Lundwall, Sam J

Tagged: Author | Editor | Fan | Critic

(1941-    ) Swedish author, editor, critic, translator and publisher who has also periodically worked as a singer/songwriter, Television producer, photographer and cartoonist. Lundwall is the pre-eminent figure in Swedish sf. At the age of eleven, he had a short play performed on a children's show on Swedish national Radio. In 1956, he became active in Swedish sf Fandom, as president of a club and a Fanzine publisher. His later fanzine SF Nytt ["SF News"] (75 issues 1958-1983) was for a few years the leading serious Swedish fanzine; from number 59, in 1980, it was a semi-professional magazine about sf (see Semiprozine). In the early 1960s and in the 1970s, Lundwall also organized a number of sf Conventions in Stockholm. Additionally, while still an active fan, Lundwall published the first, mimeographed version of his later much expanded Bibliografi över science fiction och fantasy 1830-1961 ["Bibliography of Science Fiction and Fantasy 1830-1961"] (1962). Although his first professional story "Den åttonde" ["The Eighth"] appeared in September 1959 in the Swedish magazine Häpna!, where he later published five more stories, from 1964 his sf activity became minimal for some while. During the next few years he trained as a photographer, had a short career as a singer-songwriter with one LP album, Visor i vår tid ["Songs for Our Time"; text and chords published under the same title and simultaneously] (1966) and two later singles, Hootenanny ho (1967) and Söker du (1968). Some of his songs are sf (see SF Music). During this period he also freelanced as a writer and cartoonist in Swedish Magazines, among those the Swedish editions of the US Satire magazines Mad and Help. In 1968, as a trainee producer for the forthcoming second state Television channel, he produced a number of short programmes in a series called "Science fiction today", aired on the established first channel – the first time sf was presented in any knowledgeable fashion on Swedish television. As a result of this series, he wrote his first nonfiction book: Science fiction: från begynnelsen till våra dagar ["Science Fiction: From the Beginning until Today"] (1969), published by the Swedish radio-TV monopoly publishing branch. Revised and enlarged, this later became Science Fiction: What It's All About (1971), one of the first overviews of sf published in English.

After leaving the Swedish television network. Lundwall was employed in 1970 as an acquiring editor at Askild & Kärnekull, a newly launched Swedish publishing company. He began the A&K sf line with Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy and five further titles before leaving the company in 1973, when he was replaced by John-Henri Holmberg. Lundwall instead concentrated on Delta, a publishing company of which he was a co-owner and publisher, and which from 1972 until 1988 issued some 210 sf/fantasy titles, plus a number of crime and mainstream works; though some of the books were reprints of works previously published in Sweden, the clear majority were originals, making the Delta line the country's dominant sf publishing programme by a very wide margin. After the demise of Delta, Lundwall continued publishing under his own imprint, Lundwall Fakta & Fantasi, which issued a further 80 titles 1986-2002. At other houses in the early 1970s Lundwall also edited lines of sf novels, making him the most influential editor and publisher of sf in Swedish publishing history. While at Askild & Kärnekull, he also acquired rights to Jules Verne-Magasinet, originally published 1940-1947 and the first true Swedish SF Magazine (Lundwall had been fascinated by Jules Verne from childhood); after it had been revived by Bertil Falk as a semi-professional magazine in 1969, publishing ten issues, Falk relinquished rights to Lundwall, who relaunched the magazine in 1972, then moved it to Delta in 1973, where it was published until 1982; thereafter, until 2013, it was published by Lundwall's own Lundwall Fakta & Fantasi imprint. In all, Lundwall seems to have edited 223 issues of the magazine over a period of 42 years; however, the last eight issues, 2011-2013, were not published on paper but only on CD-ROMs available directly from Lundwall and containing almost exclusively his own work: fiction, music, photography, a feature-length film and several short films.

