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.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi [Spoilers]

I have so many things to say about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, that I almost don't know where to begin. That's why I have decided to devote this blogpost to what I see as the message of the movie, that of social justice.

One thing I loved about Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the way it stays true to The Force Awaken theme of challenging the idea of the patriarchy, as well as the thought that "where you come from matters". It talks about the problems with machoism and misguided heroes, and uses it's untraditional storytelling to surprise us at every turn. It is magnificent.

For example, in the very first scenes we see Poe taking the hero role, directly disobeying orders and risking his own life and that of others to take out the cannons of the Dreadnought. Leia demotes him for his arrogance and for challenging the command of his leaders, but he learns nothing, echoing the sad reality that many women feel in their heart, that men just don't trust women to know better.

Further into the movie, he tries to be the hero again and commits mutiny against Admiral Holdo, another woman, to do it. It ends in another epic failure.

Leia blasts him into a wall for it, and then carries out Holdo's plan, which ends with Holdo being the real hero. In the end, it finally humbles Poe enough to realize that he was being an ass and that having a cocky confidence doesn't always make you a hero.

We see more of this theme of cocky confidence and misguided heroism with Finn when he plans to lead Rey away from the Rebellion with the beacon. He is about to do it, and consequently take the choice of helping the Rebellion away from Rey, when Rose appears near the escape pod, realizes what he's doing and stops him from leaving, causinf them to work together to come up with a better plan. Rose actually stops Finn several times from doing the wrong thing or trying to be a hero, and we just never see it coming because we're so used to men getting away with things. It's so great!

Another subtle but honest point is made when Finn takes charge of the situation by stepping in front of Rose when she tries to explain their plan to Poe. Rose won't have it and quickly steps up and interupts him, a small but important move for women.

Kylo Ren is another thing all together. He suffers from the chosen one-delusion, prancing around like a dark prince with an overwhelming sense of self importance because of his family's connection to the Force.

What I especially love about this film is that the importance of his or anyone else's heritage gradually diminishes. It happens when Rey admits that she's the daughter of some nobody, and when a mere stable boy use the Force to pick up his broom.

Staying true to his inflated ego, Kylo agrees that she's a nobody, but says 'not to him', thinking that she will hang on to his approval. He's so entitled and full of himself that when Rey doesn't see his side of things, it completely knocks him off centre. She realizes he's not going to turn, turns him down and leaves and he responds by deciding to destroy her. Because how dare she refuse him?

She takes her loss with a stride and goes on to save her friends, and shuts him out, showing that she doesn't need him.

It sets the pieces up nicely for next movie to have an epic show down between toxic masculinity and feminism.

Challenging multiple tropes like "the chosen one" and "the hero's sacrifice", also challenges the idea that men must save the day or die trying. That it's always up to the men. That only men can decide what's best for everyone. That men get away with shit because they are men.

The Last Jedi shows that it doesn't matter where you come from, whether you're a princess, a prince, an ex-storm trooper, a scrap collector or the Rebellions greatest pilot, it's what you *do* that matters.

It shows that you don't have to be macho to stand up, lead the resistance, defy expectation, and save lives, especially your friends' lives, when they're trying to be stupid heroes for no good reason.

I think this is also the reason that a lot of young men have trouble buying the message of the movie, which makes it all the more important.

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Road to Worldcon 75

For most of you, Worldcon 75 lasted 5 days. For me, it has been my favourite project for over 2 years.

It started in the fan village of Loncon 3, 2014, with the Helsinki party. I helped by serving tar soda and buckthorn & rhubarb drinks, and also hung out with a lot of lovely Finns for the whole convention-week, I knew by then I needed to be a part of Worldcon 75. And so, when they won in 2015 I volunteered.

To my own astonishment, this tweet gained a lot of traction, being retweeted by over 100 people during the course of a few days. It was my first taste of Worldcon 75 Social Media awesomeness and resulted in me being assigned to work as a Social Media (SoMe) staffer. 

I've since then been working Worldcon 75-Social Media almost all of my waking hours for 2 years, save for a few breaks, work, and other cons. I did expect to work a lot, but in the end I worked a lot more than initially expected, just because it was such a wonderful experience, and unexpectedly rewarding. I love interacting with people online, and working customer service. Another benefit of working Social Media is that it gave me an overview of the all the different corners of the convention and included working closely with all the other divisions, meeting with and chatting with lovely staffers from all over the world. It's the best position I could ever have hoped for.

But I must admit, I feel slightly bad for what I put my Worldcon-bosses through, they had a hard time getting me to log off during my days off. (Sorry Outi, Paul, Colette, Karo and Jukka!) 

