29 May 2008

A Twelve-Step Plan to End Oil Addiction

Regular readers of this blog will know that I sometimes break out from my focus on books to take sideswipes on issues such as transport sustainability and climate change. I thought this press release by the Sustainable Energy Forum (issued by some guy called Tim Jones) was worth reposting here.

I think of it as an antidote to those emails urging people to boycott BP this week or Caltex the next. It's understandable that people take out their anger over higher fuel prices on the nearest target, the oil companies, and it's true that oil company profits have risen with rising prices - but oil prices are rising because there is no longer enough oil being produced to meet demand, and there may never again be enough produced to meet demand.

And for that, anyone interested in the fate of our climate should give thanks.

Press Release: A Twelve-Step Plan to End Oil Addiction – Sustainable Energy Forum

With the price of petrol hitting $2 per litre, the Sustainable Energy Forum has proposed twelve steps for New Zealand to end its increasingly self-destructive addiction to oil. “Our addiction to oil has been bad for us for a long time,” says Tim Jones, Convenor of the Sustainable Energy Forum. “We’ve paid a high price for it in terms of high greenhouse gas emissions and cities choked by cars. But now we can’t afford our regular fix any more.”

“So here’s what we need to do to conquer our addiction. It won’t be easy, but it will be worthwhile — and besides, we don’t really have a choice,” Tim Jones adds.

The Twelve Steps:

1. Stop deluding ourselves. The era of cheap, readily-available oil has ended. Prices may fluctuate, but the underlying trend is up, up, up. We have to get used to using less.

2. Demand that politicians take the issue seriously. Make it an election issue. Don’t take ‘we’ve got everything under control’ as an answer.

3. Stop building new roads. They’re a monumental waste of money, time and effort. They encourage, rather than ease, congestion, and besides, the growth in car travel that’s used to justify them isn’t going to happen anyway.

4. Divert that money and effort into measures that address the challenges of oil depletion and climate change.

5. Make a major investment in public transport. It needs to be better, faster, more comfortable, more regular, and more predictable. It needs to cater for everyone, not just peak-hour commuters — though they need a better service as well.

6. Make a major investment in broadband internet to allow more people to work from home, and change tax and business practices that discourage working from home. The more car trips we can avoid, the better.

7. Electrify transport where possible. New Zealand is well placed to use renewable electricity for transport. We should be electrifying commuter rail where it is not already electric, using light rail (trams) in cities, and looking at electrification of the main trunk line. On the other end of the scale, electric bikes and scooters can make a big difference in our cities. And electric cars show promise, though there’s a lot of questions to be answered yet.

8. Don’t use cars unless there’s no alternative. Take the bus. Take the train. Switch to a scooter. Walk or cycle – both your wallet and your doctor will thank you.

9. Deal with other aspects of our oil dependence. Agriculture, for example, is highly dependent on oil. We’re going to need to change the way we grow and distribute food. Let’s get to work on that now, not wait until supermarket shelves start to empty.

10. Stockpile or manufacture vital products currently imported from overseas. When oil runs short, will that still be possible? Let’s take stock now and work out what we may need to start stockpiling or making in New Zealand.

11. Think local. Ending our oil addiction isn’t just up to central government, though it can play its part. Communities can work together to make themselves more resilient. Join or start a Transition Towns group in your local area.

12. Accept reality. The age of cheap oil is over. It’s not coming back. As individuals and as a nation, we have to adapt.

27 May 2008

Twittering Robot Lands on Mars

Here’s three poems about Mars from All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens to celebrate the arrival of NASA’s Mars Phoenix Lander spacecraft on Vastitas Borealis, where it’s now Twittering from the Martian surface. (Hmmm, robots blogging from Mars. Where’s Sarah Connor when you need her?).

These poems are from the “Red Stone” sequence: the first one, the last one, and the cynical one in the middle. “Stone” was first published in Astropoetica and “The First Artist on Mars” in Blackmail Press 15.

A Mars-related poetry event is coming up: the guest reader at the AGM of the New Zealand Poetry Society is Chris Orsman, whose third collection, The Lakes of Mars, has just been released.* Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to make this meeting, but I am looking forward to getting my hands on Chris’s book.

