23 December 2010

Anarya's Secret: An Earthdawn Novel - Now Available On The Kindle

My 2007 novel Anarya's Secret: An Earthdawn Novel is now available on the Kindle from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

It's the third of my books to become available on the Kindle. My short story collection Transported and the NZ science fiction poetry anthology Voyagers, which I co-edited with Mark Pirie, are also available.

You can find out more about Anarya's Secret in this introduction to it [note: some of the links are now out of date] and read the first part of the Prologue, which gives the context, derived from the Earthdawn universe, in which the novel takes place.

Anarya's Secret is also available as a hardback, paperback, or e-book (via RPGNow or DriveThru).

Anarya's Secret was the first in RedBrick's line of Earthdawn novels, which includes both originals and reprints, and you can see the full line of novels (and other Earthdawn products) on their site.

21 December 2010

Tuesday Poem Secret Santa

As things turned out, I didn't wind up with a Secret Santa partner for the Tuesday Poem - but no matter! Check out all the pairs of poets and poems, plus the hub poem by James Brown chosen by Sarah Jane Barnett, on the Tuesday Poem blog.

It's been great to be part of the Tuesday Poem this year - so, big thanks to Mary McCallum for organising it. I'll be back into it next year, until I completely run out of poems...

15 December 2010

Things To Make And Do

In no particular order, and with varying degrees of seriousness:

Turbine 2010 is now online: an impressive selection!

Wu Ming on translating Stephen King - into Italian

Aimee L Salter's competition for bad poetry - the worse, the better! (Closes Christmas Eve)

The Government may be ignoring Parliament's report into the imminence and consequences of Peak Oil, but at least Dunedin City Council is paying attention to the issue.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment lays out why digging up and burning Southland lignite is a very bad idea.

South Pacific Book Chat (aka #spbkchat) has its own blog.

There is no Zuul. There is only Lovelace & Babbage.

For drawing my attention to various of these, thanks to @modernletters, @wwborders, @AimeeLSalter, @ttnz, the whole #spbkchat team, and @sydneypadua

14 December 2010

Tuesday Poem: Accountant


He went up the Murrumbidgee for the GST
helping drovers, helping contractors
learn to welcome change.

North of Wagga Wagga
there was a woman. Her brothers,
big men all, found out

and ran him out of town.
Lost for words, he drifted west by north
until the desert took him in.

Six months later, caked in dust,
he hitched a ride from Hawker Gate.
He downed a beer

to wash the silence from his throat.
"Mate!" he said, and "Thanks."
They dropped him off in Narromine

where drought drove farmers from the land.
He helped them straighten their affairs
then went to ground in Sydney

where he checks the weather daily,
watching the western horizon
for the tongues of fire and sand.

Tim says: "Accountant" was first published in Bravado Issue 7 (2006). Anyone who's read "Rat Up A Drainpipe" in my short story collection "Transported" will recognise the basic storyline - this is how I treated it as poetry.

When Goods and Services Tax, referred to as "GST" in New Zealand and "the GST" in Australia, was introduced in Australia in 2000, it was reported that a number of New Zealand accountants, already familiar with its operation, crossed the Tasman to help Australian companies come to terms with it.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog.

10 December 2010

How To Buy Books By Tim Jones: Transported, Voyagers, Anarya's Secret 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.

  • My short story collection Transported, which was longlisted for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, has recently become available for the Kindle.
  • Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, an anthology I co-edited with Mark Pirie, won the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work. You can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book, or buy it directly from the publisher at the Voyagers mini-site.
  • My fantasy novel Anarya's Secret is available in hardback, paperback or ebook format.

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

06 December 2010

Tuesday Poem: Immigrant Song, by Sugu Pillay

Immigrant Song

no, I will not hijack your life
though I climb every mountain
ford every river
cherish every taonga
this land holds sacred

no, I will not plant a bomb
on the banks of the Avon
though willows weep over waters
too shallow to drown

no, I will not bring Avian flu
to this fair far-flung land
though I flavour my food
with spices from Asia

no, I will not steal your thunder
though you rain on my parade
play political games
impale my tongue

no, I will not say
Canterbury, take my bones
no, not till I’ve seen
the fabled nor’west arch
streak across the sky
a new covenant
for this other Eden

Tim says: Sugu Pillay is a poet, playwright and short story writer. She's currently focusing on writing plays, and I enjoyed her play "Serendipity", which I saw at BATS last year.

"Immigrant Song" is one of three poems by Sugu that I included in JAAM 26, which I guest-edited. I too was an immigrant to Christchurch, although, as an immigrant with white skin (and, to be fair, a 2-year-old), my experience was somewhat different.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems at the Tuesday Poem blog.

02 December 2010

Writing Speculative Fiction Is Hard Work

My novel manuscript is with those who've kindly agreed to be its first readers. A potential publisher is taking a look at my poetry collection manuscript. So, for the first time in a long while, I have gone back to my first, and perhaps best, love: writing short stories.

It won't be news to anyone who has followed this blog that I like to have a couple of projects on the go at once, but I don't usually work on a couple of short stories at the same time. At the moment, though, I'm alternating between writing two stories. One's long(ish), one's short(ish). One's light-hearted, one's more severe. One's science fiction, one's literary/mainstream fiction.

And I'm here to tell you that the science fiction story is a lot harder to write than the mainstream story. This doesn't mean that the science fiction story is better, or worse, or more valid, that the mainstream story. Both might be good - or both might be dreadful. But it's certainly harder work to write.

Why? It's because so much more has to be packed into the SF story - which is, admittedly, the shorter one - to make it work. A story set in the world with which most of its readership is familiar doesn't have to spend a lot of time in scene-setting, in finding ways to make the world in which it is set clear to the reader without overburdening that self-same reader with exposition.

There are only so many words to go around in a short story, and the more that are spent cuing the reader in to what distinguishes the world of the story from the world they are familiar with, the less there are to delineate character and advance the action.

This won't be news to speculative fiction writers, of course, but it may be to writers and readers of literary fiction. One of the criticisms often advanced of SF is that it suffers from poor characterisation. To the extent to which that is true, it may simply be because only the very finest writers of SF - the Ursula Le Guins, the Gene Wolfes - can show the reader a new or changed world, keep the story moving, and create memorable characters at the same time.

29 November 2010

Tuesday Poem: Queens Of Silk, Kings Of Velour

Queens of Silk, Kings Of Velour

A 70s party: disco, afros, flares and Abba.
I'm dancing with the women,
talking with the men.

Three songs up, strutting my stuff,
the only male dancer, bathed
in unprecedented female attention.

Three songs down, back on the sofa,
our gang of four likely lads
trading facts about the history of punk.

On the floor, I'm surrounded
by silk, smiles, the sensational

On the sofa, we've moved on to Yes.
I sing the chorus of "Close to the Edge"
with a man I don't even know.

This is what it means to be a man: not
the All Blacks, not power tools,
not fighting foreign wars,

but the ability to name
all the members and ex-members
of obscure seventies bands.

"Dance To The Music," Sly says,
and so I must obey.
But not without a caveat:

"Is this actually from the seventies?"
asks a couch-bound friend.
"From 1968," I say. "Let's dance!"

Tim says: This poem has just been published in JAAM 28: Dance Dance Dance, the 2010 issue of JAAM Magazine, edited by Clare Needham and Helen Rickerby.

JAAM 28 has a lovely cover and, from what I've read so far, is an excellent issue. It's definitely worth asking JAAM for the next dance.

You can find all the Tuesday Poems online at the Tuesday Poem blog.

26 November 2010

The NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award For Literature: A Nice Surprise!

I got a nice surprise on Monday: an email from Tina Shaw, Programme Manager of the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA), to say that I'd been selected as the 2010 recipient of the biennial Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature, first awarded in 2008 to poet, novelist and anthologist Emma Neale.

