Saturday, July 23, 2011

Linkage: International Mind Meld

The SF Signal’s Mind Meld series’ latest question is, Who are your favorite international sf/f authors. Among those who’ve answered with tips about good sf outside the usual anglo circles is our own Jukka Halme. Who, naturally, gets to mention a few Finnish authors (among many others).

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Anne Leinonen Wins Atorox Award

Anne and AtoroxThe Atorox Award for best Finnish sf short story published last year was announced at Finncon last weekend. The winner, for the third time, was Anne Leinonen for her short story Nahat (“Skins”), published in the Portti magazine.

This was a great year for Anne: she also took the second prize with Sanojen mahti (“The might of words”). The top three was:

  1. Anne Leinonen: Nahat (Portti 3/10)
  2. Anne Leinonen: Sanojen mahti (Portti 1/10)
  3. Hanne Martelius: Stuttgart ennen talvea (Portti 2/10)

In addition to Anne taking the top places, the Portti magazine ruled supreme this year. Four of the top-5 stories were published by Portti.

Congratulations, Anne and all the other top-placing candidates!

Atorox Award top contestants

The Atorox Award is voted by members of the Finnish fandom from a longlist of stories selected by a pre-selection jury. The award is given by the Turku Science Fiction Society.

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Teos Science Fiction Competition Results

The Teos publishing house announced the winners of their novel-length fantasy and science fiction literary contest at Finncon. Over 350 manuscripts took part in the competition.

The jury selected as the winner a manuscript called Veden muisti (“Memory of Water”) written by Emmi Itäranta. The winner received a cash prize of 5 000 € plus a publishing contract from Teos—the novel will be published next year.

Veden muisti tells a story about choices and responsibility in an original totalitarian future society. “The winning manuscript is, in terms of language as well as the vision of the future it constructs, a polished and impressive work. Like all good science fiction, this piece is in dialogue with our current reality: it makes visible a world which we may already be unwittingly heading towards,” the chair of the jury, Johanna Sinisalo, comments.

Of the other manuscripts submitted to the contest, Sudenveri (“Wolfblood”) by Jenny Kangasvuo received an honorary mention. Sudenveri is a surprising and moving tale about a werewolf community. “The manuscript awarded with an honorary mention unravels and reconstructs the well-known myth thoroughly and skillfully. The writer, who knows her subject extremely well, approaches it with attention to detail and expertise. She uses her material to build a realistic and arresting world, which is at the same time deeply Finnish,” Sinisalo says.

The jury of the competition comprised, in addition to Sinisalo, publisher Silja Hiidenheimo, editors Maarit Halmesarka and Jussi Tiihonen, and author Mikko Rimminen.

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Tähtivaeltaja Short Story Competition 2011

The Tähtivaeltaja magazine announced the winner of their short story competition at Finncon. The theme of the competition this year was “generation ship”. There were 49 stories sent for the competition. The winner received a cash prize of 400 €.

The top three of the competition is:

  1. Lukantyttäret (Luka’s Daughters) by Heli Määttä
    A beautifully told tale where the protagonist leaves their loved one on Earth, boarding a generation ship. A romantic tale surpises with a stylistic 180 turn and a plot twist. A clear winner with quality storytelling, a tight whole, with beautiful language and a skilled structure.
  2. Valkoisen kanin tapaus (Case of the White Rabbit) by Jussi Katajala
    A story that explains the lifestyle of Sherlock Holmes distinguished itself from the competition in both style and plot. A humorous tale with a mystery waiting in the end.
  3. Lihan sukua (Flesh Relative) by Petri Laine
    The only competitor that had people clearly different from what we’re used to. The story presented a fascinatingly different society, and used the tight bond between the passengers and the ship with great skill.

The competition was organized by the Helsinki Science Fiction Society and the Tähtivaeltaja magazine. The jury consisted of Tähtivaeltaja editor Toni Jerrman, editor Jukka Halme, and author Tiina Raevaara, with researcher Irma Hirsjärvi and author Anne Leinonen in the pre-selection jury.

