Category: con presence

MIRcon GoH speech: Xuya, science fiction at the crossroad of cultures

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MIRcon GoH speech: Xuya, science fiction at the crossroad of cultures

By popular request, the retranscription of my MIRcon GoH speech–there’s nothing much below that’s strikingly new, but it’s the first time I’ve actually put everything together in the same space; and there’s been interest on twitter and other social media on seeing this, so… here goes.

(I’ll skip the disclaimer that I’m going to do this speech in English instead of Spanish :p)

I’m going to focus this speech on Xuya, because of the recent publication in Spanish of El Ciclo de Xuya and En una Estacion Roja, a la Deriva; and because Xuya has been with me for a while–going on for 7 years now, and over a dozen stories!

In many ways, Xuya started because of my relationship with genre–which is a bit of an odd one [1]. I came to SFF in English (I discovered genre while I lived in the UK), but I’m not a “white Anglophone”: English isn’t my native language (that would be French); I live in the West but am not fully Western (my mother is Vietnamese, and Vietnamese culture strongly featured in my upbringing). I grew up in an interesting place, speaking and hearing several languages, and at the confluence of several cultures. When I read classic SF, with its stories of colonisation and conquest of space, I have this persistent feeling that I’m the funky-looking person with the odd customs, and the near-incomprehensible language–the alien rather than the coloniser.

(true story: some years ago, when I was reviewing short fiction for Tangent Online, there were a number of pieces that were so dependent on US/UK culture that I didn’t understand what was going on, and where I had to google to get at least an inkling of what the author was getting at–even set in the future, those stories depended, for instance, on current US politics and current societal concerns; stuff that was just bewilderingly mysterious to me. And, to date, I’m still pretty sure there’s stuff I entirely missed )

What I was trying to do with Xuya was to write the sort of thing that I wanted to read: a universe based on stuff that was familiar to me; and also a universe with very different cultures in presence. The basic idea of Xuya is that China discovers North America ahead of Europe, enabling the survival of some of the pre-Columbian empires–and creating a 20th-Century where North America is split between the Aztecs (Mexica Dominion), the Chinese (ex-colony of Xuya, now independent), and the United States (a much smaller and much poorer version). Further on, Xuya is about a space age where Asian cultures are dominant; and in particular, East Asian cultures (I’m putting Vietnam into East Asia because of the common points with Chinese culture that put it in a very different situation compared with the other SEA countries; but I’m aware it’s not the “official” classification).

Xuya, then, is about the interaction of different cultures with different values–because every culture has its mindset. I’ve ranted at length about this, but there’s a prevalent attitude that some stories are “universal”; and that it’s this universality that makes their success possible: works like Harry Potter or the Hunger Games have such wide impact because they tell a story that everyone can recognise and identify with.

To put it bluntly: I disagree. There is one universal story, and it is that we are human. We are born, we live, we die. We are social animals: we create bonds with other people; we have families and friends. We love, we fear, we hate. But there are nuances; and to erase such nuances is a grave mistake. To take just one example: there is a vast difference in mindset between a 15th-Century Vietnamese and a 21st-Century French. On the one hand, you have someone who values literature and education very highly because they’re the path to success as a government official; who worships their ancestors and would be ready to die for their parents; who believes that a career as a government official is the highest form of worldly success one can attain. We can argue about the value of education in the current French way of thinking, but it’s no longer believed that you have to know literature and be able to write good poetry in order to succeed in life. Similarly, the young are, by and large, not going to die for the old (they’re more likely to criticise or ignore the old).

What I wanted to do was to create a culture with a different mindset, without falling into clichés (the mystical Asians, the bloody-minded Aztecs). To my mind, that is the hardest thing to do, because, well. Assumptions are a bit like the air you breathe: they are incredibly hard to leave behind or objectively catalogue and study. You are born with them; bathed with them from a very early age; and they are continually reinforced at every moment of your life through the media, through your interactions with other people. Every movie you see, every news report you listen to, every conversation you have reinforces them–and you’re often unaware that you have such assumptions at all. And yet… societies different from ours would have a radically different mindset from ours, and I feel like this needs to be taken into account. Note that I’m not saying all SFF has to do this. There are plenty of excellent books where the society isn’t the focus; and that’s not a problem. But it’s what I want to do with my fiction. I want to write stories like Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness and “Coming of Age in Karhide”, where a change in sexual mores results in profound societal impact that affects everything from families to politics; or like Kate Elliott’s Spiritwalker trilogy, where Carthage never fell, and the resulting society is recognisably different from ours.

