Welcome to Virtual Finncon

If international travel were possible this year, I would be in Finland by now. Finncon should have taken place in Tampere this year. Instead it will take place online. The full programme is here.

Several of the programme items are in English, including the Guest of Honour events with Mike Carey, Diane Duane and Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay.

Of particular interest (well, to me anyway) is the Mike Carey event which involves Mike and I chatting about The Book of Koli and how we worked together on it. That will be at 16:00 Finnish time on Saturday, which translates to 14:00 UK time.

Links to YouTube will be provided from the programme page on the Finncon website in due course. Anyone is welcome to watch.

Of course you won’t get the full Finncon experience, because virtual sauna is not really possible, but hopefully you’ll get something of the feeling of the event.

Feminism & Fantasy

In September Maria Turtschaninoff and I were supposed to be guests at Imagining Alternatives, an academic conference in Augsburg, Germany. The event had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, but the organisers have been busy putting stuff online. Last week Maria and I recorded an interview with Dr. Sabrina Mittermeier. The conversation was pretty wide-ranging, but if there’s one thing I said that I want to highlight it is this: if you like the books of Ursula K Le Guin then you should check out Maria’s work as well, because I think you will like it. See here for some reviews.

Farewell, Finland #GiveItUp125

It is time to leave Finland now, but before I got I want to share this photo. Otto, Paula, Irma and I were chilling in a cafe on a place called Women’s Island in Jyväskylä. While we were eating Paula spotted the little lady above watching us. You never see red squirrels in England these days, but they are still common in Finland.

I see that my fundraiser has been stalled on 45% all day. Hopefully that’s because you have all been too busy enjoying the Finnish content to pledge money. You can do so now. I’m going to answer the day’s work emails, then go to bed. I’ll see you all tomorrow in Virtual Canada.

More snow, eh?

Introducing Finland #GiveItUp125

Hello, and welcome to Virtual Finland. I’ve had a busy morning in the kitchen. You can see the results in this video.

The recipe that I used for the Karelian Pies is this one. I’m not hugely impressed with it. There seemed to be rather too much filling for the amount of pastry. But I did have to improvise quite a bit along the way.

In the video I promised you some photos. Here are the Karelian Pies:

And here is the cream tea with cloudberry jam:

For the benefit of folks from Devon and Cornwall who care passionately about such things, I put the cream on first because the cloudberry jam is a lot more liquid than a traditional English jam, and if you put the jam on first the cream will just slide straight off.

Finncon – The Report

With profuse apologies for taking so long, I have finally done a report from Finncon. Having done so I found to my horror that I hadn’t done a con report since 2015. I need more space in my time to write (and to edit audio).

Anyway, there is now a Finncon report. The tl;dr is that it was amazing and I had a wonderful time. But there’s a whole lot of stuff that went on, and you can read about it here.

Finncon 2019

This time next week I will be in Finland. I will be on my way to Jyväskylä where I am fortunate to have been invited to be a Guest of Honour at this year’s Finncon. Most of you won’t be able to go, of course, and I don’t think there are any plans to record the programme. However, it is going to be fun. I note in particular that on the Sunday I will be giving my GoH talk on the subject of the prehistory of robotics. There were a lot of artificial beings both written about and made before Karel Čapek wrote RUR. If anyone else is interested I’d be happy to give the talk again elsewhere.

Åcon – Part 2

I was having so much fun at Åcon that I didn’t get around to writing about it.

Well, that’s not strictly true, I did spend quite a bit of time publicising the charity walk for One25. Huge thanks once again to everyone who sponsored me. Last I heard, all of the various people participating had raised over £11,000 for the charity, and my personal total, including gift aid, was over £700.

I also spent quite a bit of time rehearsing the talk I was scheduled to give, which was about Janelle Monáe. I had decided to do something a bit different and role-play a far future version of myself. So the talk was given by a future historian looking back on the career of the time-traveling android rights activist, Cindi Mayweather. It took a bit of effort to put together a coherent narrative from the information provided in the various song lyrics, and someone else may have a different take on it, but that how historians work. From the reaction on Twitter, and from people thanking me in person, it seemed to have gone down well.

