30 August 2011

Tuesday Poem: Tres Hermanos

They're feudin', Mama.
They're rasslin'.

They're camped up in Bozeman
for the party season.

One is a long bore.
Another raids the mini-bar, now sure

his date won't show. The third
defends his diary with a secret code.

A horseman riding by
observes the niceties of outstretched thumbs

(that poor horse,
sway-backed and spavined,

when all it wanted was a better ranch).
Hear that far-off harmonica blow

beneath that far-off sky.
See that second mortgage slip away.

They're fussin' and a–fightin', Mama,
those three sons of yours,

arguing over the script
as wolves tiptoe behind.

Credit note: "Tres Hermanos" appears in my new poetry collection, Men Briefly Explained.

Tim says: The note about this poem at the back of Men Briefly Explained helpfully advises as follows:

"Bozeman is the fifth largest city in Montana, on the route of the former Bozeman Trail. Though this is not stated in the poem, the three titular brothers are named Zack, Jed and Joss, which irresistibly suggested a Western theme."

Times are tough, even in Hollywood.

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.

26 August 2011

An Interview With Meliors Simms

Meliors Simms is a contemporary landscape artist, radical crafter, a science fiction poet and an old-school blogger. She makes icebergs, islands and even whole continents from vintage blankets, wool and thread. Her sculptures look like cuddly landscape features yet carry serious environmental messages about the impacts of our everyday choices on the world around us. This August she is exhibiting art about mining in Melbourne and about Antarctica in Hamilton, where she will be reading poetry as well.

Meliors' poem Ponting's Genius was the Tuesday Poem on my blog this week.

The photo above shows Meliors with a work called Sastrugi. Photo by Jody Saturday

Meliors, a simple question, but one that may have a complex answer: why are you so interested in Antarctica?

It is mysterious, dangerous, vulnerable and beautiful. The lack of flora and fauna (and pigments) focus our attention onto patterns and textures of snow and ice, sky and sea which I find very exciting to interpret visually. Its short, intense human history and its long, surprising natural history both provide thrilling stories that bear endless iterations. And ultimately at this distance, it's a blank canvas for the imagination.

If you had the chance to visit Antarctica, would you?

Um, this is tricky, because if I was offered an opportunity to go I would probably accept. But really I'm ambivalent. On one hand it would be amazing, inspiring and unlike anything else I could do. But on the other hand Antarctica is an incredibly vulnerable environment about which I am intensely concerned. I don't think Antarctica needs me as just another tourist, although I'm willing to be persuaded that I might have something of value to offer in exchange for a free ticket.

I spend a huge amount of time thinking about Antarctica and my imagination seems adequately fed through second hand sources. The compliments about my work that I treasure the most are from people who have spent time in Antarctica, who tell me I've captured the essence of the place.

And besides, its jolly cold and a bit scary down there.

You are both an artist and a poet, and for the Imagining Antarctica exhibition in Hamilton, you are giving a poetry reading / artist's talk as well as exhibiting visual art. How do the practice of art and the practice of poetry work side by side - and for that matter, how on Earth do you find the time to do both?

The Imagining Antarctica exhibition at ArtsPost

Ha! I don't really find time to do both. The past months of intensely preparing my exhibitions has been a poetry drought. Writing seems to be woven through my creative life in an irregular abstract way rather than as a disciplined practice. There are times when I write a lot, but more times when I write little or nothing. Last year was very productive though, and most of the poems I wrote then relate to the art I am showing now, hence the poetry reading and artist talk event.

Reading and looking at the entries on your excellent blog, I am struck by the hours and hours of work that goes into creating them. Can you describe your process of making them, such as the icebergs?

Most of the work I make these days starts with an old woven wool blanket which I cut into contour pieces. I needle felt each layer with a nice plump cover of unspun wool and then attach the layers together using blanket stitch. The icebergs are three dimensional, sculptural pieces so there's a lot of layers and a lot of needle felting to get the three-dimensionality.

I use a similar technique to make wall relief pieces which may use only a couple of layers of blanket and little or no felting, but can be much bigger and even more time consuming to make. My biggest work, 'My Antarctica' a scale relief map of the entire continent, took me about eight months to make. I can make a little iceberg in a week.