I wanted to show China/Vietnam/Mexica as vibrant cultures beyond the stereotypes–as cultures that lived, breathed; and changed. Because cultures change, too; because nothing remains static–and yet not every culture follows the Western notion of “progress”, the peculiar blend of consumerism and science we have achieved in our 21st Century societies. To take just a few examples: the Mexica religion in Xuya has modernised, but it hasn’t become a copy-paste of Christianity. It did drop the mass sacrifices, and replaced them with a focus on bloodletting and penance. It’s also remained dominant in society (again, unlike Christianity); and an enthusiastic patron of the sciences: unlike in our world, where science and religion don’t always happily coexist (to some extent, I suspect, because in the West the worship of religion has been replaced by the worship of science). [2]

What interactions can you have between a culture like China, for whom war is a disgrace, and soldiers eternal inferiors to scholars; and a culture like the Mexica, who believe war underlies everything (and who, in the 21st Century, shift from bloody wars to economical ones)? Between one that takes in all immigrants so long as they conform (change their names, religion and customs); and one that promotes greater diversity between immigrant groups, but has to deal with greater intergroup tension and more overt racism?

Of course, it’s not that simple–and cultures can’t be reduced to easy soundbites. Nor, indeed, are there any easy answers to the questions I ask! But it’s what I try to explore.

Xuya is also about motherhood and families.

The kindest thing you can say about SFF is that it has an abysmal track record on the matter. Families are at best absent from the narrative (beyond the occasional nuclear family); at worst, they’re killed off–and they tend to be seen as a hindrance that you have to get rid of before you can go off on an adventure. There is a tremendously high value being put on being alone and forging one’s own path–which isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially in dangerous environments!

Mothers, too, are often overlooked in SFF. I was part of a panel on SF and motherhood at the 2013 Eastercon: before the panel, I attempted to look for books that would feature mothers as characters in their own right–I even outsourced the question on social media. It was a very short-lived attempt, because the list turned out to be abysmally short to the point of non-existence.

I’m not going to be exclusively negative here, so let me give a positive example of a mother in SFF: Cordelia Naismith in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, and Barrayar in particular. Cordelia is a great character with a great amount of resourcefulness; she starts Barrayar pregnant, and gives birth during the novel–she plays a part not only as a mother, but also as a character in her own right. She’s not sidelined or meekly awaiting rescue (or worse, killed off): she plays a significant part in the rescue of her child, and in the subsequent civil war.

And, hum, the negative example. I’ll start with the disclaimer that I’m a big Star Wars fan, and that it was one of the major things that led me to genre. With that out of the way, I’ll tackle the thorny problem of the prequels; and in particular, of Amidala, who essentially dies in childbirth at the end of episode III. (yeah yeah I know the script says she “lost the will to live” or some such crap. I think it’s called postpartum depression. And incidentally, motherhood is the major mortality cause for women–any culture that has spaceships and is still not capable of birthing twins without losing the mother has got a serious priority problem). But it’s not only the mother of Luke and Leia who dies: episode IV then basically does it all over again, by killing off both sets of adoptive parents. If you think about it, the subtext is really quite nasty.

I wrote the Xuya space cycle to run counter to that narrative: I wanted to write space soap opera, or possibly domestic SF (doesn’t meant there can’t be explosions and other cool things! Just a heightened focus on family). I wanted to write stories with a strong familiar presence; and in particular the presence of an extended family (aunts and uncles and cousins); and how those families would change in a science fiction setting.

