A Whistle-Stop Tour of Worldcon75, Helsinki Day Three

Day Three – Aug 10: Immerse

Penny and I developed our morning routine: I’d get up, Penny would roll around on the air mattress making terrible sounds of woe, like a mortally wounded porpoise, while I made tea and coffee. Despite horrendous amounts of faffing about, we breakfasted, cleansed, made sandwiches and escaped the flat just after 9. God, I both love and hate those bicycles – three gears is not enough to ever feel like you’re cycling quickly, and for some reason that made it exhausting. My lungs were even unhappier in Helsinki than they are at home, but at least they kept pumping (unlike that horrible period on the flight over when I found I couldn’t breathe at all).

We made it! And that meant we could get into panels – specifically one with two of our authors, In Defense of the Unlikeable Heroine with Alex Wells and Kameron Hurley. The panel was in the enormous 101a&b rooms. The panellists were suitably badass, and unrepentant about challenging the evident double standards for male and female heroes. It gave me plenty to think about, and to remember to think about when I’m evaluating characters in the books I read. Thanks!

I stayed put, through laziness, and a desire to see Robert Silverberg talking about stuff, for Appeal of the Bland Protagonist. It was a rather odd panel, with people one more seeming to take it all very literally. No one wants a bland protagonist, but the ‘normal everyman’ tossed into extraordinary situations is pretty much a staple of all fiction, but they only reluctantly reached that conclusion at the end. I did like that Silverberg said that he rarely thought of the readers once he was writing – his only concern was the story itself. In rare form, I then managed to get into a third panel in a row: Kalevala – Finland’s Own Superheroes! A fascinating dive into the Finnish folk epic, moderated by our very own Craig Cormick. I know very little about Finnish folklore, so I was both lost and delighted.

Since we’d finally acquired Craig, we could return to the resting state of BarCon, where we also met Anne Lyle, yet another of our lovely and interesting authors. Much of the usual babble, plus I finally found Adrian and Annie Tchaikovsky, who are always an absolute delight.

After that, my usual inability to get into panels resumed so I returned to the Dealers Hall. The fantastic Lego I’d noticed on day one was still there, so I had an opportunity to chat with the builder, Eero Okkonen, who had built a tonne of fantastic Discworld and Star Wars characters. He’s got a great writeup of the event and his various models over at his blog cyclopicbricks. He also tipped me off about Helsinki’s Lego shop (more on that later in the week). I had a rather lovely time wandering around, poking at various pretty things and books people had written.

Time for food – Penny and I headed off for dinner with Anne Lyle. Pen had the genius idea of just hopping on a tram and getting off when we saw somewhere to eat. We ended up in a very stabby looking area, but did find what seemed to be the Finnish equivalent of a Harvester, Weeruska. They do an exquisite risotto. I was getting a bit jittery about time, since I needed to be back at the con for 9 to do the improv show.

Incredibly, we made it back just in time (allowing for a spot of running on my part). Of the 30 peeps from the workshop the day before, 7 of us had come back for more inWhose Con Is It Anyway? I was very happy to see Carrie and Hiren there, along with a couple of the guys we’d played with on Wednesday. The show was a suitable amount of carnage for a very amateur gang, and the audience were generous and fun. We played some games I would never have considered – like a weird Star Trek setup where you have two redshirts describing the environment, and the one where someone else provides your arms. We did manage to get some story into them though, otherwise I think it would have just hurt. About halfway through, Lizzit (our organiser) confessed that she’d left her notes, plan and laptop on a bus earlier! I offered to help and guided the mob through Story-Story-Die, and what became a really good Trigger Words scene for all of us, based in a restaurant.

Our attempts to have team post-show drinks were thwarted by insane queues, so I bounced off with Penny, the Patels, and Eric and his other half, Tara (the magnificent craftmistress of the mountains). We headed into darkest Helsinki, in search of beer. Our first stop was a bar whose name I cannot, for the life of me recall, but it was nice… Then back to the Rock Church and Storyville. We were too late for music, but not too late to sit outside and late drink into the night. I found myself drinking Brewdog’s Punk IPA, which was pretty good. It was lovely intimate night out, and a lot of fun.

I don’t know how we got home.

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