From Iceland — Lemúrinn: Thorarinn Gunnarsson: Iceland’s Forgotten Sci-Fi Superstar

Lemúrinn: Thorarinn Gunnarsson: Iceland’s Forgotten Sci-Fi Superstar

Published May 21, 2014

Lemúrinn: Thorarinn Gunnarsson: Iceland’s Forgotten Sci-Fi Superstar

With powerful AI-controlled ships, the Starwolves have been defending the Republic against the numerically superior but technically inferior Union forces, a decidedly one-sided battle that has lasted for centuries. However, that may soon change. The commander of the Union forces is drafting a plan involving a new secret weapon that is capable of destroying the Starwolves once and for all.

That, roughly, is the plot of the novel ‘Starwolves: Tactical Error’ published by Thorarinn Gunnarsson in 1991. Wait, what—Þórarinn Gunnarsson? Is that an Icelandic name? Icelanders write sci-fi?

Few Icelanders seem to know that an Icelander living in the US in the eighties and nineties published several sci-fi and fantasy novels, in English! In fact, between 1988 and 1996, this Thorarinn wrote at least 13 such books.

In addition to the ‘Starwolves’ series, he published three books in the ‘Dragonlord Chronicles’ series about a valiant young swordsman that fights overbearing dragons in the D&D world Mystara; two books somewhat based on Nordic mythology (‘Song of the Dwarves’ and ‘Revenge of the Valkyrie’) and finally the ‘Dragons’ series, four young adult novels that — judging by their covers — deal with dragons and skateboards, and maybe even dragons on skateboards.

According to the article, “Don’t Try This at Home: The Confessions of Thorarinn Gunnarsson,” which was published in the ancient sci-fi webzine ‘Hardwired’ in 1997, Thorarinn’s nominal father, Gunnar, was a fisherman, his mother an actress, and his real father (whose name is not provided in the article), a celebrated Norwegian film director. 

Following in his parents’ footsteps, young Thorarinn started acting in films and even worked as an opera singer in Europe before tragically losing his voice. That’s when he relocated to the US and started writing sci-fi. He remained a great adventurer though, traveling, for instance, all the way to Antarctica. His sister, Halla Gunnarsdóttir, was no less an adventurer, abandoning a successful career as a doctor to sing in a rock band. 

If this is starting to sound a bit outlandish, it’s because it’s a load of bollocks. “Thorarinn Gunnarsson” is in fact the nom de plume of an American with no Icelandic blood whatsoever. In his “Confessions,” he finally admits to having invented the persona of Thorarinn Gunnarsson to fight depression and feelings of insecurity as a new writer.

“As it happened, the perfect persona was ready-made. I am a tall, Nordic-looking Viking type (and Vikings aren’t supposed to be good-looking in the first place), and my interest in history had led me to teach myself a lot of Scandinavian history and even a fair amount of the Icelandic and Norwegian languages when I was in college,” he writes. “I quickly discovered, if by accident, that the persona of my pen name was like a suit of armor, and a very comfortable one, against all of my fears and self-doubts.”

We still have no idea what Thorarinn’s real name is and we have no idea what became of him because he has not published any new works in 17 years—at least not under this name. What a shame! 

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