The Xuya universe has Minds, artificial intelligences carried in a human womb and subsequently transferred to a ship or space station. Among other things, Minds are designed to be very long-lived (if you’re going to go to all that trouble of implanting into a human womb and monitoring the pregnancy, you might as well go for long-lived and save yourself some work).

Among the subjects I wanted to tackle was that of different life-spans and their effect on family life: how do you deal with sibling rivalry when they both have radically different set of expectations? How do you live with a great-aunt who has been around for centuries, and who not only has known your great-greatparents, but will also be around when your grandchildren are adults? What happens when she vanishes or dies? How do you grieve? What do you do when your ancestors don’t die, but can be run as simulations in your own mind? What happens in a culture where knowledge (and in particular, the knowledge held by your ancestors) is crucial? What kind of advantages or inheritance can you give your children?

Of course, family is both a stricture and a comfort: I try to focus more on the comfort side of things because I feel it’s underplayed in SFF, but there are familial obligations–and On a Red Station, Drifting in particular focuses on family honour; on how to deal with relatives you might have absolutely no liking for, but that you are still duty bound to protect–what is your duty to your family, and how far are you prepared to go to follow it?

Another theme of the Xuya universe is war, and families in times of war. My personal preference is to show war, not from the point of view of the soldiers, but from those of the civilians who are deeply affected, yet powerless. War is, by nature, a time of difficult decisions–and those decisions are amplified by the presence of families. Who do you rescue if you can’t rescue everyone? When do you flee? When do you make a stand? When you become a refugee, how much do you give up, and how many moral principles are you wiling to compromise on in order to survive?

Again–those are hard questions, and I don’t have glib answers to them (or answers, period!). But those are themes I try to explore in the Xuyan stories; and to deal with through the lens of a different universe with very different expectations.

Thats why I write Xuya–thank you for making it this far, and I hope you enjoy the stories :)


[1]Pretty sure plenty of other people have odd relationship with genre :)
[2]Not saying there’s systematic antagonism between religion and science today (in particular, various denominations of Christianity have various approaches and strike a different balance)

MIRcon report

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MIRcon report

The short version of this con report is: Hispacon rocks, and you should all go :)

The long(ish) version: I had a great time at MIRcon, the Hispacon in Barcelona. It’s a small convention (70-80 attendees, if I understood correctly), but it’s a very friendly and enthusiastic one: spread over several locations, it had a junior track, a sister con in Catalan (MIRcat), and a bunch of really prestigious guests (Nina Allan, Christopher Priest, Karin Tidbeck and Felix J Palma). I survived the delivery of my speech (and Silvia Schettin kindly provided a great interpretation–I think we’re both very glad it went, well since we were equally nervous about it :p); had a delightful impromptu roundtable with Spanish fans which converted into a Q&A session in Spanish (the audience kindly shouted the translations of those words I didn’t know at me; though after that hour of answering questions, I basically was ready for a high-calorie meal and some quiet time); signed a bunch of download cards (my Spanish editor, Fata Libelli, is ebooks only, but they had brought over cardboard books with a download code); and enjoyed a spot of gastronomy. I caught up with pan tumaca and great ham; and had a tussle with the Lobster of Doom (it started out as a bunch of us ordering arroz negre, a local specialty of rice with squid ink. Following a misplaced order, we ended with rice with lobster. Which would have been fine, if said lobster had come with actual decent tools. A flimsy pair of pliers and a knife don’t count–though you’ll be pleased to know that I did prevail in the end).

I also got to hang out with fabulous people (caught the tail end of the interview with Christopher Priest; and the tail end of Nina Allan’s interview; and sadly had to miss out on Karin Tidbeck’s brilliant speech due to a signing session), brushed up on my (rusty) Spanish; and attended the Ignotus Awards. And, hum, got to snatch some sleep (desperately missed in the weeks since the snakelet started crawling around the house).

