Bertil Falk’s Space Opera Prize

Bertil Falk. Photo by Ahrvid Engholm.

By Ahrvid Engholm: As our greatest advocate of space opera turns 90 years old today, May 21 (when writing this) — talking about Bertil Falk, of course —  writer, reporter, editor, scholar, translator — I’ve taken the initiative to announce a space opera prize named in his honor.

It’s aimed at Swedish writers, but here’s an idea for others: run your amazing space opera story through a translation service, those are getting very good these days with AI help! It’d be interesting if someone would experiment with it. (It won’t be disqualified.)

The Bertil Falk’s Space Opera Prize offers eternal glory, a diploma and an as yet unknown cash prize. (The prize will be crowdfunded. Another experiment…)

Bertil has done just about everything since, but had his first story published in the Stockholms-Tidningen newspaper in 1946 when he was 12! His “Trip to Space” is available here in Swedish and also in English translation: “Bertil Falk: From ‘A Space Hobo’ to ‘Finnegans Wake’”.

Besides translating the “untranslatable” James Joyce classic Finnegans Wake, he’s written a heap of books (recently a huge 3-volume history of Swedish sf), worked as publisher, magazine editor (JVM, DAST Magazine), journalist and more. 

But his first love as a little boy was those silly, daydreaming — as school teachers complained loudly! — space stories in our local pulp Jules Verne Magasinet, especially the colorful adventures of Captain Future. In later years he visited Leigh Brackett (herself a master of space opera!) and Edmond Hamilton (the main culprit behind Captain Future) and published Hamilton’s space hero in JVM and in a separate volume.

 An additional reason for a space fiction prize is that so much is happening in space right now! NASA returns to the Moon. SpaceX builds the biggest rocket in history (also reusable) ultimately aiming for Mars. Europe builds a new telescope with an eye big as a hockey rink, meanwhile the Webb space telescope takes the sharpest pictures ever. China builds a space station, and also aims for the Moon (with India, Japan and others to follow). We have rovers on Mars, take pictures of Black Holes, crash into comets, see Captain Kirk take a real space jump, have AIs to find ET phoning home. Even little Sweden now builds a launch pad for satellites, with first shot expected within a year.

The space fiction of yesterday is becoming real!

To enter Bertil Falk’s Space Opera Prize contest, send your space opera story (simply defined as a science fiction story set in space) nomination to [email protected] no later than September 21. Any length admissible. It must have been published in 2022, but yet unpublished work may also be nominated — in that case you must attach it. A jury will be formed, and it will also look on its own accord for stories that may be awarded.

You can also apply for a jury job at the E-address. Recap your connection to space and if you have been into writing space fiction yourself. At the same time all space fans are urged to make a small donation to (though I believe it’ll be more complicated or foreigners) my Handelsbanken account 330 334 578 and tell [email protected] that. Donors will be officially thanked, but you may be anonymous if you wish.

And Bertil, congratulations!

Your space dreams from boyhood are turning real.