Saturday, 16 April 2016

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey

Spoilers for Doctor Who season six.

In my swedish blog Onda Cirkeln (that I have with five of my friends) I dedicated a post to crazy conspiracies and epic ships. I talked about Legends of Tomorrow, which is quickly becoming one of my fave series. It's here:  Galna konspirationsteorier och episka ships

For those of you who don't know Swedish: I am talking about Rip Hunter's lineage. I've got this crazy theory that he's related to Sara Lance. Don't worry, it's not a spoiler, it's nothing else than my imagination... Oooor is it?

DC's Legends of Tomorrow -- "Blood Ties" -- Image LGN103A_0257b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Caity Lotz as Sara Lance/White Canary and Arthur Darvill as Rip Hunter -- Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2016 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Now I've got more fuel to the flame. Bear with me.

Rip Hunter is played by Arthur Darvill, which many of you recognize as Amy Ponds boyfriend Rory Williams in Doctor Who.



The woman behind Arthur Darvill is Alex Kingston, playing River Song, a mysterious time traveller that turns out to be Amy and Rorys daughter, Melody Pond.

Alex Kingston is also playing Sara Lance mother Dinah Lance i Arrow.
Arrow -- "Heir to the Demon" -- Image AR213b_0293b -- Pictured (L-R): Caity Lotz as Sara Lance, Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance, and Alex Kingston as Dinah Lance -- Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Sooooo...  In Doctor Who  Arthur Darvill's character is the father of Alex Kingston's character . In Arrow Alex Kingston's character is the mother of  Caity Lotz's character (Sara Lance).

Then Caity Lotz's character  HAVE TO BE the mother of Arthur Darvill's character  in Legends Of Tomorrow.

Case closed.

No, I'll never give this crazy theory up.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Because you're still objectifying me

I am a woman of 168 centimeters in height, and approximently 70 kilos. I have a round face, small jaw, crooked teeth, bad hearing, glasses and hearing aids. I have got a lot of scars and bruises, on the inside and outside.

I have arthritis in my left collarbone, and the sole of my left foot is afflicted with another illness. I've been told my kind of arthritic disease could affect my other joints, causing loss of function. My spine could get affected. I am constantly tired.

I've always been an independent person. I moved away from my childhood hometown the week I graduated from high school, in 2003. I was 19. I got my drivers licence that same week.

I studied for four years in a university, got a magister degree in political science 2007 when I was 23. I then packed my bags and moved 1600 kilometers to the south. I left my whole family and all my friends and started a new life.

I got a job in a government agency at 24, and I've been working for seven years within a very complex system in a position that's kind of tough. I am being told I am an exceptional administrator. I own an apartment. I have two cats. I am turning 32 years old this year, and am thinking about starting an pension savings account. But the pension agency thinks I don't need to yet. I'm thinking of joining a car pool company.

I am a capable, independent woman who knows her own mind. I have opinions on all kinds of matters. My parents call me for advice on all sorts of things, I sometimes feel like I am taking care of them, instead of the other way around. I almost never ask anyone for help, I always try to do things on my own. I like it that way.

Suffice to say, I'm an adult.

Personalitywise, I am a down-to-earth, pragmatical person. I like the quiet life. I don't care for late night parties, make up and I hate skirts and dresses. I am probably one of the least glamorous person you'll ever meet. I'm not really concerned with my appearance and most of the time I'm direct and to-the-point.

I have ambitions.

In my spare time I run an association with some friends, that I started in 2012. I'm currently chairing my second con in Skåne, while simulaniously working on another committée in Uppsala. I'm travelling a lot, Japan, Barcelona, Finland, England, Scotland, Gran Canaria. I'd like to go to the US, and to Scotland, again. I like castles and being out in the nature.

My goal in life is to read as many books as I can, watch great movies and shows, hang out with my friends and have great convention adventures. I'm not in a relationship, and I don't like to date. I love my life and am happy alone.

Why am I telling you this?

Because, all my experiences in life tell me that most guys never seem to care about what kind of person I am.

I am constantly being told I look pretty. I am being told I should be flattered. I am being catcalled. I am being told I should smile more. I am being told I too will meet a nice guy some day. I am being told I would look good in a flowery dress that billows around me. I am being told by strangers that "I have that certain something".

If I meet a guy and am nice to him, he will in most cases take this as encouragement to pursue a relationship (because why else would one want to spend time with me?).

Because, as long as you think I am beautiful, I am worthy of your attention.

Being judged by your looks is degrading. Being an object instead of a person makes one feel slightly unimportant in this world.

And I am important.

Monday, 28 March 2016

The Just City

I just read Jo Walton's The Just City, about a group of Platonists whom come together and create a the city Platon imagined as "the just city". They become the masters of the city, and over time they collect young children of ten years of age and begin to educate them in the ways of Platon. With time, they chose which children to be philosophers, and give them golden pins. There is many other different metal pins with different meanings, and it's suppose to represent the soul of the wearer. The iron pin is given to the workers, and the silver pins to others. Everyone is given different chores, and as they reach adulthood they are paired with another of the same caste/class, and they become married for a day. Any children of the marriage are given up to the city, to be cared for as a group by the people of the city, because families are viewed as injust. Sexual relations outside the marriage is considered injust too, as one should love all citizens equally.

It's a mindboggling philosophical experiment, giving modern context to the ancient philosophers ideas. Would Platons Just City be just? Would the humans in the city strive for excellence?

At the same time it has a strong feminist approach, showing the ways women have been treated through time, analyzing what it means to be woman in a world ruled by men and then giving them agency to be their best selves. It does not shy away from womens hardship. It shows rape,  psychological scarring, post partum depression, as well as women failing, women succeeding, women feeling lust or envy. It does all these things, and more, and still I get the feeling the author's not trying to write on our noses, but just has this curiosity and thirst for discussion.

Walton has created this unique setting where gods and robots, time travel and mystical divine intervention coexists,  The main characters are the gods Apollo and Athena, one reborn as a human and one disguised as one, and the women Maia and Simmea, of different times but with equal interest in philosophy, and the Platonistic world. We also get to meet Sokrates.  And robots.

I haven't read anything like this, and I'm not sure I ever will. It's wonderful and great. Read it!

Friday, 25 March 2016

These hearing aids aren't just for show A.k.a. This message speaks volumes.

In July 2014 I wrote this post in Swedish after attending Swecon 2014, the Steampunk festival, in Gävle, Sweden.

I was asked to be on the program, which made me simultaneously very happy and very nervous. I’d never been on a panel before and didn't know if I actually had something sensible to say. And, of course, there's my hearing disability to be nervous about.

I was worried that I would mishear the audience questions, or mishear what my fellow panel members would say, or that I would get too tired and have a hard time concentrating during the panels. This might seem silly, but as a HoH (hard of hearing) person, you get fairly use to hearing the wrong thing, answering the wrong thing, and seeming a bit confused. People don’t see the hearing aids, they don’t see what you can and can’t hear, and I think many just assume you’re a little bit slow.

It's not a question of me being slow, dumb or unintelligent. 

I was born with a sensorineural hearing disability, caused by a damage in my inner ear. I don’t have the needed amount of hearing cells, and the ones I have are not functioning as they should. It's inoperable. I can’t use a cochlear implant. The only thing that helps are hearing aids.

Different from a conductive hearing loss which affects all frequencies, my hearing loss means I have more difficulties hearing certain frequencies, and that sound gets distorted, even with a hearing aid. Which means that I have to process sound and figure out what it means. 

The normal speaking tone is around 60 decibels. I can pick up mosts frequencies as low as 45-55 decibels. Birds chirping and people whispering is almost silence to me. I am never going to be a sneaky ninja. I could never really participate in a whispering game. Heck, even sounds in the normal speaking range is going to fall of my registry. Some consonants are very hard. In Swedish, such words as juni or juli are a huge challenge for me.