So all in all, a great experience. My deepest thanks to the organisers and everyone who contributed to making this a great experience: the con team (Gemma, Miquel, Ismael, Oscar, Lupe, Raquel, and I sincerely hope I haven’t forgotten anybody, apologies if I did :( ); Silvia Schettin and Susana Arroyo, my editors at Fata Libelli; Ian Watson and Cristian Macias for the great tour of Barcelona (and for showing me Gigamesh, aka the genre temple in Barcelona); Sofia Rhei for the company and the lovely book (the adventures of Young Moriarty–in Spanish!) and Leticia Lara for the great lunch, and the free copy of Alucinadas (an anthology of SF by women in Spanish, which I’m looking forward to reading).

I am given to understand that next year’s Hispacon is in Granada–what are you waiting for?

MIRcon upcoming!

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MIRcon upcoming!

Just a quick reminder that this weekend, I’ll be at MIRcon in Montcada i Reixac, not far from Barcelona.

I’ll have a few copies of Obsidian and Blood and On a Red Station, Drifting (and of course you can buy “El Ciclo de Xuya” and the forthcoming “En una Estacion Roja, a la Deriva” from the excellent Fata Libelli–that last will be out for the MIRcon). Silvia Schettin, my editor, has let me know they’ll quite probably have cards with QR codes, letting you buy the book, and letting me sign it :)

And, hum, I’ll do a speech. An actual 1-hour thing focusing on the writing of Xuya and the difficulties faced (ok, it’s going to be less than that because it has to be translated. I did consider doing it in Spanish to fit in with the rest of the con, but the sad truth is that my Spanish is nowhere good enough to resist a stressful situation like this. I speak well enough for every day conversation, but in front of a room full of people… is asking too much, I’m afraid).

The full schedule is here. Come see Karin Tidbeck, Christopher Priest, Nina Allan, Félix J. Palma and many other people!

The usual reminder (stolen from Kate Elliott): I go to conventions to meet people, so if I don’t look like I’m making a beeline for my hotel room to collapse, feel quite free to come up to me, I’d be quite happy to chat. As I said–I can handle Spanish, French, English (Catalan is not on the list of languages spoken, alas. I can understand it when it’s written down and that’s about it).

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Guest of Honour at Eurocon 2016

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Guest of Honour at Eurocon 2016

Very pleased to announce I’ll be a Guest of Honour at Eurocon 2016 in Barcelona, along with Richard Morgan, Jun Miyazaki, and Enrique Corominas. Dates are 4-6 November 2016. (yeah, you’ll have noticed I seem to go to Barcelona quite a bit those days. Not complaining, it’s a great city, the food is awesome, and I get to practise my–ailing–Spanish…)

A quick debrief of our London trip

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So…

We have survived the London trip. We stayed in a small flat near Notting Hill, which was very conveniently placed (but very small); and tried to organise so that we actually went places (as opposed to staying in the flat while the snakelet napped). We got to the London Zoo (aquariums are wonderful things when you’re an 11-month-old), Hyde Park, and Marylebone High Street. I also made it to Nine Worlds (briefly), Fantasy in the Court (even more briefly), and Worldcon (extensively).

Nine Worlds sounded lovely for the six or so hours that I was there: a familiar haunt at the Radisson Edwardian hotel, a very diverse programming and crowd, and great panels (the food in SFF panel was awesome fun, and also I want to buy all of Sarah McIntyre’s books. Her jampires–vampires who eat jam–sound fabulous). I can’t really say much about Fantasy in the Court, because I was there really briefly, maybe 30 minutes or so on my way back to said Notting Hill flat (but many thanks to Lavie Tidhar who lent me his mobile phone to text a panicked H).

Worldcon… the actual con was fantastic. Great venue with lots of food places, hotels that weren’t too far away (I heard horror stories about the Ibis styles–the double rooms were apparently horrible, but we got an apartment for 4, which was basically three times larger than the one we had in Notting Hill. Greatly depended what you’d picked), great programming, and the fan village space, which gathered various bid tents, a bar, and a playing space for young children, among other things. I think it’s the first time that’s been done? Anyway, a great idea. I got to catch up with many friends (though there were people I managed to entirely miss :( ), was on fantastic panels, had a lovely signing (there was a queue!) and a lovely reading to a packed room.  The Hugo Awards ceremony was fantastic (aka OMG I got to stand within speaking distance of Peter Davison and David Tennant–even managed to talk to David Benioff for a few minutes before I fully realised who it was I was talking to). I’m sorry I failed to win a Hugo; but it was a well-deserved win for Mary, and overall I’m very happy with the results (*so* happy for John Chu, and also for Kameron Hurley’s double trick).

