Con report: Replicon 2019 (Swecon 2019)

I am freshly back from Västerås, Sweden where Swedish fandom held Replicon 2019, the Swedish national science fiction convention. (N. B.: as is the case with Denmark's Fantasticon, the name is shared with a convention in the US that happens around the same time)

I attended Swecon in Stockholm last year and had quite a good time so I was happy to come back. My friend Tiia joined me as a traveling companion. We took the boat from Turku to Stockholm--this could have gone better as some of the other Finnish fans went from Helsinki. Moreover the Turku crossing is shorter in the wrong way: you don't get enough time to really relax on the boat nor to get a full night's sleep. We were turfed off the ferry at 6 in the morning and had to wander the streets of Stockholm unshowered and in need of breakfast.

Västerås (yes, Westeros) is a pleasant little industrial town. The con venue, the Culturén, was eerie in its resemblance to last year's venue: the same sort of former factory converted into a community center. The Con's layout was similar too, with a larger and a smaller event room.

Swecon 2019 was smaller than last year's, with one of the organizers mentioning to me they'd hoped for 30 or so more day memberships sold. A number of Big Names in Nordic fandom skipped Swecon this year too. I'm not quite sure why this is, other than an unlucky combination of personal circumstances--there was nothing glaringly wrong with the con itself. But with an epic Åcon just two weeks in the past and Finncon close in the future, Replicon may have suffered from unfortunate timing and con fatigue.

World guests of honor Charlie Jane Anders and Analee Newitz took enthusiastic part in the con program, which heavily featured discussion about AI and automation. I'm pleased to have met them both and honored they, and the organizers, felt I had something useful to say in the AI panel I joined them on. There's a barrier con panels on social questions can get trapped in: "hey, we raised some interesting questions, there's a lot to discuss, but unfortunately we're out of time..." I think we actually moved beyond that toward a consensus on taking a side.

As for my own solo talk on the mathematics of black holes...well. Some hiccups--powerpoint somehow skipped a third of the slides when I exported them, so I had to handwave around the missing ones. But beyond that technical issue, getting the level of mathematics down to something easily graspable by a general audience was a bigger challenge than expected (the entire first half of the talk ended up being defining the idea of a Riemannian metric). I'm not going to call it a failure--the people who got what I was talking about enjoyed it--but I think the talk didn't quite reach the ambitious targets that were set for it.

(I have to confess I barely interacted with Swedish GoH's Gunilla Jonsson & Michael Petersén--I don't speak Swedish so didn't go to the Swedish-track program items, and gaming isn't a major area of interest for me)

I missed that there wasn't a big, unofficial fan party during the convention. With Västerås laid out as it is, lots of small hotels and convention attendees sprawled out over a wide area, it was impossible to converge on a single point. As it was I ended up spending a lot of the downtime commiserating with new transplantee to Sweden Ian Sales over beer--we complain about many of the same things.

The bookstore was a joy. As usual I came away mostly with anthologies. One particular gem of a find was The Voice of the Dolphin by Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard, who's not really known as an SF author but who saw writing in the genre as an outlet for his hopes to avoid nuclear war. The bookstore was also very easy for current authors attending the convention to sell books at and between it and direct sales, I sold seven copies of A Funeral for Massachusetts, which is nice :)

Next year's Swecon will be Fantastika 2020, back in Stockholm but quite a bit earlier in the year. Assuming I don't have work commitments that weekend in March I'm looking forward to going.


Edmund Schluessel


  1. Thank you for sharing! Cheers from Carl (in the Replicon committew)

  2. I am the "Planck!" guy. My daughter and I hope to hear another lecture by you next year.