Every time I listen to someone talk, or try to participate in a conversation, I have to focus, concentrate really hard, and translate the distorted sound into words that make sense to me. I have to figure out how to fill in the gaps. This makes me tired all the time, and being tired makes it even harder to listen. Imagine if someone took away every third word in this text. Reading this might then be a very tough nut to crack! Welcome to my everyday conversation.

My brain is constantly working overtime trying to interpret sounds through my damaged inner ear. And it takes a lot of brainpower. But despite my best efforts, and hearing aids in both sides, the sounds gets distorted, or they just fall away. I usually hear about 80-90 % of what's being said with hearing aids.

On a good day.

When it's peaceful and quiet around me.

When the person talking to me is right in front of me. Like, right next to me.

Needless to say, in noisy environments like cons and such, my hearing aids and my ability to concentrate will be put to the test. It's a real struggle, one I always lose in the end since I get too tired. And it sucks.

As a kid, having the disability-talk was hard, and I was afraid my friends would stop coming around if I was too demanding or troublesome. I get that it's tiring to have to think about how you stand when you speak to me, and to talk slowly and clearly. So I dealt with it in a joking matter, my way of solving the problem without even having to explain myself. I told my friends I was a spy and the hearing aids were my spy gear. When someone said something I didn't hear, I blamed my in-ear-spy-device.

"These hearing aids aren't just for show" has gotten to be my adult-joking-thing. I like to make jokes about my condition to help people remember it.

The problem is, it's not working any more. I really need my friends to understand how this disability affects me, like every day. And I really need those of you who arrange cons to learn what to do to make things easier for me and others with hearing disabilities. It's difficult for me to talk about it since I've spent my whole life trying to Not Be A Nuisance, but this is my reality and it doesn't go away.

First of all, it's a social handicap. It's a communication obstacle. I'm having trouble following conversations since I mishear words.

As disabled, you develop strategies to be able to make the most of social gatherings. If I do go out on the town, I usually take off my hearing aids (they don't help much anyway if I'm in a noisy environment). If I'm in a coffeeshop with friends, I sit in the middle of the room so everybody is equally close to me. I also try to ask questions, summarize and confirm that I’ve heard right, and that way I catch up if I miss a few words.

My hearing disability often results in me double checking instructions, to make sure I got them right. I ask and ask again, and sometimes I have to cut in while people are talking and ask them to repeat themselves. I constantly worry about being rude, disrupting my friends like that, but if I don’t catch the phrase while it’s said, the rest of the sentence may be gibberish too. I’m constantly feeling like a socially awkward penguin because of this.

It’s also demanding for my friends, whom have to accommodate my special needs. They have to be sure to include me in conversations and make sure that I hear them. I am constantly missing the punch line in jokes, and sometimes when asked if they can repeat the word, I am told that it’s not important or “I’ll repeat it later”, which inadvertently makes me feel outside and less important. I know it’s not easy for them, and it’s sure not easy for me.

Secondly, it’s exhausting to have to concentrate so hard all the time.

I avoid noisy environments like discos, concerts, pubs, games. Sometimes I choose to attend these things, like cons, but I always know that there will come a time when I pay for the effort with physical and mental exhaustion. (All my spoons and then some.)

What can you do to help?

In social situations: 

Face me when talking.
Repeat or double check that I’ve got the important information.
Help me sit in the center so I can hear everyone.
Speak clearly, and if I ask you to repeat yourself, try to raise your voice just a tad, but mostly speak slower and more clearly.
If you have a induction loop in a facility, use it.
Microphones should always be used, and if an audience microphone is available, use it too.
Alternatively, have the moderator repeat the questions.

When I’m at conventions, I always sit in the front row. If I’m in a panel I prefer to sit in the middle. This is what works for me -- if you don’t know what works for someone else, try asking!

And how did it go at the Steampunkfestival?

Some panels went just fine, if I was placed in the center and didn’t get an audience question. Some panels worked less fine if the moderator forgot to repeat the audience question before someone answered it.

In one panel, I got an audience question and waited for the moderator to repeat it. My silence was interpreted as confusion or not having a good answer, so other panel members answered instead, while I looked like a question mark. I felt really stupid.

I had a slight problem understanding the guests of honour too. One spoke really fast, and one stuttered. It can’t be helped, I get that. People talk the way they talk. I chose to attend other program items.

One panel I listened to did NOT work at all, though. The moderator asked the audience (without using the microphone) if he could skip using the microphone. I misheard him and thought he meant “Do I really have to use the mic?” so I said yes.

When he then put the mic down and started to talk I thought he just chose to ignore me and I got really upset. I stayed and tried to listen, but got so bleedingly tired that I started crying. When the panel was over, I stepped up and said a few harsh words and then I stormed out. Not my finest moment. But I think this illustrates the importance of microphones.

Which only goes to show what NOT to do during conventions (or in general):

Avoid asking if you can be excused from using microphones. It only makes HoH (hard of hearing) people feel like a nuisance. We don’t want to make a big thing out of it. We want to have every possible help we can get without having to beg for it. And some people, like me, have a hard time asking for help.

Think about how you stand in position to the hard of hearing-person. Think about how the sound travels. Make sure you stand fairly close and facing the person.

When someone asks you to repeat what you said, don’t repeat it in the exact same tone. Take it a bit more clearly and slowly, and maybe a bit louder but no yelling. Yelling is rude.

I usually miss the first words of the sentence if the talker is turning to me or stuttering at the start, and if I lose the start I often don’t understand the context. So repeating the key words is helpful.

These tips are helpful when making accommodations for people with my kind of hearing disability. But please do remember, not all hearing problems work the same.

If you’re unsure of how to help, ask, do not assume. Don’t be scared of asking me about my hearing disability, I’m glad to see people taking an interest in how to help me. I know not everyone feels this way, though, and I’m not always up for the discussion. I suggest you proceed with caution and respect when you have questions.

I hope these tips can help people understand the ways sensorineural hearing loss works, and that social exclusion and mental and physical exhaustion is a big part of it. I hope future convention committees can take this under consideration.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Connie Willis: The Oxford Time Travel-series

Jag har älskat Connie Willis ända sen jag läste Blackout/Allclear, de senaste böckerna i tidsrese-serien Oxford Time Travels. Det som gör Willis så bra är att hon tar sig tid att beskriva olika eror i historien och hur människorna var på den tiden. Miljöbeskrivningar får en att känna som om man vore där, och karaktärer är engagerande och otroligt realistiska. Samtidigt är tidsrese-delen väldigt intressant gjort. Sex år senare har jag återstiftat bekantskapen med Connie Willis och läst de två första böckerna i (den ytterst fristående) serien. Doomsday Book och To Say Nothing of the Dog.

"Doomsday book" börjar i Oxford, år 2054. De tidsresande historiker gör sig klara för att fira jul. Alla utom Kivrin Engle, det vill säga. Kivrin är på väg att resa till 1300-talets Oxford. Århundradet har dock blivit rankat som en 10:a och anses för farlig för de tidsresande historikerna, men eftersom Basingame (chefen för fakulteten) har gått på julledighet och Gilchrist, vikarierande fakultetschef, inte bryr sig om riskerna finns det ingen som har befogenhet att stoppa dem.

Professor Dunworthy och doktorn Mary Ahrens försöker prata Gilchrist och Kivrin ur det, utan att lyckas. Tidsresan stressas igenom, och medan de väntar på dataresultatet insjuknar tidsrese-teknikern Badri hastigt i en mystisk sjukdom. Badri försöker i sin feberyra säga att någonting inte gått som det ska, men blir snabbt okontaktbar. Runt om dem på universitetet bryter en epidemi ut och hela universitetet sätts i karantän. Gilchrist stänger ner labbet för julen och alla tekniker som skulle kunna tyda datan för att verifiera att Kivrin hamnat där hon ska har gått på julledighet och vägrar gå in i karantän-området.

