Monday, June 30, 2008

Finncon Accommodation Available

Hotels in Tampere during Finncon are pretty hard to get any more, but if you need accommodation, Tampere fen have promised to offer accommodation to a few travellers. Contact Ari Seppi (@uta.fi) for more information.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Lord of the Rings Symphony Comes to Finland

The Tampere Filharmonia will play Howard Shore’s The Lord of the Rings Symphony in Tampere-talo (the same place that hosts this year’s Finncon) next spring. There will be two concerts, on May 1 and 2. The concert is accompanied with illustrations by Alan Lee and John Howe.

Tickets went on sale on Monday and are available from Lippupiste and Tampere-talo.

Tähtivaeltaja Award 2008

The Tähtivaeltaja Award for the best science fiction book published in Finnish in 2007 has been announced. The winner is Olen legenda (I Am Legend) by Richard Matheson, published by Vaskikirjat.

The jury commended the novel’s timeless quality, dark atmosphere, and scientific approach that effectively separates the book from the vampire fantasies. The award jury were: critic Hannu Blommila, editor Toni Jerrman, critic Elli Leppä, and journalist Vesa Sisättö.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rajaniemi Represented

SFScope reports that Hannu Rajaniemi is now represented by the John Jarrold Literery Agency. Congratulations, Hannu!

Hannu is a Finnish author, nowadays living in Edinburgh, whose texts have appeared in Futurismic, a few anthologies (including two Year’s Best SF anthos) and in several zines (including Usva International 2006, available online as a PDF) and who has been described as the next big name of sf by Charles Stross. I’m a big fan of his writing and hope this move means we’ll be seeing more of his texts, and hopefully longer ones too, in the not too distant future.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Fandom

Huge congratulations to Anne Leinonen (and Tapsa too, of course) who last night made a brand new human (of the boy variety)!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Zines Get Cultural Grants

This is already old news (from the beginning of June), but I’ve been a bit busy and thought it still worth reporting. The Ministry of Education has given grants to support cultural magazines, and among 109 publications getting grants there are a couple of sf zines too (these are zines published by sf clubs, and probably best classified as semiprozines).

Kosmoskynä (the Finnish Science Fiction Writers Association’s publication) got 500 €, Spin (published by the Turku SF Society) 3 000 €, Portti (Tampere SF Society) 15 000 €, and Tähtivaeltaja (Helsinki SF Society) 16 000 €.

Sinisalo Sturgeon Finalist

Johanna Sinisalo’s short story Baby Doll is a finalist for the 2007 Theodore Sturgeon Award. The English translation of the story was published in the SWFA European Hall of Fame anthology. It’s been previously also published in Year’s Best SF 13. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again: Go Johanna!

(Thanks for Toni Jerrman for noticing this.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Finncon 2008 Program Announced

This year’s Finncon has announced its (preliminary) program. The English program items have been marked with (en). The English-language programming at the moment looks like this:
In addition there are Guest of Honor kaffeklatches. Remember this is still a preliminary program and will probably develop further as the con approaches.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Back from Swecon

ConFuse is over and we’re back home. And what a great convention it was!

On Saturday evening, after the programming ended, people stayed at the con site drinking beer and chatting (and some of us having a cigar in honor of the half-Finnish team that was victorious in the quiz program), when suddenly the door started beeping menacingly at us. Apparently the burglar alarm had been set so that after one o’clock going back and forth through the door wasn’t a terribly good idea. I think some people still stayed for a while, but shortly after witnessing Tommy sprint from the building with Pasinen in tow (presumably to catch the bus, not to escape from the scene before security came to investigate the alarm), we decided to call it a night and left for the hotel. Jukka entertained Ben and me well into the night with obscure sf trivia questions from a book he had bought.

A bunch of folks sitting around a table in the bar chatting with the GoHs

Sunday started, again, with the Guests of Honors on a panel; this time they talked about blogging and all the ways modern writers are expected to promote themselves. In addition to mentioning that a blog can be a useful tool for a writer, one that can be used for creating a personal connection to ones readers, it was noted that we may once again be entering an era of performing creators and that these things go in cycles (when audio recordings were invented, performers were furious that their art would be reduced to mere “clerking in a studio,” and now authors are lamenting that they can’t necessarily do their work secluded from the audience again but are “required to be performing monkeys” to promote their work.

