Pasi Karppanen & Shimo Suntila: A Look at Finnish Fandom
(Cosmos Pen 2/2003)
This article is based on Ben Roimola's Short Look at Finnish Fandom, written and bublished in Marvin back in in 1995. Much has changed after that, however, and in 2003 the article was updated and revised by Pasi Karppanen and Shimo Suntila. This version was published originally in Cosmos Pen 2/2003, Kosmoskynä's English Finncon-Eurocon special.
Further note to readers: This version of the article has been updated and published in various Finnish sf zines several times since its original publication in 2003. In 2006 it was published updated in Cosmos Pen, and in 2011 in Spin. This version of the text remains on the web purely for archive reasons. It is not being updated and therefore contains outdated information. There is also an online version of the article that is being updated by Pasi Karppanen, and that can be found here.
The first signs of a phenomenon called fandom can be seen in Finland during 1950's. However, it took over two decades before fandom as we know it started to emerge. The reasons for this are various. In 1950's Finland was barely getting back on its feet, economical resources were limited and urbanisation was only beginning. This meant there were no real chances of a organised fandom to get born.
The first Finnish science fiction convention was organized by the Students' Union at Turku University in 1969, but fandom as we know it wasn't born until the Turku Science Fiction Society was founded in the city of Turku in 1976. It started to publish its fanzine, Spin in 1977, which marks the birth of a first Finnish sf/f zine.
Presently there are almost twenty sf/f clubs spread around the country and a dozen more or less regularly published zines, plus numerous unofficial sf/f, anime and role playing clubs and zines.
Finnish fandom has all the characteristics of fandom everywhere else. There are societies, zines, awards, cons, gatherings and all the other things that together make up the thing that's called fandom. On the other hand there are also couple of features in Finnish fandom that make it somewhat different from other countries.
One thing that has always been characteristic for Finnish Fandom has been its ability to work together. The thing is, there has never been a "Finnish Science Fiction Association" nor will there most likely ever be. The Finnish fandom is a collection many different sf/f societies spread all over the country, all with their own characteristics and history. Together they form a tight little community that has pulled together from the very beginning and made Finnish fandom what it is today.
Another thing that should be mentioned when speaking of Finnish fandom is that there has never been that big a difference between science fiction and fantasy. Everybody of course understands the differences between genres, but basically the fans and writers of sf and fantasy, as far as Finnish fandom is concerned at least, have never been separate groups but a part of one big happy family.
This is in a great extent due to the circumstances in which Finnish fandom was born. In late 70's and early 80's both genres were just as marginal and the fans of sf/f naturally teamed up. Therefore one should remember that although the societies mentioned in this article are called Science Fiction societies, most of them are science fiction and fantasy societies. Same thing applies to fanzines as well.
Probably because of this, the current generation of writers (again, when it comes to fandom at least) are a rather heterogeneous group. The same people write science fiction and fantasy and in some cases drawing the line between genres is very difficult, if not impossible. Many writers consider the whole subject of drawing lines restricting and completely unnecessary.
The third thing one should mention when speaking of Finnish fandom are the Finnish sf magazines. The fact is there isn't one single commercial sf magazine published in Finland. There have been many attempts to publish one in Finland during the years of fandom and even before, but each attempt has failed. Each magazine has died either before a single published issue or after a couple of issues.
In their place, however, there's a wide range of professional looking fan-, semi- and prozines. They are very slick, printed on glossy paper and looking just as good as any professional sf magazine with a content to match. There are short stories, both domestic and translated, articles, fantastic artwork, comics, and all the rest you would expect to find in any professional sf-magazine The biggest zines such as Portti, Spin and Tähtivaeltaja are for sale at bookstores and Portti can even be found at newsagents.
The first logical step to start presenting the Finnish fandom would probably be the Finncon, the most important Finnish national con. Finncons are big events, have been so from the very beginning. In most respects the Finncons are like any other big con in Europe or USA, with lots of programme going on simultaneously, panels, lectures and other program items, guest of honour's giving speeches and autograph sessions. On Saturday night there's the official con party with a masquerade contest.
The one thing that sets the Finncons apart from foreign cons, however, is that they are free. Yes, that's right. There's no entrance fee whatsoever to them. Since Finncon '89, one of the main principles of the Finncon has been that everyone interested should be able to attend. This way any passer-by can just pop in to see what's going on and with any luck find the con interesting – and so a new sf/f fan is born.
'The Finncon brand', so to speak, was created in the first Finncons held in Helsinki in late 80's and early 90's.The Finncons are supposed to be big events, without entrance fee and concentrate on literature. So far most, if not all, guests of honour have been writers instead of television figures. There's of course a simple explanation for that. For the prize of world class author the most you could get from the world of audiovisual sci-fi is "the third storm trooper from right".