Meliors standing in front of My Antarctica. Photo: Marion Manson (ArtsPost)

Over time I have perversely chosen to make my stitching cruder (even though hundreds of hours of practice has made me a better stitcher). I want my work to look unmistakably handmade. With some of my earlier embroidered pieces viewers would assume it was machine stitched, and I decided I didn't want any ambiguity about that. I 'd rather have people saying 'I could make that' and so to consider what it means to stitch something by hand. I want people to contemplate the hours and hours that go into my making.

Why did you choose the craft medium, and these crafts in particular, to make your artworks (and, does the wording of that question imply a dichotomy that doesn't or shouldn't exist?)

Contemporary art is a very broad field in which there are lots of interesting craft practices to be seen. I choose craft as my means of creative expression both for the pleasure and the meaning of my making. Slow meditative hand stitching is very sensual and satisfying. By choosing hand made rather than machine made, and doing it myself rather than farming the work out to low paid women in Asia, my work implicitly critiques the economic as well as environmental impacts of industrialised consumerist culture.

You were recently in Melbourne for the opening of the "F**k Your Donation" exhibition, which includes your installation "Spoil". How was that experience, and is this part of a continuing involvement in the Australian arts scene?

Meliors' installation "Spoil" at "F**k Your Donation"

Melbourne is a fantastic city for the arts, and especially for craft practices in contemporary art. It is a real thrill to show in a gallery there for the first time, and have such an enthusiastic response to my work. I hope to go back for more soon.

One thing I know we have in common is our love for Kim Stanley Robinson's writing, and in particular his Mars trilogy. What's so great about those books?

Well, KSR's novel Antarctica turned me into a fan of Antarctica as well as speculative fiction when I first read it some 15 years ago. That book, and the Mars and Washington trilogies resonate with me as extremely plausible near-future-histories that aren't dystopias. I like his strong, complex female characters; frustratingly rare in the genre. I reread all seven novels reasonably regularly and I appreciate the detail as well as the broad sweep of his vision. But mostly because he's very good at making it seem possible that we 21st century humans could dig ourselves out of the dreadful mess our species has created, and I often feel the need for that spark of hope.

KSR's writing has had a huge influence on my visual, textile arts. For example I've turned again and again to his descriptions of the textures and colours of Antarctica as I've stitched. He's a wonderfully visual writer. In more direct homage, I once made a series of small embroidered 'Mars gardens', visualising the greening of the red planet as practised by Sax Russell and others in his trilogy.

Three of Meliors' "Mars Gardens", after Kim Stanley Robinson

Do you have any writing projects on the go that are separate from your art projects, and how do you see the balance between your art and your poetry developing in the future?

Right now I don't have any particular writing projects. Rather, I'm content to let occasional poems arise spontaneously, most often in very close relationship to the visual art I'm working on, particularly at the early, conceptual stages.

Are there particular artists and poets whose work you enjoy that you'd like to encourage readers of this interview to check out?

I'm pretty excited about sculptors Ruth Asawa (http://www.ruthasawa.com/) and Mandy Greer (http://stonemandy.wordpress.com/). I also recommend the photographs of Edward Burtynsky (http://www.edwardburtynsky.com/), and the fantastic video about his work called Manufactured Landscapes. Two of the poets I am enjoying most at the moment are Janis Freegard and Bernadette Hall.

Where people can see Meliors' work

23 August 2011

Tuesday Poem: Ponting's Genius, by Meliors Simms


Ponting’s genius was in his cruel portraits
of heroes on their improbable returns.
Emaciated bodies invisible inside the ice armour
of clothes unchanged for many months.
Hollow eyes, blank, bleak, utterly spent;
dirty desperate faces that have looked straight at death
and now gaze without flinching upon the camera.
What is this few more minutes of relief denied, delayed,
after endless weeks of scurvied sledging on frostbitten feet.

Never has a photographer been less loved by his subjects
than Ponting, pointing his slow Edwardian shutter
at men on the verge of respite,
men looking over his shoulder towards warmth and safety,
already smelling the cocoa and toast of their fantasies.
Men still to be cut out of frozen solid garments
whose health will never fully recover from the ordeal
they have only just survived.
The death in those heroes’ stares
is murderous.

Credit note: "Ponting's Genius" won the Wintec open poetry prize in 2010, and is reproduced as a Tuesday Poem by permission of Wintec.

