Back home from Finncon. Had a great time! Since I spent very little time hanging out at the actual con site or watching programming this year, these are mostly random notes and observations rather than any coherent con report. I'm sure there will be plenty of those around soon as well.
Finncon without Animecon was a success. I don’t think any of the naysayers who told us it couldn’t be done after so many years together with the anime people hold that opinion any more. The estimated attendance was around 3 500 people visiting the con site (combined total of Saturday and Sunday visitors)—on both days there were around 1 500 persons present simultaneously at moments when all the programming rooms and the hallways were full, and of course while most people were there on both days, there were a lot of people that only came on one day plus locals who visited the site during the day. In addition, there were some people at the Kirjailijatalo and quite a lot of folks at the Ilokivi (where the Wreckamovie festival took place). So the amount of unique attendees was probably around, or at least very close to, the official target of 2010 people.
The PR about the lack of Animecon could and should perhaps have been done with a bit more sensitivity. I gather some anime fans felt they were looked down and frowned upon—this wasn’t intentional, but I can see how the happy enjoyment of “we got our convention back” could be taken as a sign of animosity towards the anime crowds, even if it wasn’t meant that way. I hear there will be a stand-alone Animecon in 2012. I’m very happy that the tradition will not die out, and am sure it can be very good—based on what I’ve heard about them, the Finnish anime conventions such as Tracon and Desucon have proven that the anime people can organize terrific conventions.
The convention site was rather hot—Finnish buildings aren’t equipped for dealing with temperatures close to 30 degrees Celsius—but it didn’t seem too bad. It seemed much cooler inside to me than at a couple of previous Finncons; probably this was because there weren’t such huge crowds inside the building.
Entering the con site for the first time was a very good experience for me. My first reaction was, “Wow, this looks just like Finncons used to,” with the hallway full of people browsing the books at the vendors’ tables, chatting at the sf societies‘ tables, hanging out in the cafe—and running frantically behind the info desk. I heard quite a few people mention that for the first time in years they met new people and got better acquainted by ones they’d only met briefly before just by walking around and starting to chat with each other.
The programming got good feedback as well. The only bigger criticism—that I heard, that is—were that there were too many interesting program items going on simultaneously, that some very similar items clashed, and that one person couldn’t make the only item they were interested in when arriving by train the same day and not wanting to come the day before. To which my respective responses would be, I’m glad to hear that; yes, unfortunate but unavoidable; and, well, tough.
The Guests of Honor couldn’t have been more perfect. Both our foreign GoHs Ellen Kushner and Pat Cadigan proved just as charming, witty, and funny as we had hoped, and provided us with many interesting talks and discussions. Their days were programmed pretty full, but they never complained or disappointed. Our Finnish GoHs Sari Peltoniemi and Liisa Rantalaiho we already knew, and so knew them to be just as great guests as they indeed were. And wonderful were as well out other foreign guests, fantasy author Delia Sherman who accompanied Ellen and charmed everybody, and critic and editor Cheryl Morgan, a regular visitor of Finncons, trusted panelist and great all-around PR woman (as well as a kind-of visiting guest liaison).
The Saturday evening party was at Lozzi. The place was really hot (poor masquerade participants who had to endure the heat in their costumes during the awards ceremony), but luckily the weather was fine and the terrace was large enough for pretty much everybody not driven away by the poor selection of beers and exorbitant prices at the bar. The masquerade awards ceremony was very entertaining (the prize categories included, for example, best sucking up to the judges, and the prizes were, among others, cute toy animals and “Epic boobs”—and also “Epic man-boobs”—t-shirts). There were some very impressive costumes, especially the Farscape team (their Chiana was perfect) and the elven warrior from LOTR. All in all, despite the beer being bad and expensive, people seemed to enjoy themselves. I didn’t stay very late, but had time to meet a lot of people and have some very good conversations.
The media coverage of Finncon was pretty amazing. For starters, our GoHs got a full culture section front page in Helsingin Sanomat (the largest daily newspaper in all the Nordic countries), and there were also mentions and articles in several other papers (including a four-page one in Huvudstadsbladet), and even a couple of tv spots. So we’re very happy about that. Also, her Finnish publisher told us, Pat Cadigan’s Mielenpeli, published just a couple of days before the convention, is already going on its third printing. Win!
There was one unique aspect of Finncon this year, not directly related to this convention. There were several bids for organizing Finncon in 2012. Both Tampere and Helsinki had launched serious bids for the convention (although Tampere’s bidding and publicity was much more active at the convention and Helsinki took a somewhat more laid-back approach); Espoo and Moon had also signed up, but it is telling of their bids that Espoo promised an extra day for everyone if they won (June 31st, 2012), and Moon was the only one that had facilities ready—after all, they have a vacant base after the Moon Nazis return to conquer Earth in 2011. The results of the vote were announced at the ending ceremony, and Tampere got a deserved victory, receiving more votes than the other candidates put together. The Helsinki delegate tried to raise suspicions about the result but was swiftly manhandled out of the stage by the security personnel. (Thanks, by the way, Tampere fandom for handling the security at the convention!)
The closing ceremony went rather well, if I say so myself. I was told I’m supposed to be on stage too, and my impromptu translations of Anne’s speech got a few laughs from the audience. We thanked the GoHs and everybody who took part in organizing the convention (this year, maybe more than most, there were many to thank: whole sections of the convention such as security, sales, and publicity were mostly handled by fandom from other cities than Jyväskylä; this convention truly was a joint effort of the whole Finnish fandom) and said our goodbyes.
It was then time for the dead dog party, in the traditional sauna-by-the-lakeside. Food, sauna, swimming, beer, cigars, and relaxing after the weekend. The GoHs seemed to love the gift bags presented to them by Kati, the GoH liaison, and even had some presents for the committee. (I got the very cool anthology The Green Man that contains a short story by Delia, among many other fine writers, and fabulous illustrations by Charles Vess—thank you!)
The dead dog ended at 11 PM, but since we didn’t feel like going to bed, it was decided to have a post-dead dog party in a pub at the center of Jyväskylä. Soon the place was filled with sf folk (people from at least Finland, Sweden, and Latvia attended) and raucous merriment. I had to bail out at around 1 AM, but I heard some even continued to a post-post-party after the pub closed its doors.
I didn’t get to talk to quite as many people at the convention as I would have liked (mainly because of going to bed quite early each night), but that’s how it always goes. Was very happy to see quite a few Swedes at the convention—I hope you all had a good time! My friend Dave described a dream convention as something "where people keep talking about awesome things you didn't see because you were at something else awesome”. I think that is a very good description, and it also describes my Finncon this year very well.
See you next year in Turku!