This has, however, proved to be a very well-working formula and so far all Finncons have been successes. Over the years Finncons have gotten bigger and bigger, becoming a major cultural event in Finland. For a number of years now the number of attendees have been in thousands. In 1995 Finncon was for the first time held outside Helsinki, in the town of Jyväskylä. From there on the task of arranging Finncon has rotated from town to town.
One of the secrets behind Finncon's success is the one mentioned earlier, Finnish fandom's ability to work together. Finland is, after all, a small country and it is small wonder Finncons are such big events. That's why Finncons have always been Finnish fandom's joint effort. The main responsibility has of course always been on the town that actually arranges it, but Finncons wouldn't be possible without everyone doing their share.
Naturally, Finncons wouldn't be possible without money and over the years the Finnish con organizers have gotten very good at gathering funds from government grants and looking for sponsors and other co-operation partners. As proof of the determination of people behind the Finncon brand, Finncon X (the tenth Finncon) was also Baltcon and Eurocon, with more program and activities than any previous Finnish con. In 2004 Finncon was held in Jyväskylä (together with Animecon, making it a huge as well). In 2006 it will be Helsinki's turn again.
Finncons are for masses. They are big-scale events, the fandom's showcase to the world of mundanes. Apart from them, however, there are much smaller and informal gatherings for the fandom. Parties of all sorts, video evenings. summer picnics and so forth. In most of the towns with an sf/f club there are also monthly meetings of fandom. These meetings, or 'mafias' as they are also called, usually take place in a bar or a cafe.
Whereas most parties, video evenings and so on are mostly for people who already are more or less "inside" the fandom, 'mafias' are free and open to everyone. There might be some kind of short programme-items or not, but there definitely will be lots of other fans. This is usually the best place to get to know the local fandom if you have just moved to town.
Another important happening is the Turku Book Fair held each fall. From the very beginning Turku Science Fiction Society has had a booth at the fair and has also arranged sf related programme during the fair. This has proven to be a great way to make science fiction and fantasy known outside fandom.
Few years back Turku Book Fair got an rival of sorts, the Helsinki Book Fair, which quickly became bigger of the two. (Most of the big publishing houses are now at Helsinki Book Fair.) The people at Helsinki fandom have also co-operated from the very beginning with the fair organization. For a number of years now Helsinki fandom has had their own booth at the fair and the "science fiction sunday" as an part of the official fair program.
In Helsinki, there's also the Tähtivaeltajapäivät (Star Rover Day). Details of the first Star Rover Days are shrouded in mystery, but in current scale it has been arranged at least twice, in 2002 and 2005. In the Finnish scale, Star Rover Day could probably be called a "mini-con", the number of attendees being only a couple of hundreds instead of thousands and the whole event lasting only one day.
On the other hand, compared to the cons held in many neighbouring countries there's no reason why Star Rover Day couldn't be called a full-bred con. It has already fulfilled all the criteria of one. On both occasions there have been big world-class guests of honour (in 2002 Alistair Reynolds and Ray Loriga, in 2005 M. John Harrison), panels all through the day and a con party afterwards. For many Finnish fans grown up with the Finncons, Star Rover Days have been even a revelation of sorts, the first small con they've attended!
Another small con is TamFan, that has been arranged semi-annually for nearly a decade now. Like the name suggests, it is held in Tampere and is concentrated in fantasy. Like Star Rover Day, it's only a day long, but in other respects a full-bred con. Next TamFan will be in 2006.
A relative newcomer in the family of Finnish sf/f happenings is Atonova, which has been held in Turku three times. The name is consisted of two separate awards, Atorox and Nova, which both have roots in Turku (more on both later). In 2002 the Turku fandom wanted to arrange a separate award ceremony for them and thus, Atonova was born.
Atonova is not, nor does have any plans in becoming, an actual con. For the lack of better expression one could call it a "literary sf/f afternoon". Although there have been press present each time, the atmosphere in Atonova has always been rather intimate. In any case, considering the sheer size of Finncons, Atonova is a refreshingly small-scle Finnish sf/f happening.
For the fantasy oriented, there is also Fantasy Feast, arranged also by Turku Science Fiction Society. Fantasy Feast is usually a weekend long and consists of dressing up in medieavalish or downright fantasy costume, sitting by the campfire, testing your wit and strength in something not resembling a tournament, listening and dancing to folk music, and generally having a good time. The next Fantasy Feast will be 2006.
Animecons have so far been only a part of Finncon, and although there have been plans to make it a separate event, keeping the two happenings together have been working formula. At least in 2006 both events will be held together.
Ropecons are the role players' own cons, with panels and other program items that concentrate on role playing. They differ from the rest of Finnish cons in that there's an entrance fee to them; so far they have been always been held in the vicinity of Helsinki.
One interesting tradition one should also remember to mention when speaking about Finnish fandom, are the annual co-opearation meetings. In these meetings representatives from all the societies recount the past year and tell about their plans for the coming year. Main reason for this is the sheer number of Finnish sf/f societies. The meetings are arranged to help planning future projects, to spread information and to prevent booking future events on same weekends.
