Final Days in Helsinki after Worldcon

This will be told mainly in pictures. We took a ferry across the Baltic to Tallinn, in Estonia, on Monday and walked around the old medieval town there. That was fun, though I got awfully tired of walking on cobblestone.

Tuesday we mostly crashed, but then rode around the city on the tram and checked out the market square and a nearby brew pub—very nice. There are a lot of small breweries in Helsinki, as it turns out. The American-style IPA has made definite inroads. Chatted a bit with the brewmaster of this pub, who turns out to be a lover of hard SF and space opera.

Wednesday we visited Church of the Rock—a church partially carved into solid bedrock. They seemed to have an ongoing service (they were speaking German when we were there), while catering to a steady flow of tourists. Then on to the Ateneum, a big art museum in the city center. Allysen went on to a modern art museum, while Jayce and I took a city ferry to the island fortress Suomenlinna, and spent several hours walking around. Among other things, Suomenlinna has a church that doubles as a lighthouse, a restored Finnish submarine from WW2, various fortifications and cannons, and a tomb that looks as though it marks the grave of a man from Numenor. All the roads and paths were cobblestone. I have developed an extreme dislike of walking on cobblestone! But I loved the views.


Today we leave for Reykjavik and two days in Iceland.

Worldcon Oddity: Peeing in Helsinki

Every worldcon I’ve been to in recent years has had its own oddities. In Spokane, it was four days of breathing smoke from wildfires on the US/Canadian border. In London, it was staying an hour from the con on a cramped sailboat that had been misleadingly billed on Airbnb as a houseboat. Also, there was Wardrobe Malfunction Day, when my belt broke and I walked around the convention center holding my pants up with both hands.

In Helsinki, it was peeing in the convention center restrooms. The urinals looked perfectly normal, but there was nothing to warn you that they flushed automatically both before and after use. So you would step up to the fixture and before you could even reach to do what you had come to do—floosh!—the thing would flush energetically in your face. (It didn’t spray literally in your face, but it felt as though it was about to.) Granted, it fit with the image of Scandinavian cleanliness, but it was certainly disconcerting.

Startling, too, was the high-speed hand-dryer mounted next to one sink, so close that when you stepped up to wash your hands, you got an instant blast of hot air on your left shoulder.

Perhaps weirdest were the urinals in one restaurant, which apparently had been installed by a very tall Viking plumber—because they were mounted too high on the wall for a person of mere modest height like me to use. I briefly contemplated ballistic trajectories of peeing upward and outward and hoping for the best, but I finally opted to choose other means. I’m sure the janitorial staff thanked me.

We now return you to our regular non-weird programming.

Worldcon 75 Wraps

Worldcon ended on Sunday, and as a way of saying farewell, I thought I would post this picture of the welcome sign.

I had a Kaffeeklatch on Sunday that was well attended, and included attendees of various ages from countries all over the world. They had come to drink coffee and ask me questions, so that meant I did a lot of talking. They all seemed to enjoy it, and I know I did. One local fan (I think he said he was Finnish, but it all blurs) did a little video interview with me afterward. I suppose that might end up on youtube someday.

And here’s a picture of one of the highlights for me in terms of programming I watched from the audience. It’s NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren giving a presentation on space medicine based on his experiences on the International Space Station.

Dr. Lindgren is a wonderfully entertaining speaker, and a gracious ambassador for the space program, based on a brief chat we had in the corridor. He’s also a science fiction fan. (At the Spokane worldcon, he presented one of the Hugo awards via Skype from the space station.)

Here’s a picture of him zipped up in his zero-g sleeping bag. Cozy!

Worldcon 75, Part 2

Thursday through Saturday were good days for me at Worldcon.

But first, congratulations to all the winners of the Hugo and associated rewards! You can see the full list on tor.com. Women once again dominated in the trophy winning, which might have made some people unhappy, but I thought it was great. It’s about time some of our fantastic female writers got their due. And I’m also glad to see lots of young fans, from many nations, of all and sundry genders.

The convention ran into problems with serious overcrowding, because attendance wildly exceeded expectations. Tons of people registered at the last minute, or showed up without preregistering or hoping for day passes, which they had to stop selling. Combined with this, the local authorities strictly enforced the fire laws, so that no standing room was permitted in any of the rooms. The result was crazy long lines, lots of folk not getting into panels they wanted to see, and plenty of hair pulling. The con committee rallied, worked with the convention center, and got some of the more popular events moved to larger rooms, and even added additional panels at the last minute. It was a tough recovery, but I think they did a good job under difficult circumstances.

My own panels over the last few days included one on keeping yourself motivated in writing, a topic that drew plenty of interest. Friday we were on for writing space opera and writing collaboratively, and both were well attended and fun discussions. I was moderating both, so I was revved up keeping things moving.

Today I had two big panels that I was not moderating, one on the future of physics, and one on world building. Both were a lot of fun.  Here’s a sort of blurry picture of the world building panel, with (from left to right) Jon Oliver, Alex Acks, me, and George R.R. Martin. The audience for this one was huge, as you might expect. It was a lively and interesting discussion, I thought.

There were lots of camera flashes, so if anyone out there has a clearer picture and would like to send it my way, please do!

Hei, Helsinki! Worldcon 75!


We arrived in Helsinki, Finland, early this morning for Worldcon 75, this year’s World Science Fiction Convention. At the moment, sleep deprivation and jetlag are making things somewhat of a blur. (Finland time is seven hours earlier than Boston time.) I think half the people on our flight from Iceland to Helsinki were on their way to the con.

Tomorrow, I start things in earnest, with a signing session at noon, and a panel on how to motivate yourself when writing is tough at 15:00. (Everything is on the 24-hour clock here.)

Friday I’ll be moderating a panel on space opera, and another on writing collaboratively. Saturday, I’m the one non-physicist on a panel on the future of physics (I guess I’m the wild card in the deck), and participating—in my last panel—on one on world-building, a panel that might or might not include George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, depending on what listing I believe.

Once the worldcon is over, we’ll be taking a few days to see Helsinki and Finland, and then a couple in Iceland on our way home.

I’ll try to post some updates, but don’t hold me to that. Things can get pretty crazy at a worldcon. I’m looking forward to seeing many friends!

 

Boskone 2017

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I’ll be at Boskone (SF convention in Boston) this coming weekend—by which I mean on Saturday, and possibly Friday night. Boskone is always a good time, and a great bunch of fans, writers, editors, etc. I’ll be on a couple of panels Saturday afternoon, and doing a reading, as well. Haven’t picked out the reading yet, but I’ll find something from The Reefs of Time manuscript. So it you’re there, do stop by and say hello!

 

 

Boskone 2016!

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Boskone b53-header

Interrupting The Ponce Chronicles for a moment…

The weekend is almost upon us, and that means this year’s Boskone, Boston’s highly popular annual science fiction convention, held at the Boston Westin Waterfront Hotel. I’ll be there Friday and Saturday. Here’s my schedule:

Dated Science Fiction
Friday 16:00 – 16:50, Marina 2 (Westin)

When the future described in an older SF story contradicts our already-lived experience, sometimes it doesn’t matter. Scientific “predictions” didn’t turn out as imagined. So what? The story still holds up, as in classics like The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine. But other tales much lauded in their time have since lost their luster. Wherein lies the difference? Does the science in science fiction truly matter over time as long as the story is well-told?

Fred Lerner (M), Ellen Asher, Jeffrey A. Carver, Tony Lewis, David Gerrold

Autographing
Saturday 14:00 (2 p.m.) Dealers Room
Seven Easy Steps to Taking Over the Universe
Saturday 15:00 – 15:50, Harbor III (Westin)

The universe would be perfect, if only you were in charge. Today’s the day to stop dreaming and start doing! What are the “must dos” and the “no-nos” that every evil emperor must keep in mind when conquering? Should you be the face of the takeover, or is it better to have a sidekick to throw into the spotlight? How do you handle pesky rebels? And is a catchy dictator name an essential accessory for success?

Leigh Perry (M), Jeffrey A. Carver, Esther Friesner, Frank Wu, Teresa Nielsen Hayden

Writing: Generating Suspense and Fear with Odyssey Writing Workshop Faculty
Saturday 16:00 – 16:50, Burroughs (Westin)

The Director and guest lecturers of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, held each summer in New Hampshire, discuss the most effective techniques for keeping readers on the edge of their seats and awake long into the night.

Jeanne Cavelos (M), Jeffrey A. Carver, Alexander Jablokov, Allen M. Steele

Schrödinger’s Sasquan—Part 3

It takes a good sense of humor to attend a worldcon. Last year, at Loncon, we procrastinated too long in getting a place to stay, and we wound up camping on a sailboat moored somewhere off the Thames. This year, we put in for a room early, and requested a room on a quiet floor of the main con hotel. (No more schlepping an hour each way to get to the con for us!) What did we get? A room two doors down from the con hospitality suite, open 24 hours a day!

