This is an interview with Marianna Leikomaa, about the Finnish Science Fiction
(Luca) Marianna, please present yourself to our readers and talk about the Finnish SF world.
(Marianna) I’m Marianna “Kisu” Leikomaa, and have been active in Finnish fandom since the mid90s. During that time I’ve been in several convention committees, done translations and written filks, juried some awards and founded a local group for Tolkien fans in my region. And much more. I was also the Division Head of Programming for Worldcon75 in 2017.
This is a very short and incomplete description of Finnish fandom and SF history. For more details, I recommend checking out the Progress Reports (especially 2 and 3) for Worldcon75, which describe the Finnish SF fandom and history in much more detail.
The earliest Finnish science fiction dates back to late 19th century, and there were some fairly important pieces in the 20th century as well. The term “science fiction” came to Finland in the 1950s and it has recently been supplemented by the term “Finnish Weird”, which describes well the current trends in Finnish speculative fiction.
Finnish Weird has been on the rise in the past 10 years and quite a few Finnish authors have either been translated into English (and other languages) or are writing in English to begin with. The most well-known names of contemporary, translated Finnish speculative fiction might be Johanna Sinisalo (Not before Sundown, The Core of the Sun), Hannu Rajaniemi (The Quantum Thief -trilogy, Summerland), Emmi Itäranta (Memory of Water, The City of Woven Streets), Pasi Jääskeläinen (The Rabbit Back Literature Society, Secret Passages in a Hillside Town) and Maria Turtschaninoff (Red Abbey Chronicles). To read more about interesting Finnish SF authors, check out the magazine Finnish Weird.
Finland has many small printing houses which specialize in science fiction and fantasy. The most important ones are Osuuskumma co-operative (main focus Finnish authors and anthologies), Kirjava (main focus well-known non-Finnish authors) and Vaskikirjat (main focus Finnish authors and classic SF). In addition, most fanzines publish short stories and Finland actually has a very vibrant short story scene. The “traditional” publishing houses also publish some science fiction and fantasy, at the moment mostly YA and well-known British and American authors.
An important aspect of Finnish SF fandom are various awards. The Atorox-award is given out to the best short story published on a given year, as voted by the fandom. The juried Tähtivaeltaja award is given to the best science fiction novel published in Finnish and Tähtifantasia award to the best fantasy novel translated into Finnish. Juried Kuvastaja (Mirrormere) award is, in its turn, awarded to the best Finnish fantasy novel.
Finland has had two fan-artist Hugo-finalists: Ninni Aalto and Maya Hahto. In addition, the best known graphic (novel) artists include Petri Hiltunen (whose album Anabasis just came out in English), JP Ahonen (Sing no Evil, Belzebubs) and Minna Sundberg (Stand Still, Stay Silent).
Fandom and societies
Finnish fandom begun in the late 1970s in Turku and gained popularity in the 80s and 90s. The most well-known fanzines are Tähtivaeltaja (Helsinki Science Fiction Society) and Portti (Tampere Science Fiction Society) and Spin (Turku Science Fiction Society) as well as the on-line portal RisingShadow.fi. Many societies have their own fanzines as well (Kosmoskynä, Marvin etc.) but Tähtivaeltaja and Portti are the biggest ones.
SF societies have, traditionally, been formed at Universities and the biggest ones tend to be in cities with universities. The ones in Helsinki, Turku and Jyväskylä are the biggest ones, in addition to Spektre in Tampere. In addition, Finnish Tolkien Society Kontu (with its online community) and The Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association are important national socities. There are many smaller local associations as well, some of which are very active (Smial Morel in Tampere, for instance).
The most important SF convention in Finland is the annual Finncon.Finncon is a literary-focused SF convention, which also covers other topics such as media, writing and games. It is organized annually and the responsibility for organizing it moves between the capital area, Turku, Jyväskylä and Tampere. Finncon does not sell tickets or memberships and is instead free of charge for anybody. As a result, it is usually quite large with participant numbers in several thousands.
Finncon always has one or more non-Finnish guests of honor, in addition to Finnish guests of honor. Many of the Finnish SF authors have come from within the fandom, and also attend the event as regular program participants and attendees. The next Finncon will be in Jyväskylä (5.-7.7.2019).
Most local SF clubs have regular meetings, usually called “Mafia”. For example, Helsinki SF people meet regularly every other week (the Thursday of every odd numbered week), and most of the others have one meeting every month. A notable exception to this might be the Finnish Tolkien-society Kontu, which is a nation-wide society and organizes 3-4 weekend long meet-ups (or moots) each year.
In addition to Finncon, there are a number of smaller SF events and conventions, such as Åcon, Tähtivaeltajapäivä, Turconen, Locacon etc. The roleplaying fandom has its major convention Ropecon annually (the largest non-commercial roleplaying convention in Europe) and the combined roleplaying/anime convention Tracon sells over 5000 tickets each year. The anime fandom has several other large conventions each year as well.
What makes Finnish SF special?
Much of the originality of Finnish SF comes from its connection to the nature. Forests and water are important parts of Finnish everyday lives, and they also appear in much of Finnish SF fiction. Another important aspect is weirdness. In many Finnish SF fiction, something in our everyday lives is just slightly “off”, giving the world they describe a weird and wonderful vibe. In the past, the Finnish national epic Kalevala has been used as inspiration for SF, but nowadays the majority of Finnish SF draws from much more original sources. This is not to say there is no high fantasy written in Finnish, but even that usually has less traditional aspects. At the moment, the quality ofpublished Finnish fiction seems to be much greater and varied than what is being translated into Finnish.
Finnish speculative fiction also has a strong feminist tendency. This comes very naturally, since many of the authors are women, and topics which deal with gender, equality, and otherness are covered by many authors of different genders.