Launch – SpecFicNZ Cultural Wiki

For those living far far away from New Zealand, our country may sound distant, peculiar, full of mountains, tattooed Māori warriors, hobbits, rugby players and… what else, again? Stereotypes thrive out there, especially when writers look for Kiwi inspirations–only to find the same generic information over and over again. SpecFicNZ wants to change that, and you can help!

We are proud to announce the launch of the SpecFicNZ Cultural Wiki, a game-changing feature capable of influencing authors worldwide and, of course, making sure Kiwi speculative fiction writers showcase their work. What? How?

Fair questions.


The SpecFicNZ Cultural Wiki will be a go-to asset for writers everywhere. We’ll compile an in-depth glossary of socio-cultural references, impressions, feelings, and perspectives usable by young local writers, curious authors abroad or anyone interested in understanding New Zealand, instead of just looking at pictures and saying “wow, that’s awesome”. We’ll fuel stories and dreams all over the world!


The first phase of SpecFicNZ Cultural Wiki is all about data gathering. We count on you to share some perspectives only you can have about events, places, and people in/from New Zealand. Then, we’ll organize all that info into a very nice looking Wiki page within our website, and, of course, make sure authors around the globe get to access it and use it in their stories. Different than generic wikis or reference sites, SpecFicNZ Cultural Wiki will credit every entry – if everyone helps with a few entries, we’ll have plenty in no time. We hope this will allow visitors to reach out to that specific author to get more info, therefore fostering relationships and a broader professional network.

Our other goal is to inspire more people to write about New Zealand. Everyone knows the horrible way in which Stephanie Meyer “researched” her setting for Twilight. In case you don’t know, she used Google Maps to visit Forks, Washington, and trusted it blindly. Needless to say, to this day, locals dread her inaccuracies and other misrepresentations. Do we want that to happen to New Zealand? Of course not!

So our Cultural Wiki will go beyond boring lists, bland references, and more stereotypical information. We’ll focus on gathering the feel, the mood, the soul of places and people, what it means to walk the streets, visit the sights and understand the country.

And who better suited to present it as awesomely as possible other than a bunch of speculative fiction writers? But remember, this is supposed to be a reference guide, not an experimental entry-oriented short fiction contest for non-Kiwis. People must understand, feel hooked and want to know more!

Since many of you have glossaries of your own and may feel inclined to amplify them a bit and share with the project, we’ll gladly accept heftier submissions.

How can I help?

This form has all the info we are looking for at this first stage. Click it, answer the questions and you can even volunteer to be one of the Cultural Wiki’s editors. Just let us know.

Hope you all like the idea and join us. We will all benefit immensely from this asset, and SpecFicNZ will grow so much with it!

Kia ora!

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Featured Work In the News 

Aftermath: Hathe Book Three

“Aftermath: Hathe Book Three” by Mary Brock Jones

War or Peace. It doesn’t matter. There is always an enemy.

Jacquel des Trurains, acclaimed hero of the resistance, has been charged with overseeing the restoration of Hathe after the Terran occupation. But it won’t be easy. Years of oppression have left their mark on
every dirtsider who stayed behind. And what of the Hathians who fled to the moon? The greed of a few for the sparkling jewel of the colonial worlds could destroy everything when they return.

So, Jacquel’s bosses decide he needs some help, and they send him Rheia asn Postrova. Rheia spent the war embroiled in twisted diplomatic games to protect the secrets of Hathe from the Terrans. Now she’s been sent to teach a stubborn man how to play nice with his fellow Hathians.

Together, they must find a way to heal their home.

But Rheia has secrets of her own, and Jacquel soon discovers that diplomacy is just a subtler war with a wiser enemy.

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AGM June 10, 2018, 2pm – Agenda and Venue




You must be a current financial member to attend. Please follow the link to the webform if you wish to join or renew.




