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Entry updated 7 February 2022. Tagged: International.

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Sf in Finland, now over a century old, has been diverse, with few clear-cut lines of development. The earliest story was the serial "Muistelmia matkaltani Ruskealan pappilaan uuden vuoden aikoina vuonna 1983" ["Memoirs of My Trip to the Vicarage of Ruskeala around New Year 1983"] (1883, in the newspaper Aura) by Evald Ferdinand Jahnsson. Apart from a few children's stories, early Finnish sf took the form of future, sometimes socialist, Utopias. The Moon was reached by an icy ball in "Matka kuuhun" ["Voyage to the Moon"] (1887) by Tyko Hagman, but the first true sf was the novella "Tähtien tarhoissa" ["Among the Stars"] (1912) by Arvid Lydecken, which was about Helsinki in 2140 CE, a Martian attack, a voyage to Mars and the beginning of peaceful coexistence on Earth after Mars has been destroyed by impacting asteroids.

Fear of Bolshevism during World War One produced several speculative Future War novels, the first being the excellent Ylös helvetistä ["Up from Hell"] (1917) by Konrad Lehtimäki. In Suur-Isänmaa ["The Great Fatherland"] (1918) by Jalmari Kara writing as Kapteeni Teräs ["Captain Steel"], Finland defeats Russia, forces the UK's surrender and becomes a superpower. Kohtalon kolmas hetki ["Fate's Third Moment"] (1926) by Aarno Karimo tells about a war in 1967-1968 between Finland and the Soviet Union, which nation (in a defence union with the Mongols) is totally devastated by strange Finnish inventions. A typical hero of the period would be a scientist-inventor. The most curious of these "engineer novels" is Neljännen ulottuvuuden mies ["Man of the Fourth Dimension"] (1919) by H R Halli, in which a new chemical substance enables its users to see and walk through solid objects. The best book of this period, Viimeisellä hetkellä ["At the Last Moment"] (1922), also by Halli, creates a daring time perspective into Earth's distant future.

There were fewer sf books in the 1930s. Among the more notable are The Diamondking of Sahara (1935), written in English by Sigurd Wettenhovi-Aspa, and Undred från kraterön ["The Wonder of Crater Island"] (1939), written in Swedish by Ole Eklund. There were 30 sf books published in the 1940s. The most popular were the Atorox series by Outsider (pseudonym of Aarne Haapakoski) whose eponymous character was a Robot: Atorox, ihmisten valtias ["Atorox, Lord of Humans"] (1947), Atorox kuussa ["Atorox on the Moon"] (1947), Atorox Marsissa ["Atorox on Mars"] (1947), Atorox Venuksessa ["Atorox on Venus"] (1947), Atorox Merkuriuksessa ["Atorox on Mercury"] (1948) and Atoroxin paluu v. 2948 ["The Return of Atorox in 2948 CE"] (1948). The most remarkable book of the period, however, was Volter Kilpi's Gulliverin matka Fantomimian mantereelle ["Gulliver's Travel to the Continent of Fantomimia"] (1944), where Gulliver leaves the eighteenth century for the twentieth.

The term "science fiction" itself came to Finland in 1953 with translations of US books, and the 1950s saw growing enthusiasm for sf; the publisher Otava held a competition, "Adventures in the World of Technology", whose winner was Armas J Pulla with Lentävä lautanen sieppasi pojat ["The Boys Were Snatched by a Flying Saucer"] (1954), in which antlike Martians intend to invade Earth. Other books of the decade were juvenile adventures. Sf writers of the 1950s, each with several books, include Osmo Ilmari and Antero Harju, and Ralf Parland (who wrote in Swedish).

