Aihearkisto: In English

Five days of science fiction and fandom

I like making con reports. But I’m lazy. Evidently there is a clash of interests inside my head. Last year I wrote about Finncon 2014 and the Usva writers’ camp (in Finnish) but despite my best intentions the Worldcon report didn’t get done. Or should I say, awaits still to be done. I wanted to make sure I wrote about Archipelacon by whatever means necessary. And I found a way.

On Sunday I announced on Facebook a sort of kickstarter. If I was offered at least five alcoholic drinks acceptable to me at the Dead Dog party I’d write the report. Jukka Halme asked how many drinks it’d be for me to write the report in English. While I was originally planning on a Finnish version I saw no reason to get greedy and said the amount was the same. And that was the plan, really. If I was under obligation to write the report I knew I would, and as Worldcon had proved, that was the only surefire way.

Everyone donating had their own list of benefits they demanded, as befits the situation. I have tried my best to meet them and include the named topics here. If something seems peculiar, way off the mark, uncharacteristic or insane there’s the reason, or at least that’s my excuse.

So. My name is Shimo Suntila. This was my Archipelacon.

How did that Vulcan greeting go again? (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

How did that Vulcan greeting go again?
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Five days of science fiction and fandom. Two weeks later I’m still in my happy place.

Going to Åland can be like going abroad. At least it was for me. The locals speak their own weird language in addition to English, the signs and infos are largely incomprehensible except for a few words I happened to know or could guess based on other languages, and I had to travel by means other than a car. That’s the demilitarized zone of Ahvenanmaa alright.

However, there was a time when it was not so, a time when war was exactly what the island was about. I am not referring to the Åland War in the 1850s when Great Britain and France attacked Finland to steal the golden goat. No, I am talking about prehistoric times right after the last ice age. It was then that Åland descended from the sky spiraling out of control and fell into the pond that would become the Baltic Sea. At the time the people living on the land mass to the east were made of granite and they went to war against the invaders from star system Geta. In the end both civilizations were wiped out but the huge ship remained. Eventually it gathered enough dirt and people built Maarianhamina on top of it. This is of course a secret. These things are known only to the wisest of Finns. Them, and Jukka Halme. If anyone has further questions about the matter I direct all inquires towards him. He’ll also be quite happy to discuss the viking space program that took place at a later date on the same island, as well as Plato who was in truth a mushroom man. He was not part of the space program, however.

The cheapest way to travel to Åland is to be shot there with a cannon. Magdalena Hai observes fellow author Morre careen towards the horizon. (Photo credit: J. S. Meresmaa)

The cheapest way to travel to Åland is to be shot there with a cannon. Magdalena Hai observes fellow author Morre careen towards the horizon.
(Photo credit: J. S. Meresmaa)

These days that magnificent sunken starship is indeed part of Finland and the people there mostly speak Swedish which I should know way better than I do. It’s the second official language in Finland and I’ve studied it for six years. Skills wither without use, and things being as they are I deliberately missed my chances at the fannish auction to cultivate my collection with old Swedish sf magazines since I would not have been able to read them. Shame on me.

The reason I and over seven hundred other people had gathered in Alandica, the congress center of choice of the concom, was Archipelacon, or should I optimistically say Archipelacon I, the largest Nordic speculative fiction convention of the year. Normally there would not have been need or time/space for such a con but Finncon 2015 in Turku evaporated before it had even gained steam as the local science fiction society declined to be part of the organizing entity. Suddenly the Finns were faced with a situation of no large national sf con for 2015 and got in bed with Swedes and some other foreign smofs to create something unique – an Ålandish, multinational, transgalactic event of epic proportions.


The first con morning broke as they all do: way too early for my tastes. Me and my partner Arren Zherbin had to get up at six to make it to the harbor in time. (Thanks Tomi and Hanne for the lift!) A small consolation was the stream of sleepy Facebook updates by people from other cities who had to wake up even earlier. I had stayed up stapling my booklets together until 3 am resulting in under three hours of sleep. That set the standard for the con as late night parties, hotel breakfasts and early morning commitments in the con don’t mesh well.

Finnish weird at its most glorious

Finnish weird at its most glorious

Once aboard the ferry which resembled more than anything else a cluster of tenement houses made of iron all smashed together we crashed into our cabin. The price difference to a ticket without a cabin was totally negligible and well worth the extra euro or two as we could get two more hours of rest during the trip. I was so beat it didn’t even occur to me to worry about the ferry being attacked by huge tentacle monsters that are know to roam the Baltic Sea and sink smaller islands on annual basis.

At some point during the trip we collected our membership badges and visited the tax free shop for the usual stuff, namely booze and candy. Candy we bought only in trace amounts and booze got limited to one liter of Bombay Sapphire, which on second thought we could have bought on the way back just as well. At no point did we want to lug it around the con for an entire day just in case we wanted to have a sip or two in the evening so we ended up bringing it home unopened.

Most times I can tough it out in uncomfortable physical situations. In this case I just wish we’d have gotten a taxi when we got to Maarianhamina harbor. The backpacks we had were no problem at all, but that damn huge red bag I carried by hand weighed like a spoonful of neutron star matter. At first it was just on the edge of being manageable but then we decided to take off our jackets and stuff them into the bag. After that it started ripping my arm off and the already slow walk ground to a painful slog that lasted for over an hour, perhaps two. Never mind the jetpack, where’s my ghudamn antigravity hoverboard to help me with my luggage? I want the future now!

”Quoth the raven: Bid on me, bid on Helsinki in 2017” -Edgar Allan Smithee
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Once we got to Alandica we had some time to mill around before the con would start. The smart thing would have been to go and grab a bite but instead we went to give a hand organizing the Fantasy Flea Market on the third floor. In part so we could be of some help, in part so I could do some scouting on the merchandise. A bibliophile has to make some sacrifices. I managed to set a few books aside so when the flea market opened I could start pillaging immediately. Then I went to see the opening ceremony which I mostly missed and the rest I can’t even recall. Some clapping took place, I’m sure.

Next up would have been Fear and Loathing in Hugoland but by that time it was obvious we would need to eat at some point, and after the Hugo discussion my schedule was packed with responsibilities. Right after the opening we went to get pizzas in a nearby place called Diablo in hopes of getting back before the program but the only diabolic thing we encountered was the waiting time. I think they went to hunt the pizzas fresh before cooking them. Hugo was missed but luckily their hot pizza at least managed to be remotely hot, unlike some ”flaming burgers” I’ve had the misfortune of coming across.

”Escape through Desert” by Arren Zherbin
(Click to enlarge)

After pizza we had some time to kill, all of twenty minutes, so we ventured to the nearby library for the art show. The theme in question was sf pirates and Arren had created one of the works displayed. His was the ”Escape through Desert” in which an unlucky pirate has to flee by ground while his comrades ride their beetle-drawn ships in the night sky and an alien city lies in the background in flames and ruin. Now that I have the illustration at my disposal all I need to do is write a matching short story. Show of hands, who’d read it?

After marveling at all the stupendous artwork I had to dash into my first program item to talk about the five books that were up for Tähtifantasia, the award for best translated fantasy book of yesteryear. Said books were Elämä elämältä (Life after Life) by Kate Atkinson, FC akateemiset (Unseen Academicals) by Terry Pratchett, Kuolematon by Machado de Assis (collected from various works), Keltainen kuningas (The King in Yellow) by Robert W. Chambers and Kultainen lohikäärme (Precious Dragon) by Liz Williams. The claim made by the panel description was that the wrong book got the award again, which was a highly speculative approach as the award would be given only at the end of the panel. Leading the discussion was Aleksi Kuutio who was a member of the jury and thus knew the winner already, and Sini Neuvonen was a panelist. When I signed up for the panel I had read only one of the nominees with the intent of reading as much as I could. In the end the only book I had not read a page of was Liz Williams’ because I could not get my hands on a copy in time. My opinion was that Pratchett’s book was not on par with his earlier, more deserving, works, so of course it ended up winning the award and the premise of the wrong book winning was upheld.

FC Akateemiset

After that I had the misfortune of missing the Deep Space Overture, a scifi theme concert held in the main auditorium, and instead sat behind a table peddling books. If Helsinki wins the Worldcon 2017 bid I expect to see Quinsonitus perform there and that I will not miss, barring someone handing out loads of free books elsewhere at the same time.

Esteemed Jerrymen recall Sidney Applebaum solemnly. Petri Hiltunen, Toni Jerrman, Johanna Sinisalo (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Esteemed Jerrymen recall Sidney Applebaum solemnly. Petri Hiltunen, Toni Jerrman, Johanna Sinisalo
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

There was no official party that evening but a gathering took place anyhow at the Arkipelag hotel pool area. We went there for a bit, ended up leaving just in time to make it to the floor accommodation location before they closed the doors. That was at 1 am. The bags were a bit less of a burden as I had dumped my load of our double books into the flea market. But the troubles were not over yet.

We’d gotten two air mattresses from friends to use at the floor accommodation. Because it was a smart thing to do we had tested them at home and found that both held the air admirably, one vigorously than the other. We could screw the vent off by hand from the other mattress, the other needed to be macgyvered with a pen and twenty minutes of sitting on top of it. When I started filling them up I realised that the mattress whose vent could be detached easily was in fact lacking the vent, which in turn was sitting safely on the backrest of our sofa back in Turku. So we had one air mattress with some actual air and the other making its best impression at two dimensional pancake. I slept on the pancake.


We chose the floor accommodation because it was the cheapest option. As we ended up having a hotel breakfast every morning I’m not sure how much the difference to a hotel room with the breakfast included would have been all in all. On Friday morning we went to Park Alandia, but the selection was a tad small. No bacon, for example.

Johanna Sinisalo and Hannu Mänttäri arriving. Judging by the shadows this picture was taken at 9:47 some 80 years after WWII ended.  (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Johanna Sinisalo and Hannu Mänttäri arriving. Judging by the shadows this picture was taken at 9:47 some 80 years after WWII ended.
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Even though we were at the con venue in time we somehow missed the first three program items. Or I did. I think Arren was gophering most of that time. I on the other hand went back to flea market to make some new discoveries and at some point relearned that there was a dedicated room for English books, the Alvar Appeltofft Memorial Foundation collection. Sixty boxes full of sfnal goodies! Until then I’d thought that Archipelacon’s loot was going to be pittance compared to my usual hoards. After visiting Alvarfonden room I was starting to rethink my earlier assessment. When the highest price for regular books was 2.50 € and most went for smaller amounts it’s kind of given I got a bit carried away. Afterwards Arren said he knew even before the trip we’d end up bringing back a ridiculous amount of books. I’m a simple man with simple, predictable tastes.

The terrible urge to buy books momentarily satisfied I ventured to the first actual program item of the day with Arren, Life in Fandom starring Gary K. Wolfe (academic GOH), Parris McBride (fan GOH) and George R. R. Martin (literary GOH) with Johan Anglemark chairing the panel. The tales were entertaining and also educational.

Four decades ago fandom was much less fragmented with Star Trek fans starting to go their own way. Now there are comics fans, movie fans, tv fans, anime fans, cosplay fans and some of them even dig that old science fiction. Also back then there was this newfangled idea proposed, ”girls in fandom”, and there were honest to ghu panels about the topic, namely Women, do we really need them? To me, and perhaps to all Finns, this seems insane. Women have had a prominent role in Finnish fandom from pretty much the beginning and been equal in every manner. They write kick ass fiction, chair societies, edit fanzines and geek out on stuff to such an extent that when I came to fandom twenty years ago it never even occurred to me to question the situation. A panel discussion about it would have been more alien than extraterrestrial visitors parking their saucer in our backyard. It boggles the mind to think that there still are in the larger fandom asshats who say women are ruining science fiction.

Karin Tidbeck and Parris McBride look back at the old times. (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Karin Tidbeck and Parris McBride look back at the old times.
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Among other highlights Parris recalled their skinnydipping expedition interrupted by the secret service (if you don’t know the tale, you just should’ve been there, no excuses) and Gary brought up the fandom ’h’ which I suppose has never been a thing in Finnish fandom. I’m likely the only exception using it or otherwise I’m ignorant of some finnfannish tidbit. The 45 minutes reserved for the program item went too quickly and while I get how it’s a good thing to end a program item while it’s still fun and engaging, I do think we as the audience could have taken one more hour of fandom memories without succumbing to boredom.

Next up was food. The place we chose had small salads and burgers that were not remarkable in any way. I guess there are worse reasons to miss Johanna Sinisalo’s GOH speech but not many, but a humanoid’s gotta eat.

After the break we went to see a panel about comics and heroes and fans being the tool of resistance. Arren was the designated room gopher which makes sense: If you know what you want to see, why not help out the con at the same time since gophers are always needed? Essi Varis talked about her doctoral thesis that commented on Pekka Manninen’s two decades old thesis about the subject. The presentation was quite interesting and I urge folks to catch it should Essi have it give in some other event. After a week the details have gotten a bit hazy but the Hawkeye Initiative was touched upon. All said, we’re all rebels still.

