Au Contraire 3

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At The Edge book launch with Lee Murray, Marie Hodgkinson, AJ Fitzwater, and Paul Mannering

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Star Wars Origami guru Martin Hunt puts the finishing touches on BB8

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…And Then Pre-orders now live

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Nominations for FFANZ 2016 Now Open!

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  • A brief letter stating their intent to run for FFANZ 2017.
  • A nominator and a seconder, preferably a nominator from New Zealand and a seconder from Australia.
  • A 100 word or less platform statement specifying the candidate’s reasons for running and qualifications for becoming the 2017 FFANZ delegate.

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  • Visit and get to know as many Australian Science Fiction fans as time will permit.
  • Become the New Zealand FFANZ administrator until a replacement administrator is found. This normally happens when the administrator role is handed over to the succeeding NZ-bound delegate (in 2018 if a race is run every year).
  • Raise funds and maintain an account to be used by the next Australian delegate(s) in 2018.
  • Promote connections between Australian and New Zealand fandom by a trip report or other means.

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More information about being a fan fund delegate can be found at http://ffanz.sf.org.nz/qanda.htm or http://ozfanfunds.com/ or https://www.facebook.com/FanFundANZ/

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Talks with the Boy

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019We all know kids can be a handful, but they say that as they get older they become their own reward. I’d like to think that my kids have always been rewarding, despite the hard work that goes with raising them, but just recently this idea has taken on a whole new light, as my son has just turned nine and is growing up really fast. He’ll be a young man before I know it.

But let me jump back thirty years.

I remember my dad and mum taking my sisters and I out one dark night in 1986 to climb a hill and take a look through someone’s telescope at Halley’s Comet, fuelling my fascination with stars and all things space-like and science fiction-y. Amazing how a little investment in your kids can have a lifelong impact.

halleys-comet-1986So, on Saturday, we anchored up off a little island in Wellington Harbour and took the kids ashore to explore. We do this often, and every time we do it’s a new adventure. But this was a bit different. In places on the island, you can see layer upon layer of volcanic strata, pressed on top of each other, pocked through with hollow bubbles. These layers run vertically across the shore, evidence of how geologic layers have been pressed together and ultimately thrust back up from the earth’s crust to form these columns of striations that we can climb along, put our hands inside, crumble with our fingers. Fascinating just to look at, but even more so to explain to your nine-year-old how these rocks were formed millions of years ago. How this probably happened at a time when life was still just taking form on the planet, long before people, before the dinosaurs. Much longer ago than even I can remember. (At which point, he very kindly tells me that I’m not old. So sweet.)

We walk around the island, climb more rocks, and pick up shells. We look at how the rocks crumble under our hands; how the sun and rain and wind get into them and erode them away. How this island, with all its high peaks and points, is slowly wearing down into the sea, and eventually, after millions of years, will be drawn under the sea and turn back into magma and then into rock to be spurted out of a volcano, and so the cycle will start all over again.

When you can walk along a beach, and talk to your nine-year-old son about how the sun is a star, billions of years old, about halfway through its life, and how it will eventually swell to a blazing mass and its heat will destroy all life on earth, and he says, “But that’s not going to happen while I’m alive, right? Because that’s billions of years away. So I won’t need to worry about it.” That’s a comfort zone right there.

So then we talked about how no matter how far away in time that might be, the only way to escape it is for humans to find a way to travel to other stars and find other places to live, somehow. And he doesn’t reckon that will be too big a problem.

Some people say the vast majority of scientific endeavour is driven by the imagination; that science owes a lot to science fiction for inspiring generations of thinkers to consider what others treat as impossible as simply the next challenge to be overcome. Every year, science is breaking down the boundaries of the impossible. We can open our phones and look at photos taken on Mars, by a machine put there through passion, determination, technology and imagination.

And then tonight, turning over his space calendar to a picture of a pinwheel galaxy, he wants to know how long it would take to fly there. So we find ourselves talking about light years, and relativistic speeds and the alleged impossibility of travelling at the speed of light, and time dilation, and cryosleep, and generational arkships, and wormhole technology. And he tells me how all we need is a really smart computer, and a spaceship with a teleport in it, and it can land us anywhere we need to go and it won’t take us 15,000 years and however many civilisations might rise and fall while we cross 1500 light years at 10% the speed of light.