Most importantly, it seems to have led to more people planning to vote for Dirty Computer in the Hugos, because they now understand that Janelle is totally One Of Us.

While I was there I also grabbed a couple of interviews. One was with Amal El-Mohtar and aired on Wednesday’s radio show. The other was with Regina Wang and will air during the July show.

And after all that I still had enough time to enjoy myself greatly. And watch the football. And consume a fair amount of pizza and alcohol.

One thing that I do want to note is a late night event that I’d not paid proper attention to before because it was labeled as “karaoke”. No one wants me anywhere near a proper karaoke event. However, this event did not require any actual singing, because it was a William Shatner Karaoke event. That meant that everyone was expected to perform in the style of Shatner’s infamous “singing” career; so spoken word, hopelessly over-dramatic, and breath breaks in totally inappropriate places. If the audience laughs, that shows you are doing it right.

Finnish conventions are the best. Yes, I know I have said that before. It is still true.

Today on Ujima – HIV, Time Wars & Art

Today’s Women’s Outlook show was one of those where it seemed mostly calm on the surface, but it was all frantic paddling underneath. Yesterday I had one of my guests drop out, so I had a half hour to fill. Thankfully the pre-recorded interview I had would stretch to three segments, and I had enough to talk about to fill the final one I needed. Also Ben, my usual engineer, was unavailable, and the replacement we had arranged was unable to come in, so I ended up with an emergency holographic engineer. Huge thanks to Mikey who did a great job for me.

We began the show with Aled and Acomo from Brigstowe, a local charity that specialises in HIV/AIDS issues. They are one of two charities in England who are running pilots with PrEP, the drug which can protect you from HIV if you take it before having sex. PrEP is already widely available in Scotland and Wales, but as Aled explains the English authorities have fought tooth and nail to prevent it being made available. Now that the courts have forced the NHS to do some trials, Brigstowe needs help getting them done.

They are looking in particular for women from marginalized communities who are willing to get trained on the use of PrEP and can then go out into their communities to srpread the word. They’ll be working closely with my pals at One25 to make sure the drug gets to sex workers, who are some of the people who need it most. They are also very interested in recruiting trans women.

The pre-recorded interview with was Amal El-Mohtar and was made while we were at Åcon. We talked about a range of issues, but obviously there was particular focus on the forthcoming book, This is How You Lose the Time War. I loved this book. There will be a review coming soon.

As I had a bit of time to fill I played a couple of songs with Nordic connections. I have probably enthused about the Swedish electrojazz duo, Koop, before, but I should mention that the particular song I played had guest vocals from Ane Brun who is Norwegian and Sami. She has also worked with Peter Gabriel, taking Kate Bush’s part on “Don’t Give Up” when he was touring.

I also played the Miike Snow song that Amal mentions during the interview. The core of that band is Swedish too. If you are intersted in the very gay video for the song, you can find it here.

Finally on the show I was joined by Cai and Amie from Paper Arts who are a wonderful organisation that helps young people start a career in the arts.

You can listen to today’s show via the Listen Again function on the Ujima website.

The playlist for today’s show is:

  • Salt ‘n’ Pepa – Let’s Talk About Sex
  • Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing
  • The Human League – The Lebanon
  • Fairuz – Li Beirut
  • Afro-Celt Sound System – Further In Time
  • Koop – Koop Islands
  • Miike Snow – Genghis Khan
  • Janelle Monáe – Crazy, Classic Life
  • Prince – Purple Rain

Summer in Finland

The weather appears to have warmed up nicely, so I am looking forward to the summer which, as is traditional, will see me heading off to Finland.

At the end of May I will be at Åcon X, the 10th convention in the Åland Islands. This year’s GoH is Amal El-Mohtar, who I am very much looking forward to getting to know better. Not to mention there will be the boat trips on the Baltic and the lovely island destination.

