Archive for November, 2008

Finnish Fandom: Conventions

Tero Ykspetäjä • November 4th, 2008 • Uncategorized

First, an extremely compact pre-history: the Finnish convention tradition is rather a short one. The first convention (that identified itself as such), KingCon (1982), was a Swedish–Finnish cooperation, starting with Swedish fans taking the ferry to Finland and continuing in Helsinki. The second convention was TamCon in 1985 in Tampere. These were traditional, small, meeting-of-fandom conventions, with some programming, movie showings, etc.

The Finnish national convention, Finncon, has been in existence since 1986, so it is a relatively new convention. From 1989 on it was held biannually, but recently most years have seen a Finncon. It’s been most often held in Helsinki; four times in Jyväskylä, two times in Turku, and this year for the first time in Tampere.

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Greetings people of Earth!

Jukka Halme • November 3rd, 2008 • Uncategorized

Hello! I’m the other half of The Finnish Invasion, Jukka Halme, but you can call me The Ammazzing Dandruff-Boy in case of emergency. Call me especially if the evil superduo of Head & Shoulders makes appearance. I’ll be sure to make a quick dash and replenish the missing dandruff, if needed. Just yawp, you know, all Walt Whitman -like.

Yes, erm, well… What to say? I read Tero’s previous instalments and while doing so, made approving mumbles and grunts. This is very much Finnish fandom. We’re surprisingly co-operative and generally well-behaving, whether we’re science fiction or fantasy fen, readers or watchers, catchers or pitchers, or even – ghaps! – larpers, animefans, furries or just plain fetishists.

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Finnish Fandom: an Overview

Tero Ykspetäjä • November 3rd, 2008 • Uncategorized

Fandom started getting organized in Finland when the first sf club (the Turku Science Fiction Society) was founded in 1976. Next year saw the birth of its clubzine Spin. Both TSFS and Spin are still active today. In the early days the active fans were few and far between, but they kept in touch and formed other clubs and founded other fanzines. Fandom was alive.

The Finnish fandom is pretty active considering Finland is not that big a country. The cities that are most active are Helsinki (the capital and largest city), Espoo (which is right beside Helsinki but vigorously maintains they have their own identity), Turku (the oldest city in Finland and also the city where our fandom first got organized), Tampere (which has one of the oldest sf societies in Finland, but also one of the most active new ones), and Jyväskylä (which is a small but very energetic city and a pioneer of getting fandom co-operating with the local culture scene). There are occasional bouts of fandom activity in other cities (Oulu and Lahti, for example), but these five are the regular centers of activity. They all have their own sf societies, Helsinki and Turku also have University sf clubs, and Tampere—as mentioned—has another society alongside the “old one”. In addition to these, there’s also the Finnish Science Fiction Writers Association, plus a few smaller clubs. Nowadays there are also several online communities formed around common interests and not the cities where people live.

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Hello, World!

Tero Ykspetäjä • November 3rd, 2008 • Uncategorized

Hi, my name is Tero, and I’ll be one half of your Jeff substitute this week. (Not that I would ever pretend to be able to produce even close to half of his output, neither in quality nor quantity, on the best of days. But you’re half-stuck with me anyway, so here goes.)

So, a quick introduction. As Jeff mentioned, I’m an sf fan, fanzine editor and occasional conrunner from Finland. I live in Turku, the oldest city (and one of the most beautiful) in Finland with my family (which means my wife, daughter, and our two parakeets). By day I work in IT (currently with integrated circuit design environments), but by night I don my cape turn on my reading light to dive into the wonderful world of science fiction and fandom.

I found science fiction early on (pretty close to the ideal age of ten, I think). Some years later I found organized fandom and immediately knew I was home. I’ve made a lot of friends, shared countless fascinating conversations with them over an equally countless amount of beers, gone to conventions both in Finland and abroad (and helped organize a couple of them), and even met my wife through fandom. So it’s a subject very close to my heart, and something I’ll be talking about this week. I welcome your comments, and if you have any questions about the Finnish fandom or sf in Finland in general, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments section!

Jukka Halme and Tero Ykspetäjä–Guest-blogging on Ecstatic Days Nov. 3-7

Jeff VanderMeer • November 2nd, 2008 • Uncategorized

I’m very happy to welcome Jukka Halme and Tero Ykspetäjä as this week’s guest bloggers.

Jukka Halme is a Finnish critic, fandom activist/conrunner and the editor of “Uuskummaa” (“New Weird”) anthology.

Tero is a science fiction fan from Turku, Finland. He’s been active in fandom since the late eighties, and has had a hand in organizing a few Finnish and Nordic conventions, including the Finncon/Eurocon 2003 in Turku. He publishes a fanzine and blogs about the Finnish fandom in Partial Recall.

Digression: the trick (part 3) (and final)

David Moles • November 2nd, 2008 • Writing Tips

One last thing on ideas. The easiest way to get an idea, I’ve always found, is to look for a good one that somebody else has had, which they’ve then proceeded to screw up. So if any of what I’ve dashed off here over the last few days strikes a chord, feel free to take it and change it and make it yours. And maybe — unlike that Moles guy — you’ll get it right.