Under tiden som epidemin sprider sig 2054 så landar Kivrin på fel plats i medeltiden, och insjuknar i samma epidemi som rasar på universitetsområdet. Dunworthy, sjuk av oro, försöker desperat att hämta hem henne, men vet inte att hon hamnat 28 år fel, i 1348. Det år digerdöden kom till Oxford. Parallellerna mellan digerdödens framfart och epidemin i Oxford skapar en dramatisk kamp mot klockan.

Doomsday book innehåller intressanta detaljer om livet och människorna i 1300-talets England.  Det står snabbt tydligt att verkligheten såg väldigt annorlunda ut jämfört med de föreställningar Oxford-historikerna haft. Kivrin upptäcker att hon inte förstår språket, att hennes klänning med bjärta blå färger inte passar in och att stanken är värre än hon trott. Steg för steg lär sig Kivrin mer om medeltiden (och genom henne, även läsaren) genom att visa dessa små detaljer som samtidigt förankrar en fast i miljön och får den att kännas realistisk.

Vi får lära känna den medeltida familjen som Kivrin bor hos, lilla Agnes som älskar sin hund, hennes storasyster Rosamund som ska bli bortgift med en gammal gubbe, den elaka farmorn Imeyne och mamman Eliwys. När pesten kommer till Oxford är man så väl investerad i familjens öde att varje dödsfall känns hjärtslitande. Kivrin försöker att förutse pestens framfart genom att använda statistik och sannolikhet, men boken visar att i realiteten så funkar det inte att resonera så, för det alltid finns oanade konsekvenser man inte kan värja sig mot.

En av mina favoritkaraktärer i 2054 är trettonåringen Colin "a nice boy, very bright, though he has the most wretched vocabolary. Everything is either apocalyptic or necrotic.". När karantänen slår till är han fast med historikerna på universitetet och blir till oväntad hjälp för Dunworthy. Colins ungdomliga fascination för tidsresor speglar mitt eget intresse för genrén, och hans relation till Dunworthy precis som Kivrins relation till Agnes är rörande familjär.

Historia har aldrig varit så intressant som när den läses i skönlitteratur med engagerande karaktärer. Visst finns det säkert historiska felaktigheter, jag vet till exempel att Willis fick kritik för att hon i Blackout/Allclear använde sig av en tunnelbanestation som inte fanns än - men det är för mig inte livsviktigt att precis alla detaljer blir rätt, så länge det viktiga stämmer.

Min enda reservation mot boken är att det känns som om Willis överanvänder förvirringsursäkten för att skapa spänning. Badris tendens att feberyra och inte svara på frågor om vad som är fel med tidsrese-släppet bidrar till ovisshet och spänning, men det upprepas för många gånger, även med Kivrin i medeltiden. Jag skulle inte säga att Willis håller på informationen för länge, men hon är väldigt glad för att använda förvirringstropen, inte bara i Doomsday book utan även i "To Say Nothing of the Dog". Men det tjänar historierna väl, så jag tillåter det.

I den andra boken "To Say Nothing of the Dog" är året 2057. Vi möter Ned Henry som är med i ett projekt för att restaurera Coventrys katedral. Hans uppdrag är att lokalisera en vas åt Lady Shrapnell, projektets överhuvud. Men vasen visar sig vara synnerligen svår att hitta, och Ned skickas kors och tvärt genom historien i åtskilliga dagar tills han drabbas av time-lag, med klara symtom som svårighet att tolka ljud, överdriven sentimentalitet och hallucinationer.

Ned värvas till ett livsviktigt uppdrag i den viktorianska eran, men är så snurrig så att han inte uppfattar uppdraget och hamnar konstant i situationer där han riskerar att ändra historians förlopp radikalt med potentiellt fatala konsekvenser för utgången av andra världskriget. I sann Willis-anda.

To Say Nothing of the Dog skildrar den viktorianska eran, med samma detaljrikedom och lärorika berättarteknik som Doomsday Book. Till exempel får Ned lära sig att det är ett stort etikettbrott att prata om graviditeter - allt som har med sex att göra var så tabu att man inte låtsades om det. Boken har dock en mycket lättsammare ton än Doomsday Book, samt en romantisk sidohistoria vilket passar väl ihop med den viktorianska miljön.

Även om boken är lättsammare så är den även mer teoretisk. Många tycker Connie Willis böcker innehåller för mycket historia och för lite science fiction, men denna bok väger upp det genom att utforska reglerna kring tidsresorna och "nätet", den teknik man åker genom tiden med.

Den resonerar kring vad som är möjligt, berättar mer om mekaniken med kritiska punkter, crisis points, i historien dit man inte kan åka eftersom de händelser som skedde då hade för stor påverkan på historien och minsta ändring till historien riskerar att förändra framtiden. Samtidigt så etablerar den tidskontinuumet som en slags entitet som arbetar för att motverka de paradoxer och "incongruities" (motsägelser) som skulle kunna uppstå genom att den orsakar "slippage" (glidning) för tidsresenärerna vilket gör att de hamnar i en annan tid eller en annan plats, och därför inte har en påverkan på historien. Det går dock att ändra historien, och många av karaktärerna orsakar diskrepanser som de försöker rätta till, med varierande resultat.

Tidsresehistorier som dessa har en slående likheter med fantasy; ödesbestämda händelser. Precis som fantasy ofta beblandar sig med profetior beblandar ju sig tidsresor med saker som kommer att ha hända, eftersom de redan har hänt. Men trots att profetian eller ödet vill uppfyllas, så kan ju många saker gå fel och ödet behöver ibland hjälp på traven. Det är intressant att se hur historier hanterar detta, och vad som händer när man ändrar historien. (Tidsrese-sf är lite av en favoritgenre hos mig, om det inte framgått.)

På ett sätt är det smärtsamt tydligt att dessa böcker är över 20 år gamla. Framtiden - så som Willis såg den 1991 - hade inga smartphones! Det fanns bärbara telefoner, så kallade handhelds, och det fanns vidders, videokameror. En kan ju tänka sig att Willis borde ha förutspått hur tekniken skulle utvecklas, men det är nog svårare än man tror. I Willis fiktiva framtid utrotades också katter 2004, vilket känns rätt skrattretande. Att en stor pandemi inträffade 2010 känns dock mindre skrattretande.

Dessa böcker, samt Blackout/All Clear, kan jag varmt rekommendera till alla anglofiler, historieälskare och tidsreseälskare. De är lättillgängliga, ofta humoristiska och rörande. Willis fortsätter att vara en av mina absoluta favoriter, och jag vill verkligen understryka hur bra hon är:

"Though she has published fewer solo-authored novels than any of them, Connie Willis has won more major SF awards than Philip K. Dick, Arthur C- Clarke and Isaac Asimov combined." - Adam Roberts, introduction to Doomsday Book.

Kvinnor inom SF, you guys. Det finns många bra kvinnliga sf-författare, men tyvärr är de kvinnor och därför får de ingen uppmärksamhet. Låt oss ändra på det? Läs Connie Willis!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The X Files Classics Volume 1

Efter att ha kikat på nya Arkiv X-miniserien och färdigställt ett blogginlägg om den på Onda Cirkeln  har jag även återstiftat bekantskapen med en gammal vän; de första grafiska Arkiv X-novellerna av författaren Stefan Petrucha och illustratören Charlie Adlard. Novellerna har nämligen släppts i samlingsutgåva 2013 med omslag av Sam Shearon, och efter ett besök på SF-bokhandeln idag är den nu i min ägo. Visst är den vacker!

Detta album innehåller alltså samma noveller som jag läste 1995 och 1996, och som jag fortfarande efter cirka 20 år har väldigt fina minnen av.

Jag kan säkert säga att det är få serier som påverkat mig så pass mycket som Arkiv X. (Skrev bland annat historier om "CBI", Childrens Bureau of Investigation. Episka mästerverk förstås, men jag måste ha förlagt dem någonstans för jag hittade det inte bland mina andra konstnärlig alster.

