31 December 2008

"The New Neighbours" In Good Company

A little piece of good news from the tail end of 2008: I received confirmation that my short story "The New Neighbours", first published in Transported, had been selected for inclusion in the Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories, an anthology edited by Paula Morris that covers the last ten years of short-fiction writing in New Zealand. It will be published in September 2009.

I'm very pleased to see "The New Neighbours" in such illustrious company. Here, to give you the flavour, are the first few paragraphs. All those references to high property values look nostalgic already.

The New Neighbours

High property values are the hallmark of a civilised society. Though our generation may never build cathedrals nor find a cure for cancer, may never save the whales nor end world hunger, yet we can die with smiles on our faces if we have left our homes better than we found them, if we have added decks, remodelled kitchens, and created indoor-outdoor flow.

Reaction in our street to the news that an alien family would soon move into Number 56 was therefore mixed. Number 56 was the proverbial worst house on the best street, and any family who could improve it — regardless of skin colour or number of limbs — was welcome, in my view. My wife Alison said she’d wait and see. Josh wondered if they had any kids his age.

Others near to the action, and particularly the Murrays at No. 54 and the Zhangs at No. 58, were less sanguine. “But it’s not as if they need a resource consent,” said my wife to Jessica Zhang, and she was right. Having bought the house at a legitimate auction through a telephone bidder, and paid the deposit, the alien family were well within their rights to settle in our street, and the rest of us would simply have to make the best of it.

But not everyone does try to make the best of it, and complications ensue ... In my next post, a little about my writing and blogging plans for 2009.

24 December 2008

Happy Holidays!

Christmas Eve, and the motor of the year is winding down. I'm planning to take it easy these holidays, catching up on reading, cleaning the house (and does it need cleaning!), tidying the garden, listening to cricket.

I'm going to take it a little easier in blogging terms for the next month or so, as well. Rather than my usual two posts per week, I'll aim for one post per week until late January, when I'll crank up the blogging machine again.

Whether your celebrations are sacred or secular, I hope you have a fine holiday period and an excellent 2009.

All the best

21 December 2008

For Your Consideration: The Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2009

As I mentioned earlier this month, nominations are now open for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2009, New Zealand's equivalent of the Hugo Awards. They recognise excellence in a number of fields related to science fiction, fantasy and horror. The 2009 Awards are for works published in 2008.

Nominations close on 28 February 2009. You can find details of the categories and how to nominate on the SFFANZ site, and also lists of works eligible to be nominated (these lists are not comprehensive, and can be added to as further works are nominated).

Anyone can nominate works for the awards, although voting is restricted to members of SFFANZ and/or the 2009 National Science Fiction Convention, Conscription.

So who are the contenders? I'm not well qualified to talk about the fan or media categories, but I can think of a few possible contenders for Best Novel, Best Collected Work and Best Short Story. I should emphasise here that what follows is my opinion - it's up to the organising committee to decide what works qualify in which categories.

Best Novel

There are a very healthy number of contenders listed on the SFFANZ site.

My personal favourite is Helen Lowe's Thornspell. Other contenders include two SF novels published by writers better known for work in other genres: The Jigsaw Chronicles by Kevin Ireland, and Chinese Opera by Ian Wedde. And one mustn't forget Jack Ross's EMO!

Best Collected Work

On the SFFANZ list, Transported is the only short story collection listed for 2008 - a worrying state of affairs, as there needs to be competition in each category! I intend to nominate JAAM 26, since it contains quite a few eligible short stories, as suggested below.

Best Short Story

There are lots of candidates here! Here is my list - again, not an official list - of stories from JAAM 26 and Transported which I think are eligible. I have only listed the stories from JAAM 26 which seem to me to fit within the relevant genres. The list from Transported is quite short, as stories have to be first published in 2008 to be eligible, and many stories in Transported are reprints.


Tracie McBride, Last Chance to See [sf]
Renee Liang, Voodoo [fantasy/horror]
Esther Deans, Breathing in Another Language [fantasy/magic realism]
Ciaran Fox, In the End Our Apathy Will Desert Us [sf]
Darian Smith, Banshee [fantasy]
Helen Lowe, Ithaca [alternate history/mythology]
Michael Botur, Historic Breakfasts [alternate history]
Lyn McConchie, Just a Poor Old Lady [horror]

If you think your story should be on this list, please let me know and I'll add it.