Sunday was more quiet than the earlier days, as these things tend to go. In addition to not sleeping enough the previous couple of nights, the mood changes a bit when people start to leave already during the day. So did also we because we needed to catch the evening ferry from Stockholm: after Jukka and Mari were done with their Evil in Fantasy panel, we said our goodbyes and headed for the railway station for the train to Stockholm. The train left almost on time despite Juha’s timetable-bending warp field being present. On the way home we stopped four or five times to grab a quick bite (I swear Dr. Pasinen has a Tardis stomach; it must be bigger on the inside—and if you don’t take him eating when he’s hungry, he’ll just stare at you with his puppy eyes until you cave), got a lot of bad ideas (and some good ones too), learned what mozzarella is really made of, educated Ben, Jukka, and Marianna on certain unmentionable horrors of the Internet (they’d rather not had learned about), and reminisced about the con.

Tommy, Ylva, Jukka, and Marianna discuss evil in fantasy

So what was so good about it? The location was excellent, very close to the city center, the hotels, and many restaurants. And the venue worked very well for a convention this size. Everything was close together, with the second-hand book tables and the bar on the entrance level, and a lounge area, the art show, and the program rooms half a floor down, close enough for easy access but not too close to the bar to disturb each other. There was a notable amount of interesting programming (a lot of it with the GoHs), and it run admirably on time—mainly thanks to Britt-Louise, who kindly but firmly announced when the items were supposed to start winding down.

Swecons aren’t know for their t-shirts and other merchandise but this time the organizers had made stylish ConFuse mugs. In addition to being very inexpensive, they included free coffee or tea for the duration of the convention. Exellent! And as Sten said, every convention automatically becomes 30 % better with an ice cream buffet.

The front and back views of the LSFF mug: moon surface, and LSFF & ConFuse logos

Did I already mention books? The Alvar Appeltofft Foundation had their traditional book sale, and were they selling! In addition to the normally impressive selection of books they had just had a sizable donation of books they wanted to move—and they were priced as such. There was a lot of fluff, but also real finds on those tables, to be had from 5 crowns up (that’s about 50 cents).

A view from the end of the table, with rows and rows of books

According to the organizers there were 95 warm bodies present, which made this the biggest ConFuse ever. Huge thanks to the Linköping fandom for a great time, and hope to see many of you at a Finnish con also! And congratulations to Anders Reuterswärd (two-time Swedish agent of Åcon, among other things) for the Alvar Appeltofft memorial award!

I’ve put up some more photos of the con on Flickr.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Swecon: Saturday

After yesterday’s festivities (at midnight, the whole city center seemed to be full of happily drunk teenagers celebrating finishing their school) the streets seemed very quiet this morning. Some people went on a walking tour of medieval Linköping. (They told me later that they saw a lot of beautiful decaying old buildings and places where a lot of people had been killed which was interesting and fun. I have strange friends.)

I went to prepare for my program item. I had a suspicion that 11 AM isn’t really a good time to have book discussion, and my suspicion turned out to be correct. Ten minutes after the item was supposed to start Jukkahoo walked in, and we chatted about this and that. Marianna came in about five minutes after that, so we continued chatting. At about 25 minutes past 11, Tommy and Carolina arrived, and we decided there were enough people and had a short but fun discussion.

The Guests of Honor are really being worked today. They’ve both taken part in at least two program items in addition to their speeches, and Cory Doctorow was interviewed today for the second time (this time about his other activities than writing fiction). At the moment they are talking on stage about the craft of writing science fiction. Neither of them confessed to wearing a tiara while writing.

I have to say the Swedes have once again managed to pick excellent Guests of Honor for their convention. Both Roberts and Doctorow have been constantly interesting and entertaining, and very approachable to the fen. Cory Doctorow started the day’s GoH programming by discussing the future of books. The discussion was interactive, the audience having many questions and comments. It didn’t stay on one topic very well, partly because of all the comments and opinions, but also partly because I don’t think they had decided whether “the future of books” meant the future of the book as a physical object or the novel as a literary form (which I think are two completely different, but equally interesting topics). The discussion had many good points for (and against) electronic books, and also some speculation about the future forms of fiction and reading.