Confirmation of the Previous AGM Minutes

Business Arising from the Previous AGM

Chairman’s Report – Grace Bridges

Treasurer’s Report – Paul Mannering

Election of Officers

President – currently one nomination: Grace Bridges

Treasurer – currently one nomination: Paul Mannering

Secretary – position vacant, no nominations

Webmaster – position vacant, no nominations

Publicity – position vacant, no nominations

Core – three nominations (up to 8): Grant Stone, Darian Smith, Piper Mejia

Ratification of Life Membership Policy

General Business



Appendix: DRAFT DOCUMENT: 20/11/2017

For SpecFicNZ Ratification



1.0 Criteria for Nomination and Selection of Life-Time Membership in SpecFicNZ

1.1.1    In recognition of services to Speculative Fiction within New Zealand and internationally, it is proposed that nominated persons be offered a life time membership status in SpecFicNZ.


1.1.2    Persons can be nominated by any current financial or life-time member of SpecFicNZ


1.1.3    Nominated persons will be assessed by the current SpecFicNZ core committee, or a panel of persons selected and appointed by that committee.


1.1.4    Nominated persons do not have to be current members of SpecFicNZ.


1.1.5    Primary nomination criteria are that the nominee has made a contribution to speculative fiction in New Zealand (or internationally) that is considered to be of exceptional value or has a lasting impact on the development and support of speculative fiction.


1.1.6    If a person or persons nominated and reviewed by the committee are granted life-time membership status they will be advised in writing and their name and brief biography will be added to the SpecFicNZ website.


1.1.7    A suitable graphic, or certificate may be designed and produced for presentation to the life-time member to acknowledge their status and contribution.


1.1.8    Life-time membership can only be revoked by a unanimous decision by the current SpecFicNZ committee. Criteria for revocation will be determined by that committee.


1.1.9    Life-time membership shall be granted for the life-time of that member.


1.1.10  All actions relating to the selection and or revocation of a life-time membership are to be documented by the current selection committee.


1.1.11  Announcements of selected life-time members will be made at the SpecFicNZ AGM and communicated to members in writing within 30 days of that AGM.


Benefits of life-time membership will include:

2.1       Gratis membership in SpecFicNZ for as long as the member wishes.

Inclusion in a published list of life-time members published on the SpecFicNZ website.


2.2       Life-time members may be honorary, and all life-time members are not required to accept membership or provide support or endorsement of SpecFicNZ or any services, products, and events sponsored or facilitated by SpecFicNZ.

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Attack on Dragon's Realm by Eileen Mueller Featured Work 

Attack on Dragon’s Realm

Attack on Dragon’s Realm by Eileen Mueller.


Three unlikely heroes must save their village from tharuks: a flight-sick dragon rider, a failing wizard and a fainting warrior. Pulse pounding action and adventure for readers 10-12 years.  Choose your hero in this 3-way interactive fantasy adventure.

Join dragons, riders, wizards and warriors as they battle against invading beasts in Attack on Dragon’s Realm.

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In the News 

Notice of AGM – 10 June 2018, 2pm

Notice of SpecFicNZ 2018 Annual General Meeting

Members are advised that the SpecficNZ Annual General Meeting will be held online at 2pm on Sunday 10 June, 2018. Key items on the agenda include ratification of the lifetime membership policy, and election of officers. All financial members are eligible to vote for incoming core and executive roles. Our current President, Grace Bridges, and Treasurer, Paul Mannering, have advised they will stand again for re-election, as will existing core members Grant Stone, Paul Mannering, Piper Mejia, and Darian Smith. Vacancies exist for the roles of secretary, publicist, and webmaster. Any nominations or further agenda items should be forwarded to the secretary at The agenda will be sent out to members in advance of the meeting.

The meeting will be held online via a chatroom which will be available on the society’s website. All current financial members welcome. For joining information, please follow the link here: (You will need to hover over the word ‘here’ to find the form.)

