Highlights from WorldCon 75 in Helsinki

Last week Helsinki played host to WorldCon, the world’s largest annual sci-fi convention that attracts the great and the good of the science fiction and fantasy worlds, and the place where authors, fans and editors come together to celebrate and discuss themes and issues across the genre. We caught up with our authors at their various respective events over the five-day convention and wanted to share some of the highlights with you here. Enjoy!

Our author and WorldCon Guest of Honour, Johanna Sinisalo received the Prometheus Award for Best Novel for her acclaimed novel, The Core of the Sun, giving an interview to renowned American novelist Jeff VanderMeer, before launching into a busy schedule, which included meeting her legions of literary fans – and film fans of Iron Sky – and talking about her upcoming novel Renate’s Storyto be published simultaneously with the release of Iron Sky: The Coming Race film in early 2018.

Snow White trilogy and Sisterland author, Salla Simukka talked to fans about fairy tale retellings, together with Navah Wolfe, Kim Wilkins and Karen Lord: What makes them so persistent and appealing to successive generation? From Once Upon a Time in TV to cyberpunk fairytale retellings by Marissa Meyer.

Later, Salla discussed Finnish literature in export, specifically the Finnish Weird genre, with authors Marko Hautala and author Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen.

More disturbing topics awaited with a discussion about Finnish horror. Hailed as Finland’s equivalent to Stephen King, our horror writer Marko Hautalatalked with Magdalena Hai and others about his most recent novel The Black Tongue (aka Granny Hatchet)– and the question of what makes horror specifically Finnish, and are the Finns easier to scare than others?

Meanwhile, Emmi Itäranta appeared on a panel in discussion with authors Aliette De Bodard, Ken Liu and Jakob Drud about writing as a multilingual author; Emmi herself having written her international success Memory of Water and The Weaver  in Finnish and in English. Later, Emmi did a well-attended book signing for her fans!

Contributing the Finnish Weird thread, authors Maria Turtschaninoff and Johanna Sinisalo discussed the genre, which Johanna Sinisalo invented, in the context of their own respective works, Maresi and The Core of the Sun.

Maria Turtschaninoff also participated in a scary panel discussion, Trolls in Nordic Science Fiction and Fantasy, with Carolina Gomez Lagerlöf, Kristina Hård and Emil Hjörvar Petersen, talking about our love for trolls in Nordic SFF and differences in troll characteristics between the Nordic countries. Later, Maria talked about invented religions – on the difficulties of creating a religion and the merits of using a fictional one.

Bookwitch/Witchbook author Anne Leinonen took to the stage in a panel discussion on the rise of Finnish Fandom to global recognition.

Last, but not least, a personal highlight was seeing the marvellous George R.R. Martin on Emma Newman’s ‘Live Tea and Jeopardy’ event, which went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Fancast!

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About author

Anne Leinonen

Anne Leinonen (b.1973) is a multiple-award winning, key author, tutor and editor of Finnish science fiction and fantasy. Her most recent publication is the first volume of a YA urban fantasy duology, Bookwitch (Kirjanoita), which will be followed by Witchbook (Noitakirja) in 2018.

Leinonen’s short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies, earning her several Atorox awards (voted for by fans). Her science fiction novels, Viivamaalari and Ilottomien ihmisten kylä were published to positive reviews, as well as a trilogy, Routasisarukset, written in collaboration with Eija Lappalainen, In addition to writing YA and adult fiction, she has now started to work on audio and television dramas.

Anne Leinonen moves fluidly between science fiction and fantasy. Her texts deal with themes of otherness and unfamiliarity, as well as conflicts between the community and the individual. Nature plays an important part in her work, as a vehicle for the story, the stage of action and on a symbolic level. Leinonen’s prose is taut, with no superficial descriptions. Instead, she takes her readers right in to the middle of events and the lives of her characters. Her use of language shows talent and uniqueness, favouring experimentation with different styles and often works on several pieces at the same time. She is especially renowned for her collaborations with other writers.

About author

Emmi Itäranta

Emmi Itäranta (b.1976) holds two MA degrees, one in Drama and another in Creative Writing. Her award-winning debut novel Memory of Water (Teemestarin kirja) was published in Finland in 2012 to great accolades, followed by The Weaver (Kudottujen kujien kaupunki) in 2015. Her latest novel The Moonday Letters (Kuunpäivän kirjeet) was published in September 2020.

Itäranta’s writing has been compared to that of Ursula K. Le Guin. Her honours include the Young Aleksis Kivi Prize 2013, the Kalevi Jäntti Literary Prize 2012 and first place in the Teos Fantasy and Sci-Fi Literary Contest 2011.

Memory of Water has sold to over 25 languages to date, and it has also been nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award recognizing the best science fiction novel published in the UK in 2014, and the Golden Tentacle award. In addition, Itäranta has been included on the Honor List of the Otherwise Award (formerly James Tiptree, Jr. Award).

Itäranta’s CV is an eclectic mix of writing-related activities, including stints as a columnist, theatre critic, press officer and dramaturge. Her poems, short stories, articles and essays have appeared in anthologies, film magazines and science fiction magazines in the UK and Finland. She now lives in Finland after 14 years in the United Kingdom.

About author

Johanna Sinisalo

Johanna Sinisalo (b. 1958) is a Finlandia Prize-winning superstar of Finnish speculative fiction. In addition to her nine novels, she has also written short fiction and film and television screenplays. Her works have been translated into twenty languages.

Sinisalo has won several literary prizes also abroad, such as the 2004 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and the 2017 Prometheus Award, and was nominated for the Nebula Award in 2008, the Prix Escapades in 2012, and the Grand Prix de L’Imaginaire in 2017. In 2022, Johanna Sinisalo was awarded the Pro Finlandia Medal for services to Finnish literature.

About author

Magdalena Hai

Magdalena Hai is an award-winning author, lover of cross-genre fiction and all things strange. Her fiction often combines elements of sci-fi, fantasy and horror.

Her Little Shop of Nightmares series has been sold to 30 territories around the world. Among Hai's many accolades are winning the Finlandia Prize for children's and YA literature and the Finnish Literary Export Prize, and being nominated  the Nordic Council Children & Young People's Literature Prize.

Besides being an author, Hai teaches writing and is an active member and editor in the publishing co-operative Osuuskumma.

About author

Maria Turtschaninoff

Maria Turtschaninoff is known for crafting lyrical, historically inspired fantasy stories starring strong female protagonists. In addition to J.R.R. Tolkien, she counts Philip Pullman, Ursula K. Le Guin and C.S. Lewis among her favorite authors. She is a two-time winner of the Society of Swedish Literature Prize, winner of the Swedish YLE Literature Prize, winner of the Thank You for the Book Award, a nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (2020-2024), and winner of the 2014 Finlandia Junior Prize.

Her Red Abbey Chronicles YA trilogy has been sold into 30 languages, while her first adult novel Inherited Land has been sold to 23 territories. Maria has a Master of Arts in human ecology and works full-time as a writer.