31 May 2011

Tuesday Poem: Contact, by Tracie McBride

the idea of sex with aliens
might have appealed.

having encountered
your loathsome race,
I am cured
of my deviancy.

with your putrid salty stench,
your pore-pitted skin
oozing at the mere
mention of heat.

with appendages
upon appendages
dangling from your
spongy carapace.

with your tiny globular eyes,
your chaotic, misfiring brain,
and that blind pink parasite
squirming inside your mouth.

It’s enough to turn
all three
of my stomachs.

Credit note: "Contact" was first published in Kaleidotrope, April 2007. It was republished in Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry From New Zealand, edited by Mark Pirie and Tim Jones (2009), and is included in Tracie's new collection Ghosts Can Bleed.

Tim says: I will be posting my interview with Tracie McBride, a New Zealand poet and short story writer who's now living in Australia, later this week. I asked her to send me a selection of her poems from which I could choose one as a Tuesday Poem, and although I liked all the poems she sent, I couldn't go past this one, which is a particular favourite of mine from the Voyagers anthology. Science fiction poetry doesn't have to be serious!

Tracie has a lot of interesting things to say in our interview: about being a 'Kozzie' - a Kiwi-Aussie; about her writing; and about the changing face of publishing - she's also the vice-president of Dark Continents Publishing. Look out for our interview later this week.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.

27 May 2011

Tales For Canterbury: Why You Should Buy A Copy


In just three months since the Christchurch earthquake of 22 February, editors Cassie Hart and Anna Caro have done an amazing job of pulling together Tales For Canterbury, a fundraising anthology to benefit the victims of the earthquake, with all proceeds going to the New Zealand Red Cross Earthquake Appeal. All the stories have been donated by their authors.

Tales For Canterbury is now published as an ebook (in pdf, mobi, and epub format) and as a paperback.

You can find out lots more info on the Tales For Canterbury Blog, but if you are wondering whether to buy or pre-order one, I suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I want to support Christchurch residents in the wake of the February earthquake?
  • Do I like reading work by any of these writers? (I won't reproduce the full list here, but it includes names such as Neil Gaiman, Janis Freegard, Gwyneth Jones, Jay Lake, Helen Lowe, Tina Makereti, Juliet Marillier, Jeff Vandermeer, Mary Victoria, and Sean Williams, and there are 34 stories in all. One is by me.)
  • Can I afford NZ $12 for the ebook edition or NZ $24.95 for the paperback edition?

If the answer to the third question, and at least one of the first two questions, is "yes", then I think you are building a strong case for buying a copy!

And if you're fired up with enthusiasm, Anna and Cassie also have some ideas for how you can help promote Tales For Canterbury.

Here ends the sales pitch. If it hasn't convinced you, go ahead and buy the book anyway. The quality of the fiction is the ultimate argument.

23 May 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Rapture In Reserve Grade

Fifth tackle, and they’re kicking
when the last trump sounds.
The chosen players rise
but fail to catch the ball
as it spirals sinfully to ground.

It’s six a side in heaven,
seven left behind. No tackler,
no first marker. The halfback,
that cocky little rooster,
grabs the ball and scoots away.

No fullback, either. He's
showing a clean pair of heels
diving beneath the crossbar
and taking the conversion
as the first drops of blood touch the crowd.

Tim says: In the wake of last weekend's seemingly erroneous prophecy, I thought it was time to post this poem, which appeared in my first collection, Boat People. In case the number of players involved puzzles you, I should point out that the game in question is rugby league (13 a side).

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.

19 May 2011

Who Writes The Best Sentences?

I jumped into the middle of a literary controversy last night. On a post reporting Iain Banks' contribution to the ongoing debate in the Guardian over the literary merits of science fiction, Hugo Award-winning editor and fanwriter Cheryl Morgan said:

For example literary writers, on average, probably produce better sentences than SF writers.

Now, I should hasten to add that this is one sentence taken out of context, and that Cheryl's post qualifies that statement in a number of ways. But it still got a reaction: Lavie Tidhar and Elizabeth Knox weighed in to the subsequent discussion with Cheryl Morgan on Twitter.

