Saturday, 10 December 2016

Honorary Award for My Co-Authored Werewolf Story: Musta Susi

I'm happy to announce that a short story, Musta Susi (Black Wolf), co-authored by me and my wife, Ulla Susimetsä, received an honorary award yesterday evening. Combining our shared love for historical fiction and my passion for werewolf stories (my wife's written a couple of those before this as well, so she's not completely passionless), we wrote a story set in the 1640's, in the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean and the New World colony of Sweden on the Delaware river.

The judges had selected a short passage of the story to read when they presented the diplomas. They also included a short description, but for fear of spoiling the story, they had included a phrase that was perhaps a bit too misleading, so I'll leave it out here:

Something soft and furry touched him. He screamed, smelled blood and sweat. Panting, clutching his dagger, he stumbled around in the small space. Where was the exit? Where?

An item stolen from the Royal Palace of Stockholm ends up in the hands of Caribbean pirates. [...] The adventure, set in the 17th century, has many plot twists and is rigorous in its historical detail.

Original Finnish:

Jotakin pehmeää, karvaista hipaisi häntä, hän huusi, haistoi veren ja hien. Kauhusta huohottaen, tikaria puristaen hän säntäili ympäriinsä ahtaassa loukossa. Missä oli ulospääsytie? Missä?

Tukholman kuninkaanlinnasta varastetaan esine, joka päätyy Karibian merirosvojen haltuun. [...] 1600-luvulle sijoittuva seikkailu sisältää monenlaisia juonenkäänteitä ja on tarkka historiallisten yksityiskohtien suhteen.

The story was an interesting challenge to write. On one hand, I was relatively familiar with naval vocabulary relating to sail ships, but, on the other hand, this knowledge comes mainly from Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, so it was all in English. It took a while - and a couple of compromises - to translate this knowledge into Finnish, so that the point of view of the main protagonist - a pirate himself - would sound believable enough. And, naturally, ships were different in the 17th century, so that took a bit of research as well. But not only did we delve into naval matters and the Caribbean: as a part of the story takes place in New Sweden, we also had to find out details about this Swedish colony, their relationship with the native tribe (nowadays extinct), the geography etc. The short story will be published in an upcoming Portti magazine and I'll naturally tell you a bit more of it when the time comes.

Photo by Varpu Susimetsä

My wife and I have been writing collaboratively for a while now. Our main project is a novel (series) set in the 17th century, but we have tried our hand with short stories as well (you can find our story Entombed in a horror anthology called 666). Compared to our previous style of writing our stories individually, there is one very good argument for trying collaboration instead: you can actually talk about the characters, their hopes and fates with each other. This works to focus the characters, strengthens their story arcs and the overall narrative. What's more, you get rid of those silent dinners when you are both thinking of your own stories, but will not talk about them for fear of spoiling the story for the other. Ulla wrote a good piece of our collaborative writing style on her blog, so you should certainly check it out!

The competition was organised for the 31st time by the Tampere Science Fiction Seura (~ Tampere Science Fiction Society) and this was the second year I took part in it (last time was in 2014 with another werewolf story, Susiveri (Wolf Blood) - you can read more about it above under "About Me"). This time, the competition was a bit tougher as our story was one of 225 short stories judged by the jury. The maximum length for the story was 40 pages and ours was exactly that.

Full list of price winners with the writer's name and the name of the story (all in Finnish, of course):

I prize: Jenny Kangasvuo, Musta otsa
II prize: Emma Keski-Kuha, Mansikkakakku
III (shared) prize: Kristiina Huttunen, Perinnetarinoita Kuusivaaran kylästä
III (shared) prize: Tenka Issakainen, Mårran

Honorary award winners in alphabetical order:

Iris Backlund, Villimehiläiset
Mervi Heikkilä, Älä katso piian silmiin
Tytti Heikkinen, Missä virrat yhtyvät
Katariina Kotila, Varkaita ja sadetta
Maarit Leijon, Naisten talo
Anne Leinonen, Kenttäpostia
Anni Nupponen, Tarina matonkutojasta ja prinsessasta
Oskari Rantala, Systeemi ei kestä
Toni Saarinen, Annabellan epätodellisuuslupaus
Anna Salonen, Kylmempi kuin jää
Marko&Ulla Susimetsä, Musta Susi