Picture by hoursago

Picture by hoursago

The following hour in the schedule draws a blank so I guess I went to buy some more books. It’s more probable than most other things.

The discussion about Anglo-American fan culture with Crystal Huff, Edward James, Michael Lee and Parris McBride was a nice one but paled a bit compared to the fandom memories earlier. I think the description was too broad. ”Modern SF and fantasy fandom has its roots in the US. But what is it like to be a fan there, or in the UK? What are their conventions like? What is the history, present and future of the Anglo-American fan culture? Our panel discusses these and other questions of fannish nature.” I did learn that the first sf con was in fact held in England and not in US, and that the Japanese Worldcon was more an event divided by the language barrier than a window to Japanese fandom. Also in the Boston area there are three annual conventions, and I’d like to visit them all. Now I need to rob a bank.

The LGBT+ in Scifi panel delivered. I have to confess that at first I didn’t even remember if I had been there or not but Arren reminded me of some talking points. (This lapse in memory has nothing to do with the quality of the panel, however. I’ve noticed I can in a week completely forget the ending of a book I enjoyed reading immensely.) Discussing matters were Suzanne von Rooyen, Cheryl Morgan and Dirk M. Weger. The overall topic was the representation of LGBT minorities in sf entertainment and it turned out that books are moving forward. Young adult books star these days queer protagonists who are advertised on the back covers. The buyer knows what they’re getting. Comics, which was a topic Cheryl later had a presentation about, were also including such characters more and more, but Hollywood was still in a sorry shape. This last point was brought up also in an installment of Postal Apocalypse by Rob Bricken.

They do.

They do.

Dirk expanded LGBT+ to QUILTBAG which he said was more inclusive and sounded warm and fuzzy at the same time. The acronym stands for Queer, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Trans*, Bisexual, Asexual, Gay. I’ll go with that.

In the beginning of the panel it was mentioned that Suzanne and Cheryl had previously discussed LGBT characters in alien cultures but what those arguments were was not said. Later on they came back to it talking whether or not alien trans characters were actually trans, but even then I was left with a vague impression. Cheryl seemed to think that if the alien society did not consider moving between genders an important thing the experience of people from those societies were not comparable to human trans experiences. If the aliens were basically human with a few feathers or headbumps they could, however, be counted.

As a result we bought Suzanne’s book I ❤ Robot and Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion in which Cheryl has a short story. Got both signed as well, naturally.

I wouldn’t be me if I let slip past a chance to grow my collection. Next to info desk in the cafe area a fan auction benefiting some fan fund was brewing so I made my way there in the hopes of scoring some grand victories in the never ceasing quest for more books. I sat down to make some acquisitions and got a full blown Bellis & Marie-Louise show. On the table there were books, Game of Thrones memorabilia donated by George and Parris and old Swedish sf mags. When no one except Aleksi was looking I tossed in a copy of my own book Sata kummaa kertomusta even though non-Finns would have no use for it beyond making a small cape out it.

The prices ended up being rather modest except for GoT stuff which went consistently for over twenty euros a piece, and also whenever Marie-Louise was asking for bids for whichever. Bellis was in theory a damn great seller but the sums he got offered tended to be around 5-10 credit units and whenever Marie-Louise held an item it was almost certainly double. The technicalities of running an auction were mostly not present but never mind the bollocks as that English band would put it. From early on I started to bid on pretty much everything, but only for 1-2 euros. I figured people might be hesitant to offer the first bid but going into a fight would be no big deal. I won not a single item, but still I kept bidding. Actually so much that Bellis declared me a hero. No one else was declared a hero after that which I suppose makes me the last auction hero.

Bellis is the sheriff and Archipelacon is his town. But still he can't make a sale over ten euros. (Photo credit: I'd rather not confess)

Bellis is the sheriff and Archipelacon is his town. But still he can’t make a sale over ten euros.
(Photo credit: I’d rather not confess)

Sata kummaa kertomusta got bundled up with another book and sold for ten euros which is technically the highest price ever paid for it. Unless someone bought it from Suomalainen kirjakauppa in which case they paid over 25 euros for it, which is about twenty too much.

The absolute crown jewel of the day was the fabulous, extravagant and flamboyant Game of Thrones burlesque that began as a birthday party number and grew to an amazing show that first ran in Ropecon (Finnish roleplaying convention) and a month later in Archipelacon. The show was a success both times before and it did not disappoint this time either.

First a George R. R. Martin walked on stage while the real McCoy sat on a bench among the audience looking at his doppelganger rave about how books are important. When it turned out more people had watched the show than read the books Mr. Martin berated the people: ”Shame on you, you should read the books” which produced an immediate reply from the audience: ”Well, finish the fucking books!” Then the music started, Martin disappeared to let his characters tell the tale and garments started dropping on the floor.

While it’s easy to notice only the removal of clothes, a fundamental part of burlesque is the immense joy of the performer while doing so. If I see the people on stage are having the time of their lives I’m all involved. This creates a positive feedback loop where the audience cheers and the performers gain more energy from it giving an even better performance. This is exactly what happened.

(Photographing was not allowed in general. These shots are from the official source and used with permission.)

The Troupe (Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

The Troupe
(Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Ned has no idea what the throne will be used for next. (Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Ned has no idea what the throne will be used for next.
(Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Sibling relations escalating quickly (Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Sibling relations escalating quickly
(Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Red Priestess, one woman flash mob (Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Red Priestess, one woman flash mob
(Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Dragon's Daughter giving a flight lesson (Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Dragon’s Daughter giving a flight lesson
(Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Starks reign victorious. But perhaps get off the incest chair. (Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Starks reign victorious. But perhaps get off the incest chair.
(Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Shakespeare can sit on Denmark and swivel. This is how charactercide is done. (Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Shakespeare can sit on Denmark and swivel. This is how charactercide is done.
(Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Preview of the sixth season, episode one (Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

Preview of the sixth season, episode one
(Photo credit: Tomi Junnila)

In the end lots of characters lay dead, there were thick, red stains everywhere and the Stark kids stood victorious over the Boffer Throne. Since we’ll have to wait for a few years still to get the seventh book (never mind the sixth) into our hands I’ll take this ending for now gladly. After the show the ketchup covered crew was pulled back right from the door to the showers as there was someone waiting by the backstage door. The Author wanted to meet the folks who were so inspired by his works that they put on such a show.

The show was originally conceived by Mari Saario (with some help from Miri who plays Daenerys) as a birthday present to his husband Mikko who played himself in the role now usurped by the Martin impersonator. Diane de Camerone (Ygritte/Melisandre) has since played an instrumental part guiding the new, growing troupe towards ever greater victories.

I’ve heard tales about, though not read myself, blog posts critisizing the costumes of the performers and dissing the fact there were several body types present instead of just lean and skinny girls. Costumes people are of course quite free to trash as much they like but fat shaming is a shitty thing to do. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of a perfomer weighting more than a feather’s worth taking off clothes in front of you, stay out of burlesque. Parris said that she was glad to see normal bodies and called them ”gorgeous women”.

The pre-party hotel party was hosted by Tomi and Hanne who had an ample stash of lonkero, that tasty oriGINal grapefruit beverage. Tomi had been the photographer for the burlesque show while Hanne had shot the video. In theory we could have re-lived the experience but mostly we watched a video of a cockatoo moshing to Queen.

It’s a mosh-a-long. Bang your head. Until the wall gives in.

The topic for the evening party’s was the Helsinki 2017 Worldcon bid (which I wholeheartedly support, by the way). I assume there was lots of program taking place but if so we missed most of that. I went past when there was a competition for the most maniacal mad scientist laughter and stopped to ask Eemeli Aro if there was still a chance to take part. Since the communication was more or less nonverbal I assumed the answer was no, which was fair enough. I stayed for a few bits of giggling and cackling and then went to look for my friends happy that I had been declined. Those performances were so grand I knew I’d only have embarrassed myself compared to them. Imagine then my surprise when the loudspeaker called my name and I realised that Eemeli had in fact signed me up. As I waded back through the crowd I cringed at the situation and decided to make the best of it.

I took the mike. Drew breath. Deep, booming, from the depth of my lungs, menacing. Yeah, a nice plan. The first sound out was a pitiful one and right then I knew my plan was doomed to be an abysmal failure. Then again I really hate to admit defeat. I took what I got and ran with it making the laughter more insane and ending it with something like from a man who’s been laughing by himself and suddenly notices that a hundred people are watching. I made my exit and almost got where I was going before being called back once more. Apparently my vocal disaster recovery reflexes were good for the second prize which was a Helsinki 2017 t-shirt so large I could easily wear it over my leather jacket. Und I did.

The Fez - tendrils run deep (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

The Fez – tendrils run deep
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Best plans are formed and take shape based on jokes and idle chit chat. The previous year me and Tuomas Saloranta fought over the title of Finland’s Last Trash Author, a title formerly held by one of Finland’s most notable horror writers, Boris Hurtta. That battle with boffer swords had ended in a tie despite Tuomas’s despicable attempts to cheat his way to victory. He did it all, employing cronies to ambush me, distracting the referee and succumbing to using waterguns. The plan was to have another grand fight at Archipelacon but some two months before the fact Tuomas decided to skip the con. Talking with Aleksi Kuutio and some other folks it emerged that I could just claim the title and hold a press conference about it. Aleksi promised to write the press release and the plan was a go.

Witness the fight. Witness us. Witness me.

This is one reason I love my fandom. It’s totally crazy on which I can bounce my own crazy, with weird and unexpected results.

Case in point: the fetsie. Ninni had a fez which traveled around more than all Archipelacon members combined. Hannu Mänttäri coined the term fetsie to describe a photo you’re probably picturing in your heads right now. I wanted to take one as well but at the time The Fez was not yet done sucking out all the ideas out of Aleksi’s head. On the other hand it stayed on my head just for a few seconds. Would make me think if I was still capable of doing so.

Cheryl Morgan ready to pounce. Did we hear about the photographer after this? (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Cheryl Morgan ready to pounce. Did we hear about the photographer after this?
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)


Arkipelag charges almost double for their breakfast compared to Park but I suppose the extra euros were worth it. With what I ate I managed to survive until the end of the con day with the help of two sandwiches from the green room. A good thing too as Saturday was totally packed.

Finnish horror panel. At 10 am it really was. (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Finnish horror panel. At 10 am it really was.
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

I started by being a panelist about Finnish horror literature with Nina Korento, Anne Leinonen and Matti Järvinen who was chairing. Arren was again the designated program gopher. I was quite convinced that the two hour slot reserved for us would be too much but it turned out I was wrong. Somehow we had items to discuss the whole time. Items such as are there topics we would not care to write about because they would be too heavy or traumatic. After some pondering we all found something, more or less along the same vein. I’d be hesitant to create a story focusing on the death of a child, or at least would know going in that it would be taking a bigger toll on me than some usual run of the mill horrorish tale of the macabre.

Right after, the man of the world that I am, I had to dash to hold my press conference. As previously mentioned it was time to stake my claim, out Tuomas Saloranta as a lily-livered coyote that he was and declare myself as Finland’s Last Trash Author. That’s the more literal translation although perhaps ”pulp author” makes more sense to the rest of the world. Here’s a very brief history of the title.

The trash author with his first vodka shot of the morning. (Photo credit: Aleksi Kuutio)

The trash author with his first vodka shot of the morning.
(Photo credit: Aleksi Kuutio)

Boris Hurtta has been writing horror and fantastic stories for over a quarter of a century and is perhaps most famous for his chtulhuesque short stories. Around the same time he started out the pulpish magazine scene was fading out and he dubbed himself Finland’s last pulp author. Then last year, after having watched me and Tuomas churn out short story after short story of space adventures, fantasy romps and horror pieces he said that in fact he wasn’t the last one. It was either me or Tuomas. A title like that can’t be shared, of course, and we resolved to settle the matter at the backyard of Finncon, Finland’s prominent sf con that draws a crowd of thousands. As told, that battle ended in a tie.

In the press release I called Tuomas by many names, most referring to his lack of presence in Archipelacon against the agreement. I also promised to make a cape out of pages of my only solo book Sata kummaa kertomusta, which Tuomas’s publishing house Kuoriaiskirjat incidentally published. I called the situation a diplomatic incident. I also bragged about having a shitload of money and aiming to be among such stars as John Ringo, Robert Stanek and Harry Turtledove. I guess I should read some of their books one of these days just so I’d know what I presumably said.

”I missed Gary K. Wolfe for this. Bloody hell.”
(Photo credit: Aleksi Kuutio)

Among the press corps was the esteemed yellow press journalist Jukka Halme who to his indignation realised he had to miss a talk by Gary K. Wolfe to cover the press conference. Sorry Jukka, your presence was much appreciated, even more so considering your ultimate sacrifice.

