Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Atonova 2005

Atorox statue depicting a robot’s headThe Atonova event was held in the Culture Center in Turku on Saturday. The room was packed: there were about 40 persons present in the audience. Some of them were attending the STK writer’s course that same weekend, but quite a few came just to see the awards event.

People sitting in the audience, listening to a presentation
The program started with a couple of presentations: Liisa Rantalaiho talked about “garden gnomes” (character development in sf) and Markku Soikkeli gave a presentation on religion and time travel in science fiction.

Anne, Mari and Tytti sitting at a table, speaking
Three members of the Nova preliminary jury gave some insight into this year’s competition and some general feedback about the competition entries. After that (and a brief coffee break), it was time to announce the winners of the competition and the results of the Atorox award.

The first prize in the Nova competition went to Johanna Nordling for her short story, Hukkuneet äänet (“Drowned voices”). Unfortunately, the winner wasn’t there to pick up the prize.

Atorox winners receiving the award and flowers
There were a few strong contestants for the Atorox award this year (speculated on by for example Ben Roimola on Enhörningen web site and Petri Laine in Usva 2/2005). The award went to Tero Niemi and Anne Salminen for Matka Reformaan (“Journey to Reforma”), published in their short story collection Nimbus ja tähdet (and one of their stories I wished on my Usva coverage would get translated into English).

People sitting around tables in the bar, chatting
The traditional after-hours party was held in Cosmic Comic Café. The Atonova pub gatherings tend to be a bit different from normal meetings in that the discussions circle around writing and reading (Finnish) sf more than usual. Also, there are people present who don’t visit the normal events that often. My general feeling of the buzz was that most were satisfied with the results this year.

Atorox Winners posing with the award statue
All in all, this year’s Atonova was very succesful. The presentations were professional and entertaining, and I found it very interesting to hear about the background and inside workings of the Nova competition. The place was just big enough to hold the event comfortably, and the fun fen made sure the event was entertaining well after the official part had ended.

Although I still feel that on those years there is a Finncon, the Atorox award should be presented there, if the organizers want to keep making the event better, the Atonova event has potential to develop into a minicon worth attending in the future.

Atonova photos

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Atorox 2005 to Tero Niemi & Anne Salminen

The results of the Atorox award for the best Finnish sf short story published in 2004 were announced today at Atonova.

This year's winners are Tero Niemi and Anne Salminen for Matka Reformaan. Congratulations!

The top ten short stories voted by members of Finnish sf societies are:

  1. Matka Reformaan by Tero Niemi & Anne Salminen (Nimbus ja tähdet)
  2. Khii/yksin/Taivaanalla by J.K. Miettinen (Portti 3/04)
  3. Häivähdys sitruunaa by Leila Paananen (Portti 4/04)
  4. Velhonaisen salli elää by Anne Leinonen (Portti 2/04)
  5. Yhdeksän ruukkua by Johanna Sinisalo (Tähtivaeltaja 4/04)
  6. Lautturin tytär by Anne Leinonen (Portti 1/04)
  7. Oudot vieraat by Carita Forsgren (Portti 2/04)
  8. Lihan käsivarsi by Jenny Kangasvuo (Portti 3/04)
  9. (tie) Cowgirl Blues by J.K. Miettinen (Finnzine 1/04) and
    On vielä pimeää by Tero Niemi & Anne Salminen (Nimbus ja tähdet)
The full results are available on the TSFS page.

Nova 2005 Results

The Nova 2005 winners were announced today at Atonova.

The results are:

  1. Hukkuneet äänet by Johanna Nordling
  2. Toimikas by Paula Susitaival
  3. Myria by Kari Tossavainen
  4. Kauneus on riittävä syy by Maarit Heikkinen
  5. Höynä ja kärtty by Marika Riikonen
  6. Repaleisia perhosia by Hannele Hakala
  7. Ensimmäinen tapaamani noita by Tiina Männistö
  8. Värit III: Paperilohikäärme by Saara Henriksson
  9. Ilmassa linnut, maan armoilla ihmiset by Anne Alasirniö
  10. Orson Shaneyn kasvot by Heikki Nevala

Friday, September 16, 2005

New Finnish Zine

Cover of Usva 2/2005 (containing a lot of black)Well, strictly speaking, Usva isn’t brand new—two issues have been published, and the latter already some time ago—but it just took me a long time to read the latest issue, and even longer to write something about Usva.

This shouldn’t be taken as a sign that I don’t much care about Usva, though. On the contrary, I think it's a wonderful and ambitious effort to better the field of Finnish science fiction by publishing material from both new and recognized writers (and also from outside the normal sf circles), and add an alternative to stories from the couple of big short story competitions that tend to nominate much of the short fiction published in other fanzines. In issue 2, there are six short stories from different writers, one article, and a news column (and also an English summary, for those who really want details on things they can’t read). The news has an emphasis on writing-related things, which suites this zine very well (and makes it a bit different from all the other news columns).

