think I need to check the convention program book so I can remember all of the things I did today.
I was up early because I had to be at the Other Hotel for 10:00am to record an episode of Coode Street. Jonathan couldn’t join us, so I impersonated him and Gary and I talked to Karin Tidbeck about her work, about vikings, about what Swedes think about Thor movies and a few other things as well. We also covered quite a bit of translation news. Apparently the next episode to be aired will be Kim Stanley Robinson, but I think we are after that.
Having done that we left Gary in peace for a while so that he could prepare for his Guest of Honor speech. I went to find more coffee. Gary was very interesting on the subject of the Impossible, the Not Possible, the Unpossible, the Dispossible and the Possible But Stupid. He did have coherent definitions for all of those things, but I can’t remember them all right now.
That was followed immediately by the Music in SF&F panel, which I chaired. Many thanks to Suzanne van Rooyen, J. Pekka Mäkelä and Bellis for being fine panelists. We talked about lots of good stuff. Suzanne, who is a music teacher for her day job, has promised to write a short story based on the symphonic form.
Immediately following that was Karin Tidbeck’s Guest of Honor interview, in which I discovered that she is a fellow fan of the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game. Also she has a novel out in Swedish. It sounds very interesting. There is an English translation looking for a publisher. Get with it, people.
Then it was off to get lunch at the Pride Picnic. Helsinki Pride is this weekend, and as we could not go we had a picnic here instead.
I spent the next couple of hours listening to academic papers. Kaisa, my review of the Greg Bear novels is here. And yes, I know I said I preferred John C. Wright’s politics to Sheri Tepper’s. This was before he discovered God. And in any case at least Libertarians let you think for yourself, even if they will shoot you if you think the wrong things. Tepper has a tendency to want to prevent people from ever having wrong thoughts.
There was a good paper about Leena Krohn’s Tainaron too.
I had an hour for dinner, which I spent with Irma. Then it was time for the Sex in SF&F panel, which was a lot of fun, though they did manged to get through an entire 45 minutes without mentioning t*nt*cle p*rn.
Then there was the masquerade, at which I was chairing the judges. My colleagues were Johanna Sinisalo and Parris McBride. Given that we only had 3 entries yesterday afternoon, I was relieved that we got a decent show. Congratulations to Jukka Särkijärvi for being an excellent host. We do need to persuade the Finns to be less shy and not run off the stage as quickly as they can, but the standard of costumes quite high. The prizes will be announced tomorrow and closing ceremonies. I have some photos but I haven’t had time to get them off the camera yet.
And then there was the Brotherhood Without Banners party. I didn’t last very long because I have a 10:00am panel tomorrow.
I’ve just seen an update on Facebook about Finncon 2016, which will take place in Tampere. The Guests of Honour will include the very wonderful Finnish writer, Anne Leinonen, and the equally wonderful Jasper Fforde.
Jasper mate, clearly we need to sit down at BristolCon and have a little chat. I can fill you in on all of the wonderful things you’ll get to do next year.
I’ll leave Suzanne to talk about her YA panel as she can do so far more authoritatively than I can.
The LGBT panel was packed out again. There were a few vacant seats, but there were also people sitting on the stairs so I think we can claim that we maxed out. My thanks to Dirk and Suzanne for an excellent discussion. As promised, I have posted the reading list to this blog. To read it as a PDF, click here.
Tomorrow we have the Pride Picnic for those of us who are missing Helsinki Pride. On Sunday we have my LGBT Superheroes panel, Dirk’s Queering Star Trek panel, and my academic paper on Sandman: A Game of You.
As I predicted, I spent most of the morning in my hotel room doing panel prep of various sorts. I think my academic paper is now more or less done. I have one panel still to prepare for, which I’ll get done tonight.
