Finncon 2009

Finncon reports ought to begin with a heartfelt “thank you” to Otto and Paula. This year the convention was in Helsinki, so I got to stay with them all week. However, even when the con is in another city I tend to prevail upon them on my way there and back. It is much easier to fly into Helsinki then take the train than to try to fly to small, regional airports. Otto also does a sterling job ferrying the guests about town. This year his car was decorated with large Finncon logos. People started referring to it as “the ConMobile”. Everywhere we went in Helsinki people would wave at the car. They knew what it was.

Which brings us very naturally to Thursday morning and the press conference. Getting journalists to cover and event can be hard, and offering them free food and drink is a time-honored method of bribery. So it was that George RR Martin and Al Reynolds turned up at a café for a working breakfast. I went along to reassure them that the Finns knew what they were doing, and because I had nothing else scheduled until midday. We have had one year when the press conference was a disaster, but only one. This year went as smoothly as such things can. The photographers were intrusive and pushy, and the journalists asked all of the obvious questions (the odd behavior of a small number of George’s fans, Al’s million-pound book deal). However, the end result was exactly what we wanted: almost a full page spread in the major Helsinki newspaper on Friday, a further half-page on Saturday, more coverage in the tabloid newspaper given out for free on the Metro. Also all three major Finnish TV stations turned up at the convention. This is the sort of publicity you can’t buy. All of it mentioned that the convention was free to attend. I’m sure it was a major contributory factor to the huge number of attendees we got.

Of course I can’t prove that the media coverage got us attendees, but I think I can prove that the work of Finncon’s press team was what got us the coverage. You see, there were three guests at the convention: George, Al and Adam Roberts. They were all mentioned in the con publicity. The newspapers majored on George and Al. They also mentioned a few other people, including me. They didn’t mention Adam at all, because he wasn’t at the press conference. The reporters hadn’t met him, so he wasn’t on their radar. So congratulations to Hannele Parviala and Sini Neuvonen for a job well done; and Adam, next time come to the press conference.

Next on my schedule was two half days at the academic conference at Helsinki University, organized this year by my friend Merja Polvinen. As usual there were some very interesting papers, and Adam did a magnificent job as the Guest Scholar. The people presenting the papers are generally graduate students, though some may have MAs. Sometimes this is the first time they have presented a paper. The quality isn’t always great, but the conversation about the papers is always interesting. Sometimes the weakest paper gives rise to the best discussion. I find this stuff enormously enjoyable, but I know it is an acquired taste so I’ll let you off this time.

Thursday evening saw the traditional Guest of Honor Sauna Party. This year it took place on a small, private island in the harbor. This did mean that we got to swim in the sea afterward instead of in a lake, but the sea was seriously cold and the beach we had was overlooked from the mainland by some of the most expensive real estate in Finland. Skinny dipping was therefore discouraged. I should also note that our two British newbies had a distinct case of SaunaFail. Obviously not everyone is going to like sauna, but it always seems to be the Brits who bail out. George and his partner, Parris, were happy to indulge. I’m pleased that the likes of Justina, Farah and MJH have shown that we Brits are not all wimps.

After the sauna we all headed off to the pub where large numbers of Finnish fans were gathering. I didn’t stay long because I was very tired, but I did get into a conversation with a few fans I hadn’t met before, and therefore I had to explain who I was. One of the other Finns described me a “permanent guest” of the convention. The young lady I was introducing myself to then exclaimed that if I was that important I ought to have a tiara, and I should stamp my feet until I was given one. Foot stamping isn’t really my style, but I did foolishly mention the conversation to Irma when I next saw her. This was to have Consequences.

Unusually for Finncon, programming got underway on Friday afternoon, so after the morning’s papers were discussed we headed off to the main venue. The Kaapelitehdas is an old cable factory re-purposed as an arts venue. Much of the old industrial architecture is still in place, giving the whole event something of a steampunk look. It is also much the largest venue we have ever had for a Finncon. The building is U-shaped. The base was mainly social space, including a restaurant and bar, the gaming area, and a space set aside for adults to relax in. One arm was devoted to program space: three rooms in all. The other was divided half-and-half into a dealers’ room and the main program room, which was used for major events such as George’s GoH talk and the CosPlay. The inside of the U contained a few food vendors but was mainly filled with teenage kids in a bewildering variety of anime costumes. They also spilled over into the adjoining car parks and green spaces. It was an absolutely amazing sight.