Me and Sini

Worldcon 75 at Eurocon

Karo,  Hanna and Tero

Of course, we've had our share of rough patches, but what Worldcon doesn't? For me, the fun greatly outweighs any difficulties there have been.

In the winter of 2016, my lovely Area Head Dave Hogg, and my lovely co-worker Nina Niskanen sadly decided to step down, and I was appointed Area Head of Social Media. Me and my right hand woman Lucy Huntzinger have since then mostly been managing things by ourself. It worked really well! In May 2017, we recruited two more staffers: Kat Grimsley and Minna "Loviathar" Hiltula, to help prior to and during the convention. I had a lot of fun working with and getting to know these people, and together we managed to respond to things online all day, 24 hours. There was some really amazing SoMe teamwork going on there and I am super proud of us.

Lovi, Fia and Kat

Fia and Lucy

Aside from the monitoring of SoMe, I've attended three staff weekends, May 2016, November 2016 and May 2017. I highly recommend going to staff-meet ups before the convention, as you get to know some of the people you'll be working closely with, get time to wander around the venue and get your bearings. Also, planning is way more efficient when you're all gathered in one room talking things through.

My great leader, Outi, posing with the sleeping mask.

Me and Michael

Saija and Gareth, scheeming 
The greatly amused Colette and Nicholas

Kisu, John-Henri and Hanna

The programme DH and DDH Kisu and David

If I could do it again, I would. I have made hundreds of new friends through out the years, and absolutely love Finnish fandom. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Finnish Fandom

On Sunday the 13th of August 2017, I had the great honour of being formally adopted as a member of Finnish Science fiction-fandom, together with the lovely Colette H. Fozard and Regina Kanyu Wang. Taking up the role as my fairy god-parents are Jukka Halme and Saija Kyllönen, the best god-parents a girl could wish for.

To say I was ecstatic about being included into the Finnish Fandom family would be an understatement. I can't really find the words to say how much this means to me, but I am going to try to, anyway.

As a young woman, I've often felt that I wasn't taken very seriously in the fandom community. I'm sure a lot of other young women have felt the same. But the Finns, they not only invite me in as a fan and a con-runner, they gave me more and more responsibility, showing me in many different ways how MY opinions matter, how I matter, and that they believe in me. Heck, they even thought I was suited to be a Social Media Area Head for Worldcon 75.

It all started at my very first convention, Eurocon 2011, I met the the wonderful Jukka Halme. He was doing a quiz of some sort and was being hella funny. I love quizzes, so I joined,  and I had a blast.

Jukka also did an amazing job as fan GoH. During the con, he talked about the fandom family, his own wow-moments and how much fandom meant to him, which really opened my eyes to the community behind the convention, as well as the impressive backstory it carried with it. It made me want to be a part of that.
After only a short acquaintance I decided Jukka was the coolest guy on earth, so I went up to Jukka and told him (in a very non-creepy way, I promise!) that I was his biggest fan. A fact that remains true to this day. And now he's my fairy god-father! 

Jukka has always been incredibly kind and including, he has asked me to assist him as quizmaster or join in the quiz-teams several times, and he has also let me stay at his and Sari's place during the three Staff weekends I attended, to which I am ever grateful.

Throughout the years, as I got more and more involved in Swedish fandom, I also met more and more Finnish fans. They let me help them with the party in the Fan Village at Loncon 3, they asked me to help recruit Swedish fans for Archipelacon and they asked me to help with twitter for Åcon 8. 

I've also been talking a lot about my hearing disability throughout the years, and Finnish fandom has always have been super attentive when it comes to helping me get the best and most accessible con-experience. They've even consulted me before conventions, making me feel so very welcome. 

Remembering back, one of the people I met first was Saija Kyllönen, at Eurocon 2011. Memories are fleeting from that convention, but I do remember meeting Saija again at Loncon 3, where she quickly established that she was my fandom mother. (Well, Saija, now you sort of are!) And by now, she's even met my real mother, which seems suiting. 

At Loncon 3 I also got to know Hanna Hakkarainen, Jukka Särkijärvi and Mikko Lammi, in particular. The were kind enough to explain how a worldcon works, and the whole puppy-debacle, to a noob like me. And they introduced me to people. I don't know where I would be now if I hadn't met them.

I can't really remember when I met the brilliant man Tero Ykspetäjä, but I am glad I did. He's the pun-master of Finnish fandom, who I've shared lots of laughts with throughout the years, and we've also bonded over our passion for effective organisations. He, and all the others, has really made me feel like Finnish fandom cares about me.

