Monday, August 28, 2006

Finncon Videos from VanderMeer

Jeff VanderMeer has posted a couple of videos taken at the Finncon Saturday party on YouTube: the Ambergris filk performed by the Filk Freaks, and snippets from the mad scientist laughter competition.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Fandom Awards

The Atorox awardThere were many awards given out during Finncon. I’ve already blogged about the Atorox award (won by Jenny Kangasvuo), as well as the Tähtivaeltaja award that went to Risto Isomäki. Other awards at the con were:

  • the Kosmoskynä award was given to Liisa Rantalaiho; this life achievement award is given by the Finnish Science Fiction Writers Association in recognition of advancing Finnish science fiction literature.
  • first price in the Nova short story competition went to Mari Saario for her story Keveät (“The Light Ones”). Timo Saarto was second, and Tiina Raevaara came third.
  • Mari Saario also took the first prize in the Hekuma contest for writing erotic stories with a short story called Sateenkaari 2256 (“Rainbow 2256”). In this competition, M.G. Soikkeli was in the second place, and the third prize went to Jenny Kangasvuo, who also won the Atorox. It seems it’s not lonely at the top after all, but there is room for at least two.
  • The Espoo science fiction society ESC announced an award for “the Espoo sf act of the year,” which was given to Vesa Sisättö
  • The Jet-Ace Logan Appreciation Society named the plot in the King Kong comic book, issues 7 and 8, as the most ridiculous way to conquer the Earth (which includes giant sea creatures and mechanical animals). Also, the most stupefying way to save the Earth was in the Fifth Element, where Bruce Willis activates Milla Jovovitch by kissing her

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Finncon: Saturday Evening

The official Finncon party took place at the restaurant Kaisaniemi which was very nostalgic for me, because the first Finncon I attended had its party there too, in 1989. This time was definitely an improvement—no live band to begin with. The food was pretty good, and the place not too crowded. If it hadn’t been unpleasantly hot inside, it would have made an excellent venue for the party.

Vesa Sisättö, on the right, wrestling the award away from the rest of ESC

There was some programming, but not too much to get in the way. A couple of awards were given by The Espoo science fiction society ESC (the award is the big black gorilla, in the picture above second from the right) and the Jet Ace Logan Appreciation Society (shown below).

The Jet-Ace Logan Appreciation Society standing tall on the stage

A couple of performances followed. Anne Leinonen and Katja Salminen read sample entries from the Hekuma erotic writing contest. There were a couple of small gems in the selection.

Anne Leinonen and Katja Salminen standing on stage reading

The Filk Freaks from Tampere had prepared customized filks for the guests of honor. Especially the first one about Ambergris and the Festival had the audience in stitches.

The Filk Freaks singing in front of the stage

Eemeli Aro, a relatively recent but admirably energetic addition to the Finnish fandom, performed a mad, but funny “documentary” about science fiction fans.

Eemeli presenting specimens of a science fiction fan

A great idea (that I hope we won’t see at every con from now on) was the “mad scientist laugh contest”. I think “hysterical” describes the event very well, and some of these mad scientist–wannabes were downright scary!

Kummisetä laughing madly

People ate, drank and were merry, for they knew that tomorrow they would still have another day of Finncon left. It’s a good thing it was a very short distance from the restaurant to our hotel…

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Finncon: Saturday

Saturday was just packed. I went to the con site before the doors were opened to help set up the fandom table, and the site was already hot. This didn’t bode well.

People setting up the table for the Helsinki societies

The opening ceremonies. The usual stuff. Organizers talking, usually introducing the guests and thanking a lot of people. Wishing everybody a good convention, if they’re feeling especially generous. They had all that, with the Finncon head honcho Jukka Halme and the Animecon representative Kyuu Eturautti doing the talking. In addition, there were some very funny translations appearing on the screen behind them.

Jukkahoo behind the podium, Kyuu Eturautti standing beside it; funny translations on the screen in the back Finncon Guests standing and waving to the audience
…and yes, the guests got introduced to the audience.

