15 September 2014

Why I Won't Be Voting National - And Why I Will Be Voting Green

I live in the Wellington Central electorate. This election, I intend to give my party vote to the Green Party and my electorate vote to the Labour Party's Wellington Central MP, Grant Robertson. Here's why.

Why I Won't Be Voting National

Funnily enough, it isn't primarily because of the corruption and collusion revealed in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics, or because of John Key's collusion with Warner Brothers (maybe over Kim Dotcom's extradition, but definitely over de-unionising the film industry), or because of NZ's participation in the "Five Eyes" spy ring - even though all of those reveal a contempt for democracy which reminds me strongly of Robert Muldoon era. (John Key is Muldoon with a nicer smile.)

It's because National's policies in areas I care about are very bad. There are many examples, but I'm going to focus on two:

Climate change and the environment: Everything we value as a country - including our economy, with its strong dependence on primary production - in turn depends on the quality of our phyiscal environment, and on a stable climate. Yet both are under threat from climate change, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels - with a substantial assist in New Zealand from the intensification of dairy farming.

The 1999-2008 Labour-led Government took some steps - inadequate steps, overcautious steps, but steps nevertheless - to address climate change and to better protect the environment. Among the first actions of John Key's incoming National Government was to strip away these protections, including weakening Labour's Emissions Trading Scheme so that it became entirely useless rather than merely inadequate.

And as National started, so they have carried on: bending over backwards to encourage coal mining, oil drilling, fracking, and seabed mining; opening conservation lands to mining - even when the Minister in question doesn't even know where they are; and meanwhile failing to take action on climate change at home, and serving as a roadblock to meaningful actions abroad.

And for what? As I have posted elsewhere, this recent quote from the mining industry journal NZ Resources sums up what the Government's pro-mining policy has achieved:

The National-led Government’s ambition to have the mining, and separate oil and gas sector, underpin economic recovery has borne little long term gains in its past two terms.

There are other, better ways to create jobs - ways that do not place our environment,. and the climate, under further stress. But National, acting on the behest of its donors and its corporate masters, is either unable or unwilling to change its approach.

Domestic and sexual violence: Both are at epidemic levels in this country. National's response has been to cut funding to Women's Refuges and allow Rape Crisis centres to close. This is an area where interventions can make a huge difference, yet National would rather waste money on motorways than make the necessary funding available.

I joined the march to Parliament on Monday calling for action on these issues. If you doubt how serious these issues are, check out the statistics at the end of this article.

Just above that, you'll find the amazing statue of Kate Sheppard. It was designed and constructed to stand at Parliament for three months - until the Speaker, National's David Carter, refused permission, apparently because it would make Parliament's precincts too cluttered. While the absence of this statue in itself is not a matter of life and death, this decision typifies the cloth ear and blind eye National has turned to cries for help from the abused, the poor, and the vulnerable.

Why I'll Be Giving My Party Vote To The Green Party

I don't intend to vote for National or for any party likely to provide support a National-led Government. That means there are three parties I've considered giving my party vote this election: Labour, Internet Mana, and the Greens. I've decided to give my electorate vote to Grant Robertson, the Wellington Central MP, who in my view has done an excellent job as an electorate MP and is an asset to the Labour Party.

I would like to see a Labour-led Government after this General Election - or, to be more precise, I would like to see a Greens-led Government, but that is less likely. However, in my view, Labour is still badly compromised in several areas. One is the influence of its Rogernomics-era holdovers on aspects such as its refusal to oppose the potentially disastrous TPPA. Another is its continued links with the oil, gas and coal industries. The stronger the Greens are, the more confident I'll be that a Labour-led Government would take serious, meaningful action on climate change and other environmental issues, not to mention other important social and political issues.

I have conflicting feelings about Internet-Mana. There are some very good candidates in both parties, with policies I support, but I'm not a huge fan of Kim Dotcom's disproportionate influence on New Zealand politics - even though I'm very grateful for the work he'd done on exposing the GCSB and its actions - and, given that the race for Te Tai Tokerua looks very close at the time of writing, it's not a given that Internet-Mana will end up with any MPs if it does not reach the 5% party vote threshold. I hope they do, and I hope their efforts to get young voters out to vote are successful, but I'd hate to see those votes go to waste.