One of the things I love about the Finns is how professional they are when it comes to convention running. Last year’s event was very successful, but I did point out a couple of areas where it wasn’t quite perfect. The schedules given to the guests did not include the social events that they were expected to attend, and there was no material to help those of us who don’t speak Finnish or Swedish to find our way around. This year the guest schedules included everything we needed to know (though I still managed to mis-read mine and be late for the sauna party – sigh), and there was also a 24-page English language program book available (from the “Alien Info” desk). Chris Bell, whose difficulties finding her way around in Tampere had prompted my original complaint, was astounded at how well the Finns had responded. So was I.

What’s more, that wasn’t the only area in which the Finns had taken note of what I had said. On Saturday morning I got to help judge the individual CosPlay tournament. Much to my delight, they had instituted separate competition categories for novices and experienced cosplayers. We got some excellent entries in both categories. Unfortunately I was too busy judging to get good pictures, but there will be some online soon.

Something that the Finncon CosPlay does that I haven’t seen done anywhere else is have special awards for entries that made the judges laugh. There is actually a special judge for this. This year they went to a zombie nurse and to a character who tried to bribe the judges by throwing us candy. (Why Lucy’s music box should contain candy is a mystery to me – anyone seen Elfen Lied?) Another character that got everyone excited was Danbo, the cardboard box robot (see picture). Whoever had the idea of doing this costume was inspired, and also very talented to walk around stage in it. Presumably it was quite cheap too, though I suspect that finding actual boxes to fit might have been quite difficult.

The Legend of Zelda continues to provide excellent costumes. Had we given first place prizes in each category it is entirely likely that the beginner prize would have gone to Midna (in her imp form) and the experienced prize to Zant. There was a lot of work in those costumes, especially the headpieces.

After the CosPlay I had a lunch engagement with my new friend Jenni Tyynelä whom I had met at the DWJ conference. I wanted to introduce her to Irma Hirsjärvi, because Irma is a whiz at getting grants and has also been to ICFA on several occasions. As it turned out, we bumped into Hannu Rajaniemi as well, and he’s by far the best person I can think of to explain quantum mechanics to a Finn. So a very pleasant lunch was had discussing cosmology and the philosophy of the multiverse. Jenni got lots of ideas for books to read (including, Goddess help her, The Number of the Beast, because it is one of the books most closely based on David Lewis’s ideas). I was also able to recommend that Jenni meet Adam Roberts, because Yellow Blue Tibia includes some interesting use of quantum probability. The conversation at lunch was so absorbing that we missed George’s GoH speech, but we all trooped off to listen to Al talk about his cosmological speculations and other science-fictional stuff.

Next up was my first panel of the weekend. Adam and I, being well known “motherfuckers who are systematically destroying science fiction” (that’s an Internet term for “reviewers”, in case you missed the recent “ethics” furor) had been asked to comment on this year’s crop of Hugo nominees. Ben Roimola and Tommy Persson were also called upon to give their expert opinion, and Marianna Leikomaa was asked to use all of her ex-Finncon-chair skills to keep us from killing each other.

As it turned out, we were mostly in agreement. Tommy did occasionally take the part of traditionalists against Adam and my championing of adventurous writing, but there was remarkably little squabbling. Even in the case of Farah Mendlesohn’s Rhetorics of Fantasy, which Adam has notoriously rubbished, we were all agreed that it ought to win when compared to the other nominees.

For the record, here is what I can remember of our conclusions:

Short story – Kij Johnson or Ted Chiang
Novelette – John Kessel (the others are mostly awful)
Novella – Finlay, McDonald or Reed (we all agreed the Doctorow/Rosebaum was fascinating but too difficult a read to win)
Related Book – Scalzi, but Farah deserves it
BDP Long Form – Dark Knight or Wall-E (audience vote)
Novel – Neil Gaiman or Neal Stephenson

The next panel in the room was Adam’s GoH talk. I stuck around listening to him bravely trying to convince the Finns that postmodernism and deconstructionism were interesting ideas. He did very well, though it is perhaps best that he then went on to talk about his novels and parodies. I discovered that Adam and I are very much in agreement about Structuralism, but have widely different views about Rhetorics of Fantasy. I shall explain this is more detail in a separate post. Afterward I spoke to some of the Finns, who were unanimously impressed. When I have talked about Finncon (or Imaginales) to writers before I have sometimes been rebuffed with the excuse of, “oh, I don’t have anything translated, there’s no point in going there.” Adam comprehensively proved this wrong. A whole bunch of Finns have developed an admiration for him and are going to go out and buy his books (probably in English from Amazon). Given that most of them had never heard of him before, he did a wonderful job.