For a number of years now the meetings have taken place in a cabin in Tampere, with sauna and pub night afterwards. In other words they are much more than mere meetings, a chance for the people in fandom to meet each other, without the hassle of a con to take care of.
A relatively new form of cooperation within the fandom are also the Science fiction researcher meetings. By now already several Finnish universities have students doing their thesis research on science fiction and fantasy. The researcher meetings are oriented to these students, and they aim on the one hand to share knowledge and experience among researchers, on the other hand to prevent ovelapping research. The meetings are often organised in connection or immediately before Finncon or some other big event.
Finnish sf/f awards
Every fandom has its own awards, its versions of the Hugos, Nebulas and so on. Finnish fandom is no exception. The most important Finnish sf award is the Atorox award that has been presented annually by the Turku Science Fiction Society since 1983. It is awarded to the best Finnish science fiction or fantasy short story published the previous year. The winner is decided by a vote of jury that comprises of jurors from all the Finnish sf clubs. The award is usually presented at Finncon or some other major sf related happening. The name of the award is a tribute to Aarne Haapakoski and his classic robot Atorox who appeared in numerous novels in the 1940's and 1950's.
The Tähtivaeltaja award (Star Rover award) is presented annually to the best sf book (novel or short-story collection) published in Finland the previous year. The book doesn't have to be an original Finnish work, it could also be a translation, which it usually is. In 2001 it was for the first time awarded to a Finnish book, short story collection Where the Trains Turn from Pasi Jääskeläinen. The aim of the award is to encourage publishers to publish better sf. Especially during the last few years, the awarded books have tended to be sf on a somewhat marginal side.
Or, as it has also been pointed out, to more literally ambitious sf/f. In 2003 for example, it was presented to Ray Loriga's novel Tokio doesn't care about us anymore (Tokio ya no nos quiere) and the year before that to Jonathan Lethem's novel Gun, with occasional music. The winner is decided by a jury and the award is presented by the Helsinki Science Fiction Society. The first Tähtivaeltaja award was given in 1986.
The Kosmoskynä award (Cosmos Pen award) is presented by The Finnish Science Fiction Writers Association. The award is a recognition of excellence in the field of sf in Finland. Last time it was presented in 2001 to the Finlandia award winner Johanna Sinisalo for all the PR work she has done over the years for Finnish science fiction.
The Kuvastaja award (Mirrormere) presented annually by the Finnish Tolkien Association is so far the latest addition to the Finnish sf award family. It was presented for the first time in 2001. The award has elements from both the Star Rover and Cosmos Pen awards, but with a focus in fantasy. It is being presented annually to a Finnish fantasy novel and its purpose is to encourage publishers to publish better fantasy.
The Portti award (Gateway award) isn't an award as such, but more like a poll. It's probably the closest Finnish equivalent to Locus award (whereas the Atorox is sort of a 'Finnish Hugo'). It is given annually in a score of different categories: best domestic short story, best domestic book, best translated book, best article. The winners are decided by a vote and all readers of the Tampere Science Fiction Society's zine Portti are eligible to vote. Unfortunately, its importance is nowadays next to nothing due to the small number of voters.
Another award with a multitude of different categories is the Lumimies award (Yeti award) presented by the Oulu Science Fiction Society, Polaris. This is the most fannish of all the mentioned awards with different categories each year. There have been categories like "Humanoid of the Year", "Chauvinist SF Act of the Year" and "Disappearance of the Year" and so on.
The last one could be presented to the Yeti award itself though (and has been at least once) since the prize hasn't been presented for a number of years now. Lately there has been roumurs that Oulu University sf/f club (more on that later) will adopt the prize, as Oulu Science Fiction Society seems to have diasaapeared from the map of Finnish fandom.
Another similar fannish award, not-to-be-taken-so-seriously, is the Jet Ace Logan award, presented by a group of people in Helsinki fandom (also called the infamous Mundane collective). It has been presented twice now, both times during Star Rover Day's after party. It is given, and I quote, "to the most idiotic attempt to conquer earth" and "to the most stupendous way to foil that plan".
In 2002 it was given to the movie Reign of Fire (an army of dragons with only one male) and to Will Smith (for his achievements in such films as The Independence Day and Men In Black I & II). In 2005 the winners were the aliens in new War of the Worlds movie and Mel Gibson in M. Night Shyamalan's Signs (stopping the world conquer with a glass of water).
Another award presented by more or less the same people in Helsinki fandom is the Tuestin award (Bracer award). It's given for Special Behind-the-Scenes work for Finnish Fandom. The award's idea is to remind you about the existence of people you don't see basking in the spotlight, but whose work fandom couldn't do without.