Tuomas has already replied to my declaration. He made s statement saying: ”It is a clear indication of Suntila’s cowardice that he gives his proclamation in a demilitarized zone. The matter is far from settled and it will be addressed in Finncon 2016. There is a tradition of revolutions beginning from Tampere!” If you want to see the next exciting chapter you have to come to Finncon next year.

This was the poster for the fight in 2014

This was the poster for the fight in 2014

After the press conference I had a bit of time before the next program. I can’t recall what I did but the safest bet again is bought some books. it always is.

Adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. and also the name of the program item where Pete Sutton discussed dark fiction, the reasons why people are drawn to it and what it is all about. That made me think why I do it. I never liked reading horror when I was younger and now I’ve written it enough to be asked to a panel about the topic, so there has to be something drawing me in. I guess dark fiction says something about the true state of the world. There really are monsters, fear exists for a reason and safety is more a construction of the mind than an actual, tangible thing. Dark fiction reveals it all and allows us do come to terms with it. The actual presentation, which was a real professional-looking slide show that covered what Pete was saying realtime, and he got it wrapped within the time limit despite not having a full hour at his disposal. He also invited us all to choose a sense and write about something we’ve seen, felt, heard, smelled or tasted that made shivers run down the spine. Such stories should be submitted to him at

Me and J. S. practice the secret Osuuskumma handshake. Or I fell for the ”pull my finger” schtick again.
(Photo credit: Magdalena Hai)

As a member of the co-op publishing house Osuuskumma I had a second round of duties to sit behind our table and sell books, and sell books I did. Not terribly many since it was already the third con day and either people had bought what they wanted or they were waiting for the last day, but I still managed to convince a few passersby to take the chance now, now now now, and not delay the decision another minute.

Right around the corner there was art taking place. Pau Norontaus who has made some illustrations for Spin, Finland’s oldest sf fanzine which I edited for seven years back in the day, was making caricature fantasy and scifi drawings of people waiting in line. I placed myself there in a virtual capacity and when my turn was up Pau kindly moved her chair a bit and asked what I wanted to be. I had no idea of my own, well, not any good ideas, but luckily Hanne had stopped by briefly and suggested a Discworld wizard. Pau made a quick sketch and it was a spitting image of how I like to see myself (far enough removed from reality). After my approval she finished it and I have to say it’s bloody great. If Pau is having another go someplace I urge attendees to queue up.

Wizard me this. (Sketch by Pau Norontaus)

Wizard me this.
(Sketch by Pau Norontaus)

And on to the next item! I made my way to the main auditorium with Arren to listen Edward James talk about the disabled heroes in Lois McMaster Bujold’s work. The obvious starting point of course was the main protagonist of the Vorkosigan series, Miles Vorkosigan, who was born quite deformed and required heavy surgeries just to survive. This all in a society where deviations from the norm are not so much frowned than fired upon. As Edward went through the characters it became apparent that Miles is far from the only character who is disabled in some way. I have read a handful of Vorkosigan books but as a bibliophile I do own them all. I really should read through them at some point. Lend me a year or two, mate?

When the Archipelacon program team asked people for ideas and promises of doing program I submitted nothing, lazy bastard that I am. I merely mentioned that I would be available for panels and such should they need someone like me to talk about random topics. Thus I ended up in a panel about ”from writer to author” with two of my writing circle (The Local Writing Circle) members and good friends Nina Korento and O. E. Lönneberg whose name is actually Olli. Chairing the panel was Johanna Sinisalo whose name pretty much everyone attending Archipelacon should know as she is, in my opinion, the most successful Finnish speculative fiction writer who has done everything from hard sf short stories to literary novels with speculative elements and won more literary awards than I guess anyone else in Finland. At least in sf circles, she’s won the prestigious Atorox award seven times not to mention the Finlandia.

I Tried to find a picture with Nina and Olli with their clothes on but couldn't. So, here's Archie guarding a mug of rum.

I Tried to find a picture with Nina and Olli with their clothes on but couldn’t. So, here’s Archie guarding a mug of rum.

Me, Olli and Nina are in slightly different stages of our careers. I’ve been writing seriously since 2012, been in twenty anthologies, published a book and had several magazine publications as well as some success in writing competitions. I have a short story collection coming out next year. Olli has published a few short stories, gained some merits in competitions and his first fiction collection is looking for a publisher. Nina has published some short stories while creating outfits for bands like Korpiklaani and started her burlesque career with her dual role as Ygritte/Melisandre being the most notable achievement so far. Johanna asked about where we came from, what our ambitions were and how we got to where we were now. The room was rather packed I’m delighted to say and the audience took part by asking questions as well. We could have easily talked for an hour more but had to stop because we had no time machine. A terrible oversight on the concom’s part.

After the panel I talked briefly with a young writer (well, younger than me which plausibly covers about a quarter of a century) and said that the most important thing to take from panels and talks such as ours was that one should only take with them the advice that seems to make sense, and discard the rest. What has worked for me could be absolute poison to someone else and thus following me would be daft. I asked if she was going to be at the party in the evening and said she could look me up if she wanted to continue the chat. It’s one of those things you say and truly mean but don’t really believe will come to anything. Then I had to excuse myself and run, because I sure as manala did not want to miss Jukka Halme’s prog ”Kuis?”. I didn’t know what it was going to be about but with Jukka I really didn’t need to. Quality is assured every time.

Turned out I knew the setting, in fact I had taken part in it a few years ago in Tähtivaeltajapäivä, a super duper one day con held every now and then in Helsinki. Jukka puts together two teams who compete against each other by answering his insane and insightful sf questions, true conundrum for the khazi. Some members of the teams were volunteers. Others were ordered to be volunteers. Me and Nina were volunteers in team Amoeba with Sten Thaning captaining us. (Jukka provided the names I forgot, I’m lousy with names as I told quite a few people at the con.). In the other team, Team Beast, there was Aleksi Kuutio, James Shields and captain Tobes Valois. Jukka Särkijärvi tabulated the results.

Cuteness overload! Such fabulous shoes. Wow. (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Cuteness overload! Such fabulous shoes. Wow.
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

One form of question was a list of four items that were connected to each other, but still one of them did not really fit in. We really lived up to the tag line: ”A Quiz Show of General Ignorance”. Then we had to name the movies depicted in the fantastically wacky movie posters from places like Japan and Eastern Europe, and name book covers by one author or another. In that last part I really did worse than I should have considering my status as a book collector.

At one point I was not certain what the question was, or how English is pronounced indeed. I meant to say to Jukka: ”So, what you are asking…” to which he replied: ”I am asking, you may be assking.” What can a man do in such a situation but embrace the title. ”I am the assking!” I shouted and that was that. Now I have to print new cards for myself. The quiz we lost fair and square and got our asses handed to us, which of course is completely appropriate considering my new moniker. I missed the Hardcore Collector program for the quiz but The Assking regrets nothing.

No rest for the wicked, as the next prog already loomed in the immediate future. Gaie Sebold, Marianna Leikomaa and Nastia T talked in Sexy Times in Science Fiction and Fantasy about erotic speculative fiction, what’s hawt and what’s nawt, what makes a good steamy story and what to call all the anatomical parts involved. The answer is: Whatever the characters would call them.

Nastia T talks about sexy times. Also science fiction and fantasy. (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Nastia T talks about sexy times. Also science fiction and fantasy.
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Nastia T said that she did not appreciate everyday fantasies since why write about them if you can just go and experience them. When she writes erotic fantasy it’s in the realms of impossible like a living pen fucking and squirting ink as it climaxes. As she is Peruvian most of her fiction is in Spanish and thus beyond my current language skills but Gaie Sebold’s books are quite available and I could have sworn I saw some at the con but by the time I went to look for them they had disappeared from the tables. Guess I’ll hit Bookdepository later for those Babylon Steel books.

I myself seem to write about sex rarely. On top of my head I can recall one story and that was published under a pseudonym. Not because the story warranted it really, rather it was the convention of the magazine to use pen names. I played along. A drabble I once wrote touched upon the subject along a tangent. I realised there was a generation ship writing competition with the deadline a day away, and I knew I couldn’t write a full story, but a drabble I could. Here’s the English version. Not because I think it’s amazingly clever but I can cover one of my mandatory challenges with it.

A Way to the Stars

Henri flicked the hologram on. A surprised and uncomfortable silence took the room.
”Here’s my idea how to implement the plan. I followed all the specifications to the letter. Propulsion is generated by plasma motors and solar sails. They will get the ship to Gliese 581 in four millennia. The biosphere technology has been tested in thousands of simulations and can support ten times the maximum projected population. Service robots and nanotechnology will maintain ship’s integrity and patch the possible punctures by micrometeors. It accommodates a crew of ten thousand.”
Henri fell silent and looked at us. In the hologram there was a slowly rotating, anatomically correct penis.
”There’s also another model,” Henri said and the picture changed. I don’t want to say anything else about it.
”Why those… shapes?” I sputtered with difficulty.
”You said we should design a gender ship,” Henri said genuinely surprised at our reactions.
I buried my face into my hands.

Mobile Archipelacon Strike Kommand gathers

Mobile Archipelacon Strike Kommand gathers

Masquerade I had to miss as my last prog was up. I went to read some of my drabbles with other people from Osuuskumma plus Annmari Dannebey. Apparently we were about the only people who missed the masquarade seeing as how our audience was three people. One I think was Annmari’s friend, one was Matti who chaired the horror panel and the last was the president of the Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association. Who apparently fell asleep during the reading. He did not ask to remain anonymous so give a big hand to my good friend and colleague, one mr. O. E. Lönnberg who was courageous enough to do what I at times only avoided doing by pinching my leg or stabbing my arm with a pen. When the body says it’s time to fall asleep, fighting against it is very nearly impossible. After our reading for the encore I asked him to read one of his flash fiction stories as well and he did, the story that had just won the Turku Medieval Market writing competition a few days before.

This was the day when I was too busy to eat properly. After 9 pm the regular food joints had already closed and the night kebab kiosk across the con venue was not yet open. Luckily I found out that Diablo’s evening stall was operational and went there for pizzas for me and Arren. I was joined by my Osuuskumma mate Maria Carole whose first book came out this year. Tulen tyttäriä, so look it up. I should make time for that as well… We headed to the water front to consume our bounty and rarely has a pizza tasted so good. Hunger tends to have that effect. Somewhere behind us, across the street in the hotel pool area, the Brotherhood without Banners was raffling off direwolf pups and whatnot.

Senor Humidor's cigar club (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Senor Humidor’s cigar club
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

We milled around in the party for a bit before someone nudged my sleeve. To my great surprise it was Eeva, that young writer from before. She said she had some text samples with her and asked if I maybe had some time to look at them and offer my opinion. I had indeed previously said I could do exactly that, expecting to get something maybe in email at some later point in time, but saw no reason why I couldn’t do it right then and there. She had more balls than I would have in a similar situation and that I simply have to respect the hell out of.

Me, Arren, Eeva and her friend Terhi took over an abandoned table pretty much as far away from the center of the action as possible. I read the piece and formulated some kind of feedback about what worked as it was and what could be tweaked to work a little better. I have no idea if it was useful at all. I can only hope. It’s the same with editing anthologies. I point out errors, do corrections and offer ideas seldom knowing if the writer sees it as a beneficial working relationship or someone bugging in with their ill-conceived opinions. After the feedback we stayed where we were and continued chatting about stuff. At one point Martin walked by and as Eeva and Terhi had been bouncing in their chairs for a chance to have a picture taken with the esteemed GOH they seized the moment. Eeva handed Arren the camera and gave instructions how to go about catching their souls inside that infernal machine. It did not go like in Strömsö. Some thingamagik that should’ve been on automatic was left on manual. On the plus side you can simulate being really drunk just by looking at the fuzzy photo.

There is nothing wrong with your computer monitor. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. We prefer the blur. (Picture credit: Drunken imp in a box)

There is nothing wrong with your computer monitor. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity.
We prefer the blur.
(Picture credit: Drunken imp in a box)

During the evening we were joined by other writers like Nina and Olli but eventually had to call it a night. That 7 am wake up schedule wasn’t doing any favors and I suspected that the folks running the floor accommodation preferred us not having to burglarize our way inside.


Another day, another breakfast. Bacon was calling so we headed to Arkipelag where we met again Ninni and Henry like the day before. Henry had missed my fabulous press conference by mistake which lead me to do my best disapproving Schopenhauer impression. I still have ways to to go but I study under the master.

I disapprove. Something. (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

I disapprove. Something.
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Into the breach one last time. Arren’s neverending quest to gopher interesting programs meant we were at con site some twenty minutes before game time and headed to the small auditorium to listen to Cheryl Morgan’s presentation about LGBT superheroes. Of the Two Big American comic book companies Marvel has been more progressive by allowing Northstar to get married resulting in a gay couple. DC on the other hand prevented Batwoman from getting married to her girlfriend. I guess that’s why there is such a site as I brought up Cloud from Defenders as a kind of transgender character but whose origin and nature got retconned something heavy towards the end of the book’s run. Alas, Cheryl had not read those issues. All in all it seems there’s an ongoing surge to offer readers a wider variety of characters both in terms of sexual orientation and gender fluidity. Ways to go still, of course.