(It's important to note that this NZSA award is not the same as another, longer-established set of awards, the Janet Frame Literary Trust Awards.)

The award is open to authors of literary or imaginative fiction, as well as poetry, who are members of the New Zealand Society of Authors. Fortunately, it seems, I tick all those boxes!

I'm delighted to receive this award, not just because the money will come in handy to help me complete the short story collection I'm currently working on, but also because it's an honour to win an award associated with the name of Janet Frame.

Here's how Beatties Book Blog reported the news
. Thanks, Graham, and thanks to the NZSA!

23 November 2010

Tuesday Poem: Inheritance, by Jennifer Compton



The country station was as good as deserted, the train was late.
The stationmaster was keeping to himself, as if he didn't exist.
Bored, beside myself, I kicked gravel, walked up and down.
It's always when I'm bored. As if it is not allowed.

My great-great-great grandfather stood up in my mind
as the sky came down and pinned me to the ground.

He was clothed in a book of about 20,000 words.
But sometimes a story won't become a book.
The book it could be roars through you, like a train
not stopping at a station, bucketing, as loud and brief
as a breath, pushing a turbulence before it, a great wind.


The hobgoblins of local drama, the gossips, cobble
a likely story together – just for the hell of it – for free.
- There was one, who was seen going on a ship,
never seen again. He sailed away, left his kin.
Left his white kin and his black kin.

His father before him left his land, was shipped in chains,
or pressed, or, an illiterate man in a uniform, fetched up
on the island that hangs like a teardrop below the map.
To father him. To father me. Perhaps he made a choice.
He chose to leave the known world, a religious, a madman.


And that man's son left. I'd like to think that a relative of mine
could see the way things were going, on the beach, scanning
the craft of summoning technology putting in and putting out.
- I'm out of here. I can pass for white in another country.
During the journey I will be reborn as someone else.

And he left his blackfella on the shore and boarded like a white man
with perhaps an Andalusian grandmother, or one of the dark Irish,
worked his passage suspecting there would be a place
that was not so (if he even knew the word) adamantine.

Or maybe destiny picked him up by the scruff of the neck
and put him on the ship. Scurvy had wrought havoc or
flogging had killed more than it cured. Or his curiosity
killed the cat as he checked out all this fabulous machinery,
the latest thing, a teenage boy keen to know the cutting edge,
and then he felt the new world lurch under his feet as it took off,
set sail and, perforce, took him too.


Was he silent in later life, morose at the kitchen table,
as his wife set the bread to prove above the range in a
valley black with punga and fern, dripping, with speaking
water and puffs of mist like smoke and the sound of the trap
in the road and the grown children and their children arriving?
Did he rouse himself to their language he had given them
or did he nod and rise and go out the back to smoke,
did he go to the bottled spirit secreted in the thatch?
To speak with his own. Was there one, a little girl?
White as a toheroa shell on a midden, who always sought him out
and sat next to him speaking and not speaking, with that immemorial
electricity, the pulse, and another, a boy perhaps, who sat far off
and stared and saw it but was afraid. As it gathered around them.

Tim says: I've been reading Jennifer Compton's recent collection Barefoot over the past few days. There are many fine poems in it, but "Inheritance" really stood out for me, so I decided to ask Jennifer whether I could use it as a Tuesday Poem. Then I discovered that Jennifer has just been announced as the winner of the Kathleen Grattan Award for 2010, so that made the request even more timely!

I hope you like this poem as much as I do.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog.

19 November 2010

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

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

  • My short story collection Transported, which was longlisted for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, has recently become available for the Kindle.
  • My fantasy novel Anarya's Secret is available in hardback, paperback or ebook format.
  • Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, an anthology I co-edited with Mark Pirie, won the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work. You can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book, or buy it directly from the publisher at the Voyagers mini-site.

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

18 November 2010

A Short List Of Greenlandic Placenames

Aasiaat (which means "Spiders")
Alluitsup Paa
Nuuk (the capital)
Qaanaaq (where the Inuit people removed by the builders of Thule Air Base were relocated)
Uummannaq ("Heart-Shaped", referring to the mountain behind the town)

A game of football in Uummannaq

From time to time, I develop obsessions with places - especially cold places. A couple of years ago, it was Svalbard. Now I've got Kalaallit Nunaat, aka Greenland, on the brain. It's a country I very much doubt I'll ever visit - it would be hard to find a justification for the greenhouse gas emissions entailed by doing so, especially given the effect that climate change is having on the country - but I have been poring over the Lonely Planet Guide to Greenland and the Arctic, and Gretel Ehrlich's fascinating memoir This Cold Heaven: Seven Seasons in Greenland.

The paradoxical effects of climate change on Greenland - the way in which it is simultaneously disrupting the Inuit hunting culture of the north and opening up farmland in the south; the way in which increased outflows from Greenland's vast central icecap are affecting land and sea alike; the Greenland administration's search for income from the very forces, such as oil exploration, that are helping to destabilise their environment - are both fascinating and disturbing. But that's a topic for another time: what I wanted to say here is that Greenlandic is a beautiful language that befits a beautiful country. Wouldn't you rather live in Aasiaat than Spiders?

15 November 2010

Tuesday Poem: Echolalia, by Saradha Koirala


This morning’s northerly
throws death out in my path
a tiny carcass blown from a rubbish bag
a broken bird
at the bottom of a plate glass window.

A paper bag twists itself into the gutter
a butterfly has its wings torn off.

An old man walks into a bar
moving like shaking out a rug
he smells of wood-smoke and rain.
like wet logs burning.

I think of houses I’ve visited
with apple cores browning under beds

a cat licking the ends of breakfast
off a bowl in the sink
and the use of words I wasn’t allowed
words I wouldn’t dare use
and words I’d never heard before.

(First published in Moments in the Whirlwind, New Zealand Poetry Society, 2009)

Tim says: I posted this poem for three reasons: first, I love the word "Echolalia"; second, I love the poem that follows it as much as the word; and third, Saradha Koirala is the guest poet at November's "Poetry at the Ballroom Cafe" session, which will run from 4-6pm at the Ballroom Cafe, cnr Riddiford St & Adelaide Rd, Newtown, on Sunday 21 November. The session will start with an open mike, followed by musicians Josie & Mary Campbell, followed by Saradha's guest slot.

I understand that Saradha will read a mix of poems from her debut collection Wit of the Staircase and uncollected poems. I'm really looking forward to it.

You can check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog.

12 November 2010

Welcome To My Blog

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

  • My short story collection Transported, which was longlisted for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, has recently become available for the Kindle.
  • My fantasy novel Anarya's Secret is available in hardback, paperback or ebook format.
  • Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, an anthology I co-edited with Mark Pirie, won the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work. You can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book, or buy it directly from the publisher at the Voyagers mini-site.

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

11 November 2010

An Interview With Douglas Van Belle

Douglas Van Belle is a pain in the ass/arse/backside/butt when it comes to getting something that might be called a bio. The biographical statements that have appeared with his fiction have described him as: Not Canadian; Genetically similar to a human; The winner of the 1973 Noble Prize in Quantum Astrology; Abducted and raised by a herd of hyper-intelligent buffalo and; That ‘special’ kid that was also sent to Earth shortly before Krypton exploded.

Asking him for something more believable doesn’t really help. He just uses that as an opportunity to deny any responsibility for ABBA, sweater vests, dogs that are smaller than cats, Baywatch, the ridiculous way the French spell things, Australia, El Nino, and Kevin Costner. He also insists that nothing happened in 1986, absolutely nothing, so quit asking.