After grabbing a quick sandwich (and being very grateful I had eaten lunch) my next task was to judge the masquerade. The quality was a lot better than last year, and we had such difficulty making up our minds we decided not to name a winner. Instead each of the 11 entries got a prize of some sort, and we set to thinking of entertaining reasons for giving those prizes. Here are some of my favorites.

There was a fabulous Corpse Bride entry – a really great costume. We gave her a prize of “Most Desperate” and a signed Al Reynolds book. When I handed the prize over I told the audience that I had written “will you marry me?” above Al’s signature.

Inevitably there was a Song of Ice and Fire entry. Parris (who was on the jury) was very impressed with their attention to detail, and some of the costumes were lovely. Amazingly they managed to pick five characters to represent, none of whom George had managed to kill off. Parris promised them some exclusive Ice & Fire t-shirts.

There was also a Lord of the Rings entry, done extremely tongue in cheek. Adam is sending them a couple of copies of his LotR parody.

Mari-Pilvi did Elvira, a role she is very well equipped for. We gave her the prize for “Most Cleavage”. Amazingly we managed to find an entirely Elvira-appropriate prize – a book created for a music critic whose nickname is “The Tomb”.

Another of my favorite entries was based on the Batman TV series. Tuomas and Pasi had great costumes, and they had the feel of the program down pat. I loved how they did the “climbing the wall on the bat-rope” thing. Hopefully there are some very special bat-goodies on the way to them.

Finally my thanks to Petri and Hannele for doing Magnus, Robot Fighter. That strip was a favorite of mine when I was a kid, and I had no idea anyone else remembered it.

The masquerade prize presentation was the first event of the Saturday evening party in the bar. As is traditional with Finncon, this also featured the Guest of Honor filks. I was surprised and delighted that the filkers used a modified version of my con-runner filk, “Busy, busy, busy”. I have video of all of the filks, but this was somewhat interrupted by Marianna calling me on stage. Apparently Irma had been shopping and had bought me a tiara. The Finns are so kind. Someone on Facebook asked me to bring the tiara to Worldcon. I may do so, though I have no idea when would be an appropriate time to wear it; maybe at the Hugo Losers Party to cheer me up after having lost to Langford yet again.

On Sunday I was scheduled for two panels either side of lunch. Both involved book recommendations and I hope at some point to have lists for you. The first panel was what I have taken to calling Fat-Free Fantasy, in which we explained to a huge audience that fantasy should not be purchased by the kilo and just because George’s books were very large there was no reason for everyone else’s to be. The other panel was a more general book discussion which I took to be about books that are new this year, and everyone else didn’t. I got to pimp the likes of The Quiet War, Palimpsest, The City and The City and Yellow Blue Tibia.

In between the two panels something happened in one of the program rooms that caused a huge queue of cat-girls to extend more than the length of the building. I later discovered that it was a panel on Yaoi. I should have guessed, really.

At the end of the second book panel there was an announcement about a guerilla program item on fandom around the world. Yes, Irma had been busy again. Parris was on the panel, and as she hadn’t been on anything else I went along to support her. Irma immediately co-opted me onto the panel. Finncon can be dangerous like that. Parris enjoyed herself explaining to people that back in the ‘70s the hordes of teenagers who were looked down upon by the old guard were not anime cat-girls, but Star Trek fans. People like Ben Yalow. Of course some of the Star Trek fans were girls, which caused seismic disturbances in the fandom of the time.

I spent the next hour making sure that the various guests were going to be taken care of dinner-wise before the dead dog party. Then we ate. Otto took Al and his wife on a sightseeing tour of Helsinki, and I fell asleep in the back of the car. Thankfully I woke up in time for the party, where I distributed whisky to the Finns and shot some more video.

Reaction to the convention appeared to have been pretty good. Apparently one outraged parent complained to the security people that some of the cat-girls were not wearing enough clothes. This is a bit rich in a country famous for nude bathing after the sauna, and for putting pictures of naked people in churches and on their money. Otto was a little concerned about the volume of empty McDonalds wrappers strewn about the area, but they had all gone by the time of the dead dog and I’m told the kids cleared the site up themselves. Some of the local people told us that this was the best behaved youth event they could remember at the Kaapelitehdas.

