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Åcon 7

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Åcon (pronounced with an Å as in awesome) is mainly a relaxacon. Fans from Sweden and Finland, and some from the rest of the world, meet a spring weekend in Mariehamn to have a good time. The programme is a single track, with generous pauses between the items, but if the items were few, they were all the more interesting!

Here's a small conreport, almost only a month after the con ...

The guest of honor this year was Karen Lord. Coming from Barbados, she is the author of Redemption in Indigo and The Best of all Possible Worlds. She is also a doctor in sociology of religion, having studied "implicit religion". This means she has statistically measured "religios attachment" both to ordinary religion and to other concepts where people may behave religiously, like politics, sports, maybe open source software and perhaps environmental sustainability. Hopefully I'll get back to that in a later post, but don't wait for that, her thesis is available online.

The fact that Doc Lord has excelent taste in rum, and brought samples, was very much not a problem for the room parties of the con ...

Post-colonial Science Fiction

Does the self-publishing posibilities of today lead to an increased diversity in literature? Possibly, but publishing a book is not enough, it also has to find an audience and be read. It is probably easier to reach out and find readers for an author who shares a background with more people in fandom. Peepal tree press is a way for "Caribbean & Black British" authors to be heard.

Dialects can make it hard to understand books written in English not from UK or USA. A good thing for SF and Fantasy may be that readers are used to real or made up technical terms or fanciful names of places and things, which may make it easier to accept names from Caribbean or African legends?

Karen Lord told us she learned a Canadian accent while studying there. Then an invisible Scotswoman entered the room and told us she did the same thing in Scotland ... she also seems to be able to switch freely between her accents.

Among books mentioned was Wide Sargasso Sea, a post-colonial prequel to Jane Eyre, and The Power of One (update: That should be Power of Three) Karen Lord also mentioned Ray Bradbury and Ursula Leguin as inroads to reading post-colonial science fiction.

To the Bat-Bed, Robin!

Under the headline To the Bat-Bed, Robin, Cheryl Morgan delivered a tour de force of LGBTQ superhero comics. In the early fifties, Batman and Robin could actually be seen waking up in the same bed. But then came Dr Werthams Seduction of the Innocent, bringing moral hysteria and self-censorship in the form of Comics Code Authority. However, after just a few decades, the culture had healed itself, and from the eighties onwards there is lots of good examples to show.

Cheryl was in two minds about the portrayal of Sir Tristan in Camelot 3000, but said that the comic had so much good parts that the bad could be excused. It is, of course, complicated. Tristan is a man in female body, who in the end accepts his female body, wich don't do much to increas my (a cis-male reader) understanding of trans people. But another way to look at it is that Tristan is a hero and a warrior—a knight of the round table—in love with the beautiful woman Isolde, and none of that needs to be hindered by Tristan beeing a woman. That, too, is a positive message worth spreading.

Another queer-themed programme item was Future Imperfect—A view beyond Cis-Hetero Monogamy in Star Trek, by Dirk Weger. The Star Trek TV-series has been ahead of their time in many ways, but aparently not in this way. The good things to show were small and far between, and the missed chances seemed plenty. However, Dirk showed us that even missed chances can be used for an entertaining delivery.

Reading recommendations

Steampunk

Åka Davour opened the steampunk discussion by tellin us that K. W. Jeter coined the term c:a 1987. The difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling is an important early work, but it was internet subculture, cosplay, crafting and graphics that turneed "Steampunk" into a working publishing term.

  • Mark Hodder: The strange affair of spring-heeled jack
  • Cherie Priest: Boneshaker
  • Chris Wooding: The Ketty Jay series
  • Kage Baker: The Women of Nell Gwynne's
  • Phil & Kaja Foglio: Girl Genius
  • Scott Westerfeld: The Leviathan series
  • Michael Moorecock:
  • Kristina Hård: Cleptomania
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
  • Airship Shape & Bristol Fashion
  • Steamboy (movie)
  • Ian McCleod: The Light Ages
  • David Barnett: Gideon Smith & The Mechanical Girl
  • Ekaterina Sedia: Heart of Iron + Alchemy of Stone
  • Ian McDonald: Planesrunner (YA series introducing all main SF tropes)

Far future SF with steampunk elements:

  • Hannu Rajaniemi: The Quantum Thief
  • Neal Stephenson: The Diamond Age
  • Karl Schroeder: The Virga series

Comics

We also had an hour of comic book recommendations, in which Marianna Leikomaa took notes.

  • Wendy & Richard Pini: Elfquest (archived online, new stuff on paper).
  • Joe Hill: Locke and Key, 6 volumes
  • Neil Gaiman: The Sandman, both old & new (not necessarily for comics newbies)
  • Bryan Talbot: Tale of One Bad Rat (no fantastical elements, but excellent!), Grandville (steampunk & furries), Adventures of Luther Arkwright (not necessarily for comics newbies), Alice in Sunderland (not easily accessible, but very good) - Worldcon 2014 GoH
  • Hernandez brothers: Love and Rockets (new stuff out)
  • Warren Ellis: Transmetropolitan, 10+2 volumes, Planetary (not everybody liked it), Global Frequency (hard to find), Next Wave (not necessarily for comics newbies)
  • Mike Carrey: The Unwritten (esp. for fantasy readers)
  • Bryan K. Vaughan: Saga (science fiction, cool serial killers, in last year’s Hugo package, also out in Humblebundle just now
  • Alan Moore: Halo Jones, From Hell, Watchmen (not necessarily for comics newbies, although many have started with it), What happened to the man of tomorrow? League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (does not require comics knowledge but rather literary knowledge), Promethea (not easy), V for Vendetta, Top 10, Lost Girls (explicit)
  • Ed Brubaker: Gotham Central (Batman w/very little Batman)
  • Frank Miller: Electra Assasin
  • China Miéville: Dial H (part of the New 52, only 2 volumes)
  • Paul Cornell: The Girl who Loved Doctor Who (Hugo Nominated), Saucer Country
  • Lavie Tidhar: Adler (not out yet)
  • JP Ahonen: Perkeros (out in English later this year, music & fantasy)
  • Lauren Beukes: The Fairest (part of Fables-series, doesn’t require Fables background, Volume 2 works well on its own)
  • Douglas Ruskoff: Testament (science fiction & religion, 4 volumes)

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