Thanks to the Internet and the massive dossier that was eagerly provided by the CISE (the Canadian Intelligence Service Eh) - including this mugshot of Doug, taken from the CISE 10 least wanted list - when it comes to Doug’s fiction, it’s a little harder for him to deny, misdirect, and misinform. His 2004 novella, "A Small Blue Planet for the Pleasantly Insane", is one of two stories that have been selected for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine's Best-of volumes and it was one of the key publications in the portfolio that won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best New Talent in 2007. He’s been a finalist in one or more SJV categories every year since then.

This year he’s offering two novels. The first is a limited, collector’s edition of The Care and Feeding of Your Lunatic Mage, which you can only get with a new or renewed subscription to Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) and the second is Barking Death Squirrels, published by Wellington publisher Random Static.

Two novels coming out close together, two different publishers, two different countries. Brilliant marketing plan, pure chance, or somewhere in between?

Actually, there were supposed to be three novels out this year. Rabid Pixies of Doom was pencilled in for a January 2010 launch in the U.S. and the idea was to use that as a foundation for helping both ASIM and Random Static get some market traction for the other two. However, Pixies never actually went into the production stream. It was frustrating at the time, especially for a magazine and a small New Zealand press hoping to leverage off that book, but it turned out to be a blessing. I was able to use the delay to get Pixies back in my hands and it looks like the new deal will be far better, for both me and the publishers of those other novels, all of the way around.

I take part in a weekly Twitter book discussion called “South Pacific Book Chat”, under the hashtag #spbkchat.* I mentioned the title "Barking Death Squirrels" on #spbkchat – purely on the strength of that title, people immediately asked where they could buy the book! How did you come up with such a great title?

If you look at what I’ve published you can probably tell that I like playing with titles. I like to try to find something memorable, a little bit campy, a little bit twisty and a little bit ironic, but still a title that reflects the heart of the story. I think I hit that pretty well with this one. I explain the meaning of the title near the end of the first chapter, but its origin is one of those stories of quirky bits and pieces coming together.

I was on a dinosaur dig in North Dakota and I discovered that they call prairie dogs barking squirrels. Other than a chuckle, I didn’t think much of it at first, but as I sat in camp one night and watched the prairie dogs darting in and out of their underground warren of tunnels, that connected to the work I was doing on living underground as the solution to the radiation problem in space colonization and that immediately connected to the stories I was just starting to put together about humans as the rodents of the universe.

I played with variations on Barking Squirrels until I settled on an alien invasion story as the first story and twisting the alien insult of Barking Squirrels into Barking Death Squirrels seemed like the kind of thing a makeshift guerrilla army might do.

The cover artist turned the Death part of the title into a graphic element that I liked so much that I decided to make sure I could carry it forward through all four books, so the other three books are now titled Dances with Squirrels, Squirrels Barking Dread and Dawn of the Squirrels.

What was the genesis (the xenogenesis?) of Barking Death Squirrels?

Vegas Baby!


My brother and I managed to get our respective business trips to overlap with a layover in Vegas and we were just kind of hanging out and wandering through the big casinos when I realized that Vegas in August (40+ Degrees C) was just as inhospitable as space. The solutions that Vegas architects applied to that challenge would translate into space colonization. So I took a serious look at the way the interiors of the gigantic casinos were being designed and the illusions of space being created and the way shopping malls worked, and the way that places like Cuba Street in Wellington could be recreated in underground caverns. I put those details into a story about someone who was part of the team building those kinds of spaces and eventually ended up with the novel.

The Care And Feeding Of Your Lunatic Mage is being published by Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM), and will be available as a free giveaway to print subscribers to that magazine. How did that arrangement come about?

There was a discussion of what ASIM might do at the Aussie WorldCon and somewhere in there I offered to let them print a couple hundred copies of Lunatic Mage and give them away to new subscribers. I could justify it in terms of advertising and exposure and such, but I really just wanted to do what I could to help keep ASIM on solid financial footing.

I know that ASIM has been important in your career, and, looking at the fiction nominees for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards in recent years, it’s clear that it’s important for many other NZ speculative fiction authors as well. Why is ASIM so special?

I think it’s mostly because it’s a very democratic publication. Every story gets read by at least two slushers, so you get an automatic double check on the initial judgement. Stories that are recommended by at least one slusher get a reading by a third and fourth, and if one of them recommends it, it goes into a pool that issue editors select from. As a result, it’s very unlikely that a story will fall victim to the whims of any one person. Good stories consistently make it through and stories that aren’t ready not only get sent back to the author relatively quickly, the slushers usually take the time to offer at least a couple of comments on why it was rejected. All of that combines for a good experience for authors and a diverse collection of good stories for the readers. I think that is why it’s so prominent in both the Vogels and the Ditmars.

What got you started on writing fiction?

Never really started, I just always have.

I gather than you do your writing on the train to and from the Kapiti Coast. Have you thought of going for a position as writer-in-residence on the Wellington commuter rail system? What are the best and worst things about writing on public transport?

The key to writing on public transport is to create a microcosm of a normal working environment. The best way to do this is to announce, loudly and frequently, that you are an award-winning science fiction author. If you do this when you step onto the train and every time the train stops, people will respect your need for working space and they’ll leave all the seats around you empty. And the guy who works PR for Invisible Moses was kind enough to let me know that wearing rugby headgear is the accepted way to let everyone know that they need to let you concentrate on your work. It works really well. Train commuters are incredibly polite.

Eager readers of your novels might get a shock when they set out to order more of your work and discover that you are the lead author of, among others, Media, Bureaucracies, and Foreign Aid: A Comparative Analysis of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France and Japan. Do you find it easy to switch between the groves of academe and the wild woods of speculative fiction?

Uhm, no. In a purely functional sense, switching between the two types of writing is easy. You have to remember that the difference between them is more than just style. They are fundamentally different, but they are still just two different skill sets, two different things you learn to do. And to be honest, the academic stuff is really easy to write. Simple, formulaic, highly structured, step-by-step argumentation. Fiction is one hell of a lot more challenging. The difficulty is that the academic stuff is work, a lot of work. Fiction is a joy. Every year it gets harder and harder to put the fiction down and get some work done.

Are there particular writers whom you regard as being influences or inspirations?

If you look at my wall of books you’ll see a lot of old-school kinds of stuff, Heinlein, Asimov, Wells, Verne, Burroughs, Larry Niven, Piers Anthony, Greg Bear, Greg Benford, Ursula K. Leguin, and I’m a big fan of Vernor Vinge, but I read all kinds of stuff and I read a lot. I even have a rule about mixing in authors that I’ve never read before. Personally, I don’t think people take enough risks with fiction, either as readers or writers.

Unlike (as it transpired) the Cylons, do you have a plan – for your writing, if not for world domination? If so, are you prepared to share it with us?


As every manchild (ages 13 and up) knows, the key to world domination is to put all your armies on New Zealand, take Australia and use the bonus for owning a continent to build up a pile of armies big enough to go after either Africa or North America. The problem with that strategy is that building up your stack of armies in New Zealand is really, really tough. I’m pretty sure the New Zealand Air Force’s motto is “We never shoot at anyone” and they’re the aggressive branch of our military.

So I tricked the New Zealand government into training a massive army of possum commandos. They shoot at them, poison them, trap them, run them down with cars; it’s a brutal, Darwinian training regime, but slowly, generation after furry little generation, the survivors have been transformed into the ultimate marsupial fighting machine. The guys at Weta Workshop can’t understand why I want the little tiny tanks and guns to actually work, but as soon as they deliver I’ll ship all sixty million of the little buggers back to Australia and the West Island will be mine, all mine. Mwahaha.

Where to get hold of Doug's novels

Barking Death Squirrels: http://randomstatic.net/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=47

The Care And Feeding Of Your Lunatic Mage: http://www.andromedaspaceways.com/lunatic-mage-an-andromeda-spaceways-special-project/

*Tim adds: The South Pacific Book Chat book discussion takes place on Twitter each Thursday evening at 6pm Japanese time/8pm Eastern Australian time/10 pm New Zealand time. If you join Twitter, you can then join the chat by adding the hashtag #spbkchat to your tweets at that time, and searching for other tweets with the #spbkchat hashtag. You can also see recent #spbkchat tweets online.