There was something in the Åland's water supply. Or more likely, beer tap. Everyone's hair turned blue. Included are just two cases out of hundreds. (Photo credit: J. S. Meresmaa)

There was something in the Åland’s water supply. Or more likely, beer tap. Everyone’s hair turned blue. Included are just two cases out of hundreds.
(Photo credit: J. S. Meresmaa)

I tried to attend Con Running in America but got interrupted by a phone call and didn’t return afterwards. Same thing happened next in Sequential Speculation. Can’t for the life of me recall what the interruption was, but in a way it was a boon. As I didn’t want to slip back in I went back to the Alvarfonden book temple and found Jukka H. there with a huge pile of books under his arm. As he didn’t look too busy I decided to ask for his help. Even though I’ve been into books, reading books, owning books and buying books for pretty much all my life I still don’t have a firm grasp of all the remarkable but lesser known sff authors of yesteryear. Jukka on the other hand, at least in my opinion, is an expert. So, I asked him if he had a bit of time and could point out some forgotten gems, obscure treasures or simply good books that I might be too ignorant to know about. And time he did have! We went through almost all of the boxes and by the end I had a nice stack to bring to the cashier. Since there was a sale I ended up paying way less than I had anticipated. Thanks, I’ll come again!

Now I realize I can blame all my stacks of books on Loki! She made me do it. (Photo credit: Magdalena Hai)

Now I realize I can blame all my stacks of books on Loki! She made me do it.
(Photo credit: Magdalena Hai)

Later I was told I was their best customer. I don’t know how they measured it and I really, really do not care. I’ll just take it. This is the highest honor a bibliophile can get.

The second to last prog we saw was Dirk M. Weger’s presentation Future Imperfect, and it was about how Star Trek in its myriad incarnations has handled the LGBT representation. Quite well I thought, considering the original series had featured the first interracial kiss in network television in the 60’s. Surely Star Trek had done lots of other groundbreaking things since then. Not that I could recall that many of them but I figured there was a reason. The Finnish tv networks have a tendency of cutting a series off without a warning, restarting it a few months later on a different day at a different time (the reverse Batman in that sense) and then deciding to end it completely because it lost its viewers. TOS and TNG we got in full, DS9 was cut short. Can’t say anymore if they ever showed a single episode of Voyager but I’ve seen two seasons worth and that was more than enough.

Dirk, the stripteasing Starfleet officer (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Dirk, the stripteasing Starfleet officer
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Dirk quite firmly crushed my misconceptions. In all of the Trek series LGBT characers were few and far between. Roddenberry had promised a gay character for fifth season of TNG but his badly timed death prevented him from doing that and new showrunners felt no obligation to uphold his vision. Yeah, thanks Piller and Berman. Summa summarum, Star Trek ceased to be really progressive in the 60s if it was that even then.

Then it was time to watch Gary K. Wolfe of Coode Street Podcast and Strange Horizons editor-in-chief Niall Harrison have a conversation. They talked about reading, reviewing and the universe. The format was an interesting one, instead of having multiple people talk about topics controlled (at least in theory) by a moderator, why not have two people just chat with each other. Two people with years and years worth of experience, good talkers with good points seeing where the discussion takes them. It was a good last piece as after that it was time to miss The Revenge of the Daughter of the Bimbo Panel. It was not our plan but it became so after were we asked to help with packing books.

Attack on Titan cosplayer (Inka) is suspicious. (Photo credit: me)

Attack on Titan cosplayer (Inka) is suspicious.
(Photo credit: me)

At some point I went and paid seventy euros to become a supporting member of Sasquan, this year’s Worldcon in Spokane, and the voting fee so I could vote for Helsinki Worldcon for 2017. Me and Arren had discussed the matter for months as our finances are grim and two people voting for Helsinki 2017 would cost too much for us. However we decided that we could take the hit for one vote. Morally it’d be from the two of us, even though it bears my name. If Helsinki wins we’ll just buy the membership for Arren immediately. This way we could support Helsinki bid with one vote instead of none.

I also had time to talk with Jukka and Sari for a bit and mentioned that Jukka had been my book guide in Alvarfonden treasure room. Sari seemed a bit suspicious and asked which books Jukka had recommended. As if I remembered. Jukka did and named a few, among them something by Andrew J. Offutt. Sari was appalled. Apparently she has tried to convince Jukka to get rid of their Offutt books for a while now and currently hides them behind other books. Duly noted. So, even if Chieftain of Andor which looks to be silly science fantasy (the cover declares: ”Reborn in a warrior body, he cut his way to a king’s glory in a land of alien terror”) and thus just the kind of book that compels to me, perhaps next time I’ll bet on quality instead and ask Sari to be my buyer’s guide.

So much star power you could play the entire Through The Fire And Flames on 2X multiplier. (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

So much star power you could play the entire Through The Fire And Flames on 2X multiplier.
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

And an hour later the only thing left was the closing ceremony, and that showed me what the difference between a Finncon and Archipelacon is. Finncon requires no membership so people can come and go as they please throughout the weekend and no record is kept who was in attendance. While it’s a great gettogether for core fandom and no doubt everyone present enjoyes themselves there is no grand feeling of being together. The sense of community is there but it’s not that strong. As a newbie I didn’t get that from Loncon either but boy did I get it from Archipelacon.

Everyone was thanked. The GOHs were all present. Masquerade prizes were given. The con committee got on stage. But that does not sum it up. It was the applause, the fury, the feeling, the joy. It was all of us in that auditorium celebrating the things experienced, the new friends gained, all the fun had. While the applauds and cheering went on and on as the concom took the bow I felt not just my own con experience but that of all the others. We were there, this was our thing. Hats off to everyone who worked in some capacity so that I could have the time of my life.

Con committee, or as we like to call them, The Guilty (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Con committee, or as we like to call them, The Guilty
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Of course this was not the actual end. There’s always the Dead Dog.

And before that there was one more run for foodstuff and a pre-party party. I had heard good stuff about Dino’s and that’s where we went. Should’ve gone there the first day and never gone anywhere else. Best fries I’ve had in years and the hot burger was suitably hot. If I ever go back to Maarianhamina it’s for Dino’s.

The comatose-but-not-quite-dead dog happened, unsurprisingly, in Tomi & Hanne’s hotel room. They had still some long drink cans left. None anymore when our group headed towards Arkipelag. I consumed two pondering that while that didn’t technically happen in Dead Dog I’d count them towards the goal of five if I’d otherwise fall short.

Concom members are best identified by the orange sashes they wear.
”Ya ain’t going nowhere Ismo before ya put some pants on”
(Picture credit: Kiro Keränen & some dead painter)

There was no need. My free drinks intiative proved to be a success. Jukka ended up bearing the brunt of the kick, I mean kickstarter. He got me four doses. Matti Järvinen bought one and Mikko Seppänen went around collecting small donations towards one drink, and succeeded. Wohoo! Thanks folks, it was much appreciated, and still is. When I told about this to some folks they realized the error of their ways, that they’d done it wrong all those years.

I hadn’t milled around that much during the previous parties but with a drink in my gut, another in my hand and a bunch of unsold booklets in my backback I waded into the crowd. I had been selling the booklets during the con on my own while Osuuskumma and Jyrki and Matti behind the Aavetaajuus table had been peddling them as well. A special big hand goes to Matti whose enthusiasm is neverdying (or perhaps undead).

Would you buy a booklet from this man? In fact, did you? (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Would you buy a booklet from this man? In fact, did you?
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

What booklet, you ask, at least in my head. Glad you did! I’ve been writing short stories for four years now, thirty published so far drabbles not included. With drabbles it’s over two hundred. Counting stuff published in my blog only the number is somewhere around 450-500 fiction pieces. And one of them has proven to be more popular than the others, namely a short story about two young girls barely in school who bend the reality to fit their childlike needs and a father who tries to run the day-to-day life of the family. The Finnish version, ”Milla ja Meri”, almost won two awards which is a fancy way of saying it has never won an award in its life. Liisa Rantalaiho translated it to English and the literary magazine Words without Borders published it last August as ”Daughters!”. I put both versions together to make a booklet I could sell to unsuspecting foreign fools, whom I prefer to call customers to their faces.

I brought eighty of them with me, came back with none. All I can hope afterwards is that the people who ended up with the damn thing at least enjoyed themselves while reading it. For those who were unable to grab one while the supplies lasted, it’s still available on the Words without Borders site.

Tero Ykspetäjä is probably thinking: ”If I pretend I don’t notice them maybe they’ll go away.”
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

I met plenty of people but only for small bits of time as the booklets whispered in my ear and made me do the sales pitch rounds. I met a guy called Luke twice and made the exact same obvious joke to him twice. I’d apologize but I’ve never been known for the quality of my humor. I met Feeejay in the bar queue, made a sale and started following her on Twitter. Check out her blog. I probably met plenty of other people as well seeing how I ran out of printed stuff to sell but as I told quite a few folks during the event, when it comes to names my memory is worse than a Tholian web. Nothing ever escapes, not even that starship from that series whatever it was called. That’s why I’ll be asking who you are in the next Finncon, Worldcon in Helsinki in 2017 and so forth until the Grim Reaper catches up with me.

All good things. You know the spiel. We left the party, me and Arren and Nina who had extended her stay by one day while dispatching Olli back to Turku with the Iron Throne which lives in their basement. Absolutely no place serving food was open on Sunday night. Nina asked from Savoy if they had at least peanuts to sell and got something better. Directions to a 24h gas station. Arren was too knackered so me and Nina backtracked our steps in our quest for unhealthy, salty, greasy, hot trash food. And we found some.

When you hail the smofs, the smofs hail you. Crystal Huff, Jukka Halme and Saija Aro surrounded by some lesser known Doctor Who antagonists - the Red Squares. (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

When you hail the smofs, the smofs hail you. Crystal Huff, Jukka Halme and Saija Aro surrounded by some lesser known Doctor Who antagonists – the Red Squares.
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

That snack run turned out to take something like three hours as the chatting went all over the place. I told her I think she is like our common friend, mucician-writer-lyricist Juha Jyrkäs in that she has multiple careers going for her and that is why she’ll be more succesful than us mere writers. Nina is an upcoming writer, professional costume designer and a rising burlesque star. Of course it’s not an easy ride, they have to work harder as well, but I see them doing just that. It’s always a thrill seeing a friend succeed. Gives me hope I can do it as well.

Sky was already getting lighter when we finally crashed at the floor accommodation. Had to badger the warden up for it. Terribly sorry about that, mate.


The con was over but we were still stranded in a foreign land. Our place of nightly rest was going to close the doors at ten but the escape ferry was not due just yet. Graciously Tomi and Hanne had offered us asylum in their hotel room until noon which was when their lease was expiring.

It was all we had strength left for to scamper back to the harbor even without carrying the books. There I nipped outside to capture a few more portals in Ingress and saw a guy standing in a place where no one would be standing unless they needed to reach the two portals I was hacking as well. Turns out I was right, he was a fellow Ingress player, Resistance like me. Back when he started to play there were just four portals in Maarianhamina. Now the place was littered with them. I managed to capture a fair few of them during our visit.

O. E. Lönnberg, probably doing lucid dreaming (Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

O. E. Lönnberg, probably doing lucid dreaming
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Once on board I made arrangements so I would be at the right time in the van which was loaded with hundreds of books, mine among them. Then we went to grab a bite and I met my match. I decided that being ridiculous with books was not enough when I had the chance to be ridiculous with food as well. I ordered the double decker burger with 400 grams of hamburger patties plus a pile of bacon. It was so huge the cook had tipped it over by choice. The last layer of the burger proved to be a real chore and in the end I had to tap out. Left on the wooden plank that served as a plate were some inferior fries and a few pieces of bacon. I have not touched the stuff since. Bacon overload reached.

Tax free shop robbed us blind. Both parents being away for five days entitles the kids to a crazy amount of candy. On the booze sector spending was much more restrained. I got a liter of the cheapest vodka for the punch for my birthday party. Koskenkorva. Never touch the stuff unless it’s blended with something or it’s served straight from the freezer.

”’Senator Palpatine is looking for a personal assistant strong in the Force and anger management issues to dominate the galaxy. Have seeker droids, will travel.’ Maybe I should apply. And good thing the Jedi don’t read trade newspapers.”
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

After one hour’s nap I headed to my scheduled meeting and got a lift home (thanks Iia, I’m in your debt!) where I unloaded my loot. It wasn’t that big a pile in the end but lugging the extra bags around on top of our other things would have killed us.

Then, home. Tomi and Hanne brought all the rest of our stuff, Arren took the bus. Con done.

I’ve been to some pretty excellent Finncons, but still, maybe, perhaps, THE BEST CON EVER! Sorry for everyone who missed it for whatever reason. I just hope they were good, compelling reasons. Like fighting off an alien invasion.

Thank you all who were there. You made my con.

