by Andri Riid and Raul Sulbi
Aavik, Johannes (1880–1973)
A linguist and preeminent language reformer, Aavik can also be considered as Estonia’s first enthusiast of fantastic literature. He is responsible for translating most of the literary output of Edgar Allan Poe, in addition to translating fantastic works by Ambrose Bierce, A. Conan Doyle, Hanns Heinz Ewers, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Gustav Meyrink, Karl Hans Strobl, Guy de Maupassant, J.-H. Rosny aîné, Villiers de L’Isle-Adam and many others during the second and third decade of the 20th century. From 1914 to 1928 he edited and published 24 issues of the first Estonian periodical dedicated entirely to the fantastic and weird fiction ‘Hirmu ja õuduse jutud’ (Tales of Terror and Horror).
Alas, Urmas (1956–)
Possibly the first genre SF author in Estonia, Alas emerged in the beginning of 1985 with two short stories «Koletis» (Monster) in the youth magazine ‘Pioneer’, and «Viitsütik» (Time Fuse) in the youth magazine ‘Noorus’ (Youth). From 1989 till 1995 he published more than 20 stories in Mario Kivistik’s magazines’ ‘Pioneer’ (later ‘Põhjanael’) (Pioneer/Polaris) and ‘Mardus’ (Eidolon). His longer works are short novels «Komblusvalvur» (Guardian of Propriety; 1996), a dystopian work about a very sexually rigid near future, and «Plahvatus» (Explosion; 1997) about a possible nuclear disaster in contemporary Estonia.
In 1992 Alas became the editor of the first Estonian science fiction magazine ‘Täheaeg’ (The Sidereal Time), but the publication folded after just two issues, although it is still fondly remembered by the SF fans of that time. The magazine brought the works of Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, A. E. van Vogt, Robert Sheckley, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ray Bradbury, John Wyndham, Arthur C. Clarke, and others to Estonian audience.
After stopping writing fiction in 1997, Alas translated several landmark works of modern science fiction («City» by Clifford D. Simak, «Dune» by Frank Herbert). He has also translated books by Stephen Baxter, Arthur C. Clarke, Harry Harrison and many others.
Baturin, Nikolai (1936–)
Preeminent contemporary literary novelist whose somewhat bulgakovesque and grinesque works often wander into borderline SF and fantasy. His works of genre SF interest are the novels «Ringi vangid» (Prisoners of the Circle; 1996), «Apokalüpsis anno Domini» (Apocalypse anno Domini; 1997), «Kentaur» (Centaurus; 2003), «Delfiinide tee» (Way of the Dolphins; 2009), and «Lendav Hollandlanna» (The Flying Dutchwoman; 2012). All those can be described as carefully and poetically written literary novels dealing with the themes of dystopian future and politics, ecological collapse, and the way of life after the end of the industrial civilization. Baturin’s works stand out for their majestic and breathtaking worldbuilding. «Kentaur» won the 2002 Estonian novel competition, a tradition that started back in 1927.
Barker, Matt (pseudonym) (1979–)
Author of horror stories and novels who was active from 1996 to 2007. He has written several manuscripts, but has published only two novels, of which «Leegitsev täiskuu» (Full Moon Blazing; 2001) is the most successful from the purely literary point of view. It’s a cross between werewolf horror and contemporary psychological urban fantasy. In the beginning of his short but bright career, Barker’s fiction was influenced by modern British horror, later his output turned to more mainstream and psychological literature and lost its genre focus. His last genre work of significance is the collection «Waanenburgi tapatalgud» (The Waanenburg Massacre; 2002) that deals with dystopian politics in relatively near future, consumerism, and biological experiments. The book leans more towards SF than his typical horror output.
Beekman, Vladimir (1929–2009)
Writer, translator and longtime secretary and chairman of the Estonian Writers’ Union. Published his first SF novelette «Kiired maailmaruumist» (Rays from the Outer Space; 1954) about atomic energy and radioactivity in youth magazine ‘Pioneer’. His more mature and accomplished SF story is «Bambus» (Bamboo; 1972). A novel «Öölendurid» (Night Pilots) followed in 1975 but Beekman’s most significant contribution to Estonian SF is probably his series of three books published between 1959 and 1974 of children’s SF about a small nuclear-powered particle-entity called Aatomik. Several short animated films based on the books were shot in Tallinnfilm during the 1970s.
A prolific poet, translator from Russian (most notably of the Strugatsky brothers), critic and editor, Belials is also an accomplished writer in all sub-genres of fantastic fiction, capable of emulating any writing style. His first novel «Ashinari kroonikad» (The Chronicles of Ashinar; 1997) was for many years the undisputed (if somewhat schematic) flagship of proper genre fantasy by an Estonian writer and was published mere 4 years after his debut in the horror magazine ’Mardus’ (Eidolon) in 1993.
Having published 8–10 stories in ‘Mardus’, webzine ’Algernon’ or elsewhere each year for most of the decade and being criticized for non-profoundness or unoriginality with some regularity, Belials’ literary output came to a halt after a number of books collecting his top stories were published. These were his first short story collection «Helesiniste liivade laul» (A Song of Baby Blue Sands; 2003), a collection of sword & sorcery stories «See, mis tuikab su veres» (This What Pulsates in Your Blood; 2005) and a long awaited fix-up novel «Jumalate vandenõu» (Conspiracy of the Gods; 2006), inspired by an early SF story of Indrek Hargla.
Belials’ return to writing was carefully prepared and highly successful as his new stories contained in «Kogu maailma valgus» (All the Light in the Whole World; 2013) and the collection itself brought its author 3 Stalker Awards, which is as many as he had been able to collect altogether in his prior career.
Berg, Lew R. (pseudonym) (1968–2005)
Prolific writer of military SF and horror, mostly in novella or short novel form. Berg’s first story was published in 1995 in ‘Mardus’ and he quickly became one of the principal authors of the magazine. Several of his stories were serialized in general newspapers and have also appeared in ‘Algernon’. Berg’s first publication in a book form was a space opera novel «Tants tulle» (Dance into the Fire; 2000). In addition, he has three story collections and a further novel to his credit.
