02 February 2016

My review of "Best Small Fictions 2015" is now up on Beattie's Book Blog


Best Small Fictions 2015 is an anthology of the best small fictions published in 2015, from 6 to 1000 words - including a story by Waikouaiti author Jane Swan. Here is my review of Best Small Fictions 2015 on the estimable Beattie's Book Blog.

27 January 2016

"Shortcuts: Track 1" Selected As NZ Book Council "Book of the Month" for January

Shortcuts: Track 1, the Paper Road Press anthology that includes six novellas (see below) including my novella Landfall, has been selected as the New Zealand Book Council's Book of the Month for January - and an excerpt from Landfall has been featured. Many thanks to the Book Council and Paper Road Press for setting this up!

Here are details of how you can buy Shortcuts: Track 1, and (if you're feeling a bit skint) how you can buy "Landfall" as a standalone novella.

Shortcuts: Track 1

What's better than one SF/F novella? Six of 'em, collected together as Shortcuts: Track 1, edited by Marie Hodgkinson, from Paper Road Press: http://paperroadpress.co.nz/b…/shortcuts-track-1-collection/, with a great cover by KC Bailey:



Contents

  • "Landfall" by Tim Jones
  • "Bree's Dinosaur" by A C Buchanan
  • "The Last" by Grant Stone
  • "Mika", by Lee Murray and Piper Mejia
  • "Pocket Wife" by IK Paterson-Harkness
  • "The Ghost of Matter" by Octavia Cade

Now available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon, and for order as a paperback through bookstores using the following details:

Title: SHORTCUTS: Track 1

Editor: Marie Hodgkinson

ISBN: 9780473336486

Distributor: Paul Greenberg, Greene Phoenix Marketing and PDL


Landfall


My novella Landfall is available for the Kindle. As well as the extract on the NZ Book Council site, you can also read an extract on the Paper Road Press website.

And here is an extract from that extract:

Wife gone, son lost to cholera back in the camps before he had lived out his first year, Nasimul shivered and heaved up his food and crawled into a nest of damp clothing night after night, and somehow survived. The ship drove forward. The temperature warmed fractionally. The sky flamed red at dawn and dusk: ash and smoke from Australia, someone said. Perhaps the whole continent was burning.

And then, on another night of storm and cloud, the New Zealand Navy came, destroyers surging over the eastern horizon. There was no point in running, and nowhere to run. The Jamalpur-2 wallowed in the waves and waited for the end, while the people aboard made for the last slender hope, the lifeboats.

You can find out whether Nasimul Rahman makes it ashore - and what happens next - in Landfall.

Don't forget to check out the full Shortcuts series of standalone novellas.


18 January 2016

Here's My Idea For Wellington City Council's Annual Plan


Wellington City Council has asked for ideas for its Annual Plan. Here's my idea:

Wellington is not yet taking climate change seriously enough - either in terms of mitigation, or adaptation. The city is now talking a good game, but the Council's actions don't yet reflect that. This is especially crucial in a city situated between steep hills and the rising sea, with much of its infrastructure, including its CBD, very close to sea level.

We need to stop doing things that make climate change worse, and start doing things that give the city the best chance of resilience in the face of the changes ahead.

In the first category, investing further in fossil-fuel-based infrastructure needs to stop. The city should withdraw its support for the proposed airport runway extension (a project which, especially in its approaches, is itself vulnerable to sea-level rise), support electric transport - including public transport, and strongly oppose the use of the city's facilities for fossil fuel infrastructure, such as oil drilling.

At the same time, there needs to be serious and prolonged engagement with the public and businesses, and especially those in the most at-risk areas, over the medium-and long-term future of the lowest-lying parts of the city. Can every street and every suburb be protected against sea-level rise or the increased risk of flooding? How much will that cost, and who pays?

Failing to act due to such issues as legal worries over the wording of LIM reports will help no-one in the long term.

Adapting to climate change will be costly and difficult for Wellington - but the longer we postpone taking action, the more costly and the more difficult such action will become.

05 January 2016

Reading Highlights in 2015


Since 2007, I've been keeping track of my reading on the social bibliographic site LibraryThing - which in turn helps me to stay on track with my ambition of reading at least a book a week over the course of the year. In 2015, that's exactly what I managed: 52 books.

These are the books (excluding re-reads) that I rated 4.5 stars out of 5 or higher - and then a few honourable mentions of books I enjoyed very much that I gave 4 stars.

My reading for the first half of 2016 is likely to follow a different pattern than usual: as I'm teaching two Writing Short Fiction courses at Whitireia Polyetchnic, I expect a number of short story anthologies and books about teaching writing are likely to feature. (Or, my reading may consist entirely of sports autobiographies - we shall see!)