The New Neighbours [sf]
The Wadestown Shore [sf]
Filling the Isles [sf]
Measureless to Man [alternate history]
The Seeing [sf]
Going Under [sf]
Cold Storage [sf/horror]

Happy nominating!

18 December 2008

My Earthdawn Novel "Anarya's Secret" Is One Year Old

My Earthdawn novel Anarya's Secret was published one year ago today.

It's a fantasy novel, set in the universe of the Earthdawn roleplaying game - a game developed by FASA, and continued and expanded by New Zealand games publisher RedBrick.

Here's the publisher's blurb:

Kendik Dezelek is a young Swordmaster. He's tall, strong, and well-trained. But when he leaves his home village on the road to adventure, he soon finds that those things will only get you so far. In the land between the Tylon Mountains and the Serpent River, friend and foe are not always as they appear.

In a world still recovering from the Scourge, when Horrors ravaged the land of Barsaive, Kendik is soon forced to choose between a range of evils. He travels with the surly and disreputable Turgut brothers. He encounters the bloated tyrant Lord Tesek, ruler of the growing city of Borzim. And he is ensnared in the plots of the feared and mysterious House of the Wheel.

Most of all, he meets Anarya Chezarin, who enters his life from the depths of an ancient stronghold. Who is she, and what is her secret? It may cost Kendik and Anarya more than their lives to find out.

I had a great time writing Anarya's Secret! It's stuffed to the gills with plot, incidents, happenings, mysterious humans and even more mysterious non-humans. It's got adventure, romance and tentacles. If you're a gamer yourself, or there's a gamer in your family, I think there's plenty in Anarya's Secret to keep them entertained.

You can buy Anarya's Secret online as a hardback, paperback, or e-book (via RPGNow or DriveThru).

15 December 2008

Borges and I

This 700-word story is included in my short story collection Transported, which you can buy online from Fishpond and New Zealand Books Abroad. It's also available in many good bookstores, though many Whitcoulls stores now seem to have sold out of it.

Borges comes round with a six-pack just in time for the game. I tell him he could have got it cheaper down the road. He nods unhappily, as is his way.

Half-time, and the ABs have had a shocker. Borges, of course, has divided loyalties; he says he’ll be happy if Argentina lose by less than twenty points, or the All Blacks win by more than fifty. I tell him I need to go for a piss. Two Exports will do that to anyone.

When I get back, Borges is making himself a coffee. Is it possible, he asks me, that Amphixion of Thebes was thinking of rugby when he wrote that each game played by men is one moment of the game played by the gods?

I tell him he’d better get back to the couch if he wants to see the second half, and besides, only woofters drink coffee at half-time.

The All Blacks win 42-17. Sevens against Thebes? It’s possible.


Borges and I go out for a few quiets. I meet him after work in a bar favoured by web developers and business analysts. We sit and watch a small subset of the world go by.

Borges looks glum. “Bad day in the stacks?” I ask. He nods, says nothing, swallows another mouthful of beer.

I nudge him. “Look, over there. I happen to know those women are studying to be librarians. Go and dazzle them with your learning. That’s what it’s for, man!”

He surprises me by draining his glass and walking right up to them. Asks them a question; they look surprised, but make room for him. Turns and waves me over.

“This is Brian,” he says, “he’s something in computers.”

Borges talks to the dark one, I talk to the fair. She’s a bit serious for me. Nothing doing there, but Borges and Krystal are getting on like a house on fire — so well that I say my goodbyes and walk home under the indifferent dome of eternity. Borges, eh? You never would have thought it.


Borges and I scarcely see each other nowadays. What with his work and the kid, he’s too damned busy, and besides, all he wants to talk about is how little Pedro took two steps the other day, how Pedro looked at him and said “Mama”, how when Pedro wakes in the night Borges walks him round the house till the little fella settles back down. The bookcases have survived from his old flat, but now they’re full of “Baby and Child” and “Raising Boys”.

“So where are your old books?” I ask him after the grand tour. (Krystal is at yoga.)

“Out the back, in suitcases. Want to borrow them?”

“Choose me an armful.”

They aren’t easy going, those books, but I’ve learned (for Borges underlined the passages) that Goncalves compared eternity to a mirrored sphere, while Basilides was exiled from Mt Athos for teaching that the world would end when the souls of the Elect called God to account for human suffering. It seems to me sometimes, as I wake on my couch to find the wisdom of ages in unsteady piles around me, that the world will end when there is no longer room for all the books in it; but when I suggested this to Borges, he said he had less than four hours’ sleep last night and a meeting of the Library Board next morning, and could I call him later?