Finnish sf/f zines and clubs
In many cases drawing the line between 'zine' and 'club' in Finland is nowadays very difficult, if not impossible. Like everywhere else, Finnish fanzines started out very modestly, with only a few xeroxed pages. Over the years, the field of Finnish zines has undergone quite a metamorphosis. Some of the fanzines have become bigger and bigger, some have maintained their fannish appearance, some have disappeared altogether.
The biggest fanzines nowadays look more like actual sf magazines than 'fanzines'. In some cases the society itself has more or less disappeared and all that's been left is the magazine it publishes. This is the case especially with Tampere Science Fiction Society's Portti (Gateway). The same can be said with some reservation about the Helsinki Science Fiction Society and its Star Rover magazine.
The following list contains the most important Finnish zines and clubs that publish them. Unless otherwise stated, the zines publish short stories (both domestic and translated), news, reviews, articles, illustrations, comics etc., and are published with four issues a year.
Most Finnish clubs have their own pages on the Internet as well. Unfortunately they are mainly in Finnish, but usually there's a summary page for non-Finnish speakers as well. One good place to start surfing is Jussi Vainikainen's excellent Scientifiction links page that can be found at the URL http://kotisivu.mtv3.fi/jussiv/sf/suomisf.html.
Tampere Science Fiction Society
Editor Raimo Nikkonen
Tampere Science Fiction Society's Portti (Gateway) is undoubtedly the biggest and most successful Finnish sf magazine, at least in the terms of page count and circulation. It is a professional-looking magazine, printed on glossy paper, colour on the cover and even on some of the inside pages. About 160 pages, published since 1982. The zine's print-run is 3500 copies, with about 1000 subscribers.
The Tampere Science Fiction Society also arranges an annual sf short story competition, undoubtedly the most important Finnish sf/f writing competition, with big cash-prizes. This year the winner gets 2000 euros and 2200 euros is split between the runners-up. The competition has been arranged since 1986 and the prizes have become bigger and bigger. Over 200 short stories are submitted to the competition annually.
One can't deny the fact that Portti is the most successful Finnish sf zine. On the other hand it tends to be an island of sorts in the Finnish fandom and one could argue whether it is a part of fandom anymore. Portti's competition also dominates rather heavily the short story writing scene. The stories published in Portti, and the winners of Portti's competition especially, also tend to dominate the yearly Atorox poll.
Portti, sorry to say, also has rather terrible web pages.
Helsinki Science Fiction Society
Editor Toni Jerrman
Helsinki Science Fiction Society is one of the main forces behind the Finncons and the presenter of the Tähtivaeltaja award. For many fans, however, the society is more known through its zine, Tähtivaeltaja (Star Rover). One could say that Tähtivaeltaja is another good example of a case where the zine it publishes has become a bigger brand than the society itself.
Tähtivaeltaja is professional-looking sf magazine, printed on glossy paper, cover in colour, and about 90 pages, published since 1982. From the very beginning it has been the Finnish sf magazine with most edge. One main element in Tähtivaeltaja and the Helsinki 'mafia' in general has always been a fascination with black leather and studs and one must admit that in the early days Tähtivaeltaja looked almost as much a punk zine than an sf one.
Although the zine has mellowed a bit over the years and become a 'real magazine' it hasn't lost it's edge altogether and for many fans Tähtivaeltaja is still the best sf zine in Finland. Domestic short stories have never been Tähtivaeltaja's thing and nowadays it publishes only one or two domestic stories yearly. On the other hand, especially in the early days, the branch of sf Tähtivaeltaja took special care was comics. In fact, many nowadays well known artists started their career in Tähtivaeltaja.
For a Finnish zine there have always been quite a few foreign short stories in Tähtivaeltaja. In recent years especially Tähtivaeltaja has also done valuable work by presenting in its articles new and upcoming trends and writers in the field of sf for Finnish readers. Nowadays a big part of the magazine goes also to DVD reviews.
For an sf/f publication Tähtivaeltaja is also a rather fleshy zine.
Turku Science Fiction Society
Editor Johanna Ahonen
Founded in 1976, the Turku Science Fiction Society is the oldest of the Finnish sf clubs. TSFS's Spin is also the oldest of the Finnish sf zines. It has been published since 1977 and has had its ups and downs over the years. During the recent years (under the editorship of Shimo Suntila) there has been a radical raise in the profile and the quality of the magazine and currently it can be counted among the 'big three' of Finnish sf magazines. Nowadays Spin is professional looking zine, printed on glossy paper, about 80 pages, with colour covers.
TSFS is also one of the few exceptions where the society manages to put out a professional looking zine and act as an actual working club as well. One of the reasons for that is the more or less complete blood transfusion it underwent in late 90's, as the old guard stepped aside and the new generation of fans took over. Thanks to this TSFS is now probably the most active and energetic sf society in Finland, with more activities than probably all the rest of the clubs put together. TSFS has an active club house with several other sf societies in Turku and its activities include video evenings and rather wild parties.
