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Friday, August 18, 2017 - 07:42

Thursday was both leisurely and taken up entirely by travel. After a lazy breakfast, I could the train from Deventer at 11am. Local to Schiphol, then the Thalys to Brussels, the Eurostar to London, one train up to York, then a change for the last leg to Durham. The changes all had plenty of time to find my platform, but never really enough time to stop and look around or do more than grab something to eat later on the train. At King's Cross Station I didn't feel like there was enough time to go slip through the door at platform 9-3/4 (which would have totally screwed up my travel plans, in any event), and yet somehow today I found myself within the walls of Hogwarts in any case:

Which is, of course, actually the cloister of Durham Cathedral. Today I got a walking tour all over the cathedral, castle/university, and city center, including a few locations (like the Senior Commons Room) that came courtey of being hosted by university faculty. Central Durham is another great example of integrating older buildings with a vibrant thriving town center. One fellow passing by who heard me being given a tourist lecture told us about how great it was that the shops and buildings were occupied and open now, and that when he was younger so many of the old buildings were boarded up. When you hear people talking about the world going downhill, I think it's important to take note of all the success stories you see of urban revivial and the ability to have the best of both the past and the present. Like the way that so much of the Bailey area in Durham is a living part of the university.

We adjourned for late lunch in a cafe as my feet were beginning to flag. Keeping up with the energy of someone as young as Gwen it quite an undertaking! But the city is full of lovely walks, with wild blackberries and plums for the picking, and people lazily rowing past in boats, and the cobbled streets full of tourists and shoppers. We have a pencilled-in plan to all go to York on Sunday, since my interest was a good excuse for the whole family to do some sightseeing. Tomorrow may be a bit more leisurely.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017 - 00:17

Wednesday was another ambling around Deventer day. Irina and I went off to various shops to pick up so specialty cheese and wurst to take to Sara & Co. on my next stop. (Also some cheese for me to take home, once I'd verified that their packaging technique would pass customs.) Then just more wandering with tour guide: tracing the old city walls (both the earthwork built against the Vikings and the medieval stone wall that can still be seen in fragments and lasted into the early 17th century (IIRC). Met the rest of the household at De Rode Kater (The Red Cat) for lunch, which was also where Irina and I returned for dinner. We also enjoyed a long pleasant evening on the rooftop patio, watching the bat go after insects and discussing books and philosophy and whatnot.

Today will be another travel day: local train back to Schiphol, Thalys high-speed rail to Brussels, Eurostar to London, the local train to Durham. The schedule is such that I actually go past to York and then backtrack to Durham. I'm idly wondering if there might be a day-trip to York possible, but I'm sticking to my plan of people-over-places so it will be as it falls out. Given that schedule, I don't anticipate (I hope!) having anything exciting to post about tomorrow.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017 - 01:25

When I thought about what I wanted to do to extend my trip a little (because it seems silly to fly all the way to Europe and not do a bit of extra traveling), I decided that rather than focus on museums and castles and whatnot, I wanted to spend the time visiting people--especially people that I've known for quite some time and had never met in person. I met Irina way back during Usenet days on rec.arts.sf.composition, so that would be about 20 years ago or so. She's been a beta reader for a number of my stories and books, but up until last week we'd never been in the same time and place. So she was on the short-list of people I wanted to visit and here I am in Deventer, Netherlands.

Mind you, if I'd known that I'd get to stay in a building with a 12th century basement, I'd have been even more certain I wanted to visit! The picture above is the view from my (4th floor) bedroom. The basement and ground floor belong to the Russian Orthodox church that Irina belongs to, and she and her husband own the upper stories. The upper parts of the house are mostly 18-19th century with a few bits of older wall, but here's what the basement looks like:

Other than relaxing and chatting, I'm gotten to spend a lot of time wandering around with a personal tour of many of the older parts of the town. Deventer is a great example of integrating older buildings and newer construction into modern commercial and residential functions. Much of the older part of town has cobbled streets and restricted automobile access (though many bicycles!) so it has a slight feel of an extended pedestrian mall. Here's a random example--just an ordinary neighborhood.

