Major Ursa Wants You

Hei!  This is Major Ursa.  Today, I want to talk to you about something near and dear to my heart which is I am super excited to be part of the Worldcon 75 team-and I want everyone to join me!   If you are interested, the list of vacant positions on our staff is at http://www.worldcon.fi//recruitment along with information on how to join us.  There are positions available both before and during the convention in a variety of departments at all levels of responsibilities.

I had a great talk with one of our Vice Chairs, Colette Fozard, and asked her why people should help out Worldcon 75.  She told me that she likes to work Worldcons because she gets to meet lots of new people and build friendships.

So, why join you might ask?  Firstly, it is a nice way to try out new things and learn new skills in a safer environment than in the workplace.  Additionally, for those of us that are younger, it can be a way to gain experience to put on your resume and if you do a good job, get a reference.  If you are not Finnish, it can give you insight into both our culture and our ways of doing things.  It is also an opportunity to make new friends from around the world as well as gain a sense of pride and accomplishment for a task well done.  Finally, it enables you to give back to our community.  Oh, and as my friend, Anna, just reminded me, it can be a lot of fun.

Enough said for this week.  Other than that, be sure and check out our latest progress report at http://www.worldcon.fi which has baby pictures of yours truly.  Kiitos for reading.  Until next time.

We Are All Bears

Hei.  This is Major Ursa.  Yesterday, I was visiting my friend, Anna, who is a Finnish Brown Bear, (the national animal of Finland).  After a welcoming bear hug, we both sat down to tea.  She is an amazing cook so I was really looking forward to the meal.

However, I did not get a chance to enjoy the tea and fish crumpets before Anna burst into tears.  She said that she had heard from other friends of ours that people were saying that Worldcon 75 was excluding other fans.  No wonder she was so upset!  Eventually I got her to calm down by telling her about all ways that Worldcon 75 was inclusive of others and all the things that the convention was doing to help people attend who might otherwise not be able to.

Still, the thought of being considered exclusive haunted me!  As I got home I decided that I needed to write something about it in my blog and tell others more about how Worldcon 75 operates when it comes to including people.

Making Worldcon 75 more affordable to all fans

We at Worldcon 75 believe that all fans are equally important.  We  want everyone to be able to attend the convention and to be a part of this wonderful community.  Be they of any cultural background, any age, any gender,with any disability, with any outlook on life, tall, short, triangle-shaped, anything!

To achieve this, the first thing that Worldcon 75 did was to donate free memberships and hotel rooms to “Con or Bust” which is an American nonprofit that helps fans of color attend SF and fantasy conventions world wide.  We are aware that much of fandom is predominantly white.  There are many reasons for this all of which we can not solve easily.  What we can do, is try to make Worldcon 75 more affordable and take one we would like to do as much as we can to make it easier for fans of color to attend, too.

There are still 5 memberships remaining, although all the hotel rooms are now taken.  There is a link on our membership page to “Con or Bust” and information can be found on their own website as well: http://www.con-or-bust.org.

In addition, we offer a variety of low cost memberships to make the convention more affordable to those who otherwise might not  be able to attend due to the costs involved.  This includes a first time attendee Worldcon 75 membership, as well as a youth(16-25 years old) membership.  Both of these are about two-thirds of the cost of a full adult attending membership.

We also have family memberships which are for families or households and have no age restrictions.  Here we wish to be as inclusive as possible, as well: we recognize all types of families, not just “traditional” ones and they are all eligible to get a family membership ie up to a 15% discount on all memberships.  (More information is available in the FAQ section of our webpage.  For specific information on family memberships, please email familymembership@worldcon.fi)

The Holiday Inn attached to Messukeskus, where our convention takes place, has been reserved specifically for people who have access or reduced mobility needs (and their roommates).  These rooms will be allocated by our access team in April.  Therefore, members who don’t need these types of rooms will not be able to book rooms in this hotel.  If someone with mobility issues wishes to rent a room elsewhere,  the access team will be able to assist them in finding suitable accommodation in other hotels.

The convention will also rent wheelchairs(manual and electric) and mobies/scooters to members for use during the convention, at reasonable prices.  There are several ways to get in touch with the access team.  These are  memberservices@worldcon.fi and accessibility@worldcon.fi .  There is also additional information on the Hotel page at our website.  More information on Helsinki itself, our venue, and guidelines about access is in our Accessibility Statement at our website.

We also have a Code of Conduct posted on our webpage at http://www.worldcon.fi .   It operates around the idea of consent and asking others first whether they are comfortable or not with your actions and words.  It also lists general expectations of behavior regarding issues such as offensive speech, bullying, sexual harassment, etc. that are forbidden.  It also outlines the policy on what to do if you feel someone has offended you and refuses to change their behavior at your request.  In that way everyone can feel comfortable and have a good time whether they are polar bear, brown bear, human or other.

I am happy that I got a chance to write about this!  Even though I was uncomfortable thinking that someone might think us exclusive, that thought made me think about what Worldcon 75 was doing to be more open to all those who would like to attend and talking about this might make others see the possibilities.  I am thankful for Anna for bringing this to my attention especially since she was so upset about the issue.  Just both being able to talk to Anna about it and sharing it with my friends who read my blog has made me feel better, too. Kiitos for reading!  Until next time.

