Monday, 18 June 2018

Fantastika 2018

Fantastika, Swecon 2018, is over and I have to get back to the mundane world. Before I close the chapter of this year’s con, let's do a quick con rep.

Fantastika had around 300 members and took place in an old industrial factory, Dieselverkstaden, in Stockholm.

The venue was lovely, and the taco bar just next to it is now my fave restaurant. The only thing not so good about the venue was the fact that the bar closed around the same time as the programme ended.

This year I had so many friends arriving from all over Europe for their first Swecon, Jani Ylönen, Rinna Saramäki, Rasmus and his sister Frida Häggblom, arriving from Finland, Elin Bekkebråten Sjølie and John Corrigan from Norway, Gwen Frazer-Dennison from Ireland, Katarina Eriksson from Malmö. I also met Kerstin Eksmo, a friend of a friend who I met briefly at Worldcon 75.  I was thrilled to see them all and hope they had a blast!

And of course I had my large Finnish family there as well, Hanna Hakkarainen, Jukka Särkijärvi, Sari Polvinen, Sanna Kellokoski, Teemu Ahonen and my god parents Saija Kyllönen and Jukka Halme.

There were just so many good friends there, Ian Sales, Joakim Mäki, Hanna Svensson, to mention few more of my favourite people, so you can imagine my dilemma. I had to fight hard to be able to hang out with them all.

Knowing that the programme ended at 11 pm and the bar closed at 12 am, this presented me with very little options than to sacrifice a huge chunk of the programme, so that I could hang out as much as possible. 

Of the program items I did attend, the group discussion "The lady doctor", hosted by my friend Sanna, stood out with a really good, constructive and positive discussion. Everyone contributed and although opinions varied, we all agreed it is time for a female actor to play the Doctor.

"Ethics of Generation ships" also turned out to be a really interesting item, about preserving a human civilization on a space ship with limited space and resources. They talked about population control, passing of knowledge to younger generations, keeping the people healthy and making a successful colony. I would recommend the TV show "The 100" to anyone who is interested in this topic.

The Guests of Honour’s programme items were very good, too. The Guests of Honour were Mike Carey, Kij Johnson and Ian Watson, and they were all very interesting and engaging people to listen to. I’ve met Ian several times before and it was really fun to have him and Cristina back in Sweden and catch up briefly in the bar.

I'd only heard of Mike from “The Girl with all the Gifts”, and didn't feel worthy to approach him since I know so little of him and neither read the book nor watched the movie... because I am terrified of zombies. Sanna informed me that he's done a lot of other stuff and I think I'll check out that out. He seemed such a genuine gentleman.

Kij I'd heard a lot of great things about from my dear friend Lucy Huntzinger, who's a friend of hers, and from friends who've read The Dream-quest of Vellitt Boe. It would have been fun to talk to Kij about Lucy and US fandom, specially now that I’m going there. Maybe another time!

The fandom program items were of course a larger part of the con for me, with me being a fandom-fan. I ended up hosting a lunch klatsch for newcomers which was fun, and a dillchips panel that was highly weird. And amusing. Then I went to the fan fund auction and accidently bought a shockingly large amount of books, which was for a good cause.

NoFF (Nordic Fan Fund) was kind enough to send me to Ireland last year, which I wanted to repay them for. But my poor purse.

Me and Anna Gomez Lagerlöf talked a bit about the change we have felt in the spirit of this year's Swecon. We can't really place our finger on what it is. The members seemed to be the same group of people as before, but somehow it felt... different. In a good way, I think.

Newer fan additions to the con and can make a huge difference in the con dynamic, but I think a lot of it has to do with the sense of familiarity you get when coming to the same venue for the second or third time, and also familiarity that many of us have from working together on a Worldcon.
Swecon is becoming this melting pot of Nordic fandom with a sprinkle of Irish,  British, Polish, Estonian, American, et cetera. I love that we have so many different nationalities, and that so many come back year after year. I like to think that we are becoming a very international con.