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Anthologies Kiwi Writers SpecFicNZ 

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā – Daniel Stride

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā – An Extract from the Diary of Peter Mackenzie

By Daniel Stride
An Extract from the Diary of Peter Mackenzie (which originally had “with the permission of the Hocken Library” in the title!) was born out of a desire to write a monster story. Not just any monster story: I wanted something with a decidedly New Zealand flavour, which immediately suggested the involvement of a taniwha. The big issue then was deciding where (and when) to set the piece. I did a fair amount of research on the traditions of the Whanganui River for that purpose, until I stumbled upon a completely useless little bit of trivia: there were plans over a century ago to expand the (now-closed) Kurow Branch of the New Zealand Railways inland. Those plans came to nothing, and the Branch terminus remained at Hakataramea… which inspired my idea of using a Waitaki taniwha to “explain” this mysterious failure.
Having a background in academic History (and old-school horror) did the rest, so you end up with editorial commentary, “permission” from the Hocken Library (I’m a Dunedinite), and the allusion to Seacliff Lunatic Asylum – itself a creepy little bit of Otago history that I might do something with at some point. There is also an historical in-joke in the form of the horse being named Sir John (it is up to the reader to decide if the reference to the legendary Minister of Lands is affectionate or mocking). I went with a diary format because I felt a comparatively archaic mode was a good fit for the late nineteenth century, a time period not quite alien in its psychology, yet not quite modern. And it’s a horror story, damn it: a diary – the literary equivalent of a found-footage film – is a perfect way of covering a doomed protagonist.
After that, the story rather wrote itself.
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Featured Work 

Mystic Portal – You Say Which Way

Mystic Portal – A You Say Which Way Adventure by Eileen Mueller.

Mystic Portal is no ordinary bike trail. Adventure awaits you.

They say each new jump leads to another world. You and your friends can’t wait to try it! Will you ride a camel? Fight bandits? Meet Bog the ogre? Or end up in an underwater city? Whatever you choose, watch out for mad genies, suspicious merchants and one-eyed creatures with orange fur.

In this book, every choice YOU make changes the adventure.

Adventures are waiting, so jump on your bike and ride the Mystic Portal.

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Anthologies Kiwi Writers SpecFicNZ 

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā – Darian Smith

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā

By Darian Smith

I’ve been thrilled to be able to participate in the creation of Te Korero Ahi Ka, and am very proud to show this collection of excellent New Zealand speculative fiction to anyone who might be interested in seeing what our country has to offer in the realms of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

There’s something unique about the voice of this section of the world and I love being part of it.

The story I contributed was a reprint which had won a competition SpecFicNZ in conjunction with a few years ago. It’s one I’m particularly proud of and blends a multi-hued pasifika-style setting with the concept of magic as its own entity.  In this story, magic is an almost living thing – the star cloak –  that seeks the right person to wield it. The main character is a man who once wore the star cloak and controlled its magic but lost it. I wanted to explore the concept of power corrupting and that many of our best lessons in life are learned from loss and failure.

(As a little bonus “Easter Egg” some of the character names in the story have relevant meanings in the pasifika languages they’re borrowed from.)

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Anthologies Flash Fiction Kiwi Writers SpecFicNZ 

Te Kōrero Ahi Ka – Matt Cowens

Te Kōrero Ahi Ka: The Iron Wahine

By Matt Cowens

I love the idea of giant bugs. The Mist by Stephen King is among my favourite stories, and I fondly remember a post-apocalyptic science fiction roleplaying game where the rag-tag gang I was part of was lead by a twelve-foot-tall cybernetic praying mantis. Te Papa’s recent Bug exhibit was a total delight. Closely behind the giant bug for entertainment value is the giant robot, the sword-wielding, flying, humanoid defender of humanity. From classic anime to recent blockbusters the giant robot has also been a source of joy for me.

When SpecFicNZ put out the call for New Zealand science fiction, fantasy and horror stories for an anthology I knew immediately that I wanted The Iron Wahine to be part of the collection.

