The Magical Mystery Tour (is coming to take you away)

The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away – away, that is, to Helen Lowe’s blog, where she talks with me about whether men buy poetry, the identity of those mysterious men who write poetry, and what relationship there is between poetry and speculative fiction. It all finishes up with Buffy, of course:

A Magical Mystery Tour Through “Men Briefly Explained” — & A Few Side Topics — With Author Tim Jones, an interview with Helen Lowe.

Previous Interviews

7 December 2011: Auckland poet, graphic poet, short story writer and novelist Rachel Fenton asks me to dance: Tim to dance: Rachel Fenton interviews Tim Jones.

6 December 2011: Wellington poet Harvey Molloy talks with me about men, mid-life crises, art and politics: An Interview with Tim Jones.

1 December 2011: Dunedin poet Kay McKenzie Cooke talks with me about Southland, prose poems, and the fabled Gore High School jersey: New Zealand Writer Tim Jones Explains.

27 November 2011: Canberra poet PS Cottier talk with me about hard work, whether the male sex has a future, and Swannis: Of Poems and Men: Interview with Tim Jones.

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.

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!

Tuesday Poem: Homing, by Helen Lowe


He hears it, in every slap
of wave against wood,
as the ship cleaves water
like a seabird, hears the word
that he has hungered for
through the lost years,
whispered to him now
by the sea as it bears him up,
speeds him on like a lover
to the consummation
of his long-held dream
of home: home, lilts the sea,
soft as a lullaby, and home,
sings the wind, slipping
through rigging, soothing
him to rest, not to wake
even as a clear dawn
pares away night, reveals
rocky shores and a green crag
rising, not even to stir
when they lift him
over the bulwark and down,
splashing through shallows
to leave him on shadowed sand,
tender as a child smiling
in his sleep, and dreaming,
dreaming still
of the long returning.

Published in JAAM 26 2008 (Aug/Sept). Reproduced by permission of the author.

Tim says:

Helen Lowe, who has recently joined the Tuesday Poets, wrote “Homing” as part of her “Ithaca Conversations” series, and I chose it – along with another poem and a story by Helen – for inclusion in JAAM 26, which I guest-edited. I was very impressed by the poems and the short fiction she submitted for that issue, and even more impressed when I found out about her most accomplished novels.

A couple of weeks ago, I published Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” as my Tuesday Poem for the week. “Homing” is a fitting modern companion to that great Victorian poem.

Helen has now posted a companion post to “Homing” on her blog – well worth reading!

Submission Opportunities Roundup

Here are three bits of news of interest to writers and publishers – two about poetry, and the third for science fiction writers – plus a couple of other interesting items. Thanks for two of these items go to Helen Lowe and her weekly email Poetry News – if you’d like to subscribe to this, please contact snowscape (at)

International Literary Quarterly

The International Literary Quarterly is still seeking work for its forthcoming New Zealand feature. Stories and poems should be sent to the editor, Peter Robertson, probertsonarg (at), in the form of Word or RTF files – or contact him for full details. The official link for information is

There is more information about the International Literary Quarterly in this interview between Bookman Beattie and Peter Robertson.

A Call To Small Press Publishers Of Poetry In New Zealand

David Howard (Black Doris Press) and Roger Hickin (Cold Hub Press) are partnering with the American publisher Zephyr Press to present a table of New Zealand poetry at the 2011 Annual Conference and Bookfair of the US Association of Writers and Writing Programs. British poet and publisher Peter Riley once observed:

‘When it comes to poetry the [small press] category becomes illusory. The so-called big publishers produce poetry books in very small editions, sometimes below 1,000…. The notion that some achievement in terms of public recognition is made when a poet is taken on by one of these bigger presses is sadly mistaken: they are run on personal taste and zone-preference like the rest. For the most part the only really commercial poetry publishing… concerns poets laureate, Nobel prize winners, and some popular entertainers.’ [Small Press Poetry Catalogue 1, 1996]

What Riley said of Britain applies (minus the Nobel prize winners) to New Zealand. Still the university presses who creditably publish poetry here do have more marketing resources than their independent counterparts. So, with all due respect, this call is not for university presses; rather it is for publishers in the margins whose commitment to poetry deserves wider exposure.

