Nordic sci-fi between covers

Documenting a region’s cinematic genre output is laborious but much needed, especially when certain genres need more attention in that region. Learn more about Spektakulärt, the updated book on Nordic science fiction films, TV and shorts, written and edited by Peter Öberg.

In 2012, Peter Öberg published Science fiction så in i Norden, a comprehensive book of all/most Nordic science fictions films up until that point. Now an updated sequel is here, Spektakulärt(meaning “spectacular”). Nordic Fantasy chatted with the author.

Nordic Fantasy: You obviously have a huge interest in science fiction films (and other media?) from the Nordic region, how did that start?

Peter Öberg: Since I was young have preferred science fiction, and comedy, before other genres and mainstream outings, in both literature and film. I guess I instinctively found these genres both more relevant and entertaining. Particularly dystopian fiction and movies have interested me – though my interest has waned somewhat in recent years – and this interest evolved into collecting Nordic science fiction films, which has been a hobby of mine for some time now. As far as I know no one has seen more Nordic SF than me which I find an interesting thing to take nerdy pride in.

Nordic Fantasy: It’s often said that in Nordic horror films, local history and legends and our wild nature is used to distinguish it from the rest of the world; is there any trend like that in science fiction TV or films?

Peter Öberg: In general I would say Nordic science fiction has a tendency of being either near future stuff with dystopian or political touches, or aimed at kids and with supernatural elements. I don’t think there is much in the way of themes or characteristics that are typically Nordic in our SF, besides the near future, political leanings and maybe a focus on relationships in relatively realistic settings.

Nordic Fantasy: In my view, science fiction is the not-yet-grown genre in our part of the world. What level of maturity is Nordic SF (cinema, TV) at today, in your analyzis?

Peter Öberg: An observation is that in 2018 six Swedish science fiction feature films had theatrical release (including both near future / alternate history political stuff and two space movies), beating the previous record from 2009 when an, at the time, groundbreaking two Swedish science fiction films were released. In recent years we have seen examples from all Nordic countries that SF, and other genres, can be done here. Maybe the speculative genres are slowly being normalized as being a part of our TV and cinema production.

Nordic Fantasy: In your new book you have omitted short films, even professional ones, shorter than 20 minutes, but included some of the zero budget amateur films found at the bottom of the barrel (if they’re 20 minutes or more); was this a space issue or is there another reason?

Peter Öberg: First, I don’t care about the budget. A zero budget film is as much a film as big budget one is. Regarding length, I wanted to be consistent and had to draw the line somewhere. I first had to decide if I was going to include short films at all. To include all films no matter how short would simply be impossible for this one man crew (the shorter the films, the more there are), and leaving out all short films would mean excluding a lot of interesting films. So the 20 minutes is a compromise.

Spektakulärt, the book.

Nordic Fantasy: Is there one of the Nordic countries that stand out in terms of quality or quantity when it comes to SF TV/video/film drama?

Peter Öberg: Denmark stands out in that they have quite a few decently made films, often with theatrical releases (in recent years movies like Danny’s Doomsday, QEDA – Man Divided, What We Become, The Substitute, Journey to Saturn, some of Lars von Trier’s films, the Antboy series etc). Finland stands out due to their “findie” tradition, with enthusiastic no- or low-budget films. Quality varies, but they are often entertaining.

Nordic Fantasy: You have watched all 500+ movies covered in the book; do you have a couple of favourite movies you’d like to mention?

Peter Öberg: I would say my two favourite feature films are The Man who Thought Life and The Gladiators – two excellent films. Blindpassasjer / The Stowaway and the other TV projects with Bing & Bringsværd involved are also mostly really good. There are lots of great short films, and when it comes to more “B” or low budget films, Finnish Trash Video has made some really entertaining stuff.

Nordic Fantasy: Why go for a book and not a website, which would be easier and cheaper to update? Do you plan to release updated print versions every 5-10 years?

Peter Öberg: Well, this is something I thought about a lot and also one of the reasons the book took so long. Was it going to be a book in Swedish, a book in English, a website or some kind of online collection of films? In the end I decided on a book in Swedish because that’s what I did last time, I wanted it out of my system, and I didn’t want the longer time obligation of maintaining a website. If I in the future decide to release an updated book I can do that relatively easy.

I would also like to thank you for doing a great job with