Of all the parties, the Greens are closest to my own views. They have a track record of saying they'll do things and then achieving them, even in opposition; they have excellent MPs and some outstanding candidates, such as Marama Davidson, who need a good showing for the Greens to get into Parliament; and they would contribute high-quality Ministers, such as Julie Anne Genter, to a Labour-Greens Government. That's why I plan to give my party vote to the Greens.

27 August 2014

Tuesday Poem on a Wednesday: A Swift Move, by John Howell

Tim writes: I got caught up with other things yesterday and didn't get my Tuesday Poem posted in time, so this is a Tuesday Poem on a Wednesday! My apologies for the delay must go to John Howell, who sent me this all-too-apt poem after seeing my post last week about Cameron Slater and John Key.

But here, a day late but still very timely, is John's preamble, poem and bio.

A Swift Move

One of the most influential examples of irony in English is the political pamphlet “A modest proposal” written by Jonathan Swift in the early 1700s. In it, the anonymous pamphleteer purports to argue the best way to alleviate poverty in Ireland is to farm and eat Irish children. It’s not a serious suggestion; in fact the essay is written with a devastating energy and bitterness. It was Swift’s response to the depth of Irish poverty at the time, and the cruelty that characterized contemporary political debates. (The Philosopher’s Magazine, #56 page 31)

At the end of the day
I have to say
the poverty issue
is here to stay.

I have to say
at the end of the day
if kids have no food
their parents should pay.

A child has a parent
to bring them up.
When the cupboard is bare
it’s entirely their truck.

They buy grog or fags
before feeding the kids
so taxpayers’ money
remains a closed lid.

I have to say
at the end of the day
it is not fair
for the government to pay.

These bludgers and pikers
should all get a job
to pay the rent,
not beg, borrow, rob.

So I have to say
at the end of the day
the poverty issue
is here to stay.

They have to choose
to be loser or winner.
If their luck is in
their kids get dinner.

It is true to say
they’re a wasted resource.
Perhaps we should follow
a more productive course.

At the end of the day
It is user pays
so join the cows
eat grass or hay.

It’s a last option choice
at the end of the day
what our country can sell
is protein and whey.

We’re animal experts
we know how to farm
adding a few kids
should do no harm.

The market won’t know
what’s inside the wrap
with a creative label
the accountants will clap.

If you find this offensive
there is a neat foil
Judith will pass details
to the blog “Whale Oil”.

I’ll handle the media
with put down and scorn
I’m good at one liners
and a smile that is born

from power and success
in my days as a trader.
Don’t come to me
if you need a saviour.

So I have to say
at the end of the day
If you’re not rich like me
then learn how to pray.

John Howell
19 Aug 2014


John Howell lives in Ngaio, Wellington.  Recently he retired from ministering at the Union Parish in Taupo.  He has published two books of prayers.   He has degrees in science, arts, theology, a diploma in Business Studies. Child poverty is well documented by professional economists and others.  He is embarrassed that his country of plenty has this problem, which in his professional experience he has  witnessed.  He says: “It is  now time to speak with emotion. “

13 August 2014

Cameron Slater (Whale Oil) And His Mate John Key

This photo says it all, really. Cameron Slater (Whale Oil) is a right-wing blogger whose public and private behaviour is equally appalling. It turns out that he is also a shill for the tobacco industry. Nicky Hager's new book Dirty Politics clearly demonstrates that Cameron Slater also does Prime Minister John Key's dirty work for him, launching personal and political attacks of the most scurrilous nature so the PM can maintain his easygoing, smily image. The book shows that John Key is, once the public mask is off, just as much of a scumbag as Cameron Slater.

If you get the chance, read this book. And if you're eligible to vote, I suggest you vote for someone other than John Key and his National Party.

PS: In this excerpt from an email, Cameron Slater demonstrates his care and compassion for Christchurch earthquake victims:

You sure picked a great guy to do your dirty work, John.

12 August 2014

Tuesday Poem: A whimper after the bang, by Emily Manger

For the next three months, I'm the "sub-editor" of The Tuesday Poem, charged with the responsibility of making sure that the Tuesday Poem appears each week. Last week, the first of my 'tenure', Janis Freegard posted Agnus Dei by Marty Smith, a fine poem that is well worth your attention.

