Sunday, August 20, 2006

My FinnCon

As I wrote earlier, I'm not really part of the Finnish SF fandom. I'm somewhere on the fringes, knowing lots of guys (and gals, too, got to hug one of them earlier today, em, I mean on Sunday), writing occasionally for the fanzines, selling my own pulp-related mags and fictionmags like Isku to some of the fandom's more educated members, but I just can't share their enthusiasm for the main thing: science fiction. And I'm so way past my intellectual phase that I can't even stand the elitism they seem to have in common with each other. (Let me get back to that later on.) And they seem to be so damn serious about everything! Loosen up a little!

Well, that said, I rather enjoyed myself. Wouldn't have, perhaps, unless I hadn't had an opportunity to booze around with my friends Vesa and Ville H. last Saturday night. It was nice and we had our share of good ideas for forth-coming book projects.

What exactly happened there? We did three issues of aptly stupidly titled Con-Kurssi (the Finnish word for "bankruptcy" is "konkurssi) with my friend Vesa Sisättö. You can check the results in PDF here. There's also James Reasoner saying why Robert E. Howard matters (he's in number 3). It had to to with a panel I was in with four other guys, including graphic novel artist Petri Hiltunen and Praedor novelist Ville Vuorela, about Howard.

It seemed to be a very much liked panel with people giving lots of applause at the end - even though we didn't have a moderator! When I walked to the room and said "hi" to the other guys, they asked me if I was the moderator. We talked lots about the politics, since Howard has been criticized for being racist, sexist, male chauvinist and even fascist. We settled for an agreement that in his stories there's a strong streak of anarchism (or libertarianism), but not a leftist one (as in the sense of Kropotkin or Bakunin). After the panel I recruited Ville Vuorela to write for Seikkailukertomuksia/Adventure Stories I'll be publishing later this year - and hopefully again next year!

I was also in another panel, hosted by Ann VanderMeer (her husband, Jeff VanderMeer, was one of the guests of honor and had his first book, an Ambergris collection, translated to the Con). The panel was about horror, even though it was supposed - at least I thought so - to be about the new weird movement, since the title of the panel was Fantasia Noir (not "fantastic noir", as I wrote earlier*). Well, whatever it was about, this also turned out just fine, even though we didn't have mikes and had to speak up pretty loud. It's hard to speak up loud when you're not speaking in your mother tongue. But Ann was a very good moderator, smooth and polite, but also very informative.

Stepan Chapman (whose The Troika was also translated with VanderMeer's Ambergris) was also there in the panel and he sat right next to me. I could see that he also thought he was going to talk about new weird - he's been very much linked with the movement - because he'd scribbled lots of names into a piece of paper. There were Günter Grass, Jorge Borges, Marquez, Kafka and other familiar names. I noticed one name that's not usually linked with this kind of thing: the Doctor Doolittle writer, Hugh Lofting! Now you know where it all comes from.

Now, to the elitism I mentioned. I noticed people putting up books for book crossing (aah, let me write about that later!) and there were some books that could've interested me, like a fantasy novel by Poul Anderson, but I didn't feel like taking them, because then I would've had to give them away. There were also lots of media tie-ins, such as Sabrina and X-Files novels and the Gremlins novelization by someone called George Gipe.

Now, these may not be great literature, but I was amazed by how hatefully some of the fans took them: "Take them away from me! They are filth!" (Showing anti-Christ symbols with fingers.) What's wrong with you? It's someone's profession, you can't blame anyone for doing what he/she can to support him/her and his/hers family, for Chrissake! Not everyone can settle for an outsider attitude like Stepan Chapman who, I'm sure, would refuse every attempt to get him to write a novelization and writes only what he really wants to (and I totally respect that). But maybe it's just the Nordic welfare state: there's no such thing in the US, the writers need the jobs, and you shouldn't blame them for taking them. It may enable them to write something more worthwhile later on or improve their craftmanship. They can even be better as novels than the original stuff is as TV shows or films.

(This hatred towards commercial writing manifested also in the curling contest that was played with Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time books! By the way, I didn't get a chance to talk about Robert Jordan's Conans, but I'm still reading the book I mentioned. It's not bad at all.)

