More of Neil in Helsinki

Veera’s Finncon Report.

Today was Day 1 of the Comics Festival (19.-20.8.2000) , and Day 2 of the Finncon (18.-20.8.2000) My feet are sore. An hour later: they’re a bit better. A Burton’s Ed Wood later: they’re fine.

Neil gave a speech at the Glasspalace*, in Bio Rex filmtheatre to be more exact. There was a title for this in the programme: “Is there a future for Sandman?”. He spoke of almost every other thing than that, mostly of the films.

He has quite a lot of hair right now. I gathered that he won’t be getting it cut until he finishes American Gods. The Norwegians had told him that a king of their’s had done the same thing, only he wasn’t writing a novel, he was uniting Norway. “Ah, well, that’s a little bit easier” said Neil.

After the speech everybody got out of the theatre – a panel discussion followed within, but we were all after signatures.

I had bought the Dream Hunters paperback, and got it signed, and behaved like a total fangirl, but not in a bad way. Didn’t faint or anything.

I asked him if he remembered me from two years back in Jyväskylä (I had tried to interview him for a Finnish LARP-magazine) and he did. Oh, it was you, he said. Then he said that I had grown. Hm, how odd. Suddenly I’m thinking of elderly relatives.

Didn’t mind it though. I was rather impressed really.

I got my signature, and then I rushed off to the old railway warehouses** where the Comics Festival was being held.

Originally I had intended to draw and Xerox a small comic at a small press (reads: Xerox productions) workshop. Only the workshop proved out to be two great big Canon machines. I should’ve had our originals good and ready for the Behemoths, but I only had sketches with me.

So, then I went to get a signature from Enki Bilal, for a graphic novel of his that my brother has. I was hoping that Bilal might write “pour Sakari” or something over the “Enki Bilal”, and I was pretty sure he was going to do this, since he had even drawn some stuff on other people’s Bilal things. Nobody is ever going believe that the squiggle – it pretends being an autograph – was done by Bilal. With Neil there are at least n and e and g which are recognisable.

After receiving the squiggle I went and bought two ecological carrots, an ecological lemonade and an ecological lollipop. You see, there’s a shop for ecological foodstuffs at the old warehouse. That was my dinner. Not the warehouse but the carrots and the lemonade. I ate the lollipop just now, apple & cinnamon flavour, yuck.

Then I went and waited for the Neil interview to start. The problem with this was that probably most of the audience would have known English better than the interviewer guy.

“How about your relationship with Tori Amos?”

“It’s fine, thank you.” Said Neil.

That’s just one example, but I think I needn’t go further, because obviously he had good intentions, and later on he let Neil just go on about his stuff the way he does, and then everybody was happy.

We got to hear that he had played the big bass – which was new Neil trivia to me – and that he bought the seeds for his big pumpkin project from e-bay for no apparent reason.

I tried to ask about the short, horrid and gory (but great) thing at some scifi site, but couldn’t really deliver my meaning. I guess that at the time even I didn’t know what I was asking. Nevertheless Neil gave an excellent answer on how he doesn’t mind gore when he’s writing it, but that he is a great big wuss otherwise.

After that I stood in line for the third time that day, an got Neil to draw a moon in my sketchbook – I had forgotten my Stardust at home.
Then there was an interview of an Indian cartoonist going on at the time, and there were so few people there that I had to go and watch, so that there’s be one more. Besides, Mike Diana was supposed to appear after the Indian cartoonist, and I was prepared to ensure a seat for myself so that I could see him, and give some rest to my poor feet. Unfortunately Mike Diana happened to be in Gothenburg, Sweden at 19.30 Finnish time when he was supposed to be at the Comics Festival.

I went home after this.


Sunday, second day of the Comics Festival, and third of the Finncon

Well, it turned out that the English of the interviewer wasn’t that appalling when comparing with the panel discussion on myths in literature at 13.00.

I have such strong opinions on this one that it’s only for the best that I shut up about them.

There was a change in the program, so, at 14.30 instead of a Steve Baxter and Ken MacLeod Q&A, there was first Ken MacLeod and then Neil Gaiman doing a reading. MacLeod read something (a bit either from
The Star Fraction or The Cassini Division) with his lovely Scottish accent, which unfortunately was quite difficult to follow for us Finns. After all, we’re only used to the BBC Scots, and rarely have the pleasure of hearing the real thing.

Neil read the story of Essie Tregowan, from American Gods, and boy am I waiting for that book. The Bio Rex is nearly always half empty because the films they run there are too artsy fartsy for the masses. Neil had succeeded in almost filling up the place (it appears that even Neil can’t defeat the Bio Rex jinx completely), and then he mesmerised us with his storytelling. I don’t remember hearing a single beep of a cellphone, and that’s quite an achievement in Finland.

Neil did a little signing after the reading, but me and my friend, we headed off for the underground-comics marketplace at the old warehouses.

After purchasing a few carefully selected comics I went home again.


*Glasspalace was built in – I believe – the 40s, and it is of functionalistic style. It got it’s name because it has a multitude of windows, but this was in the standards of 1940. Nowadays the amount of windows doesn’t really add up to being noteworthy, but the name remains.

** For some odd reason the warehouses are sometimes called the Czar’s Stables, even though it’s unlikely that the Czar ever went near them. They were built to be warehouses for things to be loaded on and from trains about a hundred years ago, so certainly there has been horses around.