I have moved into Borges’ former apartment. It had been renovated after Borges moved out, but with heavy drapes across the windows and the lighting turned down low I don’t notice the difference. How I miss those days when we’d lounge around discussing the pre-Socratics and Cameron Diaz! Back then, I used to tease him that he should get out more. Well, he did, and it landed him two kids and a house in the suburbs.

Having quit my job in computers, I am living on my savings. I have decided to become a writer. Borges, informed of this, sighs and tells me I should get a life.

10 December 2008

An Interview with Lee and Nogi Aholima

Earlier this year, I reviewed Penina he magafaoa and Takai, two collections of poetry written in English by Lee Aholima (top author photo) and translated into Niuean by his mother Nogi Aholima (bottom author photo). Since I enjoyed both books, and have an interest in literary translation, I wanted to find out more about them - so Lee and Nogi kindly agreed to be interviewed for this blog.

First of all, congratulations on the publication of both Penina he magafaoa and Takai. What can you tell me about the books? Where can interested readers find more information about them, and how can people buy copies?

Lee – Thankyou. The poetry in the books were written from the period 1993 to 2008. I started out posting the poems from Penina he magafaoa on the Niue Global Community mailing list and then someone suggested that I apply for a Creative NZ grant in 2006. I also posted a few from Takai on the mailing list. The idea of bilingual poetry books was to promote the language and to preserve our cultural heritage. Also the idea that I would have a better chance of getting the grant as I had my own doubts about the quality of my poems after submitting them to a couple of publishers. The poems were written in English first and then my mother translated them.

You can find both books in most libraries in Auckland. They are also in a few university libraries and libraries overseas. You can buy them from me via the PublishMe Shop or buy them from South Pacific Books Ltd.

Are these the first poetry collections to be published in both Niuean and English?

Lee – Tose Tuhipa the editor believes they are.

When you started work on the poems in these collections, was it always the plan that they’d be published in both languages?

Lee - Yes and no. Yes when I wrote those poems for Penina he magafaoa in 2006. They were short monologues that I was going to attempt to write in Niuean myself. I then recruited my mother to help me when I realized it wasn’t going to be easy. No too in that a lot of the poems in both books were already written back in 1994-1995.

Has there been a lot of translation from other languages into Niuean? How about from Niuean into other languages? Has fiction and poetry by John Pule been translated into Niuean?

Nogi - There’s been a few done by others through the Learning Media – but all junior reader stuff for learning of the language – both from other languages into Niuean and a few specially written Niuean readers into English and into other PI languages. I don’t think that any of JP’s work is translated into Niuean.

Lee - The biggest stockist I know of in New Zealand of Niuean books is South Pacific Books Ltd out in Bethells Beach. They would be lucky to have a dozen books and most of those are for learning the language. The most well known translation of an English book is the bible. I don’t know if there are many if any books translated from Niuean into another language. I am not sure if any of John Pule’s books have been translated into Niuean.

What specific issues and decisions were involved in making these translations?

Lee – One issue was transliteration. I didn’t mind transliteration of words not in the Niuean dictionary. I was keen to keep the names of people and places intact in English. My mother seemed happy to transliterate everything including names. My mother had some freedom with translation so there was some creativity in creating a Niuean version of some of the English sentences - e.g. my version ‘satyrious in their love’, her version ‘planting seeds at random’ or something like that.

Nogi – Transliteration is a big issue – A lot of the words used in the poems do not exist in the Niuean language and that does not include place & people’s names. The Niuean dictionary is full of transliterated words & I don’t believe that that is unique only to the Niuean language. I don’t see the point of translating English into Niuean & retain many of the English words /names, etc: or to be using too many Niuean words to describe its meaning. And it’s poetry not story writing. I find that if the topic or the environment in the poem is familiar, then it’s easier to translate. There’s never been a Niuean poet writing Niuean poetry in Niuean nor writers of any sort. The only other book besides the bible that is in Niuean & English is the book “Niue – A History of the Island” & it’s published jointly by the Institute of Pacific Studies of the Sth Pacific University & the Govt of Niue. And the writers – all bilingual Niueans like myself.

What response have you had from the Niuean community, both in New Zealand and on Niue, to the publication of these books?

Nogi - The only response I’ve had about the 2 poetry books are from my close palagi friends here in the deep south & they can only comment on their reading of the English versions. They were very positive about the books.