It's a storm in a teacup, perhaps: one more skirmish in the long war to establish, or alternatively to deny, speculative fiction's place at the literary table. But it got me thinking: what does it mean to produce a better sentence? What makes one sentence better than another? Is it the beauty of the words, or the use of metaphor or simile or imagery, or the function the sentence plays in telling the story, or a combination of all of these?

As I understand it, Cheryl's perception - and it's mine, too - is that, in genre fiction, the merit of a sentence lies chiefly in its contribution to telling the story, while in literary fiction, the merit of a sentence lies chiefly in the beauty of its expression. I'm just not sure that a beautiful but non-functional sentence is "better" than a sentence that is less elegant but contributes to advancing the story.

What do you think? What makes a sentence "better"? And, if that is a meaningful question, then...

Who writes the best sentences?

17 May 2011

Tuesday Poem: That's Far Enough

That's Far Enough
Unexplained force acts to slow Pioneer and other deep-space probes [news]

Like rotifers in a puddle
staring at the sky
we can look but not touch

It's gentle at first
that force
but insistent

stay within the solar system
and no harm will come to you
you will be allowed the illusion of freedom

but stray too far
and we will have to take steps

nothing unpleasant, you understand
but the subtle application of a force
additional to gravity

gentle at first
but insistent
that force

till you slow,
stop, and return
to whence you came

bearing news:
the Universe is not for you
some things are sacred.

Tim says: As I've recently posted the guidelines for an online magazine issue featuring New Zealand and Australian speculative poetry (a term covering science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry, among others) that I'm editing, I though I'd post one of my own science fiction poems - well, a science poem, anyway. This one is from my first poetry collection, Boat People.

At the time "That's Far Enough" was written, the trajectories of the Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft leaving the solar system and heading into interstellar space appeared to show that they were being acted on by a forced additional to gravity, which was gradually slowing them down. However, recent research may have accounted for the "Pioneer Anomaly".

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.

12 May 2011

Call for Submissions: Eye to the Telescope 2: New Zealand and Australian Speculative Poetry

This is an open call to New Zealand and Australian poets for submissions to Issue 2 of "Eye to the Telescope", the Science Fiction Poetry Association's new online journal, to be edited by Tim Jones and published in July/August 2011. The focus of Issue 2 is on New Zealand and Australian speculative poetry. Issue 2 will include a maximum of 20 poems.

You can read Issue 1 online here: http://www.eyetothetelescope.com

In this notice:

* Submission guidelines: including submission format, payments and rights, and who can submit

* What is speculative poetry?

* What is the Science Fiction Poetry Association?

* Who is Tim Jones?


Because this is an open call for submissions to all New Zealand and Australian poets, and time is tight, submissions do that not follow the guidelines below are unlikely be successful. In particular, attachments will not be read.

Submission format

1) Send no more than three poems in an email message to eott2subs@gmail.com with the subject line "Submission to EOTT 2".

If you include more than three poems in your message, I will only read the first three. You are welcome to send fewer than three poems.

2) Include your poem(s) in the body of your email message. Do not send attachments. Attachments will be not be read.

If your poem has special formatting requirements which cannot be reproduced in the body of an email, please send it anyway within the body of your email, but include a note about the formatting requirements. If necessary, I will get back to you to request a copy in the correct format.

3) Poems of longer than 75 lines will not be considered. There is no lower limit on lines, so you are welcome to send haiku and other short forms, provided you send no more than three poems in total.

4) Preference will be given to unpublished poems. However, some previously-published poems may be included. Poems that have been previously anthologised will not be included - for example, poems that were published in Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand will not be included. Please clearly indicate any poems that have been previously published, and give their publication history. Unpublished poems selected for inclusion will be eligible for the Rhysling Awards: see http://www.sfpoetry.com/rhysling.html

5) If you are unsure what speculative poetry is, please see the notes below. If you are still not sure whether your poem fits, please send it anyway, and I'll make up my mind when I read it.

