Entry updated 19 November 2023. Tagged: International.
Norway, along with the other Scandinavian countries, has always been somewhat isolated from the main roads of European cultural development, and never more so than during the eighteenth century, when the Age of Enlightenment swept across the rest of Europe. Outside the mainly French-speaking courts, Scandinavia was poor and starving, mainly agricultural, and crushed by repeated, ruinous wars. It is perhaps not surprising that excursions into fantastic literature were few: Scandinavia had nothing to compare with the French Voyages imaginaires, a 36-volume series published from 1787 and running from Lucian to Cyrano de Bergerac to Jonathan Swift. The first arguable Norwegian example of fantastic literature was Niels Klims reise til den underjordiske verden ["The Underground Journey of Niels Klim"] (1741) by Ludvig Holberg (born in Norway when it was part of Denmark and thus claimed by the latter country), which is the earliest known example of Utopian literature in all Scandinavia. Other important early works include the Time-Travel play Anno 7603 (1781) – a Satire of gender role-reversal – by Johan Hermann Wessel (1742-1785), born in Norway though also claimed by Denmark since Norway was then a Danish province; but this was an isolated case. Fantastic literature was popular, but most of it was what we would today call Heroic Fantasy, with sword-toting heroes, maidens in distress, sentient dragons (see Supernatural Creatures), and so on.
The first Norwegian author of works that can be considered as modern sf, with everything that description implies, operated in the early twentieth century: Øvre Richter-Frich (1872-1945) issued more than 20 popular novels from 1911 which detailed the adventures of the super-Scientist Jonas Fjeld. Another such author was Frøis Frøisland, author of Fortaellinger fra fronten: Solidt halvlaeder (coll 1928; trans as The Man With X-Ray Eyes and Other Stories from the Front 1930).
Unlike the case in the English-speaking countries, fantastic literature in Scandinavia – and, indeed, in mainland Europe as a whole – was never trapped in the sf ghetto; one is tempted to suggest that this was because Europe succeeded in exporting Hugo Gernsback, so that he created the sf ghetto elsewhere. Thus Norway (though always on a lesser scale than Sweden) is much like the rest of continental Europe in having little in the way of specialized sf industry but instead a lively world of fantastic literature from various European sources, including the German Sturm und Drang, E T A Hoffmann, Adelbert von Chamisso (1781-1838), the unavoidable Jules Verne, and even the French "'pataphysics" invented by Alfred Jarry (see Imaginary Science), along with Italian and Russian Futurism; but little directly from the world of English-language sf. Where Genre SF existed, it was long confined to fans and Fandom and published by specialist houses. One very popular and eminently readable Norwegian author who worked in this tradition, though his sf appeared from a major publisher, is Øyvind Myhre. Other Norwegian sf authors left genre sf or were never part of it, their books usually being published by mainstream houses and without the "sf" label
Not until after World War Two did Norway have its own regular SF Magazine, Tempo-Magasinet (November 1953-March 1954), one of several foreign-language editions of Galaxy. Following the five issues of Tempo-Magasinet, several Norwegian paperback houses published a small number of sf novels in the fifties and early sixties. Some were by Poul Anderson, Robert A Heinlein, A E van Vogt, Donald A Wollheim, and John Wyndham; the rest were by less-known authors. In those days, some Norwegian readers did not feel comfortable with foreign languages, and had to rely on the existing translated books. Others bought English paperbacks abroad.
In the same period, Roar Ringdahl and Cato N Lindberg founded what was later called "The First Norwegian Fandom". They established contact with over 200 sf fans in Sweden, the USA and the UK, exchanging letters and fanzines. Together they published the sf Fanzine Fantasi; then Lindberg went to sea, and Ringdahl produced many more fanzines with other collaborators. Another fan of note was the later sf author Ray Faraday Nelson, married to a Norwegian woman and living in Oslo at the time. These fan activities lasted until the early sixties, when Ringdahl and Per G Olsen, another sf fan and later author, became interested in film and left fandom until the seventies.
In the mid-sixties Oddvar Foss and Jon Bing started the Oslo students' SF Club, Aniara. Another participant in their first official meeting was Tor Åge Bringsværd. Bing published a one-shot called Fenomen 66, while other members of Aniara produced their official fanzine Mimam – its name taken from the Computer in Harry Martinson's poem Aniara (1956) – which later became Surg. But these activities died out rather quickly, and Aniara did not reappear until 1974 with new active members, publishing the best Norwegian sf fanzine of all time: Algernon (1974-1998), whose founding editor was Øystein Sørensen.
Bing and Bringsværd moved on to work with sf books for the publisher Gyldendal. They wrote their first short story collection together, Rundt solen i ring ["Ring Around the Sun"] (1967), edited a series of some fifteen excellent sf Anthologies, and worked as external advisors for the translated titles in the Lanterne Science Fiction series, which included many classic works by well-known American and English authors. Eleven of the 58 books were written by Norwegian authors such as Thore Hansen, Reidar Jensen, Ingar Knudtsen Jr, Per G Olsen and others; the series also included two Original Anthologies of new short stories. The last book was published in 1980. Outside the Lanterne SF label, Gyldendal published the individual books of both Jon Bing and Tor Åge Bringsværd, along with Olav Angell, Tore Bjerke, Peter Haars and Øystein Lønn. Bringsværd became highly respected in the Scandinavian literary world as a writer of extraordinary merits, while Bing's international reputation led to a guest-of-honour appearance at the 1997 UK Eastercon.