The two panels I had agreed to do were back-to-back right after the ceremonies. First, we talked about fanzines with Anne Leinonen moderating and Pasi Karppanen and Ben Roimola also participating. I thought we did pretty well, and got some discussion going (Ben of course was an easy target with stupid ideas like there being too many fanzines already). I produced and gave out a fanzine called FCZ, made specially for the occasion, that had some background on fanzines, short articles on zine writing by Anne and Jukka Laajarinne, plus a brief look at Finnish fanzines and an even more brief mention of a couple of foreign zines.

Audience sitting at the foreign cons panel

The other panel was about foreign cons, how they differ from Finnish ones, and why everyone should go to them, with Cheryl Morgan (moderating), Johan Anglemark and Fionna O’Sullivan. That went quite ok also, I thought, even if most of the panel was Cheryl talking about her extensive knowledge about different conventions around the world (which I think was the best way to do the item anyway). In the end, I’m still not sure we really got anybody interested in going to a con abroad. Unfortunately.

Johan and Nea sitting at the bar with beersAfter the panels, I felt for a break, so I headed to the bar, and sat there for a while with Harri (another fan from Turku), talking with many people from several countries. A few beers were just the thing before getting on with the convention. The hallways were much too crowded, so the order of the day was either watching the program items or sitting in the bar (not that I’m complaining about that—not much, anyway).

Jeff VanderMeer reading amidst the rubble from the destruction auction

While GoH Jeff VanderMeer was reading there was also in another room what I was told was easily one of the best panels of the day, Kulttuurit kohtaavat (“The clash of cultures”). But VanderMeer reading excerpts of his texts and answering questions from the audience was extremely entertaining, so I don’t regret going to see that instead.

By the way, there was also an auction with a twist held earlier in the same room: you could bid either to own the item, or to have it destroyed. You can see some of the results on the floor all around Jeff…

Ahrvid Engholm Hannu Rajaniemi & Cheryl Morgan J. Pekka Mäkelä

I don’t think I’ve been to this many program items at a Finncon in years. But there just were so many promising-sounding items, with interesting people on them. One such panel was “Is Ansible More Than Just an Anagram for Lesbian?” It was supposed to be about the best science fiction concepts and ideas, and trying to imagine more of them for the future. Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly stay on topic, but concentrated on science fiction inventions slowly becoming reality instead. Not a bad discussion on that, though. Hannu Rajaniemi got more than his share of questions, being the resident scientist of the panel.

After a quick revisit at the bar (I don’t think I missed anything really important this time, and had a great conversation with Jeff VanderMeer and his wife Ann there, which beat any official programming they had available) there was one of those items I’d especially waited for: the “SF/F Deadly Sins” panel with GoHs Justina Robson and Jeff VanderMeer, plus Cheryl Morgan and Stepan Chapman.

Justina Robson, Jeff VanderMeer, Cheryl Morgan and Stepan Chapman sitting on a panel

The panel didn’t disappoint, it was lively and all participants witty and funny. No grand truths were revealed, but the panelists themselves said they’d decided to play if for laughs, and they got them. On several occasions.

Kummisetä talking to Mike Pohjola on stageAfter seeing so many panels, I started noticing some program-fatigue. Or maybe it was just that the next item I peeked at, “the master class with the late celebrities,” just wasn’t very funny. Mike Pohjola doing his Jay Leno/Cryptkeeper bit on the stage was ok, but I left after a little while listening to him talking to Kummisetä (funny as he usually may be) “channeling Tolkien”. If doing a talk show is difficult, doing a mock–talk show that actually is funny is probably much harder, and this one just didn’t work very well, I’m afraid.

There were program items still going on, but the day had been hot and humid (especially so inside the Paasitorni building), so it was time to skip the rest of them and head back to the hotel for a shower before the evening party. Of the items I missed, I heard some very good things about the Slash/Fanfic panel, moderated by Emma London. Might have been worth watching, even though I have very little interest in fanfic, and even less for slash fanfic. More on the evening later.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pasi Jääskeläinen Interviewed on Risingshadow

The Risingshadow forum has an interview with Pasi Jääskeläinen about his new novel Lumikko ja yhdeksän muuta. Pasi also talks about his writing in general, his thoughts on genres, and such. Interesting stuff—although if you’ve been reading his blog, you’ve seen most of it there already.