*I have a suspicion The Lakes of Mars may have more to do with Antarctica than Mars, but no matter - I like Antarctica too.


and all over iron

erosion shaped
of the warm wet days

sitting on this
arid plain
for the last
two billion years

standard Martian
red-brown drop
in a rust ocean.

The First Artist on Mars

Well, the first professional artist
There were scientists who, you know
but NASA sent us —
me and two photographers —
to build support for the program.

The best day?
That was in Marineris.
Those canyons are huge
each wall a planet
turned on its side.
I did a power of painting there.

You can see all my work
at the opening. Do come.
Hey, they wanted me to paint propaganda —
you know, 'our brave scientists at work' —
but I told them
you'll get nothing but the truth from me

I just paint what I see
and let others worry
what the public think.
Still, the agency can't be too displeased.
They're sponsoring my touring show.
That's coming up next spring.

Would I go back? Don't know.
It's a hell of a distance
and my muscles almost got flabby
in the low G. Took me ages
to recover — lots of gym and water time
when I should have been painting.

But Jupiter would be worth the trip!
Those are awesome landscapes
those moons, each one's so different.
Mars is OK — so old, so red,
so vertical. Quite a place
but limited, you know?

Red Canvas

Red to white-blue-green
a thousand years, a million
doesn't matter really

we will see it when it comes.
The God of War will grow
a coat of many colours

and life will paint another
tribute to the sun.

UPDATE: See this remarkable photo of the Phoenix Lander descending, taken by another robot, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Awe-inspiring! Skynet would be proud ...

22 May 2008

2008 Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing

I received the following email yesterday from the Royal Society. The inaugural Manhire Prize competition was held in 2007, and you can read the fiction and non-fiction winners online.

This year's topic is evolution. The Royal Society says:

We encourage you to enter the 2008 Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing. The theme for 2008 is evolution, in honour of Charles Darwin.

Next year is the 150th anniversary of his birth, and the 200th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species. But it was on 1 July 1858, the joint Wallace-Darwin paper was read to the Linnaean Society, and was thus launched to the science community.

The topic you are asked to respond to is:

"The Universe makes rather an indifferent parent, I'm afraid," said Dickens' kindly Mr Jarndyce. Humans have evolved to understand and intervene in the unsentimental processes of nature. With some unfortunate and unintended consequences. Back to nature or on to the future?

Remember, there are fiction and non fiction categories, prizes of $2500 for each, and the winning entries will be published in the New Zealand Listener. Entries close 15 August, 2008. For full details see the Listener just out, or go to

If you have any enquiries, call Glenda Lewis, 04 470 5758, or email glenda.lewis (at) rsnz.org

19 May 2008

More Poems on Being a Parent

Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood

My son turns 12 soon. That, and the recent publication of Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood, Emma Neale’s anthology of parenting poems, made me want to put up some of the poems I wrote while he was growing up. (My poem “Coverage” in Swings and Roundabouts is about an imagined father.). So here are four such poems, written from 1996 to 2002.

Publication note: “The Weather”, “At the Gate” and “Action Man Is Sleeping” appear in my first poetry collection, Boat People (HeadworX, 2002). Copies are available from me - please email timjones (at) actrix.co.nz for more information, or see my website orders page.

“Elfland” appears in my second collection, All Blacks Kitchen Gardens (which you can buy online), published in 2007.

The Weather

The weather is a matter of cultural safety
for us white Englishmen.

I talk about it with my father:
it's fine up here, Dad, not a breath of wind
(so rare for Wellington)
how's it with you?

Cloudy, he replies, and raining
wind from the south-west
I can't get the garden done.
In his voice is the gloomy assurance
that more is on the way.

I talk about it with the barber.
We agree it's
not such a bad day
for this time of the year.

We're talking the prices of houses.
I tell him I'll be a father come June.
I don't tell him, the child will be born in winter
as the wind and the rain prowl outside.

I don't tell him, we will carry the infant
back to our wooden house
shaken by the gale.

I do say, I'll have to check the gutters
come spring.

At the Gate

This morning
at the kindergarten gate
my son said "You stop there!"

He didn't want me to come in
He would place his bag
on Hook 22
put his nametag on the chart
go in to mat-time by himself

He opened the gate, turned, and waved goodbye
I waved back proudly
and started down the path
close to tears

He was so tiny once
that I could hold him in the palm of one hand
He starts school in two weeks' time
His bag will fill with books
his heart with other friends.
Smiling and crying, I take the long road home.

