perjantai 19. heinäkuuta 2013

Finncon 2013: Freaky Friday

Picture: Maija Pietikäinen

Well... truth to be told it wasn't really all that freaky. But that wouldn't be all that interesting title now would it? You might have also noticed that the text you are currently reading is in English which it normally isn't. Good catch!

But we talked about it and decided that maybe our daily Finncon reports should be in English so that they would be readable even to non-Finnish reading visitors. It could maybe even work as a sort of advertisement for the Helsinki 2015 Worldcon bid *wink wink*

Worldcon in Helsinki 2015!
Picture: Ninni Aalto
After having complained last year about the uncertainty of Finncon's Friday programming (that is, there being sometimes only academic programming on Friday whereas on other occasions Friday is a proper convention day) one of this year's main organizers the affable Mr. Jukka Halme had left a comment confirming that this year Friday would be full of programming including the opening ceremonies and GoH interviews.

So we were prepared well in advance. We even arrived on Thursday but didn't participate on any pre-con activities. We just had a bit to eat and then I slaved away on my presentation for the rest of the evening... and part of the night.

On friday morning I was just so completely spent from staying up late and having to had to go to work all week so I decided to sleep in a bit. Because of that we both missed the opening ceremony but more importantly I even missed the hotel breakfast!

We still managed to get to the Kaapelitehdas (Cable Factory) con-site for the first "real" program items. So it wasn't all that bad. I was a bit interested in the Hugo Awards 2013 panel but the Fantastic Finland-panel won out because I hadn't read any of the nominees.   

 Written by Korppisusi

Fantastinen Suomi (Fantastical Finland)

The first program item we saw was a panel discussion about Finland as a setting for speculative fiction. In the panel there were three writers, whose young adult books' events all took place in Finland. The writers were Annukka Salama (Käärmeenlumooja), Elina Rouhiainen (Kesytön) and Maria Turtschaninoff (Helsingin alla).

 Sini Neuvonen (panel chair), Maria Turtschaninoff,  Elina Rouhiainen and Annukka Salama  
The topic was approached by talking about the panelists' respective books. Helsingin alla is about a young girl, who finds out that below Helsinki there is a fantastical city with trolls and other magical beings. The book was originally written in Swedish and later translated into Finnish. The setting combines modern Helsinki and old Finnish and Swedish folktales about trolls, water sprites and such.

Kesytön is "the first Finnish paranormal romance”. The main character is a 17-year old girl who is living in Helsinki, but is forced to move to Kainuu after her mother dies. There she meets a pack of werewolves and falls in love with one of them. Funny tidbit is that the writer has never visited Kainuu.

In spite of that people in Kainuu are very proud of the book and someone in the audience commented that there is a very accurate description about the ”soulscape” of a man from Kainuu in the book.

The city in Käärmeenlumooja is an amalgam of Tampere and Helsinki and is located somewhere near Turku. The main character, again a teenage girl, finds out that she is a faunoid. Faunoids are people that have gotten half of their personal traits and abilities from animals. There is also a teen romance in this book.

In addition to describing the panelists' own visions about fantastical Finland, the discussion touched upon defining the books as young adult, about recommending YA-books and weather or not there would be any interest in abroad about speculative fiction set in Finland.

Regarding the last question the panelists were a bit skeptical, but it was noted that there had been some interest in regards of Salla Simukka’s Punainen kuin veri (As red as blood). The book is a YA-thriller set in contemporary Tampere. To me at least three more examples come to mind, Troll a love story (Johanna Sinisalo), Memory of water (Emmi Itäranta) and Lumikko ja Yhdeksän muuta (Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen).

Although we enjoyed the panel, we felt that it could have explored the topic a bit more broader, now most of the time allotted was used in talking about the individual books. That being said, it did generate interest towards the books. I also liked that the panel chair, Sini Neuvonen, showed the basic info about the books from the Risingshadow database.

Höyrypunkkia! (Steampunk!)

This panel promised to discuss about the role of steampunk in Finland and why is it that it has became popular just now and not before. The panel chair (Magdalena Hai) and one of the panelists (J.S Meresmaa) have both written novels to the first Finnish steampunk short story anthology and Magdalena Hai has also written a steampunk novel for kids. Other panelists were writer Siri Kolu and the grandfather of Finnish horror, Boris Hurtta. I loved that Magdalena Hai and Siri Kolu were dressed appropriately in steampunk clothes and the latter also had a horse whip with her.

The discussion was lively, funny and interesting and I enjoyed the panel immensely. There were of course talk about what steampunk is and what the punk in it means. There was discussion on why steampunk has bloomed right now in Finland and the most popular viewpoint seemed to be the current social and economical climate, the divide between poor and rich and gender (un)equality.

Boris Hurtta mentioned that in the past there had been few attempts at awakening the interest in steampunk, but it just didn’t had caught on. One example was the translation of Colin Greenland’s “Harm’s Way” by Leena Peltonen. Mr. Hurtta also recommended the museum of mechanical music in Varkaus. There was also a brief mention of “könni” amidst the discussion and I had to look that up since I hadn’t heard about it before. It turns out, that there is an old Finnish folk tale (several actually) about a clock smith who has a mechanical man for doing chores on his farm.