In July Finncon will be in Jyväskylä, which is always lovely. I will get to hang out with the fabulous Irma Hirsjärvi again. Otto and Paula have promised me some tourism around central Finland. And best of all I get to be a Guest of Honour.

There are a couple of very interesting Finnish guests. Kersti Juva has translated The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Winnie the Pooh, Watership Down and many other famous books. Raine Koskimaa is a professor of Contemporary Culture, which basically means he gets to play video games for a living. The author GoH is Charles Stross, which means that Feòrag and I will get to hang out together, drink beer and be disreputable. It also means that Fluff Cthulhu will get to feast on Finnish brains.

I’ll doubtless be on programming with Charlie at some point, which may well lead to discussion of tentacled monstrosities from beyond the stars, but we promise to talk about things other than the Tories as well. I will be giving a guest lecture, the title of which is, “The Prehistory of Robotics”. It will cover the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Ottomans, the Kalevala and much more.

The Popelei Naked Podcast

As promised, here is the link to my interview on Tamsin Clarke’s Naked Podcast. As you’ll see, it is Apple only at the moment. If, like me, you would rather sit in a nest of fire ants than install iTunes on a Windows PC, and you have no Apple device to listen on, that may be a problem. I’ll chase Tamsin about other formats.

If you can listen (and thankfully iTunes works fine on my iPad) you’ll see that we discussed getting naked in the sauna in Finland, and the process that strongly binary trans women like myself have to go through in order to get a body they are happy to be naked in.

Åcon Happened

I have spent the weekend at one of my favorite conventions: Åcon, which is held in Mariehamn in the Åland islands, half way between Finland and Sweden. The weather was magnificent, and as far as I can see a good time was had by all.

Because of the location, Åcon is a perfect meeting place for Finnish and Swedish fandom. The ferry service from Turku to Stockholm stops off at Mariehamn roughly half way along the route. So the convention is always international. However, perhaps thanks to the Helsinki Worldcon, this year was more international than most. We had fans from Norway, Denmark, The Czech Republic, Poland and Wales (me), plus a Guest of Honour from Cornwall and her husband who is (I think) English. And to cap it all we had Eurovision on the Saturday night.

Wales and Cornwall do not yet have their own Eurovision entries. We shall have to work on this. They are bound to be better than anything the BBC can come up with.

Emma Newman was fabulous, as she always is, and the convention got two writer guests in one because Pete is excellent value as well. The large stacks of their books all sold out so obviously they impressed the convention members.

I got to do two panels. The first was on novellas and featured Pete, Johan Jönsson, and Václav Pata. In it we roundly disagreed with just about everything in the panel description, and everything that Gary and Jonathan had said about novellas in the last Coode Street. Nevertheless we appeared to agree that we all liked reading novellas. Mostly I think we agreed that weird things happen in publising because publisher are weird. Václav made a good case for prefering novellas to novels because he’s a screenwriter and they are much easier to convert to a script.

My other panel was on audio and featured Emma and new Danish pal Sanna Bo. Emma terrified us by explaining just how much work, and how many skills, are required to narrate an audiobook. After that we mostly talked about making podcasts, which is so much less complicated. Of course Emma and Pete use a lot more technical tricks in making Tea & Jeopardy than most people use on podcasts, but that’s them, insanely talented people that they are. I explained about Ofcom rules for live radio, which led to some epic swearing because we can do so on convention panels without getting fined.

I believe that the panels were all recorded, so there may be podcasts of the discussion available at some point. Emma and I will have earned “explicit” tags.

Åcon has a lot of game-show type programming in the evening. Fia Karlsson ran The Match Game. Much to my surprise, she had not heard of Kevin doing so at Worldcons. Clearly the game appeals to fannish people.

I decided to pass on the chocolate tasting this year because I have a lot to do and needed time in my room, but Emma and Pete were suitably awed by Mercedes and her top quality wares. One of the problems with Åland is that there is just too much good food to be eaten.

There’s no news of the guest for next year yet, but Åcon will be happening again. As it is tied to the Ascension Day holiday it moves around in the calendar and next year will be right at the end of May. Hopefully I can make it.