This week, I'm the "editor of the week", and I've selected "A whimper after the bang" by Emily Manger, which is one of the poems included in The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry, which I co-edited with fellow Tuesday Poet P.S. Cottier. It's a poem I like a lot - hop over to the Tuesday Poem site to read it for yourself and find out why I like it so much!

29 July 2014

Tuesday Poem: The End of the World, by Victor J. Daley

IN deeps of space alone,
   Beyond the starry sea,
God sate upon His throne;
   The Earth was on His knee.

Musingly He said,
   Turning the small globe o'er,
“I tire of Men I made;
   They please me now no more.

“I gave them this green earth,
   With all its streams and seas,
Whereon to dwell in mirth,
   And pleasantness and ease.

“I made the sun arise
   Each morning in the East;
I lit with stars the skies
   At night, as for a feast.

“And, when to Heav'n above
   For more gifts they did call,
I sent my Angel Love
   With my best gift of all.

“They are consumed with greed,
   And eaten up with pride;
Each little, paltry creed
   Counts Me upon its side.

“And, when they go to fight,
   Each party calls on ME
To aid the Right—its Right—
   And give it victory.”

Then God the Earth surveyed
   Once more, and thus spake He:
“I tire of Man I made”—
   And brushed it off his knee.

With all its glories ripe
   The Earth passed, like a spark
Blown from a sailor's pipe
   Into the hollow dark.

Credit note
: "The End of the World" was published in Victor J. Daley's collection Wine and Roses (Angus and Robertson, 1911) and was included in The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry, which I co-edited with P. S. Cottier (IP, 2014). The Stars Like Sand is available from the publisher and from amazon.com.au. If you're on Facebook, please Like its Facebook page for launch photos and special offers!

If you're ordering through a bookshop that doesn't stock it, let them know the ISBN: 978-1-922120-78-6

Tim says: We included a number of poems from the 19th and early 20th centuries in The Stars Like Sand. Of those, this is my personal favourite - for its succinctly expressed moral, and for the wonderfully dismissive image on which it closes.

The Tuesday Poem: is edited this week by P.S. Cottier - and the poem Two Lips Went Shopping by Lizz Murphy (another Stars Like Sand contributor!) and the editor's notes do a brilliant job of representing for the shorter poem!

22 July 2014

An Interview With William Cook

William Cook was born and raised in New Zealand and is the author of the novel Blood Related. He has written many short stories that have appeared in anthologies and has authored two short-story collections (Dreams of Thanatos and Death Quartet) and two collections of poetry (Journey: the search for something and Corpus Delicti).

His work has been praised by Joe McKinney, Billie Sue Mosiman, Anna Taborska, Rocky Wood and many other notable writers and editors. William is also the editor of the anthology Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror, published by James Ward Kirk Fiction.

*** William has kindly made five copies of the Kindle edition of Fresh Fear available to give away! Leave a comment at the end of this article, or respond on Twitter or Facebook, to be in with a chance to win one ***

1) As you mention, you're the editor of the recently published anthology Fresh Fear: Contemporary Horror, in which I'm very pleased to have a story. I'm less familiar with the horror field than I used to be back in the 1980s and 1990s, but even I can see that you've got some major names in there, notably Ramsey Campbell and Jack Dann. How did you manage to secure their work for the anthology?

It took a lot of networking and detective work to track down contact details for some of the bigger names I wanted to include in the anthology. I have been a fan of Ramsey Campbell’s for a long time and consider him the premier U.K. writer of horror, so it was important for me to try and secure one of his stories for the publication. Thankfully he agreed to sell me the rights to one of his stories (Wonderland’) and it was one that I had read before and felt was a good fit for the anthology.

Most of the bigger names were approachable; some more generous than others but most willing to part with stories (mainly reprints) for pro-rates if they didn’t feel the contributor rates were applicable. Jack Dann allowed me the use of his wonderfully frightening story ‘Camps’ and is one of the nicest and most generous authors I’ve met. I feel very honoured to have communicated with some of my favourite authors (albeit via electronic/virtual means) with this anthology and for that reason alone I feel it was worth the cost overall; it also proved a real boost to some of the up-and-coming authors to appear in an anthology alongside the likes of Campbell, Dann, Mosiman, Dunbar et al.

2) Are there common themes that emerge from within a number of these stories, or does the anthology cover the full scope of horror fiction?