I've been taking lots of notes and pictures relevant to early 19th century vernacular architecture and town layout. (I wonder why?) There will be more pictures and descriptions on facebook. And now, I'm going to go shopping for cheese...

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - 00:00

I'm drafting this up while sitting in the Helsinki airport Monday morning but don't plan to post it until Tuesday (to avoid bumping the week's LHMP entry off the front page). But then, I don't figure much of interest will happen for the rest of the day except travel and convention recovery. Sunday morning, having no panels of interest until 11am, I stopped by the WSFS business meeting and helped skate through the remaining agenda items (mostly various housekeeping votes) in record time. The panel I wanted to attend was "Moving Beyond Orientalism in SFF" which was a good solid introduction to "why orientalism is bad". After that, I moved into the realm of "I'm too tired to do much except wander around vaguely." I did finally bump into Tero (whose wedding to my late friend Judy was the occasion of my previous trip to Finland) -- he'd been cosplaying most of the event, so I think I can be forgiven not saying hi earlier!

The panel on "using history for worldbuilding" that I was moderator for went smoothly, except that we had one mic for five people so we punted and begged anyone with hearing impairments to move to the front. I sincerely apologize for this divergence from policy, but try to pass a single mic around during a panel discussion does great damage to the discussion flow. Passing a single mic also would have made it more difficult to try to do turn-taking management--at which I was not as good as I aim for. I hadn't quite expected the conversation dominance to come from the direction it did and wasn't prepared to manage the reins in the way that was needed. (Folks: even very very nice, knowledgeable, entertaining panelists need to self-monitor for hogging the speaking time.)

I hung around for the closing ceremonies, mostly because I needed the psychological closure. (I dislike it when the con just sort of dribbles down to a stop.) Then dashed off to drop stuff at my hotel and join Phiala and Thorvaldr for a nice dinner at a restaurant that specialized in traditional Finnish food. I had the pike-perch with wild mushroom sauce, but we traded around bites, so I also got some sauted reindeer and pan-fried herring.

And then it was a matter of setting my alarm early enough to get to the airport for an 8am flight. Except that the flight was overbooked and they were asking for volunteers to get bumped. I volunteered, despite it meaning changing planes in Copenhagen and not getting in to Schiphol until 2pm. I'd actually considered that flight when originally making my reservations, but opted for the early non-stop instead. Honestly, if I'd had the choice between the 200-Euro compensation and sleeping later, I would have picked sleeping later! But I volunteered, in part, because I could. So here I am, having time to finally watch the YouTube video of the con's opening ceremonies and then type this up for later posting.

Postscript: Arriving in Schiphol, it turned out my luggage was lagging behind somewhere. It had to happen at least once on the trip. It will be delivered sometime this morning (Tuesday) so no harm, no foul. Tomorrow I will blog about Irina & Boudewijn's lovely house with pictures of the view from my bedroom window.

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Sunday, August 13, 2017 - 20:30

The image of Spanish convent life in the age of colonial expansion often overlooks the social consequences of convents being the sole alternative to marriage for women of good birth and good reputation. That meant that a lot of the nuns were educated, sophisticated, and relatively lacking in religious vocation. Convent rules tried to find a middle gound between the ideals of exclusive devotion to God and the recognition that they were dealing with a lot of young women who were lonely and desperate for affection. While the dynamics discussed in this chapter are inspired by a consideration of lesbian desire in convents, a great deal of the material is less about sex and more about trying to manage that sort of hot-house emotional environment.

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Full citation: 

Velasco, Sherry. 2011. Lesbians in Early Modern Spain. Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville. ISBN 978-0-8265-1750-0

Publication summary: 

A study of the evidence and social context for women who loved women in early modern Spain, covering generally the 16-17th centuries and including some material from colonial Spanish America.

Chapter 5: Special Friendships in the Convent

Concerns about same-sex relations in convents date back at least to the time of Saint Augustine in the 5th century. Those concerns covered even trivial actions like hand-holding and terms of endearment, showing that some of the concern was for the particularity of the friendship, not specifically the possibility of sex. Activities that were a cause for concern could be discouraged with corporal punishment as well as lesser penances.

