Spec’ Fic’ in Chch

Spec Fic… what‘s that? Spec Fic is short for Speculative Fiction and was first used by R.A Heinlein in 1953 in a Library Journal as an umbrella genre for fiction about “things that have not happened”: science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all the bits in between. Spec fic is alive and well and happening in Christchurch as last weekend’s Spec Fic meeting to celebrate local Sir Julius Vogel awardees testifies.

Cover of The Heir of Night by Helen LoweAbout fifty people gathered in the Fendalton Library boardroom to congratulate four Vogel award finalists, two of whom won in their category. Beaulah Pragg, herself a published author, introduced the session and multi-award winning Helen Lowe who spoke about the importance of the genres and the place of awards. Fantasy, she told us, is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality, as the myths and folk tales of hundreds of human cultures attest. While writers write for the delight of storytelling and because the stories demand to be told awards can still be tremendously affirming to those who frequently work in some isolation. Moreover, events like this demonstrate the importance of the literary community supporting and celebrating one another.
Read Helen’s keynote on her blog.

The best of Twisty Christmas talesThe first finalist speaker was Shelley Chappell, who was short-listed for both best novella and for best new talent. Shelley has a PhD in Children’s and Young Adults’ Literature from Macquarie University in Sydney but writes for all age groups. Many of her YA titles are re-tellings of fairy stories, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstilkskin. Re-telling fairy tales, often with a twist, writing new ones, and exploring their development has become a fairly popular genre with several notable proponents such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Catherynne M. Valente and Jack Zipes.

Tim Stead has written a trilogy of book and seems well into the next trilogy. The ‘The Seventh Friend‘ was a finalist for Best Novel and have been warmly reviewed on Amazon. He was also a finalist for Best New Talent.

A.J. Fitzwater was the winner of the Best New Talent award, although she said that she’s been at it for five years so being called “new” was an odd thing to wrap her head around. She read us an excerpt from her latest story about to be published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Issue 61 – “Long’s Confandabulous Clockwork Circus and Carnival, and Cats of Many Persuasions” which seems to have a ‘carni-punk’ setting so look out for that one. A. J. also spoke about her experiences at the prestigious Clarion Writers workshop last year where she underwent an intensive six weeks of tutoring and writing with top writers such as Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, Nora Jemisin, and Catherynne Valente.

Spec Fic displayOur final winner was Rebecca Fisher who won the prize for Best Fan Writing. Fan writing isn’t the same as fan fiction, but rather is awarded for blogging, interviewing, reviewing and other forms of writing about speculative fiction. She has a popular blog They’re All Fictional, guest blogs at various sites and is a top reviewer on Amazon so if you’re into the genres she’s one to follow.

Connecting with New Zealand genre authors and their work isn’t always easy, so events like this are really important. If you want to find out more about these great authors follow the links above and keep an eye on the Sir Julius Vogel Awards and the SFFANZ (for science fiction and fantasy) or other NZ book sites.

CHAMPIONS! New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults 2014

Parents, caregivers, aunties, uncles, nanas, grandads, kids  … we are all looking for great books to read, and have read to us. And the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults brings together a bunch of brilliant books.

Read the article Vasanti Unka’s The Boring Book wins the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year for a rundown of the awards ceremony on Monday 23 June.

The full list of winners of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults is:

Cover of The Boring Book Cover of The Beginner's guide to hunting and fishing Dunger Joy Cowley (Winner) Cover of Mortal fire Cover of A necklace of souls Cover of The Three Bears Cover of Bugs

New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and winner of Best Picture Book category: Prizes: $7,500 for the New Zealand Post Margaret Mahy Book of the Year and $7,500 for Best Picture Book The Boring Book by Vasanti Unka (Penguin Group (NZ), Puffin)

Best Non-Fiction: Prize $7,500: The Beginner’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing in New Zealand by Paul Adamson (Random House New Zealand)

Junior Fiction: Prize $7,500: Dunger by Joy Cowley (Gecko Press)

Best Young Adult Fiction: Prize $7,500: Mortal Fire by Elizabeth Knox (Gecko Press)

Best First Book: Prize $2,000: A Necklace of Souls by R L Stedman (Harper Collins Publishers (NZ), HarperVoyager)

Children’s Choice: Prize $2,000: The Three Bears…Sort Of by Yvonne Morrison and Donovan Bixley (Scholastic New Zealand)

Honour award: Prize $500: Bugs by Whiti Hereaka (Huia Publishers)

Māori Language award: Prize $1,000 (announced on 8 April) Taka Ki Ro Wai by Keri Kaa and Martin D Page (Tania&Martin)

 

Our own wonderful librarian Zac Harding was a judge, along with Ant Sang and Barbara Else.