08 November 2010

Tuesday Poem: Now My Love Is Not The Same, by Sergei Esenin, translated by Tim Jones

Now My Love Is Not The Same

(to Kliuev)

Now my love is not the same.
Ah, I know, you grieve, you
Grieve that pools of words
Have not spilled from the moon’s broom.

Mourning and rejoicing at the star
Which settles on your brows
You sang out your heart to the izba
But failed to build a home in your heart.

And what you hoped for every night
Has passed your roof by once again.
Dear friend, for whom then did you gild
Your springs with singing speech?

You will not sing about the sun
Nor glimpse, from your window, paradise
Just as the windmill, flapping its wing
Cannot fly up from the earth.

Tim says: Sergei Alexandrovitch Esenin (or Yesenin), 1895-1925, was a Russian poet of peasant origin who lived and worked in the period before, during, and after the Russian revolution. Well-known and much-loved as a poet in Russia, his work has received less attention than it deserves in English-speaking countries, where he may be best known as the ex-husband of Isadora Duncan.

In the final year of my BA in Russian, which I completed in 1995 at Victoria University, having started it several years before at Otago, I translated 15 of Esenin's poems into English, and wrote an essay about him, as my final-year project. The translations are still pretty rough about the edges, but I'm keen to get them out into the world: I did this a little bit last year in the Esenin Translation Project on LibraryThing, and from time to time, as I tidy them up, I will publish some of those translations here.

I'll say a little more about Esenin, his writing, and the poetry of the time as I do so.


The "Kliuev" of the dedication refers to Esenin's near-contemporary, poetic mentor, and (according to some biographers) lover Nikolai Kliuev (or Klyuev), one of the earliest peasant poets to gain some measure of acceptance in pre-revolutionary St Petersburg. The essay I wrote to accompany my translations notes:

Kliuev and Esenin began to perform together in public, dressing in idealised peasant style to flatter the expectations of their audience. Esenin took to accompanying himself on an accordion; although the tal’ianka and garmonika are important motifs in his poetry, his skill in playing them lagged behind his skill in writing about them.

An "izba" is a Russian peasant hut.

04 November 2010

Bougainville Library Project Book Fair This Weekend

There's a book fair being held this weekend in Wellington to raise funds for a library in Bougainville on behalf of the Bougainville Library Project.

The book fair runs from 10am-4pm on Sat 6 November and Sun 7 November at the Portrait Gallery, Shed 11 , Wellington Waterfront.

The Bougainville Library Project also has a Facebook page.

This book fair sounds like a win all the way round for book lovers and for Bougainville, so I hope that, if you're in Wellington, you'll be able to make it along.

03 November 2010

My Story "The New Neighbours" Is Included In The Apex Book Of World SF, Volume II

Earlier this year, I was delighted to hear from author and editor Lavie Tidhar that my story "The New Neighbours", first published in my short story collection Transported (2008), had been accepted for inclusion in The Apex Book Of World SF, Volume II, scheduled for publication in mid-2011.

At the time, the news wasn't public, and so I duly sat on it. But I sat on it too long - engrossed (embroiled?) in revisions to my current novel manuscript, I missed Lavie's September announcement of the Table of Contents for the anthology.

Apex Book of World SF, Volume II: Table of Contents

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz (Philippines)–Alternate Girl’s Expatriate Life
Ivor W. Hartmann (Zimbabwe)–Mr. Goop
Daliso Chaponda (Malawi)–Trees of Bone
Daniel Salvo (Peru)–The First Peruvian in Space
Gustavo Bondoni (Argentina)–Eyes in the Vastness of Forever
Chen Qiufan (China)–The Tomb
Joyce Chng (Singapore)–The Sound of Breaking Glass
Csilla Kleinheincz (Hungary)–A Single Year
Andrew Drilon (Philippines)–The Secret Origin of Spin-man
Anabel Enriquez Piñeiro (Cuba)–Borrowed Time (trans. Daniel W. Koon)
Lauren Beukes (South Africa)–Branded
Raúl Flores Iriarte (Cuba)–December 8
Will Elliott (Australia)–Hungry Man
Shweta Narayan (India)–Nira and I
Fábio Fernandes (Brazil)–Nothing Happened in 1999
Tade Thompson (Nigeria)–Shadow
Hannu Rajaniemi (Finland)–Shibuya no Love
Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexico)–Maquech
Sergey Gerasimov (Ukraine)–The Glory of the World
Tim Jones (New Zealand)–The New Neighbours
Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria/US)–From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7
Gail Har’even (Israel)–The Slows
Ekaterina Sedia (Russia/US)–Zombie Lenin
Samit Basu (India)–Electric Sonalika
Andrzej Sapkowski (Poland)–The Malady (trans. Wiesiek Powaga)
Jacques Barcia (Brazil)–A Life Made Possible Behind The Barricades

I'm delighted to be included in such a rich lineup of authors from around the world, from Argentina to Zimbabwe, with such fine authors as Ekaterina Sedia and Nnedi Okorafor, plus many others whose work I don't yet know and look forward to reading. Science fiction is so often thought of as being an Anglophone preserve, and in particular the preserve of American and British writers: good on Lavie, and Apex, for demonstrating through this anthology series, and through the World SF blog, that this is not the case.

In the meantime, I suggest you check out The Apex Book of World SF, the first volume in the series, which received this detailed review by Andy Sawyer in Strange Horizons.

02 November 2010

Tuesday Poem: Baxter Between the Wickets, by Michael O'Leary

Tim says: This week, I've chosen an anthologised poem that is also part of a novel. Confused? You won't be...

A Tingling Catch

"Baxter Between the Wickets" is one of several poems by Michael O'Leary in the excellent anthology A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009, edited by Mark Pirie, which was launched at the Long Room of the Basin Reserve, the test cricket ground in Wellington, on Sunday. I had the great pleasure of reading my poem Swing at the launch.

I was going to spend some time telling you how good A Tingling Catch is - starting with this cover painting of the Basin Reserve by Jocelyn Galsworthy, who, I think it's safe to say, is the world's leading cricket artist, and continuing with the selection of poems (mine, of course, modestly excluded!).

But now I don't have to say how good it is, because Graham Beattie has done so admirably on Beattie's Book Blog.

Out of It

So let's move on to the book from which this poem is extracted. Out of It (Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 1987) is presently out of print, but Michael is planning to reprint it in 2011 - and if you can't wait till then, the entire text of the novel is available online. I read Out of It recently, and enjoyed it very much.

The frame of this novel-with-poems is a cricket match at Eden Park between the "Out of It XI" and New Zealand. The two XIs are:


1) Dipak Patel Jimi Hendrix

2) Ken Rutherford Monk Lewis

3) John Wright (V.C.) Te Rauparaha (C)

4) Martin Crowe Oscar Wilde

5) Jeff Crowe Jim Morrison

6) Jeremy Coney (C) Alfred Jarry

7) Richard Hadlee Janice Joplin

8) Ian Smith Bob Marley (V.C.)

9) John Bracewell Herman Goering

10) Lance Cairns Lord Byron

11) Ewen Chatfield James Joyce


12) Martin Sneddon James K. Baxter

Baxter, then, is on the field as a runner for an injured Jim Morrison, and "Baxter Between the Wickets" represents his thoughts as he is called through for three runs by Te Rauparaha, the "Out of It XI" captain. Michael tells me that the "Colin" of the poem is Colin Durning, an old friend of both James K. Baxter and Michael O'Leary.