Berg’s prose was often described as having little literary merit and his subject matter as derivative by contemporary critics but in his most successful stories he has been able to exploit his storytelling talent in the best tradition of adventure fiction and for the joy of readers. In recognition of the latter he has received the Stalker Award for the novella «Vaimudejõe viirastused» (Phantoms of the Ghost River) in 1998. Berg’s most famous body of work comprises of stories and short novels in «The X Files» milieu depicting the adventures of a security chief Willard, mercenary by profession, fighting against the supernatural, often in exotic setting. Mention should be made of his collection «Reekviem Galateiale» (Requiem for Galateia; 2004) which comprised of colorful space opera stories set in the author’s Space Legion universe.
His career, while on the upswing, was cut short by premature death; Berg’s magnum opus, a substantial and grim military SF novel «Must Kaardivägi» (The Black Guard) was published posthumously. «Üle piiri» (Across the Border), a collection of Willard stories, with some input from fellow writers, appeared in 2014. Also posthumous is his long novella «Musta Roosi vennaskond» (Brotherhood of the Black Rose; 2013), a space opera in the Space Legion universe, completed by fellow author Siim Veskimees.
Eisen, Matthias Johann (1857–1934)
Mainly folklorist and Lutheran pastor, Eisen published the first known domestic science fiction story titled «Tallinn aastal 2000» (Tallinn in the Year 2000) in 1903. The story has no particular plot, but is mainly a visionary depiction of the city environment and technological developments of the future.
Eloon, Eiv (pseudonym) (1945–)
One of the first Estonian SF writers to deal with the issue of gender identity and one of the first female Estonian SF writers, however, her only body of work, the novel «Kaksikliik» (Double Species, published in two volumes in 1981/1988) has not stood the test of time.
Friedenthal, Meelis (1973–)
Theologist and author whose several works can be classified as SF or borderline SF. «Üht teistsugust algust» (A Different Kind of Beginning; 2001), one of several short stories published in ,Algernon’ where Friedenthal debuted in 1999, became the prequel to his first novel «Kuldne aeg» (The Golden Age; 2005) which depicts a robot-dominated far-future society. His fantasy novelette «Nerissa» won the Grand Prix at the 2004 Estonian Science Fiction Association (ESFA) short story competition and the Stalker Award in the following year. His second and most successful novel «Mesilased» (The Bees; 2012) is a work of historical fiction which won the EU Prize for Literature in 2013 and has been subsequently translated into several foreign languages. His third novel «Inglite keel» (The Language of Angels; 2016), in which the main protagonist is an ancient book that influences the lives of numerous characters of the novel, is borderline SF. Perhaps the most accomplished Estonian writer associated with the genre, Friedenthal needs to increase his literary output and genre-consciousness to find further appreciation among the genre fans.
Habicht, Juhan (1954–)
Influential Estonian translator and critic whose main body of work in the SF genre consists of dozens and dozens of translated novels by Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, Orson Scott Card, William Gibson, Frank Herbert, Guy Gavriel Kay, George R. R. Martin, Walter M. Miller, Patrick Rothfuss, Neal Stephenson, Charles Stross, Jeff VanderMeer, Roger Zelazny and others. He has also translated works by some of the most interesting new writers like Dave Hutchinson, and Ann Leckie. Habicht has also written some carefully constructed cyberpunk stories himself.
The most important Estonian author of speculative fiction by all standards. Hargla debuted in December 1998, in the second issue of ‘Algernon’ but his first text of significance was the reworked version of the short novel «Gondvana lapsed» (The Children of Gondvana; 1999) that appeared few months later. Since then, Hargla was virtually unstoppable and proved himself to be equally capable of crafting stories in horror, SF, and fantasy subgenres, most of which have appeared in ‘Algernon’, ‘Mardus’ and later on, in ‘Täheaeg’ and ‘Looming’ (Creation), Estonian leading literary magazine, as well as appearing in general newspapers.
His first book was a collection of stories assembled from ‘Algernon’ and ‘Mardus’, «Nad tulevad täna öösel!» (They Will Come Tonight!) which arrived 2 years after his debut. Other books quickly followed, including a collection of well-received stories describing the missions of the elderly Polish exorcist Grpowski «Pan Grpowski üheksa juhtumit» (Nine Cases of Pan Grpowski; 2001), a further collection of three stories «Hathawareti teener» (Servant to Hathawaret; 2002) and a short alternate history novel about Joan of Arc and the lost Viking colony in North America «Maris Stella» (2003).
Hargla’s first novel, «Baiita needus» (Baiita’s Curse; 2001) was a romantic high fantasy tale, followed by an alternate history (and another love story) set in Reformation Age, «Palveränd Uude Maailma» (Pilgrimage to the New World; 2003). His next novel, however, was a grim medieval fantasy, probably inspired by the mammoth series of George R. R. Martin and mafia tales of Mario Puzo, «Vabaduse kõrgeim määr» (The Highest Degree of Freedom; 2003).
Hargla then went on to write a trilogy of the adventures of Koulu and French, an Estonian sorcerer and his Burgundian servant (published in 2005, 2007 and 2009), set in a slightly backward alternate Europe with some fantasy and steampunk elements, providing many moments of comic relief. The books were more successful than any of Hargla’s previous offerings and brought the author some mainstream recognition.
It was his next series (6 volumes published in 2010–2017, and the series is ongoing) of historical whodunnits set in 15th century Tallinn with apothecary Melchior as the main protagonist, which brought him mainstream success and elevated him to the league of top-earning Estonian writers.