The 1960s were poor years for Finnish sf. The only notable novel of the period was Paikka nimeltä Plaston ["A Place Called Plaston"] (1968) by Erkki Ahonen, set on a planet whose devolved inhabitants live in herds, controlled by Computers. Ahonen's subsequent books, Tietokonelapsi ["The Computer Child"] (1972), about a human embryo's excised brain interfaced with a computer, and Syvä matka ["Deep Voyage"] (1976), about the evolution of consciousness on another planet, are Finland's most important sf novels. Further books worth mentioning from the 1970s are: Viimeinen uutinen ["The Last News"] (1970) by Risto Kavanne, about Near-Future power politics; Rösterna i den sena timmen ["Voices in the Late Hours"] (1971) by Bo Carpelan, about the feelings of people under the threat of nuclear war; and Aurinkotuuli ["Wind from the Sun"] (1975) by Kullervo Kukkasjärvi (1938-    ).

The first Finnish sf magazine, Spin, began as a Fanzine in 1977. It was followed by Aikakone ["Time Machine"] (1981), Portti ["The Gate"] (1982), Tähtivaeltaja ["Star Wanderer"] (1982) and Ikaros (1986). Besides translations, these magazines publish short fiction by Finnish writers, who before had had to be content with occasional publication in mainstream periodicals. Aikakone has grown to the point that it singlehandedly supports its own fandom and sf milieu, with new young authors appearing. Of these Portti is the largest, followed by Tähtivaeltaja and then by Aikakone.

Recent Finnish sf is represented by Auruksen tapaus ["The Case of Aurus"] (1980) by Jukka Pakkanen, a vision of the future; Amos ja saarelaiset ["Amos and the Island People"] (1987) by the well-known Mainstream writer Hannu Salama, telling in a stylistically compact way of the world after a nuclear World War Three; Katajanukke ["The Juniper Doll"] (1988), a first novel by Pekka Virtanen; and Messias ["Messiah"] (1989) by Kari Nenonen, the story of Christ's cloning from the Shroud of Turin and of the consequences. The anthologies Jäinen vaeltaja ["The Ice Wanderer"] (anth 1986), Atoroxin perilliset ["The Heirs of Atorox"] (anth 1988) and Tähtipuu ["Startree"] (anth 1990) contained mainly short stories by new Finnish writers – among the best of whom at that period were Johanna Sinisalo, Ari Tervonen and Eeva-Liisa Tenhunen – selected from magazines and writing competitions. The annual Finnish award for best short story is the Atorox Award: this has been won seven times by Johanna Sinisalo, whose Ennen päivänlaskua ei voi (2000; trans Herbert Lomas as Not Before Sundown 2003; vt Troll: A Love Story 2004) not only won the Finlandia Prize for best Finnish novel but had international success. The Finnish-born author Hannu Rajaniemi, though writing in English, more recently came to prominence with The Quantum Thief (2010) and its sequels.

Finnish Fandom has long been active; there have been many national Conventions known as Finncons, the first four being held in Helsinki in 1986, 1989, 1991 and 1993. Finncon is now a large annual event with international as well as local guests, whose venue shifts between the cities of Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Tampere and Turku [see links below]. Worldcon 75, ie the seventy-fifth Worldcon or World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Helsinki in 2017 – the first time this event had taken place in Finland.

Tales from Finnish mythology, as collected from legends and ballads to form the epic poem Kalevala from 1828 to 1849, have not only nourished Finnish writers – as in Pekka Virtanen's "Kanavat" ["Canals"] (1985), Veikko Rekunen's "Viimeinen laulaja" ["The Last Singer"] (1985) and Ernst Lampén's Taivaallisia tarinoita ["Heavenly Stories"] (coll 1918) – but have also influenced the works of writers abroad, as for example Emil Petaja's four-novel Kalevala sequence – Saga of Lost Earths (1966), The Star Mill (1966), The Stolen Sun (1967) and Tramontane (1967) – as well as his The Time Twister (1968) and, by L Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, the first half of the fantasy Wall of Serpents (June 1953 Fantasy Fiction, 1954 Beyond #9 as "The Wall of Serpents" and "The Green Magician"; coll of linked stories 1960; vt The Enchanter Compleated 1980). A more recent sf sequence based on the Kalevala is Ian Watson's Books of MANA. [JI]

see also: Leena Krohn; Reijo Mäki; Meidän poikamme ilmassa – me maassa; Ilkka Remes; A Time of Roses; Antti Tuomainen.

further reading


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