Baxter Between the Wickets

Morrison hit Chatfield down to deep cover and sent Hemi, grey-hair, grey-beard flying like sails, off for a run. The chief ran like the wind so that Baxter, who was obviously the least fit of the two, was stretched to the limit but made it home for three runs.

“Ha Ha! I bet that got the old cogs in the wheels turning, John. I thought the old guru of the New Jerusalem was struggling a bit there.”

“Yes Dennis, but he made it and his thinking must be matching his physical triumph at this moment."

Man! He has called me again
From that place inside me – the unworthy

Servant! He called me three times
When I, in my mortal dung heap mind

Would have settled for one
And all the lice in my beard jumped out

For fear of this terrible century’s (looming) speed
Who will torment me now, at night

Who will remind me of Him –
And sin! Which this mad old devil

Commits with every eyelid bat, every thought
Kei te Rangitira o te ngati porangi, ahau –

I stand at the end of the crease Colin
Knowing He only wants what He knows I can do

This poem, and the text which immediately precedes it, is taken with permission from Michael O'Leary's 1987 novel Out of It.

Finally, this poem also ties back to my post from early October responding to Scott Baxter's query about the influence of James K. Baxter on New Zealand poetry. Here, that influence is alive and well, if not incredibly happy at having been called through for more than a single!

You can check out all of the Tuesday Poems at the Tuesday Poem Blog.

30 October 2010

Welcome To My Blog

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

  • My short story collection Transported, which was longlisted for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, has recently become available for the Kindle.
  • My fantasy novel Anarya's Secret is available in hardback, paperback or ebook format.
  • Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, an anthology I co-edited with Mark Pirie, won the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work. You can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book, or buy it directly from the publisher at the Voyagers mini-site.
  • For a great sampler of NZ science fiction and fantasy, try A Foreign Country: New Zealand Speculative Fiction, which includes my story "The Last Good Place".

27 October 2010

An Interview With Kerry Popplewell

Kerry Popplewell has lived in Ngaio, Wellington, with her husband Bruce for many years in a house that looks over to the hills running south from Mount Kaukau; it gets all of the sun and most of the wind. They have two adult children and more grandchildren than they ever anticipated, though the only other permanent residents aat the moment are a large black Labrador called Louis and a Burmese cat called Bailey - both 'hand-me-ups' from one of their children. (Their home has always had cat(s) or dog(s) or some combination of both.)

Born near the end of 1940, Kerry spent the war years with her mother at her grandmother's home in Pahiatua. When her father returned from the Pacific theatre, the family moved to Napier where she grew up. She still feels a real connection with Hawke's Bay, especially with the Kaweka and Ruahine ranges where she and her husband have often tramped. Both her parents were teachers, her father Jim Reidy being the first principal of Colenso High School. She thinks teaching must be a form of hereditary insanity since, having gained an MA in English at VUW and studied at the University of Chicago, she returned to lecture in English for nearly ten years before resigning to care for her children; and, once they started school, she taught Mathematics as well as English at Onslow College for fifteen years.

In 1995 she took a year's leave without pay, travelled overseas for some months and decided to retire early. It was then she started to write poems: "I'd always meant to be a poet but it took me a while to realise that to be one you had to complete poems!" Several courses she took at the International Institute of Modern Letters helped her start to do so.

Leaving The Tableland was launched in May 2010. I think that was the best-attended book launch I've been to - there must have been over 100 people there. For those who were not present, what led you to choose that particular venue, and what made it such a success?

I thought that if I were to have a launch, I'd like it to be a party for friends as well - and, as many of those we know well are trampers, the choice of the Tararua Tramping Club hall seemed fitting. One of my friends suggested it, possibly in jest, and I thought 'Why not?' It felt good being in a familiar place, even if the absence of an oven meant we had to buy a small portable one for $8 on Trade Me to heat the pastries! Roger Steele, my publisher, said he'd never had a launch in a tramping club hall before but he got keen on the idea and insisted we heat cheerios in a billy over a primus.

Do your work on your poetry in your head as you walk, or are the two - writing poetry and tramping - quite separate activities?

Mostly separate, though I do remember composing a haiku climbing up a ridge above Gollan's Valley. Odd phrases, rhythms or ideas may come to me tramping but as for a poem, I need - literally - to have a pen in hand. But of course the places I tramp in and the experiences I have in the mountains provide material for my poems - as do all the other facets of my life, be it family, friends or faith.

If it isn't an indelicate question, when did you first think of putting a collection of your poetry together?

Hmm. The really indelicate question would be asking why it took me so long to do so! Right from around 1996 when I started not just to write but also to submit poems for publication I thought I'd get round to collecting them sometime.

Was the path from initial idea to published collection straightforward?

No, but mostly because of my advanced skills in procrastination. Then, in 2006, a friend suggested I apply for one of the Manuscript Assessment Awards the New Zealand Society of Authors offer each year. I was fortunate enough to be given one and even more fortunate in getting James Norcliffe as my assessor. After all the detailed advice he gave me, I felt I really had to get moving. Even so, it was probably a year after Roger Steele agreed to take on my book that the collection came out - I needed to do a good deal more work on it myself.

You taught for many years. Was teaching something that helped or hindered your poetry - or is that too simplistic a question?

In my case, I think 'hindered' as teaching, no matter the subject matter or level, will absorb every bit of time and creative energy you are prepared to give it. But then teaching was something I truly enjoyed, so I'm not consumed with regret for all those unwritten poems! Other poets are able to combine writing and teaching very successfully.

Did a particular person inspire you to start writing poetry?

I think the poets I read did that - but certainly Helen Hill, the teacher to whose memory my collection is dedicated, encouraged my own efforts. I must have been a trial to her in some ways, pestering her to read the whole of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" and "Lycidas" to our fourth form (Year 10) English class. Later I appreciated her reluctance! Helen Hill was also responsible for introducing me to tramping so she certainly had a big influence on my life.

Which poets do you feel have had the most influence on your own work?

Keats truly floored me when I was 14 - not only was I going to be a poet, I was sure I too would die at 25. A year or so later, it was Hopkins who had me giddy on words and rhythm. Then, in my MA year, Joan Stevens introduced us to Philip Larkin and if I had to single out one poet whose work has almost surely influenced mine, it would be him; but then, behind Larkin as it were, is Wordsworth whose attraction for me grew slowly but surely. On the other hand, the poet on whose work I intended to do my doctoral dissertation (something I never quite got round to!) was the Orkney poet, Edwin Muir. Of course there are all the other poets whom I have at one time or another 'discovered' - Edward Thomas, Dickinson, Auden, Herbert - not to mention New Zealand poets from Bethell to Bill Manhire. I'd find it hard to say though whether or not they've influenced my own work in a particular way.

Has having a book published changed how you feel about the role of poetry in your life?

Not really. Though I'd like to think I might become more disciplined in setting aside time to write and more diligent in sending work off for publication. I remember Elizabeth Smither at a workshop some years ago advising us to 'Send Something Somewhere' every month - I wish I did.

Now that Leaving The Tableland has been published, do you have another collection, or some other writing project, under way?

Well, I'm probably at least a third of the way towards having enough poems for a second collection - very few of the poems in Leaving the Tableland were written after 2005 and they've slowly been accumulating since then. Also, because I left it so long to get out a book, there were a number of other poems I'd like to have included but couldn't. I recall Roger Steele saying that a volume the size I'd had in mind was "a little immodest for a first collection". I'm sure he was right. (He was kind enough to suggest I could save some of them for next time!)

Book Availability

Kerry's collection Leaving the Tableland is published by Steele Roberts (2010) and available from the publisher or in selected bookshops for $19.99 (RRP).

A poem from Leaving the Tableland, Take me back to the Bay, was my Tuesday Poem this week.

25 October 2010

Tuesday Poem: Take me back to the Bay, by Kerry Popplewell

Take me back to the Bay


Take me back to the Bay,
back to the Sixties too —
when what was to come
was certain to be
as bright and wide as the sea.