Looking back at my reading this year, I gave only one book a 5-star ranking, but I was surprised how many I'd given 4.5/5 (excluding re-reads). (I rarely rank a book lower than 3 stars, because if I feel a book is going to rank lower than that I probably won't finish it.)

So here are my best books first read in 2015. (Whether or not I wrote a capsule review depends very much on how busy I was at the time I finished the book, and is no reflection on how much I enjoyed it!)

5 stars

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall (novel)

This excellent novels parallels the natural and the human world without being too obvious about it, as wolf reintroduction expert Rachael Caine supervises a project to reintroduce wolves to Britain while dealing with big changes in her own life. Wonderfully vivid writing and an exciting conclusion make this a five-star book for me.

4.5 stars

Fiction - novels

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

A splendidly written, tautly plotted book which, because the title character looms large over the narrative but is never able to speak for herself, is open to multiple interpretations. A page-turner, an cunning examination of class, and a formal achievement of great skill.


A great new Wellington novel also set in Takaka and Iceland, it’s the story of a high-flying graphic artist’s fall from grace, and her relationship with her wiser sister. The author is a winner of the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award for fiction, and this shows in the wit and quality of her writing.

My Name Was Judas by C. K. Stead

Poetry - collection


Shift by Rhian Gallagher

I've previously heard Rhian Gallagher read her poetry and read individual poems in literary magazines, both of which I enjoyed, and I found them even more effective in this collection. It's divided into three sections, the first covering her life in London, the second a love affair in New York, the third her return to New Zealand's South Island. Her work is both technically effective and engaging, and I enjoyed most of these poems very much. My one slight caveat (and it's only a half-star-off sized caveat) is that a couple of devices of rhyme and vocabulary seemed over-used in the collection - but that barely dampened my enjoyment of this fine collection.

Graphic novel

Two Pedants by Sean Molloy

Two pedants, plus one curly-haired narrator who is married to one of the pedants. Their interactions, and their encounters with a variety of other characters, including the pedants' nemesis TXT SPK GRL and time-travelling playwright William Shakespeare, make for an entertaining graphic novel (or is "linked collection of comic strips" a better description?) which I enjoyed very much despite one of the pedants' virulent dislike of the Oxford comma, which is my view is the best thing to come out of Oxford since Mr. Toad.

Nonfiction

What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

White Ghosts, Yellow Peril : China and New Zealand, 1790-1950 by Stevan Eldred-Grigg with Zeng Dazheng

While it's hard for me to judge the quality of the historical research, this is a very readable study of the interactions between New Zealand and China - and in particular the experience of the Cantonese and Hakka people who came to New Zealanders as gold miners in the 19th century, and of their descendants. The book stops in 1950, and I would love to read an extended edition or a second volume that covers the next sixty years of the story.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty, translated by Arthur Goldhammer

This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein

Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman

The Great Land: Reflections on Alaska, edited by Robert Hedin and Gary Holthaus

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl: A Memoir by Carrie Brownstein

While Carrie Brownstein may now be most widely known for the TV show Portlandia, this memoir focuses on her life as a music fan and musician, specifically in the band Sleater-Kinney - the main part of the narrative finishes when the band goes on hiatus in 2006, and its reformation is covered only briefly.

The book is excellent of the intersections of character, place and circumstance that made, shaped, and derailed the 1994-2006 incarnation of Sleater-Kinney, and the strains the touring life place on all musicians, but especially on a highly intelligent, self-identified introvert and homebody. And I grew to like the author more for her analysis of her strengths and weaknesses, or at least areas of difficulty, as they have played out in her life within and beyond music. Her bandmates, Corin Tucker and Janet Weiss, are delineated strongly too.

I would have liked to see the book carry on into the next phases of Carrie Brownstein's life and career - or, to put it another way, I'd love a sequel!

Fictionalised memoir

7 Miles Out by Carol Morley

I watched Carol Morley's first feature film "The Falling" earlier this year (she's also an acclimated documentarian), and enjoyed both the film and her writing about it enough to seek out "7 Miles Out", her (very) lightly fictionalised memoir of her childhood and teenage years growing up in Stockport, Lancashire in the wake of her father's suicide. Although this might make the book sound like a "misery memoir", it's often very funny, and quite apart from its own merits it shed a great deal of light on the principal characters in "The Falling". Enjoyed and recommended.

Honourable Mentions

Here are three books from those I gave four stars that I nevertheless particularly enjoyed:

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson - science fiction novel

"Aurora" is another entry in Kim Stanley Robinson's series of novels about the habitation of the solar system - but this one goes well beyond the Solar System, as it tells the story of a generation starship sent to colonise the Tau Ceti system - an old science fiction trope, but handled with Kim Stanley Robinson's usual close attention to both the practicalities and the politics of such endeavours.

