I haven’t been opinionating much these days because I’ve been opinionating too much: on the malleability of public opinion (for Nowa Fantastyka), on whether science fiction should be a happy place (for the CBC), on the use of science fiction as a Trojan horse for interdisciplinary communication between the sciences (for the University of Bergen). Right now I’m writing a talk on Hive Minds and Mind Hives for delivery at next week’s SpecFic Colloquium (I really thought I’d have the damn thing finished by now). I can’t put most of that stuff here — not until it’s out of its exclusivity window, anyway — but I’m reminded I’ve yet to wind up the Scandinavia sequence, and that travelogue is sufficiently straightforward that even the bellowing of the drunken Belgians in the next booth won’t be able to keep me from getting it down.
So, where were we?
Right. Kontrast. I would like to be able to report some degree of dissatisfaction.
I mean, it’s kind of my schtick to complain, right? So I would like to be able to report that best-selling fantasy author Joe Abercrombie is a raging egotist, or that Kelly Link‘s kid kept us up at night with her squalling, or that the panelswere lame-ass retreads of tired old themes. Or at least that it rained the whole time we were there, turning the con into a sodden mess.
But I can’t. Joe Abercrombie was the archetypal charming rogue (even if his book-signing lineups were, like, three times longer than they were for any of the rest of us); Kelly Link (whom I’d met just once before, briefly, at a con in Kentucky back in 2001) was an unmitigated delight; the panels sparked, and left me scrambling for cool references on synaptic degradation in hibernating chipmunks. We met Sara Bergmark Elfgren and Mats Strandberg, local fantasy legends who’ve really broken out big internationally. We hung out with a pair of Johans and a kick-ass chef named Daniel who introduced me to the taste of ruminants I’d only read about in fantasy novels. We discovered that coconut plays a far more prominent role in Swedish confections than it does in North American ones, which in and of itself is enough to make me seriously consider moving there. I met fans I’ve spent years corresponding with over e-mail. I got interviewed twice, for Swedes and for Russians. I met the guy I named Blindsight’s vampire after (he does not look anything like Jukka Sarasti, even if they share a Christian name).
I didn’t meet a single person I did not like. Regular readers will know how much it pains me to admit this.
I can cite only two negatives during the whole event. I discovered, during one of the panels, that the whole punchline of a novel I’m currently sketching out may have been scooped by an old David Brin short story (and even that revelation proved to be a source of uproarious mirth, at least for everyone else in the room). And my Guest of Honor interview was slotted opposite a sing-along screening of the Buffy episode “Once More With Feeling” — a conflict that had me seriously considering jamming out on my own interview, at least while “Rest in Peace” and “Standing in the Way” were playing.
I can’t even complain about the weather; it was relentlessly sunny the whole time we were there. Usually, after a solid nonstop week in an alien time zone, I’m a snuffly jet-lagged dishcloth. But I think this trip actually rejuvenated us.
Which was just as well. It gave me the strength to go for a solid week without socks or underwear, after Air Canada sent my luggage to Kazakhstan.