Now it's time for me to rest, recover, and start focusing on next years Swecon Replicon in Västerås!

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Party Across the Pond (or "River" as the people of the Gamma forests would call it)

Full house at the Doctor Who party! The Swedes were honored with the VIP seats in the front row.

 At the beginning of this millennia, or to be more exact the 1 of July in the year of 2000, a bridge that connect Sweden and Denmark was opened, bravely crossing the sea of Öresund. It solved the pesky problem that, if the sound is frozen solid, it's still legal in Denmark to clobber a Swede to death if we ever cross the ice by foot. Now we just take the train instead.

Yesterday four valiant Swedes braved the mishandled public transport system to attend the yearly Doctor Who party our Danish brothers and sisters were throwing. Armed with only our wits, a couple of the 4th Doctor's scarves and a bowtie (because bowties are cool), we arrived at the cinema where it was to be held some of us not really knowing what to expect. Linnea and Fia had attended once before and Fia assured us the Danes are crazy just like us. 

And boy was she right, in the best way possible! We were met with open arms by wonderful people in brilliant cosplays and different kinds of Doctor Who-themed attire, and of course fishfingers with custard. Our "person on the inside", the Danish fan and co-organizer of the event Sanna Bo Claumarch, was running around getting everything ready and organized but paused long enough to give us all a brilliant smile and a strong hug before running off again. The spirits were high and contagious. 

The Scarf Squad.

The cinema we were in was charming, the walls covered with old film posters, film rolls and mysterious bric-a-brac. The lights were coloured, the furniture mismatched and the atmosphere cosy. Everyone were talking lively, munching their fishfinger-custard concoctions and sipping their still-not-ginger-fizz welcome drinks. 

The biggest part of the agenda for the night was the viewing of some episodes from the show of course. This time the plan was to watch the very first and the very last episodes of the classic Who as well as a Christmas special from new Who. 

We saw in order:
An Unearthly Child episode 1
Survival eps 1
Survival eps 2 
Survival eps 3
Planet of the Dead 

Before each new Doctor we got a short Whovian history lesson by co-organizer Steen Schapiro about those episodes and the people and circumstances behind it, which added a very enjoyable dimension to the viewing. We all know how we Whovians love our relative dimensions in time and space. Perhaps not quite as much as the Lovecraftians though.

Co-organizer Steen Schapiro talking Whovian history between episodes. Good thing he's not an archaeologist, or he would have been pointed and laughed at. Notice his excellent vest!

The whole thing was wonderfully arranged and I can't imagine it going down any better. We were all in agreement that we had a great time! 15/14 will go again next year.

Co-organizer Sanna Bo Claumarch happily squeeing with her arms full of gifted books from Fia. Thank you ever so much for inviting us!
(Credit to Sanna Bo Claumarch and Fia Karlsson for the lovely pictures.)

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Sorting is freedom

Imagine you have a brilliant idea for a story you want to write. You grab a notebook and fill it up with all of these things you want in your story. Your notebook is soon full, so you grab a second notebook, and then a third.

Eventually the project becomes huge and you decide that you're going to start over on a computer, because that's more efficient and then you can also scroll through your notes easier. So you start writing it down a second time. In the process you realise you want to go in a different direction so you start rewriting your story.

You know your notes will eventually come in handy, because even if you go in a different direction, you have some good world building in there, and family trees and stuff, so you keep your notebooks in a box and plan to one day transfer all the notes to the computer.

You do some research, which you write down in a fourth notebook and stow away with the three others in that box. Then you go on a vacation and come back with another notebook of new ideas, a new-new direction of your story. You store that with the four others, thinking you'll eventually collect all your notes on the computer.

Through the years you accumulate more and more notes of your new direction, your new-new direction, and your new-new-new direction, while simultaneously working on the computer, never really glancing back. Soon, you have no idea what the original notes were about anymore, you just know you saved them for a good reason. One day you'll go through it all. Maybe you'll find the perfect ending to your story hidden away in that dusty old box of notebooks?