Thank you Donna Tartt

Cover of The GoldfinchI have just finished reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. The story begins in Amsterdam with Theo, sick with a fever and locking himself in his hotel room, trying to work how his life could have turned out for the better – if indeed it could have. His life quickly moves back to New York where Theo is on the way to the museum with his mother to view her favourite painting and walks into a day that changes his life forever.

I was with Theo that fateful day and was compelled to remain with him until the end of his story. I was drawn to the array of colourful and memorable characters/rogues that Theo collides with during his life. I was fascinated by the different worlds of art, furniture restoration, antiques, drugs, and gambling. I was entranced by the rich detailed language and the suspenseful storylines, re-reading passages and thinking over the vividly described scenes. This was not an easy read with its themes of loss, obsession, and identity, however it quickly became a compulsive read and was difficult to put down.

I knew I was in the presence of a masterful writer …

A wilderness of gilt, gleaming in the slant from the dust-furred windows: gilded cupids, gilded commodes and torchieres, and – undercutting the old-wood smell – the reek of turpentine, oil, paint, and varnish. I followed him through the workshop along a path swept with sawdust, past pegboard and tools, dismembered chairs and claw-foot tables sprawled with their legs in the air. Though he was a big man he was graceful, a “floater”, my mother would have called him, something effortless and gliding in the way he carried himself. With my eyes on the heels of his slippered feet, I followed him up some narrow stairs and into a dim room, richly carpeted, where black urns stood on pedestals and tasselled draperies were drawn against the sun.

I loved it all. For me this was a pin prick book, it heightened my senses and made me feel more alive. Thank you Donna Tartt.

Man Booker Prize goes to … our Eleanor Catton!!!

Cover of The LuminariesEleanor Catton The luminaries has just won the Man Booker Prize. This is news, this is big news and is PHENOMENAL!

Congratulations Eleanor!

I am watching her make a beautiful and graceful acceptance speech.

Here is the 2013 shortlist for the Man Booker Prize

Cover of We need new names Cover of Harvest Cover of The lowland Cover of A Tale for the time being Cover of The testament of Mary

In breaking news – Neil Cross wins the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel

It’s 9.39pm and I have just returned from The Great New Zealand Crime Debate, which acted, as was stated tonight, as either precursor or foreplay to the presentation of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel 2012.  Tonight was another one of those events that you really should have gone to. Ms Scotland and I laughed till we cried, applauded loudly at many places, were vastly entertained and occasionally startled, and on one memorable occasion somewhat shocked by the proceedings.  Joycie will no doubt give a full run-down of the evening’s entertainment soon, but in the interests of getting the news out in a timely manner, I would now like to announce that the winner of the third annual Ngaio Marsh Award was Neil Cross, for his book Luther: the Calling.

Charmingly, he had made no preparations for winning, and had no speech prepared.  We therefore got an off-the-cuff acceptance speech about his wife’s hate mail, the time he nearly got killed (note: the word ‘killed’ here is a substitute for another word I hesitate to use on a family-friendly blog) and eaten on the way to a literary festival, and how much in love with New Zealand he still is.

A big congratulations to all the short-listed finalists, and especially to Neil Cross, as well as a really big thank you to The Pres Christchurch Writers Festival organisers, who once again provided a fantastic evening’s entertainment.  Well done all, and THANKS – we love you!

Falling off the literary horse

Book CoverI’m the sort of person who studies literary form like a seasoned horse-racing enthusiast – who’s won what, who’s been rated by whom, who’s appeared on the shortlist, who’s got the best looking cover (okay, I’m shallow). I select what I hope will be winners and, even if they’re not, I take comfort from the belief I’m up with the in-crowd.

Last year however I totally lost track of what was hot and what was not. My concentration went away with my ability to sleep and I found myself reading crime. Elizabeth George, Benjamin Black, P.D. James and Ian Rankin were favourites and following the antics of their intrepid sleuths kept me diverted from the bumps in the night.

Now things are settling down a bit (hopefully, fingers crossed), I’ve decided to get back into something a little more challenging. I’ve perused the Literature guides at Christchurch City Libraries. I have caught up on the Literary prize winners, scanned the 100 most meaningful books of all time and found the Best reads 2011 list to be a cornucopia of literary delights.

I’ve started my re-education with Major Pettigrew’s last stand after a recommendation by robertafsmith. It’s an insightful story, light but beautifully written. I’m enjoying every word. It’s great to be back in the literary saddle again.