Novellerna som gjorde starkast intryck på mig var "The Silent Cities of The Mind" där en forskare blir kannibal och börjar äta människor, som han sedan hävdar att han ärvt minnen från, och "Trepanning Opera" om en man som hade en nära döden-upplevelse som ung, och därefter inte är säker på om han bara drömmer att han lever, eller om han lever på riktigt.

Dessa är väldigt välskrivna historier med vackra illustrationer, som håller än idag. Novellerna har samma ifrågasättande narrativ som tv-serien, och samma mystik. Den citerade Lovecraft och ställde djupt existentiella frågor, blickade inåt på människan men även utåt mot rymden, och fick mig som 11-12-åring att börja tänka stora tankar om mänskligheten, universum, vår existens och vad som finns där ute. Arkiv X är utom tvekan medskyldiga (tillsammans med Star Trek The Next Generation samt David Eddings "Sagan om Belgarion") till att jag har utvecklat ett sånt stort intresse för fantastik.

Idag när jag återupptäckte novellerna gladdes jag över hur de grafiska novellerna faktiskt håller efter 20 år, men också över hur roliga Mulder och Scully är. De är rena rama oneliner-maskinerna. Varför hade jag glömt bort det? Also, är ganska säker på att mina brorsor spelade Doom, så detta drog verkligen mig tillbaka till 90-talet ännu mer. Ah, those where the days...

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Reading Year Review

I thought I'd pick up my old Reading Year Review, but make it in English this year. These are all the books, anthologies and comics I've read in 2015 (latest reads at the top):

Starlin, Pérez, Lim - Marvel's Infinity Gauntlet
Samuel R. Delany - Babel 17
Katharine Kerr - The Bristling Wood
Katharine Kerr - Darkspell
Kass Morgan - Day 21
Kass Morgan - The 100
Nalo Hopkinson - The Brown Girl in the Ring
Katharine Kerr - Daggerspell
Zen Cho - The Sorcerer To the Crown
Elisabeth Östnäs - Sagan om Turid, Kungadottern
Thomas Årnfelt - Incidenten i Böhmen
Katherine Addison - The Goblin Emperor
Neil Gaiman - The Book of Magic
Johanna Sinisalo - Bara sedan solen sjunkit
Marlen Haushofer - Väggen
James Edward Austen Leigh - Jane Austen, En levnadsteckning
Jane Austen och en annan dam - Sanditon
Karen Lord - Best of all possible worlds
G Willow Wilson - Ms Marvel #1
Taiye Selasi - Komma och gå
Kelly Link - Stranger things happen
Diane Setterfield - Den trettonde historien
Jo Walton - My real children
Carol Rifka Brunt - Låt vargarna komma

Novels: 19
Graphic novels: 3
Anthologies: 1
Short story collections: 0

The Genres:YA: 3
Classic: 1
Literary fiction: 3
Fantasy: 12
Science fiction: 6
Biographies: 1

English: 15
Swedish: 9

Authors nationality:
American: 9
Brittish: 5
Canadian: 1
Austrian: 1
Barbadian: 1
Swedish: 2
Malaysian: 1
Finnish: 1

Male writers: 5
Female writers: 19

The Three Best: 
Zen Cho - The Sorcerer To the Crown
Elisabeth Östnäs - Sagan om Turid, Kungadottern
Karen Lord - Best of all possible worlds

The Big No: 
Kass Morgan. Just watch the series "The 100" and forget about reading the books. 

Only 24 books read this year, although most of them really good, and written by women. This has clearly not been the best reading year. Somehow I get distracted. I spent my time doing things I love, like blogging about tv-series at Onda Cirkeln, planning conventions and spending time with friends and family.

What are my plans for 2016's reading?
I wish I could just get to it and start reading all my unread books. I have a whole book case of them, and it's kinda starting to stress me out. I've come to realize that I won't start working off my unread pile unless I restrict my reading, so I've made a new rule for 2016 - I'm only allowed read the books I already own. And I'm not allowed to buy more books.
I've made a slight adjustment to this rule, though, since I have so many series to start reading. If I'm to have any pleasure of my reading, and feel encouranged to read books that are part of series, I need to be able to follow through on those series, meaning I'm allowed to buy sequels in series I'm reading.

So, hopefully this will make my unread bookpiles slightly less stressful. I'm not hoping for miracles, but it would be nice to clear of atleast one shelf of books.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Kass Morgan - The 100

Ett kärnvapenkrig har för 300 år sen fyllt jordens atmosfär med farlig strålning  och tvingat den sista spillran av mänskligheten upp i rymden. De lever på rymdstationen Kolonin, en sammanslagning av många små stationer. Kolonin är en hård plats att leva på med strikta regler om ransonering, luftförbrukning och befolkningsmängd. Resurserna är så knappa att nästan alla brott mot reglerna leder till dödsstraff, om man inte är minderårig.

Clarke Griffin är en ungdomsfånge som väntar på sin 18-årsdag, då hon mest troligtvis kommer dömas till döden. Kolonins beslutande organ (rådet) har dock bestämt sig för att man istället för att avrätta ungdomsfångarna ska skicka ned hundra stycken av dem till jorden, i mänsklighetens första försök att återigen bosätta sig på planeten. Man vet inte att jorden är beboelig, men skickar hellre ungdomarna till en osäker död på planeten än avrättar dem på plats.

De 100 ungdomsfångarna skickas iväg i en rymdkapsel efter en tumultartad start där Kansler Jaha under pistolhot tvingas släppa in Bellamy Blake på färjan, medan en annan fånge vid namn Glass lyckas fly. Kanslern blir vådaskjuten och hans son Wells, som är bland fångarna, skickas iväg till jorden utan att veta om hans far överlever. Efter en hård landning upptäcker de 100 fångarna att de kan överleva på marken. De upptäcker också att de, mot all förmodan, inte är ensamma på planeten.

För er som lyckats undgå det så har jag haft The 100-maraton här hemma. Efter att jag läst Annas inlägg på Onda Cirkeln såg jag tv-serien, sen bloggade jag om den själv. Sen var jag tvungen läsa böckerna. Tv-serien är nämligen baserad på Kass Morgans bokserie med samma namn, och även om seriens skapare Jason Rothenberg har hållit sig trogen till böckernas grundstomme är det mycket som ändrats när handlingen kommit till tv. Böckerna kan med fördel ses litet som ett alternativt universum där saker bara är lite, lite annorlunda. (Vilket är väldigt trevligt när man sett allting som går att ses om The 100, och bara inte kan få nog.)

I böckernas värld är karaktärerna annorlunda. Det finns ingen Raven och Finn, och ingen Abby. (Båda Clarkes föräldrar har blivit avrättade.) Däremot finns det en tjej vid namn Glass som är snarlik Raven, samt att Bellamy mer är en hopslagning av Finn och Bellamy, en charmig men bråkig outsidern. Clarke är mycket mer som Octavia och antagonisten Murphy heter här Graham och har en mycket mer auktoritativ roll.

Böckerna slänger sig med lite andra begrepp också. Grounders är Earthbounds. The Ark är Kolonin. Jordfolket och rymdfolket är inte så diametralt olika, och man har mycket mer referenser till vår tid och vår värld än i tv-serien. Till viss del kan jag tycka att det är trevligt att de undviker den koloniala tropen, men hade uppskattat om de skippat det dystopiska klassamhället, á la Hunger Games och Divergent. De olika delarna av kolonin var en gång var olika rymdstationer, och folket som bor i de olika sektionerna lever till stor del i olika samhällsskikt. Några sektioner befolkas av arbetarklass, medan andra är befolkade vetenskapsmän och politiker. Och självklart förtrycker de rikare de fattigare.

