The three-day science fiction event Finncon ended on Sunday. On Monday, I returned home to Espoo, and was immediately swamped with a load of Ropecon-related stuff that has to be done by tomorrow. That’s now all under control, so I can take a breather and write up my account of the previous con before the next one starts.
Finncon was held in Jyväskylä, which is a small town to the north, somewhere in the sticks northeast of Tampere. For some reason, I’ve never learned to pinpoint it on the map. Some fellow members of the RPG.net Finnpack offered me and a couple of others guest beds, with the effective result that at several points during the weekend, there were five people in the same room, all on their computers, all chatting on the same IRC channel. Also, we got the Epic Spinach Soup of Pure Win.
We had a fairly impressive lineup of guests of honour – Pat Cadigan, Ellen Kushner, Sari Peltoniemi and Liisa Rantalaiho. The latter two are a Finnish fantasy author and a researcher and fandom activist of some note. In addition, we had the guests Delia Sherman, Kushner’s partner and an author in her own right, and Cheryl Morgan, an editor, writer and blogger who was the Guest of Honour at Finncon 2007, who seems to like Finncon so much she shows up every year. Impeccable taste, there. (I notice that I use the pronoun “we” when talking about Finncon. It’s not exactly accurate, since I’m not an organiser and wasn’t even a part of the workforce or programming until… well, let’s not skip ahead, but I do know most of the organisers and am fairly deep in the fandom, so I think of it as “us” rather than “them”.)
Unfortunately, I’ve never read anything from any of them. At least it’s nice that I’m not gonna be running out of stuff to read in the future. Oh, well.
The first day of the con was very light, in that there was only a single program track. There were writers talking about writing, and an analysis of the Hugo shortlists. The consensus seems to be that Paolo Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl will win, everybody hopes Miéville’s The City and the City will win, and nobody likes Robert J. Sawyer, which is interesting. I’m thinking of hunting down that Hugo winner of his so I can figure it out. Also, though people were divided on whether Charles Stross is good, nobody seemed to like his novella “Palimpsest”, either.
Funnily enough, there are two works by that name on the shortlists. The other one is up for Best Novel and is by Catherynne M. Valente. Seemed good.
Then, though I’m by no means well-read in the field of science fiction, I’ve never actually encountered a novel that was up for a Hugo that actually disappointed me – though I never did get around to finishing Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. Then, it’s a bit of a brick and I couldn’t carry it around with me very well, and I do a lot of my reading on the train or when I need to kill time away from my computer.
Also, on Friday, a funny thing happened… I was chatting with a couple of friends, minding my own business, when suddenly, Jukka Halme, the head organiser of Finncon 2009 shouts from across the room “Jukka! Now there we have a volunteer!” I went “buh?”. Had I gone “NO!” and fled, things would’ve probably turned out differently, but as it happened, I got drafted into presenting the first half of the traditional Finncon masquerade. That was scheduled for Saturday evening. And was the only program item on the schedule at that time. In the biggest auditorium. With all the Guests of Honour present. And it’d be in both Finnish and English. But hey, no pressure. I mean, I’m an experienced public speaker and all. (See what I mean about being fairly deep in the fandom?)
With this in mind, I retired early to work on my notes.
On Saturday, the schedule involved checking out the Atorox ceremony, working on my notes, checking out a forum meetup, working on my notes some more, checking out the Definitive Rock Music Panel, and laying the finishing touches on my notes.
Because I was so busy writing my notes, I missed Cheryl Morgan’s presentation on running a masquerade. D’oh!
The Atorox is the most highly regarded literary science fiction award in Finland. It’s named after the main character of the Atorox novels by The Outsider, who wrote the stories in the 40’s an 50’s. They’re also apparently horrendously racist in a way that would have made Lovecraft raise an eyebrow, but then, it’s no secret that Finland was a backwater in those days. An ideal reprint would include a lengthy foreword acknowledging this and perhaps explaining that they have a certain historical value. Personally, I’ve always thought that a closet is a pretty unhygienic place to store a skeleton.