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Tähtifantasia Award 2011

The Tähtifantasia Award for best fantasy book translated into Finnish and published last year was announced at Finncon 2011. The award goes to a short story collection Viimeinen toivomus (“Last Wish”, book 1 of The Witcher) by Andrzej Sapkowski, published by WSOY and translated by Tapani Kärkkäinen.

The jury commended the book as an unique and riveting read that skillfully utilizes the East-European folklore. The book tackles the themes of heroism and duty without going for the easy solutions. The book demonstrates how fantasy transcends the cultural borders and speaks about what it is to be human. The author servers the reader a collection of intelligent, imaginative drama infused with humor.

The Tähtifantasia Award is given by the Helsinki Science Fiction Society, this was the fifth time for the award. The jury comprised critic Jukka Halme, critic Aleksi Kuutio, author and editor Anne Leinonen, and the Risingshadow forum representative Osmo Määttä.

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Ajan Polut Short Story Competition

Ajan polut (”Paths of Time”) was the first alternative history story competition held in Finland. It was organized by the Finnish Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association and the Science Fiction Culture Cabinet at the University of Turku.

There were 86 short stories in the competition, from established writers as well as new names. The texts varied from the beginning of Finland’s written history to very close to the present day. World War II and the Finnish Civil War were the most popular time periods.

The competition was very tight, with the judges ultimately unable to choose a clear winner. Therefore, three stories were declared tied winners, and also the second place was a tie between two stories:

  1. Jotta taidat suomen kielen (“So you’ll know the Finnish language”) by Jussi Katajala Presidentin elokuut (“The President’s autumns”) by Jussi Katajala Uusi maailma (“A new world”) by Anne-Mari Halonen
  2. Sankariäidin häpeä (“The shame of the hero mother”) by Jaakko Poikonen Toven menestysreseptit (“Tove’s recipies for success”) by Sirpa Kalliokoski

The winners received a cash prize of 200 € each, and 100 € for the second place. The top stories will be published in an anthology. The jury comprised sf critic Pasi Karppanen, author Juha-Pekka Koskinen, and researcher Mari K. Niemi, with a pre-selection jury of Pasi Karppanen, student of history Virpi Luoma, and student of political history Juho Oksanen.

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Jaana Lehtiö Wins Nova Competition

Several awards were given at Finncon in Turku last weekend. The Nova competition is a short story competition for beginners (no publications of their own yet). The competition was organized for the 12th time this year.

This year’s Nova top 3 is:

  1. Jaana Lehtiö: Palmikko
  2. Jenni Kauppinen: Taikarasia
  3. Sanna Varis: Lievo

The winner gets a prize sum of 200 €; everyone in the top 10 receives a cash prize (ranging from 200 € to 40 €). The winning short story will be published in Spin.

81 writers participated in the competition with 108 short stories. The jury consisted of Marianna Leikomaa, Natalia Kisnanen, Heikki Nevala, and Saara Henriksson, with Kirsi Saaros, Henna Sinisalo, and Natalia Kisnanen acting as a pre-selection jury.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Finncon 2011 Photos

Once again, Finncon is over. There will be comments on it later (I’m sure that this year will generate a lot of comments from lots of people), but for now you can enjoy some photos from the convention.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Visiting Turku

Yesterday I wrote about some tips for eating. Today I thought I’d continue with some other assorted tips about visiting Turku.