Co-sleeping was a special concern, and care was taken that two women would not have private sleeping arrangements together. Sleeping arrangements in convents might involve single-person cells or communal dormitories, generally with rules against two people having privacy together. The forbidden activities that were specified included “talking together late at night” and thus breaking the rule of silence.

The rules against developing “special friendships” often mentioned a purpose of preserving harmony in the convent and avoiding favoritism. These concerns were not limited to same-sex interactions--there were similar concerns about relations between the nuns and the priests that attended to the spiritual needs of the institution, or visiting male relatives--but of course the demongraphics made female same-sex interactions the greatest temptation.

Visiting priests were sometimes instructed, in essence, to spy on the prioress to ensure that she herself didn’t have favorites (since she was supposed to prevent it in others). There’s an acknowledgement that the prioress may reasonably spend more attention on nuns “who are more discreet and intelligent” and thus might be assisting in administrative duties. In addition to the cautions and rules, there are regular loopholes, such as this type, that created the potential for a variety of approaches and responses. The visiting priests were also advised not to make a big deal out of unimportant behavioral infractions, lest the convent’s reputation be damaged. But visiting priests were not always on the enforcement side, witness an 1819 Inquestion investigation of a (male) confessor who urged the nuns in his care to engage in same-sex activity for his gratification.

Saint Teresa of Avila, in her instructions for convents, laid out the potential consequences of allowing particular friendships. They could cause jealousy between nuns, but also interfered with focusing one’s love on God. Even as instructions like this provided lists of detailed prohibiltions, they normalized the expectation that “particular friendships” woud occur in ordinary circumstances. And there was a contradictory expectation that nuns should show love and affection for each other--just not too much, and not too specifically.

Saint Boniface listed seven potential signs of forbidden carnal love between nuns. (Note that “carnal” is contrasted with “spiritual” and doesn’t necessarily imply “sexual”.) 1: Conversation that includes jokes and laughter, 2: looks of affection and accompanying each other everywhere, 3: experiencing worry and anxiety, 4: jealousy, 5: anger between the two women when they fight, 6: exchanging gifts and favors, 7: defending each other or covering up for each other.

Why was the primary focus on non-sexual behaviors? Were sexual activities considered less important, or was there concern that if sex were specifically mentioned it would “give women ideas”? Recall that lesbianism was called peccatum mutum “the silent sin” because it often was not mentioned in specific terms.

These concerns about favoritism played out in Saint Teresa’s own life and her special friendships with two protegés who laid claim to continuing her legacy. The description of Teresa’s relationship with Ana de San Bartolomé reads like a template for forbidden “particular friendships”. They shared a cell, talked together regularly, and were inseparable. After Teresa’s death, Ana had other particular friendships with nuns, resulting in jealousy and protestations of exclusive love, as recorded in her letters. Letters are a fertile ground for data on the actual emotional relationships between nuns that express particular love and longing and a desire for affirmation. Convent records of the 17th century record numerous investigations of passionate friendships, all of which are recorded as having successful reform as a conclusion, often with supernatural elements in how the issue was discovered.

The text digresses somewhat curiously into a Chilean folktale that is clearly based on the medieval tale of Yde and Olive. A woman takes on male disguise to escape her father’s incestuous advances, had adventures, and eventually marries a princess who is delighted to discover that her “husband” is actually a woman. When this secret is betrayed and they are near discovery, the disguised woman is granted a miraculous sex-change. The connection with the rest of the chapter is that, like one of the convent investigations, there is a magical flying crucifix involved. [I included the reference here to keep track of the Yde & Olive variant.]

Not all same-sex relations in convents were consensual. An early 18th century Colombian nun recourts unwanted sexual advances from other nuns and becoming a cause of jealousy between other women.

There is a discussion of theatrical performances in convents, including nuns performing as actors. This was not considered a sin if done only for entertainment. Topics of the plays could include passionate friendships between nuns, as well as similar allegorical themes. This is another indication of the normalization of these relationships.

