Finncon 2013

Finncon is an annual Finnish SF&F convention in July that hosts a number of interesting discussion panels, SF&F related shows (this year there was heavy metal played on an electric kantele; we’re in Finland, alright). Finncon usually has several authors as Guests of Honour, as well as an artists’ alley, a second-hand book market and stands by SF&F publishers in the con bazaar. Admittance is free and all areas are accessible with a wheelchair. If you wish to support the con, you can do so by either volunteering as a gopher, or by buying con merchandise. More details on the official website.

Like I said to Wil, who attended with me and graciously tolerated my less-than-optimally-rested self, it felt so good to be among my own kind again! It’s been a few years since the last time Finncon was organised in Helsinki and I’ve missed the experience very, very much. We’ve got plans to attend next year’s con, too, which will be held in Jyväskylä. It’ll be my ten-year-anniversary with Finncon – and in the same city to boot!

After having read reports of women being harrassed at SF&F and gaming conventions in the States, I’m especially glad that Finncon always has a great atmosphere: relaxed and open to everyone regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. I was fourteen when I first attended, in a strange city and terribly nervous, but I felt welcome immediately upon entering the main area. Today it was more like… I don’t know, like coming home to people baking cookies shaped like the Star Trek emblem while they chat about writing fantasy fiction and the best video games this year.

Too Many Panels, Too Little Time

In a way, Finncon is like a music festival: you want to go see everything but many events overlap, so you need to decide whether you want to attend some panels for their entire duration or catch the beginning of one and the end of another (and a girl’s gotta eat, besides, but munching on an apple while someone else is talking is terribly impolite).

The official theme this year was ‘opposing forces’, which had been interpreted creatively but well! There were several panels on LGBT characters in fiction (such as mutantism in the X-Men comics being a metaphor for being homosexual), what e-books mean for the publishing industry, and how reading affects our minds and vice versa. I didn’t make it to as many panels as I wanted to – mainly because I’d masterfully organised my own house-warming party for Friday and slept very late on Saturday as a result – but the ones I did attend were fascinating and made me think, which is how I usually evaluate a panel discussion at a con.

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The Library Haul of November

Today was the first time in ages that I had the time and the energy to visit a library so, naturally, I dragged home two bags of books (though I admit that there was a box of chocolates taking up space in the other bag, so it’s not as bad as it sounds). Here is the curious library haul of 22 November, complete with brief first impressions!

Fiona Giles (ed.): Dick for a Day (Indigo, 1998)
A collection of short essays by female writers on the subject of What Would You Do If You Had A Dick For A Day, something we’ve all wondered at one point or another, surely. Personally, I’d probably be too busy demonstrating my grasp of Klatchian vocabulary to get much else done with the newly-discovered changes in the trouser department, but I’m curious about other people’s take on the situation. Includes authors such as Germaine Greer, Patricia Cornwell, Vicki Hendricks, Poppy Z. Brite and Isadora Alman.

Guy Delisle: A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting (Drawn & Quarterly, 2013)
What can I say, I like books about how not to have children.1 Delisle’s style reminded me of both Hugleikur Dagsson’s comics and the ingenious Bunny Suicides books by Andy Riley, which is another reason I picked it. In fact, the cover features a dad reading his book while the kid in the background is reaching for a plugged-in clothes iron. What could go wrong?

A. S. Byatt: Ragnarok – The End of the Gods (Canongate, 2011)
It’s the end of the world as we know it! Or not, I’m not sure. For the main character, a little girl in the middle of World War 2, it sure seems like it; when someone gives her a copy of Norse mythology, she draws comfort from the stories of Ragnarök. Or that’s how I interpreted the story based on the covers. I’ve been interested in mythology since I was a kid, and WWII since I read I Will Bear Witness; a combination of the two should make for an interesting read.

Linda Castillo: Gone Missing (Macmillan, 2012)
The name rang a bell and lo! Castillo’s novel is… indeed… not on my to read-list on Goodreads. Oh well, I always enjoy a good thriller, never mind whether or not I’ve heard about it beforehand. Teenagers gone missing, female protagonist, hidden dark secrets, head-to-head with a dangerous serial killer, blah blah blah. It sounds a little too clichéd to me but the back cover convinced me to give it a try.