All of these people, and so many more, I am proud to call my friends. And with the years, they have become like family to me. And now they officially declared that they want me to be a part of theirs.

Kiitos paljon, my Finnish family.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Art of Gilmore Girling.

There is a secret art to living your life to the fullest. A secret code to feeling good about yourself, your life choices, your personality. When all else fails, you have to go all out Gilmore Girls-style.

1. Find your own Lorelai/Rory.

Find that person that loves you unconditionally. That one person that takes an interest in your life, who wants to talk to you about anything and everything, that friend that will make your favourite dinner, or just shares your love for bad movies or just knows exactly what to say when you're feeling down because they know you so well.

2. Don't take things too serious.

Find joy in everyday things. Get a perspective. Don't take yourself too serious. We're all gonna die anyway.

3. Appreciate your friends

Be happy we're not all exactly the same. Be glad if you have friends with quirks because those are the interesting people, my friend. And don't judge a book by it's cover.

4. Be true to yourself.

When Lorelai got pregnant at sixteen, she made a choice. She could stay at the Gilmore's and marry Christopher. It was the easy solution. But that wasn't what she wanted out of life, so she ran away and made a life for herself and Rory elsewhere. She remained true to herself even when she let her parents back in her life. She thrived. Don't settle, thrive!

5. Wallow.

You are allowed to have emotions. Use them. They serve a purpose. You have to wallow at times.

What do you think? Have I forgotten some rules? Sound off in the comments!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Krigstid & Korpgudinnan

För mer än ett år sen så recenserade jag "Turid - Kungadottern" av Elisabeth Östnäs på denna blogg. Jag har även fått de uppföljande delarna i recensionsexemplar av Berghs förlag. Del två heter "Krigstid", och del tre är "Korpgudinnan".

På grund av livet, kongresser och annat som kommit emellan så har jag inte kunnat fokusera på att läsa och recensera (och jag kommer ha ännu mindre tid över för det framöver, så få inga idéer nu, förlag!). Nu i juletider så har jag haft lite ledig tid och har då äntligen kunnat sätta mig ned och läsa färdigt och skriva detta.

Eftersom Krigstid och Korpgudinnan följer händelserna i första delen om Turid så är det svårt att prata om det utan att spoila, så en varning till er, kära läsare - har ni inte läst första delen kanske ni inte vill veta vad som händer härnäst.

** S P O I L E R **

Krigstid är en intressant och komplex historia som visar på att det finns många sätt att vara stark och modig. Boken är en lång resa, både i det inre och yttre landskapet. Turid är en ung kvinna, som finner sig ensam och utsatt i den hårda vikingavärlden med endast sin träl Unna som följeslagare. Och eftersom det är männens värld gör både hon och Unna det som de känner att de måste för att rädda sig själva. Ibland innebär det stora självuppoffringar och hemskheter.

Den tredje och avslutande delen börjar med att Turid och hennes make Frode reser till Irland för att söka hjälp av Frodes släkt mot plundrarna och rövarna som härjar i Danerna rike. Allt står dock inte rätt till vid den irländska kung Torkels gård. Turid träffar Niamh, kung Torkels dotter, och lär sig om Korpgudinnan, den blodtörstiga. Intrigerna vid Torkels hov resulterar snart i blodiga offer, och Turid träffar en äldre kvinna med synska gåvor som säger att det enda sättet att stoppa ett blodbad är om Torkel överlämnar tronen till sin dotter Niamh, något Torkel vägrar. Turid och Frode inser att de måste stoppa Torkel för att förhindra ett nytt krig.

Elisabeth Östnäs är en lysande stjärna på författarhimlen. Jag har haft nöjet att träffa henne flera gånger, bland annat på min kongress i Lund, där hon var med i programmet och pratade om historisk fantasy. Jag har även hört henne prata om bokserien på Gleerups Akademibokhandel i Lund under boksläppet av Korpgudinnan

Elisabeth har nämnt Sigrid Undsets "Kristin Lavransdotter" som en av inspirationerna för denna bokserie, en bok som jag läst och älskat då det begav sig. Med facit i hand så är förstås Turid väldigt olik Kristin Lavransdotter, likheten mellan verken är snarare sättet de tar sig an historien - ingen av berättelserna förskönar de levnadsförhållanden som rådde under vikingatiden eller medeltiden.