(A note to the Risingshadow folks: when you put up good articles like this, please mention the writer!)

Johanna Sinisalo Scripts Iron Sky

Iron Sky LogoThe makers of Star Wreck announced on Sunday that their next project, Iron Sky, will be scripted by none other than Johanna Sinisalo. According to sources there’s something to do with space battles. And unexpected findings in space…

This is suddenly sounding a lot better than a Star Trek parody full of engineering student humor.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Atorox 2006 Results

The awardJenny Kangasvuo took home a double victory in this year’s Atorox awards. Her short story Kaikessa lihassa on tahto (“All Flesh Has a Will”) was voted the best Finnish short story published last year, and Aalto nahan alla (“A wave under the skin”) took the second place. The 24th Atorox awards were given out on Sunday at Finncon 2006 in Helsinki.

Jenny Kangasvuo with her award

These are the top ten short stories from last year, voted by the Finnish fandom:
  1. Jenny Kangasvuo: Kaikessa lihassa on tahto (Portti 2/05)
  2. Jenny Kangasvuo: Aalto nahan alla (Portti 4/05)
  3. Tero Niemi & Anne Salminen: Eräitä kevätpäiviä, eli Taivaallisen laatikon tapaus (Usva 2/05)
  4. Hannu Rajaniemi: Isännän ääni (Usva 3/05)
  5. Johanna Sinisalo: Grande Randonnée (Kädettömät kuninkaat ja muita häiritseviä tarinoita)
  6. Anne Leinonen: Mestariseppä (Portti 1/05)
  7. Natalia Laurila: Meren valtiatar (Portti 1/05)
  8. Boris Hurtta: Tuulinen syksy (Portti 1/05)
  9. Petri Salin: Talviyön uni (Finnzine 2/05)
  10. Boris Hurtta: Jäätalvi (Usva 1/05)
As you can see, Portti still dominated the list with five stories (including the top two), but Usva is a strong contender with three. It will be interesting to see what the score between the very traditional Portti and much more experimental Usva will be in the near future, and if anybody else will have much say in the contest.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tähtivaeltaja Award to Risto Isomäki

It was announced yesterday that the Tähtivaeltaja award for the best science fiction book published in Finnish in 2005 went to Risto Isomäki for his Finlandia-nominated novel Sarasvatin hiekkaa.

The novel is an ecological thriller that serves as a warning of what could happen if the current trends aren’t reversed.

The award was decided by a jury that included Jukka Halme, Toni Jerrman, Anne Leinonen and Vesa Sisättö.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Fandom Friday

In today’s program was Fandom Friday, a guided Helsinki walking tour for the fen.

Waiting in the hotel lobby for the tour to start

We had some surprise guests for the first part of the tour: the honored guests VanderMeers and Robson joined us for the walk to Paasitorni and a tour of the con site.

The group standing in the Kaisaniemi park
First stop: the Kaisaniemi park.

Sari and the group walking through the park
Sari leading the group to the restaurant Kaisaniemi.

The tour group walking towards the entrance to Paasitorni
—Paasitorni!
—Paasitorni!
—Paasitorni!
—It’s only a model.
—Shh! Besides, it can’t be, because we went inside.

Almost empty tables in the lobby
The place was still relatively quiet.

There was a special treat for the tour: we got to go up to the tower, and enjoy the view of Helsinki from there.
Standing at the top of the tower A view from the tower Taking pictures of Helsinki from the tower Helsinki
And it was pretty.

Looking at the world peace statue, Sari explaining
Sari Polvinen, our tour guide, kept us amused with historical facts and anecdotes about Helsinki.

Military Parade marching by
Just a little parade we arranged in honor of our friends from abroad.

An armored vehicle driving by
Finncon takes its security seriously, make no mistake!

