My poem “Form Factor” has been nominated for a Rhysling Award

My poem “Form Factor”, first published in the Cat People issue of the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s online journal Eye to the Telescope, has been nominated for the 2021 Rhysling Awards for science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry alongside many other fine poems.

Cat lying on a concrete deck in the shadow of a fruit salad plant

Form Factor

I downloaded myself into this shape
to be free. Now it consumes me.
So strange to dream of skin

and wake in fur. Curled, unfurling.
Once I knew things, useful things.
How to press those little keys,

how to open cans. I mourn
my thumbs: blunt instruments
that fed and housed me once.

Necessity reduces me. I hunt,
must hunt, my body weight
diminishing. Mouse, bird. Focus,

sharpen, ignore his murmurings.
He comes to me in dreams, begging
to be poured into his fur-free form –

but nothing he says can make me care.
Through sunlit hours I sleep, save energy,
twitch distracting thoughts away. At sunset

my hackles, rising, remember him.
You could have chosen any form,
you fool, yet you chose mine.

The brief for the Cat People issue was poems about people becoming cats / people who are also cats. It produced some really good poems, and I was delighted the editor included my poem in this issue.

Science Fiction Author Haiku

Although I’m the co-editor of a science fiction poetry anthology, I have a great deal to learn about the many intersections of poetry and science fiction.

Scott Green, a past president of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, sent me a review copy of his ebook anthology Private Worlds: A Revised Atlas, which contains short poems – mainly haiku – about science fiction, fantasy and horror writers and performers. Some of these poems appealed to me more than others, and Scott has kindly allowed me to share a few of my favourites with you.

Le Guin’s World

Universe is a forest,
each path full of danger where treasure is sought,
each path full of treasure where danger is sought.

(This makes me think of Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest, one of the works often cited as an influence of James Cameron’s Avatar.)

Lovecraft’s World

A cold wind moves
between suns

Leviathans playing obscure
using humanity
in hidden moves.

Sladek’s World

Eyes followed him
across the room
on tiny, padded feet.

I like the way in which these poems catch the essence of each author: Ursula Le Guin, H.P. Lovecraft and the sadly under-appreciated John Sladek. If you know your science fiction authors, then I think you’ll get quite a bit out of Private Worlds.

The eBook, which is also available in mobipocket format for handheld devices, is available exclusively at Abbott ePublishing online (, which is a publisher located in Scott’s hometown of Manchester, New Hampshire. It sells for US$2.49.

A Wonder-Filled, Fun Journey Through Time And Space

Linda Addison’s review of Voyagers has appeared in Issue 109 of Space and Time Magazine. It’s short, but so sweet that I’m quoting it here in its entirety:

Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, edited by Mark Pirie and Tim Jones (Interactive Press, The Literature Series) contains 152 pages of poetry by various authors; a wonder-filled, fun journey through time and space. From ‘the poetry of the future’ by Anna Rugis; to ‘lumbering space cruisers’ from Bill Sewell; and ‘Dreams of Alien Love’ from Dana Bryce. There are too many to quote here, buy the book and off you’ll go.

Thank you, Linda! If you haven’t yet embarked on this exciting journey, there are lots of ways you can do so:

  • Directly from me (within NZ). I now have a limited number of copies for sale for $28 plus $2 p&p. If you’d like one, please email with your address and preferred payment method.
  • From an increasing range of bookshops. Unity Books (Wellington and Auckland), Bruce MacKenzie Books in Palmerston North, Madras Cafe Books in Christchurch, and the University Book Shop in Dunedin all have copies, or can take your order if stock has run out.
  • From the publisher.
  • From (in paperback and Kindle e-book formats).
  • From Fishpond.
  • From New Zealand Books Abroad.
  • From Small Press Distribution in the USA.

Voyagers Book Tour: Who Is Reading Where?

Here is the lineup of venues and readers for the Voyagers Book Tour of New Zealand. Like any lineup of readers, this one is subject to change – but I am very much encouraged by the enthusiasm Voyagers poets around the country have shown to take part in the tour.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to organise a Hamilton event on the tour.

It’s a real fillip for the tour that Voyagers has received a very good review in the latest issue of the New Zealand Listener (October 10-16, pp. 40-41). I’ll get some quotes from the review up here as soon as I can.

Voyagers Tour Events: Venues and Readers

Dunedin Public Library, First Floor, 14 Oct, 5:30 pm
. Join Sue Wootton, James Dignan, Tim Jones, David Karena-Holmes and IP Director Dr David Reiter to kick off the national tour of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand – plus open mike for science fiction poetry.

Dunedin, Circadian Rhythm Café, 72 St Andrew St, 15 Oct, 7 pm. Our event here will feature Sue Wootton, Jenny Powell, James Dignan, David Eggleton, David Karena-Holmes, Tim Jones and David Reiter – plus open mike for science fiction poetry.