6) After your poem(s), please include a biography of no more than 100 words in the body of your email message. You can also include a link to your blog or website or Amazon author page etc. - whatever link seems best to you, as long as it will continue to be valid at least throughout 2011.

7) Submissions are now open. Please submit your poem(s) by midnight (New Zealand time) on Wednesday 15 June 2011. Any submissions received after I check my email the next morning will not be considered.

8) I will aim to make my selection and respond to all submitters by Wednesday 30 June 2011. However, this response date depends on the volume of submissions received. Please be aware that, due to the limited number of poems to be included, most submitted poems will, unfortunately, have to be rejected.

Payment and rights

9) Accepted poems will be paid for at the following rate: US 3¢/word rounded to nearest dollar, minimum US $3, maximum US $25. Payment is on publication.

10) The Science Fiction Poetry Association normally uses PayPal to pay poets, but can also send cheques. If your poem is accepted, I will get in touch to confirm payment details.

11) "Eye to the Telescope" is an online publication. Therefore, First Electronic Rights (for original poems) or reprint electronic rights are being sought.

Who can submit?

12) Residents of New Zealand and Australia, and citizens of New Zealand and Australia no longer resident in those countries, are eligible to submit. If you do not currently live in New Zealand or Australia, but think that you qualify to submit, please include a note in your email outlining your status and your connection with New Zealand or Australia.


Speculative poetry is poetry that falls within the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, plus some related genres such as magic realism, metafiction, and fabulation. It is not easy to give precise definitions, partly because many of these genres are framed in term of fiction rather than poetry.

A good starting point is ""About Science Fiction Poetry" by Suzette Haden Elgin, the founder of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, which you can read here:


Despite its title, this article is applicable to all forms of speculative poetry.

Closer to home, I had a go at defining science fiction poetry on my blog, in two parts:



These blog posts date from 2009, and the Voyagers anthology has since been published. Theses posts do refer specifically to science fiction poetry, rather than the broader field of speculative poetry.

As noted above - if in doubt, submit it anyway, and I'll decide.


As the SFPA says on its website at http://www.sfpoetry.com/:

"The Science Fiction Poetry Association was founded in 1978 to bring together poets and readers interested in science fiction poetry. What is sf poetry? You know what they say about definitions—everybody has one. To be sure, it is poetry (we'll leave that definition to you), but it's poetry with some element of speculation—usually science fiction, fantasy, or horror. Some folks include surrealism, some straight science."

See the SFPA site for lots more information - and please consider joining.


Tim Jones is a poet and author of both science fiction and literary fiction who was awarded the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. He lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Among his recent books are fantasy novel Anarya’s Secret (RedBrick, 2007), short story collection Transported (Vintage, 2008), and poetry anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (Interactive Press, 2009), co-edited with Mark Pirie. Voyagers won the “Best Collected Work” category in the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Awards. Tim's third poetry collection, Men Briefly Explained, will be published by Interactive Press of Brisbane in late 2011.

For more, see:

Tim's Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Tim-Jones/e/B004MGX7Z8/

Tim's blog: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com

Looking Forward To The Ballroom Cafe With Madeleine Slavick This Sunday

I'm looking forward to spending two hours at the Ballroom Cafe in Newtown on Sunday from 4-6pm (cnr Riddiford St and Adelaide Rd). Madeleine Slavick is the guest poet, and she'll be performing a series of portraits of New Zealand poets. There will also be open mike poets - the open mike is of a high standard at the Ballroom - and musician Fraser Ross.

I'm looking forward to these two hours because I like Madeleine, like her poetry, and think this will be an intriguing session. I'm also looking forward to it because it will be two hours away from what has been an incredibly busy life of late: lots of travel, lots of interesting experiences, lots of preparation for important things coming up later in the year, lots and lots of answering emails, but alas, far too little writing, or even submitting what I have written.

I'm hoping things will settle down for the next month or so. I'm planning to get more writing done, and once that's underway, I hope I'll get back into the swing of commenting on blogs etc. I even have some new author interviews for this blog lined up - when I find time to write the questions!