Hargla’s stories of fantastic fiction written in the interim have been published in the collections «Roos ja lumekristall» (The Rose and the Snow Crystal; 2006) and «Suudlevad vampiirid» (The Kissing Vampires; 2011). In addition he has written the novelizations of the two seasons of folk horror TV series «Süvahavva» that he previously scripted (published in 2013 and 2015) ) as well as a best-selling alternate history detective novel «Raudrästiku aeg» (The Age of the Iron Viper; 2016) set in the 11th century Estonia.
Hargla has won 20 Stalker Awards in all possible categories, far more than any other Estonian author, and a handful of other literature prizes.
Heinsaar, Mehis (1973–)
Mainstream writer of some significance (e.g. three-time recipient of the prestigious Tuglas Award for his short stories) whose absurdist stories and novel «Artur Sandmani lugu» (The Story of Artur Sandman; 2005) have incorporated elements of fantasy, often to the chagrin of genre fans.
Hellat, Henn-Kaarel (1932–)
The man who coined the word ‘ulme’ in 1970 – just to replace the awkward ‘teaduslik fantastika’ (science fiction) – which has become the Estonian umbrella term for all speculative fiction. He is also the author of the first proper Estonian SF novel «Naiste maailm» (Women’s World; 1976-78, in two volumes), a gender dystopia, as well as a couple of SF stories, also from the seventies. In 2015 he was awarded the first honorary membership of Eesti Ulmeühing (Estonian Science Fiction Association).
Järvi, Raivo (1954–2012)
Järvi was a book illustrator, radio and TV host and politician. He illustrated many SF stories that were published in ‘Pioneer’ magazine during the 1980s. The same decade saw publication of several of his genre fantasy comic strips for young adults in the same magazine, the first of which was «Võitlus tule pärast» (The Quest for Fire; 1982–1983), based on Matti Vaga’s adaptation of the book by J.-H. Rosny. The «Muinasjutt Tulipoisist» (The Story of Flame Boy; 1984–1987) comic strips series written by Mati Vaisma (1947–1987) had a bigger cult following, as it consisted of even more stylish gothic fantasy comics with characters like Prince of Underworld, Old Evil, Slave of the Mountains, The Young Giant, Malice and others.
Unlike most Estonian SF writers who hone their craft at shorter forms of fiction, Järve shot into public consciousness with her debut novel «Esimene aasta» (The First Year; 2011), giving a bleak depiction of Estonia during and after the outbreak of a particularly vicious strand of Ebola virus. Her second novel «Klaasmeri» (The Glass Sea; 2015), a fantasy with young adult (YA) mannerisms, followed four years later.
Kabur, Boris (1917–2002)
Estonian writer, translator and inventor, whose SF is mainly of YA interest. He wrote two children’s plays about the robot named Rops, which were successfully dramatized and aired in the Estonian television in the seventies and have remained popular among several generations of Estonian youth. His YA novel «Kosmose rannavetes» (In the Shore Waters of Space; 1966) has only historical value today, considered to be rather communist and naïve. Kabur’s most important contribution to the genre may be the Estonian translation of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s «Frankenstein» in 1984.
Kaer, Krista (1951–)
Translator, editor and editor-in-chief of Estonia’s biggest publishing house Varrak (since 1995). Varrak is relevant for the SF imprint ‘F-sari’, established in 1996. The imprint introduced many seminal genre books to Estonian readers, including «City» by Clifford D. Simak, «Dune» by Frank Herbert, «Ringworld» by Larry Niven, «Hyperion» and its sequels by Dan Simmons, «Consider Phlebas» and its sequels by Iain M. Banks, «A Canticle for Leibowitz» by Walter M. Miller, «The Stars My Destination» by Alfred Bester, «Ender’s Game» by Orson Scott Card, «The Chronicles of Amber» by Roger Zelazny, the Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett, the Miles Vorkosigan saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, «Game of Thrones» books by George R. R. Martin and many others. More than 125 books have appeared under the imprint over the past two decades.
A longtime SF fan in her own right, Kaer has translated many important genre works, including books by Clifford D. Simak, Doris Lessing, Ursula K. Le Guin, Terry Pratchett, Oscar Wilde, J. K. Rowling, Washington Irving, Angela Carter, J. R. R. Tolkien, T. H. White, Kazuo Ishiguro, Peter S. Beagle and others. Her son Kaaren and daughter Kaisa have also translated several genre books.
Kallas, Jüri (1967–)
One of the most famous, knowledgeable and vocal SF fans in Estonia, Kallas is also an informed critic and is acknowledged for his meticulously researched afterwords introducing important writers to Estonian fandom. He was the second president of the Estonian Science Fiction Association and in 1998 he was among the founders of Estonian science fiction award Stalker, Estonian science fiction convention Estcon and ESFA’s webzine ‘Algernon’. In his capacity as the editor to the publishing house Elmatar, he established the SF imprint ‘Tempus fugit’ in 1998. Under his tutelage, the books by Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Robert Silverberg, and Roger Zelazny were published. Kallas has edited two science fiction anthologies, «Olend väljastpoolt meie maailma» (The Thing from – ‘Outside’; 1996) and «Stalker 2002» (2003), the first covering the world SF scene between two world wars, and the second concentrating on that year’s Stalker award winners and nominees. He has also served as consultant to several other SF book series in different publishing houses and has been compiling the Estonian Science Fiction Bibliography since the 1990s.
Kaplinski, Jaan (1941–)
Mainly known as poet and vocal mainstream literary figure who has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel literature prize. Two novella-length works of Kaplinski written relatively late in his career – «Hektor» (1998) and «Silm» (An Eye; 1999) – are of genre interest. In «Hektor», human society is viewed through the eyes of a genetically engineered and a highly intelligent dog. In «Silm», a theologian grown up in Soviet society goes on to invoke strange deities, each more powerful than the previous, to discover the true principles according to which the world was created. An omnibus containing both novellas won the Estonian Cultural Endowment Award in 2000. More recently, Kaplinski has written some alternate history/future stories about the destiny of Estonia in a post-technological pastoral world. Kaplinski is also highly esteemed for his translations of seminal shorter works by Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Stanisław Lem, Robert Sheckley, and Clifford D. Simak for Ain Raitviir’s legendary anthology, «Lilled Algernonile» (Flowers for Algernon, 1976).