Because of its long history TSFS is also in many ways one of the corner stones of Finnish fandom. It presents the Atorox award, arranges the Fantasy Feast and organizes the sf coverage at the Finnish National Book Fair. It was also the main organizer of the Finncon X. TSFS also has a pretty big library of almost one thousand sf/f books.
Editor Pekka Supinen
Finnzine is one of the few Finnish sf zines that has no "town based" society behind it. It was born in 1991 as a Finnish news zine, with a motto "Science Fiction now!" Finnzine's first issues were very amateurish but these days Finnzine, too, looks like 'a real magazine'. Much of this is thanks to the layout and the graphic look. Finnzine is about 40 pages, covers in black and white on coloured paper.
Finnzine has remained a news zine, with a strong emphasis on audiovisual sf. The zine's trademark appears to be articles about new sf/f movies with lots of pictures. On the other hand, it publishes a fair share of domestic short fiction and one of its specialities are long, multi-parted sf/f sagas. It is also one of the few finnish zines that have published sf/f poetry. There are also columns for literary sf in Finnzine and the events in Finnish fandom are also well covered in it.
Finnish Science Fiction Writers Association
Editor Pasi Karppanen
FSFWA's Kosmoskynä (Cosmos Pen) has been published from 1984 and in 80's it was, according to many, the best Finnish sf zine. It too has had its ups and downs over the years. Kosmoskynä's current appearance is also a good example about the process which many Finnish sf zines have undergone during last couple of years. During the editorship of Anne Leinonen it evolved from a small writer's zine into a high class literary journal.
Unlike many other Finnish zines, it has had numerous editor-in-chiefs over the years. Each run with a new editor has given the zine a very distinctive look. Being a writers' zine Kosmoskynä has, on the other hand, always concentrated on writing and especially in recent years, in domestic sf/f in general. There are columns and articles on writing, interviews of novelists, information about writing competitions and writer guides. It also reviews all the Finnish short stories published annually.
Like Turku Science Fiction Society, also FSFWA in one of those exceptions where the zine and the society that puts it out are equally important. FSFWA has a wide range of activities for writers, such as writer rings and cost-free feedback service for members, writing courses and so on. It also has close ties to TSFS and for example the NOVA short story writing competition is one of their co-operation projects.
Jyvaskyla Science Fiction Society "42"
Editor Kati Mäki-Kuutti
Jyvaskyla Science Fiction Society 42 is one of those societies that have more activity around the actual society rather than the zine. It burst in to fandom at the early 90's and has arranged a lot of great happenings since that. They were for example the main organisers behind the Finncons in 1995 and 2001. 42 also organized the Finncon '04 in Jyväskylä.
42's zine Alienisti is being published about once a year (in 2004 twice) with the new issue out usually for the Finncon. The magazine is about the same size as Finnzine and Kosmoskynä (A4) and although it can't compete material-wise with some of the bigger zines, it's a good example on suiting the activity to the resources.
Editor Ben Roimola
Enhörningen ("Unicorn") is the fanzine of the Swedish speaking Finnish fandom. It was established in 1987 by Ben Roimola, publishing short stories and literary and audiovisual reviews. Enhörningen has also excellent web pages and one could say they are the Finnish fandom's best showcase to the Swedish speaking world. It also serves a wider national public with the best-kept up-to-date web news columns.
Editor Shimo Suntila
In the field of Finnish sf/f societies Arcturus and its zine, aptly named Arczine are an exception of sorts. Arcturus isn't an actual "society", but more like an publication line. Arczine does only specials with no regular content in each issue. The first Arczine was Scifistin malja (The Goblet of Scifist) that has 60 pages worth of filks both in English and in Finnish. It was assigned also an ISBN number which makes it a book.
The second Arczine was the end point of a Shimo Suntila's mad dash of seven zines for the Finncon X and is aptly named The Seventh Zine. It had only Michael Swanwick's short story Dirty Little War which has also appeared in the con magazine for Finncon, but the whole print run was given to Michael Swanwick to give out to people he chose. A unique endeavor in Finnish fandom, perhaps in all fandom!
Right now Arcturus too seems to be on leave of sorts, after its founder and driving force behind everything, Shimo Suntila decided to take a vacation from fandom and recharge his batteries. Arczine is not buried however and it may emerge when you least espect. Stay on guard.
Tähtiallianssi ("Star Alliiance" – The Finnish Star Wars Society)
Editor Shimo Suntila
Star Alliance was born in 1999, roughly about the same time the movie Phantom Menace came out and was one of Shimo Suntila's countless projects (although the original idea was from Kaisa Ykspetäjä). The zine Vapaa Galaksi ("Free galaxy") is, or rather, was published in volumes, each consisting of three issues. The recent issues of the zine have looked good, with a professional appearance.