Lee – I am not sure if the Niuean community has completely embraced the books. Some have enjoyed them. What I have heard is that older people have some reservations. There are some who criticize things such as use of transliteration when there is already a word for it. And there are some older folk who are not used to the creative use of the language – they prefer literal.

I enjoyed the science fiction poems in Takai, such as “Liogi lanu lau kou” / “Green Prayer”. Do you read a lot of science fiction, and do you have plans to write more?

Lee - Yes I pretty much have cleaned out the Wellington Library and read all of the best sci-fi books in the library in the time I lived in Wellington. I would like to write some more but they will be few and far between. I read science fiction because more often than not it is based on bleeding edge science and technology and I like to escape. However my poems tend to be religious, philosophical, political and social commentaries as well as observations of things.

Which poets have had the most influence on your work, and which poets do you most enjoy reading? (Of course, these might be one and the same.)

Lee – I read more poetry now but nobody has really influenced me with these 2 books. I did buy Playing God by Glenn Colquhoun to have a read of it. I don’t find reading other people's poems always that enjoyable, unlike reading a sci-fi. I do like writing poems though and reading my own - they are more a classification and posterity of my thoughts at the time hence the date at the bottom.

How do you see the future of the Niuean language?

Nogi – Niueans are not as strong as other Pacific Islands nations i.e. Samoans at holding onto their cultural heritage especially the language or dance, etc here in NZ. I don’t really understand poetry as such but I do try to understand so as to translate them. Most Niueans are here in NZ and nearly all or all NZ born Niueans can not speak or understand the Niuean Language. This apathy to the culture will eventually lead us to obscurity/obliteration culturally unless we as Niueans get involved in some way.

Lee – I am not really sure. For me I just have to try and do my bit with my mum to preserve the language.

07 December 2008

Transported Reviewed by New Zealand Books: "Dazzling and Highly Entertaining"

Isa Moynihan's highly positive review of Transported - which you can buy online from Fishpond, New Zealand Books Abroad (for both overseas and New Zealand residents), or Whitcoulls - has just appeared in the latest issue of New Zealand Books. Here's some of what she has to say:

"That 16 of the 27 stories in Tim Jones's collection Transported were previously published in magazines and anthologies including Best New Zealand Fiction 4 (2007) testifies to their appeal to both editors and readers. They contrast brilliantly with the other two collections [she reviews] not only in variety of style and genre but also in originality of ideas. There are satire and surrealism; dystopias and parables; 19th century pastiches and contemporary vernacular – sometimes juxtaposed, as in "The Visit of M. Foucault to His Brother Wayne". And all spangled with literary references and other, sometimes arcane, allusions ….

Other targets for Jones's skewering wit are politics, corporations, advertising, xenophobia, pretentious lit crit and (my favourite) the invasion of the local arts scene by bureaucracy and commercial jargon. In "Said Sheree", poets are ranked in tiers "for funding purposes" and are reassessed and reclassified every autumn. Both "Win a Day with Mikhail Gorbachev" and "Best Practice" give us caricatures of the worst excesses of corporate values in the best traditions of brilliant cartoonists ….

So, dazzling and highly entertaining and, for that reason, somewhat lacking in the canonical requirements of depth and layering. But sometimes an epigram says more than an essay." (p. 25)

Thank you, Isa!

A review as good as that as always welcome, but I am especially pleased that it has appeared in New Zealand Books, which is the New Zealand equivalent of the New York Review of Books or the London Review of Books, publishing long reviews, literary essays, and poems. Check out the New Zealand Books website for subscription information, including the just-announced option to take out a digital subscription at a cheaper rate. I've been a subscriber to New Zealand Books for several years, and it's always an interesting, thought-provoking read.

03 December 2008

The Outsider

Though I don't usually put out two posts so close together, I wanted to post my poem "The Outsider", which won second prize in the 2008 Bravado International Poetry Competition, as soon as Bravado 14 had appeared.

In Bravado 14, you can also find the other poems placed in the competition, "In a Field of Snow" by Michael Harlow (1st) and "Shoe" by Sue Wootton (3rd), plus the ten Highly Commended poems, plus other excellent poems and stories. Among those with work in this issue are Helen Lowe, Helen Lehndorf, Mary Cresswell and Michael Botur.

If this sounds like your cup of tea, check out the Bravado website for info on how to get a copy, subscribe, and submit.

