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.