Action Man Is Sleeping

Action Man is sleeping
wearing his yellow bobble hat
(taken from a fluffy bunny who won't be needing it again)
blue underpants which keep him rated G
and two cloth nappies which serve him well as sheets.

His bed is a wheeled wooden trolley.
My son, who's sleeping too, said Action Man should have
a bed with legs, like him — but Action Man
must always be ready for action
even in his jut-jawed dreams.

He (my son, that is — I wouldn't
want you to get confused) has decided
he should not be kissed or hugged.
"Not by you — not by anyone!"
We blamed Action Man at first

but now the boy's relented —
he can kiss us
we just can't kiss him.


Outside, the world is growing darker
counters clicking downwards to perdition.

Inside, the children bring me
cup-cakes, pizza, new and better clothes

all made from pure cheek
and six-year-old imagination.

I'm story-writing helper for today.
It's not too hard:

"What's that word? Let's sound it out."
"Nothing to write about? Let's see ...

what will you do tomorrow? What
would you rather do today?"

At the end we're smiling: a whole page written!
Teacher, give these children praise.

As they start on Printing
I'm taking my leave, walking

out of the enchanted wood
back to the world's long darkness.

15 May 2008

Blogs in Their Summer Clothes - 2

This is the second in an occasional series highlighting blogs and other sites to which I link from "Books in the Trees". In the first instalment, I said a little bit about the blogs of Harvey Molloy, Helen Rickerby, Giant Sparrow, Meliors Simms and Kay McKenzie Cooke. Here's another four blogs, and one web site, worthy of your attention.

  • I mentioned in the first instalment that Harvey and Helen's blogs had served as role models for me when I first set up this blog. That's true, but going a little further back, it was Fionnaigh McKenzie's blog Beautiful Monsters that first made me realise that a blog could be a work of art - not that I'm claiming the same status for "Books in the Trees". Fionnaigh, who was another member of the CREW 256 "Writing the Landscape" class in 2003, is a fine poet who infuses her blog with the same spirit as her poetry.
  • I met Edwin McRae through the New Zealand Society of Authors Mentoring Scheme. As well as being a cyberpunk writer, Edwin is a storyliner for Shortland Street - so he knows the inside goss before anyone else, because he thinks it up!
  • Reading the Maps is a multi-author blog about literature, Marxism, and much else besides. I got in a bit of a stoush with them over their coverage of Bernard Gadd's death and literary/ideological views, but I still return there regularly for refreshing literary and political opinion.
  • James Dignan has a website rather than a blog - but "Blogs and Websites in Their Summer Clothes" sounds cumbersome, so I'm not going to change the title. I have known James for many years - since around 1986, in fact, when we were both involved in organising Halleycon, that year's NZ National Science Fiction Convention. A writer and musician when I first met him, his career as a visual artist and art reviewer for the Otago Daily Times has since taken off.
  • Finally for this instalment, I don't know John Crowley personally, but I do know and love his fiction, which occupies a space all of its own, somewhere between metaphysics, fantasy and realism. High points of his career include Little, Big; the Aegypt tetralogy; and The Translator. He's the only fantasy writer I know whose work has been ringingly endorsed by Harold Bloom

Enough for now. But I'll be back with another five blogs (or sites) to watch out for sometime in the not too distant future.

13 May 2008

JAAM 26: Editing Progress Report

I'm editing Issue 26 of JAAM Magazine. Submissions closed at the end of March, and I'm starting to get some enquiries about how far through the editing process I've got - so here's a progress report.

I'm currently going through all the submissions, listing those I'd like to include in JAAM 26. When I've finished doing this, then it's a matter of comparing what I'd like to include with the space available, and then matching the two - a process which is going to involve me making some difficult decisions, as there have been many high quality submissions to this issue, and I'm not going to be able to include them all.

I estimate that it will take me another two weeks to finish reading through all the submissions, and a further week to work out what I can fit within the number of pages available. Therefore, at the end of May, I expect that I will be able to start notifying everyone who has submitted whether or not their submission(s) have been included. There have been a lot of submitters, so that process will take a little while - though I'll make it as quick as I can.