Further Reports from Our Staff Meeting

Hei, this is Major Ursa. A couple of nights ago I was returning from the pub where I drank lots of glögi (a Finnish word for hot mulled wine drunk traditionally at Christmastime throughout the Nordic countries) and ended up near Messukeskus. I started thinking of happy times with my friends from the Worldcon 75 committee, most of whom I last saw at our staff meeting in Helsinki. Many had never been to Helsinki before and I thought it would be a good idea to ask what they thought of our fair city. The following is a summary of what they said.

Excellent public transport system, good service at the airport

Several people I talked with mentioned how amazing the public transport system is in Helsinki – even by European standards which is high praise indeed! I myself, being a bear, never use it though I have heard that dogs are allowed on it. One other person remarked that she would “much rather find a hotel by a train or tram stop than stay by Messukeskus”. They also added how easy our trains are to navigate.

Our airport also received high praise. One person missed his flight check-in for his return flight and still managed to make his flight with plenty of time to spare as the airport in his words is “small, friendly and easy to navigate”. A committee member with mobility issues commented on how “friendly and helpful the airport mobility staff were”. This made her experience very pleasant.

(I am a bit of a frequent flyer myself and since it’s so convenient to fly from helsinki I often visit my relatives in Norway, Sweden and Russia especially for our wintertime family reunions. The drink, the food, the festivities – I could go on forever with wild and crazy stories, but I don’t want to incriminate myself. I have my pride and those reunions already have a bit of a reputation in Finland as it is… Anyway, back to the topic at hand, Major Ursa!)

Friendly fandom at Urho’s Pub

Helsinki received compliments on being a beautiful city with active and welcoming sci-fi fandom. The S.F. Mafia which meets every other Thursday in St. Urho’s Pub was enjoyed by some non-Finnish committee members and they wholeheartedly recommend getting to know the people and the place. I’m told that one of the highlights of the pub is their reindeer meat pizza which received a 5 star recommendation from two people. Also, the pub is located in the city center which made it an easy place to get to, they said.

(Just out of curiosity, and because the question may come up on a pub trivia quiz someday, St. Urho is a fictional saint created by Finnish-Americans to celebrate their Finnish heritage.  He was inspired by Irish-Americans and their celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day. I learned this on a trip I made to the USA last year to meet some distant cousins.)

Hmm.. All this talk of reindeer pizza is making me hungry or maybe it is the glögi giving me the munchies. Oh well, I can always go on a diet in the New Year as it is now the season to be jolly. Kiitos for reading.  Until next time.

Welcome to WorldCon 75

Hei or hi, as you say in English.  My name is Major Ursa.  I am three years old(in bear years) and I live in Helsinki.  My favorite things are space,fish, robots and stories. We polar bears are avid readers and, like so many of my relatives,I am a huge Science Fiction fan.  That’s why I was so flattered when I was asked to be the face of Worldcon 75.

I am not much of a writer as having paws makes it a challenge, but challenges have never stopped me from doing things that I really want to do as that is the Finnish way.  So, I asked Jukka Halme, our esteemed Con chair, when I was at the last staff meeting, if it was okay about starting a blog and he agreed that it was an excellent idea.  Its going to be awesome, isn’t it, Jukka?

Jukka: Yes, of course, maybe, you should tell everyone what you plan to write about?

Major Ursa:  Why did we have to start with such a hard question?  Just thinking about writing a blog makes me want to go hibernate or something.

Jukka:  Calm down, I’ll help.  And I am sure some of our many friends can help too.  They can provide you with material and if worse comes to worse, even help you write entries.

Major Ursa: Phew.  I was really worried there for a second.

Jukka: Why don’t you write about what you would like to read about like fish, space, Science Fiction, Worldcon 75, your friends, Finland and Helsinki?

Major Ursa:  You know, I think i am starting to get this.  My first blog topic is going to be an interview with you, Jukka.

Jukka:  Anything to help, Major Ursa.  You can start now, if you like.

Major Ursa: What is your name, con position and home town?

Jukka: I am Jukka Halme and I am the Con Chair of Worldcon 75. My hometown is Helsinki, Finland.

Major Ursa: Why are you involved in Worldcon 75, Jukka?

Jukka: I want to make this the best possible convention possible.  Having been involved with Finnish fandom and cons for nigh on 30 years,this is is my other family and I want to showcase it to the rest of world’s fandom.  I was a part of the bid from the get-go, and feel a sense of responsibility to make Worldcon 75 a success.

Major Ursa: What are you most looking forward to to do with the con in the summer?

Jukka: To me, fandom is love.  Having the world of fandom here, in my hometown, is pretty spectacular.  I look forward to everything.

Major Ursa: What would you most like to share about Helsinki with the rest of the world?

Jukka: The ease of our public transport.  The safety and compatibility of our city.  Our markets, parks, food and fen.

Major Ursa:  Kiitos, Jukka or thank you as you say in English. That was a huge help.  And, you know what, I just thought of  name of my blog, Major Ursa to Ground Control.  I am so psyched to be doing this.