Böckerna har dock ett stort problem och det är bristen på perspektiv. I böckerna har man ingen aning vad som driver och motiverar antagonisterna, man bara vet att de gör hemska val. Utan deras inre konflikt blir Rådet bara en namnlös ondska att besegra, Grahams handlingar blir bara idiotiska och hjältarnas kamp blir mindre intressant.  Jag saknar även den ursprungliga befolkningens perspektiv. Hur har dom överlevt? Hur har dom utvecklats? 

Det som är så bra med tv-serien är just att man inte är rädd för att utmana ungdomarna och ge dem omöjliga valmöjligheter. Clarke och Bellamy stiger fram som ledare och måste fatta beslut med tragiska utgångar hur de än väljer. Böckerna lyckas till viss del framställa en del av karaktärerna som drivkraftiga, men de försätts aldrig i moraliskt kniviga situationer. För det mesta händer bara saler som ungdomarna reagerar, snarare än agerar på.

Böckerna är trots detta snabblästa och spännande. Kass Morgans vision är cool, dock brister den i genomförandet och saknar den extra dimensionen av moraliska dilemman och feminism som jag kommit att associera med The 100. All cred till Rothenberg som har tagit idén och gjort den till något oändligt mycket bättre. 

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Brown Girl in the Ring

Nalo Hopkinson was a name I wasn't at all familiar with before Helsinki announced her name as a Guest of Honour for Worldcon 75 in 2017. I got interested and suggested to my book circle that we read a book by her. And so we did.

The Brown girl in the ring is a book about Ti-Jeanne, who lives with her grandmother Gros-Jeanne, in the inner city of Toronto called the Burn. Years of riots have driven the police and businesses out of the the city center, leading to an economic collapse which turned the center to a slum area with poverty, gangs and homeless people. The suburbs have barricated themselves against the slum areas, and every year the elected government officials makes empty promises about cleaning up the streets, but so far nothing has happened.

Ti-Jeanne and Gros-Jeanne make their way in the Burn by helping the sick with special creole remedies. Ti-Jeanne's gifted with the ability to see how people are going to die, but recently other visions come to her as well, freaking her out. She's recently had a baby and has left her drug addicted boyfriend Tony to make a better life for her and the kid, but Tony comes back begging for her help to leave the Burn. Soon Ti-Jeanne has to make use of her extra ordinary abilities to fend for her family in order to survive.

This is a short novel, and a fast read. I loved it very much indeed. It's fascinating to read about the carribian culture and mystics, which I haven't read much about earlier. It's also a book about dysfunctional families, talking about real issues of young parents, abusive spouses, disillusionment of motherhood. It also talks a bit about the life of marginalized people, giving a voice to the people living outside of the social net, in poverty, abandoned by the government. It has some very dark passages, and some graphic violence (trigger warning: torture) that I felt was a bit too much.

It's a near future dystopian tale, but feels very much like present day. It's written in 1998, and almost 20 years later, I feel like the future this book depicts is the world we're already living in. Which makes it all the more eerier. 

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Daggerspell - #1 of the Deverry Cycle

Jill is the daughter of a serving lass and a silver dagger, a man who fights for his keep. When her mother dies, her father Cullyn takes her with him on the road. She grows up learning the tricks of the trade, but she's also gifted with the sight and can see things before they happen, and see the wildfolk, gnomes and fairies, something that frightens her father. One day, she meets Otho, the silversmith, whom gives her a riddle: "If ever you find no one, ask him what craft to take."

Little do she know, the man named no one (Nevyn) is out there, looking for her, and has been for hundreds of years...

Many moons ago, I read this series (almost the whole of it in Swedish), and I completely loved it. When I talked about the series this summer with Hanna, the more we talked, the more we felt like reading it again. And so, we have set up a schedule of one book a month for 15 months. Join us if you want to!

The story, if you're not already aquainted with it, is a sword and sorcerer fantasy inspired by the celtic culture. It tells the tale of prince Galrion, a man touched by magic, and his betrothed Brangwen, her brother Gerraent and their friend Blaen. Three men whom all love the same women, and Brangwen whom herself is destined to become something more than just some mans wife.

It's a tale of love, friendship, betrayal and a debt that has to be repayed, if not in this life then in next. These four characters fates are entwined forever, until they fulfill their destiny.

The first book of the series tells the stories of three lifetimes. Jill's lifetime starts in the year 1045, and the book then gives a flashback to Brangwen's lifetime, 643, and later on Lyssa's lifetime, 696.

I've never been one for sword and sorcerer tales, but a part of what makes this series so great is that is has borrowed the language and settings of a late iron age, early medieval celtic europe. You just fall in love with the environment and the way they talk, and you're pulled into the world immediately.

The magic of Deverry is called dweomer, and it's as simple as it is extraordinary. It's explained beatifully as a sort of sixth sense; The dweomer warning when something's not right, the ability to see beings and other dimensions, the energy that flows between every living thing and the silver threads that connects us. I love it.

Another thing about Deverry is the wyrd. Every man and woman has his or her wyrd, or destiny if you will. It's kind of like the hinduism's reincarnation, which says that the negative and positive kharma in your life dictates what you will become next.

One of my favourite characters of this story is Jill herself. (Perhaps because she reminds me very much of myself.) She's sometimes described as a masculine woman due to the fact that she's tall, walks with long strides, fights and doesn't like dresses and she has her own agency. Still she manages to avoid being a Strong Woman™, the stereotype that say women can only be strong when they've rid themselves of anything feminine. I'd say, Jill's both masculine and feminine. She's cocky, she's awkward, she's curious, scared, happy. She feels lust, she feels all different kinds of emotions. So do most of the men in this story too. I love the fact that Kerr writes the characters this way, showing the range of emotions men and women can have. Sometimes the men just sits down, bawling their eyes out, or shakes of fear. I love the fact that we have these characters that show how gender doesn't have to dictate our behavior and interests.

That being said, I'm afraid the book suffers from a great deal of sexism and violence against women, too. And although there are some great characters, there are also some wincingly badly written characters too, like Brangwen and Lyssa, whom both are completely without agency and mostly are victims of circumstance.

Some spoilerwarning should perhaps be of use here, since I'll talk about the end a bit.

As much as the series is about Jill and the sorcerer Nevyn, I feel that this book is really about Cullyn, Jill's father. In all of his lifetimes, he's been related to, or a man who cannot or should not love, Jill/Brangwen/Lyssa. It's an unclean love and he's a tarnished man. As Gerraent, he's deeply unsettling and discusting, and as Tanyc, he's gone fullblown psycho. As much as I'm repulsed by Gerraent and Tanyc, I cannot feel repulsed by Cullyn even though he loves his own daughter, and sometimes treat her appallingly. His character is deeply flawed, and he makes mistakes, but he learns from them, rights his wrongs and frees himself of his wyrd. As Nevyn thinks in the end; "he'll never see Cullyn as Gerraent again, only as himself".

I feel like the morale of the story is that even though you're destined to do something, it's still your choice. "Can a man change his stars?" asks little William in the movie A Knight's Tale. "Yes, William", his father replies. "If he believe enough, a man can do anything."

Ok, spoilers are gone now.

If you'd like to read more reviews about Daggerspell, I've just found this lovely Daggerspell review series with authors Aidan Moher and Kate Elliott:

Introduction of Daggerspell Reread and Review with Aidan Moher and Kate Elliott
The Daggerspell Reread and Review Part One
The Daggerspell Reread and Review Part Two
The Daggerspell Reread and Review Wrap up

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Jag och Oakfairy läser om Sagan om det magiska landet Deverry

Jag har varit "in the zone" och läst och recenserat Incidenten i Böhmen, Sagan om Turid och Sorcerer to the crown, så därför skriver jag detta lite sent omsider. Som Oakfairy har nämnt så tänker vi ge oss på en omläsnings-utmaning, och ni får gärna haka på om ni känner er manade!

Vi återvänder till en av våra gamla favoriter; Katharine Kerrs Sagan om det magiska landet Deverry, en sword and sorcerer-fantasy med keltiska inslag.

