Storm Over England

One of the disadvantages of being out of the country for much of August is missing out on a lot of the Kia Super League, the women’s T20 competition in England. My local team, Western Storm, includes England superstars Heather Knight and Anya Shrubsole, as well as West Indies captain, Stafanie Taylor. They are a side to be reckoned with.

The campaign started badly with a bad away loss to defending champions, Southern Vipers, who had beaten us in the final last year. However, during Worldcon we roared back with a comfortable win over Loughborough Lightning at Taunton. Over the weekend we scored a massive 10-wicket victory over Yorkshire Diamonds. Today the Storm were at the Oval to play league-topping Surrey Stars. Sadly the result did not go our way.

So where does that leave us? With 4 of the five matches played by each team, both the Stars and the Vipers have qualified for the finals. Those will be on September 1st, and three teams will qualify. In the semi-final the third-placed team in the league will play the second. The winner of that will play the top-placed team in the final.

The Stars look likely to finish top being unbeaten and having an easy final match against Loughborough Lightning. The Vipers are safe in second place, but who will finish third? The Storm and Yorkshire are currently both on 8 points, with Yorkshire having the better run rate. However, Yorkshire have to play the Vipers in their final game, whereas the Storm has a relatively easy home game against winless Lancashire Thunder. Technically the Lightning could still finish third if they beat the Stars and both Diamonds and Storm lose, but the smart money should be on the Storm making the finals.

Sadly I can’t make it to Bristol for the game. I’ll be helping teach Cat Rambo’s Writing and Gender class on Saturday evening and I can’t be at the game and be home in time for that.

If the Storm do get to the finals all bets are off. In T20 anything can happen.

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Writing and Gender Class – This Saturday

I’ve trailed this one before, but apparently there are still places left if you want to sign up. This Saturday (evening my time, morning in the USA) I will be helping Cat Rambo teach a class in Writing and Gender. We’ll be covering all of that trans people and non-binary genders that might have some of you confused, and providing tips as to how to approach the issues without having all of your trans readers putting their heads in their hands. Cat, of course, will be doing her usual brilliant writing teaching, while I explain all of the terminology and point out the pitfalls. Full details are available from Cat’s website. I hope to talk to some of you on Saturday.

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Ujima Tomorrow – Worldcon Special

I’m back in the studio at Ujima tomorrow. Obviously I haven’t had much time to find guests while I have been in Finland, but I have been collecting material all the same. This year’s Worldcon was the first with any headline guests from the Caribbean, and of course was notable for N.K. Jemisin’s second successive Hugo in the Novel category. To mark this I will be running interviews with Stephanie Saulter, Karen Lord, Tempest Bradford and Nalo Hopkinson. The music will all have a science fiction and fantasy theme. You can listen live via our website from Noon to 14:00 tomorrow, or catch the show via the Listen Again feature for the next week or so.

Posted in Conventions, Radio, Science Fiction | Leave a comment

Fringe Tonight: G.V. Anderson & Lucy Hounsom

The August edition of BristolCon fringe will take place tonight. We will have a first ever appearance for World Fantasy Award nominated author, G.V. Anderson. At it is a warm welcome back to fantasy novelist, Lucy Hounsom.

If you are able to get to Bristol, full details of the venue and schedule are available here. And if not we expect to have the podcasts available for you some time next week.

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More Finnish Fiction

I didn’t see this one at Worldcon, but if you are into horror then you too can sample Finnish fiction. Sarianna Silvonen has alerted me to Boundaries and Other Horror Stories from Finland, edited by Matti Järvinen and translated by Jukka Särkijärvi.

You can now start jokes about Finnish horror and the Tampere bid. 😉

Posted in Books, Finland, Science Fiction | Comments Off on More Finnish Fiction

Books from Worldcon

I only actually bought one book in Finland. That was a copy of Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction to give to Kevin as a birthday present. However, I still came away with quite a few books.

First up is Giants at the End of the World, an anthology of Finnish Weird fiction edited by Johanna Sinisalo and Toni Jerrman. I think this one was given away free to all attending members. I can’t see any way to buy it just now, but it does have ISBNs for ebook editions so hopefully it will be available soon. It includes short fiction by a variety of excellent writers including Sinisalo herself, Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen, Maria Turtschaninoff, Emmi Itäranta and Anne Leinonen. There is also the first chapter of Summerland, the forthcoming (next year) novel from Hannu Rajaniemi.