Another source of potential concern, espeically in Spanish colonial areas, was relations between (upper class) nuns and the lay serving women who lived with them. This pattern seems to have been less prevalent in Spain itself.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017 - 23:33

Two days at once! I had the podcast blog to post yesterday, so here you get caught up on both Friday and Saturday at the con. I've fallen in with a regular breakfast group at the hotel (some of them even came to my historic fantasy panel, though maybe they would have anyway), so that initial sense of disconnection is falling away. The first Friday panel I wanted to attend was at noon so I spent the first couple hours of the day participating in the business meeting. I have nothing but admiration for folks who dedicate much of their worldcon mornings to the business meetings--I spent a fair amount of time there last year to support various of the Hugo nomination reform initiatives, but it's hard to choose it over other programming. As it was, this time, I had to choose between staying long enough to be there to support ratification of the new YA book award, or leaving in time to get in line for the "Female Friendship in Fiction" panel. I stayed (and we ratified) and then found the panel had maxed out, so I hung around to slip in when someone else left. A good panel, though it's hard to sit on your hands when panelists are bemoaning how hard it is to find books that feature friendships between women and you want to stand up and wave your own books around. (I was good. I just subtweeted about it.)

I hung around after the panel to introduce myself to one of the panelists (Navah Wolfe) whom I know from a social media space and who will be on the same flight to Amsterdam tomorrow morning. I wanted to introduce myself to Amal El-Mohtar who was also on the panel and who I've interacted with on Twitter occasionally (and who did the introduction for my Podcastle story), but she was deep in conversation with some other folks and I had to run to my signing. I probably won't get another shot at this con because her short story "Seasons of Glass and Iron" won a Hugo and I imagine she's being overwhelmed by people who want to talk to her.

Anyway, I'd primed the pump sufficiently for my signing session that several friends came to hang out and keep me company, but I also had half a dozen people come by either with books to sign (wow!) or interested in taking one of the "Mazarinette and the Musketeer" chapbooks that I'd brought so I'd have something to sign. So a group of us adjourned to lunch afterward. I figured a sizeable lunch was in order since my later panel rolled directly into the Hugo Award ceremony slot and there's be no time then.

That later panel provides today's photo: ALien Language in Science Fiction featuring (from left to right in the picture) Lawrence M. Schoen (involved with the Klingon Language Institute), David J. Peterson (alien language consultant to Hollywood, including for Game of Thrones, and incidentally a student of mine back in my grad school days which gives us content for some amusing banter on panels--a great guy), Stephen W. Potts (author of academic and critical writing on SFF), me, and Cora Buhlert (German translator and writer of SFF). It was a longer panel slot than most, which gave us scope for a lot of interesting discussion about just how alien a language can be before it takes over the plot, how to handle the question of translation in portraying multi-species linguistic interactions, and some of the dynamics of interacting with television and movie producers as a language consultant. There was a general sense that Hollywood is becoming more interested in and more willing to take languages seriously in portraying SFF-nal societies, though there's always the pressure not to drive away audience attention.

Since the panel slot ran until 7:30 (though it gets out a little earlier) and the Hugo ceremonies were scheduled to begin at 7:30, I'd lost all chance of meeting up to sit with any of my default groups. And though I scanned the bleachers for quite a while looking for a seat, I couldn't find anyone until I'd given up and went off to sit by myself and then ran into Kathryn Sullivan who I'd been chatting with in several contexts over the several previous days. So that was nice. The ceremony was very enjoyable and fortunately this year there wasn't any anxiety that the atmosphere would be hijacked by Puppy hijinx. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it.)

After the ceremony, I wandered around a bit looking for someone to have a spot of dinner with and found Anna Feruglio Dal Dan was of a similar mind, so I finally enjoyed a bowl of the famous Helsinki "creamy salmon soup" that all the cafes advertise, which just hit the spot. So far, I haven't done any "evening parties" as such. Due to the venue restrictions, all the bid parties and the like are in a large common space in the convention center, which means the noise levels are even worse than a hotel suite would be. And since everyone's spread out across many hotels, there isn't an obvious place to go for a bar-con. The third element is that every evening except this one I've ended up back downtown for dinner, and simply didn't feel like taking the train back to the convention center on the off chance that I might find congenial company. This has been good for my sleep, and I've been having plenty of social time otherwise, so I'm ok about it.