Första gången jag läste Deverry-serien var 2008, då jag var nyinflyttad i Skåne. Efter att jag slukat de 12 första delarna på svenska (översatta av Johan Frick som jag numera känner!) rusade jag och köpte bok nr 13 och 14 på på engelska, eftersom de inte skulle bli översatta. Den sista boken kom ett år senare, 2009, och jag köpte den men det blev aldrig så jag läste den eftersom jag började bli lästrött då.

Jag tänkte att det skulle vara kul att börja om och har skaffat alla böckerna på engelska, medan Hanna kommer läsa dom tolv första på svenska. Häng med oss på en magisk resa genom dweomer och wyrdar!

Hämtat från Wikipedia:
Silverdolken (utkommen 1995 på svenska, originalet, Daggerspell, 1986 på engelska)
Safirringen (1995; Darkspell, 1987)
Draktronen (1996; The Bristling Wood (UK), Dawnspell (USA) - 1989)
Häxvargen (1996; The Dragon Revenant (UK), Dragonspell (USA) - 1990)
Alvblodet (1997; A Time of Exile (UK/USA), 1991)
Järtecken (1997; A Time of Omens (UK/USA), 1992)
Hökvingar (1998; Days of Blood and Fire (UK), A Time of War (USA) - 1993)
Korptider (1998; Days of Air and Darkness (UK), A Time of Justice (USA) - 1994)
Storkonungen (1999; The Red Wyvern (UK/USA), 1997)
Blodsfränder (1999; The Black Raven (UK/USA), 1999)
Elddraken (2001; The Fire Dragon (UK/USA), 2001)
Guldfalken (2006; The Gold Falcon (UK/USA), 2006)
(ej på svenska) The Spirit Stone (2007).
(ej på svenska) The Shadow Isle (2008).
(ej på svenska) The Silver Mage (2009) är den sista boken i serien.

Zen Cho - Sorcerer To The Crown

Zacharias Whyte, the Sorcerer Royal of Great Britain, is having a difficult time. Not only is he a freed slave, adopted by the last Sorcerer Royal, and disliked by the very same Society of the Unnatural Philosophers he now leads, but Englands magical stocks are ebbing and everybody blames him for it.

As a way to leave town for a bit, he goes to a school of gentlewitches to give a speech about magic. There he cross paths with Prunella Gentleman, a chockingly pragmatic and forward young lady with a certain talent for casting spells and hexed. She was brought by her father to England from India as a young child. Shortly thereafter, her father died and left her in the care of mrs Dauberney, the owner and headmaster of the school. Prunella one day discovers a family secret, and is at the same time made aware of her caretakers disinterest in her. She decides to make a better life for herself, and turns to Zacharias for help.

This book is a great victorian fantasy-adventure, in the style of Jane Austen, but with dragons and other magical creatures in the style of Naomi Novik. It is a great read, fast paced and witty, full of vivid characters, women with agency, people of different colour. She's lending her voice to the people who were enslaved or colonized by Britain in the 18h century, giving us a side of the story we've never heard before.

She even uses magical abilities as a metaphor for women's issues, when the white men state that "women's bodies are to fragile for magic, that they are too nonsensical to learn thamaturgy", ecchoing the words of that time used in other contexts, when women was told it was unnatural for them to aspire to learn skills and do things on their own.

And then she proves them wrong.

I truly loved this book, and you should all read it!

If my review is not enough to persuade you, here's Anna Bark Perssons review too. Listen to Anna.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sagan om Turid - Kungadottern

Jag brukar inte ta emot recensionsexemplar längre för att min läsning är väldigt sporadisk och det är få böcker som jag tagit emot som faktiskt blivit recenserade, vilket är trist för dem som skickar ut dem och trist för mig som inte lever upp till förväntningarna. Men när jag fick erbjudandet om att få ett rec.ex. av Elisabeth Östnäs vikingafantasy i young adult-skrud kunde jag inte tacka nej, för den har jag längtat efter att läsa ända sen Elisabeth Östnäs började twittra om att hon skrivit den. Tack Berghs förlag och Elisabeth!

"Sagan om Turid - Kungadottern" är den första boken i en serie som handlar om den unga kvinnan Turid under den sena vikingatiden. I den lilla by där Turid växer upp är tillvaron karg. Turid drömmer om att resa och se världen, men hennes far och styvmor Ingeborg har bestämt att hon snart ska gifta sig och bli drottning. Ingeborg har också bestämt sig för att Turid ska bli en völva, som Ingeborg själv. Saker ställs på sin spets då vintern kommer till byn och svälten härjar, och Turid måste ta makten över sitt eget öde.

Detta är en otroligt välskriven historia. På ett fåtal meningar i första kapitlet lyckas Elisabeth Östnäs inte bara lägga grunden för miljön och tiden utan skapa djupt sympatiska karaktärer. Turid är en underbar ung kvinna med stor vilja, och hon och familjens öden har berört mig djupt. Jag älskar också språket som är enkelt och är vackert och gör att man sugs in i historien direkt. 

Att få läsa om vikingatiden är också efterlängtat! Mer av detta, omedelbums!

Jag kan dock tycka att omslaget är något missvisande, det ger intrycket av att detta är en barnbok men den är knappast lämplig för små barn då den stundvis är ganska mörk och blodig. Jag läste den med stor behållning som vuxen och kan rekommendera den för alla mina vänner, yngre som äldre. Läs!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Incidenten i Böhmen

Min självdisciplin vad gäller läsning har varit otroligt dålig under och efter sommaren, mycket på grund av att så mycket spännande händer på internet! Är fortfarande uppe i varv efter sommarens alla kongresser, och planerar nu framåt för denna höst och nästa års kongresser. Det har tisslats och tasslats på alla sociala medier, det har mailats, det har Facebookats, jag har spammat Twitter med memes. Men jag längtat efter läsningen. Som jag har längtat. 

Efter Archipelacon började jag läsa Thomas Årnfelts Incidenten i Böhmen, som jag köpte på plats på Åland. Jag jagade också ifatt Thomas och tvingade honom signera den åt mig på en fest där. That's how I roll... 

Nu har jag läst färdigt boken! Det blev en väldigt långsam läsning, trots att det var en väldigt tunn bok. Det har absolut inte något med boken att göra, utan beror alltså på min icke-existerande koncentrationsförmåga. Det är snarare bokens förtjänst att jag fortsatte, den var lättläst och spännande och väldigt bra.

Incidenten i Böhmen (som förövrigt är en snygg titel) handlar om Maximilian och hans tjänare Bertuccio som får i uppdrag av inkvisitorerna i Rom att leta rätt på en grupp jesuiter som försvunnit någonstans i Böhmen. De följer jesuiternas spår till en by i Böhmen, tar in på krogen och börjar utforska och förhöra invånarna.

Maximillan träffar Baronessan Magdalen, ägaren till slottet bredvid byn, och blir i egenskap av lågadel inbjuden till att bo hos henne medan han genomför sin utredning. Detta gillas inte av greven von Birgen, som äger grevskapet bredvid och är mitt i ett försök till att uppvakta Magdalen. Maximillian och Bertuccio inser snabbt att något inte står rätt till med von Birgen. Samtidigt börjar mystiska saker hända, en kvinna försvinner, och de hittar nedgrävda lik. Och någon för en vetenskaplig journal där den beskriver olika experiment som den gör med mänskliga försöksobjekt...

Detta är en underbar historia med gotiska drag. Den har delvis en dagboksform, vilket för tankarna till Stoker, Shelley och Lovecraft. Språket känns stilfullt och passande för tiden som det utspelar sig. Jag gillar verkligen karaktärerna Bertuccio och Elsa, vet inte om jag gillar Magdalen, jag får inte riktigt grepp om henne. Maximillian är nog det största mysteriet dock. Bit för bit under bokens gång får vi reda på mer om hans bakgrund, men bara brottstycken som man får försöka pussla ihop till en händelse. Jag gillar hur subtilt saker framställs. Det gäller att inte missa tonlägena i boken, för då riskerar man att tappa viktiga bitar av pusslet.