Titles claimed

– Viceroy of Mad Scientist Laughter
– Finland’s Last Trash Author
– The Assking
– Last Auction Hero
– Alvarfonden’s best customer

What can I say? I claim fame where I can.

My Archipelacon loot. Too bad they didn't sell shelves.

My Archipelacon loot. Too bad they didn’t sell shelves.

Things missed

There was stuff I was going to see but missed and stuff I wanted to do but didn’t for various reasons. Artemis spaceship bridge simulator sounded extremely interesting but somehow I didn’t find the time for it. Bummed, but what can you do, except berate yourself afterwards? I also wanted to take a 3D steampunk trip but the two times I swung by the machince was simply not present or was experiencing technical difficulties. A shame as I had the mind to buy their book, Kingdom of Clockwork, as well but thinking I’d come back once more to see if the virtual trip was available I didn’t buy it then, and never returned.

Hardcore Collector was a tough call to skip as even now I can feel my bibliophile street cred trickle down the drain. Pro tip: if a program item describes your life philosophy and your entire existence until that point in time, it’ll at least bug you later if you didn’t go.

Next time. That is my decision.

Next time. That is my decision.
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Quinsonitus. The irony factor only increses when I can say I heard it was super.

Åmazing Race. I was too busy to take part myself but I got ambushed by a team who got to witness my absolute failure at everything. Name Hugo winner books. Oh, I know loads, this and that and… what was that name? Did this win? TIME! Name female Hugo winners. Ah, I know plenty, like… that one who wrote that book which I know exactly where it and its sequels are on my shelf but who was the author…? TIME! Name main crew members from Star Trek the original series. HA! This I own. I’ll even use their first names because I’m so pro. I’m a Trekker. A Trekkie. I rock. Hey, this takes actually longer with the ghudamn first names… TIME! So yeah, next time I’ll be the one ambushing because the people competing seem so much smarter than the rest of us.

The three eyed raven. Someone had made a metal sculpture that was sold to the highest bidder at the end of the con. It went for 360 euros which was too rich for my wallet and besides, I have trouble finding places for books, never mind a huge honking sculpture.

They finally caught her. The elusive Electric Rabbit.

They finally caught her. The elusive Electric Rabbit.
(Photo credit: Henry Söderlund)

Karin Tidbeck. I didn’t have the courage to go and chat with any of the GOHs except for Johanna, not counting giving them each a copy of my booklet. Others I saw in programs but Karin I missed completely. Or perhaps it was not about courage. It’s just hard to think of anything worthwhile to say.

Mogens, the adorable dog. He was there I was told. I didn’t see him. My only recourse is to get myself invited to Jukka & Sari’s place on some bookish pretext. Perhaps I can promise to give their Offutt books a new home.

My cap. I forgot my trusty TSFS cap home.

Other tidbits

Free Finnish Weird? YES! The new issue of Finnish Weird is out, available completely without charge. Featuring Finnish luminaries Anne Leinonen, Pasi Jääskeläinen, Tiina Raevaara and Maria Turtschaninoff. And that is not all. Just before Archipelacon Usva magazine published its fourth international issue, available in pdf format. Featuring me and some other assorted riff raff. And while at it check out some previous issues as well: the first Finnish Weird and Usva internationals 2006, 2007 and 2010.

So weird it has to be Finnish. But in English!

So weird it has to be Finnish. But in English!

Helsinki in 2017 deserves all the attention it gets. If it happens it’ll be the wildest ride the Finnish sf fandom has ever experienced. If you can spare 70 euros you can help it happen. The process is not complicated but in any case I’ll leave the instructions to the professionals. Contact for details.

I have no idea what the actual people in charge have been saying but I can easily believe that if this bid does not go through yet another one won’t be coming anytime soon. So the time to act is now, preferably before August. Spread the word and if at all possible, vote. Votes are what counts in the end. The last time Helsinki lost by a mere 35 votes so let’s make sure history does not repeat itself. Let Archipelacon stand as a testament that we as fandom can do it.

Finncon 2016 will be held in Tampere next year. The brigands that they are they have hijacked my birthday but I will have my revenge. I will celebrate it there. 1-3 July, folks. Mark the dates in your calendars.

Free e-book in Finnish! Specifically my book Sata kummaa kertomusta. The leading trash author should not concern himself with sales but writing. Thus the e-book goes for naught and needs no selling. Get it from Aavetaajuus. Download multiple copies, one for each harddrive, and help make it a bestseller. So far the physical copies and downloads combine to an amount that is over thousand.

Sata kummaa kertomusta. So I tend to recycle cover material. (Cover artist: Arren Zherbin)

Sata kummaa kertomusta. So I tend to recycle cover material.
(Cover artist: Arren Zherbin)

What?! A new Drabble Project? In 2012 I wrote one drabble each day for the entire year. It was a hellish feat. 2012 was a leap year so there were 366 stories. Next year is again a leap year. Did I promise to do it again? I did, didn’t I? Ghudamn me and my big mouth.

Other con reports

I was going to make a list of other con reports but Archipelacon beat me to it and created a master list. I’ll just cherry pick a few.

Nina / Diane de Camerone talks about the GOT Burlesque

NYT (not New York Times however) writes about the burlesque as well (Finnish)

Ninni drew about her con, page 1 and page 2

Feeejay does not mention my booklet. Travesty!

Jukka Särkijärvi had pretty damn great time

Maria Carole sums up the book blogging panel (Finnish)

J. S. Meresmaa had a short but eventful weekend (Finnish)

J. Pekka Mäkelä had a worthwhile visit (Finnish)

Saara Henriksson counts gains and expenses of con going and took some pictures (Finnish)

Magdalena Hai took plenty of pictures, and as always they tell stories (Finnish)

David Weingart came all the way from New York to a Nordic con and found it excellent.

Here’s some older con reports by me, regrettably only in Finnish.

Turconen 2012
Finncon 2013
Finncon 2014
Usvan kesäleiri 2014

I rarely blog in English but it happens. Read them all!

Interview with Hannu Rajaniemi
My day as a Moon Nazi
Iron Sky Gala Night
Reviewing The Thackary T. Lambhead Cabinet of Curiosities

What do you mean that was it? I refuse. (Photo credit: Juri Timonen)


Interview with Hannu Rajaniemi

(The following interview was done on 4th of June in 2011. I asked most of the question, Hannu Rajaniemi answered them, Leila Paananen typed it all up and Jenni Perälä translated the result into English. The interview was originally published in Spin 2/2011 and is published in my blog Routakoto with permissions from Leila and Jenni. Thanks guys, and cheers to Hannu who was a fine chap to chat with. -Shimo Suntila)

Hannu Rajaniemi

Hannu Rajaniemi

Author Hannu Rajaniemi (b. 1978) currently lives in Scotland and writes in English. He has studied at the universities of Oulu, Cambridge and Edinburgh and completed his Ph.D in string theory at the University of Edinburgh. He has published several short stories and one novel, The Quantum Thief, which was translated into Finnish in February. The novel is the first of a trilogy, and he is already writing the sequel.
Hannu Rajaniemi visited the Akateeminen kirjakauppa bookstore in Turku, on Saturday, 4 June 2011. He attracted a considerable audience. People listened and asked questions as the writer talked about his book and writing. He was interviewed by Shimo Suntila, a sf/f veteran from Turku.
There were several members of Spin’s editorial staff in the bookstore, and it is our pleasure to cover the event for those readers who could not make it there. After the interview and book signing, Hannu and some members of the audience went to Café Art to continue the discussion over a cup of coffee.
On the next day, Hannu attended the International Science Day seminar which was a part of Turku Capital of Culture year programme. In the seminar, a number of leading European quantum physicists came together to introduce the field’s latest discoveries to ordinary laymen.

KvanttivarasShimo: Is it true that only you got the book deal for the trilogy on the basis of only one chapter?

Hannu: Actually, when I got the book deal, I didn’t know that the story would grow into a trilogy. In addition, I had already published a few short stories at that point, so the chapter was not the only text the publisher had read from me.

Shimo: What is your vision of humanity’s future?

Hannu: Collaboration between the human mind and the machine. In a way I think it’s quite likely that our relationship with computers and technology becomes much more intimate. It’s already possible to create different interfaces between the brain and computers. For example, it’s possible to move a cursor on the screen with the power of thought, or to control a robotic limb. It doesn’t mean we’re able to read thoughts, but we’re capable of giving a human being an extension towards the digital world. I believe that development like this will probably take place.

Shimo: In The Quantum Thief and in your other texts, too, quantum dots are an essential thing. If we speak in school physics terms, what is a quantum dot and how does it work?

FraktaaliruhtinasHannu: I must say that the quantum dots in The Quantum Thief are a little more magical. The technology is quite difficult to explain at this point, but it might be developed in the future. The term and the idea come from the field of real physics. Quantum dots are electron clusters which are created in semiconductors, kind of artificial atoms which behave like atoms, at least to some extent. However, the structure of their virtual electron shell can be modified, so they can be used to build matter which can be manipulated. The American inventor William McCarthy has taken this idea quite far.

Shimo: Quite far? What kind of innovations would we need in the world today to be able to create matter like this? Which things are already there and which are still needed?

Hannu: In the field of quantum dots, it’s quite difficult to estimate. But if we think that there are physical items or organisms which can be programmed, then we must be getting close to having programmable biological organisms. It was only last year when a researcher, who was one of the main forces behind the Human Genome Project, revealed a bacterium with a completely artificial, man-made genotype. They had thought really closely about the proteins which the bacterium produces, and the way the bacterium behaves. Maybe this way leads towards incorporating the digital world with the physical one.

Shimo: I already mentioned a couple of your texts but didn’t name them. I was talking about the short stories ”Elegy for a Young Elk” and “His Master’s Voice”, which have also been published in Finnish. They both include quantum dots and smart matter and other similar elements. Do the stories belong to the same universe with The Quantum Thief, since the book is not about the Earth?

Hannu: “His Master’s Voice” takes place in the same world, in the The Quantum Thief’s past. I’ll have to promote this short story for those who haven’t read it by telling that it’s a science fiction version of the old Puss in Boots story where the brave cat and dog rescue go through a series of adventures as they save their master from trouble.

Shimo: “His Master’s Voice” has been published in the Finnish online magazine Usvazine, which means everyone can find it and read it. Just google the story’s Finnish name, “Isännän ääni”, and Hannu Rajaniemi, and you’ll find it.


Shimo: Science fiction means many things, but one of its themes is that it speculates about the future. What is going on in the literary field right now, what are the clearest visions in today’s science fiction?

Hannu: To me, it appears that science fiction writers have caught on cognitive neuroscience. New instruments have been invented during the last ten years, and with them it’s possible to measure brain functions closer than before. The understanding of the human mind is growing more and more into an empirical science where it’s possible to take a look at what happens inside the head. It’s all still in square one, but there are science fiction writers like Scott Bakker, whose book Neuropaths speculates what might happen when we the mind’s architecture is altered. In a way human beings become aliens instead of finding aliens in the space.

Shimo: You’re still writing two novels which take place in this world. Which places will the books shed light on? The Quantum Thief mainly takes place on Mars.

Hannu: In the next book, The Fractal Prince, which I’m writing right now, we will see planet Earth. The Quantum Thief only hints about what happened there. There is, for example, a town with jinns and flying carpets and Arabian Nights style constructions.

Shimo: Is it likely that the story will only take one book plus the following two? A certain George Martin started writing a fantasy novel which expanded into seven. Do you already have a tight plot in your mind? Can you say that this is it, or is it possible that the story will spread?

Hannu: I mean to finish the story in the three books. In fact, my book deal was originally for three books, not for a trilogy. I tried to cram all possible ideas I had into the first book, but then decided to expand it into three books. So the story has an ending.

Shimo: Each writer has influences. Your reading has an effect on your thoughts. What are you reading right now?

Hannu: At the moment I’m reading quite a lot of magical realism, which means Argentinean writers such as Julio Cortazaria and Jorge Luis Borges. There are many exciting themes in their texts which change the reality in an unexpected manner. In The Fractal Prince, these themes become more concrete. These two authors are a good example of what I’m reading right now.

Someone in the audience: Hannu, your microphone went off.

Hannu: It did? Did everyone hear me? Well, I guess you can hear me if I speak out loud.

Shimo: You can also take my microphone.


Quantum ThiefShimo: Shared worlds. Some writers take a world which they have created and open it for other writers: come and play, it’s a shared playground. Would you be interested in participating in a project which someone else created?

Hannu: Yes, possibly. I used to play role-playing games quite actively, and sharing the world was precisely the important element. It’s nicer to be creative together. It depends on the project, though. When it comes to my own worlds, I’m a bit possessive, because in science fiction, building the world is often intertwined with the themes, the characters and the story. But maybe I could join some bigger, shared project.

Shimo: Actually, you just answered my next question. Would you be interested in creating a project in which others could participate?