But, eventually, your huge amount of notes in your box of notebooks overwhelms you so much that you feel reluctant to finish the story, because that would mean going through the box to merge the notes and the story. Instead, you quit writing.

Several years later, after staring at the box of mysterious notes, you finally take the bull by the horn and return to the story. You look at your word documents, and you start looking at your old notes, and  then you discover the horrible truth; the notes contain no perfect ending to your story, there is no hidden answers to your current story problem, the notes lost their usefulness a long time ago as the story changed.

As you start ripping out page after page of text, you feel lighter, and lighter, like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

Like you're finally free.

When the notes are gone, you're finally free to move on with your story. There's nothing holding you back, there's nothing you've forgotten to think about. You're finally able to focus on what's really important.

For me, that's what sorting does. It gives me focus. It gives me an overview. I know what I have. I know that there isn't any old stuff I've forgotten to think about. I know what has a place in my story, what has a place in my home.

Sorting is freedom.

So, in the immortal words of Kylo Ren:
"Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. That's the only way to become what you're meant to be."

More on this subject later.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

When Vikings Came to Dublin

In the year 841, the Vikings sailed up River Liffey and settled in Dublin, which they ruled for three centuries. They were eventually driven out, but 1176 years later, they came back.

In October 2017, I stormed went to Dublin as a Swedish delegate from the Nordic Fan Fund (NoFF), to attend Octocon, the national Irish convention. With my banners flying high I charged the city, and thing were never the same again...

When the 2017 NoFF-race started, there was no announced convention in the Nordic countries except for Worldcon 75, and since the NoFF-administrators Johan Anglemark and Bellis felt that a Worldcon was too big to make it a fun and interesting Nordic-to-Nordic exchange, they looked outside the Nordic countries and came up with a solution - Dublin was founded by the Vikings, so Ireland could be construed as a Nordic country - let's have the Vikings in Dublin again!

I was elected NoFF-delegate at the annual Swecon, and my mission was to be the bridge between the Nordic and the Irish fans. A cultural exchange of sorts. Me and my partner in crime Frida went merrily to Ireland, to teach them the ways of the Dillchips.

To tell you the truth, I was super excited. I've always been fascinated by Ireland. I don't know how it started, but when I was around 7 or 8, I had an imaginary Irish friend that I called Fenton O'Brien, inspired by O'Brien in Star Trek The Next Generation.

Fenton and his wife Iris helped me make tons of new friends at my school. Eventually they decided to retire and move back to Ireland with their three kids, as imaginary friends do.

As I grew up I found inspiration to write by listening to the dramatic and wild music of "Bill Whelan' Riverdance - Music from the show" which spoke to me. And as an adult, one of my all time favourite bands is Flogging Molly. Needless to say, I have longed to see Ireland!

Enter Gareth.

I met Gareth Kavanagh, and a bunch of other Irish fans while working for Worldcon 75, the Finnish Worldcon. Gareth have become a good friend, and - being the kind and hospitable man he is - he offered to show me and Frida a bit of Ireland before the convention started.

All I've seen of Ireland I've seen through the rosy lense of sentimental movies like "P.S. I Love You", or movies abouts knights and round tables, so naturally, in my head, Ireland is super idyllic. But could it really be that way in real life? Surely the movies might have embellished the truth?

They had not.

Gareth took us up to the Wicklow mountains outside of Dublin. As we drove further and further up into the Mountains on the winding roads, our ears popped and the wind shook the car. Out the window, you could see the mountains go on and on. The view was breathtaking. The Wicklow Mountains was everything I've ever pictured Ireland to look like. Heather everywhere, rolling hills, deep valleys and white dots that were sheep. It was an overwhelmingly beautiful scene.

Turns out, the Wicklow mountains is the actual spots where they filmed such films as "PS. I Love You","Excalibur", "King Arthur" and "Braveheart". We also saw the area where they've shot the show "Vikings".