Tim says: Meliors is someone I admire a great deal - not just for such fine poems as these, but for the hard work she puts into her art, for the fantastic results she produces, and for her dedication to her artistic career. She is also a really neat person.

You can find out a lot more about Meliors, her art, and her fascination with Antarctica in my interview with her, which I'm aiming to run on Thursday - as long as I get all the great images she's sent to accompany the interview sorted out in time!

And just in case any stray cricket fans are wondering ... the "Ponting" of this poem is not Ricky Ponting, that gimlet-eyed little Aussie battler from Launceston, but Herbert George Ponting, the photographer who accompanied Robert Falcon Scott's Terra Nova expedition to Antarctica in 1910-11 - and, as far as I know, no relation of the more recent Ricky.

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.

20 August 2011

How To Buy My Books: Men Briefly Explained, Anarya's Secret, Transported And More



You can find details of all these books at my Amazon.com author page.

Recent Anthologies

18 August 2011

Available On Amazon In Paperback And Kindle Ebook: Men Briefly Explained And Tongues Of Ash


STOP PRESS: Men Briefly Explained is now available on Amazon in print and Kindle ebook formats!

Print: http://www.amazon.com/Men-Briefly-Explained-Tim-Jones/dp/1921869321/

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Men-Briefly-Explained-ebook/dp/B005HRYM32/

Keith Westwater's Tongues Of Ash is also available on Amazon in these two formats:

Print: http://www.amazon.com/Tongues-Ash-Keith-Westwater/dp/1921869267/

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Tongues-of-Ash-ebook/dp/B005HIV6J4/

Now, back to our regular programming:

In late October, Lower Hutt poet Keith Westwater and I are setting out on a book tour to promote our new poetry collections, my Men Briefly Explained and his Tongues Of Ash.

You can use this link to pre-order the paperback versions.

The Kindle versions are not yet available, and so the "Buy Kindle" links on these pages do not work yet. They will be updated once the Kindle versions are available.

Both books are being published by Interactive Press of Brisbane, who published Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand in 2009.

Almost all the events on the book tour are now confirmed, and we'll be releasing the tour details once all events are confirmed - but we start in Dunedin on Tuesday 25 October and end in Auckland a week later, winding through Christchurch, Wellington, and Eastbourne en route. Watch out for more details soon!

15 August 2011

Tuesday Poem: Giant, by Janis Freegard

I got chatting to a Powelliphanta snail at the bus-stop
a few weeks ago – a nicer worm-eating hermaphrodite
you couldn’t hope to meet. Sorry to hear about that
mine, I said. Relocation of your entire species to a
government fridge and all that. State-approved
destruction of the damp tussock home that’s been yours
since Maui fished up the North Island.

And isn’t it terrible about the coral reefs disappearing
because we’ve made the sea too acidic? And the tuna
being overfished and the polar bears running out of ice
floes. I'm ever so sorry about it, and you too, you poor
thing, all that time in the fridge. I kept meaning to write
someone a letter about that. Couldn’t somebody do

S/he shrugged and said
(with a sigh
waving tentacled eyes
from a glabrous shell):
they tried, you know, they tried
at least some people tried
at the very very least
you have to try.

Credit note: "Giant" is republished by permission of the author and of Auckland University Press from Janis Freegard's first solo collection, Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus.

Tim says: I finished reading Janis's striking collection Kingdom Animalia on my way back from a meeting about Solid Energy's plans to mine up to six billion tonnes of lignite (low-grade brown coal) in Southland - plans which would not only despoil the Southland landscape, but lead to a massive increase in New Zealand's carbon dioxide emissions. That's the same Solid Energy that, in its rapacious greed, relocated Janis's Powelliphanta and his/her kind to get at the coal beneath.

So I agree that, at the very least, you have to try. But I think, if we and our descendants are going to be around to enjoy poems like Janis's in 50 to 100 years' time, we might have to go one better. We might have to succeed.

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.

UPDATE: Having read Janis's poem, Australian writer PS Cottier got in touch to let me know about her story Trail of Disinformation, which advances a novel solution to a similar problem!

11 August 2011

An Interview With Michael J. Parry

Michael J. Parry is a librarian by day and an author/father by night. My day job is Digital Initiatives Coordinator for Victoria University Library, where I am in charge of transforming many of our older or copyright held print resources into digital resources. When not there I live on a small block of land outside of Dannevirke where I am growing fruit trees and children.