Kirde, Kalju (1923–2008)
A war refugee since 1944 after the Soviet Union reconquered Estonia during WWII, Kirde received his degrees in physics in West Germany where he lived and worked till death. Kirde took interest in weird fiction and supernatural literature during his teenage years in Estonia in the 1930s reading ‘Weird Tales’ magazine.
In the 1960s and 1970s he became preeminent expert on horror fiction in Germany and edited several book series and anthologies on the subject, most famous and culturally important of which is «Bibliothek des Hauses Usher» (Library of the House of Usher; 26 volumes during 1969–1975) at Insel Verlag. Books by Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood, August Derleth, Walter de la Mare, Stefan Grabiński, William Hope Hodgson, J. Sheridan le Fanu, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, Edgar Allan Poe, Jean Ray, Clark Ashton Smith, and H. R. Wakefield were published in that series among others. Kirde also compiled the most exhaustive bibliography of H. P. Lovecraft in German (1984).
Kivirähk, Andrus (1970–)
Possibly the most popular Estonian author of this century, Kivirähk is mainly a playwright, children’s writer, and feuilletonist. Although active for more than two decades, Kivirähk has written only three proper novels for adult readers, two of which are of genre interest. Definitely not genre science fiction, but rather a literary fantasy, Kivirähk’s first best-selling novel «Rehepapp ehk November» (The Old Barny or November; 2000) is about the Estonians’ folklore, fairy tales, stereotypes, self-image and painful historical experience treated in a comical and ironic manner. Broadly speaking, the same can be said of his second work of genre interest, the novel «Mees, kes teadis ussisõnu» (The Man Who Spoke Snakish; 2007), which won the Estonian SF award Stalker as the year’s best domestic novel and also the main French SF award Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire in 2014 as the year’s best translated novel.
An important publisher, editor, translator and occasional author under several pseudonyms (Abel Cain, Reni Moro). From the end of the 1980s he edited the youth magazine ‘Pioneer’ (changed its name to ‘Põhjanael’ (Polaris) in 1990), where he started publishing many classic SF stories (by H. G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, Clifford D. Simak, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, Henry Kuttner, Ursula K. Le Guin, Larry Niven and others). He is also responsible for publishing a stream of genre SF stories by Urmas Alas, possibly the first genre SF author to emerge in the 1980s. The magazine folded in 1994/1995 but its role in creating an interest in young readers toward SF, fantasy, and horror literature and maintaining this interest by a steady stream of stories in practically every issue is huge and unique.
As the founder, publisher and editor of the horror oriented magazine ’Mardus’ (1991–1998) and subsequent anthology series under the same name (1999–2004), he had a pivotal role in supporting many aspiring authors of the time, most notably Veiko Belials, Marek Simpson, Veikko Vangonen, and Lew R. Berg. Starting from 2001, published books by Lew R. Berg, Karen Orlau, Siim Veskimees, Indrek Hargla and Veiko Belials. He also initiated the Tallinn SF fans’ monthly gatherings under the name of the ‘Mardus Circle’.
He retired from publishing and editing in 2004 but has continued as the translator of books by Dan Simmons and George R. R. Martin. One of his most important translating and editing works is the original Estonian choice of Ray Bradbury’s best stories «Kaleidoskoop» (Kaleidoscope; 2000), which won him a Stalker Award. Kivistik has also edited an anthology of SF «Hirmu vöönd» (Zone of Terror; 1993) and one of horror stories «Öised külalised» (The Night Visitors; 1997). Received a lifetime achievement Stalker in 2015.
Kunnas, Leo (1967–)
A retired officer, publicist and writer whose sole venture into pure SF – the Gort Ashryn trilogy of military SF in interplanetary space (2008–2010) – stirred up some furor. All parts of the trilogy won individual Stalkers.
His newest work is a massive double novel «Sõda 2023. Taavet» (The War of 2023: David) and «Sõda 2023. Koljat» (The War of 2023: Goliath) published in one volume in the style of Ace Doubles. That work speculates on a possible war with Russia and offers two different future scenarios.
Laipaik, Herta (1921–2008)
The Grand Old Lady of Estonian folk horror, mostly known and respected in the genre for her tales about witches, mermaids, werewolves, elves and other supernatural beings firmly established in the Estonian folklore. Her legend-based stories are collected in four collections: «Maarjakask» (Silver Birch; 1983), «Kurjasadu» (Rains of Evil; 1987), «Pipratoosi tondid» (Ghosts from the Pepper Shaker; 1990), and «Hauakaevaja lood» (Stories of the Grave Digger; 1991). Most of today’s Estonian folk horror is definitively rooted in Laipaik’s weird fiction about enchanted forests, mad infatuations with the beings from otherworld etc. In 2015, «Pikad varjud» (Long Shadows), a tribute anthology of original stories by modern genre authors written in the style of Laipaik, was compiled by Martin Kivirand.
Laipaik’s YA steampunk SF adventure «Professor Lillepooli kroonika» (Chronicle of Professor Lillepool; 1982) was quite popular at the time.
Laur, Märt (1980–)
An author of highly unusual SF stories (touted as the ‘next big thing’ by some critics at the time) who debuted in ‘Algernon’ in 1998 and retired from writing SF in 2004. His most interesting stories include «Siesta», «Inkubaator «Dekadents»» (Incubator Named Decadence; both 2001), «Patukahetsuse lävi» (Level of Atonement; 2002), and «Doominosillad» (Bridges Made of Dominoes; 2003). Laur’s favorite themes were weird dystopian future or parallel worlds and societies you couldn’t exactly define or explain, coupled with similarly awkward characters with ambiguous agendas and backgrounds. Recently he has written two mainstream novels that can be described as ambitious family sagas. Both books have done well at Estonian novel competitions (two second prizes).
