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Book Reviews: The self-Inflicted Relatives and Never Stop. Two anthologies on Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Worldcon 2017 was a good occasion to read Finnish literature. Unfortunately there are not too many translations. That is why the publishing cooperative Osuuskumma has taken the opportunity to published two books in its international collection. The same publisher gave us the fabulous “Luces del Norte”, years ago for the Eurocon in Barcelona.

The Self Inflicted Relative. 33 fantastic Stories in 100 Words.
Edited by Maija Haavisto and Mikko Rauhala.
Osuuskuma Publishing, 2017
In Printed edition, ePub and ePub+DRM

We can make the stereotypical joke that because Finns don’t talk too much they excel in flash fiction. I just want to think it is because they are just good writers.
In the foreword Maija Haavisto asks how can you write a whole story in just 100 words and she answers: pretty much the same way as you would in 100,000. She also calls the genre drabble, and it is the first time I have seen that word. But drabble or flash fiction, the importance is the quality.

This being a genre I write a lot (and I stand out, considering the prices I get for flash fiction), I know it can be a tricky one. It is a story, not a description or a scene.

And there is no room for error, because there is no place to hide it. That is why I enjoyed reading this little book.

As always in the genre, there is a lot of humor and a twist at the end. The themes are pretty much related to human relationships and the fear of the otherness. In The Doll (Magdalena Hai) and Too Wild For You (O.E.Lönberg) the companion is replaced by a non-human one to make this relation “easier”. Unless you prefer to replace animals with mechanical mice (Cheese, Kari Välimäki) or a mechanical dragonfly (Process, Maija Haavisto). The fear of contact could be caused by the fear of the predator, or the foreigner, as well as metaphorized in stories like Father Plague (J.S. Meresmaa), The Conditional Wolf (Maija Haavisto) or the almost erotic The Bait (M.A.Tyrsyluoto). Not even the family escapes this fear of the other as is shown in the story that gives the name to the ensemble: Relatives and Grapes With Seed, Both Look Bood but Who On Earth Wants Them?, by Christine Thorel. Luckily for me none of my Finnish family is a self-inflicted relative.

One story that I am really fond is: The Dinosaurs Screech Outside by Janos Honkonen. I don’t know if it was his intention but I could not avoid thinking of Monterroso’s dinosaur. Somehow for me this story is an homage to this Master of the genre… and makes me think that now I know why when he woke up, the dinosaur was still there.

This is a very nice little book that you read all at once, but not because it is short, but because you cannot stop reading.

Never Stop. Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories
Selected by Emmi Itäranta
Osuuskuma Publishing, 2017
In Printed edition, ePub, Epub+DRM, and Mobi

Emmi Itäranta is one of the few Finnish authors that have been translated into English with success. In the Foreword she explains the motivation for this anthology is to showcase some of those who are not translated.

The first story gives the name to the anthology and is a cyberpunk tale written by M.A. Tyrskyluoto. The other science-fiction stories of the book are Mare Nostrum by Jussi Katajala, The Guardian of Kobayashi by Mikko Rauhala and Beautiful Boy, by Magdalena Hai, even though this last one also has Asian dragon mythology and pirates.

This is one of the characteristics of the Finnish Weird: the mix of genres, making it difficult for those who are fond of labels. But if you, like me, just want to read original and well written stories, you will not be disappointed.

There are also a lot of alternate history stories, like in The Air Itself Caught Fire (Janos Honkonen), a dragon story set in World War II, or The Heart that Beast in a Dream (J.S. Meresmaa) and The Wings of the Hornet Queen (Artemis Kelosaari)

Of course Finnish mythology is present, with a twist, like in Josefiina’s Cart of Wonders (Maija Haavisto), Maid of Tuonela (Anne Leinonen) or The Silver Bride (Markus Harju)

The big difference with the first book is not the length of the stories but the fact that this one’s are far darker than the first one. My buttercup, My Everything by Maria Carole is a horror gothic romance; Star in the Deep by Anu Korpinen is some kind of Lovecraftian fairy tale.

As it happened with “Luces del Norte” (in which I translate 5 of the 9 stories) the world depicted is very dark, with a lot of steampunck elements, a gloomy mixture of technology and rural life.
Nevertheless it is a book I enjoyed, partly because the world described somehow echoes the society I am living in, a rural society forced to adapt to a modern technology. Because Finns are still peasants in their heart, and they miss hardly the nature they are so fond. And what better than science fiction that talks about our present?

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