The final attendance count for the convention that was being bandied about at the dead dog was 15,000. Obviously that’s very approximate. With no admission charge it is very hard to know exactly how many people you have, or how many attend on multiple days. What I can say is that every panel I attended was standing room only. The main hall where the CosPlay took place seated 800 and there were lots of people standing, sitting on the floor, or watching from the balcony. The other program rooms had seating for around 1000 between them. The dealer’s hall was roughly the same size as the main hall and generally packed, but given the tables it probably held only 500. Add a couple of hundred in the social space and at least another 500 hanging around outside and you have over 3000 people on site at any one time. Given two and a half days of convention, and the fact that free attendance will have encouraged people to drop in to see what the event was like, I think the final count is entirely plausible.

At this point I can see old-time fans wringing their hands in horror. Surely all of these people are “not part of our community”. We shouldn’t be letting them into our conventions. They are just ticket-buyers, right? They don’t want to be part of fandom. Well I’ll give you the fact that very few of them participated in the organization of the event, and I’ll come back to that in a minute. But at least a third of the kids who attended were wearing a costume of some sort. They were clearly interested enough in what they were doing to go to that level of effort. And the existence of all those costumes contributed significantly to the atmosphere of the convention.

The problem is that anime fandom is a moving target. When I used to work with Games Workshop they had (and probably still do have) a theory that their target market was teenage boys, and would always be teenage boys. Most of their customers would not stay with them for more than a few years. The same appears to be true of much of anime fandom, except that the majority of them are girls. They will turn out in huge numbers, and put an amazing amount of effort into their costumes, but most of them will be teenagers, and they won’t have the experience or enthusiasm to help actually run the convention. By the time they have stopped being teenagers, most of them will have most interest in their hobby.

This creates a problem for Finnish fandom. Running a convention of this size is a huge amount of work, and that can quickly get wearing if the majority of people you are doing the work for have interests that don’t mesh well with your own. It is certainly possible for older fans to run anime conventions, and train the kids up to help with the work. I am very impressed with the work that Chaz Baden & Co are doing with Anime Los Angeles. However, the Finns appear to be having trouble finding enough people from within the anime community to help run the event. That inevitably creates tension, and burnout.

A rather more serious problem is that the anime side of the event has now outgrown just about every potential venue outside Helsinki. It is possible that we would not have got so many people to a convention in Tampere, but the numbers we had this year would have been disastrous last year. There is no way we can accommodate even last year’s numbers at the facility we have in Jyväskylä. Something has to give.

So next year there will be no hordes of cat-girls, and the convention will be down to the size of a large US regional. I’m told that Finncon will still have some anime programming, but it will not have CosPlay (though anime costumes will be welcome in the Masquerade) and it will not be twinned with Animecon. Hopefully a lot of anime fans will turn up, but equally hopefully not in such large numbers or we’ll have a serious safety hazard.

Quite what will happen to the anime side of the event is not certain. It seems to me that it might make sense to have it as a permanent fixture in the Kaapelitehdas, but this is something that Finnish fans need to sort out amongst themselves and I’m trying not to interfere. I also don’t know what constraints Animecon has placed on itself. I’m pretty sure that the constitution of Finncon requires it to move around the country. (Next year it will be in Jyväskylä, the following year in Turku.) I know it also requires attendance to be free. The anime folks may be working with similar issues.

I understand that George and Parris have been trying to persuade the Finns to bid for a Worldcon. That shows how much confidence they have in Finnish con-running skills. However, I still don’t think they have the facilities. There is only one major hotel close to the Kaapelitehdas, and while Helsinki’s public transit is very good a Worldcon audience is unlikely to be happy commuting. Also they really need a space that will hold 1,500 – 2,000 people (assuming 3,000 – 4,000 attendees, and they could get a lot more if the Russians decide to come en masse), and I don’t think the Kaapelitehdas can do that without cramping the rest of the space. Worldcon members tend to want to be entertained all day, whereas the anime kids are happy to spend much of the day hanging out and photographing each other so they need less program space.

Helsinki, then, is not really on as a Worldcon venue unless the convention shrinks significantly, or its membership gets a lot less fussy about how far they have to walk. However, I am in no doubt that if I were planning on putting on a Worldcon in Europe any time soon then I would be spending a lot of time in Finland and getting very friendly with Finnish con-runners. Given how smoothly they moved in to help out the Danes at last year’s Eurocon, I’m sure that they could fit in well with a Worldcon committee. Fortunately for my Finnish friends, I’m not about to be bidding for a Worldcon any time soon.

Regardless of all that, however, huge congratulations are due to Jukka Halme, Eemeli Aro, Topi Toosi and their team. It is impressive enough for a fan group in any country to put on a convention of this size. That a country as small as Finland can do it is both an awesome achievement and a stunning example to the rest of us. Due to the facilities constraints this may end up holding the record for the biggest Finncon for many years. That record will be well deserved.