What wasn’t so great was doing said con with the snakelet. We had hoped to leave him in childcare for his afternoon nap, which would have freed us both to go to the con–it didn’t quite work, partly because childcare didn’t have a dark space for babies to sleep, and partly because the snakelet was in a really clingy mode of “I don’t recognise this place, I want my mommy and daddy”. When you factor in the distance from our hotel to the actual con (a good 20 minutes each way), you can guess what followed: namely, epic sessions of juggling between the H, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and her son, and me to watch over the baby’s naps (including but not limited to: rushing out of meals, bringing takeaway to the room for both of us, skipping lunch altogether). And because I was working the con and the H was not, basically the H didn’t get much of a chance to attend… Much as I love snakelet, I think that next worldcon is going to result in us dropping off snakelet at grandparents and leaving without him.

All that aside, though, it was a great experience. Bring on the next UK con :p

(oh yeah, we seem to have con crud, too. Not a surprise entirely, but an unpleasant welcome gift)

UK, here we come!

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UK, here we come!

We’re at the frantic packing stage, aka “how can we have so much stuff?” (answer: the snakelet collects it).
A reminder of where I’ll be at:
Sunday 10th August (aka “drop-in”): Nine Worlds, schedule here
Thursday 14th August to Sunday 17th August (we’re here Monday but probably running to catch a train back to Paris): Worldcon, schedule here (brief plug: come to my reading on Saturday morning and get an exclusive excerpt from the novel aka post-apocalyptic Paris with magicians).

As Kate Elliott says, I go to cons to meet people, so please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself and/or ask me to sign things. I’ll be glad to talk if not on my way to a panel or other obligation.

Final Worldcon schedule

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So, I got my final Worldcon schedule, and I’m going to be busy (in a pretty awesome way). As a reminder (taking a leaf from Kate Elliott’s book), I go to cons to meet people, so don’t be shy if you see me and want to talk. I’m also quite happy signing stuff and/or talking outside of panels (provided I’m not running on my way to elsewhere, of course!).

Below is where you can find me:

Autographing
Thursday 15:00 – 16:30, Autographing Space (ExCeL)
I will have signed postcards featuring the On a Red Station, Drifting artwork, and possibly a few other books: notably, I’m working on a POD edition of On a Red Station, but am not at all sure I’d have those with me.

Universal Language: Good or Bad?
Thursday 18:00 – 19:00, Capital Suite 14 (ExCeL)
Is a universal language possible? How might that be achieved and would achieving it necessitate destroying our own languages and way of thinking? Would we want to create one in addition to our own languages and if so, should it be spoken or signed?
Michael Burianyk (M), Dr. Bettina Beinhoff, Aliette de Bodard, Anna Feruglio Dal Dan, Jesi Pershing

Feeding the Imagination: Food in SF/F
Friday 11:00 – 12:00, Capital Suite 3 (ExCeL)
The food in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is described in such detail that cookbooks have been published in response. What other genre works have focused heavily on food to develop the world and characters? What does food say about an invented society? Are stories that lack an exploration of the diet of their characters lacking something?
Shana Worthen (M) , Aliette de Bodard, Gillian Polack, Jo Walton , Fran Wilde

Content and Form: Writing SF/F in non-Western Modes
Friday 13:30 – 15:00, Capital Suite 8 (ExCeL)
Sofia Samatar recently suggested that SF genre writers and readers have “a tendency to focus on content rather than form”, even or especially when engaging with marginalised perspectives. Does our genre inevitably tend towards the form and structure of western, English-language stories, regardless of what cultural tradition(s) are reflected in the content? How can a non-western or non-Anglophone writer engage with science fiction and fantasy while also operating outside of the conventions of western-style storytelling? Is it possible for western writers to engage with non-western traditions in an authentic way and produce a story that a wider audience will recognize as science fiction or fantasy? What are some of the different forms offered by non-western cultures that need to be told?
Amal El-Mohtar (M), Aliette de Bodard, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, JY Yang, Nick Wood