The only real criterion I had in mind when selecting the stories for Fresh Fear was that they had to contain the element of fear somehow. I leant slightly towards ‘quiet’ horror when and if it was of a high enough standard but the end result was a really diverse range of stories, ranging from quite hard-core horror to more subtle narratives.

One commonality that emerged from the huge pile of submissions was the amount of stories set in post-apocalyptic or dystopian worlds; so I did become aware that the influx of these kind of stories had to be whittled down to give the reader a more diverse reading experience, as was my original intention. But, in answer to your question, I would say that the only real commonality is that the stories are well-written and that they all contain an element of fear that should entertain the readers’ adrenal glands.

3) Is this the first anthology you've edited, and how did you get interested in editing anthologies?

Yes, it is the first one that I’ve edited. I have always wanted to create my own horror anthology as I’m a big fan of them having falling in love early on with the Pan (Herbert Van Thal ed.) and Fontana collections of the late 70s and early 80s. It is how I, and I suspect, most other readers of horror have discovered new talents and writers of the genre and continue to do so. My interest stems from my love and fascination with the genre and I hope that I get the chance to edit more over the following years. I have always wanted to put together a very eclectic classical horror anthology with the best illustrations to accompany the selection of my favourite stories. One day.

4) Of course, you're also known as a horror novelist, with your novel Blood Related [receiving good reviews. Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from Blood Related?

By way of an answer to your question, I sent a copy to a favourite psychological thriller author – Jonathan Nasaw (author of ‘Fear Itself,’ ‘The Girls He Adored,’ ‘When She Was Bad’ etc). Now this guy is the standard by which I measured BR – his novels are usually about depraved serial killers and are very dark, so his reply shocked me in such a way that I had to ask his permission to use it as a blurb. “Dark and deeply disturbing,” was his reply. Apparently, he had to put it down after reading the first section because it disturbed him too much! Another reviewer has summed up BR nicely – here’s how they described the novel:

“William Cook's presentation of a family of murderers, most notably the twin brothers Caleb and Charlie, is a chronicle that charts the evolution (or de-evolution) of a killer's psyche. There is a plot in this novel, or rather, a series of events that result in the book's conclusion (no spoilers here). A revolutionary plot on the manic scale of Charles Manson, a damaged family unit that has been depicted in classic horror films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of 1000 Corpses, and the downward spiral of the novel's "good guy" all illustrate the environmental conditions which create such monstrosities. Cook did very thorough research; no stone was left unturned, no cause behind the madness unexplored.”

5) You're also a poet, and of course, there's a long tradition of horror poetry, stretching back at least to Edgar Allen Poe. What makes for good horror poetry?

There are so many variables and subjective considerations when one makes a value judgement about what constitutes ‘good’ poetry that it is hard to nail down. ‘Horror poetry’ is a fairly loose term and is not as widely accepted as say ‘Gothic’ poems, but recent years have seen the rise of a number of poets who do write poetry that engages tropes most commonly found in horror novels/fiction. An element of dread must always be present – a sense of foreboding; this can be achieved with the cadence and meter of the poem and is also emphasized by the use of onomatopoeia and description.

I’m personally not a great fan of rhyming poetry and prefer subtle use of alliteration and simile – the poems that really speak to me as works of horror are usually succinct and pack a punch. The poem should make the reader draw breath as they read and to twist their thoughts and emotion in a way that will leave a marked impression. Too much horror poetry relies on mediocre rhyme schemes and fails to deliver impact because of it. You can have a fantastic idea and a scary premise that can be delivered effectively with free verse, but as soon as a rhyme scheme is used it comes across as a cheesy Pam Ayers-type limerick. The poetry that does it right is usually well edited and tightly wrought with selective use of words and phrasing.

Some contemporary poets who I feel do ‘horror poetry’ well are Charlee Jacob, Vincenzo Bilof, Lori Lopez, and Jaye Thomas, and Bruce Boston, to name a few of my favourites.

6) Now that you've finished work on Fresh Fear, what projects do you currently have on the go?

