Nice Swecon in Uppsala

    Latest weekend I saw Swecon 2012 (aka Kontrast 2012) being held in Uppsala, the university city 80 km north of Stockholm.

    GoHs were Peter Watts, Joe Abercrombie, Kelly Link, Sara Bergmark Elfgren & Mats Strandberg (Swedish horror authors) and Niels Dahlgaard (Danish SF expert and fandom legend). The convention center was Hotel Gillet in central Uppsala.
    I’ll have to struggle too keep this report reasonably short, because it should be long – but I don’t have the time for a long report.

    Circa 450 people are said to have attended, the biggest con outside Stockholm, and maybe the 3rd biggest ever in Sweden (Scancon 76 475 attendees, Eurocon 2011 750 attendees; there was a 2004 Swecon  co-arranged with Stockholm Trekkers, where number of attendees has said to have been 4-500, due to many trekkers turning up, but I find no exact figures). Attendees came from all the Nordic countries and  UK, US, Germany and even Russia (I met a Russian journalist there, specialised in covering SF for a Russian magazine).

    Many new faces especially since the con had the policy that pre-registered up to age 26 would get free memberships.
    The program had up to three tracks, and of course I couldn’t see everything. Sometimes I went back and forth between two programs. There was a lot of tweeting from the con, much in English (my own tweet stream alone from @SFJournalen was ca 45 msg, check hashtag #Swecon – there were hundreds of msg).
    A few of the things I attended:
    Writing: How do you do it“, with the Icelandic SF author Emil Hjörvar Petersen and some of the GoHs. Emil later told me that they are about to start the first SF/F/H club in Iceland !
    Swecon voting. Stockholm won, unopposed. The next swedish Con will be called Fantastika, and it will be on 18th-20th of October 2013 in a place called Dieselverkstan (will there be some dieselpunk in the program ?).
    Interview with Peter Watts. Had the opportunity to ask about the US border incident, and he gave a lively and interesting summary. We all heard of this event where Watts was mistreated grossly to but he seemed to take it in good mood. Fun and interesting guy.
    Screening of short films, by Peter Öberg who has just published a book about Swedish  SF/F/H films. Especially the two first were very good – a Lovecraft story plus a strange “SF music” story.
    Panel on short stories. Since I write short stories, it was interesting for me.
    Panel on steampunk. There’ll be a Swedish steampunk con in 2014 in Gävle railway museum.
    Awards ceremony, where Jonas Wissting won the Alvar (fan achievment award, named after fan legend Alvar Appeltofft) and Mariana Leikomaa from Finland won the Ghösta award (Uppsala Fandom’s own award).
    On “copybots” by Swedish Euro parliamentarian Amelia Andersdotter, which was held in the office of Young Pirates a few blocks away. It was a copybot that stopped the Hugo webcast.
    GoH interview with Joe Abercrombie, who was very entertaing and made a lot of jokes.
    GoH interview with Kelly Link, who said she writes intensly for 6-8 hours and then takes a beer.
    Settings in fantasy. Held in hall 2, but so popular that many had to stand in the doorways.
    Discussion on SF/F you read as young. Heinlein and Jules Verne showed to be popular beginners’ authors.
    The Lars-Olov Strandberg slide show from old conventions – a must see on Swedish cons !
    There was a drabbel (100 word story) competition, but I was too occupied to take part.
    I missed some programs, due to being on another program or mingling, including some GoH interviews/speeches.

