Well, strictly speaking, Usva isn’t brand new—two issues have been published, and the latter already some time ago—but it just took me a long time to read the latest issue, and even longer to write something about Usva.
This shouldn’t be taken as a sign that I don’t much care about Usva, though. On the contrary, I think it's a wonderful and ambitious effort to better the field of Finnish science fiction by publishing material from both new and recognized writers (and also from outside the normal sf circles), and add an alternative to stories from the couple of big short story competitions that tend to nominate much of the short fiction published in other fanzines. In issue 2, there are six short stories from different writers, one article, and a news column (and also an English summary, for those who really want details on things they can’t read). The news has an emphasis on writing-related things, which suites this zine very well (and makes it a bit different from all the other news columns).
I’ve criticized Finnish sf stories before for generally being too unoriginal for my tastes, often being a bit thin (for example, concentrating only on setting the mood, but forgetting a plot, characters, or both), and too often lacking the polish I’d like to see in published stories (even if they are published “only” in fanzines). I’m afraid I’m not going to change my opinion yet—the short stories in Usva 2 didn’t do much for me. It’s not that they are bad or poorly written (I thought they were above average in this regard), they just didn’t click for me. With one exception: Tero Niemi and Anne Salminen’s Eräitä kevätpäiviä, eli taivaallisen laatikon tapaus was very enjoyable (although long) story, which managed to bring a fresh new point of view to a world familiar from their earlier stories while being as well written as ever.
I really want, by the way, to see a couple of Anne and Tero’s short stories translated to English some day, since I feel they’d be an excellent showcase for today’s Finnish sf and hold their own against many acclaimed stories (nominated for major awards, even). In addition to this one, Kuten ihmiset tekevät definitely, and for a third, maybe Ja jumala kutoi mattoja omista hiuksistaan or Matka Reformaan. Anyone? Please?
I also liked Petri Laine’s column about this year’s Atorox nominees a lot—even though the tone was much too mild. If someone says there’s not a single bad short story among the nominees, I say he needs to adjust his tolerance levels for poor writing, recycling used plots and writing about nothing in a not-too-interesting way. But it was still a worthy article, and I’d like to see more features along these lines in future issues.
What’s also interesting about Usva is its method of distribution: It is published as a pdf file that can be downloaded from the zine’s web site for free. So, there really is no good reason not to go and check Usva out right now.
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