David and Roger invite approaches from small press publishers of poetry who would like their titles to be represented at the AWP Conference in Washington DC, February 2-5 2011 (for details, see

Here is an attractive way to display your broadsheets, chapbooks, and full-length collections prominently alongside offerings from the likes of Copper Canyon Press and W.W. Norton & Company. Representatives from The New York Times and Granta will be at AWP 2011. So will agents, editors, and distributors. Small New Zealand publishers such as Gumtree Press and Seraph Press are already involved. If you would like your publications to be showcased then email David Howard: davidhoward (at)

Semaphore Magazine Call for Submissions

Semaphore publishes short stories of up to 7000 words, primarily in the speculative fiction genres (that is, stories which contain elements of fantasy or science fiction), for which we pay authors a nominative sum of $10.00. We also publish poetry, of up to sixty lines, in all genres. All writing published in the regular issues is considered for additional placement in the annual Semaphore Anthology, which collects the best work from the previous four issues. Last year’s anthology has been nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work, alongside Margaret Mahy’s The Word Witch and the poetry collection Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, which features work by David Eggleton and Fleur Adcock, among others. Semaphore Magazine itself has been nominated for the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Production / Publication.

Our next issue is due out in June, and we are currently seeking submissions for the September and December issues.

A more detailed submissions guide can be found on the Semaphore website, where you can also read our current and past issues.

And now, for our listening and viewing pleasure…

Helen Lowe Interviews Jennifer Fallon

Australian science fiction writer Jennifer Fallon has recently moved to live in Canterbury, and Helen Lowe interviewed her for Plains FM

The first link will take you to the website and give you the option to listen online or download the file in MP3 format. The second should take your directly to the the mp3 version, which will then commence playing.

New Tales Of The Cthulhu Mythos

The Adventures of Lil’ Cthulhu introduces H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos to children in a cute, fun, horrific way:

And finally, just remember this: if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a thumb.

Speculative Fiction Update: Helen Lowe’s Writing Workshop and New Zealand Spec Fic Markets

It isn’t New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week any more, but that doesn’t mean that speculative fiction in New Zealand has crawled under a rock. Helen Lowe is holding a speculative fiction writing workshop in Christchurch next week as part of New Zealand Book Month, and the second issue of the SpecFicNZ newsletter has come out, showcasing the increasing range of publishing possibilities in New Zealand for speculative fiction.

Helen Lowe’s Writing Workshop

When Helen Lowe talks about speculative fiction, it’s worth paying attention. Helen’s debut novel, children’s/YA fantasy Thornspell, was published in the US and has done very well indeed among both readers and critics — and she has five more novels (a further stand-alone and a four-volume adult fantasy series) on the way for her US publishers. So this workshop is an excellent opportunity to learn from someone who really knows what she’s talking about.

(That’s me talking. Now, here’s the information Helen supplied:)

Date: Saturday 17 October
Time: 10am – 12pm
Venue: Christchurch Central Library
Fee: Free
Bookings: Essential – phone 941 7923

Award-winning author Helen Lowe runs a workshop on writing fantastic fiction, focusing on Fantasy and Sci-Fi. The session includes discussions and exercises on the essential elements of ‘fantastic world building’, structure and keeping it real. Bring pen and paper.

October SpecFicNZ Newsletter Has News On Markets And Events

A while back, Ripley Patton had a guest post in this blog announcing plans to form an organisation for New Zealand writers of speculative fiction. This organisation, SpecFicNZ, is likely to be formally launched in 2010. The core group is hard at work, and Ripley has already started putting out SpecFicNZ newsletters – you can ask to be put on the mailing list by emailing give_a_rip (at)

The latest SpecFicNZ newsletter has lots of interesting news. I’m not going to reveal it all here, but as a little taster, here are two New Zealand speculative fiction magazines looking for submissions:

Semaphore Magazine, edited by Marie Hodgkinson, is a New Zealand-based, quality e-zine seeking short fiction (including Spec Fic). For submission guidelines go to

Subspacetv is a new kiwi-oriented cyberpunk and science fiction e-zine seeking submissions for its first upcoming issue. See

Fantastic Voyages: Credits, Thanks and Podcast

Fantastic Voyages: Writing Speculative Fiction went very well last night, in this reporter’s opinion – and also in the opinion of my fellow panelists. Under the expert chairpersonship of Lynn Freeman, Helen Lowe and I each read from our work, and fielded questions from Lynn and from an audience which included many writers and readers of speculative fiction. Some people told me afterwards they felt inspired by the event, which makes me very happy!