I could say more, but I’m out of time. Thanks for having me, Jeff; you other folks, thanks for indulging me.

Well, let’s see ahm … you know some songs come out of the ground just like a potato … others, you have to make them out of things you’ve found … like your mother’s pool cue and, you know … your dad’s army buddy … and your sister’s wristwatch and that type of thing … you’d be surprised what you can find if you’re … you know … resourceful.

– Tom Waits

P.S. The rest of the trick? Smoke, mirrors, and Wikipedia.

Some Weather

David Moles • November 2nd, 2008 • Writing Tips

4. Some Weather

…the color gray, plant life of diverse sorts, memory lapses, old books, heredity, mists, gases, whistling, whispering…

Dizzy borrows a gray overcoat and a clean charcoal suit from a cousin in Spanish Harlem. He leaves Ahab in the back room of the cousin’s flower shop, entertaining the cousin’s kids, and boards a southbound Lexington Avenue train at 110th Street.

The crowded subway car is a sea of black-haired women in flowered hats and camel coats, slim brown men in high-crowned hats, the smell of the extravagant bouquet Dizzy’s carrying as a distraction. If there’s a blonde head anywhere on the train it’s a peroxide job, and to Dizzy it feels like coming home. He allows himself to relax a little, but only a little.

Dizzy’s written ahead, with photographs enclosed; called, talked to a few more people than he’s really comfortable talking to, and made an appointment with a museum curator named Muñoz who moonlights as a buyer for Nelson Rockefeller’s art collection. He gets off the train at 77th Street, half an hour before his appointment, and walks back as far as 86th, stopping twice to check his reflection in shop windows. He doesn’t see anyone tailing him and he doesn’t really expect to, but his side is still throbbing to remind him of all the precautions he didn’t take in Montréal.

*

Muñoz turns out to be a pipe-smoking Spaniard of fifty or so, with an educated mid-Atlantic accent.

“You’ve been had, I’m afraid,” says Muñoz, slowly turning the pounded-bark amatl-paper pages of the ancient book. “Don’t feel bad about it. There’s a brisk market in these forgeries — I happen to know William Randolph Hearst has bought two of them.”

“Then maybe I could sell him this one,” says Dizzy. “That’s the real thing. There’s only three like it in the world.”

“If it were real, Mr. Delaguerra –” the name is the one on Dizzy’s Arizona papers — “there’d be none like it in the world,” says Muñoz. “Which is how we can be certain it isn’t.”

“Would I be here if it weren’t?” Dizzy asks, shaking a Pall Mall from a packet. “Don’t get subjunctive with me, professor. Plenty of people want what you’ve got on your desk. If you don’t, I’ll find somebody who does.”

“It’s a curiosity, at any rate,” says Muñoz, making no move to give the thing up. He examines it, puffing on his pipe. “I’ll give you five hundred dollars for it,” he says finally.

Dizzy smiles, cigarette dangling from his lips. “Sorry, professor. That’s either too much — or not near enough.” He leans back in his chair and strikes a match.

“I was afraid you’d say that.” Muñoz sighs.

Too late, Dizzy notices a characteristic smell, hidden in the sweetness of Muñoz’s odd tobacco.

“Ether,” he says, or tries to say. “You son of a bitch.”

Muñoz smiles thinly. “I am a son of Castile,” he says. “I wouldn’t expect a half-Portuguese mestizo nigger to understand that.” He holds up a brittle sheet, covered with intricate glyphs. “Any more than I’d expect him to understand the books of the Howler Monkey Gods.”

Dizzy struggles to stand, but his legs have turned to rubber.

The match is still in his hand, burning his fingers. The book seems to be whispering to him — it wants something from him, and Dizzy can almost make out what.

“Understand this,” he tells Muñoz.

With the last of his strength, he flicks the match onto the pile of dry, crackling pages.

*

Dizzy comes to on the sidewalk, under an FDNY blanket.

He stands up. There’s a knot of red trucks at the south end of the Museum, but nobody seems to be paying Dizzy Caetano any particular attention, and that suits him fine. He drops the blanket and crosses Fifth Avenue without looking back, heading east on 81st Street.

It’s cool, and there’s a fog rolling in off the East River. Dizzy’s hat and his overcoat are nowhere to be seen, and he can’t quite remember how he got here. Something else is missing besides the hat and coat, and he can’t quite remember what it is, but that doesn’t bother him; he’s sure that if it’s important, it’ll come to him.

He remembers his cousin’s flower shop. He remembers a dog. He remembers a tune. That seems like enough for the time being.

Dizzy turns up Lexington Avenue, whistling as he walks: “Keepin’ out of mischief now.”

