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Åcon 6 Part Two: A Sprawl of Belated Goodnesses

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Åcon 6 Part Two: A Sprawl of Belated Goodnesses

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So this is going to be a very informal post even by my own flimsy standards of formality, because I have a lot going on—but ridiculously, it’s now three months after Åcon so if I’m going to get this up I can’t wait any longer. I am not quite sure how to explain what it was about the trip that gave me so much hope. I probably can’t articulate it, but I will throw out a few scrambled thoughts.

Science fiction and sciencey people in one place

I loved that there were so many scientists in a room talking about science fiction and despite being freakishly smart they were generally so not-wedded to what I’ll call the Benford definition of hard SF. Not once did I see anyone wield their STEM PhD so as to put the fantastically-minded people in their place. This is all I really need from life in the genre.

I don't know if people on the inside quite realise how scary SF is for a lot of people.  I was just at Edge-Lit and a couple of newer writers were talking about growing up reading SF but not having the nerve to write it because they hadn’t the science chops. The school of SF that says it’s gotta at least make the right scientific noises to be SF, I know this has subconsciously fucked with my head for many, many years. I’ve never tried to make my SF Benford-hard. But I’ve certainly warned myself off whole areas because I knew I’d be punished for ‘getting it wrong’.  Not one whiff of that at Åcon--although I certainly heard people critically examining work that they were reading.

You don’t realise how smelly and stale the air in your milieu has become until you get a breath of the fresh stuff. Ahhhh!

The ferries

I was a little worried about the ferry trip. Last time I took a ferry (from Holyhead to Ireland in 1987) I spent half the night puking over the railing. This was sooooo different.

Here is a photo of Sean and his new best friend Hermann from the ferry. Hermann introduced Sean to the concept of a tablet. Life has never been the same since.
Sean and Hermann on ferry
The ferries are the greatest thing ever! We cruised across the Baltic in the most chilled-out fashion.  If all travel were like this I’d become permanently itinerant.
group ferry 2

Karin Tidbeck OMG

At the convention we watched a short film of Karin Tidbeck’s story ‘Who is Arvid Pekon?’ from her collection Jagannath. During the discussion Cheryl Morgan read a tidbit from the story itself, which had a very different feel to the film.  I was unable to appreciate all of the points being made on the panel because I hadn’t read the collection at the time. I have rectified that and can say that not only are the stories superb (all good, three of them absolute standouts for me) but as interesting as the film was, it did not do justice to the story. Genius.

Karin will be at Fantasticon in September as a guest and I am going to fangirl on her, I'm afraid.

Blue skies, blue birds, blue men, blue mesons

It is funny that a country generally associated with cold is not only sunny, but inhabited by people who are so genuinely kind and welcoming. I did not know anything about Finnish hospitality before I got there, but apparently it is legendary and I can see why. I felt that I was around a group of people who were sensitive, caring, thoughtful and often very funny, and they were going out of their way to look after me and make me feel at home. I really was making a lot of noises to Steve on the way home about how could we send the kids to University there? Wouldn’t it be great for them? And stuff like that. I did not want to leave. If I didn’t have such a bad reaction to dark winter nights in the UK, I’d have been plotting and scheming to move.

So if you can vote for Worldcon in Helsinki, I must beg you to do so  and if you can’t, I hope you’ll consider telling your friends who can.  If the committee can win this bid they will put on a megatron of a Worldcon, I’m certain of this.

I had no idea when we left for the trip that Angry Birds originates in Finland. I have never played it, but my seven-year-old son Sean has recently developed an obsession. Here he is using the elastic that holds the bed together in our ferry cabin as a launch catapult for Blue Bird in an attack on Darth Pig.
Darth piggy
When Sean learned that Tommi Markus actually works on the game, he was shocked and awed. Tommi even gave Sean his business card! The rapture!  Sean is busy working on suggestions for what should happen next in Angry Birds (last I heard he wanted an Ice Age Angry Birds). So far I have managed to restrain him from rining Tommi up, but I don't know how long I can hold him off!

Until this happened I don’t think Sean quite realised that these games are developed BY PEOPLE. For me, it was exciting to think about the fact that so much creativity goes into a global phenomenon like this, and in the case of Angry Birds the company is not some monolithic entity like Disney, but a group of people working together creatively. I found this all so optimistic—and that’s the feeling I got in general about Finland. Optimism. The future. Blue sky.

Speaking of blue…there is a tradition at Åcon to find a willing young man and paint his entire body for fun; this year he was blue. Photographer Henry Söderlund was recruited for the role, and aside from having been painted blue, he has an ongoing project to photograph people in goggles. This is where my new userpic comes from, and you can see a great many of the Finnish fandom suspects on the Facebook community Everything is Better With Goggles. Henry and artist Ninni Aalto have a rabbit who resembles Schoepenhauer who also has his own Facebook page. Ninni is working on a children’s animation project collaboration with a physicist in which she is creating characters based on subatomic particles. Finnish children are so lucky! We get Teletubbies, they get bosons and gluons.

There’s lots I’m leaving out, but I’ll close this imperfect post with a shout out to the Science Fiction Book Shop in Stockholm  which is a wonderful place run by an SF reader and writer. They were kind enough to offer me a signing. In return my kids bought a ton of stuff.

sf bookstore stockholm

Finally, I would like to say a very big thank you to Johan Anglemark for sorting out everything about the trip and generally looking after us, to Hanna Hakkarainen and Marianna Leikomaa and Karolina Leikomaa for running the show and to EVERYBODY who hosted me and my family and spent time with us. It was a huge pleasure and one I won't soon forget.

And that is it from me, for now. I am working extremely hard at the moment, but it's all good. I'll try and get some other posts up later this month.

PS I almost forgot to mention the gender imbalance! Some of the panels had token men. These guys took it in good spirits.
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