Kaffeeklatsch
Friday 17:00 – 18:00, London Suite 5 (ExCeL)

Reading
Saturday 10:00 – 10:30, London Suite 1 (ExCeL)
I haven’t made a firm decision on what I’m reading, but it’s likely to be an excerpt from the novel aka fantasy set in sideways version of Belle Epoque Paris–your chance to find out more ^^

Always Outside, Looking In?
Saturday 15:00 – 16:30, Capital Suite 16 (ExCeL)
How do writers from non-Anglophone countries relate to so-called “traditional SF”, and the expectations of Anglophone publishers and readers? What are the processes and considerations behind writing in a language that is not your first, or in seeing your work translated into English? While it’s often assumed that non-Anglophone writers all want to see their work reach the English audience, are there any circumstances under which a writer might choose not to? In a 2013 interview on the World SF blog, UAE writer Noura al-Noman said about one of her novels: “The whole idea behind ‘Ajwan’ was to provide Arabic content for teens … The subject matter [sci-fi] made Arabic seem more approachable to them … I am going to wait a bit before I publish it in English.”
Thomas Olde Heuvelt (M), Jesús Cañadas, Aliette de Bodard, Ju Honisch , Floris M. Kleijne

Environmentalism in Anime
Sunday 10:00 – 11:00, Capital Suite 2 (ExCeL)
Images of environmental destruction — or the complete replacement of nature with metal and concrete mega-cities — are common in anime. But there is also a tradition of anime and manga that preserves and honours nature: think of MuShiShi, or Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. Where else are ecologically-aware narratives found, and what is their focus? Is the environmentalism of anime primarily one of nostalgia and conservationism, or technological conquest?
Anushia Kandasivam (M), Adrian (Ade) Brown, Aliette de Bodard, Ian Murphy

Sunday evening, from 6pm onwards: Hugo Reception, Hugo Awards and Hugo Losers’ Ceremony.
I am ready to deliver on my promise to bring a snakelet in a suit onstage, should I (against all odds) find myself in a position to give an acceptance speech.

Worldcon draft programme

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So this isn’t definitive by any means, but I’ve been allowed to share my draft Worldcon programme, and it looks great!

Thursday 18:00 – 19:00: Universal Language: Good or Bad? (ooooh… I’ve seldom been on a panel about languages, actually, despite my, hum, experience, I guess? This should be really great).

Friday 11:00 – 12:00 Feeding the Imagination: Food in SF/F (I need not explain why I’m particularly happy to geek out about food for an entire panel ^^)

Friday 13:30 – 15:00: Content and Form: Writing SF/F in non-Western Modes (aka a panel Rochita Loenen-Ruiz and I have been discussing for a while. Very happy to see it on the programme. It should be awesome!).

Saturday 15:00 – 16:30: Always Outside, Looking In? (aka non-Anglophone SF. There’s a pretty good variety of people on this with varying experiences of being published in English, which should make for fascinating conversation)

Sunday 10:00 – 11:00: Environmentalism in Anime (should be really fun. Never had that kind of conversations about anime)

Finncon 2013 report

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So… as people might have noticed, I was Guest of Honour at Finncon 2013 in Helsinki. This was my first stint as a GoH, and all I can say is wow. This set a really high bar for GoH gigs.

Helsinki Harbour

The H and I flew into Helsinki on Wednesday afternoon (after a brief negotiation session with the airline, who for some reason had decided I was too far along in my pregnancy to fly and dubiously eyed my gynecologist’s certificate that I could fly). After resting in the hotel, we headed to Harald, a Viking restaurant complete with plastic helmets, where we met the con people and the other guests of the convention (Peter Watts, Caitlin Sweet, Finnish author J. Pekka Mäkelä, academic Stefan Eckman, Cheryl Morgan and Swedish authors Mats Strandberg and Sara B Elfgren), and had lots and lots of food, complete with Viking roleplaying game in which many speeches were made and some rotting shark meat was consumed (by Peter, who drew the short straw on this one, but who got to be initiated as a Viking with a nifty certificate).