Because, when you’re nine, all these things are pretty damned straightforward.

I don’t remember what Halley’s Comet looked like. But I remember being there. I remember being amazed, and feeling so small and cold in the eye of the universe. There was something chilling in the knowledge that by the next time it passes Earth, my parents will be gone, and I will be old, if I live that long at all.

But I remember being there. I remember being inspired, and quietly terrified. Humbled.

In 1986, I was nine.

 

 

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Story News!

It’s been a while since I posted last, because I’ve had so much ASIM-63-Covergoing on.

My SF horror novella Spindle has appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine Issue #63, and the story is the inspiration for the amazing cover art. It’s the first time I’ve had cover art for a whole magazine, so that’s a bit of a milestone. Spindle is a story about how when things go wrong in deep space, they go really, really wrong.

The final ballot for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards has been announced, and Floodgate has made the list for Best Short Story. If you’re an eligible voter, you should get a copy of the story in the Voters Pack from SFFANZ very shortly. If you’re not already, you can vote in the SJVs by either joining SFFANZ, or by attending Au Contraire 3 or becoming a supporting member of the convention.

At The Edge is in the middle of its Kickstarter campaign, and is already funded. We’re still pushing for some stretch goals, including a huge ebook bundle from Cohesion Press, but this book is being published. So excited, so many good stories, from new voices and established legends in the field. FB bannerIf we hit $2000 on the Kickstarter, every backer will receive a bundle of ebooks from Cohesion Press, including the SNAFU series of military horror anthologies.

star-quake-3-front-cover-brightMy short story Keeping an Open Mind, which won third place in 2014’s SQ Mag short story competition, has been reprinted in StarQuake 3, SQ Mag’s Best of 2014, along with names like Alan Baxter and Ken Liu. Nice to be in such good company, and with such good cover art.

I’ve also been flat out helping get Au Contraire 3, this year’s SFF NatCon going, planning the writers’ stream of panels together usual suspect Lee Murray, and also prejudging the 2016 Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Story Award, also with Lee. We’ve passed on our finalists to judge Phil Mann, and the results will be out soon.

So, plenty going on to keep me busy. Looking forward to seeing some of you at Au Contraire in June!

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Awards Nomination Time

MBOD coverHey ho, it’s that exciting time of year again, when Award Nominations for the Sir Julius Vogels and the Australian Shadows are open!

So yes, I’ve got some eligible works, as do a whole lot of people I know. You can see other recommendations from the NZ Spec Fic community at the following sites:

Darusha Wehm

AC Buchanan

JC Hart

AJ Fitzwater

Paper Road Press

My works which are eligible for consideration are as follows:

Short Stories

Endgame, in Fat Zombie, Permuted Press, edited by Paul Mannering (January 2015) – Horror

Elffingern, in In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep, Createspace/AHWA, edited by Cameron Trost (March 2015) – Horror

Floodgate, in The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk, Running Press, edited by Sean Wallace (June 2015) – Dieselpunk

Long Fiction / Novella

Oil & Bone, in Insert Title Here, Fablecroft Publishing, edited by Tehani Wessely (April 2015) – Steampunk

Nominations for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards close on February 28th. Details on how to nominate can be found here.

 

 

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…And Then

And Then image

So, a little while ago I was invited to write a story for quite a different sort of anthology, and I took up that challenge. Tales of adventure, featuring a duo in the lead roles, and with a setting or characters from Australia or New Zealand. So how could I turn that down? The result is Tipuna Tapu, a piece of dieselpunk set in a monster-apocalypse Aotearoa.

Tipuna Tapu is one among a couple dozen novella-length stories being published in …And Then – The Great Big Book of Awesome, which is now looking at running to two volumes. Other authors also in the book include some of the biggest names in the Australian fiction scene, such as Alan Baxter, Amanda Pillar, Jason Nahrung, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Jack Dann, and Lucy Sussex, among many more.

Publisher Clan Destine Press is now running a pre-sales campaign to help get this big book of awesome off the ground. If you’d like to see my newest adventure tale take off you can help by supporting the book, for as little as $20AUD for both ebooks, crammed full of rollicking adventure tales, or $50AUD for paperbacks of both books. I’d love it if you could stop by the Indiegogo page and back the project with a pre-order.