Kathryn Fox: Blood Born (Hodder, 2009)
Hodder’s thriller line has such distinct covers, I can guess the publisher 80% of the time. This one’s a “medical thriller” where a pair of killers – brothers, by the way – has murdered a teen and (accidentally, I’m guessing) left her younger sister alive, so it’s the forensic pathologist protagonist’s job to collect the evidence and get them behind bars. Except, you know. The brothers are less on board with that idea.

Patrick McGrath: Asylum (Penguin Books, 1997)
This one’s about a guy who becomes the deputy superintendent of a hospital for the criminally insane – that is Kay, hooked, for you – and then his wife goes and falls in love with a patient. I expect to be shouting at this book a lot because I’m more in it for the mental hospital than the drama, and a character who falls in love with a criminally insane guy… well.

Italo Calvino: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller (Vintage, 1998)
There was a fanfic that I read and really liked that’s titled the same, which is why this one caught my attention – and then the back cover promised me some kind of a reader-fiction-reality meta extravaganza. “A reader goes into a bookshop to buy a book: not any book, but the latest Calvino, the book you are holding in your hands. Or is it? Are you the reader? Is this the book? Beware.” Sold!

The cover for Stalking SusanJulie Kramer: Stalking Susan (Piatkus, 2010)
An investigative reporter gets wind of a possible serial killer who targets women named Susan, killing one every year on the same day. I’m a little apprehensive about the fact that apparently the reporter’s TV career is somehow mixed up in all this, because that plotline can go messy faster than I run to the fridge during a commercial break. I like the cover of this book, though, it’s the kind of graphic design that I’m drawn to.

Jane Sanderson: Netherwood (Sphere, 2011)
A period novel in the vein of Downton Abbey, the story is about the snobby dipshits who live above stairs and the witty, resourceful staff that lives below stairs. There may be romance involved – not sure – but there’s definitely the help snarking back at the employers by way of pie, apparently. I recall Wil once mentioning that one of her pet peeves is a period novel that has no mention of when it’s supposed to take place. The layman I am when it comes to period fiction, I wouldn’t even know Netherwood was set in Britain if not for the Downton Abbey comparison.2

Jim Crace: Quarantine (Penguin Books, 1997)
I’m all for dystopias. I assumed that the word ‘quarantine’ meant ‘dystopia’ but in this case, it’s four guys wandering into the Judean desert to improve their souls by fasting, and they run into Satan who, according to the back cover blurb, is on his way to tempt this one Galilean guy who can allegedly work miracles and is observing his fast on the other side of the desert. Heck, I’ve lately been on a Judeo-Christian mythology splurge anyway; why not.

Dan Simmons: Flashback (Quercus, 2011)
The first (and so far only) novel by Dan Simmons that I’ve read is Song of Kali which seriously disturbed and horrified me, and of course I love it to bits. This time the setting is a future – America in the year 2036 – where the world is in ruins and people resort to a drug called flashback to relive happier moments in their past. The protagonist is an ex-cop and a flashback addict called Nick whose memories are bought by a Japanese magnate, and it turns out that Nick’s flashbacks may well be the key to solving the biggest case of his life (naturally) – only, that case was the murder of the magnate’s son. Shit, meet fan.

the cover for Aitoa peliäJustina Robson: Aitoa peliä ["Real Game", orig. Keeping It Real] (Jalava, 2013)
Humans, demons, elves, elementals, oh my! A quantum explosion has changed Earth irrevocably, as nowadays you get special agents who are technologically enhanced, half-cyborg AIs, and elvish rockstars called Zal.3 Um. Not necessarily my cup of tea as the back cover advertises Aitoa peliä as a mix of science fiction, fantasy, agent novel and chick-lit. It’s the last one that concerns me most since I suspect that I may be a tad older than the intended audience of this book.

Muriel Barbery: Kulinaristin kuolema ["The Death of a Culinarist", orig. Une gourmandise] (Gummerus, 2011)
I’ve mentioned that I love Tuomas Vimma’s Gourmet, right, the novel full of French cuisine and expensive food stuffs? Barbery’s book is about a French restaurant critic who, on his deathbed, thinks back to the more or less savoury experiences of his life. I have no idea if it’s actually the kind of book I’d like, but it’s relatively short so I’ll give it a try.