Historien om Turid visar på ett realistiskt sätt hur utsatta kvinnor är, och hur mäns våld och dominans skadar alla, inte minst männen själv. Östnäs behandlar även temat "toxic masculinity" genom att gång på gång lyfta fram unga män, likt Frode, som avviker från normen med en klar brist på macho-attityd. Böckerna för en slags inre monolog om normer och hjältemod, och om vikten av att gå sin egen väg.

Jag älskade denna bokserie! Östnäs har förmågan att skriva på ett sätt som direkt fångar läsaren, och min läsupplevelse har varit fylld av starka känslor. Slutet på Korpgudinnan lämnar nog ingen oberörd, men jag blev rörd till tårar. Vackert skrivet, Elisabeth!

Monday, 27 June 2016

It's Åcan, not Åcannot

Two days before Åcon 8 happened, I fell and broke my ribs (which I don't recommend doing if you're going to a con). But, since I am a very dedicated fan, it wasn't going to stop me from going. It's Åcan, not Åcannot, after all.

The first stretch of the road to Åcon was taking the train to Uppsala.  I was quite immovable, but got a lot of help from strangers on the train. In Uppsala I meet up with Nahal Ghanbari, Anna Bark Persson and later next morning, Maria Nygård. Whenever we four are together, good things happen. We're currently plotting evil schemes planning Kontur while simultaniously running the Swedish tv-series blog Onda Cirkeln with Hanna Svensson and Frida Otterhag (but Frida is AWOL in Japan). We actually kinda signed on to do both of them while in Åland in 2015, so if you're ever in Åland and get an idea -- just go with it, it's probably the best idea in the world!

Thursday morning we took the ferry over to Åland. At the bus we met up with Johan and Linnéa Anglemark, Åka and Ante Davour, Jessica and Tony Elgenstierna, who're mostly all of them in on our Kontur-schemes. We spent the better part of the boat trip to Åland talking about committée-stuff. As one does.

When we got to Åland, the sun was shining, the birds were singing and the sea glistened in the sunlight. It was a good start, and it got even lovelier during the weekend.

The hotel had a nice porch where we sat outside in the sun and drank beer for most of the weekend.
Since Åcon's a semi-relaxacon this means it has a very light program track with a lot of time between items to just hang out, read, explore Åland and drink beer. This suits me very nicely, and worked well with broken ribs.

The first program item was the Guest of Honour speech, where Zen Cho talked about the cloud of ignorance and how accepting that you don't know everything can be a good thing. It was a really good speech and set a good tone for the whole con. Meeting Zen Cho was great, I was immediately star-struck when I saw her at Loncon in the panel with Mary Robinette Kowal about regency fantasy, and I'd read and loved Sorcerer to The Crown. She has a lot of spirit and a contagious laughter.

Tommy Persson and Sari Polvinen had a book-duel, next, which consisted of Sari taking the side of character-driven books and Tommy the side of books with a structure. None of these things are exclusive, yet they can of course lead to very different books. Tommy and Sari landed in the diplomatic consensus that "a good book is a good book", which is all the consensus you need, sometimes.

Early Friday morning I attended Crystal's Impostor Syndrome Workshop. I felt like an Impostor for saying I have Impostor Syndrome (which probably means I have it). It was such a great workshop, Kudos to Crystal for making time for this!

Friday early afternoon I participated in "Marvel's female superheroes" with Kisu Leikomaa, Elisa Wiik and Nahal. Some great things were said. I had a lot of fun and was pleased with the result. I had planned to be in one more program item during the weekend (Wibbley Wobbley Timey Wimey) but ended up in a couple of game shows too, which often happens when Jukka Halme is involved.

The first gameshow I participated was later that Friday, when my team fought against Zen Chos team in "Never Mind the Buzzaldrins" which was a game show where we had to guess the movie from the poster. This seemed easy enough. Except the posters where Polish and very, very artsy (read: had absolutely no connection to the movies). I, Rachel Monte and Tobias Bodlund were named team Amoeba, but quickly renamed ourselves Team Bad Ass. The other team consisted of Zen, Shimo and Merja Polvinen (I think). Their team-name escaped my memory, but not their inevitable victory.

The lovely Candy assisted the game-show host Jukka, and he was a real cutie. I sang to his honour by switching the word "Carrie" to "Candy" in Europes song. It sounded horrible. I'm going to have to make it into a filk.

Saturday meant that I was going to host my first ever panel: "Wibbley Wobbley Timey Wimey". I have always felt the urge Not To Moderate a panel. I really don't think I'm suited for being a moderator. It's just not my thing. But... A while back I wrote something on Facebook a long the lines of "Someone should host  time travel panel! I want to talk about time travel!" So, of course Sini Neuvonen contacted me and asked me to host one on Åland. (Be careful what you wish for!)