There were also some other things that I dislike about subcultures: they are cradled inwards and are hostile towards other subcultures. There were lots of discrepancies between the SF fans and the anime fans that also held a con in the same building. I don't really know what it was about, but maybe it could've been avoided. It also strikes me that every subculture takes itself too seriously - this is clearly manifested when they are trying to be funny, as in cosplays and some such. (The winning Xena outfit was nice, though.) (I was talking about this with a friend of mine, who's a veteran in Finnish fandom and has been writing SF for about 40 years now, with some pauses every now and then, and he said the same thing. He compared fans to the Leftist movement in the early seventies.)

As you may remember, I did a small fanzine to sell at FinnCon, called Järkyttäviä Tieteistarinoita/Stirring Science Stories, with stories by Petri Salin, Harri Erkki, B. Hurtanheimo (it's Bela, I hear, Boris's little brother) and Jaakko Ensio. I sold some 30 of them, mainly for my friends, but also some total unknowns bought it, maybe thanks to the cover illo by Timo Ronkainen. Will try to scan the cover for this post. I myself didn't buy anything, even though I checked a seller with lots of SF and fantasy paperbacks, but I got some fanzines.

Aah.. what else was there? Lots of stuff, lots of people, but I'll have to get on with my life. It was nice, even though I didn't see any of the other panels, and I could've talked more about stuff with some friends of mine (had too little time to chat with Jukkahoo, for example), and I could've resisted more a guy who insisted that slash fan fiction is great (he also said that the Finnish slash writers use wrong characters - he wanted to see one about Moomintroll and Snufkin...).

* Not many Google results even with that!


Tosikko said...

Eikös bookcrossingin ideaan kuulu, että tilalle voi antaa toisen, jos löytämänsä haluaa pitää itse? Vai olenko taas ymmärtänyt väärin.

Anonymous said...

No joo, mutta ei kai minulla ole kirjoja, joista haluaisin luopua? Ei kai kuulu asiaan, että haetaan kirppikseltä joku 20 snt kirja, jota ei kukaan halua ja annetaan se tilalle - joku 50-luvun uskonnollinen traktaatti?

Mutta hyvä kun muistutit asiasta, sillä aion jossain vaiheessa oikeasti marmattaa book crossingista. Dywco!

Juri said...

Siis tuo olen minä! Minä minä minä! En mikään "anonymous"!

Lurker said...

I took a few snapshots at the Finncon, I guess it's you and Mr Stepan Chapman in my Fantasia Noir photos, some lively discussion there.

And if you please, you can participate in This is your life by the books -meme.

Juri said...

Yeah, sure that's me. (In a Hawaiian shirt. It's probably from the seventies. Made in the USA; it's rare in Finland to find clothes made in the USA - but I found this in a trash bin! I digress.)

It was a lively discussion and Stepan Chapman seemed to be a great guy.

I'll do the meme some time in the near future.

Unknown said...

“I can't even stand the elitism they seem to have in common with each other. (Let me get back to that later on.) And they seem to be so damn serious about everything! Loosen up a little!”

Yes, serious. That’s why it would be impossible to sell a zine full of funny and less-than-serious pulp stories at one of these events, because we all know That Isn’t Literature. Or have funny program items like throwing books around or – heaven forbid – trying curling with them for instance. Or have a competition for the best “mad scientist” laugh. Oh, wait…

What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that I find your statement of everybody being so serious about everything a bit curious.

The elitism part is pretty difficult to judge from the “inside,” I suppose. I don’t see that much of it (that is to say, not any more than in any group that has a common interest and therefore of course thinks more of themselves and their friends than other people who don’t share this interest). But, as I said, maybe it takes an outsider to notice these things. Details might be useful to identify things that aren’t meant as elitist but are perceived as such.

I think you may be overgeneralizing a bit about the negative qualities of fandom – every hobby group of course has some individuals who are elitist, hostile towards others, too zealous in their interest, or whatever. And they also unfortunately tend to be quite loud and may “stain” the whole group in the eyes of the casual onlooker. I’ve found the great majority of sf fans a very nice bunch of people and not ones to take themselves seriously in the least.

Boozing around with friends – I’d say you’ve found the essence of fandom already. :)