I write fantasy/sci-fi/mystery/contemporary fiction. At the moment I like steam punk and fantasy/mystery and playing humorously with stereotypes. I am interested in writing enjoyable stories and want to be considered a good storyteller.

The Spiral Tattoo is a police procedural with one partner a six-inch-tall male pixie and the other an eight-foot-tall female troll, am I right?

Yes indeed, although the pixie (Gurt) would find that term, and the term fairy, insulting. They call themselves Eleniu and view the other names as big people insults...

Who's the good cop, and who's the bad cop?

Neither really, as they swap around depending on the circumstances. Elanore (the Troll) will play both on the brutish reputation of her race, and her unusual keen intellect to get the most out of the suspect. Otherwise Elanore is good (being honourable and hard working) while Gurt could be bad (being prone to vices and a little lazy)

Is this an idea that you've had for quite some time, or is it one you've developed recently?

The characters are ones I have had for a long time. I have a number of story starts featuring the pairing archived away on my PC. This particular story was just the one that made it to the finish line.

Is this the first novel in a series, and if so, can you give us any clues as to how the series will develop?

It is the first of a series. I am contracted to write two more for my publishers, but have rough story lines for at least five more books. The series is written to be one where you can drop in at any point and pick it up, so it’s not a trilogy. They are murder mysteries dressed in a fantasy gown, with more than a little nod to the “cosy mystery” sub-genre. I intend to give small nods in each one to a type of mystery, so the next is a “closed room country house” murder. The one after that is shaping up to be a bit of a “serial killer thriller.” I am playing with many of the stereotypes of the fantasy genre so more of the humour will come out there.

I want to turn to the business side of writing. I'll be honest: as an author, it fills me with dread to think of a future in which books sell for 99 cents on Amazon, but that's the sales price of The Spiral Tattoo. Did you think about setting the price point higher, or is 99c the standard price point these days?

The 99c price was set by my publisher. As a price point I don’t think it will be a standard for all eBooks, but it is a good entry point for a new author. The idea is to have the first at the low price to entice readers to give the story a go. The later books in the series will be priced higher at the $2.99 mark. It’s a little like how gimmicky magazines will have the first issue at a much lower price. Not that I consider the price a gimmick.

How does the economics of selling your book at 99c work out?

For me it works out fairly well. I receive %50 of the net profits, which means that I would probably be getting more per sale than from a traditional publisher in paperback.

The Spiral Tattoo is published by Sky Warrior Book Publishing – what led you to choose that particular publisher?

I had been hawking off the story to traditional publishers for a while, and was getting to the point where I was reluctantly considering self publishing. Maggie who runs Sky Warrior Publishing put a call out to authors who had podcast their books through podiobooks.com saying she was starting her own publishing house and was looking for new authors. I submitted hoping she had listened to the story and liked it.

How important has social media been to you in promoting your work, and do you have any tips for other writers in that area?

Social media is very important. My publishers have a tiny budget for promotions, so free promotions have to work for both of us. As for tips? Engage, engage, engage, you have to participate actively and not to be afraid to put yourself out there. At the same time you need to make sure not all of your engagement is pushing your work.

What got you interested in writing science fiction and fantasy in the first place, and have you had SF & F at shorter lengths published previously?

Yes well, I am very stereotypical. The first real book I read was The Lord of the Rings and it was all downhill from there. No, I haven’t had anything else published. I have always had a large level of self doubt about my writing that has meant I never finished anything. The Spiral Tattoo is the first story I properly finished, and has been a breakthrough for me in terms of my self discipline and self belief.

I see that you write contemporary fiction as well – are you envisaging the same kind of publication path for your contemporary fiction?

My more contemporary stories are on hold at the moment while I concentrate on writing the Elanore and Gurt stories. Depending on what I write and how successfully the current stories are I would look towards using the same path for all my stories.

At the moment, you work as a Digital Initiatives Librarian. Do you plan to become a full-time writer, or are you happy to continue to mix the two?

Isn’t that the dream? I would love to be a full time writer, and one day I will. But for now I will struggle along writing and working and dreaming....

