Posted by jukkahoo
I've been around. Not in Viikinsaari, though, but I think whatever Sisatto says, goes.
This years Swecon was called Conceive. Held in fair city of Gothenburg (or Göteborg for some, or even Jööttepori for some), this must've been the most unorganised convention I've ever been to. It was a lot of fun, though.
As it apparently seems, Finnish interest in Swedish fandom is a bit lacklustre. I have now been to four Swecons (always with Ben, to whom this was his fifth) and every single time I've had great time. Swecon is totally different animal than Finncon, with usually around 100 participants, as opposed to thousands of visitors every Finncon gets.
As you might guess, this means quite a different kind of convention. Swecons are gatherings of friends, a bit like Finnish monthly pub-meetings, except with a designated GoH (or two) and arrainged programming. And cheaper beer. I believe a fair number of Finns would just love to attend a small, intimate convention, where you actually would get to meet the Guest. Not to mention all those dwellers from other cities you just might be able to catch a glimpse at Finncon.
And there would still be beer.
Tero had obviously seen through the startrekkish facade of last years Swecon in Stockholm, and as a trio, we headed to the other side of Sweden with Ben's car. We had asked from various people whether they'd be interested in attending this years Swecon and join our group, as we did have a place for a fouth one in our vehicle, but despite some quivering interest, alas!, we ended up without additional reinforcements.
After an uneventful traintrip from Helsinki to Turku, Ben and Tero managed to ruse me into running around the most of Turku harbour area with their obfuscating and weird guiding. This was insufficient enough to make me/us to miss the ferry, however. As usually is, the uneventfulness of a ferrytrip was as expected. We did manage to talk well past midnight with Tero, so that when the person responsible for waking up people at cabins came and rapped our door around 5AM (or some such ridiculous and ungodly hour), we were truly nackered. Fortunately Ben, who had just been mysteriously ill for the previous week, had slept well enough to drive the car.
It took us some five hours to get to the west coast of Sweden. By that time the sun had gone AWOL, rain had started and we were getting a bit hungry. Due to Tero's uncanny ability to lead us thru Göteborg, we arrived at the locale couple of hourse before the alledged openings. There was no one around, nor nothing to indicate that a sf-con would happen during the weekend. Or, like Tero says: "Saw nobody at the con site, and no mention of a Swecon, so we knew we had to be in the right place." Right on.
It was still raining. Tero and I had decided that coats and umbrellas are a form of "kikkailua" which meant that we got wet. Naturally, this was the only time it rained during the weekend. Our only chance to sample what the fair city had to offer. Oh well, maybe next time.
We had a quick pizza, or more precisely, thought of having a quick pizza at a nearby cheapo pizzeria. Apparently the four-five guys jabbing about the kitchen area had been left without a supervisor, since it took a looooong time for the pizzas to arrive. Besides the waiting, everything else was solid. Price was right, salad OK, drinks included and utensils clean. Well worth the 49 kroner.
Having made a connection with the Anglemarks from Uppsala, we knew that they were arriving a bit later, which probably meant that there'd be not that many people in time for the official openings. Exactly.
After we had returned to the Studenthouse where Conceive was taking place, we run into the mass of three Swedes, out of which two were the artist showcasing his art and his wife(?) and the third was one of the organisers, Siv. She had that look of "there's far too many things to do, so much so, that I can't really think of what to do first". She seemed happy to see fans, even if they seemed to whisper among themselves in another language. We took the matters to our own hands and started carrying tables and chairs around, thus in essence building up most of the site. (Later we saw how two Swedes carried couple of more chairs to the main audience area, but since there was never that many congoers around to even fill up all the chairs we had carried to the floor, it just made a mess of our carefully arrainged Code. IYHTA,YWNK.)
At some point we were introduced to Jim, the organiser in charge of the media-side of things (who managed to accomplish the impossible, as he run his program on time!). I'd love to have someone like Jim as a member of next year's Finncon committee... Then again, he did mention of being interested in coming. Hmmm.
And then the rest of the Swedes came. And something very peculiar happened. I talked about this with both Tero and Ben, and we all had the same feeling. Somehow, we seemed to be regarded as expected and welcomed friends. Not that we had been feeling any reluctance or distain before, or anything of the sort. THIS time however, WE felt like at home. Like one does at the local pub-meeting, or at Finncon, where you just automatically (after all this time) fit in. We fitted in! That alone was well worth the trip and the money spent, but then it got even better.
