WorldCon 2018

WorldCon, Helsinki Finland, August 9-13, 2018

Posted on Sept. 4, 2017 by Jim

Karen and I recently attended the World Science Fiction Convention (WorldCon) in Helsinki Finland. It was expensive getting there, and we really had to bite the bullet on plane fare. But once there, everything was quite inexpensive. Dinner in a good restaurant varied from about €15 to €25, which translates to something like $17–28.

It turns out the Fins love American food, and especially American hamburgers. They go out of their way to imitate ketchup and other sauces that we use here in the US. Having lived in Germany and traveled all over the world, I’ve sampled a few “American” hamburgers in other countries. Based on those experiences I was a little leery of what the Fins might produce. But in Helsinki, hamburgers were so popular we decided to give it a try and were pleasantly surprised. The hamburgers they served us contained extremely lean ground beef of the highest quality. They were nicely broiled and tasted delicious, very much like an upscale hamburger here in the US. Be warned; they don’t ask you how you like your meat prepared. They serve their hamburgers one way: rare. But even Karen, who likes her hamburgers broiled medium-well, thoroughly enjoyed her Finnish burger. I will say they don’t quite hit it with the sauces; they were a little different from what we’re used to, but that in no way lessened our enjoyment of the meal.

We stayed at a nice hotel near the city center, where most of the hotels for the convention were located. Helsinki has an extensive, above-ground light-rail system, and complimentary transit passes were included with our membership to WorldCon. The trams were clean and comfortable, with the convention center a convenient, twenty-minute tram ride north of the city center.

We decided to play hooky one day and visit some sights. We thoroughly enjoyed the National Museum and its coverage of Finland’s Viking heritage. And the old fortress Suomenlinna was fascinating. It is situated on a cluster of six islands which are about a half-hour ferry ride from Helsinki—to our pleasant surprise the transit passes also worked on the ferries. The Russians occupied Finland for well over a century, and the fortress was part of the defensive fortifications meant to keep out invaders. Apparently it didn’t always work that way.

At the convention we learned that there is an avid base of SF&F fans in Finland and the other countries of northern Europe. Our Finnish hosts had used pre-registered memberships purchased prior to the convention to estimate attendance, with some reasonable assumptions about the number of people who would purchase day-passes at the door. That was the right thing to do, but on the first day, to everyone’s surprise, the day-pass purchases vastly outnumbered all estimates and swamped the convention. Every venue was badly overcrowded, and the lines waiting for entrance to panels and events were quite long. Our hosts moved quickly, and by the third day had made arrangements with the convention center to use larger halls for many program items. I gave my talk on orbital mechanics, Bullets in Space, to a standing-room-only crowd of well over 1,000 attendees. I also gave my talk on laser weapons, again to standing-room only.

There were some hiccoughs and glitches, but that is to be expected with such a large, international event. When all was said and done, our hosts did a magnificent job. They created a thoroughly enjoyable event, and Karen and I had a wonderful time in a beautiful city.

We’re really looking forward to WorldCon 2018 in San Jose.