Star Alliance and Free Galaxy are excellent examples of what people dedicated enough to one thing can and will do. The zine's articles included interviews of the actors in Star Wars movies, as well as in-depth analyses of different characters. A good looking zine, but only for real Star Wars fans. Star Alliance had also an active mailing list and it co-operated with other Star Wars Societies like Tähtikeräilijät society (The Finnish Star Wars Collectors) (http://www.swtk.org/)
Why the past tense then? Right now (spring 2005) it seems Star Alliance is at the the end of its road, at least as independent society. Over the years activity in it declined and the time between every new issue of Free Galaxy became longer and longer. All is not lost, however. It is possible Free Galaxy will do specials with Arcturus, but other than that, your guess is as good as mine.
Legolas / Hobittilan Sanomat
The Finnish Tolkien Society
Editors: Päivi Vinni (Legolas) and Anu Polkki (Hobittilan Sanomat)
The Finnish Tolkien Society was founded long before the current fantasy boom or the movie versions of The Lord of the Rings, all the way back in 1991. Although Tolkien has a prominent role in the society's activities, it is not solely for Tolkien-fans but for Finnish fantasy fans in general. Currently The Finnish Tolkien Society is the only society in Finland that is devoted purely to fantasy.
The society puts out not one but two zines: Legolas and Hobittilan Sanomat (Hobbiton Times). Of the two, Legolas is the actual zine, Hobbiton Times is more like a members bulletin. Both of them look much like Marvin, A5 in size, Legolas about 40 pages, Hobbiton Times 20 or less, black and white only. Legolas is also the older of the two, published since 1991, nowadays with four issues per year.
Just as the society, Legolas has never concentrated solely on Tolkien but in fantasy in general. During the last year, there has been more domestic and even foreign fiction on the pages of Legolas and a raise in the overall quality of the articles as well. Legolas is, however, still one of the 'little zines' that has very little chance to compete with bigger ones, for example in the Atorox poll.
The Tolkien society is a great example of a club that puts more emphasis on other activities than putting out a fancy zine. It has lots of activities of which most are concentrated around Helsinki. It also has a lot of subdivisions called smials all over Finland, some of which are as active as the actual society. The Finnish Tolkien society also presents the Kuvastaja (Mirrormere) award for the best domestic fantasy book published the previous year.
Marvin – the Lehti
Helsinki University Science Fiction Club
Editor Teemu Ahonen
Of all the zines in Finland, Marvin (Marvin – the Zine) is probably the one that looks most like an actual fanzine. It's xeroxed-looking, about 30 pages long and in A5 size, usually filled with lots of weird inside humour and other baffling bits.
For many years it was done by a different group of people each time so you never could know what to expect. Every issue was about a different theme. Issues covered pornography, religion, swords, turkeys, concrete and hot chocolate and so on. The most recent issues have included 'von Märviken' with lots of ufo-related stories, for example an erotic sf story from "Emmanuel Arse" and 'Gentlemen's War-Marvin'.
The Helsinki University Science Fiction Club is one of the main forces behind the Finncons in Helsinki. You pronounce HYSFK GooGooMuck. Don't ask.
Espoo Science Fiction and Fantasy Society
No permanent editorship
Espoo Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, ESC for short, is one of the newcomers. Espoo is one of the largest cities in Finland, but due its closeness to nation's capital many don't see it more than Helsinki's suburb. ESC's goal seems to be changing that conception and showing that even Espoo can have its own unique brand of fandom.
Many of the first issues of ESC's zine Escape have had an "Espoo-ethnic" viewpoint. One of the articles for example stated that "Living in Espoo is like living in Mars". Escape looks much like Marvin, but is even more fannish in appearance. One reason for that may be that many of the fans behind Marvin and HYSFK are active in ESC as well.
Mundane was the Yellow Paper of the Finnish fandom and represents the other end of the fine line of glossy Finnish semiprozines. Mundane looked exactly the way some people think fanzine does, rather crude with only few xeroxed pages. The articles it consisted of were full of inside humour and therefore were most likely incomprehensible for people outside the fandom.
Unique with Mundane was also the fact that you couldn't subscibe it anywhere. It was put together a group of fans in Helsinki and available only through the local 'mafia' gatherings. The issues of the zine are therefore sought after collectibles and owning a first-owner copy is a sign of real fanhood.
Although Mundane has stayed dormant for years, there are still fear amongst the fandom. Could it happen all over again? Very fanzine, very fannish, and when you least expect it, Mundane might rise once again.
Turu Mafia Zine
Editor Tero Ykspetäjä
Turu Mafia Zine (Turku Mafia Zine) has more or less the same principle as Mundane. You can't subscibe it anywhere, but to be present at Turku mafia to recieve your copy.
The main difference between the two zines is that Turu Mafia Zine is much more comprehensible and easier to understand for a non-insider. It consists mainly of news and other bits and pieces you can actually use.