The authors featured in that book have either had novels published in English, or have at least featured in one issue of the Finnish Weird magazine that Jerrman put together to help promote the Worldcon. However, as Sinisalo notes in her introduction, that is only the tip of the iceberg. To get a better idea of what is going on in Finland you need Never Stop, an anthology edited by Emmi Itäranta that features only writers previously unavailable in translation. This one is available to buy, though apparently only as an ebook rather than the paper edition I picked up at the launch party.

At the same event the publishers, Osuuskumma, were also promoting The Self Inflicted Relative, an anthology of 33 drabbles (100 word stories) by Finnish writers in English. It is also available as an ebook.

The other country that was heavily promoting translated fiction at the convention was China. At a party put on by Storycom, the organisation that has worked with Clarkesworld to bring Chinese SF to the English-speaking world, I was given a copy of Touchable Unreality. This is a beautiful anthology in both Chinese and English. All of the stories have been in Clarkesworld, and right now the book is only published in China. Neil talks about it here.

China is, of course, a huge country, and Storycom is by no means the only company publishing SF. I also spoke with a representative of Douban Read, the publishing arm of a massive Chinese social media company. Apparently they have been publishing a lot of science fiction, and are keen to make some of it available to the English-speaking market. I was given a small book containing two stories: “The Khazar Key” by Zhu Yiye and “Teartide” by Wu Fugang. Given the enormous population of China, there must be many more great writers there waiting to be discovered.

Finally in the translated fiction arena I was given a copy of the Worldcon 75 special edition of Parsek, the Croatian fanzine produced by the folks who put on SFerakon. It is entirely in English and includes both fiction and non-fiction. The fiction contributors include Aleksandar Žiljak who was a guest of honor at this year’s Eurocon, and my friend Milena Benini.

I also got given a sampler for one book written in English. It is Luminescent Threads, the latest non-fiction book from Twelfth Planet Press. Following in the footsteps of the hugely successful Letters to Tiptree, this book contains essays about the work of Octavia Butler. I’m pretty sure that I backed the Kickstarter, so I have effectively already bought the book.

I’m delighted to see all of this translated fiction about. If that’s what having a Worldcon in a non-English-speaking country means, may we have many more of them.

Update: Anne Leinonen has been in touch to inform me that both Never Stop and The Self Inflicted Relative are available in paperback from the Holvi store.

Posted in Books, Clarkesworld, Finland, Science Fiction, Translations | 2 Comments

Best Dressed at the Hugos Award

For many years now I have been doing fashion coverage of the Hugos. I confess that I am no way up to the standard of Genevieve Valentine and her brilliant reviews of major movie business awards, but these are our people and hopefully that counts for something.

I was disappointed by the absence of the Campbell Tiara this year, but Amal El-Mohtar made up for it with this lovely creation.

Guys can dress up too, and Max Gladstone certainly pushed the boat out here. He told me that the little shop he bought it from was closing the very week he went to buy this lovely outfit.

Sarah Gailey certainly caught the eye in a stunning gold creation. Here she is totally outshining me and the other finalists & acceptors for the Related Work category.

However, the winner for the night was Likhain. She wore a traditional Philippina dress, specifically because she wanted people back home to see their country represented. She had her mother send it over especially for the ceremony. Here she is (right) with Aliette de Bodard (left).

As usual there is no trophy or prize money, just the warm and fuzzy feeling of having outshone everyone else at a glittering ceremony.

All of the photos are by Paula Heinonen.

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My Hugos Dress

Having got back to Helsinki, I have been able to pick up all of the photos that Paula Heinonen took at the Hugo Awards. Here are Kevin and myself all dressed up ready for the show.

Posted in Awards, Clothes, Personal | 1 Comment

Tampere Site Visit

I have no idea whether the Finns are serious about bidding for Tampere in 2032, but just in case I paid the proposed site a visit today.

Tampere is just over an hour by train from Helsinki and has been the site of many successful Finncons. Right now it does not have the facilities to host a Worldcon, but there are plans to build a brand new convention center around the railway station. This is an ideal location. There are already many hotels in the area, including two Scandics, a Holiday Inn that appears to be undergoing a massive expansion, and a giant Sokos that might be the ugliest hotel in the world. There are cheaper hotels as well.

There are plenty of places to eat in the area, and as the university is close by some of them are very cheap. And there is a small shopping mall. The city is building a tram network that will be in operation much sooner than the convention center is built, so getting to other parts of the city will be easy. My only reservation is the airport, which is very small and currently only has bus links to the city.