I thought that - if I'm ever going to host a panel about anything, it should be time-travel, so I accepted. I recruited Åka, Shimo and Tommy, and prepared a bunch of themes;

* Why do we need temporal mechanics?
* Destiny-schmestiny
* The Blast from the Past
* Are you my mommy?

I thought the panel went ok. I'd prepaired for it months ahead, sent out questions to the panelists and was not very stressed about it at all. Afterwards I had a lot of people come up to me and say they liked it. I hope there will be a next time!

Me and Hanna Svensson, posing with out Time Travel-t-shirts!
There were a "Romance and fantasy"-panel with Zen, Kisu, Tommy and Merja as a moderator. I'm full of admiration of Merja, she's indeed marvellous. Her Brittish accent is very good too!  Tommy quickly stated that he was the token male, and laughter ensued. It was a good panel! I really liked it!

It was followed by "History and writing" with Zen, Shimo, Vesa Sisättö, Petri Hiltunen and Sari Polvinen. It too was a great panel and they even got in a few good points about appropriation too.

The last item of Saturday was the game show "Just a Speculative Fiction Minute" and I was, again, recruited as a contestant. It was improv and that's not really my strong suit so I got out of my comfort zone real quick. It was set up so that I'd get a title and the audience would shout some directives, a theme, a genre and some elements and then I had to review or explain the story as if it was a real book. And in 60 seconds. The first time I got horror and it really, really went bad. I went about it all wrong, trying to tell the horror story instead of getting laughs. I got a few sympathetic laughs, and went with a different approach for the next few ones.

The last one was about a Russian cabaret, Swedish Sharkballs and Vulcanos, and I made up a story about Vulcans in a Russian Cabaret that was hated by the audience (that was Vulcans too), and how they showed their dislike by giving the actors the "Vulcan-Nooooo!" and then sinking them into shark tanks. Thankfully people laughed.

Mikael Teern and Johan Jönsson. Micke seems to be Johan's body guard here. He was making some kind of jedi wave, I think.

The Saturday party was a blast too. So many good friends together at one place is almost always a guaranteed fun night, but I can't stress how lovely it is to be among this exact crowd. Swedish and Finnish Fandom are the best.

Ben Roimola and his wife (sorry, your name escapes me) came up to me and said that I'd been very funny on the game shows, and I was very thankful to them for saying that, even though I felt it couldn't be true (my impostor syndrome acting up). Then Mikko Seppänen and Elisa had read my blog post about the crazy Legend of Tomorrow-theory, and we had a fun talk about that, one fellow tv-addict to another. Then we started talking about Star Trek, and Petri quoted one of the first movie, and I quoted another, and Mikko quoted another, and so on and so forth until one of the persons listening said that it felt like being on a carusel and then getting thrown off and seeing it spinning out of control.

Talking about the beauty of Star Trek is one of those small moments that adds up to the feeling of how much I belong in fandom. Having a program where people are allowed to discuss regency fantasy and romance fantasy in a serious way, is another. I've been called a fake geek girl for liking romance, but here no one judged me. I have gotten used to not even being given the time of the day when talking about Star Trek, but these people not only listen, they accept that I'm every bit as much of a Trekkie as them. They take me seriously. And I love them for it.

Also they're really funny!
My good friend and fellow punster Tero, whom obliged me when I just had to take a pic of him and tweet "The night is dark and full of Tero's". 

I totally loved the con, I loved the program, I loved the people and the atmosphere. It suited me very well. I loved the game shows, even though I felt a bit awkward at times. (And I would go up there again!)

This is just one of the many reasons I'm working on Worldcon 75. Finnish Fandom has been involved in the three greatest cons I've been too, Loncon, Archipelacon and Åcon. We need more people to meet the Finnish fandom and and experience the Finnish cons.

I'm gonna go to Finncon this weekend. I expect it to be an awesome con, too.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Fantastika 2016

I was thrilled when Carolina Gomez Lagerlöf announced that they were doing Fantastika at Dieselverkstaden again. I never attended Fantastika in 2013. I would have loved to, but due to circumstances, I couldn't.

This time, I was there working for three different conventions; LunCon 2016 that I'm hosting this fall, Kontur which I'm on the concom for next May, and the big Worldcon 75 which I'm on staff for. You're probably wondering if I'm mad, doing all of these constuff at the same time. The answer is yes.

I packed all my flyers, con-t-shirts and went.