So, if I seem a little absent, in either the mental of the physical sense, that's why. For two hours on Sunday, I plan to be present.

05 May 2011

Full Of The Warm South*

As I reported in March, I was delighted to be invited to take part in the Readers And Writers Alive! Festival in Invercargill on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 April.

And the whole thing couldn't have gone better. The weather was fine and warm - I was wishing I had packed shorts and jandals, not long-sleeved shirts and jackets. The Festival organisers, and behind them the Dan Davin Literary Foundation and the Invercargill Licensing Trust, do a great job of looking after both presenters and participants, none more so than event organiser Rebecca Amundsen, backed up by Foundation chair Hamesh Wyatt and the helpful & friendly Invercargill Public Library staff.

Arriving just before lunch, I spent Friday afternoon walking the same paths I used to take as a child forty years ago, until the heat of the sun got too much for me and I retreated indoors for wi-fi and poetry preparation.

The Friday evening poetry reading involved four poets: in reading order, Kay McKenzie Cooke, Lynley Dear, myself and Joanna Preston.

The crowd was small, due to a triple threat of competing attractions, none of which had been scheduled when the workshop schedule was planned: the Royal Wedding, the Highlanders vs Blues game, and the Breakers' deciding final against the Taipans. But the audience appeared to enjoy it, just as I enjoyed hearing all the poets and taking a good number of my own Southland poems for a spin. Afterwards, we headed out to Waxy's for a highly entertaining dinner.

On Saturday the 30th, I ran a workshop called "Writing Different Worlds" with twenty participants, including Kay and Joanna, which covered the range of speculative fiction: science fiction, fantasy, horror, and those more elusive beasts such as fabulation, magical realism and metafiction. One participant came up with a great example of metafiction (fiction about fiction) as her response to a writing exercise. Participants ranged in age from 14 to a considerable number of multiples of 14.

Two things struck me about this workshop. The first was the talent and enthusiasm of the writers present, which shone through in the results of the two writing exercises I set and also in the many questions and comments that people made. Most people got the chance to read out the work they had done during the exercises. The overall quality of work was high, but even better, I twice had one of those intake-of-breath moments when, within a few sentences of hearing new work by a writer I'd never met before, I realised that they were - or had the potential to be - really, really good. That doesn't happen often, and it's a great feeling when it does.

The second thing was the sense of isolation many of the writers expressed. I remember feeling isolated when I lived in Dunedin and was just starting to take writing seriously; in Invercargill, three hours' further down the line, the feeling of being cut off from the "main centres" of New Zealand writing activity is even stronger. The Festival plays a valuable part in countering this tyranny of distance, but there is room for a lot more to be done.

Full many a rose is born to blush unseen
And waste its sweetness on the desert air

... or so said Thomas Gray. There are roses indeed blooming in Southland; it would be a great pity if their sweetness went to waste.

Kay McKenzie Cooke and Joanna Preston have both blogged about the good time they had at the weekend (it was a pity I couldn't stay for Joanna's workshop: despite all the mischief she had threatened, she was an exemplary participant in mine!)


Workshop participant Claire has also posted her report of the workshop, and it sounds like she enjoyed it too.

*Tip o' the hat to John Keats for the title, via Dennis McEldowney.

02 May 2011

Tuesday Poem: Getting By

I'm not
jumping from a burning building with my arms on fire
crawling in the rubble, looking for my hand.
Geography has been so kind.

But a simple wish
can turn a streetscape to a moonscape
turn pink flesh
to whitened ash and bone.

I'm sitting by the window
lofting soundscapes through the heavy air.
Boy racers, parties, sirens — bang!
A bomb? Could that have been a bomb?

I listen harder.
There's no more sirens, no-one screams.
Just something falling, someone
hitting harder than they planned.

No bomb, no need to worry.
I'm writing
not exploding
getting by
not burning in a burning land.

Credit note: First published in All Blacks Kitchen Gardens.

Tim says: This jittery poem from the early years of the last decade seemed like an apposite one to post tonight.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.