Bing, Jon

Tagged: Author | Editor

(1944-2014) Norwegian professor of law and author. Born in the town of Tønsberg, Bing moved to Oslo to attend university, and there in 1966 met Tor Åge Bringsværd. They were both inveterate sf readers in a country where sf literally did not exist, and decided to do something about this sad state of affairs. In 1966 they founded the they founded the still-active Oslo University sf club, Aniara, and its Fanzine. In 1967, they made their joint debut as professional writers with a short story collection, Rundt solen i ring ["Ring around the Sun"] (coll 1967), the first book by any Norwegian author to be labelled "science fiction". In the same year, they also published their first jointly edited anthology of translated sf, Og jorden skal beve ["And the World Will Shake"] (anth 1967), later followed by almost twenty others. Their first play, Å miste eit romskib ["To Lose a Spaceship"] (1969), was performed at Det norske teatret in Oslo, the Norwegian national theatre. In 1970, they each published a first novel; and in the same year they dramatized four sf short stories aired on Norwegian television.

Through the years, they kept up their collaboration, but with one difference. Jo Bing, who studied law, went on to become a full professor at Oslo University, a Visiting Professor of King's College in London and an honorary Doctor of Stockholm and Copenhagen universities as well as an internationally leading authority on legal informatics; as an academic, Bing published almost twenty books and innumerable essays and papers, in time becoming the first chairman of the Norwegian computer integrity council, chairman of the Norwegian Film Council, the EU Council Committee on Data Processing, the Norwegian Arts Council and a member of many other expert committees. In 1999, he was created a knight of the Norwegian Order of St Olav. Perhaps for this reason, Bing only published only around fifty volumes of fiction, while Bringsværd has published close to two hundred.

With Tor Åge Bringsværd, Bing published several story collections, numerous stage, radio and tv plays, and almost twenty sf anthologies. On his own, Bing wrote many more novels as well as short stories. They had already, in 1967, talked leading Norwegian publisher Gyldendal into launching a paperback line of sf, which they edited and which continued until 1980, releasing a total of 55 titles; this was where authors like Brian W Aldiss, J G Ballard, Alfred Bester, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, Philip K Dick, Ursula K Le Guin, Fritz Leiber, Stanisław Lem, Clifford D Simak, Theodore Sturgeon and Kurt Vonnegut were all first published in Norwegian. Since the series also included several debuting Norwegian writers, it is reasonable to say not only that Bing and Bringsværd founded Norwegian Fandom, but also that they went on to create the Norwegian sf field.

Almost from the beginning, both Bing and Bringsværd preferred using the term "fabelprosa" – best translated as, literally, "fairy tale fictions", or, idiomatically, "speculative fiction" – for what they were doing. Although Bringsværd and Bing worked together for almost fifty years – Bringsværd says that since 1966, they have "played together virtually every Tuesday" – there are literary differences between them. Both are civil libertarians, but Bing has admitted to a more generous attitude toward a central, legislative power and system of justice, while Bringsværd has characterized himself a leftwing anarchist.

As a writer, Bing in his first stories and in his first novel Det myke landskapet ["The Soft Landscape"] (1970) was clearly influenced by primarily J G Ballard and the British New Wave school of sf, possibly due to his close friendship with Bringsværd, who has remained an experimental author; as early as his second novel, Scenario (1972), Bing wrote a traditionally structured Near Future novel where the main plotline concerns the possible consequences of a new serum which may prolong life indefinitely, but where he also, in retrospect perhaps more importantly, envisions a time when Computers play a central part in everyday life, and problems of computer integrity and individual privacy have become acute. In a similar vein, Bing's four semi-juvenile novels Azur (1975), Zalt (1976), Mizt (1975), and Tanz (1985) are Planetary Romances, each introducing the reader to a vividly imagined Alien world whose often bizarre history, civilization and customs are minutely examined, much in the tradition of Jack Vance though with none of his ironic distance. Bing's final and perhaps finest solo novel, En gammel romfareres beretning ["The Tale of an Old Space Traveler"] (1992), is the story of Sebastian, who at 80 relates his thousand-year Suspended Animation voyage to strange worlds teeming with alien lifeforms, cultures and societies: in this novel, Bing returns to the great sf dream of a living universe which it is mankind's mission to explore. Perhaps fittingly, though, his last book of fiction, like his first, was a collaboration with Tor Åge Bringsværd: the posthumously published London 2084 ["London, 2084"] (2014), a sequel to the authors' earlier story collection Oslo 2084 ["Oslo, 2084"] (coll 2004), set in a world hugely affected by both Climate Change and universal electronic government surveillance, where a private investigator is drawn into a clandestine world of illicit organ trade and extreme experiments concerning both biological transformations and the interface between humans and Machines. [J-HH]

see also: Norway.

Jon Bing

born Tønsberg, Norway: 30 April 1944

died Oslo, Norway: 14 January 2014

works (sf and fantasy only)

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