Thursday was the day of the press conference at the Helsinki Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma, where I saw hard copies of my Finnish short story collection, Perhonen ja Jaguaari (The Butterfly and the Jaguar), met my publishers (Osuuskumman is a publishing cooperative, which means many members!), and had a lovely interview about World SF. This was followed by a cruise around the Helsinki archipelago (wonderful landscapes), a quick shopping trip to find the Moomin shop (which resulted in the acquisition of an apron), and an evening spent at a sauna. I couldn’t do the sauna thing, sadly, but it looked like an experience–after finishing in the sauna, participants took a dip in the nearby (icy) sea and emerged much reinvigorated, and about ready to try the wonderful buffet of Finnish delicacies (courtesy of Hanna and Maya), which included moose meatballs, Karelian cake (pastry and rice. I was in love), cranberry fizzy drink (which actually tasted like berry and not like sugar), fresh mushroom pie, and a variety of barbecued food (the stuffed mushrooms wrapped in bacon were a big hit, very nicely juicy and tasty).

Then it was time for the con proper, which lasted over three days. The Cable Factory is actually a series of rooms spread around a courtyard, which made for interesting going-arounds (you had to go in and out of buildings); the dealers’ room was *huge* and stuffed with entirely too many books (I resisted temptation, but the H succumbed). All in all, it was a very busy event, and I’m sorry I had to miss on some of it (naps were my best friends, and panels can be pretty draining!). I was joined at the hip to Tom Crosshill, for some odd reason; we did a short story workshop together (my first teaching experience!), an GoH interview, and a bunch of panels. The English-language track was very interesting: we went to a hilarious panel about TV series that never were with Cailtin Sweet and Karin Tidbeck, and attended  Peter Watts’ GoH talk about researching Blindsight full of interesting science tidbits, and I got to catch up with Karin Tidbeck and Nene Ormes (who has such beautiful covers for her Swedish urban fantasy series that I wish I could actually read the language!). At least it looks like Mats and Sara’s book, The Circle, is available in English; I’ve bookmarked it for future checking-out.

Photography by Henry Söderlund

There was also some great costuming going on; the T-Rex has got to be the most unforgettable costume I’ve ever seen (complete with sound effects!), but you also had Zelda, Harley Quinn, Iron Man (shown here in the Tardis!), … I had to miss on the parties due to major fatigue crashes, but I did manage to make the Dead Dog Party Sunday night, in which much fun was had (and many fajitas consumed). Overall, a really great experience–thanks to all organisers and the attendees, and I hope to make it to another Finncon where I actually try the sauna and eat the smoked fish (and party until the end of the night, though I realise that is unlikely to happen any time soon…)

Oh, and if you want more Finland in your conventions? The same team (or at least a team with a significant amount of overlap) is putting in a bid for Worldcon in Helsinki in 2015, which looks set to be a truly awesome convention (plus, come on, you know you’ve always wanted to try a sauna by the sea). If you’re involved in Worldcon site selection or want to be involved, can I suggest checking them out?

(other people can correct me on this, but it looks like you have to be at least a supporting member of LoneStarCon 3 to vote? The instructions here seem to indicate there’s an additional fee involved?)

Nebula Awards brief checking-in

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Having a lovely time at the Nebulas–had two interviews (one with Locus, and one with Juliette Wade and Jaym Gates), an autographing session that had a surprising number of people turn up (considering I had no books for sale at the moment), a lovely dinner with Sheila Williams in a grill place (yum salmon), and sort of managed to stay awake during the reception for the Nebula Awards nominees (sort of. I dozed off and they had to wake me up when they were about to make the announcements :p).

If I ever needed confirmation that pregnancy plus jetlag is a bad combination…

Today is the big day; I’m counting on adrenaline to keep me awake until the Awards ceremony (a nice idea in principle, but in reality I’m not really sure how much I have to spare). Off to have a shower, and to hunt down my breakfast.