Join us, and together we shall rule fandom as readers and fans!

I met up with my Finnish friends at the Central Station in Stockholm and went out for lunch at the lovely Rice-restaurant near Dramaten. I ate all the watermelons. And the sushi. And ice cream with salt licorice. So good! I met a new Finnish fan, Linn Gröndahl, and we bonded on the bus over our disabilities. She was a cool and awesome person!

Then we went to Dieselverkstaden.

My first thought was that it was a really nice and big venue, suited for all purposes. Throughout the weekend, though, I started noticing stuff I felt was a bit off, like the Dealer's room was a bit hidden, the accustics were horrible (concrete walls are not good for large gatherings!) and the Bistro was horribly noisy.

First item was Merlin, the man, the myth, the magic wih Rhuddem Gwelin. An excellent talk about the different versions of the myth and how it changed by christianity. Morgana became an evil sorceress, Guinevere became an adulteress and Nimue became evil. I really loved the talk, and it was fascinating to hear how the story changed with the different times. I loved that Rhuddem was so much in love with Colin Morgan (I am too!). This talk could easily have been in a bigger room, as it was filled to the brim.

Then, I met the lovely Therese Norén who'd emailed me the week before; "Hey, I have a gift for you. Remind me to give it to you at Fantastika." I'd been like: "GIFT? What gift? Am I getting a gift? I wonder what it is? Probably dillchips? Can't you tell me? Giiift! Tell me now? I wanna now! GIFT!"
And she was like: "It's a gift."

Very mysterious.

It turned out to be A WHOLE BOX OF SUPERNATURAL. I almost cried.

Then Eva Norman told me that they had made sure the Gopher Hole had dillcrisps. And incidently, Luke Smith also informed me that he had bought and eated dillcrisps. I congratulated Luke, and congratulated myself since the dillcrisp-fenomenon is becoming rather large in Sverifandom.

Maria Turtschaninoff's Guest of Honour interview with my friend Nahal Ghanbari was another good item. Maria is truly a gifted writer with such creativity and love for stories!

Later on, I had my first own item; The open mic from 21 until 22. Unfortunaly, we had almost noone in the audience. I went to the sofa groups outside and asked a few members to come and listen, which they obligedly did.

A.R. Yngve

A.R. Yngve talked about "Frank and the Robot", Tobias talked about Laird Barron, Tora Greve talked about Sture Lönnerstrand and Calle Werner talked about Peter Nilssons books. We finished early, and I tried, valiantly, to fill the time with bad puns -- I even made an unprepaired talk about conspiracies, but in the end we closed down early. (Not without us making some Luncon-advertisement of course, since me, Calle and Tobias are all a part of the Luncon committee.)

Most of the other members of the con were at the panel about the big Fannish Feud around Feminac. I would have loved to gone to, too! I was actually told by Lena Jonsson, one of the participants in the panel, that they had created the panel mostly because of my suggesion, so it was a shame I wasn't able to go. 

I was a bit disappointed, honestly. The thing about Swecon is that I love it. I want to see it all. I want to talk to everyone. Be everywhere.

I was uplifted by Jukka Halmes quiz. Jukka is the funniest guy I know, and I'm his biggest fan. He had the same kind of quiz in Åcon (which I shall have to write about soon), and me and Tobias Bodlund had been among the contestants then. This time we were in the audience, smirking about how we remembered all the answers. (Only I didn't remember much, really.)

Tobias Jarl: "Can it be... The Exorcist?" (How on earth did he see that in that pic?)

Tobias Jarl impressed me with his skill of associating pics with movies. This picture above was from the movie poster to the Exorcist. Noone but Tobias got that. Later, Ian Sales won the respect and awe of Finnish Fandom by scoring high on the fourfield-questions that were quite impossible. (Although I got the Jukka-thing!) Ian Sales is an excellent guy!

After the programs ended, people seemed to wander of somewhere and I went to bed early. At two o'clock in the morning Nahal and Anna stumbled in. I sad up, very confused, and tried to understand what was going on. Anna tried to explain repeatedly but I sounded like a deaf and confused grandmother. "T-shirt? What are you doing? Where are you going? What are you doing? What t-shirt? What are you saying?"

Then I put the hearing aids on.

The next morning, I became increasingly suspicious that the program-team had a grudge against me when my next program item "First time at an SF-convention?" had almost no audience either. This time I went to the Dealers room and got Swedish Zombie-Jonny and his friends to listen. Later Jonny came up and said to me and Eva that he really appreciated the presentation, which made me really glad. And at the dead dog party on Sunday I talked to Jörgen Jörälv who'd been to my item at Confuse. I was told he really appreciated it, and the bingo was great too, so that made me happy again. Have to do that bingo again!