My video diary from the convention (including the Tiara Incident) is online here.

My photos are available below.

[salbum=28,y,n,all]

18 Responses to Finncon 2009

  1. Johanna Vainikainen-Uusitalo says:

    The tiara was actually not just picked up from a shop. It was ordered from a jewelry maker specially for you, Cheryl! We do appreciate you greatly.

  2. Cheryl says:

    Um… *blush* Thank you!

    So those are real emeralds… 😉

  3. Great report, Cheryl. Makes me very sorry to have missed it. Perhaps Jyvaskila next year! Especially if it’s scheduled against a 1-track Readercon. . .

  4. jukkahoo says:

    Thanks for the report! Blushes everywhere!

    Couple of things I do need to comment on, however.

    Our press coverage was mainly due to one member of the team you probably never met: Ella Peltonen, who did a magnificent job with it! Hannele and Sini were at the press conference, but it was Ella who did everything and more behind the scenes. So kudos there!

    The panel on tipping new books wasn’t meant to be just about books that have come out this year, but as I never really managed to let my panelists have enough info (sorry about that) prior to the con, it went the way it went. I was fairly pleased with it, as it wasn’t _just_ a random list of names, but managed to tell something about the books (and possibly about the authors too), with some coherence. I’m afraid we here in the frozen wilderness do not have the time to read enough of the new stuff, nor read it fast enough. English is our second or third language, and then there’s all those pesky books in Finnish we have to read as well!

    The Leeloo-costumefail was a bad mistake and the conmittee has already apologized from her. To make matters worse, she is not an animefan, but one of the group of younger sf-fans from Helsinki area.

    The constitution of Finncon _doesn’t_ require it to move around the country. The constitution of Finncon arrangers however _does_ that it moves around a bit. Since we seem to be doing OK with the current method of changing venues and location and organisers every year, I think we may have found the winning formula.

    This however means that we need to separate Finncon from Animecon. I believe this year we did show that we could co-exist more or less peacefully, but more than 90% of work prior to the con was done by the sf-fandom (whereas at the con most of the gophering was done by the younger anime-fandom). This cannot continue.

    The Finncon constitution does state the the attendance needs to be free. Which is not the case with Animecon, but since we’ve kept the two behemoths together, that option hasn’t been used. I would think that properly run, well-marketed Animecon would easily make some profit, even in todays difficult financial situation here in Finland.

    And I think I better say something about the Worldcon, too.

    *No*, we’re NOT going to arrange it, we do not have the manpower, money, savvy, or even will to pull that off. We would have a venue (sure we do, Helsinki is one of the biggest conference cities in the world, we have a huge Fair Centre), which would fit easily one Worldcon. We, that’s Eemeli and I, talked with them about the price for a Worldcon-size occasion and the price was well within the parameters. The problem would not be the place, but the baggage of How Things Have Always Been Done.

    But we’re NOT contemplating, thinking, planning, discussing, hoping, looking or even considering it.

  5. Cheryl says:

    Jukka:

    Thanks for the lengthy reply, and my apologies to Ella for missing her out. She clearly did a magnificent job.

    You are absolutely right about the convention needing to move around for the health and sanity of the organizers. A convention that stays in one place has to figure out some means of rotating jobs, or have full-time staff, or it will quickly face burnout.

    By the way, how do you select future venues?

    As for the Worldcon, you really shouldn’t have told me that you have a potential venue. Now I want to look at it. And sit down with you and talk about these “How Things Have Always Been Done”. I am, after all, always looking for pointless “traditions” that I can upset.

  6. Ednal Nif says:

    “The problem would not be the place, but the baggage of How Things Have Always Been Done.”
    That actually sounds like an excellent opportunity, Worldcon run along Finncon lines. Let’s show foreign con arrangers alternate ways of running events.

    As for the anime side everything is still up in the air. The fans who are engaged enough to arrange something haven’t gone much further than discussions on forming a con committee and throwing out various ideas. People seem resigned to the necessity of an entrance fee, but they hope to make it small and affordable.