To our surprise, it worked out okay. The soundproofing was good, and we were rarely bothered by the noise. And when we got the munchies around midnight, we just had to throw on some pants and shoes and go down the hall.

If there’s one thing (most) science fiction fans have in abundance, it’s a sense of humor. When I saw this T-shirt at Sasquan (just weeks after my attendance at the Schrödinger Sessions for SF writers), I knew I had to have it.

Wanted: Schrödinger’s Cat

After Sasquan, we visited relatives in the Puget Sound region, and got a further look at the extreme drought conditions currently afflicting the U.S. Northwest. The grass is brown, and even many bushes are brown. Here’s picture of a rhododendron that’s surely alive… and dead… all at the same time. (Not unlike some con-goers I saw early Sunday morning.)

Schrödinger’s Rhodo 

One personal highlight of the con was at last meeting my friend Ann, who for years has been helping me format my ebooks—yes, those same ebooks I’ve been flogging (not too relentlessly, I hope) for almost as long as I’ve been writing this blog. Ann lives in Washington, and all this time our communication has been by email. She’s a fan who offered to help, because it’s fun! (!!!) At last, we met face-to-face, and Allysen and I got to take her out to dinner, as a very small thank-you for all the work she’s done for us. (But was I smart enough to take a picture? Noooo…)

Finally, here’s some of the quirky fan art that accompanied Sasquan. I love fan art.

Artist: Fan GoH Brad Foster
Artist: Ray VanTilburg

And that’s my roundup of the 2015 Worldcon!

Sad Sad Puppies Affair—Sasquan Roundup, Part 2

During the lead-up to the worldcon and the Hugo Awards, there was a good deal of commotion about the attempt by the Sad Puppies coalition (consisting largely, but not entirely, of conservative white male writers), joined by the more toxic Rabid Puppies, to hijack the awards and stuff the final ballot with their choices of candidate works. I say “attempted,” but in fact they managed to overwhelm several of the major categories. (You might have heard about it on NPR, or read about it on Slate.com, or seen it elsewhere on the net, where it seemed to be ubiquitous. Personally, I tried to avoid spending much time reading about it, because life is short and mean-spirited drama is long.) If you’re unfamiliar with the controversy, those links will bring you up to speed. The bottom line: A group of conservative-to-rabid voters organized to game the awards this year. In response, a couple of thousand more convention registrants than usual showed up to vote, in defense of an open awards process.

After a long, angry buildup, many con-goers expected to see blood in the hallways of the convention center. It didn’t happen. David Gerrold, one of two author Guests of Honor (Vonda McIntyre was the other), was a target of some nasty pre-con slurring, and he could have chosen to lash out in his GoH speech. He did not. In fact, he delivered a classy affirmation of his love of science fiction and science fiction fandom (transcript here). His only reference to the whole affair was an expression of gratitude to those (not present) who had helped clarify in his mind what he wanted to say. Connie Willis, who had earlier declined to be a presenter, showed up in mid-program to cheer on the process.

David Gerrold and Tananarive Due MC the Hugos

Awards time came, and in five categories that had been largely or completely taken over by the puppies, the voters chose “No Award,” in a clear repudiation of the hijack attempt. You can see the final results here, including the categories voted “no award.” My congratulations to the winners! But it was not a victory without price.

While I stand firmly with the rejection of the gaming effort of the SPs, I feel for those writers and editors who were hurt by the whole affair. Some innocent writers and editors were unwillingly associated with the puppies slate, because the SPs happened to like their work. Other worthy individuals were kept off the final ballot because of the stuffing. Still, the winning novel, The Three Body Problem, by Cixin Liu (translated by Ken Liu), got its place on the ballot because another author withdrew his work after receiving support from the stuffers.

Some say that the Hugo Awards as an institution were strengthened by the voters’ repudiation of the attempt to game the system, and I hope that turns out to be true. But it’s hard to say that there were winners in the affected categories. Those writers who were shut out may get another chance, another year, and then again they may not. Either way, it has to hurt.

For perhaps the most thorough summary of the matter, I recommend this article from Wired, which includes coverage of “supplementary awards,” the Alfies, created and handed out with great cheer by Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin. In all, I have to agree with his summation, that vindication of the process came with considerable regret.

If you’d like to watch the entire proceedings, you can stream the Hugo Awards video here:

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