Fandom in Finland is pretty much like fandom anywhere else, and also pretty different. Like anywhere else, we have cons, clubs, zines, awards, and all the other bits and pieces that come together to make this thing we call fandom. But Finnish fandom has a couple of oddities which make it very different from fandom in other countries.
One thing about Finnish fandom you probably should keep in mind while reading this article is that although most of the clubs are called [Insert a name of a Finnish town here] Science Fiction Society, they nevertheless are science fiction and fantasy -clubs. The same fact applies to the zines as well. There are of course exceptions, but these should be easy enough to spot by their names.
From then on progress has been steady and relentless. Presently there are 15 clubs or societies or whatever you want to call them spread around the country and 14 more or less regularly published zines. And no, this does not include all the small (but sometimes loud-voiced) more unofficial clubs (e.g. The Zombie Club, The Circle of the Singing Blade or The Barrow-downs) nor the numerous role-playing -clubs and -zines. (And th ere's also a society dedicated to horror, the Dark Fantasy Society... -ed.)
Since Finncon 89, one of the main principles of the Finnish national con, Finncon, has been that there is no entry-fee to the con. 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-fan is born.
The sf-club in Jyväskylä has arranged annual cons in co-operation with the local cultural happening Jyväskylän Kesä (Jyväskylä Arts Festival). These cons have been free from the beginning. (Even though Ben calls the Jyväskylän Kesä happenings "cons", I'd put them in the category "Other Important Happenings" myself... -ed.)
Year 1995 was the first time that Finncon was arranged outside Helsinki. Finncon 95 was held in Jyväskylä with Storm Constantine, Vonda McIntyre, Bruce Sterling, Alan Jones, and Gregory Day as GoHs. Finncons tend to be great, and the cons in Jyväskylä, if possible, even greater, so combining the two should result in something magnificient!
Apart from cons there are, of course, other more or less frequent happenings like masquerades, X-mas parties, video-evenings and so on. In the following I'll shortly list and explain the most important.
In most of the towns with sf-clubs there are also monthly (or even bi-monthly) gatherings. These gatherings (or mafias as some, especially the fans in Helsinki, like to call them) take place in a particular restaurant or caf on the day of a gathering, you know exactly where to find other fans. The gatherings are free and open to everyone. There might be some kind of short programme-items or not, but there definitely will be other fans whom you can talk and play sf-related games or to whom you can sell your latest fanzine or whatever. You got the picture? This is usually the best place to get to know the local fandom if you have just moved to town.
The annual must for everyone is the Roadside Picnic. This is an sf-picnic to Viikinsaari (an island in the immediate vicinity of the city of Tampere). The picnic has been arranged by the Tampere SF Society since 1983. This is the happening that gathers fans from all over Finland around one happy campfire to barbecue and generally to have a good time. This is also where the Turku fans traditionally beat the Helsinki fans (or fans from the rest of Finland [not true! -www-ed.]) in football or some other sport.
A more official meeting between the SF societies in Finland is held at the end of each year by one of the clubs. This is a meeting where representatives from all the societies recount the passed year and tell about their plans for the coming year. This way Finnish fandom at least tries to avoid booking a lot of happenings on the same date and tries to keep up contact between all the different clubs.
An important happening is the Finnish National Book Fair held in Turku every second year. The Turku SF Society has managed to get a booth for the sf-clubs at the fair and has also arranged sf-related programme during the fair. This is a great way to make sf known outside of fandom.
For the more fantasy-oriented, there is the Fantasy Feast arranged by
the Turku SF Society every couple of years. A weekend of dressing up in
medieavalish costume, sitting by the campfire, testing your wit and strength
in something not resembling a tournament, listening and dancing to folk
music, and having a good time.
The Atorox award is presented to the best Finnish science fiction or fantasy short story published the previous year. The winner is decided by a vote of all the Finnish sf-clubs. The award is usually presented at Finncon or some other major happening (e.g. the National Book Fair). The Atorox has been presented annually by the Turku SF Society since 1983. I don't suppose there is any point in listing all the winners here, you probably haven't heard of any of the writers nor read any of the winning short stories. But let me assure you that these stories at their best are on par with any you've ever read and it's really a shame that none of them has reached a wider non-Finnish audience. Any editors or publishers out there looking foor good foreign material? Look no further!