To whet your appetite, here’s a taste from the opening of Tipuna Tapu:

“Storm’s coming in,” Maddy said, ramming down the gas pedal in a burst of rancid bioethanol smoke.

“I see it.” Ihaka didn’t need to be told. He tugged his goggles down and grabbed the nailgun trigger grips, checking the air pressure was solid and that the ammunition belt was running free. It didn’t pay to get caught out in a storm without plenty of firepower. He braced his feet in the metal stirrups at the back of the jeep, swivelling the gun on its gimbal. Quickly, he touched fingers to the pounamu at his throat in silent benediction to unseen ancestors, then gripped the twin triggers again. Scanning the sky, he glimpsed a shape, all wing and spiral, twisting through the boiling clouds. “How far to the caves, e hoa?”

“Too far!” Madeline shouted back, her hair whipping about her face as she slammed through another gear, jerking the steering wheel to avoid a skein of fallen fence-posts.

“Thanks,” Ihaka yelled back. “That’s really helpful.”

“Not exactly Highway Sixty-Six out here,” she snapped in her thick English brogue, wrestling the wheel as the front tyre slid in a slurry of mud. The jeep slewed, gripped, hurtled forward. The engine snarled as she revved it hard, a plume of smoke spilling from the tailpipe. Ihaka tried to hold the gun steady, sighting down the barrel for something—anything—he could draw a bead on. The storm writhed closer, rushing across the darkening sky with all hell’s fury. But the way the jeep was jinking and jiving across the tumble-down paddocks strewn with rusted farming equipment and collapsed fencing, he could barely keep a bead on the horizon, much less anything darting through the clouds above.

Lightning flared, followed by rolling cracks of thunder. Something swooped across the cloudbank, banking and descending. Ihaka swung the nailgun, lining it up, judging speeds, distances, range. Black wings folded into razor sickles carved a line across the grey, before the creature twisted off and vanished back inside the cloudbank. White light burst sudden, brilliant, as it swept away. The heavens shook.

“Tell me it’s not right on top of us already!” Madeline yelled.

“OK,” Ihaka shouted, rain streaking his goggles. “It’s not on top of us already.”

“Don’t lie to me, Ihaka!”

“Wouldn’t dare.”

Maddy threw the jeep into a hard right, then a left, and Ihaka glimpsed the skeleton of a tractor whip by them, almost obscured by the tall grass. Probably a good thing to go around, and not through

“You just keep your eyes on the road. Leave the taniwha to me.”

“Road?” Madeline yelled. “What road?”

Movement then, a shadow against the black, a glimmer of fire within, spiralling towards them, twin scythes sweeping toward the kill. Ihaka wove the cannon, matching the beast’s descent, counting off the distance between them as it closed. He could make out the open jaws, the spark within, the bright glints of its onyx eyes. A lesser man would’ve emptied the ammo belt at the mere sight of it, but Ihaka had lived through such nightmare more than once, and he had done so through a combination of a steady hand, iron nerves, and a skilled and cocky driver at his back. He let the monster close in. Most folk wouldn’t believe it if you said you have to wait until you see the white of their eyes before you shoot. Most had never been that close, close enough to see the white pinpricks at the centre of those pools of black.

Ihaka had. Lonely stars in an empty night sky, those eyes. His fingers settled on the triggers. “Steady if you can,” he said, his voice firm but suddenly calm. “Taniwha incoming. One click.”

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Dieselpunk, Horror, and a new narration in the wild

MBOD coverI’ve been buried up to my neck in edits for At The Edge these past few weeks, so much so that I’ve almost dropped the ball on some pretty big news.

Not long ago, I had a story appear in The Mammoth Book of Dieselpunk, titled Floodgate, which tells the story of an Australian pilot who encounters a rogue company of the Maori Battalion in the deserts of Northern Africa during an alternate history Great War. As you know, I’m a huge fan of dieselpunk as a subgenre, so I was absolutely thrilled to have a story accepted amongst such fine company as the late Jay Lake, Carrie Vaughn, Jeremiah Tolbert and E. Catherine Tobler. Not to mention the amazing cover art, and that it’s a beautifully produced book. As a short story writer, this one has been a real high point for me.

