My Finncon Schedule

It is almost July, and that means I will be heading to Finland for Finncon. This year the convention is being held in Jyväskylä, home of my dear friend, Irma Hirsjärvi. I will be on programme. The convention website is here, but to read it all you will need to know a bit of Finnish. In the main menu: Ohjelma = Programme. In that menu: Perjantai = Friday; Lauantai = Saturday; and Sunnuntai = Sunday. The programme grids for each day describe the English-language items in English. My assignments are:

Friday 5th: 15:00
On Writing, in which I interview Guest of Honour, Ursula Vernon (a.k.a. T. Kingfisher) about her writing practice.

Saturday 6th: 14:00
Wales in the Time of Arthur, in which I talk about Welsh history in the 5th and 6th centuries, CE.

Saturday 6th: 17:00
Masquerade – Ursula and I will be among the judges

Sunday 7th: 10:00
Queer Fantasies, in which a panel of queer-identified folks talk about their favourite fantasy books with queer elements.

Following the convention, I will be attending Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale at the University of Helsinki. And because my life is a bit mad, on Saturday 13th I will dialing in to the Marginalised Writers’ Day at Abertystwyth University, from the Finnair Lounge at Helsinki airport.

Talking of that day, my pals at Inclusive Journalism Cymru now have a blog post up about it. Two of my colleagues will be attending in person and reporting on social media: one in English and one in Welsh.

Kiitos Jyväskylä

This year’s Finncon took place in Tampere last weekend. At the closing ceremony they handed over to next year’s convention, which will be in Jyväskylä. A key part of the ceremony is the announcement of the Guests of Honour. Those will be Ursula Vernon (who needs no introduction); Tiina Raevaara, a fine Finnish writer; Jyrki Korpua, a respected academic who has shared the ToC with me in some of the Academia Lunare books; Tero Ykspetäjä, who has been a mainstay of Finnish conrunning for many years; and me.

That’s really incredibly kind of them. It is getting like Peadar O’Guilin being a permanent GoH at LuxCon, though for me it only happens when Finncon is in Jyväskylä because the con-runners there are sweet and lovely people who seem to like me rather a lot. (I should also note that it will cost them almost nothing as I pay for my own travel and will probably stay with friends while I’m there.)

Anyway, it will be fabulous. I’m particularly pleased for Tero. For context, if he was British, he would certainly have won the Doc Weir Award by now. Hopefully I will see some of you in Jyväskylä next year.

Introducing Archipelacon 2

Updated with correct year and Guests of Honour.

I’ve had a very busy day in Uppsala. Two panels went well. Martha Wells was on one and she’s as smart and lovely as I expected. But the main reason for this post is that our Finnish friends have confirmed that Archipelacon 2 will be a real thing. The dates are June 26-29, 2025. It is a Eurocon as well. I hope to see lots of you there. There’s not a lot on the website yet, but here it is.

What is now on the website is the list of Guests of Honour. They are:

  • Jeff VanderMeer
  • Ann VanderMeer
  • Mats Strandberg
  • Emmi Itäranta

Those are all very fine people. Please do not read Mats’ horror novel set on a Baltic sea ferry before travelling to Ã…land.

World Fantasy Awards

The winners of this year’s World Fantasy Awards were announced last night. As the convention was virtual this year, I was able to “be there”. The full list of winners is available on the Locus website, but I want to focus on just two.

Firstly, the ridiculously titled Special Award – Non-Professional category was won by Fafnir – The Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research. This is apparently the first time that the award has been won by an academic journal, and it is one founded by Finns.

I have to confess a certain amount of bias here. I am on the Advisory Board for the journal, but they haven’t actually needed any advising, so I can’t claim any credit there. I also have an article in the current issue, but that was published this year and therefore should not have been considered by the World Fantasy Jury.

There are lots of people who deserve congratulations. The current editors, Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Laura E. Goodin & Esko Suoranta, will get the trophies. But there are two other people I’d like to draw attention to. Firstly there is Merja Polvinen of University of Helsinki. She’s the Chair of the Advisory Board, and was very much a driving force in getting the journal started. The other is Irma Hirsjärvi, because the Journal is very much an outgrowth of the academic tracks that we run every year at Finncon, and Irma is one of the main instigators of those. (I just turn up to comment on the papers.)

Finally, we should note that while Fafnir is an academic journal, it is open source. That is exactly the sort of academic publication that the World Fantasy Awards should be honouring.

The other winner I want to mention is in the Novel category: Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender. Kacen is non-binary person of colour, using they/them pronouns. I’ve had the book on my Kindle for several months but haven’t got round to reading it yet. Given that it beat both The Ten Thousand Doors of January and Gideon the Ninth, it must be very impressive. And the fact that someone like Kacen can be voted the author of the best fantasy novel in this year, of all years, fills me with joy. I think you can work out why.

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 ÄŒapek 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 Ã…con 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 Ã…con. 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