Jani Saxell: Unenpäästäjä Florian ["Florian the Dream Deliverer"] (Avain, 2010)
I mainly picked this one up because the name intrigued me. An old Finnish word for midwife is ‘lapsenpäästäjä’ and it can be literally translated as “the one who lets (out) [delivers] the child”. The book’s title connects dreams to the word ‘lapsenpäästäjä’, which piqued my curiosity. The author has crammed into one book 1) commentary on Finnish immigration politics, 2) commentary on the situation of the Romanian Roma people, and 3) a dystopian science fiction future where Europe is becoming void of dreams thanks to people called dream deliverers. It sounds ambitious in the way Jan Salminen’s Äidinmaa did, and that one ultimately disappointed me, so I’m not sure what to expect from Unenpäästäjä Florian.

Tuuli Hypén: Nanna 3 (Arktinen Banaani, 2012)
Nanna is comic about the titular character, an urban fox who lives in a shared flat with other girls, studies in the local university and hangs out with her human and more-or-less human friends. I love the humour of Nanna that focuses on the student life, living in Finland and the life of a young woman in the city.

1 Arguably, this could also mean that I find such riveting epochs as A Beginner’s Guide to Anal Sex and How To Blow His Mind interesting; I don’t.
2 A quick googling revealed that the novel is set in the early 20th century. Thank you for the context, dear Goodreads reviewer.
3 See what I did there?

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28 Hours Later

Most zombie flicks I’ve seen are American, and most zombies I’ve seen are the result of a virus of some sort that’s more or less accidentally released amidst the general population. Usually the infection makes everyone ravenous for human flesh and gives them unnatural strength and the eyes of a serious caffeine junkie in withdrawal. Well, nothing wrong with that, I say! To each their own. Personally I prefer my zombies undead, merrily groaning and shambling head-first into the same stretch of the garden fence over and over again.1

WARNING: spoilers ahead.

28 Days Later & 28 Weeks Later

To be honest, I didn’t even remember that the 28 films are set in London before Jim (Cillian Murphy) stumbles out of a hospital and (metaphorically) runs smack-dab into a red telephone box. This is a recurring theme throughout both films, the camera focusing on iconic British landscapes and goods to make sure that the audience doesn’t forget where they are.

Once the largely unsurprising trek to discover Jim’s dead parents is over, Selene (Naomi Harris) exhibits common sense and apparent emotional coldness when she kills Mark (Noah Huntley; a brief role but well played) without hesitation after he gets bit. While badass in the beginning, the only female character in the film2 veers into the realm of stereotypes later when Selene tells Jim that he was right and the trek through the Infected world is better with company than alone, revealing that what do you know, she does care after all! Yawn.

In fact, as far as gender is concerned, the film doesn’t treat either female or male characters very well. The soldiers at the Manchester base all turn into mindless, rutting beasts when the cat is out of the bag after their chillingly pragmatic leader (Christopher Eccleston) confesses to Jim that he could only maintain the spirits of his men by promising them women. Soon after, there is a dire life-and-death situation going on as zombies storm the base, and all everyone can think of is catching a little nookie before they get eaten (and not the fun way, either). Never mind that their potential partners are A) not willing, B) a kid, C) all of the above, and that you’d expect soldiers to be able to prioritize.

Jim, Selene and Hannah escape once all the other characters have been brutally slaughtered – because family symbolism is important! – and at the end of 28 Days Later, they are staying in an abandoned house in what I can only assume passes as iconic country-side for the British. At the sound of a distant aircraf, they rush to spread out a giant HELLO-message, sewn together from clothes and sheets and what other fabrics they’ve managed to scrounge up, and presumably are rescued though we never hear from them again.3

What never, ever fails to crack me up is the very last line of the film, spoken by the pilot of the aircraft. Someone, for some reason, decided that the pilot should be Finnish and when he asks HQ to send some helicopters to pick up the survivors, he sounds so wonderfully blasé about it that I can’t help but laugh. (Plus that suddenly hearing “Lähetätkö helikopterit (could you send the choppers)?” is a bit of a shock to the system after all that Britishness because just, what.)


