Turning a new leaf for Scifist

Dear reader,

This is a special post, primarily for those two of you that follow my writings here on a regular basis. Scifist is not one of those blogs with bite-size updates for the casual reader, with its long, winding and often detailed movie essays. My original idea, when I created Scifist in 2014, was to make an encyclopaedia of science fiction movies, that not only contained the basic facts about the films, but which also provided information about the people involved in the productions and put the pictures in historical and cultural contexts. I wanted to provide not only reviews based on my personal opinions, but to give the reader an idea of what the experience might have been like to have seen the movies when they first premiered. Of course, it was a daunting task I set before myself, to review every single SF movie ever released to a theatre, in chronological order, but I felt it was possible, and still do. Most visitors to Scifist come here through Google, in search of information on a specific film, which is exactly the way that I hoped that Scifist would function. The handful of readers that follow my writings on a more regular basis are, unsurprisingly, genre movie buffs like myself – many of them “content creators” themselves. During the years I have been cheered on by writers, critics and scholars that I consider my idols, and whose long work with SF and horror movies have provided me with a cornucopia of information and fodder for analysis. Supportive comments from such luminaries as Glenn Erickson and Tom Weaver have spurred me on to continue this mad project.

So, why this emotional outburst all of a sudden? Well, my second-to-last review of The Gamma People marked the point where I cut loose from the old incarnation of Scifist and can now venture into the great big unknown. As some of you may know, there is an older version of Scifist, the one I started in 2014 – it is still up and running on scifist.wordpress.com. For almost three years I filled that site with over 200 movie reviews – films released between 1896 and 1956. That’s sixty years of SF movies. Then, all of the sudden between my reviews of The Gamma People and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, I hit the worst writers’ block of my life.

Me outside culture magazine Ny Tid’s office in Helsinki. Photo: Kristin Helgaker.

To put this into context: Born in 1983, I am a journalist and culture geek residing in Helsinki, Finland. I studied journalism at the University of Helsinki in the early 00’s, but dropped out when I started working steady as a journalist, which I have done since 2006. But as much as I love journalism, my real passion is writing, and even working as a print journalist has never been able to satisfy my craving for putting words to paper (digital or physical), so I have always had more or less megalomanic side-projects that have taken up much of my free time. For a long time, I ran an extremely ambitious music blog, but I had to quit it in 2014 when I started my current occupation as the chief editor of a lefty culture magazine called Ny Tid (“Modern Times”). The blog required a daily dedication that my new position just didn’t allow for. But I still needed another mad side-project, but one that wasn’t dependent on going to concerts every weekend, doing interviews with bands, etc. It had to be one where I could personally control when and to which extent I worked. Through a number of coincidences, which I’ll perhaps go into at another time, that project became Scifist.

However, after working at Ny Tid and passionately updating my new SF movie encyclopaedia for three years, I hit a slump, perhaps a minor burnout or depression because of dramatic setbacks at Ny Tid. After publishing my review of The Gamma People and approaching Invasions of the Body Snatchers, I experienced a complete writer’s block. Writing film reviews just wasn’t fun anymore. I decided to take a time-out until I had sorted out the problems at my day job and in my head.

My music blog also created a passion for gig photography. Here’s my photo of Finnish artist Chisu at Kivenlahti Rock in Espoo in 2012.

This was in March 2017. Then, about a year later, things on other fronts had improved, and I picked up where I left off with Scifist. But having been careless with login information and such, I had forgotten what e-mail or password I had used to create the blog, and after a month or so of trying to contact WordPress support without any luck, I decided that the only way forward was to create a new blog and start all over. Hence the title of this blog: Scifist 2.0. It would have been fairly simple (if dull) to just copy all my previous posts over to the new blog. But during the three years I had kept at it, the way I wrote my posts had changed dramatically. Many of my first posts I was quite unhappy with. I was no expert on SF, neither literary nor cinematic, when I started, and have since learned tons and tons, read several hundred SF novels, books on SF cinema, watched documentaries and done an insane amount of research online. Not to mention the hundreds of movies I have watched between 2014 and 2021.

I also spent the first three years finding my voice as a critic and film blogger. At one point I was drawn to the conversational and plot-centered style of Lyz Kingsley at … and you call yourself a scientist?!, where she destroys SF movies from a viewpoint of science and logic. At another point I was influenced by the histrionics of popular Youtube critic Doug Walker at Nostalgia Critic. None of these approaches, however, really felt like me, and it wasn’t until the very end of my work with the old blog that I felt I had found my voice and format. Plus, I knew there were films that I had originally missed or that were not available back in the day, that I could now pick up on. In fact, there were surprisingly many SF movies that I had left unreviewed.