Laurik, Mairi (1979–)
An author of what can be predominantly classified as YA SF and a prolific one at that who has published three novels and a handful of short stories to date. Her debut novel «Süsteem» (The System; 2016), which is set a thousand years in the future in the aftermath of an apocalyptic cataclysm, deals with the coming-of-age problems of its heroine. «Mina olen surm» (I Am Death; 2016), winner of the young adult novel competition of Tänapäev Publishing House features a young lad with precognitive powers in a small town of Estonia. «Novembriöö kirjad» (Letters from the November Night; 2017), which depicts a nanotechnology-based society in an even more rural local setting, placed second at the same competition.
Loper, Mann (1985–)
One of the most promising authors to debut in recent years and author of two novels. «Algus enne lõppu» (The Beginning before the End; 2015) is a competent science fiction adventure for young adults, taking place hundreds of years after a nuclear catastrophe. «Kellest luuakse laule» (Who the Songs Are Made About; 2016), is a seemingly standard fantasy tale involving magic, dragons, female warriors, evil villains etc with a subtle feel of Far East setting.
Loper debuted with a novella «Meister ja õpipoiss» (Master and Apprentice; 2014) set in the world of her fantasy novel, which won the Grand Prix in ESFA short story competition in 2014 and finished second in Stalker ballot. Furthermore, a handful of short stories have been published in a number of anthologies and in ‘Reaktor’.
Luts, Eva (1967–)
Publisher and translator, owner and CEO of Fantaasia Publishers, the small firm she established in 1999, which has grown to become perhaps the most important specialist SF publishing house in Estonia. Fantaasia has currently several different book lines (Sündmuste horisont, Orpheuse Raamatukogu), anthology series (Täheaeg, Hirmu ja õuduse jutud), single author collection series (The Selected Works of Robert Silverberg), and has had many more in the past. During its 18 years of existence Fantaasia has published nearly 300 books of genre interest.
In addition to a lot of SF/F/H short stories, Luts has translated the book length works of genre interest by Poul Anderson, Michael Crichton, A. Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, Robert E. Howard, Ursula K. Le Guin, H. P. Lovecraft, Michael Moorcock, Jerry Pournelle, Clifford D. Simak, and Charles Stross.
A poet and writer whose SF debut «Joosta oma varju eest» (To Run away from One’s Shadow) won grand prix in ESFA short story competition in 2011. Meres’ next major works were a postapocalyptic SF novella «Kuningate tagasitulek» (Return of the Kings; 2012) and a high fantasy novelette with some feminist overtones «Sulavesi ja vereside» (Spring Waters and Blood Ties; 2012). She has been published in ‘Täheaeg’, ‘Algernon’, ‘Reaktor’, and in a number of anthologies.
Metsavana, J. J. (pseudonym) (1982–)
A fandom activist and writer of horror and SF who debuted in ‘Reaktor’, which he co-founded in 2011 and has edited since. Metsavana’s writing often combines any of the following: flamboyant or tongue-in-cheek tone, gory violence, overcomplicated gadgets.
Metsavana has found most success in collaborations with Maniakkide Tänav (stories and novels set in Ippolit and Euromant universes) and Veiko Belials (so-called atomic punk stories) and has received 6 Stalkers for co-authorship. His individual works that have mostly appeared in ‘Reaktor’ are numerous but less accomplished. He has also co-edited three volumes of anthologies comprised of stories previously published in ‘Reaktor’.
Nikkarev, Arvi (1949–)
A lifetime SF fan, translator, publisher and editor who founded his own publishing house Skarabeus in 1996 and has since maintained a steady schedule: one volume of SF per year, mostly story collections and anthologies. The author list includes Norman Spinrad, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Brian W. Aldiss, Gene Wolfe, and a variety of Anglo-American, Finnish, German, Italian, and Russian contemporary SF writers. Much of Skarabeus’ output, for which the publishing house has received a number of Stalker Awards, can be described as new wave SF.
Orlau, Karen (pseudonym) (1975–)
Writer of horror and occasional fantasy in short story form who debuted in ‘Mardus’ in 1997 but became better known through ‘Algernon’ and maintained high productivity for a few years. While a bulk of her work can be described as gothic horror, often in urban setting, inspired by Anne Rice, her stories of poetic fantasy and folk horror have been more celebrated, earning her two Stalkers. A representative selection of her writings was collected in «Sealtmaalt» (From Beyond; 2002). After 2003, however, her literary output has been scarce.
Raitviir, Ain (1938–2006)
Mycologist and editor of the journal ‘Eesti Loodus’ (Estonian Nature). Edited and translated SF stories that were published in the popular-scientific journal ‘Horisont’ (Horizon) in the sixties and seventies. His anthology of Anglo-American science fiction stories «Lilled Algernonile» (Flowers for Algernon; 1976) included important works by Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, Brian W. Aldiss, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Sheckley and others. The book’s impact on the Estonian science fiction readers during the seventies and eighties and even nineties was enormous, legendary, and unsurpassable. Raitviir was also the first person to receive the lifetime achievement Stalker Award in 2003.
Raud, Rein (1961–)
Literary novelist and short story writer who published some slipstream SF in the eighties. His YA medieval fantasy «Ratsanik Melchior» (Melchior the Rider; 1991) about the battle between good and evil both in practical and philosophical way in a state resembling the Holy Roman Empire is considered to be the first Estonian genre fantasy novel. The book is significant for its depiction of embodied arch-evil in a form of a never-dying devilish character Kaksikvend (Twin Brother), who plays people’s weaknesses and fears against each other thus securing the sustainable existence of evil on Earth.
Rebane, Helju (1948–)
An expat since the breakup of Soviet Union living in Moscow and occasional writer of SF whose early stories were assembled in «Väike kohvik» (A Small Café; 1986) – a collection published in Estonian. Her recent stories, however, see print in Russian anthologies and periodicals. Her fiction can be described as socio-critic SF.