Book availability details

The Spiral Tattoo is available in all eBook formats from Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/69496

It is also available in audio form as a free podcast novel from podiobooks.com: http://www.podiobooks.com/title/the-spiral-tattoo

The podcast version is a “beta” or “ARC” version and differs from the print due to the editing process.

09 August 2011

Tuesday Poetry News: Eye To The Telescope 2 Published: Robots, Time Machines, Aliens, And Joe Dolce

This isn't, in all conscience, a Tuesday Poem, but it does contain several Tuesday Poets: Issue 2 of Eye To the Telescope, which I edited, has now been published.

Eye To The Telescope is an online magazine recently established by the Science Fiction Poetry Association, and Issue 2 features speculative poetry (that is poetry, in the science fiction, fantasy, horror and associated genres) by Australian and New Zealand poets. The list of contents is:

Editor’s Introduction • Tim Jones
If this is the future … • Helen Rickerby
Born Inside Weather • Les Wicks
Another Wow! Signal • Stephen Oliver
then our mother flew unassisted • Raewyn Alexander
Before Science Stepped In • Rod Usher
Rapunzel • Mary Victoria
Bordertown • Grant Stone
A whimper after the bang • Emily Manger
Man in a wingsuit • Chris Lynch
Mechwarrior Sonnet • Toby Davidson
Radio Wave Propagation in the Roman Warm Period • Catherine Fitchett
Nocturne • Peter Friend
mind sings of mer • Sandi Sartorelli
Yayoi Kusama goes to Iceland • Janis Freegard
In the third poem I am being killed by a water lizard • Cy Mathews
Don’t Shoot the Robot • David Reiter
The Trouble With Time Machines • Alicia Ponder
Extermiknit • Laurice Gilbert
Dhiy uvenjing goest • Tom Clark
Aliens • Joe Dolce

and you can read the introduction, the poems and the contributor bios (which cover Issue 1 as well as Issue 2). You can also keep an eye out for the submission guidelines for future issues.

Here is the press release I sent out about this issue. I hope you enjoy these twenty poems!

Robots, Time Machines, Aliens, And Joe Dolce

When the Science Fiction Poetry Association asked New Zealand poet, author and anthologist Tim Jones to edit an issue of their online magazine "Eye To The Telescope" featuring Australian New Zealand speculative poetry, he didn't expect to receive a submission from the singer-songwriter behind 1980s hit song "Shaddap You Face" - and he didn't expect to like it enough to include it in the issue, now online at http://www.eyetothetelescope.com/

"Shaddap You Face" was an Italian-themed novelty song that was absolutely inescapable in the early 1980s. 'All I knew of Joe Dolce was that he wrote that one song,' says Tim Jones. 'What I didn't know is that he's also a fine poet, with work published in many of Australia's leading literary journals. His poem "Aliens" makes a great concluding poem for this issue.'

Speculative poetry covers poetry that fits within the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres, plus other associated genres like magic realism and surrealism. 'It was really tough to choose only 20 poems from the much larger number of poems I'd like to have published,' says Tim Jones, 'but I'm happy to have included such a range of genres and styles.'

The first poem, Helen Rickerby's "If this is the future....", uses science fiction as a beautifully delicate metaphor, but there's also such hard-out science fiction poems as Chris Lynch's "Man in a wingsuit". There is apocalyptic menace in Grant Stone's "Bordertown" and Emily Manger's "A whimper after the bang", in contrast to the wry humour of Laurice Gilbert's "Exterminiknit".

'One of the things I'm most pleased about is that this issue brings together well-regarded poets, like Janis Freegard, Stephen Oliver and David Reiter, with authors best known for their fiction, like Mary Victoria and Peter Friend, both of whom contributed poems on fantasy themes, and Spanish-domiciled Australian writer Rod Usher,' Tim Jones commented. 'There's surrealism, a sonnet, and one dialect poem that reminds me of Russell Hoban's great novel "Riddley Walker".'

Whether you love poetry, you love SF, fantasy, and horror, or you just want to find out what on earth speculative poetry is, there is something for you in "Eye To The Telescope 2".

04 August 2011

How To Buy My Books: Anarya's Secret, Transported, Voyagers, And More

Welcome! Since I'm between blog posts at the moment, here are details about how to buy some of my books. You'll find my recent posts listed on the left-hand side of this blog.

You can find details of all these books at my Amazon.com author page.

You'll also find my work in these recent anthologies: