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Swahn, Sven Christer

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

(1933-2005) Swedish poet, author, playwright, literary critic and translator. Immensely prolific, Swahn published a dozen collections of poetry including his first book, Eftermiddagens nycklar ["The Keys to Afternoon"] (coll 1956), five short story collections, thirteen adult novels, seventeen juvenile novels, a dozen or more Radio plays, eight books of literary overviews, essays and cultural history, a dozen Anthologies, hundreds of book reviews and magazine essays and close to two hundred book translations, including renderings of Shakespeare's and Keats's sonnets, the Rubáiyat of Omar Khayyám and the poetry of Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allan Poe. He began reading sf in childhood, via the early Swedish magazine Jules Verne-Magasinet (1940-1947); though most of his poetry and fiction is realist, it includes Fantasies as well as a number of highly accomplished sf works. In Vår man i Nyhavn eller De kalla männen från Atlantis ["Our Man in Nyhavn, or The Cold Men of Atlantis"] (1967) a young journalist in Copenhagen encounters three men who have survived in Suspended Animation since the sinking of Atlantis and now aim to restore that Island's former world domination. In Havsporten ["The Sea Gate"] (1970), the young protagonist finds himself on an unknown, uncharted Island of strange customs and perhaps Magic. In Jakten på Stora Sjöormen ["Hunting the Great Sea Serpent"] (1974) a driven sailor finally encounters the gigantic, unknown sea Monster he has spent his life trying to find. In Duell på månen ["Duel on the Moon"] (1975) the young protagonist is recruited as part of the crew of an Alien biological Spaceship – borrowed from the story "Specialist" (May 1953 Galaxy) by Robert Sheckley, to whom the novel is dedicated – and takes part in a duel with other, aggressive aliens on the Moon. In "Sf-galaxen" ["The SF Galaxy"] (2004 Nova science fiction no 2) – written circa 1977 but deemed too esoteric, hence the delayed magazine-only publication – the young protagonists are Scandinavian sf fans who attend a British sf Convention in Bristol, where two of the author guests turn out to be Alien beings. In Ljuset från Alfa Centauri ["The Light of Alpha Centauri"] (1977), a man's life is changed by what he is convinced is an encounter with Aliens, but which is dismissed by others; Oktogon eller De åtta rymdkaptenerna ["Octagon, or The Eight Space Captains"] (1986) tells of how eight former Spaceship commanders decide on a final, doomed mission to save the world. The first five of the seven novels mentioned were published as juveniles, but there is no great difference in complexity or style between these and the last two adult novels; Swahn never believed in simplifying or writing down, though in his adult work the ambiguity between what is stated to be fact and what may be imaginary is more marked. Apart from his novels, he also wrote a number of sf short stories, at least one sf play and many poems, including one about sorting his sf books and one which is a moving elegy to James Blish, who was a personal friend. As a critic, Swahn wrote voluminously on sf from the mid-1960s and on, both in the daily newspaper Sydsvenska Dagbladet and in the most widely spread Swedish encyclopedia of the 1970s and 1980s; his nonfictional 7 x framtiden ["7 x The Future"] (coll 1974) combines a long, personal essay on the importance and meaning of sf with in-depth examinations of a number of authors including Brian W Aldiss, Philip K Dick, Philip José Farmer and Stanisław Lem, all of whom he also published while editing a line of sf novels 1974-1976. Swahn was arguably the most versatile and accomplished of Swedish sf writers to date. [J-HH]

Sven Peder Christer Swahn

born Karlskrona, Sweden: 3 August 1933

died Malmö, Sweden: 15 January 2005

works (selected: sf/fantasy only)




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