Ristikivi, Karl (1912–1977)
One of the most important Estonian writers of all time, Ristikivi started writing speculative fiction back in the 1930s with an alternate history novel «Viikingite jälgedes» (In the Footsteps of the Vikings; 1936, in a book form as late as 2003) about the Vikings’ settlements in America during the High Middle Ages. He wrote the first Estonian surrealist novel, the existentialist and modernist book «Hingede öö» (All Souls’ Night; 1953) in which the nameless protagonist wanders through the corridors of a strange house, every step taking him to a new symbolic situation, and is at last witnessing a kafkaesque court session. His dystopian fable «Imede saar» (Island of Miracles; 1964) is written in the Platonic tradition, or that of Marco Polo’s travel book. His three historical-philosophical trilogies (that contain some fantastical elements), depicting European medieval and modern centuries, were crowned with a masterful novel «Rooma päevik» (A Roman Diary; 1976), a dreamlike wandering through the streets, catacombs and palazzos of 18th century Rome where past and present intermingle, historical figures appear and disappear and the objective reality loses all meaning. The book ends mid-sentence.
Roogna, Martin (1950–?)
An active and somewhat notorious SF fan of Soviet era (he is reported to have caused a paranoia attack in Philip K. Dick who, upon receiving his letter, perceived it as an evil communist scheme and contacted the FBI) and occasional translator who, in the seventies, had avid correspondence with several SF writers (Brian W. Aldiss, Poul Anderson, Ray Bradbury, A. Bertram Chandler, Harry Harrison, Robert A. Heinlein etc) and assembled a collection of autographs (which, along with the correspondence and other documents, is stored at Estonian Literary Museum). His name is immortalized in the title of «Castle Roogna», a book by Piers Anthony.
Writer and critic of SF and editor of ‘Algernon’ (since 2002) who debuted in ‘Põhjanael’ with a short story «Ajaleht» (Newspaper) at the tender age of 14 and all but disappeared. Sander re-emerged in the very first issue of ‘Algernon’ in 1998 with a bunch of short stories, showing much promise according to some observers. Sander has been praised as a master of style (often in the vein of Russian SF writers) and criticized for unoriginality (perhaps unfairly so as quite many of his works can be considered pastisches) and lack of direction.
Sander has published infrequently in ‘Mardus’, ‘Algernon’ and ‘Täheaeg’, and majority of these works have been also published in book form in collections «13 talvist hetke» (13 Winter Moments; 2008) and «Õhtu rannal» (An Evening on the Beach; 2012). A short novel «Valguse nimel» (In the Name of Light; 2003) was also published as a standalone book.
Sander, Mart (1967–)
Singer, actor, director, artist, TV host and last but not least, occasional author who has written three books of genre interest and whose stories fall mostly under the label of horror. «Mercator», a collection of two novellas was published in 1994. His second story collection, «Z, the Terminal Letter» (2005) was written and published in English. «Lux Gravis or The Heavy Light», a substantial historical SF novel with Lovecraftian cosmic horror touch was also written in English and published in a deluxe edition in small circulation in 2008. A partially rewritten translation of the novel was published under the title «Lux Gravis ehk Raske Valgus» in 2017.
Sepp, Rein (1921–1995)
Poet and translator of Old Nordic and Germanic epics «Poetic Edda», «Prose Edda», «Nibelungenlied», «Parzival», and «Beowulf» who has also published two works of genre interest: one of the very first science-based speculations in Estonian literature, a novella «Viimne üksiklane» (The Last Solitaire; 1960) about a long space journey, and the equally scientifically sound play «Gaia peab startima» (Gaia Must Take off; 1963), that again depicts a space-faring future society. The play was dramatized for Estonian Radio in 1962.
Seppo, Raivo (1973–)
An author who began his career with old-style Gothic horror stories which were quite formulaic but still enjoyable. All his eighteen short stories that were published in periodicals like ‘Noorus’ and ‘Mardus’ were later collected in «Hüatsintsõrmus» (The Hyacinth Ring; 1995). After that, Seppo abandoned the fantastic genre and wrote serious-toned psychological romance novels backgrounds of which range from the Merovingian times to colonial Peru and 17th century Moldova under the Ottoman yoke.
Simpson debuted in ‘Põhjanael’ in 1994 with «Vihmamees» (The Rainmaker), arguably his best story and made himself a name with numerous short, witty, quirky and somewhat melancholic SF stories via ‘Mardus’. Around the turn of the century he switched to writing social SF, many of later stories have didactic character.
Although several of Simpson’s stories were published elsewhere (newspapers, ‘Algernon’ and most notably in Estonian literary periodical ‘Vikerkaar’), he was always tightly connected to ‘Mardus’ and effectively retired from writing SF around 2004 when ‘Mardus’ folded. Some of his earlier stories were incorporated into «Existerion» (fix-up novel, 1999, in collaboration with Veiko Belials), his only book publication.
Sinilaid, Leo (1935–?)
More of an amateur and only marginally interesting author who published two pulpish and unoriginal collections of horror stories in 1991: «Põrguorhideed» (Orchids of Hell), and «Hauakabeli jutud» (Tales from a Crypt), a total of 26 mostly mediocre short stories.
Sulbi, Raul (1977–)
A prominent SF fan, critic, editor and anthologist, also the first president of the Estonian Science Fiction Association (1995–1998), in which capacity he was among the small group of fans who established the annual Estonian science fiction award Stalker and the Estonian science fiction convention Estcon back in 1998. He was also one of the founders of the webzine ‘Algernon’ and one of its editors from 1998 to 2005.
