Every year the Danish fanzine SCIENCE FICTION hosts a themed short story competition. One winner in each of the three age categories (10-16, 17-20, and 21+) is selected, and the best runner-up stories are published in the fanzine alongside the category winners. The fanzine, dedicated to the science fiction short story, also publish translated fiction, focusing on stories from outside the English speaking regions of the world. Reviewer Andreas J. Søe recently wrote down his impressions of 4 issues, for the Danish clubzine HIMMELSKIBET. We reprint this article here, as it gives examples of current Danish fiction writing among fans.
I have read through four fanzines with short stories. Three of them are from writing contests held here in Denmark and the last one is with translated American and German authors.
The stories are sometimes good but they are a little too short in my opinion. It would be better if there had been more words to elaborate the stories but these are the strict conditions for the contests. Some are badly written and a few I simply don’t think works as a story.
A writer like Rasmus Wichmann has a whole lot of ideas—like a coup d’état at the moon base with the help of simulacra – but the story would have been much better if it had been a lot longer. One story stands out. It is about some scientists who have found alien life in space but hides it to conserve it from being destroyed by human hands. This story is by Richard Ipsen, it is very good and is among the best of them.
Generally there are just too many stories about ideas and too few about characters. In many stories it would have been better to learn more about the characters which the stories contain. It seems pointless to review every story; instead I will describe the basic idea for each story, as this might be the most interesting angle for a reader of The Portal (who cannot read the stories themselves).
SCIENCE FICTION, Issue 14
The magazines each have their own theme, according to the theme of the competition. Issue 14 is called “Danskerne og Månen” (“The Danes and the Moon”). It is about the Danish people’s future relationship to the Moon, and is from the competition in 2006.
The opening story, “Det udslukte Fyrtårn” (“The Dark Lighthouse”) is written by Bjarke Kock Larsen. In this everybody speaks mandarin and an agent is taking the space elevator up to the Moon. He is working for the dictatorship down below.
Then there is a story written by Marianne Hansen. “Virus…” is about people being tested at The Town Hall Square in Copenhagen and being sent to the Moon if they have the virus. There exist both the clean and the unclean. The virus only gets to people when they get a bit older. What is going to happen to Sille who is one of the unclean? The police arrive to arrest her. Is she to be destroyed?
The third story is about a Dane on the Moon (“Gravitation” written by Flemming R .P. Rasch) who gets sick and dies. He is very far from what makes him the one he is—and that is why he is slowly disappearing.
The next story’s name is “Danskernes March” (“March of the Danes”) by Helene Svolgart and it is a good continuation of the former story because it is also about being a long way away from home. It is about longing home when being in space. About longing for the “mark” (field) of the Danes.
The next story, “Manden i Månen” (“The Man in the Moon”) is written by Jesper Rugård Jensen. It is an excursion through space. It is a somewhat open ending. One can look at it from many different perspectives.
“Det Perfekte Menneske” (“The Perfect Human Being”) by Marie W. Oscilowski is about how man can become the perfect being in contrast to the non-human beings whom he hates. He becomes a lonely immortal wanderer, eternal in his quest to search for an answer to Life. Reminds me a bit of Nietzsche and his Übermann.
Rasmus Wichmann has written the strangely titled story “D.T.D.M.S.F.S.M.”. It is about a coup d’état against the Danish Republic on the Moon and about using a new technology called “simulacra” as a weapon. It is a very original story.
The eight story is named “Gravøl på Månen” (“A Last Goodbye Beer on the Moon”) by Safia Aoude. It is about a Carlsberg brewery with its own cemetery and church on the Moon. Ssome Call of Cthulhu-like event happens there and all kinds of ugly stuff is happening to the people. I don’t like this story because it mixes Call of Cthulhu with future Sci-Fi. It doesn’t add up. Each has their own universe.