Although all of the panelists were great, I especially took liking to Siri Kolu for her enthusiastic and merry participation. She also mentioned that she might be interested in writing a variant of steampunk called ruukkipunkki that would feature the early Finnish industrial areas called ruukki from the 1600s. I hope she really will write about that, because I think it sounds absolutely fantastic!

 Written by Grandpa Cthulhu

Pelien käsikirjoittamisesta (On writing games)

So after watching the Fantastic Finland -panel we decided to split our troops and go watch separate program items. Even though I was interested in the steampunk-panel in the end my inner game enthusiast won and I went to see the On writing games -program.

The program was placed in the bowels of the cable factory in a room that was a little bit too small for it. Actually everybody fit in the room alright but there weren't enough chairs in the room so a lot of people either had to stand or sit on the floor.

Arto Koistinen and the interactive story Façade
The program itself was good. A bit different from what I expected from the program description but it was funny and had plenty of promised anecdotes and small doses of serious analysis. The program was more about personal experiences with game writing than with the general concept and execution of writing in games.

There were some general examples of game writing and problems rising from the interactive-parts of games. Like games that had disconnect between the story and gameplay elements but it would have been nice if there had been more of these. But the problem is as always that you only have 45 minutes of time so you have to choose what to cover.

Example of game where the narrative and gameplay clash
So all in all it was a really nice piece of programming. It was also nice to see that there were other gaming related programming besides my own (which I will write about on our post covering Sunday) because I feel there is some really good speculative fiction ideas/writing out there in games. 

 Written by Korppisusi

Suvaitsevaisuutta! (Tolerance please!)

This panel explored the tolerance of Finnish Fandom concerning various things. It was also supposed to deal with the divide between fandom people and muggles, but it never quite went there. Maybe next time! There was a lot of talk about Christianity and how Christian fen might be under fire from both groups they belong. The matter of LGBT-equality in fandom was pretty much dismissed by saying we don’t have a problem with that.

There was some discussion about how in America women have a harder time at cons with harassment and they are often mistaken as booth babes. While it isn’t a problem with the Finnish scifi fandom, it is very much an issue amongst women who play video games. Irma Hirsjärvi also noted that women’s place in scifi fandom was challenged in the late 80s when some scifi club stated in their rules that women weren’t welcome. Luckily the matter was dealt with quite swiftly.

Tuomas Saloranta (panel chair), Irma Hirsjärvi, Shimo Suntila,
Kielo Blomqvist and Aino Harvola

Anime fandom was discussed briefly in light of cosplay, that there are some groups of people that frown upon people who don’t look exactly like the character they are supposed to be cosplaying. For example if the hair color, skin color or other physical attributes aren’t met or the costume is hastily made. The divide between anime fandom and scifi fandom was also touched upon when someone from the audience mentioned the “no cosplayers at the scifi lounge” debacle of the 2009 Finncon-Animecon.

At the end there were some audience questions about how different political views would be welcomed but the questions weren’t asked loud enough or clearly enough and the discussion of that topic just dried out. All in all the panel was interesting and important, but would have required a bit more time. We felt that the rift between scifi fen and anime people should have been discussed more, but maybe the issue is still too fresh.

 Written by Grandpa Cthulhu

Voi Jeesus Kristus! (Oh Jesus Christ!)

Maybe the best program in the con. No, really! So okay, I'm a rather big (ie. huge) fanboy of Petri Hiltunen and even counting that this was really really really good.

Not Jesus but Petri Hiltunen
It was actually well-researched and properly argumented presentation on theologically false representations of Christianity in popular culture. That in itself wouldn't have made it as good as it was but because it was funny as hell and had loads of disturbing/hilarious material it was unforgettable.

The basic premise was that almost everything we know or think we know about angels, hell or other theological stuff like that is mostly wrong and even church art gets it wrong a lot of the time. There were lot of examples of "creative interpretation" from different sources: games, television, films and literature. 

If I have to choose I would have to say that my personal favourite was the extremely funny Casa Erotica -clip from Supernatural tv-series. Being big fans of the show we immediately knew what was coming when Petri set up the clip but it was so great to see it.

Of course Supernatural really just mangles all kinds of theology and mythology to fit the shows own version of it, which happens to be based on the premise of "what is intresting and entertaining".

One great example of representation that even church art gets theologically wrong almost always was the snake in the Book of Genesis. Sometimes the snake or serpent is said to be Satan is disguise. Well that has no basis in the Bible. The snake was just a snake, albeit a talking one and the craftiest one of all the animals. And even more interesting is that the snake had feet before tricking Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and lost them as punishment for his trickery. But you rarely if ever see the biblical snake depicted with feet.  

Petri preaching with a Bible in his hand
The presentation was also really good visually because while Petri was talking there was a constant stream of images on the screen always relating to the topic at hand. A lot of the images seemed to be from the most terrible/funny Harlequin and other romance novel covers. When I later asked about them Petri denied that they were from his personal collection but... I'm still suspicious.   