Today I saw a couple of panels about fandom. Firstly George, Parris and Gary talked about their life in fandom. Also Parris was joined by Edward James, Crystal Huff and Michael Lee to talk about Anglo-American fandom. Much apologizing for Puppies was done. Personally I feel that a bit of apologizing for other people might have been appropriate as well. I have spent a great deal of time being told that I’m “not part of our community”. Because I have a stubborn streak, and Kevin’s support, I stuck it out and finally won a Hugo or two. Torgersen and Correia claim to have suffered a small amount of rudeness, as a result of which they are now making like professional soccer players rolling around on the ground clutching various tender parts of their anatomy and screaming for an ambulance. Them I have no sympathy for, but while few people are as thin-skinned as them I don’t think that everyone is as thick-skinned as me either.
The bottom line is that we have won the Culture War. Everyone is a fan now, and we have to accept that, or get left behind.
Today also saw Johanna Sinisalo’s Guest of Honour speech. She certainly seems to have been a precocious child. She could read well at 2.5 years old, and at five, having discovered that books were written by people, resolved to become an author. One of the first SF-related books she read was Comet in Moominland. Being a smart kid, she worried that comets might actually strike the Earth, and asked her father if this was possible. As she tells it, “Then he made a very serious mistake”. Her father, perhaps hoping to reassure her, told her that this Tove Jansson person was a woman, and that women knew nothing about such things. Little Johanna immediately resolved to prove him wrong, and to see to it that women were never again told that there were things they could not do.
Johanna also read us a short passage from the novel she currently has in translation. It is set in a near future Finland where an authoritarian government has banned all “dangerous” drugs except chilis. Naturally everyone turns to the burn to get their endorphin rush. Apparently she and her husband had a lot of fun researching this book.
Today’s first piece of really good news is that the Finnish government has awarded Johanna a five-year arts grant to allow her to write more books. She now earns more than I do just for being an author, quite independent of any money she might get from publishers. I am absolutely delighted for her.
The other piece of really good news was, of course, the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage. We celebrated by having a Diversity in YA presentation from Suzanne von Rooyen, and an LGBT panel featuring Suzanne, Dirk Weger and myself. More on those shortly.
As you may have guessed, life has been a bit hectic. There has been a lot of travel. There has also been a lot of day job, though you won’t have seen that. But because of it there is now a lot of last minute preparation for panels and the like, which should have been done days ago. Add that to a distinct lack of sleep and it is a minor miracle that I can type straight.
Anyway, I am here in Mariehamn. The con is going well. It has been great to catch up with a whole lot of people I haven’t seen in ages, especially George & Parris, and Gary K. Wolfe, all of whom are GoHs.
Thus far I have done one panel. It was about the Puppies and what to do about them. Hopefully I managed to convey the fact that there’s not much any individual can do because of the determined way in which WSFS refuses to give anyone any power. All that Kevin, or I, or anyone else can do is try to make things better and hope that sufficient people come along with us. No matter what we do, large numbers of people will think we failed, because so many people refuse to believe that there isn’t a secret cabal running everything.
Tomorrow I just have the one panel, which is the LGBT one, but I am so massively behind on everything that I’ll probably be spending much of the day in the hotel doing preparation.
If it is Tuesday evening I must be in Helsinki. Goodness only knows where my brain is. I had to get up at 5:30 this morning in order to get to Heathrow on time. This is not good for me. Still, it was lovely to see Karo & Tommi in London, and good to see them breeding more Finnish con-runners.
Fortunately the travel all went fairly smoothly. Also World Of Whisky had Jura on sale. The Prophecy was still stupidly expensive, so I picked up a bottle of Superstition instead. I am giving a paper about Sandman, so it seems rather appropriate.
Otto tells me that the train from Helsinki airport into the city center is almost ready to open. I hope to get some photos of it next week.
I appear to have brought English weather with me. It is a good job I’m leaving tomorrow as I want it to be nice here for Helsinki Pride.
I’m heading off for London today, and will be flying to Helsinki tomorrow. I’ll be offline much of the same, save for Twitter, so to keep you folks amused I have written the promised review of Rachel Hartman’s Shadow Scale. It does interesting things with gender. You can find the review here.