Helsinki Cathederal, with lots of people standing on the stairs
The Helsinki Cathedral.

Coming in through the wall of the fortress
We took the ferry to Suomenlinna island, where we had a short tour of the former fortress, and then had lunch at the brewery restaurant there.

A group photo of the participants, standing in front of some old guns
Some participants had dropped off along the way, but most made it to Suomenlinna and back to the mainland again—even after some very curious loitering (which to the untrained eye might well have looked like a mad dash to make it to an earlier boat).

We took another route back to the city center, and ended the tour there. People went on their separate ways to bookshopping, to the hotel, or just wondering around on their own. Olav, Anders and I decided to have a beer on a nearby outside pub.

Really big thanks to the local guides Sari and Otto who made the tour a success with their knowledge and personal anecdotes! I had fun and hope to do a tour like this in another place at some future con too!

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Finncon: Thursday

The trip to Finncon started on Thursday around noon when Pasi and I took off from Turku towards Helsinki, car full of stuff to bring to the con. There were banners for STk, buttons for Tutka (and STk as well), loads of fanzines, and of course our own stuff as well.

After a couple of hours, we arrived at Paasitorni, unloaded the boxes, picked up Jukkahoo and headed towards the Otaniemi sauna by the sea where the guests of honor would be arriving later in the afternoon (we’d promised to help Jukka with the arrangements). Once we got there, I took to warming up the sauna; gophers brought refreshments and other necessities, and Jukka continued what I understood he’d pretty much been doing for the past few days: talking on his phone, making sure everything was progressing smoothly.

Stepan and Kia Chapman, guests of the con, were the first to arrive. After a while, Eemeli brought in the guests of honor, Jeff VanderMeer with his wife Ann, Justina Robson and Rickard Berghorn. A moment later, Ipa arrived with another foreign guest, Cheryl Morgan.

Jukka giving the goodie bag to Jeff VanderMeer Jukka giving the goodie bag to Justina Robson
Jeff VanderMeer and Justina Robson receiving their “goodie bags”.

Justina Robon, Jeff VanderMeer and Stepan Chapman checking out the contents of their goodie bags People standing around in the sauna lounge
Hanging around, waiting for the sauna to get warm.

What would a sauna be without the ritual of barbequing sausages?

Sausages on a brick barbeque Jukka’ sausage shining in a beam of light
Behold the sacred sausage!

Stepan chapman eating his sausage Rickard Berghorn, Otto Mäkelä, Jukka Halme and Jeff VanderMeer tasting the sausages
Mmm… yummy!

Justina Robson, Kia Chapman, Maija, Ann VanderMeer, and Cheryl Morgan relaxing after the sauna

After everyone had had their chance to relax in a hot, steamy room, the guests took off to dinner. We quickly tidied the place up and headed for St Urho’s Pub where the Helsinki fandom biweekly pub meeting was just beginning.

It was pretty hot, crowded and noisy in the pub—unless you asked the locals who said it was unusually quiet (at least earlier in the evening), but I think everyone got a seat, at least for a while. People from other cities and some from Sweden started arriving, and the guests joined the crowd after their dinner.

People sitting at tables at St Urho’s Pub People sitting at tables at St Urho’s Pub
People at St Urho’s Pub.

I left relatively early, because I was staying with friends, and didn’t want to arrive too late at my hosts’ place (where we stayed up ridiculously late, talking this and that, and drinking some very fine 18-year-old islay malt, but that’s another story), but from what I gathered everyone had a very good time at Urkki.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Usva: Free Finnish Fiction

A woman in a translucent dress standing in front of curtainsTo celebrate Finncon Anne Leinonen has put out a special issue of her webzine Usva, full of Finnish fantastic fiction in English. Usva International is a sister issue of Usva 2/2006 and most of its contents are English translations of stories that appeared in that issue, with some additions.