Adam Roberts talked about his research and opinions on the history of science fiction, a topic that was also discussed a bit in his interview yesterday, but which he was now able to go deeper into. He had very interesting opinions on the differences between science fiction and fantasy, and the connections these might have with different religions and materialistic world views. He also observed how modern science fiction (and especially the general perception of it) has been influenced by film. Later on the day he again continued and expanded the topic on his Guest of Honor speech with for example some definitions of what he views as the science fiction literature. The topic of the speech was “Encyclopedic SF,” and he raised some excellent points about the birth of sf around the same time encyclopedias were invented, and further connection between these. He is an interesting and intelligent speaker you really want to pay attention to, because he regularly makes insightful observations (among the wonderfully wry comments about things).

Cory Doctorow’s interview about technology, civil rights, and activism didn’t really contain much new information for anyone who’s read his columns and other writings before, but I think these things are very relevant in today’s society and it’s important they are talked about. Besides, he’s such a captivating speaker with really sound arguments that he’s a pleasure to listen to and it’s very easy to get swept along with his enthusiasm. He started his GoH speech with a short short story that nicely tied up with his earlier discussion about the future of books. The other part of the speech on the other hand touched the same issues as his interview, but from the point of view of how important it is to have control over your tools and the things you own to be happy, and how important it is that people are allowed to use their creativity and make stuff themselves even in this era of “no user-serviceable parts”.

It‘s been a long day, but there’s still some programming left. There have been many good and fun conversations with other members of the convention. Ben and Jukka went to defend Finland’s honor in some kind of a frog sport. I think I’ll head for the bar.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

ConFused

When we approached the convention site, everything looked par for a Swecon: a couple of people sitting outside, no visible indication of a convention just about to start. But then we noticed small signs saying “ConFuse,” and from there things went weird. Everything has been extremely organized for a Swecon: a convention book, up-to-date program leaflet, professional badges (that have been pre-printed and cut), and also a “readme” leaflet telling people useful things about the convention and surroundings. They even have a soundboard in the main program room and free wi-fi in the convention area!

Convention booklet, program leaflet, badge, readme flyer and the con mug laid out in a folded stack on a table

The opening ceremony started almost on time and was pretty unceremonial. After that, we found some beer and comfy sofas, so life was good. The organizers say there are 81 paying members: I estimate about 50 of them have already showed up (more will no doubt be arriving during the evening and also tomorrow). They have a discount membership for people under 20 and also for people attending their first convention, which I think is a wonderful idea (and very good for bringing new people to fandom), and about a dozen or so have taken them up on the offer, so it seems to be working.

The bar is well stocked on tasty beers (and actually gives you the third degree if you try to by a Tuborg), although I’m pretty sure they don’t have “every kind of whiskey” as advertised. Juha has a Dalek drink (which, as he tells me, consists of apple juice plus essence of cactus and lime).

The first program item I saw today was the interview of one of the GoHs, Adam Roberts. Witty and entertaining all the way through. So far, this is gearing up to be definitely one of the best Swecons I’ve attended.

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In Linköping

We’ve arrived in sunny Linköping, the city of ConFuse, this year’s Swecon. The night ferry trip to Sweden and the train journey from Stockholm to Linköping went without incident (the extremely bad humor expressed during the trip doesn’t really count as an incident, since it is pretty much the norm with this crowd). On the way we invented a great new fandom game (more on that later) and even smoffed a bit (about what could be done to improve the inner workings of the Atorox nomination process and who’d make a great GoH for the Turku 2011 Finncon).

People walking on the street by the Linköping market place

It appears there are some end-of-school festivities going on around here today. Lots of young people in white caps driving around the city center in carriages pulled by tractors and general merriment. All the young girls seemed to cheer and wave to Ben.

We have a very nice (and roomy) hotel room near the city center, about a block from the con site. We circled around a bit to see the city, eat (Mongolian barbecue, yum…) and buy supplies (beer seems to be ridiculously cheap here). We ran into Jonas, and later Tommy, who both were on their way to the con site to prepare things. A total of seven Finns have traveled to Swecon this year. Marianna and Pasi went to see the town, Juha is at his hotel, and the rest of us (Jukka, Ben, the other Pasi and me) are sitting in our nice (and roomy) hotel room, waiting for the convention to start.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Buy Your Åcon 3 Discount Membership Now

If you’re thinking of going to Åcon next year, you can still join for the discounted rate of 20 € until June 15 (Sunday this week). After that, membership goes up to 25 €. So go to the members page and join now!

The Nuuksio Witch Project

A report and some photos of the ESC summer picnic to the Nuuksio forests to look for witches and dinosaurs. Looks like they had a lot of fun!

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...