The main attraction of Tampere is the brand new Moomin Museum located inside Tampere-talo, a massive arts complex located just 5 minutes walk from the railway station. I visited the Moomin Museum a few years back and, while it had lots of great things in it, it all looked a bit sad. The new museum has put a lot of work into presentation and is well worth a visit if you have any interest in Moomins (save for eating them, Paul).

The city also has a fascinating cathedral with some great art, and the world’s only Lenin museum. The great revolutionary lived in Tampere for some time while plotting his take-over of Russia and the city has lots of interesting material connected to his time there.

Today I visited Vapriikki, a museum complex a little further out of town. It contains several discrete exhibitions including a brand new games museum. Most of the material in it is concerned with electronic games, for which Finland is justly famous, but it has some board games and RPG material as well, including a whole section on Finland’s annual role-playing event, Ropecon, which was in Messukeskus two weeks before us.

Vapriikki also contains a natural history section, a geology section, exhibits about life in Tampere in 1918 and 1017, a doll museum, and Finland’s Ice Hockey Hall of Fame. It does not yet have an exhibition devoted to the sayings of Kimi Raikkonen, though I am sure that will come eventually.

Right now there is also a traveling exhibition with material from the Forbidden City in Beijing. It is Qing Dynasty, so relatively modern, and very impressive.

I put a whole lot of photos on Twitter today if you want to see more.

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Still in Finland

As I had some suspicion of just how exhausting Worldcon would be I planned to spend a couple of days after the convention hanging out with my dear friend, Irma Hirsjärvi. This involved taking a trip up to Central Finland where the internet connectivity is not as world-beating as it is in Helsinki, so I am offline much of the time.

I am, however, getting to write. There will be a con report in due course. Nor have I forgotten about the Emerald City Best Dressed at the Hugos Award. I will do that post once I have been able to catch up with Paula again and get the rest of her photos.

In the meantime I continue to be absolutely mortified about the number of times during the convention that I mistook someone for someone else. Whether this was just tiredness or the signs of impending senility, I am not sure, but I’d like to apologize profusely once again for my rudeness.

I’m signing off now as apparently I have to go for a cruise on a lake this evening. It is a tough life, and I will probably get eaten to death by mosquitoes, but I am willing to make that sacrifice for you.

Tomorrow I will be spending a few hours in Tampere, the proposed site of the 2032 Worldcon. The convention center we plan to use has not been built yet, but work on the city’s brand new tram network is underway, and of course the new Moomin museum opened earlier this year. Guess where I will be going. Hopefully there will be photos on Twtter.

Posted in Conventions, Finland, Where's Cheryl? | 4 Comments

Worldcon: Day 5

Yesterday I had just one panel, at 16:00. It seemed to go well. The morning was spent catching up on sleep and the afternoon on bagging interviews with people for a Worldcon special show on Ujima next week.

In the evening I attended the Dead Dog and the Old Pharts (former Worldcon Chairs) parties. I confess to having had a few tears hearing people who have chaired good conventions praising Jukka for his achievement. These days most Worldcons take place in cities, and even venues, that have held one before. To run a successful Worldcon in a country that has never had one before and where English is not the first language is an amazing achievement. I am so proud of Finnish fandom.

The final stats for Helsinki were as follows:

  • 10516 total memberships of all types
  • 7119 “warm bodies” on site
  • over 2000 attendees were at their first Worldcon

The term “warm bodies” represents a formula for calculating memberships that takes into account facts like five people on one-day passes not being the same as one person on a full membership. If you need an explanation, ask Kevin.

In terms of total memberships, Helsinki is third behind Spokane (2015) with 11,742 and London (2014) with 10,718. Both of those conventions were boosted by high numbers of supporting members wanting to vote in the Hugos to counteract the Puppies. In terms of warm bodies it is second behind Los Angeles (1984) with 8365. That was boosted by being the first venue ever to show all three original Star Wars movies back to back. Helsinki was not boosted by anything other than a brilliant local fandom, and had they not had to start turning people away due to lack of space they might well have beaten LA’s record.

Posted in Conventions, Finland | 2 Comments

Congratulations, Dublin!

To the surprise of absolutely no one, Dublin beat Rottnest Island and all of the usual silly other write-in bids that we get when a bid is unopposed. The 2019 Worldcon will therefore be just a short flight over Wales and the Irish Sea from Bristol. It will be very easy to get to. I hope to see a lot of Welsh and West Country people there.

The list of Guests of Honour can be found here, and the membership page is here.

I am, of course, deliriously happy for Ian McDonald.

Posted in Conventions | 1 Comment

Hugos Redux

I haven’t had much time, and even less brain cells, to study the Hugo stats. Also I don’t have all of the photos that Paula took for me yet. There will be a proper fashion report in due course. However, in the meantime here are a couple of pictures.