    Cheryl, I was happy that you noticed how well behaved the young ones were. Some Finnish fans have an exaggerated impression of anime cons as places where young girls run wild in a permanent sugar rush. Sure, the teen fans see it as an opportunity to cut a bit lose, but they certainly showed they could have fun without being a nuisance. The community has also developed a light element of self-policing after the incredibly stupid Dragon Balls controversy a few years back. Anime fans have since become wary of moralizing nannies and try to remain under their radar. So people were well behaved all around, though I guess it’s somewhat relative. I had an interesting discussion with a Jewish photographer who thought fans were far more open about sexuality in Finland than in Israel. He didn’t disapprove, he thought it made for a more fun atmosphere.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Ednal:

    Let’s show foreign con arrangers alternate ways of running events

    Be careful about that, it is the biggest mistake that most wannabe Worldcon runners make (even from state to state within the US).

    Firstly Worldcon is a different convention to the one you normally run. Many of the ways things are always done are done that way for a reason. Re-inventing the wheel each year just to prove that you are different from every other group of con-runners in the world is a sure recipe for disaster.

    Secondly, if you do want to run a Worldcon, you have to win a bidding process, and satisfy the large number of regular Worldcon attendees who go every year. If you promise them something too different, or deliver something too different, then they won’t be happy.

  8. Sari says:

    Indeed, Worldcon is a huge, overwhelming and a wonderful thing. It isn’t so much the numbers, but the fact that international, largely anglophone fandom has certain expectations about Worldcon, and though we have managed to teach ourselves how to run our kind of con we are utter noobs when it comes to doing a Worldcon. Those Finnish fen who might be blackmailed to consider a bid by kidnapping their nearest and dearest, have visited a Worldcon maybe once or twice if ever. (Jukka has three, Tero has maybe more?) So, um no. I think Finncon runners are quite aware of the fact, that even a worldcon bid might burn us out, and that we have a lot to learn.

    And thanks for your kind comments 🙂

  9. Tero says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for the report! A couple of comments and thoughts:
    Sorry to disappoint about our professionalism, but I hadn’t heard any complaints about getting around town last year. The Alien Supplement is something we did for our 2003 Finncon in Turku (which was also a Eurocon and therefore had more foreigners attend than usual). Since I knew this year’s con was going to be big and would probably attract attendees from abroad, I thought it would be useful (as well as fun) to do it again and proposed the idea to the organizers. So it was a lucky coincidence.

    I thought Kaapeli worked really well as a venue, and the neighbors seemed to like us — in addition to the locals commending the attendees’ behavior, Kaapeli gave positive feedback; they said the place has never been cleaned up so well after a big event. So I’m pretty sure a Finncon or an Animecon would be welcome there again.

    About the anime people producing new fandom: this does happen, and there are several people in the sf fandom nowadays that found us through anime; however I don’t think finding maybe one active fan (or less) for every 1000 people attending a big anime event is a good enough ratio, nor the best way to spend resources when thinking just of bringing in new fans. So organizing a joint Finncon-Animecon needs to be done for other reasons (most importantly because the organizers want to) and not just “to bring the next generation into fandom).

    I think an even bigger issue than finding a venue is finding organizers who would want to do a huge Finncon-Animecon. Most who’ve been positive about such events in the past have now organized at least one such beast and are much happier with “small” Finncons (which have varied from 2000 to 6000 attendees before Animecon, so they still aren’t all that small). This is a trend I’m personally very happy with, since I have no interest in all the headaches that come with organizing an Animecon. So it is at least as much a question of wanting to separate Finncon from Animecon as it is needing to, in my opinion.

    Animecon itself doesn’t have a “manifesto” or constitution, it is a label that was originally invented just to advertize the anime programming at a Finncon, and has grown uncontrolled from there. It does however have a kind of a brand image of a large event where people appear just to hang out, even though this hasn’t officially been defined anywhere. There are no restrictions on membership fees, size, organizing cities or anything else either.

    I think Animecon as such will probably wither out and die without a Finncon supporting it. The anime people organize their own conventions and see Animecon (which was started by the Finncon organizers) as “someone else’s convention” and seem to have no desire either to adopt the concept nor to integrate it into their own conventions. So my guess is that Tracon will grow a bit, and there will also be Desucon plus smaller regional conventions, but no Animecon after 2011.

    The Finncon venues are selected by someone standing up (figuratively, as this can be in e-mail as well) and saying they would like to organize a Finncon in a given year (usually the next one available). The rest of fandom usually breathes a small sigh of relief that it’s at least another year until they have to organize one themselves. There are some restrictions, however: the convention has to be free for attendees, it needs to be “big” (this hasn’t been defined, but my personal opinion is that a thousand attendees is just about big enough), and it needs to have a literary focus (meaning you should pick writers as GoHs, at least the main ones), and besides catering to fandom it should also strive to reach out to the public, as an advertisement for sf (defined broadly, meaning science fiction, fantasy, supernatural horror, magical realism, etc.) and an introduction to fandom.