Sulbi has edited a number of anthologies, including a decade-spanning «Eesti ulme antoloogia» (Anthology of Estonian Science Fiction, 2002), a collection of best stories from the 2004 ESFA short story competition, «Terra Fantastica» (2004), three anthologies of horror stories «Sünged varjud 1&2» (Dark Shadows 1&2, 2001 and 2004) and «Hirmu ja õuduse jutud I» (Tales of Terror and Horror 1, 2015) and, most importantly, 17 volumes of ‘Täheaeg’ (The Sidereal Time, 2002–), a cross between anthology series and SF magazine. After the demise of ‘Mardus’, ‘Täheaeg’ currently serves as the primary print venue for shorter forms of fiction by novice as well as by established Estonian SF authors.
Sulbi has also edited several single author collections: mention should be made of the multi-volume project «The Selected Works of Robert Silverberg» (2016–) and the original choice of Poul Anderson’s best stories «Taevarahvas» (The Sky People; 2008), edited in collaboration with Andri Riid, which won the Stalker Award. Raul Sulbi is also the editor of the imprint of Fantaasia Publishing House titled ‘Orpheuse Raamatukogu’ (The Orpheus Library, 2011–), which currently comprises of 29 volumes of classic and contemporary SF story collections and shorter novels.
Tarlap, Tiit (1954–2017)
One of the most important Estonian SF writers of the last 30 years. Tarlap’s debut story was «Tänav akna taga» (The Street beyond the Window; 1988) in the magazine ‘Noorus’. For the next fifteen years he mainly published his short fiction and longer works as serials in magazines and local newspapers.
His notoriety in fandom began in 1998 when his novelette «Vihkamise suund» (Direction of Hatred; 1997) won the first Estonian science fiction award Stalker. Although not very well known to the SF audience before that, in retrospect, Tarlap can easily be viewed as the most significant Estonian SF writer of the 1990s. Mention should be made of a rather grim military SF novel «Kurjuse tund» (An Hour of Wrath; 1994), two stories in a contemporary setting that combine horror, fantasy and science fiction – short novel «Vampiirilõks» (The Vampire Trap; 1994) and novelette «Haldjatants» (The Fairy Dance; 1996) – and an adventurous space opera novella «Kaduviku paladiinid» (Paladins of the Past; 1997). 2001 saw the publication of his long-awaited first collection «Viiking, kes armastas haisid» (The Viking Who Loved Sharks) that brought his important early work to wider audience. Second similar collection followed in 2005.
From then on Tarlap wrote only novels, seven of which were published before his untimely death: «Meie, kromanjoonlased» (We, the Cro-Magnons; 2009), «Tuleriitade öö» (Night of the Bonfires; 2010), «Roheliste lippude reservaat» (Reservation of the Green Flags; 2012), «Lõhestusjoon» (Divisive Line; 2012, which won him his second Stalker award), «Aegade julm laul» (Cruel Song of the Ages; 2013), «Äraneetute pärijad» (Heirs to the Damned; 2015), and «Rajake tähetolmus» (Pathway in the Stardust; 2016). A collection of his best stories «The Fairy Dance» was published in 2014.
Tarlap’s fiction was old-fashioned and reminiscent of the 1950s adventure SF written by Edmond Hamilton, Harry Harrison, and the young Robert Silverberg. His retro space operas often brought the classic cloak-and-dagger tropes and motifs to the galactic scenery, but had also important points to make and stances to express. Tarlap was a life-long opponent to the Establishment in the broadest possible sense, disapproving both political, financial, and institutional elite. His characters refused the societal control over their lives and behavior, and often turned violent against the collective body that preached about the so called common good. They disavowed technological civilization based on unending consumerism and looting of natural resources.
Writer of psychological, literary, often borderline SF who published two stories in ‘Mardus’ under his real name but switched to the pen name in 1999 and was active for a short period since then. His only book «Unenägude jumal» (God of Dreams; 2002) collecting his best works, won a Stalker. Trinity’s swansong, a novelette called «Tähtede seis» (Position of the Stars), published a year later, also won a Stalker.
Tuglas, Friedebert (1885–1971)
Estonia’s preeminent literary figure for more than half a century, called ‘the pope of Estonian literature’. He participated in several literary circles and movements, established literary magazines and gave name to awards. His works of genre interest came from the symbolist literary tradition: the novella «Maailma lõpus» (At the Edge of the World; 1916) is a post-apocalyptic gender fantasy about the protagonist’s interaction with a giant-woman on an unknown island beyond the edge of the world. The grim horror story «Õhk täis on kirge» (The Night Is Full of Passion; 1920) is derived from the works of Lafcadio Hearn. The post-apocalyptic novelette «Viimne tervitus» (The Final Greetings; 1957) takes place in Italy after the Fourth World War.
Tänav, Maniakkide (pseudonym) (1976–)
Writer of naturalist horror, apocalyptic SF and cyberpunk, generally in domestic background (often in Jõgeva, a small town in rural area of Estonia) who debuted in local newspaper ‘Vooremaa’ in 1996 and gained some notoriety with a short humorous splatter story «Doonorelundid» (The Donor Organs; 1998), which appeared in the first issue of ‘Algernon’. Tänav continued publishing in ‘Algernon’ and ‘Mardus’ on a regular basis. His most accomplished story of the period was «Nekromandi kombel» (Like a Necromancer; 2002), a tale of a rotting zombie trying to make his way out of the situation. Tänav published his first novel, a decidedly amateurish mixture of fantasy and horror, «Mu aknad on puust ja seinad paistavad läbi» (My Windows Are Made of Wood and Walls Are Transparent) the next year. Then he took a five-year break.
Tänav returned with a bunch of short stories in ‘Algernon’ and ‘Täheaeg’, quickly becoming a permanent author of the latter, and a novel «Surmakarva» (In the Color of Death; 2009), another horror fantasy, based on his experience of role-playing. A collection assembled of his best stories, «Euromant» (Euromancer), was published in 2011.
The next year saw the first installment in the ongoing Ippolit future history series depicting apocalyptic earth after its collision with an asteroid; a future society in which Estonians play an absurdly important role. The book «Saladuslik Tsaar» (Mysterious Czar) contains stories by three authors (Tänav, J. J. Metsavana and Jaagup Mahkra) and won a Stalker Award. The second part of the series, «Duumioru lood» (Tales of Doom Valley; 2015), is in fact a shared world anthology, however, Tänav is a sole or co-author of all but one of its stories; two further sequels – of which the first won another Stalker – are novels co-authored with J. J. Metsavana.
