perjantai 2. elokuuta 2013

Finncon 2013: Saturday-Caturday

The second day of Finncon 2013 had really only one instance of cats I can remember but then again it was fairly memorable one so we'll go with that. Because the breakfast at the hotel was open later than on weekdays this morning I even got up early enough to get some.

That also sadly meant that we missed the first couple of hours of programming. But having (almost) enough of sleep is fairly important for con-stituion.

After the fairly diverse breakfast we headed back to the consite after carefully building our battleplan. There would be programming. We would go see it. It would be good. 

Random cute internet cat for caturdays sake.

 Written by Korppisusi

Neljä mestarietsivää (Four master detectives)

I came to the panel a little late, since I couldn’t find Valssaamo. Luckily some very patient gopher guided me there and when I arrived, the program hall was almost full. I missed the introductions but I did manage to find a decent place where I saw the panelists and the audiovisual material.

Each of the panelists had their own version of Sherlock Holmes to represent. The versions discussed were Granada Television’s The adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies, BBC’s Sherlock and CBS’s Elementary. The panel was constructed so that every panelist took turns in describing one aspect of their version. First they told a bit about the versions in general, then about the Sherlocks, the Watsons, the police forces and the Mycrofts.

Then the time ran out and at least Moriarty and Irine Adler were left out because of it. The program description also promised some debates between the panelists but that was also left out because of the time constraints. I enjoyed the panel and the panelists were great. It was interesting to hear the similarities and differences between the versions, especially as I haven’t seen the Granada series and I have seen only one episode of Elemental. But yes, I wished that the program had lasted longer.

 Written by Grandpa Cthulhu

Triumph Through Incompetence
(Guest of Honor Speech: Peter Watts)

I was torn between the Sherlock Holmes -panel and Peter Watts' Guest of Honour speech but in the end I chose Mr. Watts. That was partly because I wasn't sure I would have an opportunity to see him in any other programming. I sadly hadn't had the time to read any of his work but I had heard intresting things about them so to listen I went.

Mr. Watts gripping the audience
It was a terrific choice because Peter Watts had actually a very scientifically informative Guest of Honour speech/lecture. His background as a biologist was very clear because he knew what he was talking about but fortunately he was also very entertaining presenting SCIENCE. Like when he talked about Toxoplasma-parasite which tricks rats into getting turned on by cat urine.

The promised Caturday cat!
I would say that the main subject of the speech was the concept of free will. There were lot of points made about how lot of our processes are actually run by our biological impulses rather than conscious choices. Apparently this is a major theme in Blindsight and Mr. Watts did warn at the beginning of the speech that he could spoil the book.

For example the parts of the speech about parasites that control behaviour were probably linked thematically to Blindsight. But because actually  the speech was more about ideas and concepts he didn't even touch any specific plot points or events. Which was, of course, better for me and I didn't mind because I felt the speech worked well enough on its own.

In my case the speech worked in the best possible way. It got me even more interested in Mr. Watts' work and I think that Blindsight will be on my read list in the near future.

SF as Metaphor

After watching previous programming items separately we combined our powers and summoned Captain Planet.... or went to watch the SF as Metaphor -panel. The panel consisted of the lovely Guest of Honour Aliette de Bodard, Finnish author and critic Markku Soikkeli, Finfar research guest and academic fantasy researcher Stefan Ekman and chairing the panel was Latvian sf-author Tom Crosshill.

I realized I hadn't taken any pictures of this panel.
So here's Captain Planet and the Planeteers instead.
I will have to admit that I don't exactly remember specific things that was said in this panel. I only have a recollection of the topics that were discussed and general gist of the discourse. I blame the lack of sleep on the previous night. Nonetheless I did enjoy the panel even if it did seem somewhat familiar as a topic.