I am currently editing a collection of my 101-year-old Grandfather’s poetry, which is proving to be a challenge. He is a very prolific writer but has seldom been published due to the fact that he has not really shared his work. So there are many hours of reading and editing to get his work to a publishable stage. I am hoping to have his collection published by the end of August, so that he can actually hold a copy in his hands of his own work before he shuffles off this mortal coil. I am also working on a new collection of verse and essays titled ‘Beyond the Black Gate’ – essentially an exploration of depression and its effects and origins. Half of the book will deal with the darker side of depression and the latter half will deal with coping mechanisms and hope. I have a few collaborations I’m working on also including a collection of YA horror stories. For more on all my upcoming and ongoing projects, please come and visit me at my website: http://williamcookwriter.com

7) I know that you've put a lot of effort into building up your social media presence to create a sales platform for your work. What advice do you have for writers who think social media is not for them, or who are just starting to make use of it?

Unfortunately it is a necessary evil but if you can, don’t view it as such. Without the various social medias I would not have achieved the publishing goals I have set for myself so far. I would not have met the publishers, editors, fellow writers, and most importantly – readers. Network, network, network, is the rule of thumb with social media. Use the various platforms for the promotion of your books but use common sense. Don’t over-post things or you will lose the contacts that you have quite quickly – no-one likes a ‘spammer.’

Despite Facebook being the largest social network available it is pretty useless for sharing posts that you make – i.e. you do not have share options that link your FB posts with the likes of Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, MySpace, LinkedIn etc. I believe it is best to have a platform such as a website if you are serious about promoting your work online. Wordpress, Blogger, Wix, Tumblr etc are all viable options and best of all they are free.

Once you have your website/blog set up, then you can use it to share your posts via the social media sites. Most blogs/websites have options for automated sharing of your posts which can save lots of (writing) time and is the most effective way of cross-market promotion. There are countless tutorials via each of these platforms in the help sections or on YouTube.com etc.

Essentially, you need an online presence if you are to succeed as an author in this day and age – especially if you are going down the independent or self-publishing route. The one piece of advice I think is important is to not let it (social media) consume you – I have wasted far too much time over the years on it when I should’ve been writing but in saying that, I have learnt many valuable lessons too. One other point is to remember who it is you are trying to market your work to - the reader.

8) You've recently been involved in setting up the NZ Horror Writers' Association. Who should get involved, and why?

Well it was more of an experiment than anything else really. I was curious as to how many New Zealand authors write horror and whether there was a need for such a group. So far the response has been positive but I think a more apt title for the group would be: New Zealand Dark Fiction Authors. If you write dark fiction/horror and want a forum for your ideas and to network with other like minds them it would probably be a good place to start.

Many of the members are also active members in groups like the AHWA (Australian Horror Writers Association), SpecFicNZ and the HWA and use the group to share open submission calls and industry news. The criteria for membership is pretty simple – if you are a New Zealander and you write within the genres mentioned, come join up.

9) In addition to those with stories included in Fresh Fear, who are up and coming horror writers that readers should be looking out for?

There are so many good writers out there with little or no recognition. Some of the more promising authors that I have had the pleasure of dealing with are as follows: Vincenzo Bilof, Carole Gill, Scathe meic Beorh, Lindsey Beth Goddard, William Malmborg, Anna Taborska, Dane Hatchell, Thomas A. Erb.

There are so many and I’m sure to have missed out others. For a full list of recommended authors, please come and visit my website where I have a full page devoted to writers who are good at what they do.

*** William has kindly made five copies of the Kindle edition of Fresh Fear available to give away! Leave a comment at the end of this article, or respond on Twitter or Facebook, to be in with a chance to win one ***

17 July 2014

Lost in the Museum Photoshoot Outside Te Papa: Fierce, Fabulous and Freezing

The stars came out in Wellington (OK, the wind came out in Wellington) for a couple of press photoshoots to promote the new anthology Lost in the Museum, edited by A.J. Ponder on behalf of Phoenix Writers, which includes my story "The Big Baby". The full story of the photoshoot, plus the pics themselves, are over on Eileen Mueller's site (note: a pop-up window will appear when you access the site - once you've responded to this, you can see the articles & photos). Apparently the "squinty, windblown" look is de rigeur for high-end fashion photography in 2014 - at least, the Dominion Post photographer insisted we stand in the wind and look into the sun!

Lost in the Museum is a fun collection of linked stories set in New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa.

You can buy a copy of Lost in the Museum:

  • As a Kindle ebook from Amazon
  • From bookstores including The Children’s Bookstore in Kilbirnie, Unity Books, and Marsden Books in Karori (Wellington) and Retrospace (Auckland). The ISBN is 978-0-473-28320-9, which will help you to order it from other bookshops.