Getting About

The center of Turku is relatively small, and you can walk to just about everywhere. Walking from the center of the town to the con site takes about 20 minutes (the distance is 1,6 km). If you don’t want to walk, or are planning to take trips within the city but outside the immediate center, I’d recommend getting a Tourist Card. You load the number of days you want on it at purchase time (it can’t be reloaded later), and it allows you to ride the buses as much as you like during that time. For example, a 4-day card costs 13,60 € (single fare is 2,50 so it saves you money even if you take just two trips a day). You can buy the card at the local traffic service office (Aurakatu 5), or at the department stores Wiklund or Stockmann, all of which are right at the center of the city (Wiklund is across the street from the Hamburger Börs hotel). Lines 50–54, 4, 28, and 280 (and probably some others as well) all take you from the market square to the convention venue (get off at the University stop, 115 / Yliopisto).

Wi-Fi

The odds are your hotel is going to have free wi-fi. The convention also has wi-fi passes available at the info desk. There are some cafés and restaurants that have wi-fi, but if you are at the city center and need to do some work, check your e-mail, etc., I recommend visiting the Turku Main Library. They have computers for people to use, and you can also use their wi-fi with your own computer (ask at the info desk for a temporary user account). There are plenty of desks for working, and chairs and sofas for reading and relaxing. The library has an extensive collection of newspapers from around the world, and they also have a very nice café that servers refreshments, pastries, and also pasta and salad lunches.

Miscellaneous Things

Especially if you are coming from abroad, the following tidbits might be useful:

The ATMs are marked with orange signs that say OTTO.

”Apteekki” means pharmacy. I hope you have no need for these, but if you do, there are several around the market place.

If you need to exchange currency, there is a Forex exchange bureau at Eerikinkatu 13. (Opening hours are limited on Saturday, and the place is closed on Sundays.)

Things to See

Some things you can do in Turku (besides attending the convention of course).

The market square is the center of the city. It is the center for local buses, and it also has a food market on weekdays and Saturdays (morning to early afternoon). If you want to taste fresh Finnish produce or berries, this is where you can get them. It is the season for peas and strawberries, and the blueberry season is also just starting. And by the way, the ice cream stands on the market square (the white-and-blue ones marked with a penguin logo) have both tar ice cream and liquorice ice cream in their selection nowadays. If you’re interested in Finnish delicacies, that is.

There are several museums near the city center. Depending on your interests, I’d recommend the Aboa Vetus & Ars Nova museum which combines a historical setting of the unique ruins of a medieval town quarter and a museum of contemporary art, or the Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum, an outdoor museum of historical Turku from early 19th century (one of the rare places saved from the great fire of 1827). Not too far away is also the Logomo cultural center which hosts several exhibitions (for example, the Tom of Finland exhibition, ”Alice in Wonderland”—an exhibition of contemporary photography, and an exhibition about the science and history of fire.

If you want to go sightseeing, I recommend taking a cruise on the river Aura. Guided tours are available in Finnish, Swedish, and English. For longer trips, there are also steamboat cruises to the city of Naantali or lunch cruises in the Turku Archipelago.

During the weekend, there is an antiquarian book event called Booktori on the Puutori market place. There’s lots of book and collecting–related programming, and of course old books for sale. Most of these will be in Finnish though, but if you love old books no matter the language, this might be worth a visit.

Or, you could have a sauna. As part of the Cultural capital program, four art saunas have been built around Turku. These include a transparent ”Solaris” sauna and ”Sauna Obscura” where you can bathe inside a camera.

Traveling with Family

If you have a family (with young kids) with you, there are a couple of places I recommend visiting.

If your kids like the Moomings, the Moomin World in Naantali is the place to go. There are recreations of many of the places in the Moomin books, and the kids can meet the Moomins. The place also has restaurants and a swimming beach, so it’s definitely a whole day trip.

In the city center, there’s an Adventure Park in the Kupittaa Park which has lots of things to do for kids, such as climbing, playing in the wading pool, workshops, theater shows, a bouncy castle, etc.

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Escape from the Castle of If

Hannu Rajaniemi’s talk about Constraints and Creativity in Mathematics and Fiction at the International Science Day, held in Turku in June, is now online (along with other talks given at the event).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eating and Drinking in Turku

Finncon is almost upon us, and since many of you will be visiting Turku, I thought I’d share a couple of tips of places to eat, drink, and be merry during the weekend. This is not a comprehensive guide, but just some suggestions for places I think might be worth visiting.