Dust tastes concrete-white;
feet flinch on riverbed and beach.
Heat haze deletes the hills.

Mushrooms erupt in damp paddocks
alongside the distraction of blackberry,
the leaf shoals on shingle roads.

There's a nip in late afternoon air,
snow on Kaweka. In August
bare willows burn orange.

Pink and tentative, flowers
put out feelers on fruit trees,
querying their cue.

Tim says:

"Take me back to the Bay" is reproduced, with permission, from Kerry Popplewell's first poetry collection Leaving the Tableland, published by Steele Roberts (2010) and available from the publisher or in selected bookshops for $19.99 (RRP).

My next post this week will be an interview with Kerry Popplewell.

You can read other poems from this collection which have previously been selected as Tuesday Poems, Portrait: Pahiatua, 1942 on Helen Rickerby's blog, and Leaving the Tableland on the Tuesday Poem hub blog.

Check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem hub blog.

23 October 2010

Welcome To My Blog

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

  • My short story collection Transported, which was longlisted for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, has recently become available for the Kindle.
  • My fantasy novel Anarya's Secret is available in hardback, paperback or ebook format.
  • Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, an anthology I co-edited with Mark Pirie, won the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work. You can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book, or buy it directly from the publisher at the Voyagers mini-site.
  • For a great sampler of NZ science fiction and fantasy, try A Foreign Country: New Zealand Speculative Fiction, which includes my story "The Last Good Place".

You should also check out Helen Lowe's Australia/New Zealand F&SF Author Series, which she's organised to celebrate the release of her novel The Heir of Night.

21 October 2010

That Tingling Feeling

How To Order A Tingling Catch

I had hoped to do a full past about A Tingling Catch, the newly-published anthology of New Zealand cricket poems edited by Mark Pirie, but time has slipped away. I still hope to write that post next week, but in the meantime, I can let you know that A Tingling Catch is an excellent collection which libraries and cricket fans alike should make sure they have.

A Tingling Catch has its own blog, and Mark has now put up a post on How Do I Order A Tingling Catch? It's worth checking out.

Helen Lowe's Aus/NZ F&SF Author Series

To celebrate the Aus/NZ publication of her new novel The Heir of Night, Helen Lowe asked a number of Australian and New Zealand fantasy and science fiction authors (plus Julie Czerneda, a Canadian author with strong Aus/NZ connections) to contribute to a series of guest posts on her blog on why they love fantasy and/or SF.

The series as a whole makes fascinating reading. My own contribution, on J. G. Ballard, Kim Stanley Robinson and pitching a tent in the wide space between, was picked up and republished on the big US blog io9, which was a nice bonus for both Helen and myself.

19 October 2010

Tuesday Poem: N.E.V.


So few ways out of the narrow valley
so many footprints along North Road

Sliding down Blacks Road on the black ice
off to work through the hoarfrost of morning

Walking the dog at Chingford Park
parking the car at Bethune's Gully

There's a photo I still look at:
twenty years ago now, four of us under the pines

ready to climb Mt Cargill
on a still afternoon in summer

Twenty years on, and we're scattered
two of us walking the hilltops of Wales

me in Wellington, wondering
when it will truly feel like home

and the dog in the soil
of a house in North-East Valley

pushing up the daisies, and the frost,
and the life that flickers on the hillside's bones.

Tim says: This poem is from my first collection, Boat People. It was on my list to read at the Ballroom Café this past Sunday, but I trimmed the list by a few poems, and this was one that I omitted.

In any case, it may mean more to Dunedin people than to Wellingtonians. I lived in Dunedin for seventeen years, the last 12 of them spent at 20 Gillespie St, North East Valley - the "N.E.V." of the title.

I enjoyed the Ballroom Café reading a lot. I was my usual nervous, distracted self before the session started, and the awful weather didn't help, but lots of people came along despite the weather, there was an excellent Open Mike section, the musical interlude from the Gracious Deviants was very enjoyable, and by the time I came to read, I was relaxed and ready to go.

My son Gareth came along, and did an excellent job running the book sales table. And, since Lewis Scott couldn't be there, Neil Furby came down from Auckland to MC, which was definitely above and beyond.

Now I'm looking forward to November's session, when another Tuesday Poet, Saradha Koirala, will be the featured poet.

You can check out all the Tuesday Poems at the Tuesday Poem blog.

14 October 2010

Welcome To My Blog

Welcome! If you're visiting for the first time, here are some of my books, and how to get hold of them.

You should also check out Helen Lowe's Australia/New Zealand F&SF Author Series, which she's organised to celebrate the release of her novel The Heir of Night.

Getting Science Fiction And Fantasy Published In New Zealand. Part 2: Novels

This was going to be a post for NZ Speculative Fiction Blogging Week 2010, but Real Life intervened, and I don't have Sandeep Parikh's Bollywood-style fight moves (from 1:50) to drive it away.

So, where were we? In Part 1, I talked about the options for getting short speculative fiction published in New Zealand. In Part 2, it's time to take on the longer stuff: novels.

New Zealand publishers have a track record of publishing speculative fiction novels for children and young adults - indeed, some of our most popular and successful writers in the field, such as Margaret Mahy, write speculative fiction.

But, rightly or wrongly, most New Zealand publishers believe that New Zealanders will not buy adult speculative fiction novels written by New Zealanders. I heard this at first hand from Larain Day, then of HarperCollinsNZ, while taking part in a discussion on RadioNZ (which also featured Helen Lowe) about New Zealand SF and fantasy.

We ran out of time before I could ask the obvious question: if publishers don't publish NZ speculative fiction, how do they know New Zealanders won't buy it?

Part of the issue, I think, is that, because New Zealand publishers don't usually have speculative fiction specialists on their staff, they don't really know the range that modern science fiction, fantasy and horror encompasses. Ironically, this also means that works that I would classify as science fiction are sometimes published in New Zealand as general/literary fiction. This is especially true of near-future SF, social SF, and satirical SF.

On the other hand, your galaxy-spanning space opera or your continent-spanning fantasy would be doing very well to find a home with a mainstream New Zealand publisher; then again, those are the novels that you have the best chance of selling to an overseas publisher.

But all is not lost! The estimable Random Static Ltd, far from resting on their laurels after publishing NZ short speculative fiction collection A Foreign Country, are now about to publish sf novel Barking Death Squirrels, by Wellington author Douglas A. Van Belle. (What a great title - I wish I'd thought of it! Give it to Smeagol - I wants it! It's mine, I tells you, my precious!)

I hope Barking Death Squirrels sells lots of copies, both for the sake of publisher and author, and to show that yes, it can be done: SF written here and published here can be sold successfully here. I'm going to interview Doug Van Belle for this blog... just as soon as I get round to sending him the questions.

Incidentally, Random Static has also put out a call for novella submissions. Can they do no wrong?

On The Other Hand: A Defence Of New Zealand Publishers

I've been critical above about NZ publishers' reluctance to publish adult SF. But, when you look at the economics of the publishing business, a certain level of risk-aversion is understandable. It costs publishers a lot of money to publish a book: it has to be bought (i.e. the author has to be paid, which in NZ usually entails a modest advance plus a royalty of around 10% of retail); it has to be edited, and a good editor can make all the difference; it has to be designed; it has to be printed, which involves making a difficult guess about the size of the print run; and it has to be sent to reviewers so they can review it by the release date, and to bookshops so that the eye-catching displays of the book greet the eager buyer's eye at the time when publicity for the book is at its maximum. (I can tell you from experience that a good review won't do you much good if your book doesn't reach the bookshop until a fortnight after the review was published.)

Most books won't be hits. A few will, and they subsidise the rest. And, in my experience, distribution - the physical process of getting the printed books out of the warehouse and into the bookshops at the right time - is the part of the process that is most likely to break down.

