04 February 2009

Voyagers: A New Zealand Science Fiction Poetry Anthology

In 2004, Mark Pirie and myself decided that it would be a good idea to put together an anthology of New Zealand science fiction poetry. We knew that there were people writing science fiction poetry in New Zealand, and we knew of a few published examples of NZ science fiction poetry. How hard could such a project be? So we put out a call for submissions, and many poets responded with new or previously-published work.

At the same time, we split the corpus of New Zealand poetry (hmmm, "corpus", never thought I'd use that word in a blog post) between us and looked everywhere we could for published NZ SF poems. We were amazed how many we found: nuclear apocalypses from the 1950s and 1960s, utopias and dystopias from the 1960s and 1970s. We used a reasonably broad definition of science fiction, but even so, we found more poems than we could use. We discovered that poets such as Allen Curnow, James K. Baxter and Cilla McQueen had written science fiction poetry.

The next problem, finding a publisher for the anthology, proved to be a little harder. Most New Zealand publishers we approached did not think the anthology was a commercial proposition; one publisher took on the project subject to its receiving Creative New Zealand funding, but the publishing application was unfortunately unsuccessful.

It seemed that we had run out of options to have an anthology of the desired size and quality published, but then Mark approached Australian publisher Interactive Publications, having heard that they were to publish a book of Iain Britton's poetry. We were very pleased to hear that Interactive Publications were willing to publish the anthology in a print run large enough to make it worthwhile.

The next step was to go through the lengthy process of getting permissions from authors and publishers to reprint poems which had previously appeared elsewhere. Interactive Publications was unable to offer payment to authors, something we had wanted to do, and understandably, some authors and publishers pulled work from the anthology because of this. However, this gave us the opportunity to refresh the anthology with some newer poems, and at last the manuscript has been completed and sent to the publishers - except for the Contributors' Notes, which I'm currently collating.

I'm really pleased that we have finally got this project off the ground after many years of trying. I think it's going to be a fine anthology. I'll tell you more as the publication date approaches.


Helen Rickerby said...

Congratulations Tim. I know it has been a long time and a lot of hard work for you and Mark. I'm glad it is finally coming to fruition.

Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Helen!

Mike Crowl said...

How wide is your definition of science fiction here, Tim? I'll be keeping an eye out for this book. Sounds fascinating.

Tim Jones said...

Our definition is fairly wide, but to get in the anthology, poems had to be both good poems (in our judgement) and good science fiction - though there are some poems whose "science-fictionality" might be open to question. Science fiction is, in any case, notoriously hard to define.

But rather than try to answer your question at length in the comments, I think this would make a good topic for my next blog post - something along the lines of "So what is science fiction poetry anyway?"

So, look out for something to this effect by the end of the weekend. Thanks for raising the topic, Mike!

Janis Freegard said...

Top marks for dedication & persistence, Tim. I'm really looking forward to reading the finished product.

Mike Crowl said...

Will keep my eyes peeled, Tim!