(1915-2000) US author of Finnish descent, most of whose earlier fiction was fantasy rather than sf; occasionally he wrote as E Theodore Pine (once with Henry L Hasse), though only in magazines. He began publishing in 1935 with "The Two Doors" for the semiprozine Unusual Stories; his first professional sale was "Time Will Tell" for Amazing in June 1942. Some of his early work can be found in Stardrift, and Other Fantastic Flotsam (coll 1971). A friend of Hannes Bok, Petaja founded the Bokanalia Foundation in 1967, after Bok's death, publishing a commemorative volume, And Flights of Angels: The Life and Legend of Hannes Bok (1968) and editing The Hannes Bok Memorial Showcase of Fantasy Art (1974). Petaja's first novel was Alpha Yes, Terra No! (1965 dos); he published a further twelve books over the next half decade, including the moderately complex The Caves of Mars (1965 dos), in which a fungus-derived Drug from Mars threatens civilization. His best known work is the Kalevala sequence comprising Saga of Lost Earths (1966) and The Star Mill (1966), both assembled under their joint titles (omni 1979), and The Stolen Sun (1967 dos) and Tramontane (1967 dos), both likewise assembled under their joint titles (omni 1979) – and based on the Finnish verse epic Kalevala (1834-1835 2vols; exp 1849) compiled/composed by Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884) (see Mythology). In each of the novels a Terran descendant of one of the four main heroes of the Kalevala is reborn into his avatar's role to order to re-enact his adventures on Otava, the planet of origin of this pantheon. A fifth book of the sequence remained unpublished. A novel unconnected with the series but still related to the Kalevala is The Time Twister (1968).
The Green Planet series – Lord of the Green Planet (1967 dos) and Doom of the Green Planet (1968 dos) – recounts similar adventures befalling its Irish protagonist, who finds himself role-playing fake Celtic deities for the benefit of a madman armed with sf instruments of coercion. Most of Petaja's sf trades unpretentiously on the emotions aroused by mythical analogues like those in his Kalevala books; the adventure plots through which he evokes these resonances are by no means poorly conceived, and he remains entirely readable. Petaja stopped publishing fiction in 1972. In 1995 he was honoured by SFWA as Author Emeritus (see SFWA Grand Master Award) – being the first recipient of this award. [JC]
see also: Finland.
Emil Theodore Petaja
born Milltown, Montana: 12 April 1915
died San Francisco, California: 17 August 2000
works as editor
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