Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Swecon: Brief Notes

This year’s Swecon, ConCeive, was held in Göteborg a week ago. After waking up on the ferry on Friday morning at an hour no civilized being should have to be awake, and then driving through Sweden, we arrived at the scene at about 1 o’clock. The con was supposed to start in a few hours, but there was no hint about it to be seen anywhere. So, we knew we had to be in the right place—this was a Swedish con, after all, known for their “relaxed” ways of con-organizing.

It was raining. And quite cold. At this point, I started to question the wisdom of traveling abroad without a coat (nor an umbrella—but Göteborg was supposed to be sunny and warm!) Nevertheless, unintimidated by the weather, we took a short stross stroll in the city and ate a pizza. Then, we went back to the site and helped to put up stuff for the con.

The site was excellent for this type of event. There was a big room for the main programming, a lounge for sitting around and for the vendor tables, a couple of smaller spaces for the fan room, the audio and video programs and occasional other items, and of course the bar. Which was self-organized, so the prices were very reasonable (although they tended to run out of pretty much everything, as the con went on). My only gripe was that there was no audio equipment in the main “auditorium” and the way to the lounge went through the back of the room so you had to sit in front and listen carefully to make out what the participants were saying. Fortunately, there usually was plenty of room at the front seats.

What I really liked about this year’s convention, was a very warm, gathering-of-friends atmosphere, which I didn’t think was there as much last year in Stockholm. Even though I don’t really know that many Swedish fen, it was very easy to meet people and get into conversations with them. An important aspect of this was the site itself. There was a cozy, relaxed feel to the place, with the humorous guide signs and all. The place seemed made for just lounging around. Maybe it also helped that the con had only about 60 attendees: when you bump into the same persons over and over again, you start to get to know them a bit better along the way.

The organizers were also all very lovely, and even though the con maybe lacked a bit when it comes to being organized and getting things done in time, they came through where it counted. Like when there were three Finns to be put up somewhere at a moment’s notice in the middle of Friday night, after it turned out our intended accommodation had cats (and was thus incompatible with Jukka). Which turned out to be good, because without meeting Mats and staying at his place, we’d perhaps never had gotten exposed to the madly brilliant (or brilliantly mad) Invader Zim. There was a special quality to the Göteborg fandom, that I can’t really put my finger on, but which made us Finns feel very much at home. So much in fact, that we decided to claim them as an adopted part of the Finnish fandom.

The foreign guest of honor, Fluff the Plush Cthulhu Charles Stross, was a good choice. I’m a fan of his books, and have been interested in meeting him for a couple of years now. (But I want to take the opportunity here to clip the wings from the rumor that I had anything to do with inventing the Charles Stross man-bitch squadron. Honestly!) He was a nice fellow, with a good sense of humor, who had interesting things to say. He obviously has some very enthusiastic fans in the Swedish fandom, too. (Note how I carefully avoid saying anything about the Swedish sub-division of the CSMBS here.)

The bar. Where it all happens, I’m told. Well, if you count only the Finns sitting there with their beers while all the Swedes are watching the program, I guess. There will be photo evidence of this within a few days, after the computer has been beaten back into submission.

Ok, to be fair, there was a lot of activity at or around the bar. For example, the very scientificly determined famous-sf-writer-alter-ego test, the bid party for the next Swecon, and of course lots of fen chatting (and, it sometimes felt, at least as many taking pictures of the aforementioned).

Were there any things that were less than good this year? Not many. The scheduling was very off from the beginning (and got worse—except for the av programming, which ran on schedule to the minute), but when the event is this small, things still work out fine, as long as nobody starts to stross stress over it. The “program book” for the convention was even more pathetic than last year’s: something I didn’t think possible. For starters, it didn’t contain any info about the program. That didn’t matter much, though, as there was only one main line of programming, and I was mostly interested in the English-speaking GoH anyway. The banquet left much to be desired. The food seemed to be mostly cold cuts (especially since there was also too little of it, and by the time we got to the table, they’d run out of some dishes), but much was saved by having really excellent ice cream for dessert (the same that is served at the Nobel banquets, we were told), and lots of it. (Cue some locals chanting the Invader Zim ice cream commercial.) So, nothing to get in the way of having a lots of fun, really.

But all good things, and so on. After the closing ceremony, we enjoyed a great Chinese buffet at a restaurant our local hosts took us to and headed home. Even the journey back was entertaining, thanks to the very good traveling companions, Jukka and Ben. A big thank you to the Göteborg fen for organizing the event, and especially to Mats Pekkari for letting us bunk in his living room, as well as Tomas Cronholm for putting us up for the night in Stockholm before our boat left back for Finland. Oh, and by the way, if you ever happen to be thrown on a boat that is then filled with karaoke-singing madmen, and the only way to keep what’s left of your sanity is to spend the day on the deck (under the very burning sun, unprepared with any protective chemicals), the pharmacies in Finland sell a lotion called “ACO efter sol” that seems to retroactively cancel sunburn quite effectively. Wonderful stuff.
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