Posted by jukkahoo
So. I went to København and had a great time there, despite the Eurocon being less than stellar event. Don't get me wrong though. I liked it. Fine. OK. But, not great.
Why? Well, other attendees have expressed similar thoughts of too much programming, too little organisers/experience of organising, not enough gophers (though I believe all the gophers did extremely wonderful work ie. busted their behinds off) etc. All good valid points, of which I concur.
But I had good time, I really enjoyed the con. Mainly due to the amazing number of foreigners from gazillion different countries. Like Czech Republik (hello Peter and thanks for the plzener!), Ukraine, Norway, Ireland, Israel, Italy (mustn't forget Italia!), Russia, Estonia, Sweden, Germany, Portugal, USA, UK, Lietuva, Poland and so on and so forth. Properly European convention! Me like. This felt like the most international con I've been to and that's due to the fact that this one was warm, friendly and cosy, in a way bally huge cons aren't. Like Finncon or Worldcon. Both have their places.
The organiser in charge of the programming, Knud Larn, pointed out at the opening ceremony, that every single problem/mistake with the programming is his. Blame me, he said. I won't. As someone who has done a rather large programming itinerary (Finncon 2006), I know what it takes to organise something like eight simultaneous threads with interesting and worthwhile programming at the same time for a variably dissimilar audience. Looking at the programming at the site for the first time when arriving and now, I still do think that there was plenty of good programming that should've been interesting (even for me). That I actually managed to see fairly little of the blasted thing was mainly due that the large portion of that "intersting to jukkahoo" -programming took place on Saturday, at the same time I was part of the programming. My bad. :)
The Guests of Honours weren't necessarily bad: a legend, a well-known SF-author, classic SF-artist and a more slipstreamish/newweird/alternative-fantasywriter (who does not write fantasy, or so he says) as well as a local fan-GoH and a truly classic Elder Name, who happens to have a Really Good Ties with the host nation. Unfortunately for me, the only GoH that interested me, performed pretty much exactly opposite everything I did. I could've heard him talking about his TV-series, but then again, I was tired, just arrived and thought that Opening Ceremonies are always something to see (and be invariably Really Dissappointed - no letdown there...). I did appreciate the flag ceremony as well as the 501st honour guard. I wasn't too thrilled about the commemorative three-second silence for recently departed Mr. Phelps (ask Ben). So many other fine, wonderful SF/F-authors had died this year, recently or not. Let's be more inclusive next time.
Although, I don't know how I would've performed at similar circumstances, if one of my heroes would've passed over that recently. The audince might have had to bear a long and grief-stricken eulogy instead of short standing up.
But, I digress. There has to be a Beginning, a Middle and the End. So, I start from the beginning.
dark and stormy rainy Friday, like so may times before. I slept badly, as I often do when I'm due to travel.
There are two things that always happen when I go anywhere from Finland: I sleep badly the night before and I get "travel fever" (matkakuume). After the trip, back home (well, not always, I was Really Sick in Edinburgh a way back when Mekku was still living there) which may sound funny, but really isn't. Apparently my bacteria doesn't like any other bacteria in the world.
This was no exception. I got probably three hours worth of zzz's, despite taking a sleeping pill well before the recommended "six hours of sleep before waking up". I wasn't really tired by time I got to the airport, but I sure was later in the evening, when we Finns should've partied like... crazy party-animals we are (as Åcon showed). The flight was short with most of the amusement rising from the fact that Pasi had never flown before. I gave him my window-seat during the flight and he seemed to be pretty enthused by the view, especially when we landed. If only he had followed Ben's advice at the airport...
I had been to Copenhagen before, but that was aeons ago. I didn't see that much of the city (I don't think any of us did) as I mainly slept at our delightful, quaint hotel at the corner of Working Girl Alley and Dope Peddlar's Street and spent the rest of the day at the Valby Kulturhus. Which was pretty nicely sized for this con. It could've had few less floors and better (ie. faster) elevators and more comfy chairs, but all in all, it was a good location. I didn't actually realise there was an elevator, before I had walked all the way up in order to see all program rooms and saw someone stepping out the damn thing. Well, excercise is good for me.
Before anything actually happened, our troop needes sustenance and we looked for an eatery, which turned out to be slightly more difficult than we thought of. Apparently only kebab-places are open before 3PM in Danmark. We did find a nice kebab/pizzeria called Barakat where they not only served decent kebabs, but had the best dip ever. Recommended, if you happen to be over there. It's on Toftegårds Allé, probably.
The real deal of the day for me (and Eemeli) was the ESFS Meeting, where we presented Finncon 2009 as a Eurocon candidate for the said year. We were against latecomer Rome (or more precisely, Fiuggi). I think we did an OK, if very much improvised presentation. I cannot think that Rome/Fiuggi had really thought of their performace anymore than we, but the moment the pretty lady started to talk about (and this is my personal view) the "Wine and Monastery" -convention with Star Trek -captain and Robert Silverberg and Neil Gaiman as Guests, I thought that our Science Fiction and Fantasy -con was looking less likely to appeal to middle-aged fen who like eat and drink well and bicker about whether Serbia and Montenegro should be two separate entities or not.