Now that I’m back, what do you recommend to keep me there?

And the hometown boy won…

Paul CleavePaul Cleave is the winner of this year’s Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel. The award was announced today in a special Christchurch Writers’ Festival event, Setting the Stage for Murder. Paul won the award for his book Blood Men. The other finalists were Alix Bosco, Neil Cross and Paddy Richardson.

The award was announced at the end of a feast of crime writers talking.  First we had best selling American authors Tess Gerritsen and John Hart talking with Graham Beattie about their work.

Then the four finalists sat down with Craig Sisterson as chair to answer a few questions. I’d have to say all four seemed a little hesitant about being on stage if body language was anything to go by but as the panel discussion went on they opened up with some great observations. By the time a member of the audience asked whether they would consider including the Christchurch earthquakes in their stories they were ready to take some quite differing views. Paul Cleave was quite strong in his feeling that it would be wrong to make money by writing about such a tragedy, Greg McGee (Alix Bosco) was cautious believing there were dangers in writing about the event too soon and time need to elapse. Neil Cross was quite firm that good writing helps cultures examine their traumas. This was a view that John Hart certainly endorsed from the audience.

It was great to see four good New Zealand writers talking about issues that confront New Zealand writers – too much looking inward and an “ingrained lack of confidence” in selling on the world stage. There was a hope that there were enough good writers around and New Zealand had the chance to carve its own distinctive place in crime writing as Scandinavian crime writing had done. So come on crime writing fans  – support your local team (or at least go to one game and see how they play).

Sir Julius Vogel Award nominations open

The Sir Julius Vogel awards will be open in January. The award is for any science fiction, fantasy or horror works created by a New Zealander and first published or released in the 2010 calendar year. Anyone can make a nomination and it is free!  See the website for the categories open and get busy reading NZ authors and watching NZ movies.

Past winners include Russell Kirkpatrick, Nalini Singh, Helen Lowe, Brian Falkner and Under The Mountain.

Nominations open on 1 January 2011 and close on 31 March 2011 at 8pm.

For more information about the SJV Awards, please go to the SFFANZ web-site
You can find full details about the nomination procedures and rules, including eligibility criteria at

Christchurch City Libraries has a page on the award listing past winners

And the winners are….

The awards ceremony for the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards was held in Auckland last night to announce the winners of our country’s top awards for children’s and young adult writers.  The winners are:

Picture Book  and Book of the Year – Old Huhu by Kyle Mewburn & Rachel Driscoll

Nonfiction – E3 Call Home by Janet Hunt

Junior Fiction – The Loblolly Boy by James Norcliffe

Young Adult – Blood of the Lamb: The Crossing by Mandy Hager

Children’s Choice Award – The Wonky Donkey by Craig Smith and Katz Cowley

Children’s Choice Nonfiction – Dear Alison by Simon Pollard (editor)

Children’s Choice Junior Fiction – Friends: Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley and Gavin Bishop

Children’s Choice Young Adult – Brainjack by Brian Falkner

Honour Award – The Word Witch by Margaret Mahy and David Elliot, edited by Tessa Duder

Best First Book Award – The Bone Tiki by David Hair

As usual, I can’t pick the winners (luckily I’m not a betting man) but I was glad to see my favourites (Brainjack and Wonky Donkey) getting the childrens’ vote.  I think we should leave the voting up to the children every time as they pick the books that appeal to them, not what appeals to adults.

Did you manage to pick the winners and what did you think of the judges choices?

NZ Post Children’s Book Awards Festival comes to town

The winners of the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards are announced next Wednesday at the awards ceremony in Auckland, but in the lead-up to this is the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards Festival which runs from 10-19 May.  As part of this festival the finalist authors and illustrators travel around the country promoting their books and each region organises events that tie-in with the finalist books.

In Christchurch we are lucky enough to have a very dedicated group of organisers who have worked out some very cool events.  Parents and toddlers can go along to Madras Bookshop Cafe on Thursday from 10:30-11am to enjoy stories with Susan and the Storytram with Liz Weir is running on Tuesday 18 May for those lucky enough to get tickets.  On Saturday 15 May you can go along to Crazy Creatures with Creative Junk to listen to stories and make your own crazy creatures to take home.  Bookings are essential so give us a call if you’re interested.

Tonight (Tuesday 11 May), one of the Young Adult book finalists is speaking about her book Banquo’s Son.  If you are interested, come along to Fendalton Library from 7:30-9:00pm tonight.  This is a free event and no booking is required.

For more information, grab a brochure from your library today or check out our NZ Post Children’s Book Awards page on the Kids website.