In the 1970s, Lundwall was the Overseas Regional Director for Science Fiction Writers of America, in March 2003 resigning both from this position and from SFWA in protest against the US invasion of Iraq. He was also one of the founding members of World SF and the organization's president for a number of years; for twenty years he played an active role in bridging the gaps between sf writers and readers in different countries and languages.

As a nonfiction writer, Lundwall has – besides his Bibliographies – published several books on sf, stressing his view that sf literature is primarily a European, not American, form of literature, and that European sf is more sophisticated and literarily superior to its US counterpart. His books on Utopias and Dystopias, published only in Swedish, make the same point and from a leftist political stance summarily dismiss many American writers, including Ayn Rand and Robert A Heinlein.

Lundwall's early novels are uniformly Satirical. Alice's World (1970) is clearly influenced by Ray Bradbury, No Time for Heroes (1970) and Uppdrag i universum (1973; trans Lundwall as Bernhard the Conqueror 1973) as clearly by Harry Harrison and Robert Sheckley, while King Kong blues: en berättelse från år 2018 (1974; trans Lundwall as 2018 AD, or The King Kong Blues 1975) is more original and ambitious. Mörkrets furste ["The Prince of Darkness"] (1975), perhaps his best early novel, is a pastiche of nineteenth-century fantastic adventure novels, complete with mustachioed villains, weird Inventions (see Steampunk) and an outrageous plot.

Lundwall's later fiction, not translated into English, is in many ways more personal and more ambitious. Among his singletons, Fängelsestaden ["The Prison City"] (1978), inspired by the Carceri etchings of Carceri etchings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, is set in an immense City of ancient stone buildings and giant Machines where humans move like ants through an insoluble, crumbling Labyrinth; Crash (1982) is set at an sf conference in 1970s New York, where a young Swedish participant experiences an intensive though uncertain and doomed romance with an American literary agent. Flicka i fönster vid världens kant ["Girl in a Window at the Edge of the World"] (1980) is the first book in the loosely connected Flat Earth series of novels and stories all set in a parallel reality where the Planck constant is slightly greater than in ours, and where a Flat Earth is slowly disintegrating by becoming intermingled with other probabilistic realities. In these tales, Time and space are intertwined and dissolved; the world depicted is chaotic, uncertain and unstable, and the characters in the stories live in a labyrinthine, reflective present of marked by insecurity and bitter nostalgia, facing an unpredictable future. To this sequence belong Lundwall's novels Tiden och Amélie ["Time and Amélie"] (1980), Gestalter i Sten ["Figures in Stone"] (1988), Vasja Ambartsurian ["Vasja Ambartsurian"] (1990) and Staden vid tidens ände ["The City at the End of Time"] (1993), as well as his short stories "Nobody Here But Us Shadows" (August 1975 Galaxy), "Take Me Down the River" (in Twenty Houses of the Zodiac, anth 1979, ed Maxim Jakubowski), "Time Everlasting" (in Tales from the Planet Earth, anth 1986, ed Frederik Pohl and Elizabeth Anne Hull), and the novella "Dödens ö" ["The Island of Death"] (2004 Jules Verne-Magasinet #518). The novels and stories in this series are immensely ambitious, but their combined impact is uncertain and less than totally convincing. Lundwall's vision here is simultaneously elegiac and poetic, but also vague. He has since published two further novels, of which Ygor (2014) is said to be his last; it appeared in an edition of only 11 copies, given to family and friends.

Over a period of at least forty years, Sam Lundwall was virtually the personification of sf in Sweden. He has been hailed by critics, praised by media and awarded a guaranteed life income by the Swedish Author's Union. Though his take on the sf genre, as well as his preferences in authors and his critical writings reflect many personal idiosyncrasies and have been challenged by others, his importance to the Swedish sf field and his original vision as an author remain undiminished. [J-HH]

Sam Jerrie Lundwall

born Stockholm, Sweden: 24 February 1941

died

works

series

Bernhard

Flat Earth

individual titles

nonfiction

bibliographies

general nonfiction

works as editor

series

Den fantastiska romanen ["The Fantastic Novel"]

individual titles as editor

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