In my experience, people who read Robinson's work are sharply divided into those who love his writing and those whom it leaves completely cold, mainly because there is so much exposition, or to put it less kindly his books are full of info-dumps. I'm in the former camp, but this book certainly shares that weakness, and I found the characterisation of the main human character somewhat inconsistent. However, the book is thought-provoking and increasingly tense as the narrative proceeds, with only a rather protracted ending letting it down a little. Not the very best of Robinson's work, then, but still very good.

Felt Intensity by Keith Westwater - poetry collection

The core of this collection is Keith Westwater's experience of the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, and the effect the quake had on that city and its residents - a series of excellent poems that go well beyond the personal. But there are also other social, political and personal poems in a collection that well represents Keith both as a person and as a poet.

Possibility of Flight by Heidi North-Bailey - debut poetry collection

I really enjoyed this debut collection from Heidi North-Bailey, whose mainly personal poems are economical, witty, and make really good use of their short lines and stanzas. The subject matter is not new - relationships, "the big OE" - but it's expressed very well.




20 December 2015

"The Stars Like Sand" Highly Commended In ACT Writers' Centre Awards


The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry, the anthology I co-edited with Canberra poet P. S. Cottier, published in 2014, was thereby eligible for the ACT Writing and Publishing Awards - and, while it didn't win its category (Publishing Awards: Poetry Category), it did receive a Highly Commended and some nice words from the judges:

P S Cottier and her New Zealand co-editor Tim Jones have assembled an ebullient landmark anthology that attempts to embrace a very broad church indeed. An impressive matrix of 'big names' in Australian poetry allows plenty of space nevertheless for the minor poets, who contribute some of the best pieces in the diffuse speculative genre. The poems surprise and delight, lending the anthology a broad appeal.

Whether the speculative poetry category is "diffuse" is an interesting question, but it's great for The Stars Like Sand to get this recognition. Congratulations to John Stokes for his win in this category, to all the other winners and placegetters, and thanks to the ACT Writers Centre for the opportunity! Here are a couple of photos from the ceremony - the "Highly Commended" certificate, and Penelope with the certificate (thanks to Penelope Cottier for the photos).



16 December 2015

I'm Teaching Two "Writing Short Fiction" courses at Whitireia Polytechnic in the first term of 2016; End of a Tuesday Poem Era

I'm teaching Writing Short Fiction at Whitireia Polytechnic in 2016

Whitireia Polytechnic have asked me to teach two Writing Short Fiction courses (Short Fiction I and Short Fiction II) in the first term of 2016 - the first an introduction to writing short stories, and the second an introduction to various genres of short fiction.

These courses are part of the on-campus version of the Diploma in Creative Writing, and will be taught at their Wellington Campus in Dixon St. There are still places available in the Diploma, so if you or someone you know would like to take it, you can enrol online.

I'm looking forward to teaching these courses - I've already had some involvement with the Whitireia programme via mentoring and manuscript assessment, but teaching these two courses represents an exciting (if a little scary!) challenge.

Whitireia are also offering Screenwriting at Levels 6 and 7 for the first time in three years - places are available for that course as well.

End of an Era for the Tuesday Poem

After five years, the Tuesday Poem is coming to an end - though perhaps not the end. To mark the occasion, co-founders Mary McCallum and Claire Beynon have compiled a poem from the Tuesday Poets' poems, And I know now what I didn't know then. It's well worth reading!

The Tuesday Poem site will stay online, and many of the Tuesday Poets and former Tuesday Poets - plan to keep posting poems on their blogs - you should be able to keep on finding them in the left sidebar of the Tuesday Poem site.




07 December 2015

New anthology Shortcuts: Track 1, containing six fine novellas including my "Landfall", is now available


What's better than one SF/F novella? Six of 'em, collected together as Shortcuts: Track 1, edited by Marie Hodgkinson, from Paper Road Press: http://paperroadpress.co.nz/b…/shortcuts-track-1-collection/

I have just received my author copies of Shortcuts: Track 1 and it looks really good, with a great cover by KC Bailey:



Contents

  • "Landfall" by Tim Jones (more about "Landfall" here!)
  • "Bree's Dinosaur" by A C Buchanan
  • "The Last" by Grant Stone
  • "Mika", by Lee Murray and Piper Mejia
  • "Pocket Wife" by IK Paterson-Harkness
  • "The Ghost of Matter" by Octavia Cade

Now available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon, and for order as a paperback through bookstores using the following details:

Title: SHORTCUTS: Track 1

Editor: Marie Hodgkinson

ISBN: 9780473336486

Distributor: Paul Greenberg, Greene Phoenix Marketing and PDL