We went as far as Glendalough on our first day, which is actually not that far from Dublin. We saw the 6th century monastic settlement, the Round Tower and the graveyard with ancient stones with celtic knots. It was such a beatiful and serene day, and we went back to Dublin full of joy for having that experience.

On our second day in Dublin, before the convention started, Gareth took us around in the city. We saw Saint Patricks Cathedral where Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver's Travels) once served as the Dean. We saw Dublin Castle, Saint Stephens Gardens, the Viking Museum Dublinia, the Christ Church Cathedral, beautiful malls and the Iveagh Garden. Dublin has a lot to offer!

Aside from the historic sites, Dublin is cramped with bakeries. One of their best is Queen of Tarts - a bakery/lunch place that had absolutely delicious food and the friendliest waitress I've ever met. I can highly recommend the place for all Dublin goers!

One thing I've consistently noticed is that Irish people are genuinly so warm and friendly. Walking up to Dublin Castle, we saw someone standing on the side of a very busy street, having a friendly conversation with his friend on the opposite side of the street. They were shouting hello to each other over traffic. Because why not!

Then, it was time for Octocon, which took place in Camden Court Hotel, a lovely four star venue with comfy seats in the foyer, a nice bar and a gourmé restaurant. The first thing I noticed is that Irish conventions use ribbons! I love ribbons! I wished I'd made some more Dillchips-ribbons, they were so popular during Worldcon 75 that I actually ran out. Who'd thought?

Sitting in the foyer, having Irish cider, I was enjoying the meet and greet part of the con before the Opening Ceremony. Peadar Ó Guilín, whom I'd med at Worldcon 75, looked at me and said: "Are you the lady with the dill crisps?" The whole group burst out in laughter, as it was only too true. Later on, I bought his book "The Call" and had him sign it for me - I got a absolute lovely dedication.

No convention is complete without running into Dave Lally, and since this was an Irish convention, there was no avoiding him. We met at the Opening Ceremony, which was a short and funny opening. The mood of the con was high spirits and laughter, I could see that the people at this con knew each other well and were all very good friends.

Later on I met Brian Nisbet and Vanessa May whom I worked closely with during Worldcon 75. I was introduced to James Bacon, the chair of Dublin 2019, the Irish Worldcon. James quickly mentioned that he'd heard lots of good things about me. Naturally, I was worried.

It was really nice catching up with the Worldcon 75 crew and talking shop. I'm a con runner at heart and will jump at the opportunity to work at a convention, so Vanessa put me at work preparing for the Octocon disco while she tried to recruit me to work for Dublin. I'd been thinking of joining the Dublin crew (still am, but due to surgery and health problems, I've put that on hold for a while).

James was gracious enough to explain how TAFF really works, and offered up a lot of interesting info about what they're working on creating for their Dublin Worldcon. He mentioned a lot of financial aid-ideas that they'll try to implement, which I thought was brilliant. We had something similar for Worldcon 75 and I think it's great how much conventions do to try and help everyone attend. If you're in need of financial aid to attend the Dublin Worldcon I suggest you contact them to hear more about their FANtastic Fund.

But what about the panels? The first - and best panel - of Octocon was "Irish mythology told and retold", with Ruth Frances Long, Oisín McGann, Nigel Quinlan and Deirdre Thornton, moderated by Sakura Perez. It opened the whole con awesomely by establishing what sets Irish fantasy apart from other fantasy stories, while also showering us with great tips on fantasy works that incorporate the real Irish mythology. They also talked a lot about how their culture and mythologies has been misshandled. Nigel described the absolute abuse of Leprechauns in movies, and Oisín explained a lot about how the Irish themselves view the Irish mythology.

If you ever get a chance to listen to Irish people talk about their cultural heritage, you should do it. One person I especially appreciated was Ruth Frances Long, not only for her helpful suggestions on which books to read, but because she was a really good panelist in general. I'd love to listen to her talk about anything, basically.