I finally got the hang of getting a long night's sleep Friday night, which contributed to not getting a blog written yesterday morning. (I also didn't want to bump the podcast blog off the front page while everyone back in the states was still asleep.) So I rolled into the convention center just in time to get a good seat for the "Gender and 'Realistic History'" panel, which didn't tell me anything new, but it's nice to hear other people saying the same things I rant about. A chance encounter in the hallway after that panel had me helping track down a program schedule for a local fan/press-person who was attending his first big convention. He treated me to coffee in thanks and we joined Cathering Lundoff who was also enjoying a cup right next to where we got ours, so who knows, she and I may end up in some local article. Then I stood in line to get into "Feminist and Queer Readings of Fantasy Tropes" which was enjoyable although I no longer remember anything specific that was said. After that, my brain kind of went on strike and I decided to just sit with a cup of coffee outside the Fazer Cafe (in the main cross-roads of convention center traffic) and watch people go by.

I had a dinner date set up with (pseudonym =) Praisegod Barebones and daughter, to which I'd added @jennygadget who I hadn't seen since we had lunch together in Berkeley a couple years ago when she was jobhunting. Our initial ideas about restaurants were pre-empted by a sudden violent rainstorm just as we were passing by an Indian restaurant--a fortuitous chance. It is just possible that I have developed the knack for putting together congenial dinner groups because we had just a great conversation that we stayed until closing time, talking about libraries, and schools, and books, and all sorts of things.

And so, now we're here at the last day of the con. I have one more panel to moderate this afternoon, and no doubt the pangs of watching people dash off for flights and trains. My own flight is at 8am tomorrow, and Monday is my LHMP day in any event, so expect the final wrap-up on Tuesday when I'm ensconsed in Deventer, Netherlands enjoying a visit with Irina.

(Image credit: Melanie Marttila, used with permission)

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Saturday, August 12, 2017 - 07:00

Today the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast interviews author Catherine Lundoff about her historical and historically-inspired fiction featuring women-loving-women. Catherine also writes some great science fiction and fantasy and has started a new publishing house: Queen of Swords Press. Find out more about her projects in the interview!

Listen to the podcast here at the Lesbian Talk Show site, or subscribe through your favorite podcast aggregator, such as iTunes, Podbean, or Stitcher.

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Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 22:56

The photo is of the Belge Cafe where I had dinner in company with a number of other denizens of the File 770 blog, once more including my first face-to-face meeting with someone I've known online since Usenet days (Anna Feruglio Dal Dan). The cafe has a "library" theme, which was part of the attraction, though the food was also excellent. But I get ahead of myself.

I had a 10am panel (Historical Fantasy) which was the first time-slot of the day's programming. So of course I headed off to the convention center with plenty of time, not noting that the doors didn't even open until 9am. And the food vendors inside the center weren't planning to open until 10, which would have been less of an issue regarding my second cup of coffee of the day if the Green Room had been open and set up. But although it opened about five minutes before the panel started, so we panelists managed to touch base there, but coffee carafe did not yet have contents. Whimper. The panel went off well, I think (supported by some later audience feedback). It still felt a bit stiff with the "you will all take turns answering this question" format, but I can cope with a variety of styles. We basically did some stabs at definitional principles for historical fantasy, examples of what we considered success and failure, and a few additional topics.

The room was completely filled, though I don't think anyone was turned away from our particular panel. They're rearranged some of the programming space to move the more popular tracks into larger spaces for the rest of the convention and even yesterday before they'd done that, there were fewer grumbles about not being able to get into events. (Though there were always lines waiting to get in.) The waiting-on-line aspect is something I'd hate to see become a feature of worldcons--it's something I associate with media conventions and not to be imitated.