Another thing that sets the zines apart is naturally the age. Whereas Mundane belongs to the mythical past of Finnish fandom, the first issue of Turu Mafia Zine was published in fall 2004.
Zine's editor Tero Ykspetäjä is also rather active in documenting the events of Finnish Fandom in his excellent Partial Recall blog.
Editor Anne Leinonen
Usva (Mist) is currently the youngest of Finnish sf/f zines. It's also the first Finnish sf/f zine that's published in e-zine format, to be downloaded without cost as PDF. Usva has taken on the bold challenge of trying to bridge the gap between mainstream and sf/f readers. Some of the short stories published in it are sf/f only marginally and can be placed in the hazy area somewhere between sf/f and mainstream prose.
Usva is edited by Anne Leinonen, Kosmoskynä's former editor and a succesful author in her own right. Only time tell what will become of Usva.
Other sf/f clubs
Most of the younger clubs, born in 90's or even after that have no zines nor any plans whatsoever to publish one. The youngest of them are actually so new their survival is still hanging by a thread. On the other hand some of the clubs that were mentioned in the previous edition of this article have since then practically disappeared. The ones mentioned below, however, have been around a few years now so it's a safe to bet they will continue to do so.
In addition to that, there have been numerous obscure sf societies over the years. In the mythic history of Finnish fandom especially there were many weird little societies and zines that would make a subject for an article of its own. One might say that starting societies is one of the favourite activities of Finnish fandom. Currently there are clubs like "Ye Olde Cavaliers Scientifiction Boozing Guild" and "The Grumpy Bald Sci-fi Fans Association".
The Science Fiction Culture Cabinet at the University of Turku
Turku University sf/f Club, Tutka (Radar) for short is the second sf club in Turku and was founded in the beginning of 1995. It shows sf videos to it's members and TSFS's members are also invited. The society itself doesn't do much, but most of it's active members are also active elsewhere. Tutka has an irregular line of publications called Kabinettikertomuksia (Cabinet Stories).
Spektre (Tampere Science Fiction community)
Spektre, short for "Speculative fiction in Tampere", represents the new generation of Finnish fandom. There has of course been fandom activity in Tampere as long as fandom has been around but unfortunately the Tampere fandom split more or less in two in a very early stage. With Spektre around there's hope the old scars would be forgotten. The start at least looks promising.
Spektre has functioned now a couple of years. Like OYSFK, it arranges video evenings and other informal gatherings, but has no plans whatsoever of publishing a zine. It has also hosted the Finnish Fandoms annual co-operation meeting several times.
Joensuu Science Fiction Society
Joensuu Science Fiction Society is also one of the newcomers. At the moment it's the newest sf/f society in Finland. It was founded in 2004 and much of the JSFS's activity circle around the society's discussion forum on the net. (Nice looking one, I might add.) JSFS has "mafias" twice a month and like most young sf/f societies (Spektre, OYSFK, LSFS) it arranges video evenings and other fun stuff. So far it hasn't had very much contacts with rest of the fandom, but that too can change.
Spock's Hut is one of the sf/f societies in Finland almost solely concentrated on audiovisual sf/f. Like the name implies, SHUT was originally founded as a Star Trek club and its zine Outpost was something like a Trek version of Free Galaxy (although founded much earlier).
Although most of the articles in Outpost did concentrate on Trek related issues, the society itself wasn't simply for fans of pointy ears. During the last few yars the society has directed its interest in other major branches of tv sci-fi as well, including B5, Farscape, Jeremiah and so on.
At the moment it seems the society's engines are running only on half or rather, impulse power and there hasn't been a new issue of Outpost since 1995. On the other hand, in 2003 we saw "Outpost - Ultra Slim Summer Edition", out for Finncon X held in Turku, so there's a chance Outpost will some day once again join the happy family of Finnish sf zines.
Oulu University Science Fiction and Fantasy Club
For a number of years, the Oulu Science Fiction Society Polaris was the active force sf/f-wise in Northern Finland. It published its Mytago (Mythago) fanzine (again an actual fanzine) and was the presenter of the hilarious Lumimies (Yeti) award.
Over the years Mytago's issues became more and more rare and now it seems the Oulu University Science Fiction and Fantasy Club has taken its place. Being a newcomer nothing much can be said about it. OYSFK arranges video evenings and other fun stuff, but is still more or less an unwritten book. It doesn't publish a zine, which at this point is a wise thing not to do.
Lahti Science Fiction Society
Lahti Science Fiction Society started out in the fall of 2002 and represents one of the most recent additions in the family of Finnish sf/f societies. It is, however, the second society to bear that name. The first incarnation of LSFS happened in mid 90's, one could say in the "golden age" of Finnish sf/f societies.
Like most societies in those days, LSFS too had its own zine, Jäkäl'aarre, but unfortunately the society disappeared only after a few years. LSFS was never officially disbanded, it simply ceased to exist after most of the founding members moved from Lahti. The current incarnation of the society is the second attempt to see wether a town of that size could maintain a sf/f society. None of the people behind the current society were around the time of the first one and the only thing in common with the two is the name.