    Some examples of other program items and subjects are: Wikipedia, Swedish TVs robot drama “Real People”, alternate history, info about SF in Norway and Finland (also about the Helsinki 2015 Worldcon bid), SF blogs, some writing workshops, languages in SF/F,  science in SF, disaster novels (SF PhD Jerry Määttä  is writing a book about it), translation, Greek gods and Star Trek, Philip K Dick, etc. – but there were much more.
    Two highlights were the Saturday evening book release party, with some wine and snacks, and the hilarious talk by John-Henri Holmberg about the first Swedish Tolkien translator Åke Ohlmarks.
    JHH went through Ohlmarks’ life from disaster to disaster. It started with Ohlmarks failing to get good marks for his academic work, because he wrote nasty poems about his professors in a student paper. Not the best tactics. Then he spent WWII in Germany, and actually managed to get a higher academic position – five months before the Red Army occupied the University of Greifswald. Not the best timing, JHH dryly noted. Then Ohlmarks got a position as film scriptwriter, also directed one film, and earned so much money he got the taxman after him. Thus he has to flee Sweden, but in actuallity was in a country where “he rented houses under pseudonym”. A result was he had to have a huge book production, a book every other month to keep the taxman away.

    JHH told stories about Ohlmark’s “Pimpinelle order”, a meeting of which was one of the most bizarre things I have experienced (as the lecturer said). We heard about Ohlmarks conflict with Tolkien and the tolkienists, basically because his LOTR translation was so shoddy (it had been re-translated by fan Erik Andersson). Tolkien forbad the Swedish publisher to let Ohlmarks loose on Silmarillion, but Mr O couldn’t forgive that. After being hailed as the big Tolkien expert in Sweden, Ohlmarks now began writing books against Tolkien and the Tolkien societies, which engage in ” black magic, drugs, criminality, sex orgies, international conspiracies”, etc.  (according to Mr O). There was a infamous incident with one of Ohlmarks’ houses that caught fire, and Mr O blamed the Tolkien societies.
    To keep to a reasonable format, I’ll just summarise one of the program items. And the one about Ohlmarks was perhaps the one most worth a summary. People LOTFL[1]-ed a lot.
    What else ? Tried to mingle and chat quite a bit and met many interesting people. Nice to see folks you’ve previously only met on the net, not to mention all old faces. Some of oldies now turned up with their kids, who in no time at all have grown from 2 years to a teenager. Strange.
    There was a daily newsletter, edited by Karl Johan Norén (sometimes up to 3 times/day). I had some small fanzines of my own, old ishs of SFJournalen and especially an small printrun of my EAPA zine Intermission with some info about the first Swedish SF club, Atomic Noah founded in 1945 (and with nobelist and space poet Harry Martinson as member). My bus back went rather late so I could also attend the Dead Dog event in local pub Pipes of Scotland for several hours – talked a lot with eg Niels Dalgaard,  since I missed his speech, and we exchanged info about SF and fandom things in the Nordic region (some very interesting, some not worth repeating).
    Of course everything didn’t go perfect, though Swecon 2012 overall was very well organised.

    It was too crowed in the corridors sometimes. The bar was closed during the Sunday. There were no roomparties (won’t rule out tiny, private ones) even if it was in a hotel and people also stayed in surrounding hotels – are fans today forgetting the fannish roomparty tradition ?

    There were only five press pieces about the con, all in local Uppsala papers (UNT, 18 minuter and Uppsalatidningen), and AFAIK, nothing in radio or TV.
    The 18minuter (“18 minutes”) piece was something I fixed, BTW. I contacted them to ask if they wanted a short story by me because there was a convention in town. They didn’t but instead began interviewing me by mail, I sent them a picture – and the article was mostly about my short-story writing, though Swecon info was of course given.

    You can see that story on p3 here I joked and said that Andy Warhol promised everyone 15 minutes of fame. Well, I got 18 minutes…
    Lacking a time machine, I’m near the end of the time I can spare for this all-to-brief report. However, should mention how Swecon ended (minus the Dead Dog). Chairman Johan Anglemark traditionally brought forth the wooden container for “The Spirit of Swecon”. He waved it in the air and said the Spirit of Swecon was in the hall, closed the lid and passed it to the chairman of next Swecon, Carolina Lagerlöf Gomez. A nice little gimmick which has been going on at Swecons for some years.


    SWECON, The Swedish National SF Convention : KONTRAST 2012 (Uppsala, 5. – 7.10.2012)

    [1] LOTFL = Lying on the Floor Laughing


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