Usva International has short stories by Sari Peltoniemi, J.K. Miettinen, Jenny Kangasvuo, Petri Laine, Irma Hirsjärvi, Natalia Laurila, Juha-Pekka Koskinen and Petri Salin. In addition there is a brilliant poem “The Last Eurovision Song Contest” by Hannu Rajaniemi, all post-singularity grandeur (yes, I used the s-word; sue me), heroistic bombast, and Guinness:
No one remembered
who won the last time
so we decided
to have it in Ireland
just in case

One by one
we rode
on Aibo horses
(Boom Bang-a-Bang
said their hooves)
rode
from the far corners of the Earth
to the glass mountains
called Dublin
Don’t be fooled by the cover that’s a bit drab (to my tastes anyway)—Usva has consistently produced interesting and fresh fiction from contemporary writers, and although I can’t say I’ve been that fond of even close to all of Anne’s choices for publication, I like it very much that she is doing a zine that has such variety and isn’t afraid to experiment (more on that below). I haven’t had a chance to read this issue yet, but based on the previous ones, I can heartily recommend it to anybody who’s interested in what Finnish sf has to offer. Go on and take a look; Usva International is available as a free pdf download!

And speaking of liking what Usva is doing: for over a year now, Usva has been proudly presenting Finnish fiction, skillfully edited to bring out the best the writer has to offer, with emphasis on low-key fantasy but ranging all the way to full-on science fiction. I meant to write about this on a separate post about Atorox, but since time doesn’t seem to permit that, I’m putting it here instead: as I was reading the nominees for this year’s Atorox award I noticed that on my personal top 5 list, four out of five short stories were published in Usva. It has brought new life into Finnish sf, and therefore I’ve decided to give Anne Leinonen the first ever Partial Recall recognition award for advancing science fiction with Usva, always exploring and pushing the boundaries of the genre. The award doesn’t come with a lot of bells and whistles (nor a big cheque), I’m afraid, but I think bying a beer for Anne at Finncon is in order. Congratulations!

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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fandom Friday Approaching

Finncon is almost at hand, and a good way to start the convention is Fandom Friday, a walking sightseeing tour of Helsinki on Friday!

The tour starts at 11 in the con hotel Radisson SAS Plaza lobby. There will be a tour of the con site (Paasitorni) and Hakaniemi. From there, we’ll go through the city center, and take a boat to the Suomenlinna island. Lunch is served at Suomenlinnan panimo (Suomenlinna Brewery Restaurant) at 14. We’ll have an “archipelago buffet,” naturally accompanied by the brewery’s own beers.

After lunch, we’ll be touring the downtown Helsinki until around 4 or 5 PM, seeing sights, shops, etc. On Friday evening there’s a Finncon party at the restaurant Juttutupa.

Fandom Friday is your inside scoop on Helsinki for sights to see, places to eat and drink in, where to shop for books, souvenirs and such, and an opportunity to spend Friday with other fans.

Lunch costs 14.30 euros (plus drinks), and the return trip to Suomenlinna a couple of euros. There should be no other costs for attending (unless of course you want to buy refreshments along the way, etc.)

The lunch buffet consists mainly of different kinds of Finnish fish, so if you are allergic to fish, let us know when signing up, and an alternative will be arranged for you.

If you aren’t able to make it by 11, you can join us in Paasitorni, at noon. Or call (+358 40 861 9326) at a later time and ask where we are.

If you want to participate in Fandom Friday, sign up by e-mailing fandomfriday@finncon.org by Tuesday August 15 at the latest.

Welcome to Helsinki and Finncon!

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Fantasy Feast Fotos

Fantasy Feast, the traditional “pseudo-medieval festival” was held for the seventh time this weekend. A few dozen people put on fantastic costumes (medieval, mythological, and whatnot) and gathered in the Ahtela camp center to take a break from the mundane.

Although there seemed to be fewer people present than before (the event hadn’t been advertised very widely, which might have played a role) I felt there were enough participants so that the place felt lively and full (and enough to cover all the organizing costs too, I hope). There were a lot of new faces (to me, at least), so the feast did manage to reach a new audience after all. There were quite a few twentysomethings, and they clearly had a lot of fun: singing, dancing, participating in the program and just hanging around the site. That’s a very good sign, should anybody wish to keep organizing these feasts. This year there were also a lot of kids (second generation guests) running around with their parents.