I’ve criticized Finnish sf stories before for generally being too unoriginal for my tastes, often being a bit thin (for example, concentrating only on setting the mood, but forgetting a plot, characters, or both), and too often lacking the polish I’d like to see in published stories (even if they are published “only” in fanzines). I’m afraid I’m not going to change my opinion yet—the short stories in Usva 2 didn’t do much for me. It’s not that they are bad or poorly written (I thought they were above average in this regard), they just didn’t click for me. With one exception: Tero Niemi and Anne Salminen’s Eräitä kevätpäiviä, eli taivaallisen laatikon tapaus was very enjoyable (although long) story, which managed to bring a fresh new point of view to a world familiar from their earlier stories while being as well written as ever.

I really want, by the way, to see a couple of Anne and Tero’s short stories translated to English some day, since I feel they’d be an excellent showcase for today’s Finnish sf and hold their own against many acclaimed stories (nominated for major awards, even). In addition to this one, Kuten ihmiset tekevät definitely, and for a third, maybe Ja jumala kutoi mattoja omista hiuksistaan or Matka Reformaan. Anyone? Please?

I also liked Petri Laine’s column about this year’s Atorox nominees a lot—even though the tone was much too mild. If someone says there’s not a single bad short story among the nominees, I say he needs to adjust his tolerance levels for poor writing, recycling used plots and writing about nothing in a not-too-interesting way. But it was still a worthy article, and I’d like to see more features along these lines in future issues.

What’s also interesting about Usva is its method of distribution: It is published as a pdf file that can be downloaded from the zine’s web site for free. So, there really is no good reason not to go and check Usva out right now.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Excellent Minicon

The Tähtivaeltaja Day minicon was held last Saturday in Helsinki, with author M. John Harrison as the GoH and main attraction.

The Place

Overview of the lounge to the stageThe Dubrovnik Lounge was a perfect setting for a con of this type and size. It seated an audience of a few dozens comfortably. (We arrived just in time to conquer a couple of tables and a very comfy sofa.) The bar was also right in the lounge, and had a decent selection of bottled beers and some ciders available. (The less said about the tap selection, the better.)

The stage was on the other end of the lounge, and the PA system worked ok—mostly—so the program participants could make themselves heard, even though the noise from the hallway, where the info & sales desk was located, grew a bit disturbing occasionally.

The Program

Toni Jerrman and Johanna Sinisalo sitting on the stageThe day started with the heavy hitters. First, Toni Jerrman talked with Johanna Sinisalo about science fiction and writing. This was followed by Jukkahoo interviewing Harrison. M. John Harrison and Jukka Halme sitting on stageThe topics varied from climbing to introducing his books to the audience to deconstructing pretty much everything. Both sessions were interesting and—even having heard the speakers before—managed to find new things and fresh points of view to discuss.

New Writers panelists on stageThe panel of the up-and-coming Finnish sf writers was more of a joint interview session, and worked well as such. I enjoyed seeing the faces of some of the writers that have appeared on the pages of Finnish fanzines lately (but haven’t been an active part of , at least for very long), and would be happy to see more items like this one at future conventions.

Turkey panelists on stageThe panel discussing movie turkeys was ok, I guess, but since the subject matter really isn’t my cup of tea, I’m probably the wrong person to judge. Extreme movements panelists sitting on stageAnd the definitive nazi pig panel (about extreme movements in science fiction), despite boasting its offensiveness, was quite civilized, rambled rather badly (had some funny speculation about Bush being thrown to Judge Dredd, though), and in the end, I’d be surprised if anyone managed to be offended by it. Could it be that the topics juicy enough for a “definitive panel” have run out, and the time has come to put this (many times in the past roaringly hilarious) program item out to pasture?

The World We Live In panelists sitting on stageThe World We Live In was the title of a panel discussion about the relationship between real life, politics and science fiction today. The panelists included the GoH Harrison and a member of the Finnish Parliament, Jyrki J.J. Kasvi. The topic was interesting, and there were some very good individual comments, but overall I didn’t think the discussion really got going. It might have benefitted from a little longer timeslot to get things in gear and a little tighter moderation to get in focus, perhaps.

The last program item for the day was “Huttu juttu,” a quiz show hosted by Jukkahoo & assistant. I can’t really comment on how this one looked to the audience, since as the show started I was drafted to be one of the competitors. The basic idea was to guess the most common answers to sfnal questions that 100 persons had been asked. There were two teams competing: Helsinki (including the judges, apparently) against the civilized world. The rules were complicated, with speed-tapping a table, stealing the other team’s answer and—no matter who won the round—giving all the points to the Helsinki team. Which still didn’t manage to win. The losers got pasta; winners were given appropriate buttons. Mine says, “50 % of people are stupider than average”. (By the way, did you know that when 100 persons were asked to mention a book that has the word “Mars” in the title, the fifth most common answer would be “The War of the Worlds”?)

