Saturday, May 11, 2013

Åcon 6, Day 2

Friday began with two options for an Åland excursion: there was the traditional chocolate tasting, ie. a visit to sample Mercedes’s pralines, or a real treat for hard core book lovers: a visit in a private bookstore by a local collector Gunnar Johansson. According to reports, both trips went very well. The chocolates were tasty as always (and, as usual, our group pretty much bought the store empty), and the book pilgrims seemed to be rather impressed with the dedication to books that was evident in the place. Of course, you could also skip the excursions and go for a visit in Mariehamn instead, which some people did (and found all kinds of interesting stuff—apparently, there’s a Nordic comics exhibition in Mariehamn this month, for example), and for those who opted to stay at the convention, there was a discussion and recommendations about Hugo-nominated stories. (I opted to go for a run along the beautiful Mariehamn shore. Nice scenery, but also lots of hills and plenty of stairs along the route I took, so I was rather knackered even after a relatively short run.) The first panel I saw was the Classic Cons discussion, where the panelists talked about the different conventions there are around the world (well, Europe and USA) and why you should visit them. Worldcon is of course the biggest one, but there are also many general conventions for sf, as well as some specialist conventions that have a narrower focus (Readercon, Wiscon, Smofcon, etc.). Among other topics, there was some discussion about Europe’s convention situation. Many people especially in west Europe consider the British Eastercon to be the main European convention of the year, instead of Eurocon. A big part of this is that Eurocons have varied hugely in content and quality, but that may be changing a bit now that the ESFS has a new board that may want to help develop and promote future Eurocons. Tricia Sullivan’s Guest of Honor Interview was very interesting. She talked about her personal history, growing up in the US and moving to Britain; her works, habits as a writer etc. The AV panel gave plenty of tips of tv series to watch. Most of them I knew, but a couple were new—I’m not sure if I was really enticed to actually watch the series, but the presentation gave a good idea of what I am (or am not) missing. I still say they were very wrong about a few series, but that sparked some lively conversation later in the evening. During the dinner break, we found a lovely little place, Pilsnermackan, that specialises in local foods. The lamb burger was absolutely delicious, and all the other dishes (and desserts) were liked by our dinner party as well. The “I should really love this, but…!” panel didn’t in my opinion really work as a panel—the panelists just didn’t have enough common topics that a discussion would have taken off. But there were also many examples from the audience of things most people like but the person in question doesn’t, and the program item became a discussion with everyone involved. Jukkahoo’s “Never Mind the Buzzaldrins” quiz is always entertaining. There was a new section this year which was fun but seemed to take the thing more towards an actual quiz. I think this is the first time ever that the winning team won on the basis of actually knowing more correct answers (which still wasn’t that many, despite some hilarious cryptic hints given by Jukka). Friday’s last item was the Book of the Night roundtable discussion. This year’s book, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, was a very good one at inspiring discussion. It’s a beautiful, haunting, heartbreaking book and I warmly recommend it to everyone. Thanks for making me read this! After the official program ended, people hanged out in the bar and the hotel lobby, and migrated to the room parties after the bar closed. The Helsinki Worldcon bid was visibly present and I think managed to lure more people to give them money to support (or oppose) the bid. This time there were two parties going on at the same time which turned out to be nice: there was more room for everyone to hang around, have conversations, and be able to actually breathe some air occasionally. There was beer, wine, some highly suspiciously perfume-looking pink liquid, excellent whisky, cake (no lie!) and cookies, etc. And of course lots of fun people, as always in Åcon.

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