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Finncon Report

What can you say about a con with an English-language track (for the Swedes, Russians, and Estonians who don't speak Finnish, who outnumber the actual native English speakers by a large margin), fresh home-made soup in the Greenroom, fans who have read everything from Clarke and Heinlein to Marks (Laurie, that would be) and Mieville and LeGuin and Robinson, and a dead-dog party by a lake, with a sauna and all the smoked fish, squeaky cheese, and cloudberry jam you could eat?

That it was awesome.

This is the first Finncon in some years, apparently, that hasn't been twinned with the Anime Convention, which meant that it was smaller and more SF-oriented than the glorious scrum of costumed teenagers and skiffy fans that George R.R. Martin described to me when I told him where I'd be going the week after his Clarion week.  Which was just as well, since the venue--a serene Alvar Aalto brick classroom building on the University of Jyvaskyla campus--could barely contain the 800 or so SF & F fans as it was.  The multi-track programming took place in stadium-style classrooms.  It was a little intimidating at first, sitting at the focal point of tiers of intent faces, but I relaxed a lot when they laughed at my jokes.  Kati Clements (our endlessly patient Guest Liason) interviewed Ellen and me about Fantasy of Manners on Saturday, and I did a panel on Urban Fantasy yesterday, with two Swedish fans and Marianna Leikomaa, with whom we will be visiting the Moomin museum tomorrow.  Ellen worked lots harder--she sang and talked about the Anglo-Scots ballads that went into the writing of Thomas the Rhymer for her GOH speech, made grown men cry reading "The Man With The Knives," talked about the problems of translation with her Finnish translator Johanna Vainikainen at her coffeeklatch, and had a fascinating conversation about dreams and writing and inspiration and craft with Pat Cadigan and Cheryl Morgan at the GOH panel on Dreaming Reality.

The panels were great--interested audiences, good questions, good topics, approached from fresh angles (the concepts of MannerPunk and Urban Fantasy aren't as familiar in Europe as they are in the US).  But the real joy of Finncon was--The Parties!

I include the Masquerade in the parties, since everybody was having such a good time--and didn't get the prizes until the traditional evening party.  The quality of the costumes was high, and the content was a mixture of media (a Farscape group, two Star Wars pairs, with light-sabres and cool choreography, Aphrodite from Xena, a heroic spaceman and his Betty-Page-like bimbo from a 40's SF movie whose title I've forgotten, Magenta from Rocky Horror), comics (a kind of angry hive-queen from an indy comic, wearing purple and a giant bad attitude), plus a pair of extensively temporary-tattooed Mexican Wrestlers, and an Evil guy in a black chausable-like affair appliqued with huge red hands.  We loved the literary offerings the best, though:  an elf warrior in the most beautifully rendered brass and leather armor I've ever seen, and (the piece de resistance--for Ellen, anyway), Thomas the Rhymer (with a leetle, tiny plastic harp), Elspeth (in green with yards of green ribbon) and Meg (in a little lappet cap and homespun). 

The Guests had to judge this feast of plenty, which we did over a Lucullan (or perhas Leifian) feast at a Viking-theme restaurant called Harald's, where we all repaired after the Masquerade to drink Tar Liquor (made of pine-pitch, and tasting rather like alcoholic Moxie), eat red deer, wild boar, smoked fish, and wild mushroom soup, and figure out who got which silly prize.  The discussion (and the prizes) got sillier as the evening progressed, culminating in Cheryl's brilliantly funny presentation at the party afterwards, where we were all flown with beer (smoked, tar, and ordinary) and heat.  Have I mentioned that Finland is in the middle of the longest and hottest heat wave since 1904?  And that Finnish buildings are designed to maximize passive solar and minimize heat-loss?  I was concerned about the Mexican wrestlers, mostly--although the Elf warrior looked pretty uncomfortable, too.

