In a lull between assignments at the office, I finally get around to posting this con report that has been sitting on my computer desktop since August.Day One
After 3hr sleep I caught various public transport to the airport, where I ran into Patrik, and Jenny from SF-bok. An hour’s plane ride later we were at Helsinki airport and used more public transport to get to Worldcon 75, held at Messukeskus in Pasila. It was surprisingly hot, phew, and the bag was surprisingly heavy, especially since I sought out as many stairs as possible. I got my registration, ran into friends, and continued the train ride to downtown Helsinki to check into Hotel Torni, very central indeed, on Yrjö street, haha. (I have a co-worker named Yrjö. He is from Karelen.)
Back to the venue! using the ticket card that was part of the registration. What a useful treat! The mess area i semi-big, nowhere near as huge as London, more like Gbg, but still easy to get lost in. I attended the opening ceremony, with dances and singing and Jukka Halme, and a panel on music in SF/Fantasy – at which I kept falling asleep so next I had some food and then went for a walk in the very brutalist neighbourhood. Fascinating. Finally a fantastic choir concert with a huge women’s choir humming theme tunes.Day Two
Before going back to the convention centre I took a short foot tour of the immediate tourist district, i.e. the cathedral and the Russian orthodox church and points between. Also a big bookstore – keen on humanities, bland selection of geology and nuclears (none).
Tram to mess hall takes a lot longer than train but is more scenic. I arrived around noon and started with a presentation about NASA behind the scenes followed by guided tour of the art exhibition (but I was distracted by selling my extra membership online). Some really nice things, 85 % Finnish-made. A fun panel where the participants had to answer questions by lying, followed by buying a membership for Dublin 2019 and voting for it. Best in show so far was the next panel about the next 20 years in space, featuring astronaut Kjell Lindgren (American) who has actually been to space and who made a stirring speech about how we have to go to space as a united species not divided nations; and Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory and a planetary geologist. Wow! Just my kind of thing!
Last a presentation in Chinese plus translation about the city of Chengdu and how their next project is building a sci-fi city and having Worldcon 2020 in it. Think big! Followed by bid party for said Worldcon, with complimentary finger buffet and wine, plus sales pitches from really loud Chinese people. The Irish party next-next door was so incredibly noisy I took the train back to the hotel instead.Day Three
I was at the ten o’clock programme item involving Consolmagno, about interesting times in science (mostly Newton and bad-boy Galileo) – but then I had to go back to the hotel to change shoes. Too hot and icky!
Back again for the panel about exploring extra-terrestrial oceans or at least celestial bodies containing water in any form. Moral: deliberately seeding Jovian moons with terrestrial microbes is NOT the major problem. Then I got rid of my extra membership and immediately blew some of the money on a pre-support for New Zealand 2020 – after a brief visit to the Tolkien moot where some worthy person was presented with an honorary membership. So noisy environment I couldn’t understand a thing, even when they switched to English!
After a quick bite of food I listened to a panel on inventions that changed SF (generation ships, ansibles, robots), followed by a fun live performance of an Old Times Radio play, written and performed by Finns in English. Last, a fun lecture from a girl with a PhD in Finnish “Donald Duck”, specifically the fantasy elements of Don Rosa’s production.
When most people went to the Hugos I got a beer with Henke et al and then tried to find the non-existent NZ party but instead found Louise from Gothenburg trekkers club WCT and we had a nice long talk. I dragged her back to Henke & Bellis et al but she didn’t come along to the Japanese party in the old Pasila railway station, the only wooden house in the otherwise concrete jungle. So many weird and interesting Japanese snacks! I talked to two Germans, one of whom generously gave away shots of Berlin gin.
(All these pictures came out blurred, for some reason...)
Going back to the hotel I “ran into” Charlie Stross and Feorag going out on the town. And going out on the first train journey today, two English crazy cat ladies going to the con sat down next to me. One of them kept showing photo after photo of her cats to the other. These people actually exist for real, it’s so wonderful!Day Four
Full Stanley Tweedle costume today, including cuddly-LEXX. Quite a few people knew what it was – there was even a couple who sang the Brunnen-G song with me in the evening!
Pretty full day, spent all indoors so I completely missed the apparently spectacular thunder storm in the evening. The day started with a panel on cosmic radiation and how to shield ships (and entire planets!), next the NASA representatives did a well-rehearsed and very good presentation (more stirring speeches on us having to act as one species etc), followed by astrophysicists et al discussing current enigmas (like dark matter/energy – which clearly must be Mantrid drones). A quick lunch, very tasty, after which I listened to Charlie Stross et al talk about how near-future stories have a hard time these day, and then a presentation of “Iron Sky” and its upcoming sequel. Woo! A nice break before the Masquerade which was loooong, with an intermission in the shape of three a capella singers performing Viking songs, gosh. This was when the storm happened.
Instead of chancing unpredictable weather I stayed on a bit at the very noisy bar area, where I met the Lexxians who knew not only the song but K-town and The wheel it makes... But I never found Moshe the dixie cups guy!
Back home by midnight, again warm and dry.Day Five
And so this Worldcon 75 concludes – apparently the 2nd most populous ever, after Loncon 3. Wow. What a triumph for our excellent Finnish friends!
The weather was back to warm and sunny as I lugged my suitcase to the venue. Could have taken the smaller one since I hardly bought anything. Just two SF classics and a small calendar today.
I started the day with a fun lecture on orbital mechanics by one J L Doty, who later in the day held an even funnier lecture on weapons lasers and why they are dumb. In between I gawked at the tremendous queues for the panels I wanted to attend and instead slipped into a reasonably non-full room which was about space colonies and how they might seek independence (or not). Last, an interesting panel about law enforcement in SF/F and what the panelists think of the writers’ efforts – them being all employed in law enforcement!
By the end of that panel it was time to pick up the bag from friend Thomas in the wardrobe (he has been gophering all through the con!), take one of the fewer trains to the airport, have a nice relaxing meal and eventually fly home.
So, concluding impressions from the con! Not as fantastic as the one in London, which would frankly be very, very hard to top. Partly because of inferior venue, less interesting dealers and it not being all-English (duh) – programming was excellent, though – but mostly because I felt guilty about not gophering the whole time (due to migraine), and because there was a train ride between the venue and the hotel. What if I miss the last train etc thoughts.
Now I have Dublin in two years to look forward to!