Then, that presenting thing.
I’d written out everything I was going to say up there, because I knew that if I had to improvise, it’d be shit. I’m a pretty decent writer and I watch the Oscars every year, so I had some idea of what I was doing. So, as long as I could stick to a script, it’d be good.
This worked until the second contestant’s background music failed to play on cue, and I had to fill a few minutes of dead air while the tech guys stuffed a redshirt down the Jeffries tube to reverse the polarity of the tachyon compression buffer or whatever. It was a very uncomfortable few minutes and included foolish dancing and a Babylon 5 -themed lightbulb joke.
Amusingly, if I had had the time to see Cheryl’s presentation, I would’ve known to prepare with a separate slip of paper that had a collection of really bad jokes or something, for just such an eventuality.
In the end, though, the tech guys did something techy and impressive, and the rest of the masquerade went quite well, and I got to listen to people telling me how good I was for the rest of the evening. They even gave me a t-shirt as a prize. I’m thinking of having it framed. (It turned out to be marked ladyfit in very small print.)
I’d include a picture link here, but for some reason I haven’t been able to find any photo series of the masquerade. Will do once I find one. The costumes were great work, all of them, and I mean staggeringly well crafted.
Sunday was a lighter day for me, and I had time to focus on the program and stuff. There was a presentation on Fenno-Ugric myth in fantasy literature, which was fairly interesting, and a trivia competition on science fiction in the vein of The QI, in that the questions were insanely difficult or obscure, and the emphasis was on entertainment, and entertained I was.
For an example, who’s the odd one out: Dr. Polidori, Robert E. Howard, H. Beam Piper, William Hope Hodgson, and why? How about these: J. Michael Straczynski, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Harlan Ellison?
There was also the event titled Jyväskylä Animecon 2010. Since for the first time in several years we had a Finncon without an Animecon to go with it, the Espoo Science Fiction and Fantasy Society ESC decided to rectify the issue. Another thing that was gone was Jordan sports, since it was deemed to be in poor taste to use Wheel of Time books for hockey, curling, caber toss or shot put now that Robert Jordan is dead. Also, the Finnish publisher decided to stop translating the series due to risen costs and no new donations were forthcoming.
So, we put two and two together and decided to use manga books. We figured it was a success. Finncon 2011 in Turku will also have an event called “Jyväskylä Animecon 2010”.
As for Finncon 2012… Usually, host cities for Finncon have been decided at the sci-fi clubs’ annual cooperation meeting in Tampere. They’re decided a couple of years in advance, which is handy for events this big. This year, however, first Tampere announced their willingness to host Finncon. According to the rotation, this made sense and everybody expected it. Then, the Helsinki delegation rose and started distributing fliers for Finncon Helsinki 2012. Then, Espoo jumped in and promised Milla Jovovich as a guest of honour. Finally, the Dark Side of the Moon was nominated. Apparently, the con could be held in the Nazi barracks there.
In the end, the matter was put to vote at Finncon 2010, and the final winner was announced at the ending ceremony, amidst carefully rehearsed accusations of treachery and foul play. Finncon 2012 was voted to take place in Tampere, and nobody can say any different because the ballots were ceremonially burned at the dead dog party.
In summary, a wonderful convention, with wonderful people, wonderful guests of honour, and wonderful weather. Even with the surprise assignment I received, it was a relaxing convention and didn’t kill me nearly as badly as Tracon did or Ropecon (I expect) will.
Next year’s convention is again big and animey and in Turku, but I guess we’ll have to live with it. I know the guys there, too, so I figure I can expect yet another surprise assignment at some point during the con, unless they want me to host the masquerade again (apparently, I was the first host ever to win a prize, probably because I didn’t entirely crumple under stress while at the same time being obviously out of my depth), as someone already hinted.
And this has been your annual non-RPG update. Back to gaming next week. Now, to go and print 150 sheets of paper for Ropecon…