“Månebyen” (“Moon City”) by Sofie Boysen is about a moon city which has been inflicted with disease. There is a lady who has survived but she hasn’t really anyway because she took off her air cleaner for a moment in the beginning of the story. She dreams about dying on Sjælland (Zeeland) but is not able to because the disease then will spread to Earth. In the story there is also a spaceship called SAS Galactica, naturally Scandinavian Air Service also flies into space in the future. I kind of liked this story.
SCIENCE FICTION, Issue 16
Issue 16 is called “Danskerne og First Contact” (“The Danes and First Contact”). The stories are from the contest of 2007.
The opening story here is “Bag Himlen” (“Behind the Sky”) by Richard Ipsen, and it centers around a first contact with aliens out by Sirius. They communicate by the help of gamma-rays. Two scientists have made the discovery but they hide it to help the aliens from being destroyed by curiosity—like so many other animals at Earth. They then go on with the other assignments without mankind knowing anything. They have thus given the aliens a bit more time to live.
The next “Efter Anna” (“After Anna”) by Camilla Wandahl is about a alien species called “the slimes” who have build a wall of slime around Denmark. We are as such just condemned to annihilation but some people travel to the wall of slime to meet these aliens. But then the story suddenly ends. It would have been good if there been one more page about what happens.
”Nedslag” (“Fallout”) by Martin Hjortlund Nohns is about a Denmark that has survived by not destroying the ozone layer while the US and China have destroyed it and therefore dried out. People are living in big cities. The main character Philip walks down the central Copenhagen shopping street, and when an alien attempts to communicate with him, he goes in a defensive mode. This starts an invasion. The aliens destroy all living species when they invade Earth.
“EKKO” (“Echo”) by Thor Julius Larsen is a story about a man who makes contact with an alien in shape of a woman, seen through his dreams. A whole page (!) of this very short story is given to the character—about how he is and so on. It is one of the better stories.
“Sidste stop” (“Last Stop”) by Flemming R. P. Rasch is about a man who sleeps and without knowing it saves Denmark by going into an alien ship and activating the secondary motor so that the ship doesn’t not burn Denmark away. He only finds out his adventure when he awakens and is at the last stop in the train he is in. As any true hero, he simply vanishes again when he gets off and the story ends.
“De døde majorer, rumvæsener og jeg” (“The Dead Majors, the Aliens and I”) by Melanie de Voss Nielsen is about a spaceship travelling to Earth and a nice robot collecting tickets. It is also about the aliens and the undead majors who are onboard the spaceship.
“Vejrmaskine” (“The Weather Machine”) by Jonas Jesus Christensen is about a future war in Copenhagen against people from China among others. The weather system has been ruined and the world is post-apocalyptic. A little team is fighting its way through the capital and finds a weather machine which can create the illusion of blue sky. It is very precious. It reminds the soldiers of the weapon “Fallout 2″—with its G.E.C.K. (Garden of Eden Creation Kit), with which one can make the world fertile again. It is quite a clever story.
“Simons Jul” (“Simon’s Christmas”) by Jesper Rugård Jensen is about an autistic boy and his frustrated mother against a father who doesn’t add up. The boy contacts some aliens for help and in the end he gives the father away to them. It is a rather cruel story I think.
“Hades Nerthus” by Rasmus Wichmann is a story about the sudden meeting with aliens (in the shape of Greek gods) and it is a homage to the sunny and smiling island of Fyn in Denmark.
SCIENCE FICTION, Issue 17
The third fanzine is themed “Danskerne og Tidsmaskinen” (“The Danes and the Time Machine”), and it covers the contest of 2008.
“Ulvetid” (“A Time of Wolves”), by Malan Jacobsen, opens this issue. This is about a time machine by which the main character has unconsciously helped the political party to sieze power. The machine has to be destroyed and he cannot then get home. It is also about a horrible cruel future on the island of Fyn.
“Så længe det varer” (“As long as it takes”) by Gudrun Østergaard is about a family who can move time. Not move in time, but move time itself. For them time, and all that has happened can be rewound, played and forwarded like videotape with a remote control.