The Tähtivaeltaja award (Star Rover award) is the other main sf award in Finland. This 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) (Actually, thus far the award has always been given to a translation. -ed.). The winner of the Tähtivaeltaja award is decided by a jury and the award is presented by the Helsinki SF Societ first Tähtivaeltaja award was given in 1986.
Smaller awards (i.e. they don't get that much attention outside fandom) are the Kosmoskynä (Cosmos Pen) and the Kosmoskumi (Cosmos Eraser) awards, both presented by The Finnish SF Writers Association. The former is a recognition of excellence in the field of sf in Finland and the latter is given for a text published in the SF-writers' zine that has led to healthy debate about some sf/fandom-related issue. Both awards are given irregularly.
The Portti award (Gateway award) 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 SF Society's zine Portti are eligible to vote.
Another award with a multitude of different categories is the Lumimies award (Yeti award) presented by the Oulu SF Society. This is the most fannish of all the mentioned awards with different categories each year. (Such as "Humanoid of the Year", "Chauvinist SF Act of the Year" and "Disappearance of the Year". -ed.)
The Tampere SF Society arranges an annual sf-short story competition with big cash-prizes. This year the winner gets 10,000 FIM (about 1330) and another 10,000 FIM is split between the runners-up. The competition has been arranged since 1986 and the prizes have become bigger and bigger. Last year over 400 short stories were sent to the competition.
But we have our share of fanzines. The Finnish fanzines are one of those things that make Finnish fandom so different from fandom in other countries. Finnish fanzines are generally very professional-looking magazines with good short stories (both domestic and translated), interesting articles, fantastic artwork, great comics, and all the rest you would expect to find in any professional sf-mag. But these are all fanzines! And yes, I am exaggerating a bit on how good the contents are, but the truth i the typical Finnish fanzine is very slick and the best of our fanzines are probably better than most professional sf-mags anywhere. The biggest zines (Aikakone, Legolas, Portti, Spin and Tähtivaeltaja) are for sale at bookstores and Portti can even be found at newsagents.
At present there are 14 fanzines published more or less regularily and 15 clubs/associations/societies/whatever you want to call them. I'll end this report with a list on all the major clubs and zines with my personal opinions on them. The list is arranged alphabetically by the Finnish name. Unless otherwise stated the zines publish short stories (both domestic and translated), news, reviews, articles, illos, comics etc., and are published with four issues a year. (For purposes of the preceding paragraph read "fanzine" as "non-commercial sf zine". Since the Finnish concept of an sf zine is so different from the American/British one, terminology is a bit shaky in this area... -ed.)
Oh yes, if you like to surf the Internet, you'll be happy to know that most Finnish clubs have their own WWW-pages. Your happiness might be reduced by the fact that the pages are mainly in Finnish, but if you want to take a look anyway a good place to start is the home-page of the Turku SF Society. You can find it at the URL http://www.utu.fi/org/yhd/tsfs/.
The people behind Aikakone are also generally active in Finnish fandom (they arranged the Aikacon in 1994 and are co-arrangers on this years Finncon).
Tähtivaeltaja could be the best Finnish sf-zine if it wasn't for the editor-in-chief's affection for every sub-culture that includes black leather, studs, and gothic rock.
Tähtivaeltaja at its best is a zine that hits right on the spot with good articles, excellent comics and great short stories.
Tähtivaeltaja at its worst is a zine that is more like a suicidal gothic teenager's wet dream than an sf-zine.
Marvin started out as an unusually (for Finland that is) fannish zine and from there slowly progressed to being a zine that each time is done by a different group of people, so you never know what to expect. Recent issues have covered pornography, religion, swords, turkeys, and now - for something completely different - this.
The zine is OK-looking, but doesn't really serve any bigger purpose other than being some kind of a con-booklet for the Jyväskylän Kesä sf-happenings. Oh yes, Alienisti is one of the few Finnish zines (if not the only one) to publish material in English.
The Kuopio SF Society is working closely with the Kuopio University SF Club.
Of the two zines, Hobittilan Sanomat is more of a club- and newszine, whereas Legolas has longer stuff like articles, short stories and all that.
Portti could be the best sf-zine in Finland if it wasn't so big. It sometimes seems like quantity is more important than quality and that almost any article, illo or short story gets published as long as the zine gets big enough. But the fact remains that Portti is the zine with the biggest circulation.
The zine has developed from a role-model for the younger Finnish zines to a news-zine with the occasional short story or article. It doesn't compete with the other zines in Finland, it doesn't have to.