The People

Overview of Dubrovnik Lounge; people standing in front of the barOne of the highlights of a small convention like this one is seeing friends. Even though I’d decided to watch the program for a change, there was still plenty of opportunities to talk to people you don’t get to see very often. And meet a couple of new ones, too. (Hi, Eemeli!) I hear that even though the lounge with the programming was filled nicely for the day, there wasn’t a shortage of people to talk to in the bar outside either (not a big surprise there).

Jukkahoo with a mic, smilingThe person of the day award goes to Jukkahoo. In addition to interviewing Harrison, hosting the quiz show, and managing to be his usual jolly self in between, he also MC’d the evening party with aplomb. He clearly had a lot of fun (as he himself admitted in Muffins), and so did we.

Mike Harrison (as he preferred to be called) was a splendid guest: charming, interesting and funny. I saw him last year at Swecon, but didn’t really get to talk to him then. People sitting at a table in restaurant ZetorThis time I was lucky enough to sit by him at a dinner after the program, and had a great time chatting with him. Kudos to Like for publishing his book in Finnish and helping bring him to Finland!

One thing that occurred to me was that a smaller con like this, with emphasis on fen, should perhaps try a Swecon-style banquet dinner: to arrange something for maybe 40 to 60 persons to attend. It’d be a nice way to continue the conversations after the day’s program, and would also eliminate the hassle of quite a lot of people going around asking who’s going to eat (and where) and wondering if there’s room in restaurants to accommodate any larger parties. Maybe next time?

The Party

People standing arund at the party, talking. Toni and J.J.J. in the front.The evening party was held at ravintola Kirja. The place was not typical for a sf con party, and at least in the beginning seemed maybe a little rigid with tables set in straight lines and people sitting in their own little groups. That didn’t bother anybody, though, as people started wandering around, and the feeling at the party was very good.

Petri (dazzled by the light) and Sisättö giving the Jet Ace Logan awardThere was some programming at the party also: The Jet Ace Logan award was given for the most improbable way to try to conquer Earth (War of the Worlds), and the stupidest way to save it (Signs). Blommila (back turned) reading, Jukkahoo holds the lightAnd then, “Sell a book”, in which the participants read a beginning of a book, their goal to convince the audience of the unique qualities of the works. Ilja Rautsi reading a book closelyThere were many magnificient performances, including reading The Unknown Soldier in Chinese and one so passionate that the book actually caught fire! The winner of this very enjoyable and extremely funny event was voted by the audience. The most audible cheer went to Ilja Rautsi for his rendition of Paikka nimeltä Plaston by Erkki Ahonen. Congratulations!

Conclusion

(Ran out of subtitles beginning with a “P”. Sorry.)

Our delegation wasn’t staying in Helsinki overnight, so we had to cut the party a little short to start driving back home. Everybody was happy, though, and we felt the con had been a great success. Big thanks to all the organizers and supporters who made the event happen. Here’s hoping for many more of these events!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Light Wins Tähtivaeltaja Award

The Tähtivaeltaja award for best science fiction book published in Finnish last yeard was given today—as was expected—to the novel Valo (Light) by M. John Harrison. The book was published in Finland by Like.

M. John Harrison is currently visiting Finland and can be met at ESCON and Tähtivaeltaja Day this weekend.

From Kaleva, Babek Nabel

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Things To Do: September

There are a couple of sf events in September worth noting: ESCON takes place in Helsinki on Friday, September 9. It’s organized by the Espoo science fiction society ESC and targets mainly 16–20-year-olds, but everyone is free to attend.

The program starts at 4 PM. There is a panel for those who have read the Harry Potters and want to find more books to read, a presentation about movies made into books (and the other way around), and an exiting fairy tale draw-and-tell by Petri Hiltunen. The big names of the event are authors Johanna Sinisalo and M. John Harrison. There’s also a literary workshop in collaboration with the Finnish sf writers’ association.

The following day (Saturday, September 10), there is a minicon in Helsinki, the Tähtivaeltaja Day. It is held in the Dubrovnik Lounge from noon to 6 PM. Guest of Honor is M. John Harrison. Other program participants include a lot of the usual suspects. There are Q&A session with Johanna Sinisalo and Harrison, panel discussions about movie turkeys, upcoming Finnish sf writers, extemist movements in sf and the relationship of real life, politics and science fiction. Also, a quiz show by Jukka ”Kaskelotti” Halme. The evening party will be in Ravintola Kirja from 8.

The following weekend, the Atorox award for the best Finnish sf short story of 2004 and the Nova competition prices will be presented in Turku in the Atonova minicon. The event takes place on Saturday September 17 at 3 PM (and not 2, like some shoddy fanzines have reported). Atonova is organized by TSFS and STK. There are a couple of panel discussions about writing sf, some feedback from this year’s Nova competition judges and a panel discussion with Atorox and Nova winners. After-hours party will be at Cosmic Comic Café (from half past seven).

All the events are free to attend.

Tähtivaeltaja Award to Lauren Beukes

The Helsinki Science Fiction Society has announced the winner of this year’s Tähtivaeltaja Award : the best science fiction book published i...