I also have another story appearing this month, in the inaugural showcase anthology produced by the Australian Horror Writers Association, In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep. The story is called Elffingern, and is another dark tale set around the First World War, and the fates of two soldiers who left New Zealand’s sunny shores and only found snow and blood and … something darker. Something that comes home.

ISBADD coverThis year is the centenary of the defeat of the ANZAC forces at Gallipolli, an event which has left an indelible scar on the national psyche of both countries. I guess it was weighing on me these last couple of years, to have written two stories which explore the role of New Zealand and Australian soldiers in the wars fought in distant lands for Queen and Empire, and what that cost us. So it is a significant milestone for me to have had not one, but two stories delving into this subject published this year.

As well as this, during my research into these stories I learned that one of my ancestors was part of the Maori Battalion, who fought and was wounded at Gallipolli, and later died of his injuries in a hospital in London. He never saw New Zealand again. It gives both stories even greater meaning and resonance for me, because they carry some of the personal journey I went on while writing them, some of my own pain, and that of my family long before me. Which makes seeing these stories in print this year really worthwhile.

On a lighter note, I recently completed a narration for my favourite fantasy podcast, Beneath Ceaseless Skies. The story is Moogh and Great Trench Kraken, by Suzanne Palmer, and I have not had so much fun reading a story for a long time. It’s a wry, dry, witty tale of a noble but none-too-bright barbarian who comes across a great, unruly river that flows the wrong way, throwing itself against the sandy bank rather than flowing like a river should. So much fun. Go, read it, or listen to me reading it. You’ll have a laugh, I promise.

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‘At The Edge’ Table of Contents and Cover Art Revealed

At the Edge_front coverI’m very pleased to announce the stories to be included in our upcoming anthology, At The Edge.

Edited by myself and Lee Murray, At the Edge is shaping up to be a stunning collection of short science fiction and fantasy from both sides of the ditch, Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. We’re thrilled to announce that among the line-up will be a reprint of Phillip Mann’s short story The Architect. Phillip was short-listed for the Arthur C Clark Award in 2014 for his novel The Disestablishment of Paradise.

Without further ado, the table of contents for At the Edge, in no particular order except alphabetically by author surname:

Joanne Anderton, “Street Furniture”
Richard Barnes, “The Great and True Journey”
Carlington Black, “The Urge”
A.C. Buchanan, “And Still the Forests Grow though We are Gone”
Octavia Cade, “Responsibility”
Shell Child, “Narco”
Jodi Cleghorn , “The Leaves No Longer Fall”
Debbie Cowens, “Hood of Bone”
Tom Dullemond, “One Life, No Respawns”
A.J. Fitzwater, “Splintr”
Jan Goldie, “Little Thunder”
J.C. Hart, “Hope Lies North”
Martin Livings, “Boxing Day”
Phillip Mann, “The Architect”
Paul Mannering, “The Island at the End of the World”
Keira McKenzie, “In Sacrifice We Hope”
Eileen Mueller, “Call of the Sea”
Anthony Panegyres, “Crossing”
A.J. Ponder, “BlindSight”
David Stevens, “Crop Rotation”
David Versace, “Seven Excerpts from Season One”
Summer Wigmore, “Back when the River had No Name”
E.G. Wilson, “12-36”

The cover artist for the anthology is Kapiti-based Emma Weakley, who recently released a twelve-page wordless comic, Main.

At the Edge will be launched in June 2016.

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Trip Report, and an Interview!

Trip Report Cover copyA year after the event itself, my Trip Report for FFANZ, covering my visit to Melbourne and all the fun of the circus which was Continuum X, is now available for purchase for a mere $2.50, or more if you prefer, by clicking the Donation widget on the right hand side. All monies raised from the sale of the Trip Report go directly to the next fund, so please consider grabbing a copy and having a read.

For every donation, I will supply PDF, epub, and mobi copies of the Trip Report.

Also, I was interviewed a short while back by the lovely Susan Barker Allen of Wellington’s Regional News, and you can now read that interview in case you missed it in the flesh.

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