Lunch was yet another meet-up of one of my online social groups. Social media can often feel like a one-way glass window, where if I'm not constantly actively participating, it feels like I stop being real. But the face-to-face meet-ups go a long way toward making it feel more like an actual circle of friends. It's funny, there are people that I feel like I'm part of a friend-group with, where I realize that they may not actually "know" me at all, because I'm seeing them reflected off mutual friends. So it can be strange to approach someone at a con and try to remember whether this is someone I "know" or simply someone I "know of".

After lunch I dropped by to give moral support to Catherine Lundoff at her signing. The row of signing tables was basically half a dozen people looking rather lonely, and then the table where George R R Martin was going to be an hour later, which had a line of waiting people that numbered in the hundreds. See above comment about waiting on lines. The big name authors usually have significant lines for signings at Worldcon, but not usually ones that line up hours in advance. (I saw a comment that someone said they'd spent 4 hours in line for him.) Again, I hope this doesn't become a feature, and I don't know that it was necessary. But if you have a line-standing expectation, it's easy for line-standing to become necessary.

Went off to a panel on magical libraries and archives in fiction, which was entertaining, though perhaps a bit too fixed on talking about real-world library systems. I'd wanted to go to Amal El Mohtar's reading immediately after that but figured there was no point given the crowding issues, and only heard later that there were still spaces at the time I would have shown up. Ah well.

Finished off the evening with a long chatty dinner with the File 770 crowd, for which see above photo.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017 - 22:17

I don't seem to have taken any pictures yesterday -- need to remember to do that today. The convention officially opened, though I had something else opposite the opening ceremonies so I can't report on them. There is evidently a certain amount of "victims of their own success" going on with much higher at-con membership sales than expected, so the popular events and panels are jam packed. So maybe I wouldn't have gotten in to the opening ceremonies anyway. The main "large panel" space has four breakout rooms, and originally the largest panels were going to be in a the combined A/B section, but for the one thing I attended there -- the Tea & Jeopardy podcast live interview with George R R Martin -- they'd opened up the entire A/B/C/D combined space. (Back before the convention, the podcast had arranged for podcast Patreon supporters to sign up for special reserved seating, which I did, but when I got there it was clear that any plans of that sort had gone out the window. Or at least none of the crowd control folks knew anything about it.) The convention has put out announcements that they're scrambling to arrange for more function space with the convention center, and they've had to close down one-day memberships. I've heard bits of grumbling about basically not being able to attend anything back-to-back both because of traffic flow issues and the need to queue up well in advance to get into anything. It will be interesting to see if things settle out or escalate.

I didn't have any programming yesterday, and no must-do events other than the initial File770 social meetup and the Escape Artists meet-up (Escape Artists runs a series of fiction podcasts, including which has bought two of my "Merchinogi" short stories.) The layout of the convention center is great for sitting down in one of the cafe areas and watching people go by (or wandering by people hanging out in the cafe areas), which is how I immediately ran into Irina Rempt (also on my list to visit after the con) and her friend Eleanor, then later once again bumped into Praisegod Barebones & The-Girl-from-Ankyra (with whom I'd had coffee the day before) at which we exchanged gifts (I brought a stack of chapbooks of "The Mazarinette and the Musketeer" for gifts), and others who are slipping my mind. Briefly bumped into Kari Sperring (whose schedule didn't work out for an after-con visit) and dropped by the Accessibility Point to wave hi to a couple friends who were staffing it.

As noted, I did got to the Tea & Jeopardy live recording, which worked very well as a stage presentation (including the singing chickens...who were simply too shy to come out from behind the curtain). Good audience participation schtick too. Then I went to a panel on "The Medieval Mind and Fantasy Literature" looking at contrasts between actual medieval history and culture, and the version that tends to show up in fantasy. (Generally good, though marred slightly by one of the panelists have a problem with taking 100 words to present a 5-word thought.)

