This is a post for New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week.
I think New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week is an excellent idea, but that hasn’t meant it has been easy to decide what to post for it. I started the week with a post advertising Fantastic Voyages, this Thursday evening’s speculative fiction event in Wellington, and I thought I might dip into nostalgia for my next post, and talk about the first time I had a speculative fiction story published.
The year was 1986 (and you can imagine for yourself a portentous voiceover in which I say things like “As the Voyager 2 space probe made its first contact with Uranus [I’m not making this up, folks], the Soviet liner Mikhail Lermontov sinks in New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds”). By then, I was what might be called a “technical virgin” as an author of fiction: I had had several poems published, but no fiction, though I had written a few science fiction stories, and made a few unsuccessful submissions to overseas magazines.
Somehow – I no longer remember how – I discovered a call for submissions for an anthology of New Zealand science fiction and fantasy stories for high school students, edited by Bernard Gadd, to be called I Have Seen The Future. I had a story that fitted the word limit, called “Statesman”. I submitted it, it was accepted, and I became a published author of speculative fiction.
I was pleased to be published. I was pleased to be paid – from memory, $50. But my overall emotion, I recall, was relief. At last I could call myself a published author! It was a short but intense moment of excitement, over almost before it had started, but at least I no longer had that particular hurdle to overcome.
So the publication of “Statesman” went down as my first fiction credit, and, slowly at first, more credits accrued. “Statesman” didn’t fit the theme of my first short story collection, Extreme Weather Events, but, retitled “Going to the People”, it was included in my 2008 collection Transported.
Yet I hadn’t actually looked at I Have Seen The Future for years, and I had no memory of who else had stories in it until I opened the book when writing this post, and got some surprises.
The following authors have stories in I Have Seen the Future:
Michael Morrissey, Apirana Taylor, Owen Marshall, Bernard Gadd, Bill Manhire, Elizabeth Meares, J Edward Brown, Sally Whitlock, Dianne Armstrong, Tim Jones, Margaret Beames, Craig Harrison, James Norcliffe, Russell Haley, Albert Wendt.
At the time the book was published, the only names from this list that meant anything to me were Albert Wendt and Craig Harrison. But, looking back, I’m pleased to see that my first story was published alongside work by such a collection of New Zealand literary luminaries.
What’s striking is that many of these authors are best known as poets. Perhaps it was these writers that Bernard Gadd, a poet himself, knew best. But it does illustrate the point I make from time to time that there has never been such a hard and fast dividing line between speculative writers and literary writers in New Zealand as one might think. These days, science fiction stories are being published in The Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories. It’s great to have speculative fiction work published outside New Zealand, or in New Zealand’s growing roster of speculative fiction outlets, but it’s not the only route to publication.