Whereas 28 Days Later was a beautifully shot and tragic depiction of a society that has collapsed during a catastrophe and has no real happy ending in sight, 28 Weeks Later is… stupid. The characters make irrational decisions for no good reason, act like they’ve been dropped to the middle of a filming set from the local coffee shop with the smell of caffe latte still lingering in their nostrils, and eventually refuse to die despite being worthy of an (undead, shambling) Darwin Award.

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Dynasty Jinwangchao Cabernet-Sauvignon, 2008

Eräänä aurinkoisena syyskuun päivänä armon vuotta 2013 saapasteli nuori neitonen Helsingin keskustassa Sokoksen kupeessa sijaitsevaan alkomahoolia myyvään liikkeeseen, aikeenaan prokuroida syysillan lämmikkeeksi luonteikasta punaviiniä. Aikansa viinien määrää taivasteltuaan neidon pelasti vaalea ja viisas nuori mies, joka kohteliaasti tarjosi apuaan.

“Tua noin,” epäröi neitokainen. “Jottai punaviint tarttis.”

“Jaaha, jaaha. Minkäslaista?”

“Nooo… Jottai ryhdikäst seurusteluu ko tuo ukko o tommane velttoilija. Vähä tua Vina Alpali tyyppist, ko mää tykkää tost Kran Reservast.”

“Selvä. Pysytäänkö me täällä Espanjan puolella vai saako olla muualtakin?”

“Tjaa, kai sillä nii väliks ol ko muumaalast o joka tapaukses.”

Nuorukaisen terävä katse selasi hetken kiiltävien lasipullojen rivistöjä kunnes se pysähtyi erääseen italialaiseen taidonnäytteeseen. Nuorukainen esitteli viinin neidolle sutjakkaasti, mainiten sen olevan jos ei kirjaimellista niin vähintäänkin periaatteellista sukua neidon mieliviinille, ja hymyili odottavasti.

“Juu jaa,” kommentoi neitokainen.

“Sitten jos mennään tänne uuden maailman puolelle, meillä olisi tällainen kiinalainen punaviini.” Nuorukainen viittelöi energisesti kohti pulloa, jonka punainen etiketti toi mieleen amerikkalaiset öljypohatat. “Meille ei paljon näitä kiinalaisia tulekaan, koska kulutus on siellä niin suurta.”

“Nii sää meinaat ettei net kerkiä tän ast?” arvasi neito. “Tua noin,” jatkoi hän huultaan purien. “Nonnii… No jos… No mikä ettei, sai’ ylipuhutuks, mää katton jos tää kävis lämmikkeest,” päätti hän lopulta ja kiitti nuorukaista avusta.

Juu ei mittän, kovast vua kiitoksii Jarnol.


Kiinalaiset viinit eivät aiemmin olleet käyneet mielessä ollenkaan, mutta Dynastyn Jinwangchao on penteleen hyvä punaviini: sopivan tamminen ja hitusen karpaloinen kitalaesta kadotessaan. Hapokas se on muttei liian paljon tämän neitokaisen makunystyröille. Kuvittelisin syöväni rypäleitä brien kera, tai jopa jonkin sortin lihaisaa risottoa, kun tämä viini on pöydässä.

Eikä muute yhtää paskemp Led Zeppelini kans.

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Introversion vs. Extroversion

(Apparently I’m Ranty McPants today because I’ll be facing the parental unit tomorrow. This, instead of what a friend of mine once suggested, is not because our relationship is bad but because it takes energy to maintain the illusion that it is good.) (And it is, to a point; more accurately, the point where they don’t ask and even if they do, I won’t tell.)

So I ran into this, which is basically an article about why extroverts are awesome. Good on you, extroverts! I know you are awesome, keep being awesome because the world needs all sorts. But. Could you perhaps be awesome without making us introverts look less than?

Let me illustrate. Here are some of the points Caity Weaver makes:

2. You interact with other humans in orthodox ways and sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s not and mostly it’s whatever.
4. People like you.
6. You communicate emotions, fears, and desires to relevant parties in a clear way.
7. You don’t ruin camping trips, birthday parties, Christmas parties, office parties, [...] concerts, and road trips simply by being yourself.
13. You speak at a volume perceivable by humans.

