Karl-Johan (kjn) wrote,

Report from Archipelacon

Archipelacon was great.

The thing with big cons is that they start gradually, and when it also uses group travel that is used by most congoers, that start become even more gradual. Wednesday evening we had an extra pub meeting in Stockholm, starting already at 16.00 (when Monk's opened). Hulda and I had spent the early afternoon in the Museum of Natural History and arrived just before the pub opened, finding several fans outside.

There were plenty of Archipelacon-goers in attendance, but also some local sf fans who weren't going. We met up with thette as well (who had been off buying cosplay supplies, and then went to the wrong Monk's).

Thursday started way too early, as the ferry left at 7.10, and we had to be there at least half an hour before that. (At least we didn't have as long to go to it as darnia and Magnus.) Ie, we had to rise at 5 AM. The resident bar addicts were wrought over that the bars didn't open until 10 AM, while Hulda was quite happy with making a new friend, Eddie, as they went out exploring the ferry and playing in the kid's lounge.

There were lots of fans on the ferry, but we tended to become quite spread out and many of them retreated to cabins, so we never really got a critical mass of fans gathered in one place, until close to the end. (Who'd have thought too many bars would be a problem?)

Arriving in Mariehamn we disembarked and went to our hotel. We had chosen to stay at Adlon, right by the main harbour, since it was reasonably cheap and we knew it was decent, and took company with Eddie and his family (who had rented a cabin at the camping). Our priorities were getting rid of the luggage, food, and showers, so we tossed all the luggage (ours and theirs) into our room and ate a late lunch at the restaurant outside Ålands sjöfartsmuseum, ie the nautical museum.

Both Hulda and Therese were quite tired, so elected to stay in the hotel room for the afternoon, but I got to Alandica in time for the opening ceremony, which was short and to the point, and got some lustre by an opening piece played by Quinsonitus. I then set out to explore the con space, which made me quite worried about us being too crowded. With no programming, almost all the members were milling around in the public spaces. However, as the programming started the crowding lessened and never returned. But I believe the committee was very wise to cap the membership at 800 people.

I spent most of the afternoon socialising, mainly with old friends but also with some new people. (But I'm terrible at remembering names, sorry about that.) I listened to the beginning of Nordic Weird, but I didn't find the direction they were going that interesting, and Therese were on her way to listen to the Deep Space Overture, so I left early.

(I really appreciated the fact that one could enter and leave the Main Auditorium from the back, by going up a stairs. Helps to both cut down on noise from outside and is suitably discreet.)

Therese will have to write herself about the Quinsonitus concert, but everyone I talked to said they had enjoyed it immensely.

While putting Hulda to bed I found that our hotel room lacked one thing: proper blinders. Even the heavy curtains weren't enough to keep the light out, so Hulda had a really hard time going to sleep.

Therese wasn't that interested in the morning's programming, so instead took Hulda to the nautical museum a little up the road. I got to listen to "Worlds of Water", supposedly about the rise and fall of Viking Age Åland, but in reality about what happened on Åland right before the start of the "proper" Viking age, from circa 550 AD. Kristin Ilves was an excellent lecturer and active archeologicist, so we got really cutting-edge stuff, and she even called out for help for her excavations of a big hall next summer.

The highlight of the talk was that the climatoligical disaster in the mid-500s caused a drop in population all over the Baltic area, except in Åland, where it instead increased. She also mentioned signs of subdivisions of and political centres on the islands. And lots of seals. Basically, she set out to dismantle the old conventional wisdom about the late iron age on Åland.

(I sat beside a fellow Swede who I promised to send my pictures of her slides to, but it seems I've misplaced the slip of paper with the e-mail address. Sorry about that. The photos turned out to be next to impossible to read, anyway.)

Then I listened to parts of the Swedish fandom presentation by Åka and Patrik. It was a little unfocused, since the audience partly were foreign fans, partly Swedish neos. But they did a decent presentation and ended in a classic manner: with a slide show over Swedish fans and fan activities. Lars-Olov's slideshow used to be a staple at every Swedish con for a long time. I really hope we can have one at Confuse.

Then I went to "Life in Fandom" with Gary K. Wolfe, George R.R. Martin, Parris McBride, and Johan Anglemark (moderating). It was a short introduction to fandom followed by plenty of funny anecdotes of fandom in the 70s when it was still more counterculture and less gray than today. Highlights included having the Secret Service busting a fannish nighttime skinnydipping pool party, and when Parris related to how she and George met for the first time.