In the mean time, thanks to the wonders of social media, I'd responded to a dinner-fishing post from Catherine Lundoff and her wife Jana with a suggestion to merge in my existing dinner plans with Sarah Goslee and husband Thorvaldr (I'm going to mix names from different spheres based on what I can remember most easily), to which Catherine had added Paul Weimer, Charlie Stross, and oh-crap-I'm-blanking-on-Charlie's-partner's-name-sorry! Dietary specifications landed us in a tiny vegan Vietnamese place where our moderate-sized party took up half the tables. Lovely conversation that wasn't all politics (though politics featured significantly), nor all about writing (though writing featured significantly), with most of us continuing on to a brew pub that it turns out was just a block away from my hotel.

This morning's hotel breakfast landed me with a group I'd seen yesterday, where I valiantly struggled to hold up my end of a discussion of current SFF television and movies. And now, in addition to writing this up, I'm reviewing my notes for my morning panel on historic fantasy (for which the moderator has sent out a somewhat over-structured outline for the discussion, but I'm sure it will go fine). Other than that, the fixed items on my schedule are three more social meet-ups (two of which conflict, so I may have to triage, since one is at the convention center and the other downtown for a loose dinner group). And beyond that, whatever programming I can squeeze myself into. See you on the flip side!

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017 - 23:01

"Reception" is meant in several senses. The picture is not the official Worldcon reception at City Hall (which was a bit too washed out to make a good image)...but I get ahead of myself. One of the fascinating things about online culture, is that not only am I meeting people that I've known for years but have never seen face to face, but in some cases I'm meeting people I've known for years and realize I have no idea what their real names are. In the case of yesterday's coffee meet-up there's an objective reason for this (he's an ex-pat teaching in a country with touchy politics and doesn't want to connect his online and real life identities), but often it's just a matter of knowing someone through the nickname they use in a particular online space. That's who they are, as much as any name is "who you are". I joke that the first time I went to the medieval studies conference at Kalamazoo, between people I knew through SCA, people I knew through academia, people I knew through LiveJournal, people I knew through Usenet, and people I knew through other people talking about them, I had a vision of quite how many people I was likely to run into that I already knew...and then discovered that, due to redundancy, the actual number of discrete individuals was much smaller.

In any case, I had coffee with someone I know as Praisegod Barebones and with his daughter (just about to go off to college) who has become a charter member of the unofficial official Alpennia fan club. And because the next thing on their agenda was wandering around the farmers' market/tourist market at the harbor, we ended up spending several hours together. Checked out the interior of the Orthodox cathedral, shared a basket of billberries from the market, and then split up with they went off to do a ferry tour of several islands.

I headed back to my room for a bit of a rest (valiently struggling to not nap), and then eventually headed off to the Worldcon reception at City Hall (evidently they did a random pick of people who were participating in programming--or at least that's what I heard, which caused a bit of a wave of consternation when people tried to figure out why some people got invited and others didn't, without knowing about the random factor). A bit of speechifying, a light buffet of cocktail food, and a lot of milling about struggling to socialize. Within two minutes I was at the point of "I recognize six people in this room and they're all in the middle of knots of friends", so I shifted gears into "walk up and introduce myself to people who are standing all by themselves and break the ice by saying that that's what I'm doing." Eventually bumped into several people I actually did already know, but cocktail parties are always about survival mode.

Expecting (accurately) that the reception wouldn't be anything resembling a real meal, I'd hoped to hook up with people planning to go off to dinner afterward, but failed to make any connections. Since I had a phone call to make I went back to my room (I thought I needed to sort out something with my ATM card, but it turned out I'd just happened to hit the one malfunctioning ATM in all Helsinki and thought it was my account that was the problem). Still needed dinner after that and made some connection attempts on social media but nothing panned out with the right timing so I ate by myself at a pasta place with some nice patio seating on the main square. I always feel like a failure when I eat by myself at conventions. I failed again at breakfast this morning despite the hotel filling up with con goers, and me wandering through the (open seating) dining room hopefully trying for eye contact. My game isn't getting off the ground so far, but half the dinners from here on are already scheduled, so that should get better.

I've packed my backpack with essential supplies (business cards, Alpennia badge ribbons, sample books, a change of shirt) since the hotel is a train stop away from the convention center. Helsinki doesn't have a single big convention space + hotel so we're scattered throughout the downtown area. I'm assuming I won't be coming back to my room until evening most nights.

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