Now, we were travelling on a shoestring budget, with the cheapest ferry-tickets and all. We had also asked to be accommodated with local fen, in order to save money for the Interaction (what else?) We found out that Glenn (the main organiser and the chief of Göteborg's SF Bokhandeln) had graciously thought of providing the floorspace at his place. Where also the Anglemarks were also staying. And couple of other Uppsala-fen. And their baby. And Jonas from Linköping. And... they had cats.
As I am
rather very allergic to cats, I had a wee problem. In the end, after various other possibilities, a local fan, Mats Pekkari, offered his place for me, and after Ben's quick thinking, for the rest of the Finns. Mats turned out to be the head of local Babylon 5 -club, but dispate that apparent handicap, he is one brilliant host and a very lovely chap. Not only was he willing to take three foreigners as houseguests in the middle of the night, he also provided us with breakfast - and even tried to pay for our carparking. And not only that, he also introduced us to the most brilliant sf-cartoon (probably ever): Invader Zim! Like Hard Waldrop is fond of sayin': "Che'ekidaou'ut!"
One of the reasons Tero was so eager to come to Conceive, was of course his mentor, guru and Master: Charles Stross. As a card-carrying member of the the Charles Stross man-bitch squadron, Tero was in fanboy heaven. And why not. Stross was a great Guest and he was wel-liked by a great number of Swe-fen. To me he seemed like a thoroughly nice dude, very intelligent, teller of great anecdotes who has a slightly peculiar sense of humour (which is only a bonus, of course) and a great deal of antagonism toward bureaucracy and governmental institutions. And he doesn't seem to be too impressed with fantasy.
As one could gather from the fact that the organising-point was more or less a constant trapezee-act on the border between total chaos and lesser mayhem, the programming wasn't really that brilliant. Of what I saw (actually almost all of the English-speaking numbers) the level of interest rose or fell depending on how enhtusiastic Charlie Stross was at that time. Due to some incompetency with electrical appliances, there were no microphones. And when frustratingly many panelist/perfomer suffered from Whisperitis, you were forced to look for a frontseat place and still strain your earlobes to the fullest. And as it is with Swecon in general, there were lot of classically sweconish moments: the panels drifted way-away from the original header, Swedish panelists and members of the audience started their own intricate discussion about fine details in halting English, totally unrelated questions were asked and GoH had that befuddled look look of amazement and puzzlement, as in: "WTF...?"
But as always, also, this was not a major problem. You learns to deal with this with a wry smile, a shrug of shoulders and decide to go to the bar and have another beer later on. Which is always a good choice.
People are there mainly to gather around and meet friends, which for a small con like Swecon, really makes sense. To catch an occasional program is an added bonus, especially when they are good ones, like the GoH-interview or a heated debate on an interesting subject. And then you have the side-shows: I learned that my secret SF Alter Ego is Johanna Sinisalo (Tero was China Miéville and Ben was Wolf von Witting!!!).
One of the most competative sports in fandom nowadays, is techno-gadgetry. I haven't seen so many Palms, PDA's etc ever in my life. I felt like a relic with my fountain-pen and a pad, when great many fen just whisked their "pens" on that little screen. And when everyone had had their share of PDA-gazing, it was turn to pick up the small keyboards you can attach to them. And then the TREO's. And who-knows-what-else after that. Nobody seems to be even carrying a laptop anymore.
The fun highpoint of this year's Swecon was once more the Satruday-night evening party, with plenty of good beer and fun people. Not to mention the single most farout sf-series ever produced: Raumpatrouille Orion! This is something I
need to must have.
Yes, it's German science fiction tv-serie from 1965. Seeing is believing.
But as always happens, everything has an end. It was soon Sunday and we needed to head to Sollentuna, where Tomas Cronholm had promised to put us up for the night, so that we'd be able to catch the day-ferry to Turku on Monday. We met with Mats and couple other Göteborg-fen, and ate a very nice Chinese Buffet at Ming. The food and company was too good, as we were still in Göteborg after 6PM, when we had sort-of-promised to be in Sollentuna around 10PM. Ben turned off his inhibitor-relay and turned into a proper Finnish driver, with an empty head and a heavy left foot. ZOOOOM, and we were back to Stockholm and barely minutes after 11PM, at the right location. My humility prohibits me to talk about my orienteering skills. Let's just say, that I challenge anyone to repeat it.
While we sailed the Baltic sea, where the sun was shining, sky was blue and ber cold, we talked about arrainging a small, cosy Finnish convention with an admittance fee. We're pretty certain it could and should be done, soon. Would you participate? Would you pay a small/mediocre amount of money to go to (perhaps) an interesting city, in order to really meet with the hardcore fen of the land, and maybe even really meet a GoH? Feel free to discuss about this, please!