Fantastika 2016 – Swecon 2016

Fantastika 2016 was and will remain a very special convention to me. It was my first convention abroad other than Eurocon and Worldcon. It is also the first (and I certainly hope not the last) step to understand how the fandom works in different countries. Of course, I read about fandom in multiple countries, I looked for reviews and con reports, and I attended Eurocons, which usually gives you a grasp of the local fandom; and yet I still do believe that actually participating in a local event is what gives you a better understanding of the con-lore in a given country. I know that visiting one convention won’t give me a full picture, but one needs to start somewhere.

Fantastika 2016 was a Swedish national convention (Swecon) held between 17 and 19 June in Stockholm. If I had to use only one adjective to describe it, I would choose ‘great’ or ‘terrific’. Well, I have more space than that, so I’ll write some more about this topic.

Panel on feminism in SF Panel on feminism in SF

Decision to go

Firstly – when I decided that I wanted to attend a convention abroad, I had to make a decision where I would go. I checked on Ansible which cons are about to be held that year and I came across Swecon. It had many advantages – I really like Sweden very much, I know that Swedes in general can speak English, and it was going to be held in Stockholm which I really wanted to visit. Finally, I saw that a relatively large portion of the programme would be held in English. So it was a perfect combination of circumstances to start my adventure with fandom abroad. I paid for the membership and offered my help as both a gopher and a possible programme participant (both offers were accepted – yay! :D).

Beginning

So when the day has finally come, I ended my sightseeing tour of Stockholm and went to the Sickla district. Thanks to help of one of the GoHs (Guest of Honour) – Jerry Määttä, I was able to find the convention venue (Dieselverkstaden) and I entered the con. The first thing that really surprised me was the fact that we were not alone in the building. The venue was quite big and the con was located only in one part of it. There seemed to be ‘work as usual’ in the rest of the building. If I understood things correctly, the venue is a local culture centre with a library, a museum and a nice café/restaurant). The second surprise was that it was quite calm – I am used to seeing everyone running around to finish the last preparations for the event just before the convention begins. Here people were quite calm (and there were not too many of them). I offered my help and spent the first hour unpacking books. After the books were mostly unpacked, I was able to attend my first programme item – Opening ceremony.

Beginning of Swecon Beginning of Swecon

Ceremonies

The spirit of Swecon has been released The spirit of Swecon has been released

Opening and closing ceremonies may (or may not) be important. I hoped I would learn something there. And I wasn’t wrong –the spirit of Swecon was released during the opening ceremony. The spirit spends most of the year in a wooden container and is being released only during the convention. I really liked the idea and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the convention, so it seems that the spirit was happy with what was prepared for fans. As for the closing ceremony, it was terrific. Choir Gléowine from the Tolkien Society Forodrim gave a great show. I don’t recall all of the songs they have performed but some of them, like Dragonborn from Skyrim, gave me goosebumps.

Ceremonies

Closing ceremony Closing ceremony

Convention itself

I won’t describe the whole convention hour by hour, but I need to mention a few things. The first one is not related to Swecon itself but rather to Worldcon 75 in Helsinki. I was not able to participate in the staff weekend for W75, so Swecon was my first opportunity to meet the people with whom I’m working on this great project. It was really nice and it gave me a boost of energy.

The programme was to include one programme event in English every hour. At certain times, there were more than one. I can’t judge how good the Swedish programme was, but the English section was really good. I immensely enjoyed the panel about feminist SF in 70’s and today. I’ve also learned a lot during a lecture about interstellar trade. Caroline Mullan’s speech about her times in fandom was interesting and gave me some insight into how fandom has changed over time. I could name more events that I enjoyed, but I think three is enough to show you that the programme was really good and diverse.

Convention hall Convention hall

As I already mentioned, I offered to participate in the programme myself. I was invited to the international fandom panel moderated by Britt-Louise. It was the first panel I have ever participated in outside Poland and I was a little bit stressed how it would go. It seems that it went well (at least from my perspective). Just after the event, I talked to some fans about Polish fandom so it looks like what I had to say was interesting to at least a part of the audience.

Panel on international fandom Panel on international fandom

Meeting Swedish fandom

But the true reason why I went to Swecon was not the programme, it was the people. I wanted to meet Swedish fans and understand their ways. Two situations were extremely pleasant for me – the first one took place during the filk circle on Saturday. When I entered the room, the participants offered to change the repertoire to English songs. Even though I said it wasn’t necessary, they did it anyway. And when the songs were in Swedish or when some discussion took place in Swedish, one of the fans sitting next to me would translate it for me, so I that could understand what is happening. I felt really welcome during the whole convention but this really took my heart. The second situation happened on Sunday when I complained to Britt-Louise that I wanted to attend one of the programme events, but unfortunately it was in Swedish; she asked which one it was and when I told her, she replied that I should have come and asked them to change the language to English and for sure they would do that. It was again a moment when I really felt awesome.