Apparently nobody likes introverts who always ruin the party, are shy and have difficulties communicating with other people – and this is a Bad Thing. But here’s a secret: it’s not that “the entire population suddenly deluded itself into thinking that ‘introverted’ is a noble thing to be”, it’s that somebody noticed that not everyone is loud and out-going and has no problem socializing 24/7, and they pointed it out. That’s all.

Sure, there are always people who tag on to the latest quirky personality craze that surfaces, but that doesn’t mean that the real thing – a godawful term but what can you do – doesn’t exist. There are people who prefer solitary activities, who feel drained after prolonged social contact, who are less than skilled in expressing themselves in verbally. We’re not intentionally trying to make it difficult for you extroverts; it’s exhausting enough as it is. (Not that being an extrovert isn’t. I have a friend who is one and who never spends the evening at home if she can help it, always off to find a new hobby or travelling somewhere – and she loves it. I won’t ever understand how she manages it but that’s cool.)

We’re the shy, the bookworms, the wallflowers, the friend who doesn’t appreciate your ex tempore visit, the mystery guest at your party, because socializing for us isn’t as easy as it is for you. For the most part – unless we are lucky to befriend someone who either understands what we need or is an introvert themselves – looking at you, Wil – that gets us excluded from things. Things like parties (“Oh damn, someone noticed me slipping out for five minutes to breathe, arrrrgh, why are you talking to me when I clearly want to spend a minute alone”), cheerleading teams (“Oh HELL no I’m jumping in front of two hundred people in a mini-skirt and being the centre of their attention”), weddings (“Are they expecting me to give a speech? Oh dear God, guys, I love you and all, but”) and other activities.

Trust me; we know you threw that surprise party at our place in hopes of having a good time with us and making us happy. Unfortunately, we’re too busy wondering how on earth our sanctuary was invaded while we were having a stressful day at work, counting on the tub of ice cream to save the day, to appreciate your effort.

Despite being an introvert, I do like to socialize with people – my friends, for the most part, but sometimes even strangers! It’s just that I want to do it on my own terms, i.e. not have it sprung on me without any time to mentally prepare myself. That doesn’t mean that I’m intentionally making myself a different person while I’m hanging out with you, by the way. The transition between “nobody here to impress” and being in company is a little more rocky, is all, and I need to give myself a little pep talk.

I’m not saying that all the “X Signs That You Are An Introvert” articles are good, or that they don’t hate on extroverts while making their points. The Huffington Post article is pretty neutal and accurate, though, as is the introvert problems article on Buzzfeed.

Introverted people are different from extroverted people, not better or worse. Why is that so hard to understand? Or what do I know, maybe it is, so here’s

A Small Guide to Understanding Your Introverted Friend

#1: small talk. Chances are that they are not not talking to you because they don’t want to hang out with you, but because they simply have nothing to say at the moment so they are just enjoying your company.

#2: large parties. They love the intimacy of a smaller party, maybe six to ten people, so that they’ve got the time to talk to everyone about something that is not the weather, and that they can involve everyone in the discussion without having to split into smaller groups.

#3: surprise visits. For the love of God, do not drop in unannounced. Call at least an hour before and don’t push it if your friend says it’s not a good time. Don’t press them to give you a reason, any reason, because they know exactly how inadequate “I don’t want to socialize with people right now” will sound to you.

#4: audience participation. Nothing is worse than being the centre of other people’s attention, and I mean nothing. At a comedy/magic/impro theatre show, do not volunteer your introvert friend even if you think they should get out of their shell more. They’re an introvert, not an imbecile; if they want to participate, they will volunteer themselves.

#5: alone time. If your friend says that they’d love to come by for tea, or a movie, or whatever, but that they need some time to re-group after a week filled with socializing with people – believe them. It’s not intended as a slight to you. Imagine your least favourite relative visiting the city you live in and your having to babysit them for a couple of days, and then the absolute bliss of an empty flat once they leave. Abracadabra! You’ve just imagined an introvert’s week of being around people they don’t know that well.

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