Finncon – Day 0

The Friday of Finncon is traditionally the day for the academic conference and the Finnish SF Writers’ Association meeting. Here’s what went on.

I didn’t manage to attend the academic sessions, but there were some interesting papers. Amongst the ones I liked were a look at the changing portrayal of gender in science fiction television, an analysis of cultural appropriation issues in the use of Sámi people in fantasy fiction, and an attempt to construct a semiotic framework for use in translating fiction.

With regard to the Sámi paper, I was surprised to discover that the term “Lapp” is now regarded as offensive. The issue is that “Lapp” is not a word that the Sámi use for themselves. It is rather like the term “Welsh”, which is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “foreigners”. But we Welsh have had centuries to get used to being called Welsh and it no longer rankles for most people. The Sámi take the issue more seriously.

By the way, Finnish has two words for Sámi people, one of which means people who come from the part of the country still known as Lapland, and who may have some Sámi blood; and the other for people who are of pure Sámi descent. I’m sure that Native Americans would like to be able to make that distinction.

The writers’ conference was mainly for professional fiction people. Ellen and Pat gave expert advice, as did the Finnish writer guest, Sari Peltoniemi, who I was delighted to discover is not only a fine exponent of fantasy, mainstream and children’s literature, but also a former rock star. However, we did find time to do the panel on this year’s Hugo nominees.

Going by last year I had expected the Hugo panel to be a fight between Jukka Halme and myself on one side, and Tommy Persson on the other, with Marianna Leikomaa trying to referee. Tommy is the sort of guy who will dislike a story because it has small errors in the science, whereas I will forgive almost anything except bad writing. Interestingly, however, the entire panel was in agreement that Robert Sawyer novels are not for them, and that they wanted The City & The City to win, even though it seems like The Windup Girl is the favorite.

(Personally, of course, I would love to see Palimpsest win, but realistically I suspect it will be too weird for many voters.)

The news coverage has been excellent. The media have been all over Pat, for reasons I will explain shortly. We even made the evening TV news. In this broadcast (starting about 4:35 in) there’s an interview with Pat shot during a visit to the particle accelerator at Jyväskylä university and also a short piece with my pal Jarmo about Iron Sky.

In the evening I was treated to dinner by Pat Cadigan’s publisher, Tero Norkoloa of Avain. He’s a happy guy, and deservedly so. Pat’s book (a translation of Mindplayers) was only launched on Thursday and has gone to a second printing already. It is a huge hit here, at least in part, because it shares themes with the current blockbuster movie, Inception. Tero was also smart enough to snap up a hot young writer called Barack Obama, and that may have helped him treat Pat and I to such a fine meal.

Talking of the food, the restaurant had bear on the menu. At €58 a portion I wasn’t about to impose on my host’s generosity. I’ve had a comment on Twitter that bear is available in restaurants in Russia too, and tastes very good. Irma assures me that there are plenty of bears in Finland and hunting is strictly controlled.

Today I’m very busy. I’ll be catching up on developments on Iron Sky, moderating a panel on cyberpunk, interviewing Ellen, giving a presentation about masquerades, judging the masquerade, going for dinner at the local branch of Harald (the Viking theme restaurant) and participating in the traditional Saturday evening fun (no sign of a mad scientist laugh competition yet, but you never know).

5 thoughts on “Finncon – Day 0

  1. It sounds like a typically Finnish collection of events. I happy you’re having a good time in my country – even if I can’t be there.

  2. When we were in Helsinki, we thought about the bear. And then demurred over the price.

    A couple of days later, we did have it, but by then we were in Tallinn, where good food was cheaper.

  3. Alan
    Sounds like you liked Tallinn. That makes me happy. Next time come down to Saaremaa. We don’t have any bears but a fair amount of wild boar and other attractions.

  4. I’ve had bear sausage. You’re *not* missing anything. I had one piece and felt memorably sick. As in, I remember how it felt (and tasted) nine years later. Also it made me think about food nets and bioaccumulation. Was visiting extended family, and one of their friends is a hunter.

    Of course, maybe it tastes better when not served in sausage form, and maybe bears in Finland taste better than bears in Idaho.

  5. It’s a different kind (American black bear, rather than Brown which would be served there), but bear is regularly on the menu at some places around the U.S. too. Generally places that specialize in exotic meats (unlike ostrich or bison).

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