Sunday, June 15, 2008

Swecon: Saturday

After yesterday’s festivities (at midnight, the whole city center seemed to be full of happily drunk teenagers celebrating finishing their school) the streets seemed very quiet this morning. Some people went on a walking tour of medieval Linköping. (They told me later that they saw a lot of beautiful decaying old buildings and places where a lot of people had been killed which was interesting and fun. I have strange friends.)

I went to prepare for my program item. I had a suspicion that 11 AM isn’t really a good time to have book discussion, and my suspicion turned out to be correct. Ten minutes after the item was supposed to start Jukkahoo walked in, and we chatted about this and that. Marianna came in about five minutes after that, so we continued chatting. At about 25 minutes past 11, Tommy and Carolina arrived, and we decided there were enough people and had a short but fun discussion.

The Guests of Honor are really being worked today. They’ve both taken part in at least two program items in addition to their speeches, and Cory Doctorow was interviewed today for the second time (this time about his other activities than writing fiction). At the moment they are talking on stage about the craft of writing science fiction. Neither of them confessed to wearing a tiara while writing.

I have to say the Swedes have once again managed to pick excellent Guests of Honor for their convention. Both Roberts and Doctorow have been constantly interesting and entertaining, and very approachable to the fen. Cory Doctorow started the day’s GoH programming by discussing the future of books. The discussion was interactive, the audience having many questions and comments. It didn’t stay on one topic very well, partly because of all the comments and opinions, but also partly because I don’t think they had decided whether “the future of books” meant the future of the book as a physical object or the novel as a literary form (which I think are two completely different, but equally interesting topics). The discussion had many good points for (and against) electronic books, and also some speculation about the future forms of fiction and reading.

Adam Roberts talked about his research and opinions on the history of science fiction, a topic that was also discussed a bit in his interview yesterday, but which he was now able to go deeper into. He had very interesting opinions on the differences between science fiction and fantasy, and the connections these might have with different religions and materialistic world views. He also observed how modern science fiction (and especially the general perception of it) has been influenced by film. Later on the day he again continued and expanded the topic on his Guest of Honor speech with for example some definitions of what he views as the science fiction literature. The topic of the speech was “Encyclopedic SF,” and he raised some excellent points about the birth of sf around the same time encyclopedias were invented, and further connection between these. He is an interesting and intelligent speaker you really want to pay attention to, because he regularly makes insightful observations (among the wonderfully wry comments about things).

Cory Doctorow’s interview about technology, civil rights, and activism didn’t really contain much new information for anyone who’s read his columns and other writings before, but I think these things are very relevant in today’s society and it’s important they are talked about. Besides, he’s such a captivating speaker with really sound arguments that he’s a pleasure to listen to and it’s very easy to get swept along with his enthusiasm. He started his GoH speech with a short short story that nicely tied up with his earlier discussion about the future of books. The other part of the speech on the other hand touched the same issues as his interview, but from the point of view of how important it is to have control over your tools and the things you own to be happy, and how important it is that people are allowed to use their creativity and make stuff themselves even in this era of “no user-serviceable parts”.

It‘s been a long day, but there’s still some programming left. There have been many good and fun conversations with other members of the convention. Ben and Jukka went to defend Finland’s honor in some kind of a frog sport. I think I’ll head for the bar.

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