Hannu: Certainly, as long as time and energy permit. I used to do such things on the role-playing front. The role-playing club of the University of Oulu created a shared fantasy world where all kinds of exciting things took place.

Shimo: What are your thoughts about fan fiction?

Hannu: Positive. I think people have a right to use – I mean, if some people are inspired by the characters which someone created, why couldn’t they play with them if it feels natural to do so?

Fractal PrinceShimo: The next question is quite broad – you’ll have one minute to answer. Where is humanity going?

Hannu: Humanity is going towards the future, following different paths. I hope it’s an optimistic future, although we have created some big problems for ourselves. People are currently talking about what is called the Anthropocene, the historical period when man really starts to control the Earth’s ecosystem and even its climate. As a consequence, it’s time we take responsibility for it. There is a revolution taking place for the first time in the history of science. Humanity’s role has usually grown smaller and smaller as we have learned about the world. Right now things are turning upside down on Earth, and our role is bigger than the role of any other life form. It’s time we get a grip of ourselves and take responsibility for what we are doing here.

Shimo: This gives me at tenuous link. You are one of the founders of a consultant company which works, for example, for the UK Ministry of Defence. You can’t reveal everything, of course, but is there something you can tell about what the company does?

Hannu: In ThinkTank Maths, we try to use mathematics to solve real-life problems which come up in the industrial sector. Usually there are two problem types. In engineering sciences, there are technical problems which engineering maths can’t solve. Then there are the complex, operative problems of big companies, where you need to manipulate different resources and optimise their use.

Shimo: It’s dawning on me that what you do could really offer this world some solutions.

Hannu: Well, mathematics is quite a formidable tool and language to solve problems with. One fascinating branch of mathematics, which will also be important during the Anthropocene, is the understanding of complex systems such as the economy and biological systems. In these fields, we are still lacking proper mathematical languages we could use to solve problems. We really need them.

Shimo: Does anyone in the audience have any questions, something new or some follow-up to what we have already talked about? Don’t hesitate.

Someone in the audience: It’s clear that your Finnish is still very good, so the book is published in two languages which you know really well. What is it like? Usually when a book is translated, the writer thinks, “okay, a translation, greath, but has no clue what the translation is like.

Hannu: In the beginning it actually a bit weird to read your own text as someone else’s translation. But when the Finnish translator Antti Autio and I started collaborating more, it turned out to be quite a nice process. I’m very impressed by what Antti has done, I don’t think I would have been able to do it myself. Somehow Antti has managed to translate the elements of the original text into Finnish. But it was a weird cognitive experience to read the English-speaking me in Finnish.

Someone in the audience: Did you learn something new about your own book, about what you had written? Was there anything concrete, something that you grasped better or in a new way?

Hannu: Maybe it brought up some stylistic things which I have in mind for the next book. Actually Antti discovered a couple of holes in the plot, and we fixed them in the Finnish edition. In that way, the Finnish issue might have been even better.

Someone in the audience: Writers always get this question, but who have been the biggest influences on your writing? Based on the Finnish translation, it seems you have read at least Reynolds and Simmons.

Hannu: Actually, I haven’t read Reynolds, although I know Alastair Reynolds. I like Dan Simmons a lot, but I’d still say that my biggest influences have been Roger Zelazny ja Ian McDonald, to mention some. And of course Maurice Leblanc who created the Arsene Lupin character in the beginning of the last century.

Shimo: Will you only write in English from now on, or do you plan to write something in Finnish?

Hannu: Of course I get an itch to write in Finnish every now and then, and I suppose I will have to scratch it at some point in the near future.

Quantum Thief anotherShimo: What about our time – have we used it up or do we still have some left?

Bookstore staff member: Feel free to go on for as long as you like.

Shimo: I’m interested in hearing how you have settled in the British Isles. How is it, compared to Finland? Does travelling to Finland still feel like coming home, or is this only a curious place from the distant past where it’s nice to stop by?

Hannu: Of course it feels like coming home, and sometimes I get really nostalgic about Finland. In the UK, you of course spot differences. For example, the banks, the railways and the traffic actually never work properly.

Someone in the audience: It’s always better than the Finnish state railways.

Hannu: Yes, I’ve heard about some Pendolino trains which have brought the railways’ reputation down. Scotland is a distinct place in the British Isles and I think that in many ways the Scots are like the Finns; they have the tendency to get a bit depressed, drink more than might be good for them, and they also have a problematic relationship with the neighbour who shares a long history with them.

Shimo: Since there are several writers in the audience, do you have any tips to share? I’m sure they would love to hear something from a guy who made it. How do you get through?

Fractal Prince anotherHannu: Personally, my most important experience is learning to live with frustration. You need to learn to accept that if you want to do something creative, then at some point you inevitably end up in a situation where you’ve had enough and you’re running into a wall. You just have to endure it until some stimulus brings you out of the darkness. And about getting published, I’d say you should take advantage of the publishing opportunities the Internet has to offer. Publish a lot of short texts, try different kinds of writing and find out which feels the closest to you. It’s also good to remember that traditional book publishers aren’t the only way. You can publish e-books and things like that at your own expense and get published that way.

Shimo: Do you visit many science fiction cons and events?

Hannu: I’ll be in Eurocon, in Stockholm, in a couple of weeks. Come there, everyone. I’ve also tried to visit Finncons if I have had the chance.

Shimo: This year, Finncon is in the middle of July, in Turku. It’s a free event, so do come there. Hannu, too, if you still happen to be around.

Hannu: I might have to skip it this time, but we’ll see.

Someone in the audience: Is writing a lonely process for you, as they always say, or have you worked on your texts with the people around you when you have been in the phase where you run against the wall?

Hannu: That’s exactly what I’ve done. Actually, that’s a tip I’d like to add. I recommend that you should join a writers’ circle. You get blind to your own texts so easily, and it’s really good to have someone who comments on them. In Edinburgh, we have an excellent circle, the Writers’ Bloc, whose member I’ve been for the last ten years and where I have learned everything I know about writing. The members of the Bloc played an important role in solving many blocks in the Quantum Thief trilogy.

Shimo: There have are many other well-known writers in the Writers’ Bloc. Could you tell something about them?

Hannu: Perhaps the best known is Charlie Stross, who hasn’t been translated into Finnish a lot but whose works I do recommend. Charlie is a very versatile writer who writes both thrillers with a supernatural, Lovecraftian twist, and lively SF which takes place in the far future, as well as sharp-eyed speculative fiction about the close future. Another writer is Alan Campbell who writes fantasy and has published books called Scar Night and God of Clocks. They are more in the field of urban fantasy and new weird. And Caroline Dunford, who has written theatre plays for the BBC and a couple of novels. And many others who haven’t made a breakthrough yet, but certainly will.

Shimo: Do you already know what you want to write when the Quantum Thief trilogy is done?

Hannu: I’m sure it will be something completely different from The Quantum Thief. I’m drawn towards fantasy, but I have no clear plans.

Shimo: Does the audience still have questions? Here’s your once-in-a-lifetime chance.

Someone in the audience: Will the sequels take us back to the Finnish Koto? They’re very interesting.

Hannu: Yes, we’ll get back to them quite soon, there will be more about them in The Fractal Prince.

Shimo: I need to check this: apparently the character called Mieli* is also Mieli in the English text?

Hannu: Yes.

Shimo: I only found out about this yesterday. I always thought her name is Mind, but then I found out she’s Mieli in English, too. It was confusing.

Hannu: Mieli and the other Oortians are meant to be Finnish, and I hope they have some Finnish characteristics, too.

Shimo: Did the audience still have questions? I repeat, this is your once-in-a-lifetime chance. Going once… twice…

Someone in the audience: What is your topic at the the International Science Day tomorrow?

Hannu: Tomorrow I’ll talk about creativity in writing and in science, or in mathematics, to be more specific, and the usefulness of different restrictions and sanctions in them both.

Shimo: I heard they will show some documentary film, too.

Hannu: The documentary has been made by a group of Italian physicists, it’s about light on a quantum mechanical level. They observe single atoms as they absorb and emit photons, or the energy particles of light. They have recorded a remarkable process on film and for us to see.

Shimo: I’ve given what I’ve got, and it seems our audience is not bubbling with questions, either. So, ladies and gentlemen, Hannu Rajaniemi. Let’s give him a big hand!

* Translator’s note: mieli is the Finnish word for the mind.

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

Exhibits, Oddities, Images

& Stories from Top Authors and Artists

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
Edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer
Writers: Kelly Barnhill, Holly Black, Greg Broadmore, S.J. Chambers, Stepan Chapman, Ted Chiang, Michael Cisco, Gio Clairvail, Rikki Ducornet, Amal El-Mohtar, Brian Evenson, Minister Faust, Jeffrey Ford, Lev Grossman, Will Hindmarch, N.K. Jemisin, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Mur Lafferty, Jay Lake, China Miéville, Mike Mignola, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Reza Negarestani, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, James A. Owen, Helen Oyeyemi, J.K. Potter, Cherie Priest, Ekaterina Sedia, Jan Svankmajer, Rachel Swirsky, Carrie Vaughn, Jake von Slatt, Tad Williams, Charles Yu
Artists: Aeron Alfrey, Kristen Alvanson, Greg Broadmore, John Coulthart, Scott Eagle, Vladimir Gvozdariki, Yishan Li, Mike Mignola, Garth Nix, Eric Orchard, James A. Owen, Ron Pippin, J.K. Potter, Eric Schaller, Ivica Stevanovic, Jan Svankmajer, Sam Van Olffen, Myrtle von Damitz III, Jake von Slatt
Harper Voyager, 2011
ISBN: 978-0062004758

I have been, in a way, aware of Thackery T. Lambshead for years and years. It’s the sort of name that sticks to the mind. But until recently I remained horribly ignorant of his achievements and especially his collection. Me, who defines himself and his purpose in life by collecting stuff. (Just ask my partner.)

However, as far as collecting goes, doctor Lambshead defines a category all of his own. The very top category. There are several museums which pale in comparison or perhaps it would be truer to say that there are only a few museums whose collections exceed that of doctor Lambshead’s. But even them only in number. In quality, none come close, and even those that almost do are likely to have some items either donated by or loaned to by doctor Lambshead. He had so many things that according to himself he spent a good part of his life just getting rid of things.

All of this became apparent to me when I read a book titled Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. As the good doctor is no longer with us, having passed away in 2003 and having lived just a tad over a century, it befell on scholars, researchers, artists and storysmiths to convey to us a glimpse at the grandness that was the Cabinet. Many people who either knew doctor Lambshead personally or were in some way influenced by his life came together under the editors Ann and Jeff VanderMeer and made this book possible.

After reading the book and having had my curiosity more than sparked I immediately embarked on a journey of discovery. I wanted to know more about this man as a person, more about his vast collection of various oddities from all over the world and also of his professional life as a practicing medical wonder man. Pretty much the first thing I learned of was a book written by him, Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. There he lists all sorts of rare and unlikely diseases that he has come across over his years. Published annually for decades it has become a legend among medical libraries across the world. Imagine then my disappointment when I learned that the University of Turku did not have one.

The library database did list it but it was not on the shelves. When I asked a librarian working there about it she shrugged and said it had perhaps been stolen. But she seemed a little apprehensive. When I questioned her further she referred me to a clerk in the dean’s office and walked briskly away. I had already been content that I just had rotten luck but her behaviour suggested some form of foul play and I decided to follow the tip she had given.

At first the dean’s office denied any knowledge of the book but to prove the clerk wrong all I had to do was point at the library records. He then lowered his voice as if in confidence and told me that ten years ago there had been some departmental infighting and after that the book had vanished. All attempts to obtain a new copy since doctor Lambshead died had proven futile. He assumed there was some form of dispute over the publishing rights but could not say for sure. Before I even suggested it, he also told me that the copies from the Swedish university, Åbo Akademi, and the public library were missing. This is alarming. I implore any reader to check their local public or university libraries for this book.

Next I tried the best second hand bookshop in town, Uusi katakombi (The New Catacomb). The staff there is knowledgeable but at times a little terse, all being avid book collectors themselves. I have come to associate any bad mood with the owners’ mishaps in the antiquarian world, most likely missing a chance to obtain a rarity, so I don’t let it bother me. Every one of them seemed to be acutely aware of who Thackery T. Lambshead was but declined to discuss him any further, perhaps fearing they might divulge some priceless fact to their colleagues so far unknown to them. The world of book collecting is very cutthroaty and competitive as I well know, books being my own specialty as well.

However, at one point when an opportunity presented itself one of the owners approached me inconspicuously and murmured to me a brief and sad tale. Apparently the VanderMeer collection was not the first attempt to catalogue some of doctor Lambshead’s oddities. In the 60’s there had been a small press fanzine whose sole topic was doctor’s Cabinet. He had owned copies of all six issues but apparently there was a defect in the last one. The main topic had been a few 18th century inventions having to do with early attempts at fusion energy. Somehow it had made the paper self-combustable which in turn had destroyed most of earlier issues in existence as well. Likely also the publisher of the fanzine. I gathered that he was too embarrassed to let his colleagues know that he had lost such prized prints, but at the same time felt compelled to confess to someone who could understand the pain.

