Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy: Johanna Sinisalo, Hannu Rajaniemi, and Moomins


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.

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Comments (12)

Nice to see that Leena Krohn will be covered next week (after all, Tainaron made some stir). Arto Paasilinna is not really well known outside of Finland, so I'm not surprised that he is not mentioned. But why is Mika Waltari, he of Sinuhe/The Egyptian, left out? Because that is "only" a historical novel, along the lines of Mary Renault?

Posted by: Ulrich Elkmann | Friday May 6, 2011 at 5:28 AM

Thanks for the comment! Well, first of all, this is as noted only part 1 of 2. And, you've just mentioned them, which is great!


Posted by: Jeff VanderMeer | Friday May 6, 2011 at 5:41 AM

Rajaniemi is from Ylivieska, Oulu province, if the information sourced from his profile on the Writers' Bloc is correct. Sinisalo is apparently from Sodankylä, Lapland province, which is further north, according to Wikipedia.

Posted by: Max | Saturday May 7, 2011 at 7:58 AM

Yes--thanks for this correction. We've already caught it and it will be fixed in the text shortly. Thanks! jv

Posted by: Jeff VanderMeer | Saturday May 7, 2011 at 7:59 AM

There are science fiction novels that impress and those that entertain. All too rarely the two come together, but in this baroque theft caper, Hannu Rajaniemi has pulled it off with aplomb. That this is a first novel makes his achievement all the more notable. Trapped in the endlessly looping reality of the Dilemma Prison, super-thief Jean le Flambeur is offered freedom on condition that he carry out the greatest heist of all, a theft he never quite managed in his previous existence. But first he must steal back the man he once was, his identity and secrets hidden in the roaming Martian city of Oubliette. Set against him is the young art historian detective Isidore and a variety of local law enforcers and power-brokers.

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Fiction books and movies are both interesting. They give life to a sleeping imagination of every individual. I really love the Quantum thief. It really depicts a very great story.

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I really love reading and watching fiction books and movies. They really show how imaginative a human mind is.

Posted by: concrete mixer | Monday January 2, 2012 at 9:37 PM

The Finnish SF/F scene is very active and very fresh, as it has been for decades. ” This was certainly our impression as we traveled around Finland—there was a real sense of excitement and of energy.”

Posted by: DC Free Debit | Wednesday January 18, 2012 at 8:18 PM

But first he must steal back the man he once was, his identity and secrets hidden in the roaming Martian city of Oubliette. Set against him is the young art historian detective Isidore and a variety of local law enforcers and power-brokers.

Posted by: Ladies Boots | Wednesday January 18, 2012 at 8:19 PM

I really feel affection for reading and surveillance creative writing books and movies. They in truth illustrate how inventive a human being intelligence.

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I really feel affection for the Quantum shoplifter. It really represents a very enormous narrative.

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