The show was however far from over, no sirree! After we had presented our bids, answered few questions and voted on new laws and regulations, we got down with the jiggy: The European Science Fiction Society Awards! For interminably long time (or more, I think I passed out at some point) every single delegate nation brought forth their candidacy for various categories (Best Author, Artist, Publisher, Magazine, Promoter etc). As Pasi, who was the other official Finnish delegate, I was forced to talk for some of Our candidates, together with Eemeli, the other official delegate. I didn't realise before the whole shenanigan was over, that other speakers had written notes for their presentations. I did realise early on, that the Swedes weren't there and now I know why.
The ESFS Awards is a
joke curious bureucratic conundrum, to which there probably is no solution. A lot of 30-40 fen deal out awards to left and right, pretty much the way these things are done at the European Song Contest. Once and a while a worthy winner arises, but lets face it: How the hell do you appraise works in 20+ languages and fields? The Best Artist might possible be voted fairly, but Best Author? C'mon! I'm certain Sándor Szélesi is a fine writer (and a fellow Fenno-Hungarian to boot!), but the Best European SF Author in 2007? Erm... The whole thing is just bureacrazy!
Following the ESFS Meeting, I headed downstairs for the Free Party, only to realise that there was none. I had to drag myself up to Finnish Party which ere in full swing by the time I got there. And a jolly good party it was too. Cows and all. I spent most of the time at the impromptu arranged cloakroom with Ben as I was dead tired already and really only wanted to get to the hotel room and sleep. As everyone entered the party through our little room, I had several little småprats with various fen. The best of which was when Bellis entered the vestibule and asked from me whether I was "the famous Jukka Halme" he had heard so much good of? I managed to mumble something witty, like "well, yeah?" before the Sheriff rode into new adventures.
Saturday woke up early as for some curious reason the blaste ESFS vote was due before the rooster had croked. The Absalon hotel had decent breakfast, so I was comfortably numb for our presentation, which, as yesterday, went OK'ish. When Rome/Fiuggi had their turn and talked about free wine, I leaned over to Eemeli and said: "...and here we just lost the bid".
As we did, rather resoundingly. If my eagle eyes weren't totally deceived by the vote counters placing ballots in two piles, we lost by 42 to 17. Sound defeat. To wine and monasteries. In March. Dissappointed? Yes, but I'm certain DeepSpaceCon/Italcon will be a great Eurocon for the year 2009. Wish I could afford to go. Who knows, maybe I do?
I hadn't originally been asked to participate anything other than talking about arranging Finncons (with Eemeli again), but as the morning dawned, I was asked to participate in three other program items. And why not? I like to perform somewhat and I think I may occasionally have something to say, too. Cheryl asked me to talk about reviewing and I did. Good talking with Cheryl and Bob Neilson. I managed to get lured into one other Cheryl item, namely the SF-Quiz (the proper, literature quiz, as opposed to the evidently Really Difficult and interesting media-quiz, which stumped Pasi) where I RULED!!! I think my proudest moment was when asked, who is the editor of Electric Velocipede?, I managed to blurt out: "I believe it is John Klima". I did fumble pretty spectacularily with the PKD-movie adaptations and I'm somewhat pertubed by my Shriek-answer... As audience was also encouraged to participate, I had to divert a question to a girl from Estonia, even if it should've been Klaus' turn. Sorry about that, Klaus. :)
The Saturday party was definitely Russian, as there was more vodka than our local sublet has on its premises. And apparently it had some repercussions, as we learned the Sunday morn, when the arrangers asked us to clean up after "last nights vomiting, due to our excessive and liberal offering of vodka". We were stumped for a moment, but managed to point ou, that were actually still Finns and Russia hasn't annexed us, yet, so... Apologising Dane explained to us that last night (after we had left the party in larger numbers, in order to go to sleep, but end up drinking Timo's vodka ja some Elephant beer at his room) the Russians had deviced this bet, where you could win a free t-shirt, if you'd drink a whole cup (2 dl?) of vodka. Apparently this had been very popular, as well as projectile, as several toilets were unusable the day after and the opganisers were being held accountable by the Kulturhus-folk, understandably. Funnily enough, I don't think I saw a single Russian on Sunday.
After my crowning as the SF-kuismaster, I volunteered to sit behind registration for few hours. After all, how difficult that be? 3PM, last day and less than six hours of programming left? Who buys memeberships for that?
Quite a few, in fact! Some were so enthusiastic, that they managed to loose their wallets while getting in. And I've never met anyone so lackadaisical when asked whether the wallet I had in my hand was theirs, they'd just say: "Well, OK..." No thanks, no emotion. Danes!
The return home was probably less eventful than the arrival, other than we managed to eat pretty good sushi at Kastrup with Ben, while Tero and Pasi went to see how sci-fi meals are being served. Evidently cool. Oh, there was actually enterttainment on the plane, when this spitting image of my father-in-law roamed around the aisles, looking up most, if not all compartments and typing furiously his computer while we were landing to Helsinki-Vantaa.
So, all in all, pretty good con: nice fen, nice food, good beer, decent programming. Well worth the visit. Recommended.
Like Turku Book Fair, which was fun, too. And not only because I was made into Ye Olde Cavalier. But more of that later.