“Kongens nytårstale” (“The Kings New Year Speech”) by Lars Ahn Petersen is a futuristic New Year speech by a future Danish king. It is a dystopian vision about a Denmark with street fights in Nørrebro and an attack at the Danish refugee camp, Sandholmlejren.
“Vi der skummer fløden” (“We who Get the Most out of the Milk”) by A. Silverstri is a story about what Danish milk company Arla Foods could be tempted to do in the future—to get the best financial result.
“Jeg tramper rundt i det” (“I Stomp around in It) by Lise Andersen is about the city Korsbæk from the very successful Danish TV-series “Matador” (about an idyllic time in a small provincial city that experiences modernity and world war). A lady takes a time machine back in time to the city to make it a role model for future Denmark.
“Nøjsomhed” (“Frugality”) by Manfred Christensen is about a journey to a parallel reality to round up support for a central political party against an extremist party so that they don’t win the coming election.
SCIENCE FICTION, Issue 13
Number 13 is not from Danish authors and not a part of the yearly contest. The stories are from American and German authors which have been translated for the first time into Danish..
“Høj af ingefær” (“Gingerbread”) by American Bruce Holland Rogers is about fantasies among hippies who live intently in the present —and on narcotics.
“Ordproblem” (“Word Problem”) again by Bruce Holland Rogers is about a riddle about what really one is to be more concerned about? The main character is anxious about two things but isn´t there really another thing he should be more concerned about?
“Den forbedrede fjernbetjening” (“The Improved Remote Control”) by the German writer Bernhard Brunner is about a remote control which gets too advanced and ends up taking control – all in the best interests of mankind!
“O1″ by Canadian award-winner Chris Roberson, is about a man from the west who wants to sell the Chinese emperor a binary calculator and what consequences could come from that.
“Titan Surveyors Skæbne” (“The Destiny of Titan Surveyor”) by the German writer Martin Schemm is about an expedition to Titan which horribly fails because of the contact with an alien life form. There is an old PC-game from 1996 which is a lot like this. It is called Huygens’s Disclosure and is a somewhat similar story. Mankind doesn’t know what is under the clouds of Titan. Maybe it is the biblical paradise and everything we are dreaming about.
“Da Jorden smeltede….” (“When the Earth Melted”) by A. Wilkinson is about an inventor with a promising machine that goes really bad. An old pulp story.
The thing that is missing a little, in all issues, is that I would like to be able to read a little about who the authors are and be able to get more involved in the stories. Especially so with the competition-stories, because of the uneven quality. It could be simply based on the different age groups here all published as “adults.” It is fine to let them “fight” on equal terms, in theory. But for practical reasons it might be more impressive if one knew that the not-quite-so-good story I just read was actually written by a twelve-year-old. Also many stories are basically about whom the authors are themselves. One can learn a lot about Lord of the Rings by studying Tolkien, the same thing applies her (in perhaps a smaller scale).
All in all I think some of the stories could easily have been a bit longer; maybe the conditions for the contest could be changed to a larger maximum word count, (The competition rules were: Issue 14: 1000-3000 words; Issue 16: 1000-6000 words; Issue 17: 3000-8000 words). There are a lot of fine stories when one looks back at them, but definitely some that are not so good. Should I recommend a handful of them (for perhaps later translation to other fanzines . . . ) these would have to be as follows:
- Sofie Boysen´s “Månebyen” (“Moon City,” issue 14) is the best one.
- Jesper Rugård Jensen´s “Simons Jul” (“Simon’s Christmas,” issue 16) is the most moving.
- Martin Schemm´s “Titan Surveyors Skæbne” (“The Destiny of Titan Surveyor,” issue 13) is the most exciting.
- Richard Ipsen´s “Bag himlen” (“Behind the Sky,” issue 16) has the best idea.
- Jonas Jesus Christensen´s Vejrmaskine” (“The Weather Machine,” issue 16) is very nice.