The Outsider

He was Little Johnny Howard's biggest fan
a man made from scriptwriters' dead ends
and something like biltong, transplanted.

Glints from a narrowed eye bent the red dust backwards.
The cattle, hypnotised, crushed snakes
as dingoes ran panting for cover.

But even he could not defeat the sky.
Cracked and pitted, turned three-fifths to sand,
he rode into Toowoomba near closing time.

The streets devoured his bones. A green light
fires a hundred Holdens down his spine. A red light
floods the land with spinifex, like rain.

02 December 2008

A Number of Things

The world is so full of a number of things
I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings
(Robert Louis Stevenson, "Happy Thought", in A Child's Garden of Verses)

Climate Action Festival

I'm less than happy about the incoming New Zealand Government's views on climate change. It took a great deal of time and effort to get the previous Labour government to take action - weak, partial action, but action nevertheless - designed to reduce New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions. The recently-elected National-led government seems not only willing but eager to sacrifice these modest gains on the altar of its coalition agreement with hard-right climate change denial party ACT.

An early chance for Wellington people to get a message to the Government about the need to take meaningful action on climate change is the Climate Action Festival on at Waitangi Park this coming Saturday, 6 December, from 11am-4pm. I'm going to spend a couple of hours on the Climate Defence Network stall. The organisers have some interesting things planned - it should be a good day!

Congratulations to Joanna Preston

The big New Zealand poetry news of the last week or so is that Joanna Preston has won the inaugural Kathleen Grattan Prize for an unpublished poetry collection. Her collection "The Summer King" will be published in 2009, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2009

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are New Zealand's equivalent of the Hugo Awards. They recognise excellence in a number of fields related to science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Nominations for the Vogels are now open and close on 28 February 2009. You can find details of the categories and how to nominate on the SFFANZ site, and also lists of works that could be nominated (these depend on self-reporting, so may not be comprehensive, but look for those with a 2008 date). Before Christmas, I plan to put up a post looking at possible contenders in more detail, but in the meantime I suggest "for your consideration" (as they say in Hollywood) Transported and some of the individual stories in it, JAAM 26 and some of the individual speculative fiction stories in it, and Helen Lowe's Thornspell.

broadsheet 2

Mark Pirie has produced the second issue of his poetry journal broadsheet. This issue is a tribute to Wellington poet Louis Johnson on the 20th anniversary of his death, and features poetry by many of his contemporaries, as well as newer writers: the full lineup is Peter Bland, Richard Berengarten, Marilyn Duckworth, Kevin Ireland, Louis Johnson, Miranda Johnson, Harvey McQueen, Vincent O'Sullivan, Alistair Paterson, Helen Rickerby, Harry Ricketts, Martyn Sanderson, Peter Shadbolt, Nelson Wattie, and F W N Wright.

That lineup alone tells you that the issue will be well worth reading; for some more reasons why you should get hold of broadsheet 2, see Harvey Molloy's review.

Missing the Point?

Jennifer van Beynen has reviewed Transported in the Lumiere Review. She wasn't very keen on the collection as a whole, although she did have some good things to say about individual stories.

Reviewers are fully entitled to their opinions, whether good or bad, but it's helpful when a reviewer is familiar with the genre(s) of a work and the nature of the stories under review. A couple of Jennifer's comments suggest to me that this wasn't the case. She says "I found Transported at times to be baffling and frustrating. This may be because of the heavy science fiction content (I’m not a fan), but that’s just my personal preference" and also, in reviewing "Cold Storage", says:

Often there is scant detail or emotional reaction in these stories; things happen and the story carries on, with little emotional payoff. I found the fantasy stories particularly alienating. In ‘Cold Storage’, for example, the main character has little response to life-threatening and bizarre events other than an annoying arrogance, even when faced with certain death in Antarctica.

One view of short stories is that they are (or should be) all about character, and the revelation of character; that they should incorporate a still, small moment which shows how the protagonist has changed or grown - an "emotional payoff", in other words.

I agree that this is a very valid thing for a short story to do, and some of my favourite short story writers (such as Alice Munro) do exactly this in their stories, but I don't agree that it's the only thing a short story can do. There are stories in Transported that do hinge on the revelation of character; others in which the protagonist is no wiser at the end than the beginning; and others still in which character is secondary to other aspects of the story.

That's the sorts of stories Transported contains. It's very possible that the stories could have been better, but to write a review based on the desire that Transported should have contained other sorts of stories than it does contain seems to me to be missing the point.