The current model of publishing, distribution and sales has been around since the Great Depression. It still makes surprisingly little use of new technology. NZ publishers are beginning to take steps into print on demand technology and ebooks, but at least until these methods are more established, the big publishers have little option other than to be cautious about the books they choose to publish. There's a reason so many books are published here about All Blacks, kitchens, and gardens.

If you are interested in these issues from a publishing industry point of view, check out the Weekend Web Reading posts on Helen Heath's blog. Helen is a poet who works as a publicist for Victoria University Press, so she sees both sides of the story. She also has some very good advice on the use of social media.

12 October 2010

Tuesday Poem: Stones


Here, standing on the beach, is Dad.
Beach? It's Riverton, rocks and gravel
from the tarmac to the grey sea's edge.

Black and white. He holds an oblate stone
scoured out from the distant Alps
milled and rolled by frigid water.

He holds it poised for skimming. Out
it will arc, skip, skip, to fall
and sink for half a fathom.

I snapped him with my old Box Brownie. His eyes
look far beyond the frame I gave him.
Shadowed from the sun, impassive,
they are skipping over the years,
walking the waves to England.

Tim says:

"Stones" was published in my first poetry collection, Boat People (HeadworX, 2002).

It's one of the poems I'm planning to read at the Ballroom Cafe, Newtown, Wellington, on this coming Sunday, the 17th - the session runs from 4-6pm. I'm going to read a mixture of oldies and newies. If you're in the appropriate hemisphere, I hope you'll be able to make it along!

Check out all the details here, and check out all the Tuesday Poems at the Tuesday Poem blog.

07 October 2010

Guest Post: Book Publicist Helen Heath Answers Questions From Twitter's South Pacific Book Chat (#spbkchat)

Hello, for those of you that don't know me my name is Helen Heath. I'm a book blogger, Facebook user and Tweeter. I also work for a small New Zealand publishing house as a publicist.

I came late (i.e. the next morning) to the recent Twitter conversation about book bloggers promoting their blogs and working with booksellers and publishers but I thought I could provide you with some feedback. I pulled out some questions and statements from the thread to form a kind of interview between you, me and the South Pacific Book Chat participants.

Here's a question: do publishers put too much weight on newspaper/magazine reviews, and not enough on book bloggers' reviews?

I think that old school print media are good at providing publishers with statistics about readership, whereas we have no idea about what the readership of most blogs are. Some book bloggers are taken very seriously in New Zealand such as Bookman Beattie and Quote Unquote.

Having worked many years in bookshops I can tell you that there are a few traditional media reviews/interviews that really make sales for your average New Zealand book. Kim Hill, the New Zealand Listener, the weekend papers, North & South magazine and Metro magazine are the ones that immediately come to mind.

However we are watching the blogosphere carefully and are interested in working with bloggers, especially with “Long Tail” publications.

Would like to see publishers taking us more seriously. I buy most of my books on the recommendations of other bloggers.

I think you will find this will start to happen, it already is to a small extent. Part of the problem is bloggers need to unify and make it easier for publishers to find them and provide readership statistics for them. Often we just don't know who you are or how to find you.

More than that, I think perhaps we need an Asia-Pacific bloggers mailing list/directory (runs and hides too).

Totally! I know it's a big ask for someone to set one up but a professionally put together directory with links, specialist areas and readership statistics would do you all a lot of good and show a united front. Strength in numbers...

What counts as your blog's profile? Visits? Links? Followers? Link retweets? Comments? Is there one metric that sums it all up?

I think all of those things together along with the kudos you hold in your blogging community. There is no one tidy metric.

I imagine publishers (booksellers/consultants) find it hard to measure the ROI (Return On Investment) on social media use. Is that an issue for you?

Yes it is. We look at click through rates, website stats and the general level of interactivity. We do want to primarily be part of a community though and that is hard to measure, it's more of a feeling.

Twitter is definitely very good. I have met people on here when I wouldn't have found their blogs easily.

Yes, I agree. I've met a lot of book people and journalists through Twitter and it only seems to be growing. What I'd really like to do is meet more Tweeps who are purely readers.

I also find that linking blog posts here helps. Well, a little bit …

Yes, for sure. I check my RSS feeds less frequently these days as more people link to their updates. You don't want that to be your only tweets but some of the best reading I find on the web comes from tweeted and Re-Tweeted links now.

Following non-USA publishers and interacting with them on Twitter is definitely good.

Yes, please! It's hard for publishers to know you exist if you don't say hello. I know some are more responsive than others but smaller publishers seem to be more so.

I know there was an Aukland Writers and Readers festival last May -- is it yearly? Can bloggers hook up with that?

That's a good idea, the more you do things like that, especially as a group, the better. Just make sure you let the publishers know so they can be suitably impressed! :-)

An Asia-Pacific event, properly marketed, may also help publishers take bloggers in our region seriously.

Anything like that is great. Even a blog carnival is start.

So do you have authors local to you? Maybe start a feature on NZ authors.

That's another great idea. Also what about getting in touch with the New Zealand Book Council? They have a very well visited independent website promoting authors and a regular newsletter with a large readership.

Don't forget your local bookstores. If they have author event, attend and blog about it; send link to publisher.

More and more independent bookshops have their own websites, use social media and want to make contact with bloggers and tweeters. So yes, make contact and let everyone know what you've written. Maybe they might even want to host a tweet-up?

Well, thanks Tim for the opportunity to belatedly partake in the discussion. I hope these answers shed some light on the mystery of the publisher's brain! Feel free to ask me more questions or contradict me on Twitter. I always follow back booky tweeps and I don't bite :-)

Tim adds: The South Pacific Book Chat book discussion takes place on Twitter each Thursday evening at 6pm Japanese time/8pm Eastern Australian time/10 pm New Zealand time. If you join Twitter, you can then join the chat by adding the hashtag #spbkchat to your tweets at that time, and searching for other tweets with the #spbkchat hashtag. You can also see recent #spbkchat tweets online.

Helen Lowe's "The Heir of Night" is Launched in Aus/NZ Today

... and Helen is celebrating this auspicious day with a great range of giveaways! Head over to Helen's blog to find out more and enter - but make sure to do it today.

Another aspect of the celebration is Helen's Aus/NZ F&SF Author Guest Series. I'm honoured to be asked to take part in this lineup of guest bloggers!

05 October 2010

Tuesday Poetry Question: Does James K. Baxter Still Influence New Zealand Poets?

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email that I wasn't sure how to answer. It came from an American called Scott Baxter, and he asked:

"I came across your blog while looking for information on Ithaca Island Bay Leaves ... I am interested in New Zealand poetry and a big fan of James K Baxter; is he still widely read in NZ amongst younger poets?"

Scott went on to say:

"I first came across him as we shared the same last name and upon reading his poetry I became a huge fan. I like his use of classical/Christian and later Maori imagery. I wonder how he's read today; as a Catholic poet, an advocate for the Maori or something else entirely.

I see there is a symposium in November in Dunedin exploring the relationship between Robert Burns (another favorite poet of mine) and Baxter."

I think that Scott has asked some excellent questions there. Is James K. Baxter still widely read by New Zealand poets? If so, how is he read, and what if any influence do his poetry and his example still have?

What do you think? Has James K. Baxter influenced your poetry, or how you read poetry? Is he still an influence? How about other poets famous in the 1960s and 1970s?

03 October 2010

"Transported" Is Now Available For The Kindle

My short story collection Transported is now available as an ebook for the Kindle from Amazon US and from Amazon UK.

If you need more Kindle-y goodness, then you can also buy Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand for the Kindle from Amazon US.

Transported should also become available in other ebook formats soon: in particular, it should soon be available for Sony's Kobo reader, which is sold by Whitcoulls in New Zealand.