For me the most interesting part of the panel was Aliette de Bodard talking about her work and the discussion about presenting very different points of view from mainstream (speculative) fiction. An important point was made about how presenting different cultures in fiction should really be done with care and with proper research so that using a non-mainstream setting has depth.

There was also a good point made how SF literature is and has been a very good way to introduce new ideas and social concepts to readers but writers shouldn't be too ham-fisted when trying to represent their points. The work can too easily become preachy and propaganda-like which then usually makes it bad or even unreadable. 

See last paragraph.

One of the topics there was a consensus between the panelists was that the author does have a certain responsibility to be aware of common metaphors associated with his topic of choice. Meaning that a writer writing about for example vampires can't ignore all the common metaphors that are usually bundled with that subject. Of course vampires having multiple slightly different metaphors associated to them at different times makes it even more challenging.

At the end of the panel one opinion from the audience tried to in a way argue against that. The example he told was that one of his friends had tried to read a sf-story set on Mars and was occupied trying to figure out what the Mars setting was a metaphor for instead of enjoying the story which according to him only had Mars as a setting and nothing more.

They had shortly touched upon the subject of subjective reading experience but because that was such a large topic they kinda concluded that every readers has their own interpretation of the text. Otherwise the answer to the audience member boiled down to the earlier point that writers must acknowledge the possible interpretations.

All in all it was a very good panel discussion and Tom Crosshill did a good job as a chair keeping the conversation going.

 Written by Korppisusi

Palkintojenjako: Atorox 2013 (Atorox 2013 award ceremony)

Atorox award is given yearly to the best science fiction or fantasy short story of the last year. The list of nominees is gathered and the voting itself is done by the fandom. The award ceremony is conducted in Finncon and after the ceremony is over, there is a short panel discussion. In the recent years the panelists have been representing different scifi associations that have had an active voting group. I was this year’s representative of Spektre, scifi association of Tampere. This was only my second time in reading and voting but I have enjoyed it a lot.

Atorox Award

The best part of the process here in Tampere is the fact that Spectre’s group gathers just before the voting deadline to discuss the novels at length. Everyone will vote individually, but the discussion brings about different opinions and might even sway the vote of particular novel one way or the other. Topics of discussion were the overall quality of short stories compared to last year, what we thought about the winner, what other short stories were our favourites, were there surprises or disappointments, did steampunk as an exiting new genre had something to do with the winner and magazine ratio to anthologies.

Atorox Top 10 (minus the winner Anni Nupponen)
I was overjoyed that our group’s number one choice, Kuka ratasta pyörittää by Anni Nupponen, won. I was a little disappointed though (well, a lot actually) that my number two choice, Kiven Värit by Jenni Kauppinen wasn’t even in the top ten. This year’s voting activity was fortunately up but it still wasn’t a lot. About 50 people voted when the amount last year was only 35. Hopefully the amount will keep rising, since the voting process in itself has been made incredibly easy. All of the nominees are in electronic format and the voting is also done electronically.

There was a brief discussion (instigated by the panel chair) about the fact that most of the nominees were from anthologies and only one of the nominees was from Portti, a respected science fiction and fantasy magazine from Tampere. I myself am very new to this whole short story scene in Finland and have no special ties to the magazine, I have only browsed it a little from time to time. That being said, I really hope that in the coming years there will be stories from magazines amongst the nominees as well and not just from anthologies. Anthologies are easily accessible with quality short stories but they also tend to be thematically compilated. We hope that it won’t make the competition one sided.

Atorox 2013 discussion

Grandpa Cthulhu also commented from the audience and told that during our group meeting there had been discussion about the lack of magazine novels and the fact that some of the writers had multiple novels nominated. His intention was merely to point out that this year not only Portti-magazine but also Spin and Tähtivaeltaja had very few novels on the short list. And that it is a real shame because that means there is less choice.