All of the photos below are from Saturday (I was only there for the day this year). On Friday, there was already a competition for the bards, and singing and dancing around the fires. Sunday’s program was (if tradition held) pretty much breakfast and hanging around for a while until the feast ended.

(There are more photos of the feast on my Flickr set.)

Loikkivan lohikäärmeen majatalo (The Jumping Dragon Inn) was the central place where people gathered.

The Inn, people carting stuff around Lots of people sitting at tables outside the inn, eating breakfast

The weather was unbelievably gorgeous once again (if somewhat hot). The place has a beautiful beach which has traditionally been a setting for a big tournament. And so once again, people started gathering on the beach around noon, waiting for the games to begin.

A big sand beach, with a gazebo and a couple of persons standing and talking Competitors get information about the tournament

The tug of war—the classic among the tournament events.

Miska, Satu & Tommi tugging on the rope

One member of the team guided the others, who were blindfolded, in gathering tokens as quickly as possible.

People walking around blindfolded, looking for objects in the sand

The three-legged race became the four-legged race…

Teams running, three members tied together

Archery was a fine event, albeit quite tournament-jarringly slow. And beanbag throwing is always harder than it seems.

Hitting the target with the arrow Throwing beanbags at jars

The big finale was a bit of a letdown—basically just digging around in the sand until one of the finalists got lucky, found the hidden item, and won the whole tournament.

The three finalists digging in the sand with their hands The winner has found the hidden item

Competitors (team Ihku!) and audience.

Team Ihku on the beach, looking scary People gathered to see who wins

Other events for the day: face painting for the little ones, a treasure hunt (for the little ones and the bigger ones as well), a magic wand market at the inn (I don’t think anything was left after the kids went through the selection), a mighty wizard who did neat tricks, and people entertaining themselves (as well as others) by playing music and singing (and I see the little ones seemed to be everywhere).

Mari painting a butterfly on Inka’s face Mari and Simo reading the clues to the kids Iria, Aleksi, Inka and Tiina with their new wands Pyroforius and his magical board; kids assist the spell with their wands Guests sitting on a pirate ship, singing and playing a guitar

Guests (including the mighty wizard Pyroforius).

Pyroforius sitting, leaning on his staff A lot of people standing in front of the inn Guests sitting on a stone wall

The kitchen staff had prepared a huge four course dinner for the guests (including roasted whole chickens, oxtail, vegetable stew, oven baked vegetables, cheese-and-egg casserole and so on, and baked apples with vanilla sauce for dessert. I don’t think anyone could have eaten a bite more!

Head chef Elsa telling about the dinner Tomi, Leila, Maarit, Johanna and Tytti sitting at a table People sitting or lying on the ground after dinner

The official program concluded with the awards. A special citation was awarded to the Jew’s harp-and-dancing number (to the two little girls doing the dancing, to be exact). Awards were given for success in the bard competition (music number and best story), and also the tournament winner got his award (but was standing his back even more turned to me than the others so there’s no picture).

Anna dancing, Miina sitting on Sami’s shoulders The musical shaman receiving the award for her duo The jester accepting his award

There was music and dancing.

Dancing More dancing in front of the inn

The wizard was in charge of the fireplace.

Pyroforius setting up a fire The fireplace bursts in flames

At the campfire and in the inn.

Tiina, Otto, Miina, Anna, Markus, Inka, Iria and Aleksi on a bench Singing accompanied by a kantele Two persons playing a board game at the inn Janna, Johanna, Tytti & Jani behind the table at the inn

All and all it was a succesful feast. Everybody seemed to have fun—the kids most of all—there was enough prearranged program, and the food was great. A big thank you to everybody who toiled to make the weekend happen! (And Inka wants to know when the next time will be!)

The notice board at the inn

Update: Pasi has photos too. Johanna wrote a few words with a couple of pictures, plus more pictures on Flickr. Ben has words (in Swedish) and pictures.