Detta är en spännande läsning och jag ser fram emot mer av Thomas!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

ConFuse 2015

This month I've attended the annual national Swedish science fiction convention (Swecon) ConFuse. It took place in Frimis (the free mason-hotel) in Linköping and was arranged by Linköpingsfandom (or as I like to call them; The Illuminati). Frimis was a beautiful venue with slightly gothic architecture in the bar and dealers room. It had pilars, chrystal chandeliers and huge old oil paintings, mixed with 70's interior design. Perfect hideout for Illuminati, I'd say.

ConFuse had three excellent Guests of Honour (GoHs), Kristina Hård, Madeline Ashby and Ben Aaronovitch, three very lovely authors. Kristina has written Himalayabreven, Alba and Kleptomania and is coming out with the second book in the Kleptomania-series (Snösommar) the 6th of november,  which I am eagerly looking forward to. "Remember, remember, the 6th of november..."

I haven't read Madelines books but I intend to. She's written (among other things) iD and vN, two sf-novels about artificial intelligence. I love AI-themes, and she seems like a brilliant person.

Ben Aaronovitch has been writing for a while about Peter Grant, a police officer in London who deals with supernatural crimes. I've read the first book, Rivers of London, and loved it. It's funny, mysterious and totally brittish, which pleases an anglofilian like me.

 I'd somehow agreed to be in four programme items; "Fandom and social medias", "Meet and Greet - Conventions and fandom for newcomers", "Conventions then and now" and the following group discussion. To start from the beginning I think I should say that the con really started at home, with me spending the better part of the vacation at my parents house preparing for these panels/discussions. I even made bingo cards for all the newcomers so they could have some fun with the new expressions and stuff.

The week before ConFuse I managed to sign up for two more programme items; as a helper in Bellis NoFF-auction and as a judge in Jukka Halmes Game Show that was a rip off totally original show called Pointless. My friend Tobias said I was trying to take over Swecon. You don't know how true that is... Mouahahaha. In the future, it will be called Fiacon and there will be massage chairs and dillchips everywhere.

The trainride to Linköping offered a lot of familiar faces. Not only did I meet my friends Therese Norén and Marie Engfors on the station, when I got on the train I managed to get the seat just behind Hanna Svensson, my friend and co-blogger for our tv-series blog Onda Cirkeln. What are the odds for that?

I blame Illuminati.

I also met Hannas friend Mia, who was about to attend her first con. I had my first opportunity to introduce the concept of fandom to a newcomer so I immediately handed out a bingo card to her, and offered them some dillchips. As one does.

Getting to the con was easy, and there I met almost everyone I know in Swedish and Finnish fandom, and also said hello to two old friends from Luleå university (Hi Björn! Hi Nils-Erik!) who simultainously, but not together, had decided to come to Swecon, because they had heard about it from me.

I got to introduce my dear friends from Malmöfandom to my fellow Swedish fans. I was so proud to be in Swecon with not only Simon and Calle, but also Tobias, Frida, Camilla, Ingrid, Karolin and Helen. Malmöfandom is growing and becoming a big group not only at pub meetings but at cons, too! (I should count Johan Jönsson to Malmöfandom too, but I think his heart is still with Upsalafandom. Nah, I'm counting him too. Upsala can't have him. Sorry guys.)

Frida Rosengren, Helen Ekeroth, Tobias Jarl, me, Camilla Svedén and Ingrid Thulin.

The con started with an short opening ceremony where Jonas Wissting, the Illuminati leader, introduced the Guests of Honour, and explained that he had forgot The Spirit of Swecon at home™. This is a thing that happens a lot at Swedish cons. (The forgetting-the-spirit-thing.) It's nice to have traditions, and we are proud of ours. AT LEAST WE HAVE SPIRIT, OKAAY! ;)

The first item of the programme was Madeline Ashby's GoH-speach, which I attended. It was about her work as a consulting futurist and author. Very intriguing. She tells her stories from a marginalized PoV, illuminating issues of the poor, the outcasts, different groups of people, which I think is a good approach and something that's important in litterature. We already know the PoV of the white heterosexual male, we need other voices too.

After that I prepared for my panel at 8 pm. It was a great panel to start with. It was just me and my friends, chatting about social media and fandom, which I hope was enjoyable for others too. Although I had some points of mine that I never got to make, and Johan held a seven minute monologue in the beginning that was interesting but perhaps a bit too long. ;) Me and Anna argued that fandom is a community that thrives on social media, where we connect and create and spread the word about what we do. Johan held the PoV that social media is great, but the text culture that we are a part of need more space to flourish. We need the fanzines.

Me and a couple of friends continued the discussion in the bar, and Alexander Hallberg said the brilliant thing: "Fanzines are mostly you holding a monologue about what you like, but in social media you can hold a conversation about it with someone else."

Fanzines are great (and sure, you can send in your own texts and that could be construed as conversation) but I think fandom not only will survive the online phenomenon that is twitter and facebook, but that social media works really well for us.

After the Social Media-panel I listened to Marianna Leikomaa interviewing Ben Aaronovitch. (Marianna, you have such a great english accent!) Ben talked about his time on Doctor Who, and about Peter Grant and the studios asking for a white actor to play Peter in a movie, saying that Ben should see it as a "raceless" movie. Yeah. No.

Ben seems to be a funny and relaxed guy, even if he doesn't like cats. (I had a moment to talk to him in the Green room and ended up having a long conversation about cats and dogs.) I've read Rivers of London and found it really good, now I want to read the other books too.

Thus ended the first day of programming. At night in the bar, I had a blast. Dave Lally had been kind enough to bring me a doctor who-scarf (you know, those really long ones) so I wore it and it was beautiful. I also invented the concept tandem-scarf since the scarf was big enough to fit two necks easily.

Saturday was the big day for me. Me and Karolin had a lovely breakfast at our hotel where two elderly citizens asked us if we were on a school trip. (Naw!) Then we headed to the Green Room where Karolin helped me to cut out bingo cards. At 11, me and Eva Norman held an introduction to fandom and conventions, which went great. I even had two newcomers tweeting me about it. I'm so happy, it was fun! I want to do it again.

Björn Hedblom posted this on instagram too. As you can see, it's all about t-shirts.

After a sushi lunch with Malmöfandom, Norrlandsfandom and Hanna, we listened to "Telling Stories in Different Media". They talked a lot about writing for games, which was interesting even though I don't play that much.

From left to right: Thomas Årnfelt, Alexander Hallberg, Jessica Elgenstierna, Ben Aaronovitch and Tobias Bodlund
Ben explained that he finds it easy to write for comis since he doesn't have to describe word by word what happens in the story, the artist can co-create the story. For example, he could write "And then an accident happened" and the artist would create some sort of accident.

I also went to see "AI and Robotics: A look into the future" where Patrick Doherty held a talk about what artificial intelligence is and what we can do in robotics today. I found it fascinating and a bit scary. But at the end I was mostly irritated because he talked about 5 minutes too long, and seemed to argue that we should not be afraid of giving A.I. weaponry, and that the laws of robotics could be in the way if we were to defeat terrorism.

In the evening I was a part of the "Conventions today and tomorrow" panel with Saija Kyllönen, Johan Anglemark, Eva Holmström and Anna Davour, moderated by Karl-Johan Norén. Before the panel we had somewhat different ideas about what kind of stuff that we should or should not discuss but it in the end I think it went spendidly, even though I was told that I relied too much on my papers and looked at them too much. It a big thing for me to be able to talk without loosing my trail of thought, and I overcame my nervousness and talked a lot. I think I did the best I could.

