Friday, July 17, 2009

Science fiction fandom camp in Lithuania, part 1

While I was in Lithuania this year, I went to a science fiction fandom camp. The camp is put together by members of Dorado science fiction club of Vilnius, Lithuania, but is open to anyone interested in the genres of speculative fiction. There were around 20 people, and we all lived for 3 days in what could be described as a cabin in the woods, 2-3 people to a room, with an outdoors toilet and no showers. Then I found out there were empty rooms in another house nearby, which had a shower and bathrooms, and I moved there for the last night.

The camp has been taking place annually for a number of years in a scenic rural place between hills and lakes that's also a home to an observatory. So it's the right setting for speculative fiction lovers. The camp started out as a writers' retreat. Over the years, writing took a backseat to relaxation activities, such as swimming, hiking, volleyball, movies, games and chatting.

This year, my first year at the camp, there was only one creative writing task, prepared by Lina. She had us exercise our writerly muscles by writing what she called a "shadow prose". We each could choose one of five speculation fiction texts about 10-12 sentences long. We had to write our own prose between the sentences of the original text, while preserving its coherence. Two of the texts were well known -- "Alice in Wonderland" and Robert Silverberg's "To See the Invisible Man" (a great story, which is why I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole). Another two were excerpts from Lithuanian SF authors stories. The fifth one was Microm%C3%A9gas by Voltaire. Wikipedia cites this story as a "significant development in the history of literature because it originates ideas which helped create the genre of science fiction". It's a satirical story about a giant (many miles tall) from a planet orbiting Sirius. The premise did not appeal to me, and after reading an excerpt it was clear that it was one of those stories that has survived purely because of its historical significance. It's a pain to read, too. Every sentence in it runs on for a paragraph. So of course, I took it on as a challenge. I tried to follow Voltaire's style, which wasn't difficult because I have a natural inclination to be verbose. The result may have preserved the spirit of the story, but it wasn't funny (not that the original was either). So my story got very few votes. Stories that got the most votes were the ones that were fun to read. One of the best, written by SielojRamiakas, employed a very simple method of "mirroring" the original onomatopoeically (if there is such a word). I realize I'm not making myself very clear. It's one of those "you had to be there" things. It had the audience in stitches.

So, it's fair to say that the purpose of the task was not so much to improve one's writing, as to provide a break from the tough business of relaxation, and to bring the campers together for half an hour of laughter.

I'll write more about the camp in my upcoming posts.

Pictures from the camp (with English and Lithuanian captions) are in m photo gallery.

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