Most of the places mentioned are either in the city center, or close to the convention site. I’ve created a Google map where you can see the convention site and some other places of interest, plus the places mentioned in this article at <is.gd/fc11tku>.

Food

Baan Thai (Kauppiaskatu 15). If you find yourself wanting Thai food, this place is generally considered the best in Turku.

Blanko (Aurakatu 1). Italian–Asian fusion kitchen. Good food, menu more interesting than in many restaurants. On Sundays, a popular brunch is served from noon to 5 PM. Voted as best restaurant 2011 in Turku by the City magazine.

Cantina Azteca Mexican Bar & Grill (Eerikinkatu 8). Excellent Mexican food.

China Thai (Kauppiaskatu 1 A). I haven’t visited this relatively new Chinese & Japanese restaurant myself, but have heard good things about it (especially that it is less “fast food style” than most of the Chinese restaurants in Turku).

Delhi Darbar (Hämeenkatu 8). A nice Indian restaurant quite close to the con site. Voted as the best ethnic restaurant 2011 in Turku by the City magazine.

Dennis (Linnankatu 17). The oldest pizzeria in Turku still has excellent pizzas and pastas. Get the garlic bread as an appetizer if you go here (but it’s probably best to share it with a friend unless you are really hungry).

Harald (Aurakatu 3) may be familiar if you’ve visited Turku, Tampere, or Jyväskylä before. It is a Viking-themed restaurant (which is not as kitchy as it sounds) that has a very nice decor. The food, while not authentic viking food, is pretty nice, and a bonus is that they use lots of traditional Finnish ingredients such as root vegetables and berries. To go with your food I’d recommend their honey beer.

Kuningas Kebab (Itäinen pitkäkatu 90). The oldest and, in my opinion, the best kebab restaurant in Turku (if not the cheapest—a kebab here costs almost twice what you pay in the run-of-the-mill kebab/pizzeria, but is definitely worth it). If you want spicy, the ”superhot” sauce is your friend, but for others the place is famous for their garlic dressing. Also serves burgers.

Pinella (Vanha Suurtori 2) is a mix of old and new: the oldest part of the restaurant dates back to mid-19th century but the whole place was recently renovated and reopened after a few year’s break. I’ve only eaten lunch at the new Pinella, but it was excellent. The location between the old marketplace and the river Aura, across the street from the Turku Cathedral is beautiful. Pinella also has a couple of terraces, plus a champagne and coctail bar.

Pippurimylly (Stålarminkatu 2). A traditional Finnish family restaurant, founded in 1974 (and still looks pretty much the same, so if you want to see what Finnish restaurants used to look like a couple of decades ago, this is the place). Serves some of the best steaks in town.

Shamrock Café (Eerikinkatu 10) is not an Irish pub/cafe, despite the name, but a restaurant and bar that is part of the big chain restaurant block near the market place. It has very tasty burgers and pizzas.

If you want scenery, there are some nice restaurants by the river, many with riverside terraces. The menu varies from just a salad or a pasta to pizzas and some very fine dining (If you’re in for the latter, Mami or Rocca, side by side at the beginning of Linnankatu are probably what you should look into. Both have lovely terraces for eating outside if the weather permits).

Lunch: Many restaurants serve inexpensive lunch dishes on weekdays (usually from 11 to 2 or 3 PM). The regular price for lunch varies from seven to nine euros. A couple of places near the convention venue are: Kiinanmuuri (Vähä-Hämeenkatu 1—huge portions of basic but ok Chinese food—especially a takeway lunch serves 2 to 3 persons easily), Resepti (Kiinamyllynkatu 5—a bakery café that also has tasty salads and very nice home cooking–style lunch dishes), and Delhi Darbar, mentioned above.

