Häpna!

Tagged: Publication

Swedish SF Magazine with 119 issues published from March 1954 to Spring 1966. Digest-sized, 96pp (occasionally 112pp) plus cover, supposedly edited throughout by Kjell Ekström (but see below) and published monthly, though from the beginning the July and August issues were combined into one; in 1957 and 1961 also the May and June issues; in 1960 the June/July and August/September issues; in 1964, June/July, August/September and November/December were combined with only nine issues published; in 1965, only four issues (two of them called double issues) appeared; in 1966, the 119th and final issue was published in mid-Spring, dated on the cover as "#1 1966".

Although Sweden had already had the proto-sf-magazine Hugin (1916-1920), written exclusively by its editor-publisher Otto Witt, and later the weekly Jules Verne-Magasinet whose first series (1940-1947) featured mainly sf translated from US Pulps, neither of these used the "science fiction" label: Witt called his speculative stories "technological fairy tales", and the editors of Jules Verne-magasinet talked of fiction in the tradition of Jules Verne. Häpna!, however, was launched by sf enthusiasts: the publishers, brothers Karl Gustav and Kurt Kindberg, were both long-time sf readers, as was the intended editor, author Sture Lönnerstrand, who was also president of the first Stockholm sf club. Clearly inspired by US tradition, the imperative title Häpna! literally means "Be Astounded / Amazed / Astonished!".

Initially, Häpna! offered impressive production values. Illustrations were often printed in blue or red and paper quality was high. Gradually, however, production was simplified and costs cut; by 1960, the magazine had discarded story illustrations and switched to a cheaper stock. Subtitles varied, from "Science fiction-tidskrift" ["Science Fiction Magazine"] in the early years to the more pretentious "Science fiction litterär-vetenskapligt magasin" ["Science Fiction Literary-Scientific Magazine"] during the last years – the latter rather surprisingly, as the initially regular features on science and Technology began disappearing by the late 1950s.

The mystery of Häpna!'s editorship has never been solved. Though the listing of staff remained unchanged from the first issue until the last, it is known that the named editor Kjell Ekström, a literary academic in Lund, had in fact no connection with the magazine at least after the first two or three years. Sture Lönnerstrand, listed as an assistant editor, also had no connection with Häpna! after 1956. One assumption has been that the very active sf fan Alvar Appeltofft, who was known to translate stories for Häpna!, may also for a period have selected work for translation: but this is impossible to confirm. Another, not unreasonable guess is that Lennart Sörensen, also a literature academic and avid sf collector, since the beginning a member of the editorial group and in fact the most active of them, writing scores of (and in fact almost all of the interesting) editorials and short essays for Häpna!, may well have been the magazine's de facto editor for much of its run.

The magazine's circulation and economics have also been frequently discussed in Sweden. According to statements made by its publisher, K G Kindberg, circulation peaked at around 8,000 copies in the mid-1950s, then declined continuously. Throughout its run, Häpna! was sold nationally on newsstands and via subscription. There is evidence that during the first few years contributors were paid; later, and certainly during the final years, this seems not to have been the case.

From the outset, Häpna! not only published news of international sf fan activities, but also encouraged its readers to form local fan clubs in Sweden, later publishing regular Fanzine reviews as well as information and contact addresses for clubs and Conventions. The rapid start and growth of Swedish sf fandom must be viewed as a direct result of this. Fanzine reviews and club news were initially written editorially, later by a succession of active Swedish fans including Alvar Appeltofft, Sam J Lundwall and John-Henri Holmberg. From the first issue to the last, librarian and critic Roland Adlerberth contributed a review column covering sf in Sweden, Britain, Germany and the USA.

Initially, the fiction content was primarily translated from Astounding and usually selected from the 1930s or 1940s. A E van Vogt's Slan (September-December 1940 Astounding; 1946; rev 1951) ran as the first serial, March-October 1954; the next was Jack Williamson's The Legion of Space (April-September 1934 Astounding; rev 1947). However, as early as 1955 newer authors like Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont and Robert Sheckley were introduced via short stories. From October 1955, Isaac Asimov's Foundation stories began to be published; in 1957, these were followed by a serialization of his The Caves of Steel (October-December 1953 Galaxy; 1954). From 1958, occasional stories were also translated from the British New Worlds; but until 1960, sf from the 1930s and 1940s continued to dominate, sometimes via unexpected authors like Ray Cummings, L Ron Hubbard or Sewell Peaslee Wright (1897-1970). Throughout, however, three authors dominated: Arthur C Clarke appeared in 39 of the 119 issues; Isaac Asimov in 36; A E van Vogt in 34. From the beginning of the 1960s, however, the stories grew more contemporary: Poul Anderson, Ray Bradbury, John Brunner, Frederik Pohl and Robert Silverberg became prominent. J G Ballard appeared for the first time in translation in the February 1963 issue. During the magazine's last two years, most of the stories were translated from quite recent issues of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Throughout its existence, in addition to translated US and British authors, Häpna! also published Danish and Swedish writers, though their combined contributions come to less than one story for each of the 122 separate issues published. Three later major Swedish sf authors had their first stories printed in Häpna!: Sam J Lundwall, Dénis Lindbohm and Bertil Mårtensson. [J-HH]

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