***

Jake Von Slatt/VanderMeer Steampunk Book from Artisan

Jeff VanderMeer • November 1st, 2008 • News


(John Coulthart’s Steampunk design based on my equation)

As you may know if you’ve visited Jake Von Slatt’s livejournal today, Jake and I have sold a book on Steampunk to Artisan Books. It’ll be a highly visual exploration of Steampunk that emphasizes Jake’s experience and perspective creating his amazing Steampunk Workshop projects. I’m delighted Jake took me on as his partner for this adventure and I’m looking forward to the collaboration. The final book should be an honest, sincere look at Steampunk–including the gritty “punk”/DIY part of that word–and include lots of illustrations and photographs.

Sincere thanks to Matt Staggs for his role early on as well as to Jake’s agent Marc Gerald and mine, Howard Morhaim.

Update: A wonderful day at the California Steampunk convention. Chatting with Nathan from Abney Park, coffee and an interview with Greg Broadmore, dinner with Jake, Jill Roberts, Paul Young, and Gareth, the very cool editor of Make magazine. Among many other highlights. A complete report when we get back Wednesday.


(Jake Von Slatt)

Something to Eat

David Moles • November 1st, 2008 • Writing Tips

(Still a little behind, but Jeff’s kindly offered to let me extend my stay through the weekend. On what Jeff just said: Ditto.)

*

3. Something to Eat

…the New England countryside, New York City, fungi and molds, viscous substances, medical experiments, dreams, brittle textures, gelatinous textures…

From Benton, Dizzy and Ahab head east. In Detroit, Dizzy puts Ontario plates on the Buick, as a precaution, but he hasn’t had any trouble across eight states and he’s not expecting any now.

And there isn’t any trouble in Detroit. There isn’t any in Toronto. There isn’t any till Montréal, and the closed ward at the Macdonald College Institute of Parasitology, where the individual that gave Dizzy the job is nowhere to be found but some other individuals are. When Dizzy and Ahab cross the border again, it’s not in the Buick but in a stolen Studebaker, because the Buick has three bulletholes in its driver’s-side door, and any customs officer or Vermont state trooper that started asking questions about those would eventually get around to asking questions about the thing in the trunk.

Dizzy feels bad about that. Not as bad as he does about the hole in his side, a match for one of the holes in the Buick, but bad enough.

“Nothing you could have done,” says Doc Gardner, the old vet in Middlebury who pulls the bullet from between Dizzy’s ribs. Dizzy’s known Doc Gardner a long time, since he used to work the dog track down on Staten Island, but even so he never would have told Doc the whole story if he hadn’t lost the better part of two pints of blood.

“It was trying to help,” says Dizzy.

“Sure it was,” Doc says. “Now quit your chattering.”

“I guess most of your patients don’t talk much.” Dizzy smiles.

“You’d be surprised,” says Doc, darkly. “But I mean it. You need rest, not talk.”

“It couldn’t talk,” says Dizzy, his eyes closing.

The Doc looks at Ahab, lying on the floor next to the operating table, chin on the floor between his paws. There’s blood on the dog’s muzzle. Better get some penicillin in both of you, Doc thinks. No telling what you’ve been biting.

*

On the table, Dizzy dreams of Copan. In the dream the city is alive and bustling, the carved hieroglyphs on the stelae sharp and clear. The thing from the Institute of Parasitology, its voice like a Peruvian flute, is asking Dizzy questions about the hieroglyphs, and Dizzy is answering them. He has one arm around his little boy’s shoulders, and the other around the boy’s mother’s waist, and the three of them are happy, which is how Dizzy knows this is a dream.

*

Dizzy stays with Doc Gardner for the better part of a month. Summer’s ending, and he takes Ahab on long walks through red-gold forests, crunching through brittle leaves, hunting squirrels and collecting mushrooms. Doc Gardner’s nephew, a biology teacher at the College, sorts out the edible ones, and his wife slices them and fries them in butter, served alongside roast ham, white rolls, Jell-O salad.

One evening Doc finds Dizzy checking the oil in the Studebaker.

“Where are you going?” Doc asks.

Dizzy eyes the viscous fluid clinging to the dipstick and slides it back into place.

“I’ve still got the papers,” he says. “Somebody’s got to know something, somewhere. Maybe in Boston.”

“New York,” says Doc Gardner authoritatively. “The Metropolitan Museum. That’s where you need to go.”

“Okey,” says Dizzy. “I guess I’m going to New York.”

Obama’s Savvy

Jeff VanderMeer • November 1st, 2008 • Uncategorized

No matter what happens in the election, Obama has run one of the best campaigns I’ve ever seen. From not budging from his initial strategic goals–including a 50-state approach–to the individual tactics to support his strategy, he and his staff have done a brilliant job.

Let’s look just at the last week. He announces this 30-minute ad on the major networks. Creates a news story from that, which serves to take time away from McCain’s “socialist message”. Pundits debate the wisdom of the 30-minute ad, suggesting it might be a mistake. Thereby confirming the wisdom of having done the 30-minute ad, as every minute they talk about the ad, in any context, McCain gets less free air time for his attacks.

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