I have voiced my opinions so many times on the mailing list about what we can do to introduce newcomers to fandom, and felt that I had many things to say. I hope people don't think I talked too much though. I talked about the importance of letting new fans set their mark on fandom too, and the importance of telling people what it is that we do, that set us apart from other fandoms.

Afterwards I held a group discussion about cons, and was joined by Joakim Mäki, a fairly new fan that's a part of Umeåfandom, David Lally, Herman Ellingsen and Lars-Olov Strandberg. Lars-Olov is one of the oldest fans in Sweden. In fact, he had been to the first Swedish con in Lund in 1956, and even was the Guest of Honour in the 2005 Worldcon (!!!). He made some interesting reflections about how it was in fandom then and how it is now. "Now a days, there a lot more women. It makes it more interesting."  Bless you, Lars-Olov. And Go Women! When I told him that I'm doing a mini-con in Malmö this october, he just lit up and got really excited about it. There hasn't been anything in Malmö since the 60's, so he was very glad and decided to come and hang with us. This is the beauty of fandom. It doesn't matter if you are 90 or 19, we're all just as enthusiastic.

After participating in three items, I had developed a bit of an headache and a sore throath to I went to the bar to have some tea. I hung out with Joakim Mäki, Hanna and Mia, and Mias boyfriend Daniel. Joakim is a really nice fellow, and he comes from Kiruna in norrbotten, my home county. I'm glad to see that fandom is spreading up north to my hood. There were more fans from Umeåfandom attending and they all seem to be really nice and fun to hang out with. The puns were flying all over the place. (And you know how I like puuunnss!) I have promised to come to a pub meeting next time I'm in Umeå. My brother lives there so I'm there sometimes.

Jukka's height is only exceeded by the height of his character. 
In the evening, I joined Quiz with Jukka Halme, and we did a Pointless-show. Jukka was the host and I was his Osman (the judge). It was really fun! I'm a big fan of Pointless, and also of Jukka Halme. He is a great entertainer and his quizzes and game shows should never be missed. If you don't know what Pointless is, I recommend you watch it on youtube. It's more fun than Jeopardy or The Weakest Link. The host Armstrong and his sidekick Osman has this dry, witty sense of humour that's so typically brittish. I'm already working on new ideas for next time!

The last item of the day, and my sixth and final appearance in the programme was the NoFF-auction with Bellis. It was a very fun show too, but it was a bit hard to come up with ways to sell the Science Fiction Magazines. I managed to bid too, and bought Anna Davours fanzine "Nålpistol" from 2005, among other things. 

Afterwards I hang out in the bar for the rest of the evening, talking to the Wester brothers, Tobias, Camilla, Frida and Mr Lally himself. Håkan Wester asked me for tips on how to build your own fandom group from the scratch, as we have done in Malmö, and I was happy to talk about it. He then went on to form Västerås-fandom. Yay! \o/

The final day of Swecon started with the Ancillary Panel, with Tommy Persson, Olov Livendahl, Saija Kyllönen and Thomas Cronholm. It was about Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, the novel that won the Hugo last year, and rightly so.

It is a great book, and the panel seemed to agree about that too. At first glance, the gender issue was the focus, but Tommy explained that on the second reading of it, he found that it actually was about colonization.

Tommy seems to have realized that he should have read the book before the panel. He makes up for it by quickly browsing through it before the panel.
It makes us think about what gender is. Some naturally assume that, for example, the people in the military are men. By changing everyone's pronoun to a female pronoun, it challenges assumptions about what defines men and women. I asked the panel to compare it to Left Hand of Darkness, where Ursula LeGuin consequently used "He" as the gender pronoun. Olov said that he thinks if we want to raise the issue of equality, it's better to use the gender pronoun that isn't the norm. I completely agree. Saija said that she would've liked it better if Leckie used "they" instead of he or she, and I think that could work too. My guess is that this will be the next thing tried.

Afterwards I attented the Troll panel with Kristina Hård, Oskar Källner, Carolina Gomez Lagerlöf (Moderator), Anna Vintersvärd and Rasmus Kaj. It's always nice to listen to authors talk about folk lore and mythology, and is talk of this becoming the nordic fantasy genre, nordic weird.

At noon, the Swecon bid happened. There were two competing Swecon bids. Bellis wanted to do a Motorcon, which would be a month long, with 34 Guests of Honour, and a big dead dog-concert with Motörhead. The membership would cost about 100 000 SEK (but not to worry, it could be paid in small installments). The other bid was Fantastica, at Dieselverkstan in Stockholm. It won, despite the allure of Motorcon. :D

Then the winner of the Alvar Prize was announced. Maria Nygård won, which was awesome. She's done so much for Swedish fandom and without her, I'm not sure I would've found my way to fandom in the first place. After being nominated three years in a row, and even having a bunch of friends making a campain video for her, it was time for her to win.

Then Lars-Olov Strandberg got to receive an lifetime achievement award, and we sang a song about him, written by Karl-Johan Norén. It was a really wonderful celebration of this grand master of Swedish fandom.

 After that, I spent some time in the Alvarfonden Second hand book shop, where it was cosy and I felt like Giles from Buffy. "I need to consult my books." Selling books for Alvarfonden is a great way to meet new people, and just hang out and relax.

The last two items of this years Swecon was Animating locations and Therese Norén's Metafiction in Supernatural.

Johan Jönsson moderated the panel, and Jenny Milewski, Kristina Hård and Ben Aaronovitch talked about the places they write about. Jenny Milewski had a lot of fun stuff to say about writing horror stories in student halls and IKEA. She said that you should think about what potential the places has, and showed a fun book about a company that looks exactly like IKEA were they have explored the potential of being trapped, when you exit a room, you enter the same room again, with escalators moving the wrong way and stuff like that.

Even though I haven't seen much of Supernatural, I was drawn to the Metafiction in Supernatural-talk because I know Therese and she's a very enthusiastic and engaging person to listen to. It was really interesting. More of this, please! Metafiction is such a fun thing to play around with. 

Another person who uses metafiction is Jasper Fforde, who has written books about Thursday Next were the characters from Austens books come to life. Coincidentally, Jasper Fforde is the Guest of Honour at next years Finncon, and guess who's going there? Meeeeeeeeeeeee.

The closing ceremony was framed by Karl-Johan Noréns beautiful filk about Linköping saving fandom. It was a lovely way to end Swecon. I could try to summarize the weekend in a few words, but I wouldn't do it better than Madeline Ashby so I leave it to her:

Dead Dog was a blast too! I spent time with new and old friends. I talked to Markus Sköld, one of the authors in the Swedish anthology Waiting for the machines to fall asleep, I talked to the lovely Sini Neuvonen and GoH Kristina Hård, I managed to do some NoFF-Smoffing with the Finnish NoFF-candidate Mikko Seppänen and Korppi Susi. (Yes, NoFF-smoffing is a word, and now I just have to make sure I become the NoFF-candidate next year.)

As you can see below, me and Olov has started a new tradition - to take dead dog pics together from every Swecon we both attend. I hope we'll be doing it for many years.

Olov and me at ConFuse 2015

Me and Olov at Kontrast 2012
At the end of the evening, when the pub closed, the song Closing Time got stuck in my head. Me and a small company moved on to another pub were we talked about tv-shows, family traits and a bunch of other things I don't remember. I showed everyone my favourite opening of all time, from Warehouse 13. But it was from the wrong season, sadly, so I had to show them another one of the openings. (Thanks to everyone for being patient with me, and not strangling me.) And then I tried to explain the Warehouses, and failed. But Johan Anglemark succeeded in explaining it in a way that everyone could understand:

And finally, I had to fall back to my hotel room, since I was dead tired. But I managed a final tweet before I fell asleep.

I am ever so gracious.

Thank you to the Illuminati Linköpingfandom for arranging this lovely event. Thanks to the Guests of Honour for being amazing, thanks to everyone who attended and helped making this a wonderful weekend.  Until next time!