Having exhausted my local means of obtaining more reading material I turned to my friends. Most of them had not either even heard of the man or had disregarded him as some eccentric geezer not worth their time. However my co-worker seemed to recognize the name but said ”it was not yet the time to have this conversation”. When I asked what he meant all he talked about was ”artistic purity” and ”experimenting with influence”. I cannot know for certain what he meant but I know he has a band and they have practiced weekly for years now. Very few people have ever heard them play (I haven’t) and I know they plan never to release an album. Instead they will only play live gigs. Perhaps I will know what he meant whenever they perform for the first time publicly.

I have now come to a conclusion that it is way harder than I had thought to come by reliable information about doctor Lambshead. While alive he forbid museums to take photographs of the items he had loaned them and now an unfortunate fire has ravaged most of what was his gigantic collection. Only two books have been published about him, the Cabinet of Curiosities and the Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases. There are some scientific journals that have to do with his research or researching him, but none were available at our local universities. The only place in Finland where one can attend Lambsheadian Studies is in the far north, University of Rovaniemi, and they only admit new students twice in a decade.

Of course there is the Internet, but it is easier to find rational discussion about the HAARP than conspiracy free sites about doctor Lambshead. Most seem to recycle topics brought up by Caitlín R. Kiernan and others who propose all kinds of theories, everyone more fantastic than the last. Kiernan believes that doctor’s wife Helen Aquilus faked her own death in the early 60’s and afterwards communicated with her husband in code, using for example sunspots and earthquakes to convey complex messages.

Most of it all is of course ludicrous tinfoil hat worthy nonsense, but I admit having taken part in some discussion threads and offering my own thoughts on some matters. I quickly learned my lessons.

For example, I find it hard to believe that doctor Lambshead would have left his collection so exposed to an accidental fire that most of it would be destroyed in hours. I offered two ideas. One is that there is actually a second underground chamber under the known one where the actually important items were placed. What was destroyed was just an overflow of more mundane artefacts from there. The second notion that I presented was that if the underground hall indeed contained the most priceless items of the collection, then those items were bound to have some very unique abilities. I find it possible that some possessed the ability to move in time and space on their own, thus escaping the inferno that swallowed their ilk. They may even have rescued some other items along the way. The only way to prove these theories is to both excavate the area around Lambshead’s house in Whimpering-on-the-Brink or locate an item presumed to have perished in the fire.

I was mocked so thoroughly even by other conspiracy theorists for my ideas that I do not think I will be taking part in any of their discussions in a good while. I advice others against it as well. The common discussion board about all things Lambsheadian is only a stinking cesspool filled with smallminded people. Best stick with the academics.

On the other hand, all of this only makes this book, The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, that much more important and unique. It is the only unbiased look at doctor Lambshead and his collection. VanderMeers have also allowed many critics to voice their opinion about Thackery T. Lambshead and paint a vivid picture of a great humanitarian who also had his darker side, much like his Cabinet of Curiosities itself. If you want to know more about this remarkable man or the many artefacts that passed through his collection, this is definitely the book you need.

Iron Sky Premiere Gala

Tampere, the new science fiction capital of Finland

Date: 26.3.2012
Event: Iron Sky Premiere Gala in Tampere

Zoinks! I was invited to the mega event of the year, premiere gala for Iron Sky in Tampere. The one person reading this who doesn’t know what Iron Sky is, welcome out of your barrel. Here’s twenty euros for the movie ticket and a bucket of popcorn. Go see the new epic Finnish science fiction extravaganza where the Nazis attack from the dark side of the Moon.

I may have been invited twice, actually. I can’t be sure. All I know is Timo Vuorensola, the director, hero of the hour, the Man himself, extended an invitation to a bunch of us outside Kinopalatsi movie theatre after the Iron Sky on Tour event last Friday. After I had filled in the webforms and got the ticket PDF I also got an email invitation which may have been due to my bottom of the barrel end credit status as a special extra. Yeah, I’m now officially the third stormtrooper on the right. Or the fourteenth.

Sometimes things fall in place neatly. Well, it depends on your friends, really, and I happen to have such a darn gosh great gang of friends that I claim global bragging rights for it. Tero Ykspetäjä who also was on his way to the gala offered a ride. I thanked him by droning on all the way to Tampere about all sorts of Nazi Wunderwaffen trivia that I have scored in recent years. Regardless I was not thrown out of the car around Humppila, for which I’m thankful.

It’s irritating when you stop at the red light and you fumble and the engine dies. You try to restart quickly again but in all likelihood it’s green already and even if no one is yet blowing the horn at you, you have this distinct feeling that you’re in their way. Even if you’re on the passenger seat. Well, how about if the car kills its own engine, makes you sort of panic, and restarts it again when the light becomes green? Tero’s spaceship is like that. Exactly like that.

The pinball machine was a shy one but you can see the plunger on the left.

First we went to Plevna to see the movie, then to Pakkahuone for the gala. Outside Plevna there was a red mat and the whole shebang. The production team meant business. As if not reserving the whole theatre and every one of its ten stages wasn’t indication enough. Our seats were on stage eight so up to the second floor we went. And I saw something beautiful. Not that I’d under any circumstance dis the uniformed girls dealing out caffeine chocolate, my favourite drug, but there was a pinball machine. They are quite hard to come by these days, folks. The great man of pinball design Steve Kordek just died this year, but not before his inventions did. Tragically, I realized shortly, I had no coins. It was a tough situation as me and those silver balls go a long way. But alas, our reunion was not to be.

On Friday in Turku me and my spouse Arren had tried to be early to get good seats the Iron Sky On Tour event. Even so many more had had the same idea and beat us to it. This time around there was something like five people sitting there when me and Tero claimed our seats, plus one. Conveniently close to the door since Arren was arriving from Helsinki with about half a minute to spare, depending on the brashness of the taxi driver. He made it, just in the nick of time.

The movie rocked not one quanta less than the first time. This one is for the history books, I bet my molars on it. Big, polished production which differs from Hollywood stuff in all the right places. Groundbreaking method of garnering funds through dedicated fans, solid production values imbued special effects for a fraction of what big studios would have paid to achieve the same. A revolutionary way to make a film.

The first time I had just been watching the film. Everything was new and the pace was never-relenting. In one scene I thought I saw a familiar, odd-looking skull shape, and sort of familiar profile, but then it was gone. Was that me? I couldn’t tell, and neither could anyone else. This time around I was prepared. There! Yes! It’s me! Or, wait, is it? Actually, can’t really say. Nah, probably wasn’t. And now I can only conclude that if the man himself after two times can’t be sure if he appears during one scene in the background, it doesn’t matter at all if he does or not. I know I’m there in a gas mask sieg heiling the Moon Führer and that’s cool enough. Actually, the cool part was doing all that stuff. Seeing it later comes well second to that.

Even though the place was under heavy guard, Batman was not caught.

Back on the ground floor a guy with a camera pushed a mike at me, asking for my impressions about the film. I can, believe it or not, be a tad shy on occasion, but that day was not one of them. I grabbed the mike and told how damn excellent Iron Sky had been, one of my most favourite films of all time. I handed the mike to Arren who gave similar praise and then we bolted. I have still no idea who my impressions were going to reach but Arren though the guy had said something about Poland. A good thing then that I didn’t crack a joke about Lech Walesa. Not that I have such habit, but it would have been so like me to do it for the first time ever, live on Polish national news.

After Plevna the three of us drove to Pakkahuone, got rid of our jackets and dived in. Music, people, drinks, food. Several hundred people talking. Tero had spotted Julia Dietze but I didn’t. We saw Götz Otto towering at least one head taller than most, tho I did see a few other skyscraping guys as well. He was easy to recognize despite the civvies. A good thing, because I had been sort of worried that I’d just walk past all of the stars not noticing them because I have a dastardly combination of bad eyesight and a way of not paying attention to details. But there I was, sipping some grapefruit based hard lemonade, chatting just a tiny bit with two girls, offering them both a sip from my bottle since one of them was curious how it tasted, and looking at the Moon Nazi officer several meters away.

The official part of the night started with some people talking on stage. I missed part of it due to the aforementioned lack of noticing details, like words, and wondering where Arren had gone to. To talk to Götz, it turned out. Pretty soon after that Timo and Tero Kaukomaa, the producer, got on stage and started to invite people over. The big stars, production crew, special effects guys, in a word the folks who had busted their chops for so long to make it all happen. A really shame Janos could not be there due to bad case of flu. I feel for you mate, you deserved to be there.

Tero pointed at one woman up there and noted that she was the president of the United States in the film. And she was also the girl who had taken a sip out of my bottle a bit earlier. I wouldn’t have minded being wrong about my own dimwittedness even once, but hey, everyone’s gotta do it their own way. My way is the Way of the Wooden Eye.

The Bald and the Beautiful also starring Johanna Sinisalo

I got to talk to some interesting folks during the evening, some others I knew were there but didn’t manage to chat with. Among the people I talked to was Johanna Sinisalo, the Queen of Chili and perhaps the professional Finnish writer idol of mine. Strangely we have inhabited the same fandom for over fifteen years and the most we’ve ever talked about anything has been on Facebook. So it was extra nice to have a few minutes and hear from her about writing the movie and also how the script had lived after her involvement.

Another interesting person was Ken Moffat(t), Australian gaffer (or I think he’s Australian, me and details, we’ve been there already) whose name I had noticed in the credits already during the Turku show. I later realized it was because of the family name – Steven Moffat is a writer I’m a big fan of, and in pretty much the only LARP I ever played in I was a dirty cop called Ben Moffat. Talk about cocktail party effect. Maybe my attention is not totally crap, it just focuses on weird details. And thus I miss every president I ever meet. Ken talked a bit about shooting the scenes, the weather and how close it had been that they did get all the shots before the climate went all medieval on the script. We talked about visuals, how the imagery was diesel punk or steampunk. That’s when Arren coined the term Helium-3 punk. It’s one of those occasions when someone says something that just pops in their head and it takes off. In this case Ken took off and rushed to Götz Otto to tell him about it. I wanted to hang around a bit more but it looked like the line between overstaying our welcome not not doing so was right there. Me and Arren slipped away. I’m pretty sure no one noticed.

Two stars, a fan and a gala place

I did get to tell Götz how I found his physical presence and sheer intimidation fantastic. Or I blabbed about something physical and shook his hand. Can’t really say. My bet is on the latter. I also scored a photo with Julia but I don’t recall really saying anything intelligible at all. I would have loved to chat even for a minute but she really looked like she was wanting to leave the scene. Plenty of fans with cameras and boring stories. That got me thinking how stressful it all must be, and how frustrating. There you are, in a party, trying to talk to a few people you find interesting and probably know from before. Your mates and the like. And then there is the endless swarm of fans begging, demanding and competing for your attention. Every single second of the entire evening. Try to drink a sip and there is someone tugging your arm, wanting something. I felt ashamed for wanting a picture.

Stephanie Paul looking exactly like herself

I know, it’s also part of their job description. You meet the fans, you smile, you offer yourself and your image and a few words. But it can go on for hours. The horde just never lets up, one fan is replaced by two more and personal space or the most basic social conventions mean simply nothing. Either you step back for a breath or you go bonkers. Sorry for being part of the horde, Julia.

I did meet Stephanie Paul, the prez, again, asked if I could quickly take a photo while she was having a smoke which might sound as if I had learned nothing, but the situation seemed way more relaxed. She said yes and asked if I wanted to have a picture taken with her. Well, does a hammer fall down on a planet with positive gravity? I once again managed to sound like a deranged lunatic. I’m not sure what I said but I meant that she was a great actress since she looked nothing like her character in the movie. But writing things in English that sound logical is for me helluva lot easier than saying it aloud, so I probably embarrassed myself yet again by saying she didn’t look like herself, or something. But just as with the scenario of a tree falling down in a forest and nobody seeing it, should I feel ashamed if I can’t recall how exactly I goofed up?

Industrial and pretty lights

The original reason for how and why we ended up at the premiere gala in the first place was Laibach. We talked with Timo about Laibach and gigs when he said that they were playing in the gala and we should come. I rarely if ever listen to Laibach on my own, their new Iron Sky theme notwithstanding, but Arren is a huge, huge fan. I’m more into power metal where men scream like little girls and everyone wears leather pants. When they started Arren went for the front spots while me and Tero hung back. While they didn’t sound exactly like pouring a bucket of bolts onto a ship deck and then tossing the bucket against the wall, it sounded a tad similar and it was loud. I’m not into the habit of wearing ear plugs at gigs even though I should and Tero didn’t feel like being in some fan’s way. But we wanted to take a picture or two a bit closer and soon found ourselves being quite close to the stage, maybe two meters away from Arren. There was plenty people but no crowding at all. We stayed there the entire gig, the pain in my ears went away due to numbness and I caught myself swinging, yelling and rocking to the music. How did that happen? But they were effing great! The theme especially was to die for, hard and heavy, all industrial. Music has power it you can feel it vibrating your nasal cavities, your lungs and your testicles. Arren later pointed out that during a song they had been showing a clip from the movie with troopers marching in line. It was a scene I’d said I was in, so now I was part of Laibach background material. A small thing I know, but with this face and talent I better claim the fame whenever possible.