Coffee

Arnolds (Eerikinkatu 15 and Aurakatu 8). If you want to eat something small, Arnolds has very tasty bagels and smoothies. Also, delicious donuts and good, inexpensive coffee.

Café Art (Läntinen rantakatu 5) is probably my favorite coffee shop in Turku. They have absolutely delicious pastries, and the coffee is lovingly prepared by award-winning baristas. Has a nice riverside terrace. Definitely woth a visit.

Café Brahe (Aurakatu 10 and Yliopistonkatu 27). Coffee, huge cinnamon rolls, yummy pastries, and also baguettes, ciabattas, soups and salads if you’re feeling a bit hungry. Also a good selection of different kinds of mineral water, fruit juice and smoothies if you’re not big on coffee. Big terraces (in Yliopistonkatu, and inside the Hansa mall) good for people-watching while you have your cup of coffee.

Fontana Café (Aurakatu 1). A very nice café with a selection of goodies from their own bakery. Serves also lunch on weekdays, and a brunch on Sundays.

Nuvole Gelateria (Eerikinkatu 13). If you want ice cream, this is the place. Absolutely delicious Italian ice cream, enjoyed while sitting in comfy armchairs. What more could you want?

Beer

The closest place to the convention site is the pub Proffan kellari (Rehtorinpellonkatu 6), just across the street. It’s a nice neighborhood pub that is used to serving the students and staff of the university. They were kind enough to come back earlier from their summer vacation to open the place just for Finncon, so it is advisable to reward them by visiting them during the convention. Open from noon to 6 PM, Friday to Sunday on Finncon weekend.

The Old Bank (Aurakatu 3) is one of the better (and more expensive) pubs for beer aficionados in Turku. They have around 150 different beers in their selection, some of which are exclusive in Finland, so if you want to sample many different kinds of beer, this is your spot. The Thursday evening pre-Finncon gathering will be here.

The Brewery Restaurant Koulu (Eerikinkatu 18) has a room booked for the convention for most of Friday, and the Friday evening party is also there. As the name suggests, they have their own beers (the wheat beer is especially recommended, if they happen not to be out, which they sadly often are) and ciders. You can also eat here (there is the restaurant side plus a separate pub menu). The place has the biggest outside terrace in Turku (where you can also play pétanque or Mölkky, and, if you’re traveling with children, it’s the only one that also has a playground for kids).

Teerenpeli (Eerikinkatu 8) is another brewery pub. It’s where the Turku pub meetings are held. The place is a chain pub (the brewery is in Lahti), so it’s not local. It has lots of small tables that accommodate groups of different sizes. And if you feel adventurous, their selection also includes their own whisky.

Cosmic Comic Café (Kauppiaskatu 4) is a curiosity among pubs: it has a large selection of comic books you can read while having a coffee or a beer. They also feature exhibitions by Finnish comics artists. The place has rather a good selection of bottled beers, and also (going by what I’m told) a very good selection of ciders for all you suspicious non-beer-drinking types. The prices are probably the consumer-friendliest of this lot of pubs.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Tähtivaeltaja Award to Maarit Verronen

The 2011 Tähtivaeltaja Award for best science fiction book published in Finnish last year went to Maarit Verronen for her novel Kirkkaan selkeää (“Bright Clear”), published by Tammi.

The jury commended the novel’s unique voice and the alarming dystopic vision of how the world will be if the well-being of nature and other humans continues to be ignored. The novel was described as an important literary commentary of current society’s more worrying aspects and a thematically solid whole.

The Tähtivaeltaja Award is given to a book either originally published in Finnish or translated to Finnish. This is only the second third time a Finnish book has been awarded in its 26-year history. The award is given by the Helsinki Science Fiction Society; the jury consisted of critic Hannu Blommila, editor Toni Jerrman, critic Elli Leppä, and journalist Vesa Sisättö.

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