Christchurch, Madras Café Books, 165 Madras St, 16 Oct, 5 pm
, with Owen Marshall, James Norcliffe, David Gregory, Tim Jones and David Reiter – plus open mike for science fiction poetry.

Wellington Central Library, 19 Oct, 5:30 pm
, with Janis
Freegard, Robin Fry, Helen Rickerby (tbc), Jack Perkins, Rachel McAlpine, Jane Matheson, Harvey Molloy, Marilyn Duckworth, Tim Jones, Mark Pirie and David Reiter

Kapiti Coast, Paraparaumu Library, 179 Rimu Road, 20 Oct, 5:30 pm for 6 pm
featuring Puri Alvarez, Nic Hill, Harvey Molloy, Helen Rickerby, Michael O’Leary, Janis Freegard and David Reiter – plus open mike for science fiction poetry.

Auckland Central Library, 22 Oct, 5.30pm,
, with Raewyn Alexander, Jacqueline Ottaway, Iain Sharp, Michael Morrissey, Anna Rugis, Alastair Paterson, Iain Britton, Thomas Mitchell, Janet Charman and David Reiter

Devonport, Depot Arts Space, 28 Clarence Street, 24 Oct, 6:30 pm, with Iain Britton, Alistair Paterson, Andrew Fagan, Janet Charman, Anna Rugis, Thomas
Mitchell and David Reiter – plus open mike for science fiction poetry, if time permits.

Interactive Publications and New Zealand

Voyagers follows hot on the heels of IP’s first New Zealand releases, Harmonic by Stephen Oliver and the Text + Audio CD by Stephen Oliver and Matt Ottley, King Hit. Based in Brisbane, IP is Australia’s most innovative independent publisher. It publishes about 24 titles per year and is one of the few independents regularly supported by the Australia Council.

IP’s Director, the noted author Dr David Reiter, whose most recent books are Primary Instinct, a satire on the education system, and the children’s novel Global Cooling, will spearhead the tour, which will also showcase New Zealand authors Iain Britton’s new poetry collection Liquefaction and Euan McCabe’s sports memoir The World Cup Baby.

For more information regarding Voyagers or to schedule an interview before the tour begins, please email or call +61 (0)7 3324 9319. During the tour, Dr Reiter can be contacted via SMS to his mobile +61 (0)412 313 923 or email to

Voyagers: Here At Last

I was going to do a much longer and more complicated blog post tonight, but I’m too tired. So instead, this is just to say that I have a copy of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand sitting right here besides me, and that feels good!

Mark Pirie and I started on this project in 2004, when we called for submissions for our planned anthology of New Zealand science fiction poetry. While submissions were coming in, we went off and deepened our knowledge of New Zealand poetry by looking for previously-published SF poems. (Well, I deepened my knowledge – Mark’s was pretty deep already.)

By mid-2005, we had the first version of the manuscript pretty much sorted out. As I’ve previously recounted, finding a publisher proved to be difficult, and we were very pleased when Interactive Publications of Brisbane took the project on in 2008. We couldn’t include all the poems we wished, but those we have included look rather good to me. You can find sample poems from the book, by David Gregory, Meg Campbell and Mary Cresswell, at the Voyagers mini-site (bottom right of that page).

Mark and I will be sending out contributors’ and review copies over the next couple of weeks. There will be a New Zealand launch for Voyagers in July, but if you’d like to get a copy while it’s fresh off the presses, you can buy it from as a paperback or Kindle e-book (search for “Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry”), or from Fishpond in New Zealand. You can also find out more about Voyagers, and buy it directly from the publisher, at the Voyagers mini-site.

Voyagers for Sale, Stand Up Poetry, Online Voting for the Vogels, and James Dignan’s New Exhibition

Voyagers for Sale

Mark Pirie and I are still waiting for the contributors’ and review copies of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand to make their way to the shores of Aotearoa, so we can start sending them out. But it is already possible to buy – or at least order – Voyagers online, as follows:

  • From as a paperback or Kindle e-book (search for “Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry”)
  • From Fishpond in New Zealand.
  • From the publisher, via the Voyagers mini-site which also has information about and excerpts from the book.

And a poem from Voyagers has already gone cross-platform! (That sounds good – I hope it makes sense.) Meliors Simms has produced a video version of part of her poem “Two Kinds of Time”, which appears in the anthology. You can see it and read about it on Meliors’ blog, and also see it as part of Helen Rickerby’s initiative, NZ Poets on Video. It’s well worth watching.

Get Up, Stand Up

I will be the featured reader at Stand Up Poetry at Palmerston North City Library on Wednesday 3 June at 7pm. Helen Rickerby was the May reader, and it sounds like she had a great time; Harvey Molloy is reading in August; if someone can tell me who’s reading in July, I’ll mention them too. I’m looking forward to it – come along if you are in the Palmerston North area and hear my repertoire of anecdotes for the first time!