The rest of the evening (and I do mean evening--the sun did go down, but it never actually got dark) was dedicated to song and conversation.  Filkers filked--a song for each of the GOHs (you can read the lyrics to ellen_kushner 's), in the appropriate language, yet.  And then we all went out on the terrace (where there was air) and talked and talked and talked about folklore and fandom and Finnish history and John Adams and what you learn in school and what there is to see in Tulku and Moomins and Tove Janesson's adult fiction and Angela Carter and narrative theory and Finnish witches and shamanism and folk music and living in Princeton, NJ and how accurate the University Life bits are in FOTK and a few other subjects I've forgotten.  And the mosquitoes feasted on our ankles and the sky darkened to cobalt and stayed there, while time seemed to stop.

It didn't, though.  At 2:00am, a lot of people had gone home and our conversations were beginning to slow, so we gathered our traps and wandered back towards the hotel, stopping off at a stone mentioned in the Kalevala, where Ellen and Johanna sang "Maids, When You're Young, Never Wed an Old Man" (typical of Finncon, somehow, that a tolerably obscure naughty British folk song should be the one they both knew all the words to).  And then we toddled off to bed, not nearly as tired as we should have been, given the hour.

And now we have a train to catch and I've got to pack my computer away, so I'll post this and try and catch up with the rest of the con on the train to Tempere.

To be continued. . .


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 19th, 2010 09:52 am (UTC)
Thank you!
It was very wonderful to meet you both, you were so amazing guests! And yes, I googled Elisabeth Bear´s photo and we look like cousins! She is coming to Swecon next summer, another good reason to go there. I email about your book later.

Jul. 19th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank you!
Thank you, Anne. It was wonderful meeting you, too.
Jul. 19th, 2010 10:09 am (UTC)
Re: Masquerade
The heroic spaceman and his Betty-Page-like bimbo are actually from Dave Stevens' comic The Rocketeer from the early 1980's. And the wrestlers' tattoos were not temporary... :-) Cheers, TJ
Jul. 19th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
Re: Masquerade
I gathered that, talking to Johanna this evening, and am going back in to correct it. Because that was some pretty impressive ink, yessiree.
Jul. 19th, 2010 10:15 am (UTC)
It's nice to see you've enjoyed yourself! :) It was truly a delight talking with you at the Viking Dinner and I hope to see you and Ellen in Turku, should our schedules coincide. (I certainly hope they will!)

Best wishes,
the tall history teacher,
Jul. 19th, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for friending me, Johanna. That was a wonderful dinner, and I particularly enjoyed our conversation. To be continued, when we're in Turku, if the small gods of scheduling smile on our meeting.
Jul. 19th, 2010 10:17 am (UTC)
I am so sorry I couldn't get over to that. It's not that far for me, but we have builders, and builders, alas, cannot be left.
Jul. 19th, 2010 11:24 am (UTC)
"...and an Evil guy in a black chausable-like affair appliqued with huge red hands."

Sounds like the Head Evil Guy, as apposed to Torgo, from Manos, Hands Of Fate.
Jul. 19th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
Very likely. The things you learn at cons!
Jul. 19th, 2010 10:09 pm (UTC)

Was it something like...

Jul. 21st, 2010 11:49 am (UTC)
omg - that's it! Right down to the moustache.
Jul. 19th, 2010 08:23 pm (UTC)
They certainly cannot. Which is a pity, because it would have been grand to see you again. We had such a good time in Montreal.
Jul. 20th, 2010 08:56 am (UTC)
Indeed. But hopefully there will be other conventions.
Jul. 19th, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)
The crying grown man reporting in (or one of them in case there were more of us). Thank you for coming to Finncon! I'll join Johanna in hoping to see you in Turku; there's so much to see here:

Jul. 19th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)
Ellen said she noticed three. ;-)

We'll let everyone know when we'll be there, one way or another. We haven't made our final plans yet, but should be figuring it out tomorrow.
Jul. 20th, 2010 09:25 am (UTC)
There's SO many of us Johannas here in Finland it must be at least a little confusing to the readers of this blog :-) And last night there were *two* of us having fabulous time with you, perhaps you might label us as the Johanna -LO's? Thankyou thankyou thankyou for everything, discussions, those magical moments...

love, Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo

(happily humming Maids, Never Wed...)
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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