I sat a while in the dealer's room on saturday, talking to people about Worldcon, Luncon and Kontur. And Älvsbyn. But the dealer' room had bad air and the accustics were really bad, so I had to leave early. I went to the hotel room, had a shower and that picked me up a bit. Though, as I was drying my hair I almost had a heart attack because Johan Jönsson walked in on me. (He'd gotten the key from Anna to get her USB-stick before a panel). Luckily I was wearing a towel.

The Appropriation and exotification panel was awesome. Nahal and Anna Ceras Erlandsson talked the most, and had interesting things to say from their unique perspectives. Nahal mentioned Castle in the air which featured a persian carpet salesman, and how she loved the book but later re-read only to discover how the culture is depicted as a horrible and dirty place, and how absurd it was that the carpet sales man decides to move to the western country which he felt what  nicer because it has greens, even though the western country was at war. Because of course it's more important to have clean and green cities than being safe from war...

Anna Bark Persson and Anna Gustafsson Chen where also in the panel, which should have been named Nahal and the Annas with the double surnames.

After that I felt a bit over-tired and went to talk to a lot of friends at the restaurant Bistro. We sang silly songs and talked about fandom. Tobias Jarl and a few others where being intellectual. Me and Hanna Hakkarainen just showed each other pics of cute cats and babies. Then my brain just stopped working, I started to lose words and couldn't concentrate, so I went outside for fresh air. I found a spot under the hut on the other side of the road, so I sat there and was joined by Adam Thorp for a while.

I started noticing more and more how my tired brain got worse as the weekend progressed, I had headaches, got tired quickly and couldn't focus, couldn't join the conversations. It probably was due to the fact that the venue had concrete walls and the sound was too noisy for my poor ears. I'm afraid I became quite boring at times.

Because of that tiredness I missed Nordic Fantasy AND Feminist SF in the 70s and today. Such a bummer! 

The big thing me and my Kontur-committée friends have been waiting for happened later that evening: The vote for next Swecon!  We had secured four Guests of Honour already, Ann Leckie, Kameron Hurley, Saladin Ahmed and Siri Pettersen, and we couldn't wait to tell people about them.

We won the bid, so next Swecon will be named Kontur, and will be in Uppsala the 26th til 28th of May. We're so excited about it! Make sure you come!

The first thing that went through my head after we won was "Yes, we get to do the Swecon!" The second thing that went through my head afer we won was "OMG, WE'RE DOING A SWECON!" *panic* 

And then there was the Alvar Prize. I was nominated for the second time, and competed against Håkan Wester, a very nice and pleasant fellow who's done a great job with Västeråsfandom.

I had not counted on me winning, but apparently everyone else had. I had thought that I might win, but my utmost concern was wether or not I would cry if I did.

I have a tendency to be emotional. It's really embarrassing. I won a phone once at a big convention for my school, and when I got up to receive it I started crying a bit. It was very embarrasing. (This is why I can't ever get married, I would just weep and be a mess.) So I'd tried to steel myself against being too emotional, and I succeeded. Perhaps a bit too well. I was like "OK, let's get this over and done with!" I wish I had prepared a speech and maybe some good pun. Such a wasted opportunity.

Anyways, thanks again to all of you whom voted for me. I am so happy to have so many dear friends in fandom, who seem to think that I'm doing something right! Love you all!

My third item was Generations of fans  with Caroline Mullan, Mats Linder and Luke Smith. It was a nice panel, but again, there were few in the audience. I can't really understand why the item was placed against another fandom item (International fandom). I would have loved to hear that too. Why, oh why! Anyways, stuff was said, nothing controversial (other than when a member of the audience blurted out that we talked too much and that it should be a dialogue, not a monologue. We had a dialogue, but not with the audience. That's not what panels are for, that's what discussion circles are for.)

Caroline mentioned how some fannish stuff like Mushroom in the morning (?)-jokes can be a bit off putting and how much that saddened her. Some in-jokes can be off putting, but rather than stopping with them all together, we must work to le people in on the joke. My immediate thought was that my dillcrisp-joke is becoming like that, and I would love for that to be a thing in Sverifandom.

Luke Smith and me!

Talking with Caroline and Luke, I got increasingly curious about the British fandom. Lately a lot of British fans have started to come to our cons. This is so nice! Later me and Nahal found out Nnedi Okorafor is coming to Eastercon in 2018, and so we must go!