    There’s been discussion about a joint Nordic bid for a Worldcon (and I think at least some see the 2011 Stockholm Eurocon as a sort of a small-scale practice run), but thankfully cooler heads usually prevail pretty soon. Even though finding a venue for a Worldcon in Finland would be possible, I think the biggest obstacle would be that we don’t have many connections to fandom in the UK and US. I don’t think there are any Finns (living in Finland) who attend Worldcon or Eastercon regularly, and so we would be a complete bunch of unknowns, even if we could find a bid committee that would spend the next few years traveling to these conventions (which I don’t see happening). Add to this the Finns’ reluctance to do things the traditional way in those cases where they can’t see any good reason behind it, and I think our speculative bid would be much too different to ever get very far. That said, I’d always be interested in (another, and still completely hypothetical) discussion on how different a Worldcon it would be possible to organize and still have it feel like a Worldcon to the regulars. Maybe we can set something up for next year…

  10. Karo says:

    I have to agree with both Jukka and Sari. There is no way we’re going to do a Worldcon in Finland. I’ve only visited one and it was brilliant and great but it was so different from what our cons are like and I think just learning the How Things Have Always Been Done would be too much for us, even if we combined the forces of all the con cities in Finland! Not to mention organizing the con… So I’d say no.

    There are actually several places in Finland which could hold the Worldcon, though. It’s not so much about the venue as it is about all the rest. There is a venue in Tampere called Tampere Exhibition and Sports Center located in a sort of a bad place (quite far from the center of the city, near the border of Pirkkala) which would be smaller than the Helsinki Fair Center but not that much smaller, mind you. It’s not a good place at the moment but they are planning on building a hotel right next to it. No walking required. And the busses from the center come right to the main entrance of the venue as do the taxis.

    But no, we’re still not going to do it! I’d be happy to know we’re going to survive Jyväskylä next year, the last Finncon-Animecon in Turku in 2011 and the End-of-the-World Finncon in Tampere in 2012. I’d really like to see the post-apocalyptic con of Helsinki in 2013 (and I really hope they will organize the con on that theme!!)

    As for how the venues are decided, my understanding is they used to be decided based on the prices (for example the university building in Jyväskylä is fairly cheap, as far as I know) and when Animecon exploded (ok, expanded) the decisions were mostly based on the sizes of the venues with the price taken into account.

    Last year in Tampere we would’ve liked to have the con in the university buildings as that way we could’ve gotten more rooms and space if needed. Unfortunately the main building of the University of Tampere was renovated during the summer 2008 and we couldn’t have the con there because the renovation closed the biggest room of the building (the main hall, if you like). Tampere-talo was a good choice as it was right next to the Uni and it had a lot of hotels etc. close by so the location was good. It’s also the biggest conference and concert center in the Nordic Countries! Had the space been divided a bit differently (I might’ve wanted to have dealer’s room in the far end of the building but that room was needed for the evening party and other programming) there had been so much more space. It was sheer luck it didn’t rain, though. We would’ve ran out of space had it rained…

    And btw, there was a leaflet in English made last year, I know my sister made it but I must admit it wasn’t as great and beautiful as the one this year. It had mostly the English programming in it but I was under the impression there was something about the city as well… But it could’ve been so much better, I agree! Then again, most (nearly all) of us were doing Finncon for the first time so next time we’re going to be so much wiser!! 🙂

  11. Cheryl says:

    I think you are all very wise not to be planning on running a Worldcon. Also you may be a bit optimistic about venues. You don’t just need a big hall, or even a big hall with a hotel. You need a big hall, a large auditorium – or the ability to construct one, hotel space for several thousand people, one hotel where you can run room parties, and lots of good food nearby.

    It is good to know that English-language program books existed before, and an Eurocon was an obvious time to produce one. From what I remember of last year we had a schedule in English but it was hard to work out which venues were which. Also Chris and her husband would have appreciated some tourist info. This year’s Alien Guide was splendid.

    Tero: when I said that venues were a key issue for splitting the con, what I meant was that attitudes could, in theory, be overcome, but nothing that you guys can do would provide suitable venues. It may be a smaller problem, but it is one with no solution.