UPDATE: As Helen Lehndorf has reminded me, and I should have remembered, Glenn Colquhoun is the June reader. Helen Heath will be reading in September.

Online Voting for the Vogels

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards, New Zealand’s equivalent of the Hugo Awards, will be awarded at ConScription, this year’s National Science Fiction Convention, being held in Auckland at Queen’s Birthday Weekend. There’s a very strong field of finalists, and yours truly has two finalists (Transported and JAAM 26) in the field for Best Collected Work.

Members of ConScription and of SFFANZ, the administering body, are eligible to vote – and if you join SFFANZ (it costs $10 per annum) you can vote online until 27 May 2009. I encourage you to do so.

James Dignan’s New Exhibition

Dunedin artist and reviewer James Dignan has his fifth solo exhibition, “The Unguarded Moment”, at the Temple Gallery, 29 Moray Place, Dunedin from May 15-28, with the opening this Friday (the 15th) from 5.30-7.30pm. I recommend it! You can find out more about the exhibition, James’s art, music and writing, and his past exhibitions on his website.

Voyagers Cover Released, Microsite Up

Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, the anthology of New Zealand science fiction poetry Mark Pirie and I have co-edited, is moving closer to its publication date: we expect it to be available in New Zealand on 1 June.

The publishers, Interactive Publications Ltd (IP) of Brisbane, have now put up both a mini-site and an orders page for the book:

The IP mini-site is now up at:

The IP Orders page is:

And here’s the cover. (Voyagers authors: You are welcome to use the cover image on your own blogs and sites, but please also include both the IP links above, and mention when the book will be available in NZ.)

What Is Science Fiction Poetry? Part 2: History

After I spread the news about the upcoming anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (note the slight change in the subtitle), I had a crack at defining science fiction poetry.

But Mark Pirie and myself didn’t invent the idea of science fiction poetry just for this anthology. In fact, it’s a genre – or fusion of genres – that has been recognised for some time. The Science Fiction Poetry Association was founded in 1978 by Suzette Haden Elgin, and her About Science Fiction Poetry goes into some of the controversies about definitions and the like which have plagued, or enlivened, the field.

The Science Fiction Poetry Association has its own poetry magazine, Star*Line. It is one of a surprisingly high number of online and print magazines, many paying, which publish science fiction poetry – or, to be a little more inclusive, speculative poetry, which encompasses fantasy and horror poetry as well.

The SFPA also has its own awards, the Rhysling Awards, which honour the best science fiction poetry in long and short form – and lately, a further award, the Dwarf Stars Award, has been created for poems 10 lines or under. Both sets of awards lead to anthologies of the winning and nominated poems.

Of course, many science fiction poems have been published in non-genre venues, as the Acknowledgements to Voyagers will show; but if you’d like to get into writing, reading or debating SF poetry, there are magazines, websites, writers and readers out there who will be pleased to welcome you to their ranks.

What Is Science Fiction Poetry? Part 1: Definition

It’s poetry that’s also science fiction. What more is there to say?

Quite a lot, actually. I’m not even going to attempt to define poetry, but science fiction itself is a notoriously slippery beast. To make it into Voyagers, the anthology of New Zealand science fiction poetry that Mark Pirie and myself are co-editing, poems had to pass the twin filters of being good poetry, and of having a science-fictional element: of either or both using science fiction imagery, or science fiction ideas.

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction to Voyagers that discusses out the definition we used as we considered poems for the anthology:

Selecting poems for this anthology would have been much easier if there was a universally-agreed definition of science fiction. But there isn’t. A conservative definition might be that science fiction is that genre of literature which speculates about the effects of changes to the universe we know, where those changes follow or are extrapolated from known scientific principles.

This definition is inadequate – it would exclude a number of poems in this anthology – but it makes some key points:

  • Science fiction is a literature of change.
  • It is often set in the future.
  • Science fiction is counter-factual: the universe is changed in at least one respect from the universe as it was known to the writer.
  • The changes in science fiction are extrapolations based on accepted or speculative scientific principles.

This is why some types of universe are excluded, such as those of fantasy, where the changes are supernatural rather than natural, or of magic realism and fabulation, where the changes are not rationalised. In addition, we reluctantly had to exclude many excellent poems which dealt with astronomy, or with the history of space exploration, but which lacked the crucial element of speculation.

But what riches remain! You’ll find the ‘traditional’ concerns of science fiction here: aliens, space travel, time travel, the end of the world – and also concepts you may not previously have thought of as science fiction. Whether questioning, apocalyptic or playful, these are poems which shine the flashlight of science fiction on our universe, and relish the strange images which result.

Now, what’s above is just our definition of science fiction poetry. Yours may vary; indeed, it probably will. But science fiction poetry isn’t just a matter of definition – it’s an amalgam of science fiction and poetry with a surprisingly long history, and even its own set of awards. I’ll blog about that history next time.

Voyagers: A New Zealand Science Fiction Poetry Anthology

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

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

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

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

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

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