Anna Caro, initiator of New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week, very kindly recorded the event after our original recordist wasn’t able to attend. You can find the podcast, and a brief report of the event, on Anna’s blog.

I’d like to thank everyone for their support and help: Random House New Zealand; Unity Books and in particular Anna and Cameron; Toi Poneke/Wellington Arts Centre and in particular Will; chairperson (and spec fic enthusiast) Lynn Freeman; my fellow panelist Helen; all those who came along on the night and the many others who couldn’t be there but sent their best wishes. Thank you!

UPDATE: Jenni Talula has written a report of Fantastic Voyages on her blog that made me feel very happy. And Sally McLennan has added a lovely report, with photos.

Fantastic Voyages, This Thursday Evening

Here is the press release for Fantastic Voyages: Writing Speculative Fiction, which is happening in Wellington this Thursday evening. If you’re interested in reading, writing or publishing science fiction or fantasy, this is the place to be!

Fantastic Voyages:
Two Breakthrough NZ Writers
Talk About Their Love of SciFi-Fantasy:

An Evening with Tim Jones & Helen Lowe, chaired by Lynn Freeman
7.30-9pm, Thursday 17 September

Double Sir Julius Vogel Award winning author, Helen Lowe, and author, anthologist and editor, Tim Jones, are getting together on Thursday 17 September in an evening event chaired by Radio New Zealand’s Lynn Freeman, to talk about their love of writing science fiction and fantasy, the challenges and rewards of being a speculative fiction writer, and how they’ve gone about getting published, both in NZ and overseas.

Tim Jones is a Wellington based writer, editor and literary blogger whose short story collection Transported (Vintage, 2008) ties together speculative fiction, which encompasses science fiction, fantasy and horror, and literary fiction in one collection. Transported was longlisted for the 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and a science fiction story from the collection, “The New Neighbours”, is included in the recently released Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories.

Helen Lowe’s first novel, Thornspell, is published by Knopf (Random House Children’s Books) in the United States and is a Storylines Notable Book 2008 as well as winning the Sir Julius Vogel Award 2009 for Best Novel: Young Adult. Lowe also won the Sir Julius Vogel award for Best New Talent and has the first book in an epic Fantasy quartet, The Wall of Night, coming out with Eos (HarperCollins USA) in September 2010.

In the past, speculative fiction has tended to fly beneath the radar on the NZ writing scene. “But that’s changing fast,” says Jones. “The barriers that have divided speculative fiction from literary fiction are coming down and there is now a thriving New Zealand speculative fiction scene, with many writers of SF, Fantasy and Horror for adults now coming through to join the growing numbers writing speculative fiction for children and young adults.”

Lowe agrees. “And I’m finding that there’s a hunger out there, especially amongst younger readers and writers who love the genre, to find out how to go about writing SciFi-Fantasy successfully and get it published. So Tim and I thought, why not get together and talk about why we love writing speculative fiction and how we’ve gone about things, as well as sharing some of our own work.”

The event, which is supported by Random House New Zealand & Unity Books, is being held on Thursday September 17 at 7.30 pm in the Upper Chamber, Wellington Arts Centre/Toi Poneke, 61 Abel Smith Street in central Wellington. Admission is free.

For further information, contact senjmito (at)

All welcome!

Anomalous Appetites, Speculative Blogs, and a Very Good Cause

Anomalous Appetites

Shortly after the release of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand was announced, New Zealand poet and editor John Irvine got in touch to say that he had recently published an illustrated anthology of science fiction poetry, Anomalous Appetites. You can find out all about it on John’s website.