Petri also later told that he had a lot more material that he had time to show or go through. The stuff about movies made by evangelical christians sounded really entertaining. So hopefully next year in Jyväskylä's Finncon there will be Voi Jeesus Kristus! Part 2: Electric Boogaloo. And we wholeheartedly recommend everyone to go see it!  

 Written by Korppisusi

The Promise and Fall of Doctor Who's 7th Season

This was my first panel discussion as a participant, so I was really nervous. Luckily the panel chair and the other participants were so nice and friendly, that I was able to relax during the panel. Other panelists were Toni Jerrman, Nene Ormes and Henna Teitto and the panel chair was Kristoffer Lawson.We talked about the seventh season of the new Doctor Who and various aspects of it. Don’t worry, I am not going to spoil anything, so you can keep reading!

Doctor Who panelists admiring True Fans [Tm]
Kristoffer Lawson was the only one who had seen extensively the old Doctor Who series and his premise for the panel was that everything was better before. The different topics were peppered with funny pictures or short video clips.We talked about Doctor Who fans and fandom, the companions, the theme music, sonic screwdriver and the writers. In addition to those themes we of course discussed our feelings about the seventh season overall, about the companions and speculated on the identity of one particular character and the next actor who is going be the Doctor.

I found myself agreeing a lot with Toni Jerrman, but I couldn’t help it, darn it. He just had the same kind of views about various things that I did. The 45 minutes flew past and it seemed like once again the time had ran out too early. I at least had fun and I really have to take time to get to know the old Doctor Who as well.

 Written by Grandpa Cthulhu

Guest of Honour Interview: Aliette de Bodard

We were getting a bit tired at this point after a full day of programming but we just had to see Aliette de Bodard's guest of honour interview. That was because exceptionally this year we had both read something from a guest of honour, the absolutely fantastic Perhonen and Jaguaari  short story collection. Of which Korppisusi wrote previously a book opinion (in Finnish)

Aliette de Bodard and Tom Crosshill
Maybe it was the nervousness of first time GoHing or maybe fatique from a long day or you know, doing both while pregnant, but our fabulous guest of honour seemed a bit reserved and quiet at first. Luckily she seemed to relax quite quickly and her answers were always well-thought-out and very interesting.

Even though the interview was good there were couple of small things that disappointed me a bit. First of all there was no mention of the brand new and wonderful Perhonen ja Jaguaari short story collection by publishing cooperative Osuuskumma. And my other slight disappointment had to do with the fact that the stories featured in that collection were not discussed all that much.

Apparently Tom Crosshill who conducted the interview didn't know about that collection and it was really a shame. Because think that the stories featured in that would have been more familiar with at least the majority of Finnish fans. Of course both Immersion -short story and On a red station, drifting -novella were very topical because they are both Hugo nominees in their respective categories but I have to admit that I haven't read either of them (yet!) so I would have liked to hear more about more familiar stories.

I have to admit that I also kinda fumbled my audience question at the end of the interview. Maybe the lack of sleep and not having spoken English in a while made it a bad idea in the first place. Anyway I still think it was a good question, just lacking in execution.

For those interested who weren't there, or even if you were and just couldn't make any sense of my mumbling, the question was (or at least was suppose to be):
Most, if not all, xuya-universe stories are set to the present day or to the future but have you (Aliette de Bodard) thought about writing stories that are set just after the Chinese find and land in America? 
I was interested in that because her Obsidian and Blood -trilogy is set around that time period and in the Aztec empire. So because she already has knowledge about the time period I would think that a story set in her alternative timeline wouldn't require too much research and would be extremely interesting!

There was also a fun food-related question by the one-and-only Cheryl Morgan which Korppisusi especially appreciated. On the whole madame de Bodard was very lovely and wonderful and the interview was conducted by Tom Crosshill very well.

After the interview the official programming for the day was over and we took a quick look around by the vendors tables. We tried to find any of the Obsidian and Blood-trilogy books but only one vendor had had the omnibus release. Even they had only gotten a few copies and were already sold out by the time we got there.

It's always a shame when in Finncon you can't find a larger selection Guest of Honour books. Luckily for others there were plenty of copies of the Perhonen and Jaguaari -book for sale. Peter Watts's Sokeanäkö (Blindsight) was also available in large quantities. So at least this year there were a good stock of some GoH books unlike some other times and Finncons.  

Having left the consite we pondered our eating options and decided to try Yeti Nepal restaurant located quite near the hotel and metro station. It turned out to be a terrific choice. We both had very tasty vegetable thali which consisted of four different dishes. They even had free naan-bread with main dishes, truly excellent. I would recommend everyone who finds themselves in the neighbourhood to try it out.

Vegetable thali. Om nom nom nom.
After eating ourselves silly we decided to reserve our strength for the Saturday night and dead dog -parties.. Instead we went back to the hotel where I (surprise surprise) yet again worked on my presentation to the wee hours of the night.

3 kommenttia:

  1. Great report!:) Thank you. We weren't there, but it's always nice to read what was going on.

    1. Thank you for the comment! Too bad that you couldn't make it to the con. We will try to write the next part quickly, so you can live vicariously through it :)

    2. We attended a prose course in Orivesi.:) Posted one metamorphosis in our blog.;)