First up, a much better picture of the trophy than the one I tweeted yesterday.

And secondly Emma and Pete singing a victory song in the style of the Little Chickens.

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Worldcon: Day 4

I was so tired last night that It forgot to set my alarm and woke up 1.5 hours later than planned. While I did get around 7.5 hours sleep, I didn’t get breakfast because I had an 11:00am panel and it takes almost an hour to get to the convention from my hotel.

Thankfully the panel went well. This was the one on the history of gender, which I had suggested. Originally I had been asked to moderate, but Scott Lynch kindly stepped into that role to allow me to talk more. He did a great job of keeping order on a panel with three very opinionated women (Jo Walton, Gillian Pollack and myself). My apologies once again to Thomas Årnfelt who didn’t get much of a look-in, but had some great medieval history info when he did.

I spent most of the panel telling anecdotes about trans history, but I did also get to do some show and tell. There is a great company in the dealer’s room who make cuneiform tablets. If you have some text, they’ll do a custom one for you. So I got them to make this:

For an explanation, see this blog post.

I also got to attend (and I had to queue early to get in for both) two trans-themed panels. Neither of them told me much new, but it was great to see packed out rooms for such things. The first trans panel I can remember at Worldcon was in Montréal in 2009. There were about 15 people in the audience, one of whom was a very hostile feminist, and all of the other panelists were cis. Here we had several trans-themed panels with a variety of identities represented (including non-binary people with no wish to transition medically), and all of them were younger than me.

Despite having got a decent lunch, the no breakfast thing meant that by mid afternoon I was fading fast. Thankfully Otto managed to catch me and steer me to the staff lounge for some vitamins before I collapsed. However, that was not before I managed to mistake someone for someone else on several occasions and embarrass myself horribly. My apologies to all concerned.

In the evening Thor came to see the masquerade. Despite beating on the roof of Messukeskus very hard, he didn’t get in. Thankfully he got bored after a while and I was about to get out to the party run by the lovely people from Storycom. I got to meet some young Chinese writers and a guy who has started a convention in Hong Kong. And we got to see Neil Clarke on film, which partially made up for his not being here.

I didn’t see the masquerade, but I gather that Miki Dennis got a big prize, as is only right and proper. Best in Show, however, seems to have gone to a very young person in her first masquerade. I want to see photos of that.

Overall things have gone very smoothly today. There are still queues, and some panels do max out, but the vast majority of people are getting to see what they want to see. The discussions I’m hearing in the hallways are changing from, “why don’t these idiots do something about the overcrowding” to “wow, this is an amazing convention!”. One day left, and I suspect it will only get better from here.

Posted in Academic, Conventions, Costuming, Finland, Gender, History, Science Fiction | Comments Off on Worldcon: Day 4

Worldcon: Day 3

That was an even longer day, and I’m only back at my room now because I skipped the Hugo Loser’s Party.

The space issues are vastly reduced now. The panel I was on today had 20 people in the audience for a room rated to seat 200. Of course it wasn’t perfect. Sometimes programming guesses wrong when it goes to the popularity of a panel. But for the most part anyone who wanted a seat for one.

The text-based coverage of the Hugos went pretty well, which is good because the live video failed. Thanks to Kevin, to Susan de Guardiola who stood in for Mur, and to everyone who joined us online.

And most importantly:


Posted in Awards, Conventions, Finland | 2 Comments

Worldcon: Day 2

There has been a convention. I have done many things. Tomorrow I will do even more. Gods willing, I will be reporting live from the Hugos here. I am also being an emergency, holographic Neil Gaiman as the real Neil is busy working on the Good Omens mini series. I do not expect to have time to blog tomorrow other than that.

In the meantime the concom is getting a handle on the overcrowding. Everyone I spoke to today said that things were better than yesterday, and many panels had empty seats. Attending membership is, I believe, over 6100. There were almost 5000 people on site yesterday, which is more than the peak attendance of any non-US Worldcon save for Loncon 3.

Kevin and I were chatting with Jukka this evening. Someone, I think Kevin, said that Helsinki had scored a Critical Hit, but that doing so was not always good. No, I said. You have scored a Critical Hit. You are now covered in the intestines of the huge monster that you have slain with a single blow. You smell awful.

Slowly but surely, the Helsinki committee is digging its way out of the gigantic pile of shit that its unexpected success has caused.

By the way, it is worth noting that it has always been the plan that the Dealers’ Room would be open to the general public without the need for a membership. This has not changed. People who turn up and cannot get in can still see part of the convention.

