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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 hasdcdonesomethingstupidtoday.com. 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.
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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
– 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
J. Pekka Mäkelä had a worthwhile visit (Finnish)
Here’s some older con reports by me, regrettably only in Finnish.
I rarely blog in English but it happens. Read them all!