Even thought some have construed it as such, the comment was by no means meant as a snub to Tuomas Saloranta or anyone else for that matter. Nor it meant to indicate that we were somehow bitter about the Portti-situation. We were merely concerned about the evident lack of magazine novels. That lack though might be easily remedied by encouraging more people to vote short stories for the pre-qualification list as well. That has also been made easier, you can now vote all year around with a nifty electronic voting form. We just have to remind people periodically to do just that.

 Written by Grandpa Cthulhu

Julkistamistilaisuus: ”Teräslilja : Iso Pipi” ja ”Kapteeni Hyperventilaattorimies” -albumi (Comic Release Panel)

This was probably the most restless program number we saw during the convention. But it incidentally was also one of the funniest. The program consisted of a panel of creators of both comics discussing them.

The panel was chaired by Mr. Tähtivaeltaja aka Toni Jerrman. It was a logical choice because both Teräslilja and Kapteeni Hyperventilaattorimies comics had been released in Tähtivaeltaja-magazine.

The panel was otherwise composed of Pekka A. Manninen (creator of Teräslilja), Anssi Rauhala (one of the original creators of Kapteeni Hyperventilaattorimies), Markku Uusitalo (the other original creator of Kapteeni Hyperventilaattorimies) and Petri Hiltunen (who had drawn several of the later Kapteeni Hyperventilaattorimies stories).

P.A. Manninen singing

So it was a panel composed of old school comics and sci-fi people... So you can probably understand why it would be bit restless. But like I said before, it was extremely entertaining. Many of the panelist seemed to have fun and it was very clear they didn't take the whole thing the least bit seriously.

For example P.A. Manninen warned everybody that if he got the mic he would sing "Asshole rules the navy" which he then promptly did when the mic was passed on to him. Though the song apparently is a real old time pirate shanty. So... hooray for culture!

Lot of the discussion was centered on Captain Hyperventilatorman because this was the first collection album of Hypis stories. There were talk about how the creation of the character came about and how different writers/artist had their own take on the character. 

They also told that when certain people from Finnish fandom started to show up in cameos in the comics everyone else wanted to be included too. And when Johanna Sinisalo didn't get featured she then promptly wrote herself in when she worked on the book.

Couple of familiar faces
The creators talked how certain popular comics at the time had influenced it. Many of Alan Moore's 80s comics (Watchmen, V for Vendetta and Marvelman / Miracleman) were at least mentioned. Captain Hyperventilatorman was at the same time a parody and a homage to both those and superhero comics in general.

While more time was spent on Captain Hyperventilatorman of course Teräslilja (Steel lily) wasn't ignored. There were some comparisons between the characters and P.A. Manninen told a few stories related to the comic. One was about featuring one particular newspaper critic in a very unflattering role in his comic and how by that he has ensured that it will never be reviewed in that paper.

Subtle celebrity parody á la Steel Lily
When asked who would win a fight between Steel Lily and Captain Hyperventilatorman, everyone on the panel agreed on that Steel Lily would gut and chop the Captain to small pieces before he could even come up with a clever quip.

For me Captain Hyperventilatorman was actually the more unknown of these releases whereas Steel Lily has been very familiar and always a joy to read in Tähtivaeltaja. I had read a few Hypis-stories in older magazines but it was very intresting to hear about the background and history of the comic. Unfortunately the budget for Finncon was tight enough so I didn't have money to buy the Captain Hyperventilatorman -album but especially after this program it has definitely gotten on my shopping list.

 Written by Korppisusi

Speculative TV series

At first when I read the program description, I thought that the panel would be discussing about real tv-series that hadn’t been yet aired in Finland. But then the words “truly unseen” caught my attention and I knew that it would be a program where the participants would make up tv-series.

The panel chair was Eemeli Aro and with the assist of the audience he fed some ideas to the panelists who had to incorporate those ideas to their stories about a particular kind of tv-series. Some of the stories were told from the viewers’ perspective and some from the producers’ perspective.