One of the funniest things all weekend was the NoFF auction at Saturday night. The bright and brilliant friend of mine,  Hanna Svensson, made up hilariously funny stuff on the go, and the interaction between her, Bellis and Johan Anglemark was lovely. I laughed so hard I cried.

At Saturday's party, the best part was Johan Jönsson reading aloud the Swedish translation of Star Wars 4, with empathy.

The second best part was the discussion we had about how Sverifandom would look in 2050. "There will probably be panels discussing how dillcrisp affected Swedish fandom." It's important to make your mark on fandom, and mine is apparently the importance of using microphones, and dillcrisps.

Sunday I got up early to listen to Maria Turtchaninoff's Worldbuilding-talk which was great! I had spent the week reading Anaché and Maresi; fascinating storys with good characterizations, interesting and unique worlds and a fresh take on gender and feminism.

Me and the Onda Cirkeln-members had our tv-series panel which was awesome fun. (Let's do that again, shall we!) Then we went out for lunch with our friends Sara and Marie. Then I just mingled, sold memberships for Kontur, talked to people about Worldcon and fangirled over Gilman.

The convention ended on a high note. The choir Gléowine sang songs from LoT and GoT beautifully, and I sat next to the polish fan Marcin, a nice fella'! We enjoyed the closing ceremony tremendously. I had goosebumps.

The dead dog party was lovely as ever. I sat outside, mostly, where it was less noisy. Me, Jukka Särkijärvi and Tobias Bodlund plotted a take over of Denmark. Later in the evening the ideas for Kontur started sprouting, and we decided upon making a game show for Kontur (and I, at least, decided that Jukka Halme must be one of the contestants, schhhh, don't tell him!) and then Tobias got a phone call from his friend Anna whom asked: "Do you want to go swimming, we have a car?" He was somewhat reluctant. Ian Sales added: "Look on the bright side, at least she didn't say 'Do you want to go swimming, we have a cow.'" Tobias stated that he'd go swimming if the car was amphibious, and Ian Sales then added that HE would go swimming if the cow was amphibious. Hilarity ensued.

Later in the night we found our way to the hotel lobby where me and Ian Sales showed pictures of our cats (this is the greeting ritual of the crazy cat people). I talked a bit to Markus Olausson too, and Luke was a bit tired.

"Paint me like one of your french girls."

On that note, the tale of the Swecon 2016 must end. We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun. The program I thought was a bit disappointing (probably because I missed everything), the venue was a bit hard on the ears, but the con was well-arranged, the Green room was nice, and Swecon's always the most anticipated time of the year for me, because I get to meet all my friends.

But, there's another story to be told of Fantastika, a parallell story about a very confused hotel staff.

Me and Anna Bark Persson booked a hotel room together in January. Being roomies with Anna's always a good plan. I put her to sleep by munching on dillcrisps and she wakes me up early so I don't miss anything of importance. Maria Nygård later joined in May, I contacted the hotel again and booked an extra bed for three nights.

The day before the con Anna texted and said she would not be staying the last night because she had to work on monday. Maria would be leaving on Sunday too, so I was going to have the twin room by myself the last night. I remebered that Jukka Särkijärvi had been searching for a place to stay from Sunday til Monday, so now I had a bed to offer, and became the lady in shining tiara and saved the day.

I contacted the hotel and asked them to remove the spare bed since it was only the two of us staying the last day. They where confused since I hadn't payed for it (which they never told me to do) but it was easy to fix and I got the spare for two nights, and was going to pay at the desk in the morning. 

The day of the con, Maria fell ill with the flu. (Poor Maria, she really wanted to come.)

I felt sorry for the hotel staff too, when I once again contacted them about the spare bed, this time cancelling it all together. They were beginning to be rather confused by me ordering and cancelling spare beds at this point. 

Then on Sunday morning, Linn came and asked if she could leave the bag in my hotel room for the last night, since she was taking an early boat Monday morning. Sure, I said, but where are you going to sleep? I don't have to sleep, she said, I'm going up early. Yeah, I said, I think you should try to sleep for a few hours. *using my motherly voice* Linn said okay.

Thus we were three sharing the room the last night.

I went back and asked for an extra bed, again, and they said they would put it up there for one night. So now we had three people sharing a room for the last night after all.

But when we got up to sleep after the dead dog party, there was no extra bed.

I called down and they had to start looking for an extra bed at two in the morning. They finally found one and said "have it for free, since we messed up".

Admittedly, I can see how they might have been confused about the whole extra bed situation. And that's how you play Confuse-a-hotel.