So while re-writing all my past entries, starting with 1896 all over again, felt somewhat frustrating, it was also a blessing in disguise. Now I had the opportunity to make the site so much better. At the same time I created a Facebook and an Instagram profile, and started doing something with all the books I had read as research (collecting SF books has now become a dangerously addictive hobby of mine). And now, after three years at it once again, I have arrived at where I left off in 2017, and to have finally finished my review of Invasion of the Body Snatchers feels like turning a new page.

I would like to thank all the great movie critics and bloggers that I regularly read and cite: I have learned so much from you, and it has been a great joy to take part of your thoughts and feelings on films that I have watched, both on your own blogs and in your comments on mine. That so many of you have also given me shoutouts and taken part in conversations around the movies we have written about has been wonderful. Apart from the afore-mention Glenn, Tom and Lyz, I would like not only to thank, but also give my own shoutout to Richard Scheib, Dave Sindelar, Mark Cole, Mark David Welsh, Fritzi Kramer, Joachim Boaz and Amanda Jensen Salmonson. These are all superb movie writers, deeply knowledgeable in their subject. And there are, of course, many other writers out there that I could mention. And I’d like to honour two great inspirations that have passed away since I started Scifist, film historian Bill Warren and online critic Gary Loggins. May the Schwartz be with you. At its best, the online community can form a support structure between people that have never met and know next to nothing about each other, but are connected through mutual passions and interests. When I review a movie I always try to remind myself to be polite and argument my point, and that is something which combines all of the writers mentioned above. If more of the online community abided by this simple and supportive rule, I think we would all breathe a little easier.

I apologise for this personal post, and promise they will be rare in the future. Thank you for reading, and hopefully you’ll stick with me during this insane project! At some point in the future I’ll set up a Patreon, since I’ve realised this is a hobby that is going to cost me some money. I promise not to quit until I’ve watched myself up to the present or died trying! Thanks for reading, thanks for writing, thanks for supporting.

Janne Wass

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8 replies

  1. I was one of those folks hoping to start a Science Fiction based You Tube channel. You were kind enough to give me permission to use your blog as one of my resources.

    Unfortunately, due to numerous family malfunctions, my project has stalled, also after learning more about You Tube, I purged my content so as not to get blasted with numerous copyright strikes.

    Being a “baby boomer”, I am not as fascinated by the DC and Marvel universes as many are these days. I grew up with the older films which is what attracted me to your blog. I am still working out how I want to proceed, definitely NOT with politics, there is more than enough of that in YT. I’ve not given up yet and I do continue to enjoy your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I kept waiting for more material to show up on your Youtube channel. Too bad you had to scuttle it. I think it’s quite possible to do movie stuff on Youtube as long as you don’t include too much footage from the actual films.

      Concerning Marvel & DC: I’ve never been much of a comic book nerd (more than the average guy), so I didn’t have any real emotional tie to the Marvel films when they started coming out. I thought the Iron Man film was great, and I did like the X-Men movies. But I sort of lost interest with the Avengers stuff, it all became too big and CGI-dependent. It’s like, when you’ve saved the Universe from collapsing on itself in three consecutive films, it’s sort of hard to top that off in the next one. It all becomes so massive that there’s no emotional connect. When EVERYTHING is at stake, there’s really nothing at stake emotionally, because we know that the bad guys aren’t going to destroy the universe.

      Thanks for the support!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Janne —

    We are all in your debt: your work is exhaustive, well thought out, and always offers a few interesting insights. Plus it saves me having to do a lot of my own research, which is always a plus.

    It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who finds it hard to write the reviews of the good films.

    Keep up the good work, and thank you!

    BTW, you missed Highly Dangerous (1950), which is clearly borderline Science Fiction. Check out my review!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Janne,

    Congratulations on reaching this milestone! I know they say writing is rewriting still that is astounding that you revisited and rewrote all of your previous reviews! Wow! I have to second your comments on Glenn Erickson aka DVD Savant aka CineSavant whose reviews and posts I return to each week. I am happy to have discovered your site and enjoy the in-depth reviews which I seek out after watching any science fiction film.

    Appreciate your efforts!

    Thanks,
    Ralph

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Its much easier to wax lyrical ranting about a bad film, I find it really hard to write about a great film without it becoming over the top gushing, hyping it up no end. I suppose thats where balance comes into it but its hard when films are something we get so passionate about (if only the film-makers did- too many just treat them as a job, a chore and a paycheck, it seems). We need more passion in films, less spandex and capes.

    Liked by 1 person

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