As my long time readers know, I have a penchant for setting stories in the Nordic lands, be they tales from the Old Norse mythos or space operas set in Kiruna’s Spaceport. While I cannot claim any Viking blood, at least that I know of, I have lived in Sweden and traveled frequently to the land of the midnight sun and pickled herring. I still count many friends, and hopefully readers, there, and I can still make myself understood, at least enough to order a beer or find the restroom. My recent holiday in Scandinavia–including not only Sweden but also Finland, Norway and Iceland–only reinforced this bond, so its fair to say more stories set up there will be forthcoming.
Besides the obvious personal connection, I have found many ways to bring stories to life set in the old lands of Odin and Loki. While Norse mythology has been brought into popular culture over the years, ranging from Wagner to The Avengers, the actual mythos is deep and complex. I have the Prose Edda on my Kindle, and while I cannot say I have read it all, it offers up a bounty of complex myths. Loki the trickster is part giant (or all, depending on who you believe) while Odin’s steed Sleipnir has 8 legs. Valkyries have swan wings and are either battle maidens or beer maidens, depending on where you look. Ragnarök is the battle at the end of the world, or perhaps at the beginning.
The climate and the latitude also offer intriguing opportunities for writers. The despair and depression that accompanies winter nights a month long balanced against endless summer son in a stuga (cabin) by a lake. More interesting yet, at high latitudes the sun circles, never really setting in the summer just skimming below the horizon.
And finally the culture and the people. While I never write about any real people I have known, I do blend in various characteristics and ticks: Swedes in an elevator and Finns in a bar, the few words of a Norrlander and the drinking songs of a well-lubricated Stockholmboende.
Stories set in part in Scandinavia:
- “How a Valkyrie Flies”opens in Stockholm, Sweden (and ends in Sydney, Australia)
- Ragnarök Willie is set in Kiruna, Sweden and in the ancient ruins of Valhalla, all while the long night of winter sets onto the north
- “Preschool War Games,” is set in Helsinki, Finland
- Sci Fi stories like “The Trillionaire” is partially set at Kiruna Spaceport, while “New Svalbard” is set on Svalbard, the northernmost island in Norway, at least until they move everyone to Mercury
- Both of my work-in-progress helhest stories, “Hel’s Horse Cannot Swim” and “Trampled” are set in Norway, as is “The Last Frost Giant.”
Other Scandinavian connections:
- Ice Isgardsson, both as an FBI agent in Gho and as a young boy in “Along Sand Creek,” has a taciturn Swedish father
- Anna-Jing, the spaceship pilot of my Martians series — “Three-Quarters Martian,” “Martian Rules,” “Stranded,” and “Godspeed, Martians” — is also half Swedish. She dreams of romping with the Swedish national hockey team while on Mars.
- Many of my valkyries have Swedish roots, especially Geiravör (Ragnarök Willie, “How a Valkyrie Flies,” “Hel’s Horse Cannot Swim”), while Randgrid and Siggi claim Helsinki as home.
- While I do write in English, my readers know my penchant for interlacing a few Swedish pejoratives into my dialog, from skit (pronounced with an h) to djävla (damn) to my personal favorite, fan och hans moster (literally, the devil and his aunt).
And it’s safe to say, after my recent trip to fabulous Iceland, there will be some Icelandic settings in the future. “Valkyries in Volcanoes” anyone?