We met up with Stefan for breakfast, and then walked into Gamla Stan again. fjm wanted to buy me volume 1 of the K.J. Parker trilogy in the SF Bookshop, but they didn’t have it… only 2 and 3. So we bought volume 1 of a Lois McMaster Bujold fantasy series instead (we both love her science fiction, but had not tried the fantasy – partly because the blurbs always look so awful. But, then, a blurb for The Lord of the Rings probably would sound pretty silly too). I have now started reading Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion, and am enjoying it immensely. Yes, the blurb is terrible.
We only did one short piece of tourism, though it was really interesting. We went into one of the most prominent of the centrally located churches: the church on Riddarholmen, which is a small island, almost totally filled with grand public buildings of various sorts, just west of Gamla Stan. The church itself, with a tall lacy cast iron steeple, was medieval; originally it had belonged to a friary. It was, by English standards, small: no bigger than a moderate-sized parish church. But it was the burial place for the Swedish royal family over quite a long period, and although it had ceased to be a church in 1807, it was still used for memorials to members of the Order of Seraphim. Simply by looking at the memorials, which listed date of induction into the Order as well as death-date, we worked out that the order had been founded in 1748 (subsequently confirmed by Wikipedia!). I had never seen anything like the memorials, though. They covered most of the walls of the nave and chancel. They were square black sheets of metal, maybe half a metre on each side, painted with the coat of arms of the person, with name, titles, induction date and death date. They had two holes at the top, and were hung from the walls by hooks; many of them overlapped each other. All the early ones were of Swedish nobility, but around the time of the Napoleonic Wars foreign heads of state were being honoured by a knighthood of the Order of Seraphim. The earliest I spotted was Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil (d. 1834). In the post-war period they come thick and fast: there was George VI (“of Great Britain and Ireland”), General De Gaulle, the Emperor of Japan, and others who have totally slipped my mind… And in much more recent times, there were actually some women, though I think they were all members of the Swedish royal family. (I didn’t see Queen Elizabeth II!)
Basically we planned to miss the first two sessions of the convention, as the items were in Swedish. Though we have been told several times that if we were both in the room (or even one of us?) the language would immediately switch to English. But the thought of that makes us feel so guilty! Anyway, we had an early lunch in a very nice Swedish-style restaurant in the main tourist street (most of the other big restaurants appeared to be Italian-style), and it proved to be excellent. We were back in the convenion centre by one or so.
fjm really earned her keep in the afternoon. She had her “Guest of Honour” talk at 2, and panels at 4 and 6. The Guest of Honour talk went down very well: a mixture of autobiography (how I discovered science fiction, how I discovered fandom, how I got into conference and convention organising etc) and thoughts about the nature of the science fiction reader and of fandom. One of the first questions was “Where are you going to publish it?”; and I don’t think fjm had actually thought of that at all! The second panel was to have been three people talking about the writing of “non-fiction about sf”, but the third person was not available, so it ended up as a discussion between fjm and chilperic, which revealed that we had extremely different ideas about the writing of non-fiction. (chilperic claimed that he wrote non-fiction in order to sort out things in his own mind; fjm claimed that she wrote it in order to prove other people were wrong. The third panel fjm was on was a discussion of the new wave of British fantasy, which was quite a thoughtful and interesting hour, even though no one seemed quite clear whether there was a new wave of British fantasy or not.
That was followed by the banquet, which was all beautifully prepared on-site. And the whole day was interspersed with chats with all sorts of lovely people: thette, whose birthday it was today, Anders (whose birthday it also was today (!), Britt-Louise, Eva, Anna, and others. Early to bed; a chapter of Lois McMaster Bujold, and then oblivion…