I found the most appropriate sticker on a restroom wall. "Against nazis". If I don't see Care Bears whacking the hell out of Pedobear in the director's cut I'll be bummed.

Sometime around the gig I ran into Timo and thanked him briefly for the invite and congratulated him about the movie. Quite original, I know. I work hard on my material. But I did mean every bit of it. It had been an honor to be a small part of the movie as an extra, it made me uplifted just seeing the movie become real and It was really cool to have been invited to the gala. Around then I fully formed the thought in my head what it all meant to me. I mean Iron Sky. It was an example.

You see, I’m quite a lazy man. Let me have my way and I’ll watch telly twenty hours a week, taping it all. All the comedies and scifi that comes out. That’s me, not graduating and having abandoned all hopes of it a decade ago. I do want to do stuff, though. I used to run quite a few societies and fanzines in my time, I did lead two successful MMORPG communities after my fandom stint and now I want to write. I’m creative, but lazy, and I need all the kicks to my butt to achieve stuff. Iron Sky is a massive kick.

Turku Science Fiction Society gives head once a year. Namely the Atorox head.

If you consider the origins, how it all turned out in the end is a miracle. It’s not magic, it’s not a mystery. It’s actually quite plain, how it happened, how project like Star Wreck gave birth to a blockbuster like Iron Sky. It’s hard work, it’s dedication, it’s people putting their foot down and saying I’m damn well doing this, you just watch me. I’ll never make anything like Iron Sky, I know. But I can put in hard work, and I’ll do my own thing. It’s something I know, but it’s also something that ceases to affect me on a regular basis. I need booster shots like friends getting the coveted Atorox prize for the best SF short story of the year or someone I know getting the Finlandia for the best damn novel of the entire year. It’s seeing Iron Sky taking form, become real.

From all that I gather my own strength to write the stuff I write and pour my creativity into my work. And I’m grateful for all of those magnificent examples, and none of them is as huge as Iron Sky. That’s what it all means to me. I may be a damn fanboy, but beside being a fan of the movie I’m a fan of all the actual work that went into it.

So when Timo, already going ahead turned around and said something about my project to write one drabble each day for a year, it was a shock. Again, me, details, we all know the drill, but I recall it like Timo actually follows my progress at times, like he occasionally reads what I write. Gosh, talk about a rush! I’m still in the mode of thinking that pretty much only my friends ever click the daily link in Facebook to catch my latest yarn. I know this sort of inferiority complex is something I really should shake but it’s somewhere real deep inside and I’m too lazy to do yoga to get in touch with it. I’ll settle for thinking it’s cool that people read what I write, be it people I know from since before the time began to directors of gigantic scifi epics.

As the evening had turned into the night and it was still some two hour drive back to Turku we started to consider leaving. First we had to hunt Timo down to thank him one final time, but the man was nowhere to be seen. Eventually we spotted him and he courteously invited us to the backstage to meet Laibach. If we wanted. It was not such a huge deal to Tero or me, but I knew Arren just might want to take the offer and I scouted him up. Turns out I was right and we did go to see the band briefly.

I also ran to Samuli Torssonen, the man behind the special effects, and said to him he did good work. The look on his face told quite clearly that he had no idea whatsoever who I was and why I was addressing him by the first name. And really, he had no reason to recognize me. But, he might remember me, at least if reminded. Back in the late 90’s when I was the editor-in-chief of Finland’s oldest SF fanzine Spin I learned of Star Wreck movies. It was well before it became evident that In the Pirkinning would stretch into the next millennium. It was possible to order, for money, the cds with all the Star Wrecks so far, but I went and asked for them for free since I’d write about them in Spin. Samuli sent me the movies. And I didn’t write about them.

Temptation has many faces. There's caffeine chocolate behind her back.

Back then, and even now, I tend to take on projects I eventually don’t finish. Can’t finish. It’s not laziness, it’s like all of my strength vanishes when I even think about doing the thing and it leads only to not doing it. Try as I may, even if the task is really simple and takes just half an hour, it can paralyze me for months whenever I even think about it. Writing a review of Star Wrecks fell into that trap. So, after something like thirteen, fourteen years, sorry about breaking my promise, Samuli. It was me, the bald guy you had no reason to recognize.

All in all, it was a huge blast. The stars, the crew, the people, the band. I wore a suit like protocol demanded, I even had a tie. Not a black one but one with skulls on it. Orange, purple and ocean blue skulls, the tie I wore when I graduated from high school. I played the part of a well dressed man, acted like a doofus forgetting basic vocabulary whenever I was closer than three meters from anyone in a film and enjoyed it all immensely. Thank you Timo, thank you Tero, your party rocked! And also thanks to the other Tero for driving my carcass from Turku and back. Thank you Arren for sharing the evening with me. Thank you gorgeous ladies from Varusteleka for all the spiked chocolate you doled out to a caffeine junkie. And apologies if what I said to someone made no sense. Take my word, it sounded better in my head. Smiles all around! I’d say hugs, but I’m not drunk any more.

This is the third trooper from the right, signing out.

My day as a Moon Nazi

My day as a Moon Nazi

Moon Nazis coming your way - 4.4.2012

Date: 23.11.2011 (Wednesday)
Event: Being an extra in Iron Sky

I’ve been into science fiction since before I could read. Stories about people in space spoke to me always the loudest. Having a tiny creative side I’ve also yearned to be part of it all somehow, whether by writing short stories, gamemastering roleplayer communities in MMORPGs or leading sf clubs and editing their magazines. So when I got the chance to appear in a real, honest-to-Cthulhu science fiction epic I went for it like a mass particle into singularity.

On last week’s Monday night my Facebook feed started to repeat a post about Iron Sky wanting extras. Man, that would be so much fun! I’ve been a fan of Iron Sky even before it had a name or I knew Johanna Sinisalo would script it. A bad, lazy fan I admit, or maybe I’m just trying to avoid the spoilers, but the bottom line is I didn’t know much about plot of the movie. Just what the trailers gave away. Regardless, to have a chance to be a part of it sent all sorts or crazy signals screaming for attention in my head.

Alas, I checked the requirements. Male body, check. Between 170-175 cm tall, check. Blond, short hair, fail. Oh damn my craving for shaving! It had been worth checking it out but if they named only three requirements it was a safe bet to assume they meant those. Right? Luckily on Tuesday my pessimism got cheered down by a friend who insisted I at least asked whether a bald guy could be a Moon Nazi. And what the hey, it’s just an email, all I’m wasting is the other person’s time a minute when they have to turn me down. Turned out lacking that Aryan blond hair was no obstacle at all. Welcome aboard, mate!

"So girls, this is what daddy was doing yesterday."

That was Tuesday night. I spent some frantic time checking at what hour I should leave Turku for Helsinki (wakeup was at 5 am) and how should I navigate from train station to the studio. In the end it was actually easypeasy but I always worry about such things. Give me two points on a map and detailed directions, and if the distance between them is over ten meters I’m more than likely to get lost. However I did find the studio without any gaffes. I guess I used all my good fortunes for the rest of the year on this one.

When I arrived present were three or four other extras. I was there some fifteen minutes earlier than the official starting time so I sat down to drink coffee and chitchat with the others. I was amused to note that out of the chaps maybe one or two filled every moon nazi criteria and the numbers didn’t get any better when latecomers started pouring in. Not that the hair color actually mattered much as we found out, it was the body types that turned out to be more critical.

After a second cup someone came to herd us to get dressed and we briskly did so not wanting to make anyone wait for us. Every minute was counting! There were all sorts of gear available and I started donning whatever I could just so I wouldn’t be the last man in Nazi pants. Jacket, helmet, gloves, pants, boots, even a weapon with only slightly bent muzzle, pretty soon I had it all. Around that time it dawned on us that there was a serious shortage of everything. Not to worry tho, the situation had been realized the previous night and more gear was coming from a storage at some remote corner of Finland. Any time, now.

While we waited we got to know each other a bit more and there was an excellent breakfast being served as well . Available was fruits, bread and yogurt, not to mention coffee. That would be the theme of the day and I’d pay for it dearly a few days later. Upping the daily caffeine intake by about 500% got the body accustomed to high levels of it and eventual withdrawal symptoms were pure hell once again.

We come in peace

Almost two hours later than the announced time to be there the extra gear arrived and we got everyone clothed. Not as stormtroopers as planned, tho. Two guys were dressed as officers because out of the three prereqs it was only the hair color that did not prevent people from getting a jacket on.

We met with the director Timo Vuorensola who was friendly and businesslike. First he recruited two handymen to lug military stuff like crates from Varusteleka just around the corner and then once we were all properly nazified he showed us around a bit. The stage, a few shots on computer where we were going to fill in the blanks. The basic gimmick was very simple.

We’d be wearing gas masks and do stuff on stage, against a green background. Whenever the Moon Nazi National Anthem would start playing we’d face wherever it was that the Moon Führer was supposed to be and snap into the perhaps most widely recognized salute of all time. The first few were a bit awkward, I was straining the muscles and standing all rigid, but pretty soon I learned to relax and go with the flow.

"Just texting with this punch card smart phone."

That’s what we did for two or three hours. Loiter, march, carry, jog, run, guard and every now and then throw a hearty Hitlergruß. The clothes were warm by themselves, physical activity added to it and the masks made it a tad hard to breath so once in a while the director made sure that we were all ok and not passing out any time soon.

The mask itself made some things difficult. Usually I wear glasses but of course inside the mask it was impossible. Factor in the bright lights shining on us and the relative darkness of the operative table and subtler hand signs have a tendency of getting lost. For example when we were told to salute a piece of tape on a pipe I couldn‘t spot the tape but neither could I see the pipe either. So I just approximated. Since no one told us to take that shot again I guess it was accurate enough.

During the day I learned really to respect the director. I’ve been bombarded by all sorts of ideals how a work place should function, how respecting the other person’s contributions is important and all that jazz. Now I got to experience it in effect. Before each shot Timo would say “actors, please“ to let us know we should start doing whatever we were supposed to, and after each shot he thanked us. Every single time. It sounds like a minor thing but if you’re working a minor, unimportant job that any yahoo could pull off, it really feels good to know that the main man appreciates your work.

Smile and positive attitude goes a long way also on the dark side of the Moon.

Another significant lesson which I already knew but loved to see get reinforced was how enthusiasm is contagious. If you want people to really come and help you with a project, just push as hard as you can with your own shoulders and others will flock in to help. I’m sure Timo had heard the Moon Nazi anthem gazillion times already, but a few times when the lights were right I could see him waving his hands madly to the tune of it like it was the best thing ever. Seeing him loving the movie making and going wild about it after so many months was rather uplifting. At least personally, I don’t know about the rest of the guys, but whenever we were asked if we’d do a few more shots or have a break then, we always chose to work a bit more.

After all the troopering and having a pizza we changed into Götterdämmerung officer uniforms, all of us who could since there wasn’t enough of them for us all. I was told to get out of trooper clothes and into officerwear while the mechanics were still shooting scenes so I was lucky enough to score appropriate clothes. Three down, five to go we proceeded into the bridge of a huge battlecruiser.

I am the very model of a modern Major-General - FROM THE MOON

Once there we one by one operated huge punch card tech computers, experienced the ship taking such hits that one of us hit his head for real while falling down and looked at a tactical display with great concern. By that stage we were hulking up on endorphins and adrenaline, giving it all we had. In one scene four of us were there at the same time and were thrown on our backs in synchronicity by Götterdämmerung main guns firing. The fifth guy took an excellent photo of it.

Once our job was done the fifth guy who had been absent from shoots for the last hour got to shine. A small speaking part with actual closing up shot and all. I don’t think there was any of us who was not at least a bit jealous but such is life and I reckon there are some folks who envy us for being extras. I really want to see how that shot looks on the big screen! The guy managed to summon a bellowing roar for it in the end.

Of course which shots end up on the screen depends on the director. Maybe you’ll see my face or maybe you’ll get lucky.

And then it was over. The last scene done we retreated to change into civvies and try to shake the pavlovian reflex of siegheiling at the smallest cue. It was one of the most magnificent days for me in quite a while and I’m really thankful to all the people involved. Special thanks go to our two clothing ladies who assisted us throughout the entire day fetching coffee and water whenever needed just so that we’d be available immediately if the director needed us.

Special Extras Janne, Jussi, Jukka, Kalle, Roy, Tommi and Viljami, see you at the grand opening. Let us toast to the working grunts of space national socialism and enjoy the spectacle of our, as I deeply suspect, imminent defeat. We did well.

And it's a wrap!