  12. Tero says:

    You may well be right about the Finncon/Animecon venue, but I’m not 100 % convinced. The first place that comes to mind is the congress center in Turku that would have no problem fitting all the people of a joint convention in, and that might be within the budget range too (especially with some connections we have) — I don’t know the current numbers but I was talking to them a few years ago, and the prices were surprisingly affordable. Granted, the space would require at least as much work as Kaapeli did, if not more, but since we’re talking theoretically here I can have all the hypothetical gophers I need. 🙂

    Also, you wouldn’t have the numbers like this year’s in other cities — my estimate is having the event outside the Helsinki area will shave off at least 20 to 30 % of the number of attendees, and of course having the location be less central would affect the numbers further, making a joint convention more feasible without having to leave out any parts of the con. Also, there will be a joint Finncon/Animecon in the Turku university campus area in a couple of years, and if they manage to get all the facilities they are looking into, it may work pretty well. So I don’t see the venue as a necessarily unsurmountable problem (just one I don’t have any interest in trying to overcome).

  13. ipa says:

    What a great report, thank you!
    Looking the videos reminded of the huge success of the Helsinki people. Everything was just great!We have always have a very good news coverage in Jyvaskylä because of the arts festival organization, but this – was – really – something -else. Ella really did amazing job!!

    Truly I was facinated about the way cosplay had been organized this year, and there were many people who really praised the mothering – thanks to you, Cheryl.

    I am not talking how our Paviljonki centre could accommodate Worldcon, and how there is enough accommodation for 3000 people in Jyvaskyla. No No No. Finncon is Lada, the simpliest possible con we can do. Worldcon is a fine Mercedes Benz. (And I say this as a proud owner of Lada 1200L.)

    It shall be interesting to see how many people shall attend Jyväskylä Finncon next year. In Helsinki there has been 4000-7000 attendees, and we had about 3000 people attending the last Finncon without animecon. This amount of people attended to all Finncon programme items (well…Richard Stallman and Stelarc were there, too).

    These last years have been amazing, and Helsinki did something legendary.

    Now, wellcome to Jyvaskyla chill con, with expectations of approximately 2010 attendees.

    And I must add:
    The tiara was not only fetched from a local jewellery, but it was also built personnally for Cheryl during the night after we selected the colour for it. As you noticed the green stones are pure genuine almost emeralds.

  14. Toni says:

    Not all the things mentioned by Tero about doing a Worldcon in Finland really are problems. Because if you’d even think about trying to get one here you’d need to involve all the previous Finncon-organising generations (who are mostly still active in fandom), all the Finnish fans living abroard (and there are quite a lot of those) plus all the help you can get from the Nordic fans. And those combined will have visited quite a lot of World Cons and local cons all around the world & have contacts.

    I myself have been only in five World Cons (three times in England, once in Holland and once in Japan) & quite a lot of other cons all around Europe – not even once in USA though. But compared to those cons the latest Finncon isn’t that far a stretch as an organising thingy – so it wouldn’t be that big a leap.

    I’m not a volunteer!

  15. nixu says:

    A few words about the Finnish animefandom, and Finnish anime-themed conventions.

    This year, there has been an anime-themed convention once a month since February. And the trend will continue until at least October. That’s a total 9 anime-themed conventions in Finland in less than a year. Sure, some of the conventions have been rather small, bu tothers have grown quite large already. Bakacon (April), for example, had 800 participants, while Desucon in (June) had 1600 paid attendees. After Animecon, the largest anime-themed con this year is probably Tracon (February) with 3000+ (or was it 4000+?) paid attendees. At least half of the conventions have already been confirmed (offically or unoffically) for next year.

    Furthermore, Tracon will move to summer, and Desucon will be organized for second time. Also in summer. Therefore in summer 2010 there will be two large anime-themed conventions in Finland. My guess for next Tracon’s attendance is 5000-8000, and Desucon will probably grow to have about 2000-2500 attendees.

    Therefore, even without Animecon, there are at least two quite big anime-themed conventions in Finland, and a ridiculous number of smaller ones. I don’t really see there any great need for Animecon in such situation.

    Also, the number of anime-themed conventions explains why there aren’t that many anime fans in Finncon/Animecon organizing committees. Most of them are already buzy organizing their own cons.

  16. Cheryl says:

    Nixu:

    That sounds very promising. While I hope that Finncon continues to offer anime programming, it is much better for anime fans to be organizing their own conventions than relying on others to do so, especially if some of those others are reluctant. There’s plenty that anime fans can learn from the Finncon regulars, who are some of the best con-runners around, but eventually you have to go out and do the thing yourselves.

  17. nixu says:

    Cheryl,

    I just wrote a somewhat lengthy piece about the history, current state and (possible) future of Finnish anime events. The URL is http://blog.mangotarha.fi/?p=32 in case you’re interested.

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