Why are you with Helsinki in 2017?
While working on the bid for Helsinki to get Worldcon for the first time ever (which is being voted on RIGHT NOW, in case you didn’t know! and you can find out how you can still vote here!) … I’m often asked why I’m with the Finns. Now that there’s a competing bid for Washington, DC, why wouldn’t I join the other Americans? I really should’ve written this post ages ago, but love letters take me time to write and are often embarrassing. This is most definitely a love letter to Helsinki.
Helsinki is freaking gorgeous. Seriously.
What’s great about Finland?
There are many reasons why one might join the Finns. They’re efficient and get shit done. They’re hilarious once you get to know them. They’re respectful of your space and need for silence. They’re an amazing group of people. Their country is also really damn beautiful, has incredible sights to see, and makes gorgeous and strange art. You’ve got to love a country where reindeer sleigh is a legitimate form of travel.
That’s not why I’m with the Finns, though.
My connection with the Finns is a personal one, but not familial. So far as I’m aware, I don’t have a drop of Nordic blood in my family tree. I’d love to be wrong! But there’s nothing to indicate that I’m biologically related to a Finn.
The first time I’m aware of meeting anyone from Finland was in December of 2011. I attended an international convention on convention-running, Smofcon, and it was actually in Europe for a change. Hells yes, I wanted to go. With some frequent flyer miles donated from a friend, it was actually possible to get there, so hells yes, I went!
I don’t remember much about the Finns from that visit. I definitely met Jukka Halme and Eemeli Aro there, amongst other international fans. Later on, what was more important was that the Finns remembered meeting ME.
Readercon impacted everything, for me
A year later, I chaired my first Readercon. I was nervous because I’d been to only one day of Readercon prior to chairing the convention.
At con, it seemed to go well. I had a good time. Everyone else seemed to, as well. After the con was over, however, an incident of harassment was reported to us. The Readercon board failed to handle it at all well, initially. You can read more about that on the Geek Feminism Wiki (and other, related issues on the Timeline of Incidents). Rose Fox and I organized a reversal of the board’s decision and (in a loooong committee meeting) finished hammering out a public apology and statement of actions we would take as a convention committee (“concom”) to start to address the issue of harassment within Readercon’s community.
That was an incredibly intense time for me. Among other things, I received a metric ton of email, before and after the reversal of the board’s ruling. My inbox could be easily divided into categories:
- What Readercon (or I) did that we shouldn’t have
- What Readercon (or I) didn’t do that we should have
- What Readercon (or I) should do now
- What Readercon (or I) shouldn’t do now
- Hatemail in general (lots of it…)
- Death threats
There were only two emails that fit into that last category, but they were … memorable. I did not appreciate them, shall we say. Who sends death threats to a stranger on the internet? Horrible people, so far as I can tell. To receive death threats over a science fiction convention seemed particularly absurd. By and large, however, my email’s tone was incredibly shouty. Everyone was angry with me, it seemed.
One singular email from Finland
I received one incredible email in that deluge that fit into a category of “other.” Eemeli Aro emailed with a much simpler message. He said that he saw on the internet that something was going down with Readercon. He asked if I was okay. He expressed appreciation for me as a person, and hoped to see me again at a Worldcon in the future.
When I go back and read Eemeli’s email now, it’s a pretty normal-sounding email from one semi-stranger to another on a sensitive subject. At the time, though? He didn’t yell at me or threaten me. He didn’t treat me as someone whose “fannish reputation” was ruined (in fact, he argued it wasn’t). He sent kindness my way.
So when people ask me why I’m with the Finns, that’s the first reason. The Finns reached out and treated me like a real person when it felt like the rest of fandom was screaming at me and might never stop.
Visiting Finland, myself!
After such kindness from the Finns, I figured I wouldn’t be able to afford to visit their country, but I could help the (sadly unsuccessful) bid for Worldcon in 2015. I joined up and threw a few rather popular parties at conventions in the US. Then, due to an incredible salary raise (50%!) in 2013, I suddenly had extra money in my budget. I decided to go to a Finnish SFF convention myself so I could tell people about it from personal experience!
One of the highlights of my year in 2013 was therefore my first Finnish SFF convention, Åcon6. This was exciting not just because I got to go to a Finnish con for the first time. It was fantastic in particular because at the end of the convention, I was part of something particularly special and unique as far as I’m aware.
I was officially adopted into Finnish fandom.
My Finnish fannish adoption certificate, signed by Eemeli Aro and Karo Leikomaa.
No, really! That happened!
I and a couple of others were called into the bar (the major social space of the con after the function rooms were closed down). There was some laughter, and then, along with three others, I was declared officially an adopted Finnish fan. I have framed the adoption certificate they presented to me, which was drawn by my friend Petri Hiltunen and features several Finnish SFF characters around the border.
I am apparently the alien baby at the top, wrapped in a Finnish flag. I adore this piece of paper. It hangs proudly in my dining room.
I didn’t have to learn any Finnish in order to be accepted into this group, although I have tried to retain basic greetings and courtesies such as “kiitos” and “ole hyvää” (aka “thank you” and “you’re welcome”). I am having great difficulty learning how to roll my R’s, I must say.
Johan and Johan became my new siblings at Åcon6! I make much hay of calling them my siblings. As is my right.
Now I have Finnish siblings!
I wasn’t the only one that Finnish fandom decided to publicly claim that evening. Johan Jönsson, Johan Anglemark, Linnéa Anglemark, and Cheryl Morgan all joined me as siblings. I’m honored to be in such great company! (Cheryl and Linnea weren’t available at the time we took this photo, unfortunately.)
So here’s something I know now about the Finns — they can easily be inspired to do amazing things! They took an offhand remark someone made months prior and from it created this most treasured memory of mine. There was a kind of semi-official ceremony, and they presented us with a very remarkable and unique piece of art. It was fantastic.
(Just saying, Åcon was awesome in 2014, as well. I met Karen Lord! Who is fabulous! I didn’t get adopted there, though.)
Inasmuch as I can sum up …
So, yes. Why am I with the Finns for Worldcon? I have a great love of the Finns, at this point. I’ve now been to several events with them (in Finland, the US, Canada, the UK, as well as other countries). I would love to share Finnish fans with Worldcon (and vice versa). The Finns are, frankly, amazing.
If nothing else, a group that gathers for scifi-themed summer picnicking and sings songs to Cthulhu is a group we should all embrace! (Or possibly fear …?)