Although there have been six Norwegian SF Magazines over the years, Aurora (1978) and Terra Nova (1988) were rather short-lived. Isaac Asimovs Science Fiction Serie (1978-1980), a translation of Asimov's, was unfortunately cancelled after 14 issues. It was followed by the idealistic magazine Sirius (1989-1991), which lasted for nine issues. Only Science Fiction Magasinet, founded in 1971 by Terje Wanberg (1939-2006) and changing its name to Nova in 1973, lasted for as long as 9 years. This began as the Norwegian edition of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction but became independent after the first two issues (September and October 1971); it was published four to five times a year, with a total of 34 issues. Nova printed about 100 translated short stories and novellas by well-known foreign authors, ranging from classic sf by Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne and H G Wells, via important names from the fifties, sixties and seventies, such as Brian W Aldiss, Poul Anderson, Alfred Bester, Arthur C Clarke, Robert A Heinlein, Ursula K Le Guin, Vonda N McIntyre, Larry Niven, James Tiptree Jr and Jack Vance, to such experimental texts as Harlan Ellison's "The Deathbird" (March 1973 F&SF). These were supplemented by older genre writers such as older genre writers such as Ambrose Bierce, Robert E Howard, H P Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. Roughly as many stories were contributed by Norwegian authors. Some of these later moved on to novels and collections for various publishers: Øyvind Myhre, Dag Ove Johansen, Ingar Knudtsen Jr, Geir Arne Olsen (also known as Leonard Borgzinner), and others.
The small explosion of science fiction books from Gyldendal and other publishers such as Fredhøis Forlag during the seventies, supplemented by Nova and Algernon, established the foundation for "The Second Norwegian Fandom", which lasted untill the early eighties. The period saw a great number of Fanzines – including Aardvark, Alhabor, Deije Shits, Driftglass, Fabula, Gandalf, Gnore/Villkatt, Grezzcar, Madore/Erodam and Tralfa – and the first annual or semi-annual national Conventions – called "Norcon" – were organized from the mid-seventies and onward to this day. In this decade Knut Faldbakken achieved international bestsellerdom with his Sweetwater novels Aftenlandet ["The Evening Land"] (1972; trans as Twilight Country 1993) and Sweetwater (1974; trans as Sweetwater 1994). Gerd Brantenberg published the Feminist Satire Egalias Dotre (1977; trans as Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes 1985).
Several important changes happened by the end of the seventies. All the sf magazines and book series were cancelled, and Norwegian fandom was waiting for "the next thing" to happen. The "rescue" came from an unexpected direction: in 1982 Terje Wanberg took over the legacy of Nova. He founded Bok og Magasinforlaget, and during the next two decades published about 30 books, a mixture of anthologies and original collections and novels by Norwegian authors such as Dag Ove Johansen, Ingar Knudtsen, Jr, Øyvind Myhre, Trond Buland and Einar Gjærevold. In addition he published four anthologies of original Norwegian short stories.
The eighties saw the rise of "The Third Norwegian Fandom". Many fans turned to Role Playing Games such as Dungeons & Dragons, which attracted many new members. Gaming clubs were established in and outside of Oslo, gamers started to publish fanzines on gaming, and organized their own regular gaming convention, called "Arcon". The re-translation of J R R Tolkien's Lord of the Rings (1954-1955 3vols) in 1981-1982, and the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter films some years later, created a Fantasy boom. Fans fascinated by Tolkien's magic world founded Arthedain – Norges Tolkienselskap ["Arthedain – The Norwegian Tolkien Society"] and started to publish a members' magazine called Angerthas – both still existing today. The publishers tested the market with recent fantasy works by such authors as Robert Jordan (1948-2007) and Terry Brooks, and several Norwegians started to write in the same vein – both established authors and newcomers.
A generation of brand-new fanzines appeared on the scene. Where older fanzines were usually produced with relatively crude duplicators or mimeographs, the new ones were often printed in offset, bearing names like Bizarr Science Fiction/Bizarr Mortem, Capricorn, Galadriel, Inca, Ironlynx, Lingele'I/Tridne, Outbreak, Tusmørkeøyene ["The Twilight Islands"], along with APAs such as APA10 and Remember Lindisfarne. During the nineties, the sf musician Biosphere (Geir Jenssen) released space-themed albums.
But the air was about to go out of the balloon. Although towards the millennium there were some really well organized sf conventions, different role-playing clubs started to arrange their own conventions, and Norwegian sf fandom lost much of its energy. Since then, a group of enthusiastic fans have continued to arrange Norcon and the annual Memory Dinner in memory of the BNF (Big Name Fan; see Fan Language) Johannes H Berg (1956-2004).
The first decades of the new millennium have seen a number of Mainstream Writers make honest attempts to write fantastic literature, often to bestselling effect. Authors of note in this context include Axel Jensen (whom see), who with compatriot artist Hariton Pushwagner created the remarkable Graphic Novel Pushwagners Soft City (graph 2008), and Karl Ove Knausgaard with his Morgenstjernen ["Morning Star"] sequence.
In recent years several brand-new authors of genuine sf have surfaced, publishing well-written stories and novels. These include Jan Erik Bergfjord; Jørn A Jensen; Ørjan Nordhus Karlsson; Maja Lunde, with her Klimakvartetten ["Climate Quartet"] series; Anitra Heiberg Lykke; and Jo Nesbo, who as well as publishing Young Adult sf co-created the Television series Occupied (2015; original title Occupert). Two such authors, Bjarne Benjaminsen and Cato Pellegrini (1960- ), launched the Online Magazine Nye Nova ["New Nova"] [see links below] in November 2022 as a homage to the old printed magazine Nova. [CPe/DRL/SJL/J-HH]
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