I’ve now read Anomalous Appetites, and I found it a mixed bag (like any anthology), with some parts very much to my taste and others less so. I’m impressed by the range of poets included, with contributors from the US, the UK and the Philippines as well as New Zealand. The most immediately impressive thing about the anthology is the design: this collection is lavishly illustrated, and I especially liked those sections, such as the haiku by Greg Schwartz, in which the poems are fully integrated with the illustrations.

In addition, I particularly enjoyed the poetry of Maureen Irvine, John Irvine, Ken Head’s “Imagining the Pandemia”, Kristine Ong Muslim, and Charles Christian. Although the brief of the anthology is speculative poetry, most of it is horror poetry: there’s plenty of vampirism and cannibalism doing the rounds. It was often the pieces that had at least a science fiction element, rather than being pure horror, that appealed to me most.

In any case, I think it’s a really good sign to see not one but two speculative poetry anthologies being produced in New Zealand, and I wish John and his collaborators all the best with future ventures.

New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week: 14-20 September

In an effort to raise the profile of speculative fiction writers in New Zealand, the week of 14-20 September has been declared New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week. By happy coincidence, Helen Lowe and I are holding our writing event in Wellington, Fantastic Voyages: Writing Speculative Fiction, during that week – see the poster below. So I expect I will blog about this – but that will leave room for one other NZ speculative fiction post during the week. Any suggestions of what you’d like me to cover?

Poets for Princess Ashika: Love, Loss and the Sea

This is a fundraiser for the victims and relatives of the Princess Ashika Ferry Disaster in Tonga. I won’t be able to attend, unfortunately, but if you’re in the area, I recommend both the lineup of poets and the cause.

Featuring Glenn Colquhoun, Karlo Mila, Apirana Taylor, David Geary and the Paekakariki School Kapa Haka group.

Saturday 5 September, 2pm
UPDATE: The venue has been moved to the larger capacity Paekakariki Memorial Hall, The Parade (next to Campbell Park on the seafront).

Afternoon tea

Koha entry, and raffle
Contact: Helen Keivom 04 905 7178 or helen.keivom (at)

Fantastic Voyages: Writing Speculative Fiction: Wellington, Thursday 17 September

Many thanks to Fitz for the poster

That’s right! Helen Lowe and I are going to be getting together on the 17th of September, under the guidance and chairpersonship of Radio New Zealand’s Arts on Sunday presenter Lynn Freeman, to discuss writing science fiction and fantasy in New Zealand — and getting it published too. Unity Books will be there to help sell books, and I hope that, if you’re able to make it, you’ll be there too.

If you’re keen on reading and/or writing science fiction and fantasy yourself, this is your chance to discuss that topic with two writers who have been there and are doing that; and if sf&f are not genres you’ve previously paid much attention to, come along anyway and hear from two writers whose work spans genres.

I hope to see you there!

Helen Lowe
Helen Lowe’s first novel, Thornspell is published by Knopf (Random House Children’s Books) in the United States. Thornspell won the Sir Julius Vogel Award 2009 for Best Book: Young Adult while Helen herself won the award for Best New Talent. Thornspell was also a Storylines New Zealand Children’s Literature Trust Notable Book 2009. Helen also has the first book in an epic Fantasy quartet, The Wall of Night, coming out with Eos (HarperCollins USA) in September 2010. She has had speculative short fiction published in NZ, the USA and Australia and is represented by Robin Rue of Writers House Literary Agency in New York.

Tim Jones
Tim Jones is a writer, editor and literary blogger whose recent books include short story collection Transported (Vintage, 2008), which mixes science fiction and fantasy with literary fiction and was longlisted for the 2008 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award; poetry anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, co-edited with Mark Pirie (Interactive Publications, 2009); and fantasy novel Anarya’s Secret (RedBrick, 2007). Tim has had science fiction and fantasy stories published in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and Vietnam as well as in New Zealand. His science fiction story “The New Neighbours”, from Transported, has been included in the forthcoming Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories, edited by Paula Morris.

Lynn Freeman
An award-winning arts journalist, Lynn Freeman hosts Radio New Zealand’s Arts on Sunday programme (12 noon to 4 pm), which focuses on theatre, film, comedy, books, dance, entertainment and music. Lynn is an experienced and knowledgeable interviewer who is in demand to chair events for arts and literature festivals around the country.