Recently, my wife Ann and I flew to Finland for seven days of lectures, workshops, and other presentations at various universities and writer organizations. The trip was made possible by a travel grant from the Finnish Literature Exchange (FILI), in conjunction with the largesse of the Finnish science fiction/fantasy community. Ann shared her expertise as the Hugo Award-winning editor of Weird Tales and I shared my experiences and knowledge as a writer for the past twenty-five years. We stayed at people’s houses for the most part and traveled by train across the country, visiting not just Helsinki but Turku, Jyväskylä, Tampere, and Espo.
These were energizing opportunities, in a variety of ways—as Ann notes, the benefit of such trips often isn't just the information received, on both sides, “but the long-lasting connections developed with like-minded people.” Particularly memorable for both of us was, as Ann says, “our own private tour of the Moominvalley museum in Tampere by two sisters involved in the science fiction community, Karoliina and Marianna Leikomaa. We got to see Tove Jansson's iconic creation through their eyes, their experiences encountering the Moomin books and comics as children and as adults.”
We had many more, invaluable opportunities to talk to brilliant people in the arts in Finland, a country that truly values its creative people. Science fiction and fantasy conventions receive arts council funding, as do some magazines. The supporting community is well-organized, experienced, and generous—the large size and brilliance of the annual Finncon organized by this community speaks volumes.
Among the people we spoke to was editor, writer, and taste-maker Jukka Halme, the mastermind behind a Finnish New Weird anthology and Eurocon’s fan guest of honor this year. According to Halme, the success of the SF/fantasy community in Finland is based on the ability to organize large conferences and being “very aware of the fact that the language group we have is a small one, so we need to pull together.” University support is also very important—many feel that the modern subculture first started among students attending the University of Turku.