Another very nice thing about Swecon is that it tends to attract a lot of foreigners. I met quite a few fans from Finland (and not all of them were Worldcon staff members). I also saw people from Norway and Denmark – I’m not sure how many of them were on Swecon, but there was a representation at least. Finally, the invited Guests of Honour were also representing different nations.

Books I helped to unpack Books I helped to unpack

If I had to compare Swecon to Polcon, I would have to say that the first one is much smaller. I knew this before attending the con, so it wasn’t a surprise. Still, it is a little puzzling, as there is a chain of bookstores in Sweden devoted to geeks and one would expect that this should visibly influence the number of people attending the con. Still, despite being small, Fantastika 2016 was interesting and definitely worth attending.

During Swecon 2016 I had multiple occasions to meet fans from Sweden (and other countries). Some of the conversations I attended were very short and some were longer. The longest held with Britt-Loise restrained me from attending two programme items. My general impression, confirmed by the situations mentioned above, was that the Swedish fandom is really open. I had a great time in Stockholm and I enjoyed the event so much that I really hope I will be able to attend one of the upcoming Swecons. Unfortunately, I will miss Swecon 2017 – Uppsala’s Kontur, this year.

Poster of Swecon 2017 Poster of Swecon 2017

The next post will be published on March 26th and it will be a report from Conrunner 4.

  • Thanks for the report, and for your kind words about the filk circle that Wolf and I hosted. I’m not sure I switched over too many songs except for the first one, and Wolf predominantly sings in English.

    I think the size of the Swecons you see is a result of a wholly different focus within Swedish fandom than is the case in eg Polish fandom. Our current size of cons are absolutely huge compared to what we had only ten or so years ago. Part of it is that Swedish fandom is absolutely terrible at marketing, but also that we have a different focus in what we want to do. Because there are huge Swedish cons, but they are focusing on anime or cosplay or roleplaying games. They are also much less focused on the participatory aspect, with a structural split between attendees/members and guests/panelists/organisers. Or at least that’s my impression.

    Now that Worldcon is in Helsinki, this culture split becomes far more acute, because suddenly we have a high-status, high-membership event with very high visibility, and a lot of people not used to how “classic” sf fandom does things gets interested but suddenly become confused why some things are done a certain way.

    • Alqua

      I got the impression that more songs were switched to English and I also got the help with translation from Swedish. In fact I have even sang one song in Swedish with everyone else :).

      As for the clash of “classic” SF fandom with people who are not used to it we have such issue in Poland. The amount of members on biggest conventions is so big that the spirit/tradition is not easily passed on to them. I hope it will not result in a big change in traditions we have.

      • The only song that I know was switched to English was exchanting “Filkarvisan” to “A Filk Melody” as my opening song for the circle. Ahrvid (who helped translate for you) also may have switched his repertoire a bit, or he just did the songs he planned anyway.

        Switching our panels to English is quite commonly done at Swedish cons. We don’t get too many foreign members, but we try to take good care of them. Then we have the cases of the Danes, who sometimes switches their panels over to English when there are Swedes in the audience.

        As for keeping our participatory form of fandom, I think it’s one of the main issues facing fandom, because it can really only be learnt by doing, and it’s new to most people encountering it. Every fandom I’m aware of is struggling with this issue, and getting slightly different answers due to where they are starting. I don’t think there is one true answer, but also that getting to visit and being open to other fannish cultures is an important step.

        From what you describe, Finnish and Polish con culture are much more similar than they are to Swedish con culture.

        • Alqua

          I got the impression that there have been more switched songs but it doesn’t matter how many have been changed. What was important to me was a gesture and I am really thankful for that 🙂

          I have similar impression as you that Polish and Finnish fandom are quite similar. I will need to check this this year in Helsinki (and hopefully next year during Finncon).

          I do agree that the participatory form of fandom is to a certain extent endangered and I am not sure what may be a solution here. Still I hope that each country will find it and that we will be able to share our ideas internationally.

  • Thank you Marcin for this kind and interesting report! I have linked to it from the web site for Fantastika 2016, and I hope it is OK if I use some of your photos when advertising a bid for Swecon 2018: Fantastika 2018 in the same venue as Fantastika 2016. It will take place on June 15-17. Hope to see you there!

    • Alqua

      Hello Tomas, I hope I will manage to visit Fantastika 2018 :).
      As for the usage of my pictures you can use them. It would be just good if you would mention that they are from Fandom Rover. Also if you would like to have bigger version of those pictures please let me know at alqua(_AT_)fandomrover(dot)com and I can share them with you.