Posted in Awards, Conventions, Finland | 2 Comments

Buy My Book, Please

The very fabulous Gender Identity and Sexuality in Fantasy and Science Fiction was published today. Copies are available from Luna Press in the dealers’ room, or through the usual outlets.

If you can’t stomach the thought of another essay on trans characters from me, you might want to get the book for Juliet McKenna’s article on the myth of publishing being a meritocracy in which men naturally rise to the top. Or you may prefer Kim Lakin-Smith reflecting on grotesque female bodies in the work of Frances Hardinge and Neil Gaiman. Jyrki Korpua’s essay, “What About Tauriel”, is one I’m keen to read after hearing him talk about the Peter Jackson movies today.

A very kind person that wasn’t Kevin asked me to sign a copy of the book today, so I know that at least one copy has been sold.

Posted in Academic, Books, Feminism, Gender | 3 Comments

Worldcon 75 Day 1: Where Did All These People Come From?

The Helsinki Worldcon is now well underway, and the big topic of conversation is the attendance. On the face of it, this is a good thing. We all want Worldcon to grow. The largest number of attending members in history is still LA Con II in 1984 with 8365. LonCon 3 in 2014 had more members in total, but only 6946 attending. The last I heard Helinki was up to 6001. Some of those may be day members, who have to be counted somewhat differently from full attending members, but even so it is an impressive number. Helsinki certainly looks like being in the top 5 Worldcons by size.

Unfortunately, based on previous Worldcons outside of the US/UK axis, expected numbers for Helsinki were more like 3500. Messukeskus could handle that easily. It is more than big enough in terms of exhibit space for what we have. But the function space, where programming happens, is stretched to the limit.

There are many things that a Worldcon can do to cope with the unexpected, but building new program rooms is not one of them. Seeing how memberships were going, Helsinki did negotiate some space in the library across the road. It did not try to turn empty exhibit halls into function space because we all know how badly that went in Glasgow in 1995.

Hopefully tomorrow, with more program streams in operation, the pressure on space will ease, but right now what we have is every program room packed solid and many people getting turned away. Messukeskus is very hot on fire safety. Personally I’m going to avoid program at much as I can because I have been to many Worldcons and there are lots of people for whom this is their first experience of the convention. Hopefully other regulars will do the same. I don’t envy the Helsinki team trying to sort this out, but I guess if you must have a major problem it is better to have one that was caused by your amazing success in other areas.

Everything else appears to be running fairly smoothly. There are plenty of food vendors open at the convention and they seem to be doing excellent business. The dealers, fan tables and art show are all up and running. If I’m not trying to get to panels I may see more of the convention tomorrow.

Posted in Conventions, Finland | 6 Comments

Rugby World Cup Kicks Off

If I wasn’t busy in Finland I would be at home watching the Women’s Rugby World Cup on TV. The first round of matches started today in Ireland. Wales had the worst possible draw, beginning their campaign against the mighty Kiwis. Naturally we got thrashed. You’d think that the next game against Canada might be easier, but actually the Canadian women are very good. Thank goodness we have Hong Kong in our group. Canada utterly destroyed them.

Elsewhere the USA got off to a winning start against Italy and England thrashed Spain. Ireland-Australia and France-Japan are being played this evening. Scotland did not qualify for the finals.

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We Are Officially Received

Worldcon isn’t due to start until tomorrow, but this evening a bunch of us were invited to attend a civic reception at City Hall here in Helsinki. Obviously the city couldn’t fit all 6,000+ attending members in, so the convention ran a lottery weighted by contributions to programming. Kevin and I were both lucky enough to get in. There were also fans from Finland, Sweden, Ireland, France, Croatia, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, China and doubtless many other countries as well. It all looked very official (and incidentally gave some of us a great opportunity to check in with senior convention staff in a relaxed and informal fashion).

Of course it also made the forthcoming convention seem so much more welcome in the city. Comparisons were made with Winnipeg in 1994 as the last time a city had pushed the boat out for us in this sort of way.

The building now used as City Hall was originally built as an hotel in 1833. The style is Russian Imperial, Finland having been annexed by Alexander I in 1809.

After the reception a lot of people disappeared off to a karaoke bar. I got registered and went back to my hotel because I was very tired day looking around the city. My Fitbit says I did almost 25,000 steps today so I think I have earned a rest. What worries me is that the con hasn’t started yet. Ooops.

Posted in Conventions, Where's Cheryl? | Comments Off on We Are Officially Received