Therese and Hulda were finished by the nautical museum by then, so we had lunch at the nice Thai restaurant "Eat". Therese went to the con while I took over caring for Hulda. We listened to the talk "Digital magi" by Jenny Wiik about her fantasy and sf pictures, but Hulda was bored after a while: she liked the parts about composition and blending real images as a base for a new illustration, but there was too much talk about the literary background and inspiration of each picture.

Instead we sat in the lobby, me with a beer or two - the local brewery Stallhagen had some quite nice varieties, Hulda mostly drawing. The good thing was that I could chat quite a bit of other fans, while Therese went to various programme items. (Konopas is quite handy for con planning, we simply noted down everything than any of us could be interested in and then discussed things.)

Sometime during the afternoon, I logged onto G+ and saw that the US Supreme Court had released their verdict on same-sex marriage in the United States. I showed it to filkerdave, and he and the rest of the Americans at the con spent the rest of the day in happy rapture.

I listened a bit to the NOFF (Nordic Fan Fund) auction, since I had donated a binder with quite a few of my filks and a selection of Swedish filk songs and a few foreign ones. Bellis wasn't his usual loud self (his voice became progressively worse during the con), but Bellis and Marie-Louise still managed to break their old sales record, in large part due to various items donated by George R.R. Martin and Parris McBride. My binder went for €20 to a Finnish fan, about the minimum price I had decided it would go for. I also managed to buy back the infamous Kosmos Double, that I myself had donated to NOFF back when it was getting started.

After the auction and the concurrent "Zombies, Necrophiles and Spiraling Penises" talk, Therese took Hulda home to the hotel with the idea that I could go to the parties. However, the impossibility to get it reasonably dark in the hotel room meant that Therese had to ask me back to help. Hulda didn't fall too sleep until after 11 PM, but I did make a quick visit to the parties (and the pool!) afterward. Sadly, the pool turned out to be closed by the time I arrived, so I didn't stay long, especially since the party hotel held plenty of mundanes. I did manage to find some drunk Finnish fans belting out drinking songs, and joined them with "Nikolajevs längtan" and a few other songs, having a great time.

Saturday I went up reasonably early with Hulda, and had breakfast together with Anders Sandberg where we discussed multilingualism, switching between languages as context switches, brain research, and other sundry subjects before I had to leave. I listened to Stefan Ekman's talk "When the Map is the World", about his research into maps in fantasy books. It was quite data-filled, but very much also covered how the map and the various map elements fill different roles in the book, and how they relate to each other. It's pretty clear he has done his research here.

Getting out, I noted a big queue forming up. That was the George R.R. Martin signing queue. I quickly squelched any plans to get a book signed, but Therese was made of sterner stuff, having bought a collection of his A Song of Ice and Fire prequel novellas in Swedish translation for Hulda. I finally found her in line, outside the building, but in company with two nice Viking re-enactors from Åland and Marie and Magnus, so at least she didn't lack for company.

I had planned to bring Hulda to the talk "Verklighetens Jurassic Park", but Therese elected to go instead. I could take a closer look at Mariehamn's public library, which was quite nice and airy, and used the SAB system, before I went back for more socialising. Then all of us joined the Pride Picnic (Finnish fandom apparently usually have their own section in the Helsinki Pride Parade, but this time it was on the same weekend as Archipelacon). We also finally discovered the nice small playground just outside the conference centre, which made Hulda very happy.

The one programming problem with Archipelacon was the relative lack of kid-friendly stuff to do, but "The Map of Us / Fantasy Portraits" turned out to be quite the hit. While Hulda added to the map (who we joked should be turned over to Stefan for a close reading) I queued for the fantasy portraits. Pau Norontaus did a wonderful quick portrait of Hulda as an austronaut.

Therese had gone to listen to "The Disabled Heroes in Lois McMaster Bujold" by Edward James, which she very much liked, but after that we all went to have dinner together at Dino's, being joined by Marie and Cordelia. Their steak burger was quite nice, but they forgot to bring us our bheers (and wine, in Marie's case). After that, I had to hurry back to prepare for the one panel I was part of: "The Filk of Three Nations".

