With this piece, I will start a series of articles about the National SF Fandoms. I will send the same list of questions to SF promoters from various European countries, asking them to make a picture of their Science Fiction scene.
Here is the first one, about the Estonian SF. I had the pleasure to have an interview with Joel Jans, who is „a fandom activist and writer of horror and SF stories”.
(Darius Hupov) Joel, please present yourself to our readers
(Jans Joel) I’m a fandom activist and writer of horror and SF stories. I started reading sci-fi in early childhood and this hobby has slowly become a Important part of my life 🙂 As an author, I debuted in the fanzine Reaktor, witch I co-founded with the famous Estonian sci-fi and horror writer Maniakkide Tänav in 2011. I have also made many collaborations with Maniakkide Tänav and Veiko Belials and I have received 6 Stalkers (an Estonia sci-fi award) for co-authorship. My individual works have mostly appeared in ‘Reaktor’ and in various anthology books. I have also co-edited five volumes of anthologies comprised of stories previously published in ‘Reaktor’ and am currently trying to start small sci-fi publishing house with Maniakkide Tänav.
Please try to make a brief introduction on the Estonian SF history.
The very first sci-fi story written in Estonia was Matthias Johan Eisen’s „Tallinn aastal 2000“ (1903). After the war there were some mentionable authors like Boris Kabur (fun fact: he invented the first Russian chainsaw while in a Russian prison camp) and Henn-Kaarel Hellat, who invented the famous Estonian word „ulme”. It is the opposite to the word „olme” (ordinary life) and loosely translated as „speculative fiction”. It sums up sci-fi, horror and fantasy and linked with the terms vision and dream. In September 2015, Estonian fandom celebrated the 45th anniversary of the term ‘ulme’.
Although ulme existed during the Russian occupation years, the real science fiction explosion came during the time of independence in 1990 and with the computer age. Computers have played an important part both in Estonia itself and in Estonian science fiction. In 1991 the horror magazine Mardus was founded, but a truly active fandom began to emerge in 1996, with the creation of the email@example.com mailing list. This allowed fans to communicate quickly and easily, which led to the fandom’s quick rise. By 1998 the first Estonia ulme convention – Estcon, was held and there some leading fans decided to found the webzine Algernon, which was, for many years, the central place to discover new promising authors.
Which are the most popular SF magazines and fanzins (printed and online) in Estonia?
The Estonian fandom would not be what it is without its magazines and web fanzines. There were sci-fi stories in some soviet popular science and youth magazines but the first true sci-fi magazine was Mardus (Eidolon). It was published irregularly on paper and initially focused on pure horror but slowly turned into a science fiction magazine. A total of 43 issues were published (with one special issue and five anthologies), the last one being published in 2001. In 1998 the online magazine Algernon (http://algernon.ee) was founded. In the beginning, Algernon was a place where all authors that are famous today got published for the first time. But after some years Algernon got re-structured, publishing frequency decreased, and the importance of the magazine declined. Currently, the magazine is published quarterly or even less frequently.
Right now, the most popular and frequently published fanzine is Reaktor (http://ulmeajakiri.ee), which was founded in late 2011. In addition to stories, Reaktor also publishes news, book and movie reviews, and more. The magazine is published once a month, usually at the end of the month. It has also published four story anthology books on paper.
If you are interested, then there is also a special English issue our fanzine Reaktor http://www.ulmeajakiri.ee/failid/Erinumber.pdf
Do you have SF&F Clubs that have regular meetings?
We have only one SF&F and Horror club called „Eesti Ulmeühing” (the association of ulme) and it organizes regular meetings every month in Estonias two biggest cities Tallinn and Tartu. The Tartu meeting is in the pub Beer Ministry and the Tallinn takes place in Vintage Lounge.
There are usually 20-30 people attending, mainly drinking beer and talking about science fiction, and Fantaasia and other publishing houses sell their new books with special fan-price.
It may seem ridiculously small compared to the larger countries, but you must remember that there are only one million native Estonian speakers 🙂
Do you have local or national SF&F associations?
Like I said, we have only one SF&F and Horror club (Eesti Ulmeühing’s or ESFA) and we do not have very big international ambitions. The of our efforts go towards the promotion of science fiction and work with the local fandom.
The Ulmeühing’s or ESFA main task are to organize monthly meetings, estcon, stalker awards and to organize science fiction events for a wider audience (like big book festivals, horror movie festival and so on).
The Eesti ulmeühing web page is http://ulme.ee (there is also an English section, check it out!)
Are there any printing houses specialized in SF&F? If not, which ones are publishing this type of literature?