Speculative creators
The premise was familiar to us from Åcon’s program item “Just a speculative fiction minute”, where the participants tell audience about made up speculative fiction books. The key difference (in addition to the format) between these two programs is, that the latter uses a time limit, one minute. Speculative tv-series would have benefitted from that time limit too, since the stories sometimes seemed to go on a little too long. But it was a fun programming piece nevertheless, with space sheeps, apocalyptic teletubbies and vampire daycare.

 Written by Grandpa Cthulhu

Bimbopaneeli: Elämän tosiasiat (Bimbo panel: Realities of life)

We are actually really hyped for the possibility of having Worldcon in Helsinki and it would have been also very nice to hear the J. Pekka Mäkelä Guest of Honour interview. So there were lot of other intresting programs concurring at the same time as the bimbo panel. It was fairly difficult choice to make but on the other hand it wouldn't be exactly Finncon without the bimbo panel.

The panelist' enjoying refreshments

The full title for this year's panel was Realities of life: What the internet has taught us. Which probably would be a fitting title every year. The panel started with the sad news that this would be the last regular bimbo panel. Although next year will be apparently the 10th year anniversary of bimbo-panel so there will be a sort of best of bimbo panel programming then.

Probably the most disturbing thing seen on this years panel was the Scientifically Accurate Spider-Man which was all kinds of horrible and somehow good at the same time even if it did kinda destroy my childhood. Otherwise I felt that there was maybe less material than in previous years but there was also more and/or longer video clips than before so that could be the reason.

Of course mucking around the internet for all the horrible/awesome memes and pictures must be taxing so it's very understandable that after almost a decade the material not shown must be running out. And maybe also the mental facilities to handle so much pure Internets. But we're still kinda waiting for that joint Definitive bimbo panel with Petri Hiltunen...

All in all it's somewhat difficult to put the bimbo panel into words. It's more of a thing to be experienced and next year everyone should go see it. Especially if it will be the last bimbo panel for the foreseeable future.

Hopefully after next year's panel the bimbos will still sometimes find the time and energy to do the panel. Maybe by not doing it annually they can have even more mindbending and childhood destroying material. Here's hoping for it! Kinda...

 Written by Korppisusi

Naamiaiset (Masquerade)

We were a bit miffed that before the masquerade could start the program hall had to be emptied. We had the best seats possible in the first row and after we returned, we had to settle for the third row. We understand that the participants needed to rehearse, but that could have handled so much better. All of the attendees were absolutely brilliant but my definite favourite was the Ghostbusters group!

Almost all the Masquerade costumes
I agree with Cheryl Morgan on that the contestants should spend a little more time on the stage. I would also love that everyone had theme music so it would be easier to be on that stage. I think that this current system works very well, that the masquerade contestants present themselves as part of the program and the awards are given at the evening party. And I love the fact that every participant gets an award! This year the awards were especially awesome, since everyone got a book that somehow were tied (albeit very loosely) to the characters.

 Written by Grandpa Cthulhu

Iltabileet (Finncon party)

Sadly this year there wasn't a robot dance competion at the party but location was same than in 2009. The party was held at Hima & Sali bar-restaurant at the Cable Factory consite. There was also part of the nearby Valssaamo-hall in use which was pretty nice because it was a bit quieter than the bar-area.

The entrance fee this year was a bit more steeper than in previous year's but maybe that's just the "capitol-area extra". Korppisusi did get in free because she was wearing a very nice faery costume but I was only wearing my I Snake New York t-shirt (which I just personally like way too much...)

Finncon party is always a blast. SF fandom may drink exuberant amounts of alcohol but there is rarely if ever any drunken idiots which is really great. We had lot of great conversations and saw really cool costumes and things. Like one person who had a drool-worthy custom 3D-printed and self-assembled Pip-boy 3000.

We stayed till the closing signal which was a bit later than would have been sensible. Because yes, I still had a few things to go over for my presentation which was of course 10 am. the next morning.


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