Dave (USA), Päivi Itäpuro (Finland), and myself (Sweden) were to talk about filk music, and how it is done in our three nations. It was to be followed by the "International Filk Session and Singalong" hosted by Johanna Vainikainen and myself. However, Johanna had trouble with her USB stick and none of us were able to fix it in time before the panel started. We had done decent preparation via e-mail, so the main issue was deciding on which US songs to include in our program. Dave had had decision angst when he realised hardly any of the US songs were known in Finland or Sweden, and he had no idea which US singalong tunes were known here.

ETA: While preparing in the Green Room, the Game of Thrones Burlesque was ongoing in the Main Auditorium. We were paraded with a long sequence of scantily clad people covered in ketchup, much to our amusement.

I opened the panel by singing "A Filk Melody", later on Päivi sang "Winterfell" as an example of the Finnish tradition of writing filks for their GoHs at Finncon, and Dave chose "Hope Eyrie" as his number, enjoining us to join into the chorus. In between we talked about what filk is, how it has developed in the USA, Finland, and Sweden, its themes, its relation to other types of music, and what it's about. I think it went well, and we had an active but small audience (about 15 people, though I didn't do an exact count). Johanna had still not managed to fix her USB stick, so I sang "Our Con on the Way to the Con" while she did some last-minute attempts (which didn't work). So we had Dave lead us into "Banned from Argo" while I tried, and did manage to get it into a working state (it was filled up with invisible files).

We didn't talk too much about US filk history, instead we plugged for Gary McGath's Tomorrow's Songs Today.

Several people left after the panel, but we had more people drop in during the filksing. Some of the songs we sang were "Never Set the Cat on Fire", "HAL's song", "Ditt hem är fandom" (where "everyone" sang their own melody of "This Land Is Your Land", to Dave's consternation as he tried to accompany us on guitar), "Spaceballs", "Pappersframmatningen är trasig", and several Finnish songs that I sadly forgot the titles for. Dave got to close the session with his own "The River". Everyone seemed to have had a good time.

Meanwhile, Therese and Hulda had taken part in the masquerade, as Bobby and Dean from Supernatural. In her Bobby costume and new beard hardly anyone recognised her, and they had enjoyed the masquerade a lot. They plan to practice some sort of scene and enter more masquerades later on.

We went back to the hotel together before I returned to Dino's where my fellow panelists and a few other fans tried to get some dinner while the troubadour abused songs with too much amplification. We went over to the party, but the Brotherhood Without Banner ran their party with far too much amplification too, especially at the start. I had hoped to find a quiet corner for some filking, but that proved impossible.

Sunday proved to be the only day when all of us were at the con early. Therese visited the "LGBT Superheroes" presentation (which had to be moved to a bigger room), and later I listened to "Conrunning in America", where Michael Lee described his experiences, mainly from running CONvergence in Minneapolis. Therese then went to a few more panels and presentations before we had pizza for dinner and I helped carry her stuff to the bus. She was to do the night shift between Monday and Tuesday, and so had to take an earlier ferry.

A bizarre moment was when Bellis and I had to try to explain Roscoe to a bunch of other fans, including some veteran fans from the USA.

Hulda and I could see the closing ceremony, where one winner of the masquerade turned out to be missing (Loki), one invisible (Bilbo, though it was more a case of the presenter not being able to see her), and one present (Darth Maul). Then it was time for the Dead Dog Party, which turned out to be the most enjoyable one. Not too loud music, and no mundanes all over the place. I and Hulda secured a sunny spot in the corner, and sat around chatting for several hours. Before I left I even got the opportunity to sing "Mary O'Meara" in the original Norwegian for Dave.

On Monday we had time to visit the museum ship Pommern and eat lunch with Marie and Magnus before it was time to board the ferry, while we said goodbye to all our Finnish friends due to board the ferry to Turku. On the ferry back, Hulda and her new friend Eddie played happily, with Hulda being taught Minecraft, while I could spend quite some time chatting around with the other fans.

All in all, an excellent con! The program was a little thin on items that fit me, but Therese enjoyed it immensely, and all the items I did go to were of high quality. I could only see a few minor issues, and most of those were fixed without any fuss. I'm especially glad that I managed to meet more of the fans from Malmö, Dave, and Päivi!
Tags: con report, singing

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