The current version of LSFS was born from the side of Lahti Comics Society, commonly known only as Gronk. The people behind the two are more or less the same, Gronk naturally being the older and the bigger of the two, and LSFS can be seen more like a means to channel society's sf/f interests. Like OYSFK, Spektre and JSFS, it arranges video evenings, keeps in contact with the rest of the fandom and has an active mafia, with gatherings once a week. In many ways, however, LSFS too is still an unwritten book.
Finnish sf/f webzines anf related sites
When the previous version of this article was written back in 1995 Internet itself was only beginning to take form. Since then the net and world in general has changed considerably. Now most exchange of information between Finnish sf/f societies is done through the net and e-mail, a concept that itself would have been pure sf when the fandom was born.
Considering Finland's reputation as being in the forefront on new technology, it is surprising that there are only a few actual sf/f webzines in Finland. Most Finnish sf/f societies and zines have their own web pages, but almost in every case they exist merely to promote the actual zine, not as an independent media.
One explanation for that are the historical reasons. During the course of the last thirty years, Finnish fan- and prozines have taken the role webzines have in countries where fandom was born more recently. Had the Finnish fandom also been born more recently, not thirty years ago, there would probably be much more sf/f related webzines.
Editor Marko Ikäheimo
Kuopio Science Fiction Society's Kalaksikukko ("Galaxy Rooster") is the oldest Finnish webzines and it has been on the net since nearly as long as there has been one, from the early 1990's. At the time the earlier version of this article was written it was the only Finnish zine that appeared only in electronic form (disregarding four early-on paper zines). Since then it has got company, but in many ways Kalaksikukko remains one of the few actual Finnish sf/f webzines.
Kalaksikukko has also kept its appearance over the years and remained as plain and simple as possible, without flash animations or fancy graphics. It publishes short stories, reviews, columns and other sf/f related material.
As a short story repository Kalaksikukko is one of a kind. Being a webzine , Kalaksikukko doesn't have to be too choosy and one must admit the stories published in Kalaksikukko's archive are not the greatest literature ever written. On the other hand, for many young writers Kalaksikukko is the only place to get one's stories published and to get public feedback for them. And that's what all beginning writers need.
Unfortunately Kalaksikukko hasn' been updated for some time now.
Editors Juhani Hinkkanen and Leena Peltonen
Aikakone (Time Machine) is piece of Finnish sf history. Originally it was the URSA Astronomical Society's zine. It was published from 1981 and behind it were some of the early giants in Finnish fandom. In 1990 the society decided to stop publishing an sf fanzine and consequently The Aikakone Society was formed.
The zine became bigger and more professional-looking, was printed on glossy paper, with cover occasionally in colour, 70 pages or more. For a number of years, Aikakone was undoubtedly one of the best Finnish sf zines if not the best.
Unfortunately due to financial difficulties it began to have trouble getting new issues out on time. In the mid 90's the zine finally changed into a webzine. Aikakone lives on in a different form, I suppose, but its golden age is behind. Aikakone has very good electronic archives.
Maintained by Kimmo Lehtonen
As far as websites acting as an independent media, Babek Nabel ("Free Thought", also known as Leban Kebab) is probably the closest one. It was started in 2001 by the fans in Helsinki as a fandom's discussion forum that would work better than several separate mailing lists. Babek Nabel was originally known as Avoin Kirja ("Open book") but was forced to change its name in 2002 due for copyright reasons.
During the time it has been on-line, Babek Nabel has indeed seemed to achieve its goal. Nowadays a big part of the general fandom discussion takes place there. For many, though, mailing lists are still the way to communicate. They also remain the safest and quickest way to reach everybody in the fandom when it comes to notices about upcoming events.
After the publication of this article the number of different types of discussion forums on the net has increased greatly. There is discussion forum for fantasy fans called Green Dragon, several forums for sf/f writers, for example FSFWA's Net Colosseum and Fantasiakirjoittajat.net and very likely many even I'm not aware of. Alongside with Babek Nabel, one of the most worthwhile to visit however is Risingshadow.
Risingshadow very well might be the place where the future of Finnish fandom is. Most of the members in Risingshadow are young fans and the discussion that takes place there is very active. It also has excellent bulletin boards for sf/f related news and upcoming "mafias". The interface in Risingshadow is also much nicer than in Babek Nabel.
So there you have it, the Finnish fandom in all its glory. This was of course only one view on it; somebody else might have given a different picture altogether. The only way to get an absolutely accurate view is of course getting to know the Finnish fandom personally. And that is easiest to do by visiting one of the Finnish cons, if not Eurocon 2003, some of the Baltcons or Eurocons after that. You didn't think Finncon X would be the last one, did you?
See you around the galaxy.