Other memorable panels I attended was "Civilizations in Decline", "Michael Carroll's Secret Panel" and "Our House is Your House" which dealt with fan funds.

Someone found my picture of the Civilizations in Decline-panel on Twitter and said it felt like they were being interviewed for the final Flashdance dance scene, which felt oddly right.

"Civilizations in Decline" or Flash Dance interview? Peadar Ó Guilín, Oisín McGann, Allen Stroud and S.C Flynn, moderated by Virginia Preston
Michael Carroll

Michael Carroll's Secret Panel was a blast. I had never heard of Michael Carroll before but the idea of just giving a man an hour to talk about what he wants is actually hilarious, and also slightly familiar as we have a Swedish equivalent called "Johan Jönsson talks about things" a very important panel that breaches important subjects and educates us about things like the population of freerange locomotives in Sibiria.

Amusing program items are as important as serious ones, and Mike did amuse, as well as inspire us to follow our dreams. Like the Dalek.

I participated as a panelist in one panel, the Fan Fund-panel "Our House is Your House", with Tobes Valois, James Shield, James Bacon and Fiona. As a former Trans Atlantic Fan Fund-delegate, both James and Tobes had a lot to say about the subject. They explained how to sign up for TAFF, and why you should sign up for TAFF. James Shield talked about GUFF, the Get up-and-over Fan Fund. I explained how the Nordic Fan Fund (NOFF) works.

I learnt how to extract information from a delegate if they can't seem to finish their con report. (It has sadly not been very helpful for this report, since I haven't got access to a group of friends with computers who're not afraid to torture me to get the information out.)

The best part of the programme item, though, was Douglas Spencer reading a poem about Tobes as TAFF. I wish someone would write a poem like that about me, one day.

I've met most of my new Irish friends in the bar at Camden Court Hotel. As you might have guessed, Irish fans seem to enjoy sitting down for a beer or a cider. We have that in common. I'd been looking forward to good Irish Ciders, since I discovered the Irish Cider Magners, which is now my go to-beverage of choice. I fully expected to find many tasty ciders when I got there, but as it turns out, they don't have Magners! They have Bulmers, which is the same cider. It would seem like they can only use the Magners-name outside of Ireland.

An even more shocking discovery was made when we went out for dinner one night and I asked around for their best cider and was recommended... Kopparbergs. As a Swede, I associate Kopparbergs cider with my wild teenage years were I wasn't used to drinking real beer and had to start with something sweet. Since the young age of 18, I haven't been able to stomach it, it's such a sweet sticky cider, and it's generally not very appreciated at all in Sweden. Imagine my surprise when I found out the Irish actually like it. Such weird. Many what.

The Irish fans have many sides, though. They have a large LARP community, and many gamers as well as reenactors. Kristen Humphrey-Taylor, who've worked as an extra on Vikings, came up to me, Fiona, Frida and Russell one night in the bar and showed his Centurion helmet, which we got to try out.

Who wore it better? I think Russell.





Another new experience for me was the Irish Disco on Saturday, the Monsters' Ball. We were asked to send in our music requests before hand, so I sent a lot of Swedish music like ABBA, but also a lot of classic Disco. I never knew the Irish could dance like that. I danced more than I've ever danced at a disco.
Andrew Meaney, Mikaela Lind and Frida

Marquerite Smith, Vanessa May and James Bacon

Niall O Bhrion

When the Ball was over, we helped removing the decor, and of course established that the Monsters were indeed alive and did not want to be separated, so me and Frida adopted Alfred, Albert and Sandy the Sandworm and took them home to Sweden.

There's much to be said about Irish fans and Irish conventions, all exceedingly positive things. They even make good crisps.

Phil Dyson, contributing to the cultural exchange by giving me Irish crisps, Taytos. They were yummie.

I have made a lot of new friends and am super excited for Dublin 2019. If you get the chance, you should definitely attend an Irish convention!

The loot.