After that, it will be a matter of arranging the contents into a coherent and interesting order, and giving the publisher everything needed to finalise the issue.

I hope this update helps soothe any frazzled nerves. Some wonderful work has been submitted, and I think this is going to be a very good issue of JAAM.

08 May 2008

Transported Longlisted for 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award

I've been blogging like crazy this week, but there's good reason for one more post: my short story collection Transported (which you can pre-order online), which will be published by Random House New Zealand in June, is one of four New Zealand short story collections longlisted for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award.

The New Zealand collections longlisted are:
  • Transported, Tim Jones (Random House New Zealand)
  • Etiquette for a Dinner Party, Sue Orr (Random House New Zealand)
  • The Girl Who Proposed, Elizabeth Smither (Cape Catley)
  • Ask The Posts Of The House, Witi Ihimaera (Raupo)

The Guardian has the full longlist of 39 books and an article about it.

I'm really pleased about this, but it's important to keep a sense of perspective. It's a longlist - a looooong longlist. The quality of the other New Zealand selections (congratulations to all the authors!) indicates the strength of the field. The shortlist is announced in July, and I don't expect Transported to be on it - but I won't deny that I'll be very pleased if it is!

It's also good to see a prize specifically for short story collections, which are sometimes neglected beasts in the literary zoo.

UPDATE: If you're looking for a review copy of Transported, or other 'official' publicity material about the book, please contact Jennifer Balle, jennifer (at) randomhouse.co.nz

06 May 2008

Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood

On Monday, I received a contributors' copy of Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood, edited by Emma Neale, with photography by Mark Smith. As I am a contributor, I'm not going to review it, and indeed I've read only about a quarter of it so far: but here are four first impressions.

First, the book looks really good, and feels good in the hand.

Second, it doesn't just contain New Zealand poems: there are a number of Australian poets represented, as well as international heavy hitters (NB: not in the smacking sense!) such as Sylvia Plath and Seamus Heaney.

Third, although being a parent isn't always lovely, there are some poems in the book that radiate parental love - and others that don't flinch from the difficulties.

Fourth, what a great idea for a book! I think a lot of people are going to love it. I think I will be among them.

04 May 2008

Wellington Blogger Offers Modest Giveaway!

I covered several reviews of my poetry collection All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens in a recent post. Another review has since appeared, in Issue 63 of the Christchurch-based literary journal Takahe. In his review, James Norcliffe looks in detail at the three sections of the book - Inside, Outside and Farside - and concludes that:

All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens is a most enjoyable read, full of intelligent poems intelligently arranged so that they set up echoes and conversations. Although at times there is the slight clunk of contrivance, there is more than enough here to surprise and satisfy.

Slight clunks apart, I'm pretty satisfied with this as a summary.

There's a lot to like about Takahe. It's a handsomely-produced magazine, featuring striking, full-colour front and back covers with artwork by Phil Price; it contains an extensive reviews section, the centrepiece of which is a long review of the latest collection by Stephen Oliver, Harmonic; and it is full of high-quality fiction and poetry.

I have a couple of poems in this issue, and the editors kindly sent me two contributors' copies. I'm offering one of those copies free to a good home. If you'd like a copy of Takahe 63, please email me at timjones (at) actrix.co.nz with your postal address. I'll send a copy to the first person who responds, and post a note here when I've done that. UPDATE: We have a winner - thanks for getting in touch, Rod Scown!

03 May 2008

Scriptwriters Wanted

From the NZ Society of Authors (NZSA) weekly email newsletter* comes this snippet, which I'll post here as I know I have some scriptwriters among my readers:

Writers Wanted for Two Animated TV Series

"Currently in development are two concepts for separate animated TV series
primarily targeting boys aged 8-12. Script writers are being sought. The
first is a fantasy series based in colonial NZ; the second is a sci-fi
series. Expressions of interest emailed to nika (at) huntdigitalmedia.com"

I have no connections with these projects, so I can't vouch for their chances of success - but if you're interested, go to it!

*This newsletter, emailed each week to NZSA members, is a very valuable source of market information: I have made several sales, especially of poetry, to magazines or anthologies I first saw advertised there. Membership of the NZSA isn't cheap, but it can [so I believe] be claimed as an expense against taxable income, and it's definitely worth considering if you're a New Zealand writer.