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!