In 2013, Tänav published a novel «Õnne ja õnnetuse valitseja» (Ruler of Happiness and Misery), a sequel to his 2009 novel. Perhaps his most celebrated novel is «Mehitamata inimesed» (The Unmanned People, 2014) that depicts a cyberpunk nuclear catastrophe-induced post-apocalyptic version of Estonia. This book also won a Stalker Award. In addition, he has won four Stalker Awards for his short stories.
A person of notable organizational talent (co-founder and editor of ‘Reaktor’ and of several anthologies) and a writer with a considerable cult following, including a circle of less accomplished fellow writers, Tänav has yet to find appreciation in literary circles.
Vaga, Matti (1940–1996)
Translator, newspaper editor and esteemed SF fan in the Soviet era. Vaga was the driving force behind the science-fiction supplement of the magazine ‘Noorus’ that ran through 12 issues in 1974 and published fiction by Jerome Bixby, Ray Bradbury, Robert Sheckley, Kir Bulychov, Sever Gansovski and others. Vaga also translated several stories published in popular-scientific journal ‘Horisont’. In the 1990s he edited general newspapers in his hometown Pärnu and ran SF adventure stories by foreign and domestic authors as serials in those periodicals. Several important works by Tiit Tarlap were first published in those papers.
Vangonen, Veikko (1964–)
Author of rather individual horror stories which share the background of medieval Livonia, Vangonen debuted with «Ülestõstmispüha» (Elevation Day; 1993) and continued with the tales in the same vein «Ülestõusjad» (The Resurrected Ones; 1994), «Märkmeid viirastuse reisikirjast» (Notes from the Spectre’s Travelogue; 1996), and «Surmaliisk» (Lot of Death; 1999). All his fifteen stories were published in book form in «Ülestõusjad» (2002) after which the author has been silent.
Veskimees, Siim (pseudonym) (1962–)
One of the most prolific Estonian SF writers of the last 15 years (author of 14 books, mostly novels), Veskimees specializes in fast-paced if somewhat clumsy space opera and military SF with strong libertarian leanings. One of his first stories to attract attention was a space adventure «Kõiksuse hääl» (Voice of the Universe) that appeared in ‘Algernon’ in late 1999, followed by perhaps his best single piece of fiction, «Naeratus aastate tagant» (The Smile Across the Years) in the next year. This smart short story features the characters of Astrid Lindgren – Pippi Longstocking, his friends Tommy and Annika and father Efraim – and takes place two decades after the events of the original book series.
His most famous book is probably the fix-up novel «Kuu ordu» (The Order of Luna; 2003), a grim view of near-future Earth being polluted and politically Balkanized, coupled with a much better organized Heinleinian utopian society located on the Moon – The Order of Luna. The latter explores and uses nuclear energy which is deplored on Earth. The early development of the Order is described in detail in a two-volume prequel «Ennesõjaaegne kullakarva» (Before the War, the Golden Age; 2011), and «Lahkulöömislahingud» (Battles of Separation; 2012). Another interesting work of Veskimees is «Kõver mets» (The Crooked Forest; 2002), a StephenKingesque short novel in Estonian folk horror/action genre that depicts a society of evil elves and other little people dwelling in underground caves. Also significant is his massive and complicated SF novel about parallel worlds «Pilvelinnuste ajastu langus» (Fall of the Era of Cloud Fortresses; 2004). Of his later novels, the most intriguing is probably «Haldjaradade ahvatlus» (The Temptation of Elf-paths; 2014), set in the Cloud Fortresses’ world.
Veskimees is also the mastermind behind the SF imprint ‘Sündmuste horisont’ (Event Horizon), that has published about 50 books since 2008, several of which he has translated himself (novels by Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, John Scalzi). He has also served as the third president of the Estonian Science Fiction Association ESFA. His fiction has won him three Stalker awards.
Biologist, translator and son of a mainstream writer Enn Vetemaa, author of two novels of which «Valgelinnu maailm» (World of a White Bird; 1999), a highly praised new age SF tale, is inspired by biology and Carlos Castaneda whose books he had translated previously.
Viiding, Paul (1904–1942)
Author of one of the first SF stories in Estonian literature. «Võita on terve planeet» (A Whole Planet to Gain; 1936) in which a stranger asks a potential suicide jumper from a bridge to join him on a space travel to explore new planets. His later story «Marsi ja Jupiteri vahel» (Between Mars and Jupiter; 1958) revisits the famous concept about a planet between Mars and Jupiter long time ago, destroyed in an ancient disaster.
Weinberg, Heinrich (pseudonym) (1978–)
Weinberg belongs to the newest wave of the Estonian SF authors; having debuted in 2013 he quickly became one of the most prolific SF writers, publishing a steady row of long novelettes and novellas in ‘Reaktor’ and ‘Täheaeg’. His novella «Vihma seitse nime» (The Seven Names of Rain; 2014) came third on the Stalker ballot. His other novella «Millest sa järeldad, et sinu karjamaal elab sipelgalõvi?» (How Do You Detect That There’s an Antlion in Your Rangeland?; 2014) came second in the ESFA short story competition and won the 2015 Stalker award as the year’s best domestic novella. Weinberg’s fiction can be described as a classic space and planetary SF with a strong ecological background. He has also penned stories about time travel, first contact and the exploring and terraforming our solar system.
2016 saw the publication of his debut collection «Pimesi hüpates» (Jumping off Blindly), a hefty tome that collects the aforementioned novellas and other longer works set in the same future history. His first novel «Eneseväärikusel pole sellega mingit pistmist» (Dignity’s Got Nothing to Do with It), expanded from an earlier short story, appeared in 2017.