Right now we have one bigger (not really very big even on an Estonian scale) publishing house called Fantaasia and some smaller ones like Skarabeus and Viiking. Fantaasia publishes 1-3 books per month, Skarabeus publishes one book (usually a translated story anthology) per year, Viiking publishes about 1-3 books a year, and Indrek Hargla’s personal publishing house Raudhammas, which mainly publishes Hargla’s own works. During the last two years Hargla has also published one anthology of Estonian authors’ stories a year, and there is hope that this tradition will continue. And as I said earlier, I am also working right now on making a new small publishing house.
There are also some bigger publishers, whose main focus is traditional literature but who also irregularly publishes some SF&F books and book-series. The most famous and biggest one is Varrak.
Print runs are not worth mentioning 🙂 they are mainly between 300 – 1200 copies.
Which are the most popular SF&F conventions in Estonia? What are their main attractions?
Just like we have just one club, we have only one event as well. Unlike other world conventions, Estcon takes place mostly outdoors and the program tends to be less academic in nature, concentrating more on relaxation and open communication. But this does not mean that the program is superficial. There are presentations, LARPs, a book fair, and the announcement of the Estonian science fiction Stalker Award winners. Estcon is one of the fandom’s most important events of the whole year. It is attended by a large majority of Estonian SF&F translators, writers, publishers, etc. The number of participants is constantly rising. For example, in 2015 the attendance was 105 people and in 2018 we had 125 people.
There is also the Horror movies festival HÕFF, that happens every year in Haapsalu, and there are many sci-fi fans present there, but I don’t think this counts as SF&F convention 🙂
Who are the main author names in today’s Estonian SF&F?
The most published authors are:
Indrek Hargla: The most important Estonian author of speculative fiction by all standards. Hargla has won 20 Stalker Awards in all possible categories, that is far more than any other Estonian author.
Maniakkide Tänav: Writer of horror, apocalyptic SF and cyberpunk. A person of notable organizational talent (co-founder and editor of ‘Reaktor’ and of several anthologies) and a writer with a considerable cult following.
Heinrich Weinberg: Weinberg belongs to the newest wave of Estonian SF authors; having debuted in 2013 he quickly became one of the most prolific SF writers.
Veiko Belials: A prolific poet, Russian translator (most notably of the Strugatsky brothers), critic and editor. His first novel «Ashinari kroonikad» (The Chronicles of Ashinar; 1997) was for many years the undisputed flagship of proper genre fantasy by an Estonian writer.
Siim Veskimees: One of the most prolific Estonian SF writers of the last 15 years (author of 14 books, mostly novels), Veskimees specializes in space opera and military SF.
Mart Sander: Singer, actor, director, artist, TV host and, last but not least, occasional author who has written three books and whose stories fall mostly under the label of horror.
Mairi Laurik: An author of, what can be predominantly be classified as YA SF and a prolific one at that, who has published three novels and a handful of short stories to date.
Mann Loper: Also more of YA SF-Fantasy author, who debuted in recent years.
Triinu Meres: A poet and writer whose SF debut «Joosta oma varju eest» (To Run away from One’s Shadow) won grand prix in ESFA short story competition in 2011.
Andrus Kivirähk: Possibly the most popular Estonian author of this century, Kivirähk is mainly a playwright, children’s writer, and feuilletonist. Although active for more than two decades, Kivirähk has written only three proper novels for adult readers. Definitely not genre science fiction but a good literary fantasy writer.
You can read more about Estonia fandom’s activists and writers from this link: http://ulme.ee/veeb/?page_id=8609&lang=en
Give us some names of SF&F Estonian graphic artists.
During soviet times, the most notable artists were Olimar Kallas and Edgar Valter, who illustrated most books, magazines, and sci-fi stories and books. Today the most productive sci-fi book illustrators are Meelis Krošetskin and Marge Nelk.
What makes Estonia SF original?
This is the hardest question so far. Half joking, you could say that Estonian SF’s most original thing is that it exists. The fact that such a small nation has its own active science fiction fandom and writers circle is quite a miracle by itself. But to be more precise, like every small nation, Estonians often make an effort to tell stories where our language, our customs, and our local spirit makes it to the stars. Our horror often features remixes of local folklore, our space opera features native-language techno-babble, and our fantasy borrows themes from our history and mythology.
During soviet times, the most notable artists were Olimar Kallas and Edgar Valter, who illustrated most books, magazines, and sci-fi stories and books. Today the most productive sci-fi book illustrators are Meelis Krošetskin and Marge Nelk.Oricine poate scrie pe Helion Online. Mult succes!