More about Transported

There are 27 stories in Transported, including stories which were selected for Best New Zealand Fiction and for the Penguin Book Of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories. Here's a couple of extracts from reviews of the book:

(1) From Isa Moynihan's review in New Zealand Books:

There are satire and surrealism; dystopias and parables; 19th century pastiches and contemporary vernacular – sometimes juxtaposed, as in "The Visit of M. Foucault to His Brother Wayne". And all spangled with literary references and other, sometimes arcane, allusions ….

Other targets for Jones's skewering wit are politics, corporations, advertising, xenophobia, pretentious lit crit and (my favourite) the invasion of the local arts scene by bureaucracy and commercial jargon. In "Said Sheree", poets are ranked in tiers "for funding purposes" and are reassessed and reclassified every autumn. Both "Win a Day with Mikhail Gorbachev" and "Best Practice" give us caricatures of the worst excesses of corporate values in the best traditions of brilliant cartoonists.

(2) From Rosemarie Smith's review in the Southland Times:

The originality, gentle humour and sheer variety in this collection makes it clear why former Southlander Tim Jones was long-listed for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award alongside established New Zealand writers Elizabeth Smither and Witi Ihimaera and Sue Orr.

The easy blending of genres and assured writing means stories like The New Neighbour[s], with its satirical take on an insular kiwi community's reaction to new immigrants, has appeal beyond its science fiction origins.

There is an amused and kindly glow to the telling, making the commentary all the more pointed.

In other news...

I was honoured that "Books In The Trees" was nominated for a Versatile Blogger Award by Helen Lowe - thank you, Helen! I'm not taking part in this myself, at least not right away, because of how excessively busy I am - but it is still very nice to be recognised in this way.

30 September 2010

I'm The Guest Poet At The Ballroom Cafe On Sunday 17 October

I'm very pleased to announce that I will be the guest poet at the Ballroom Cafe in Newtown in October.

The details are:

Date and time: Sunday 17 October 2010, 4pm–6pm

Venue: The Ballroom Café, Newtown
(corner of Riddiford Street & Adelaide Road - see map)

Contacts: Neil Furby, ballroompoetrycafe (at) gmail.com
L. E. Scott, (04) 801-7773 (daytime)

Running Order:

About The Performers

Gracious Deviants Pete Edge and Darrel Greaney are an acoustic duo. Their sound is heavy with harmony and steeped in the traditions of the NZ singer/songwriter.

Tim Jones is a Wellington poet and author of both literary fiction and science fiction. His work has been published in NZ, USA, UK, Australia, Canada and Vietnam. He has just completed the manuscript for his third poetry collection, Men Briefly Explained.

Tim says:

The Ballroom Cafe poetry readings in Newtown, Wellington on the third Sunday of each month have rapidly become a staple of the Wellington poetry scene. That has a lot to do with the excellent hospitality of the venue, and even more to do with the great job Lewis Scott and Neil Furby have done in organising the events and bringing in an excellent, multicultural mix of poets, performers and audience members.

I am really pleased to have been invited to be the guest poet at October's session. If you're in the neighbourhood, I hope you'll be able to come along, listen, and take part.

28 September 2010

Tuesday Poem: Swing


I'm left arm over
I'm the new red ball
I'm the prodding by the batsman
at the green and sweating pitch.

I'm two slips and a gully
I'm a short square leg
I'm the keeper standing back
and the umpire's call of "Play".

I'm the short strides then the long
the rock back and the gather
I'm the front foot thudding down
as the ball departs my hand.

I'm the seam proudly upright
I'm the late movement in
I'm the bat that is nowhere
as the ball hits the pad.

I'm the turn to the umpire
the scream of an appeal
I'm the slowly rising finger
and the batsman's long walk back.

I'm the hugs I barely feel
as I focus on the moment
when for one ball I decoded
the mysteries of swing.

Tim says: "Swing" is my contribution to the new anthology 'A Tingling Catch': A Century of NZ Cricket Poems 1864-2009, edited by Mark Pirie (HeadworX, 2010). I've read the anthology, and it's very good.

Technical note: Before the physics majors who haunt these poetry blogs start commenting on it: yes, I realise the ball won't swing if the seam is precisely upright, as claimed in Stanza 4, and that the seam should be slanted slightly to the right if the bowler wants to create inswing, and to the left if the bowler wants to create outswing, unless the ball is roughed up enough to reverse-swing, in which case those directions should be reversed. But that would have taken a lot of extra stanzas to explain. What am I, a coaching manual?

Check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog.

23 September 2010

A Short History Of The Twentieth Century, With Fries

By the time they got to the Finland Station, Lenin and his posse were famished.

“What’ll it be, boss, Burger King or McDonald’s?” asked Zinoviev.

Lenin rustled up the kopecks for a quarter-pounder and fries all round and they set to chowing down. By the time he finished, Lenin had had a better idea.

“I’m tired of this revolution business,” he said. “Let’s set up a chain of family restaurants instead.”

It took a while to convince the Mensheviks, left-SRs, and other petit-bourgeois elements. Nevertheless, Lenin’s will prevailed, and Party cadres fanned out across the land in a sophisticated franchising operation. By the end of 1917, Moscow and Petrograd were under complete control, and Siberia was falling into line. Lenin’s Bolshevik brand — “the burger for the worker” — was taking command.

The big international chains didn’t take this lying down. With an aggressive combination of discounting, free giveaways, and sheer intimidation, they muscled in on the Bolsheviks. For four years, the struggle went on. The starving inhabitants of Northern Russia woke up each morning not knowing whether the Golden Arches or the Hammer and Sickle would be standing atop their local fast food outlet.

It was a bad time all round, but at the end of it, the red flag with the yellow emblem reigned supreme across Russia. Crowds flocked to enjoy the cheery, efficient service and chomp their way through the basic Bolshevik burger or such additional menu choices as the Red Square (prime Polish beef in a square bun) and the Bronze Horseman (horse testicles on rye — an acquired taste). Fuelled by Bolshevik burgers, Russia was on the move. Tractor production went up twenty per cent. Electricity output doubled in five years.

After Lenin choked to death on a fishburger on 1924, new CEO Joseph Stalin launched a full-scale campaign of collectivisation and industrialisation. Horse testicles were out, borscht was in. These changes were far from universally popular, but, as the slogan went, “You can’t say no to Uncle Joe”. From Murmansk to Magadan, it was Joe’s way or the highway.

The years 1939 to1945 were bad ones for the Bolshevik brand. An ill-advised attempt at a strategic alliance with Schickelgruber’s, an aggressive new German franchise, ended in disaster. The names Leningrad and Stalingrad will forever be remembered from that period as examples of poor service and unusual burger ingredients. But Schickelgruber’s was finally seen off and the Bolshevik brand entered a new phase of expansion. It was time, said Uncle Joe, to export Lenin’s legacy to the world.

This wasn’t an unqualified success. What goes down well in Kharkov can cause indigestion in Kabul. The expansion policy did net Bolshevik the important Chinese market, but even there, Russian attempts to include cabbage in Chinese burgers were soon met by Chinese demands that all Bolshevik meals include a side-order of rice. Before long, there were two competing Bolshevik brands, and then three once the Albanians got in on the act.

It was the beginning of the end. Weakened by the massive costs of enforcing brand compliance in territories as diverse as Kazakhstan and Cuba, the Bolshevik empire collapsed in debts and squabbling. It was all over for one of the major franchises of the 20th Century.

For a nostalgic reminder of those days, take a trip to the Finland Station, where you can still see a statue of Lenin addressing the workers, burger in one hand, fries in the other.

Tim says: "A Short History Of The Twentieth Century, With Fries" was first published in Flashquake (2004), and is included in my short story collection Transported.

Transported cover

You can buy Transported online from Fishpond or New Zealand Books Abroad. You can also read review excerpts and find out more about Transported