The giant bugs of the story are peripheral, existing only in my head. We meet a boatload of refugees who have fled the ravages of the unmentioned giant bugs. They are thrown headlong into the threat of a swarm of kraken. Between them and a watery grave lies the eponymous Iron Wahine – one of a network of Iron Wāhine.

This story was originally written, edited and submitted to Flash Frontier in a single evening. The idea of wahine toa had gripped me in a story about five Ngati Waewae women warriors who did the wero at the opening of Tuhuru. The idea of the karanga and the wahine toa coalesced into a story of giant female robots standing guard on Aotearoa’s misty shores.

The version of the story in Te Kōrero Ahi Kā is slightly extended, though still short. I hope that The Iron Wahine packs a punch.

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Grace with a copy of Te Korero Ahi Ka Anthologies Kiwi Writers SpecFicNZ 

TE KŌRERO AHI KĀ – A Dream Long Held

by Grace Bridges

For a number of years now, I have dreamed of making a SpecFicNZ anthology showcase. Although I’ve been on the Core committee for almost 6 years, and president for most of those, the time was not yet right to launch the project – so I honed my publishing skills and worked on other anthologies such as Aquasynthesis, Avenir Eclectia, and Alter Ego as well as editing dozens of novels in the intervening years.

Last year, when we discussed the idea, the Core was enthusiastic and committed to standing behind our members in this new, shared use of our assigned Publishing Grant fund. And so began the task of getting people into place. An early reshuffle meant that I was unexpectedly but not unwillingly handed the project management as a whole. Lee Murray stood ready, an ever-professional and reliable backup on the editing team; and Paul Mannering volunteered to herd the cats i.e. administrate the submissions and handle the financial side. It only remained to choose a mentee editor from the applicants, and for this Aaron Compton got on board.

Somewhere around here was when we chose the title together as a group, running it by some kaumātua to make sure the use of the phrase was appropriate. Originally, we came up with “speaking fire” as a metaphor for speculative fiction; we then learned that the concept of home fire is strong in Māori culture, leading to a more robust meaning than we had imagined. To speak of where we come from; to keep the fire lit. Ahi Kā.

It was extremely exciting to announce the project and see members send in their stories. After consideration, we then allowed the Core and editing team to contribute stories without pay, to ensure impartiality, but also to draw in a balanced selection of work from all of our members without excluding any who are active in the community. Most of the unpaid works were reprints, donated gladly for the chance to participate.

After submissions closed, Lee, Aaron and I put our heads down and read madly, coming to various opinions on the stories, poems and artwork. We each had our particular favourites (nope, not telling!) and this gave extra weight in the final decisions as well. Once the list was set, Paul got to send out notifications and contracts while I juggled the story order for the best flow from beginning to end.

With the stories set into place, the manuscript built from its component parts, it was time to edit. The three of us each ran through it during December, then I went back and combed it again in January before we returned the edited stories to the authors for approval and discussion. While they worked on their parts, I experimented with formatting to find the best look for the interior, and set up the pages, tweaking the stories one by one as the authors returned their feedback. There were a lot of sleepless nights during this time – but I promise, it’s not insomnia. Just some kind of madness, a fire burning, perhaps a home fire. Ahi Kā.

Finally we had our Advance Review Copy, which we sent to a few strategic readers; meanwhile, after a few days’ break, it was head down again for the proofreading (many thanks also to Celine Murray for a fresh set of eyes!) – very necessary, as we caught and fixed a number of potentially embarrassing typos even after so many edits.

A last liaison with our fabulous cover artist Eve Doyle to add Lee’s lovely back cover text and create the custom spine width matching the page count, and it was off to the printers – a short run from my local providers at BookPrint, and uploading to CreateSpace and Kindle. It was a challenge to pick only five keywords for a book so very diverse, but soon that too was done. Design some postcards along the way, and set up a download page for reviewers – why not?

When the local print run was ready, Lee and I split the task of sending out the contributor copies just before she took off to Stokercon to wave some copies around and put them in the hands of those who could best use them.

Finished? Not quite! At this point appeared News Ninja Eileen Mueller with her track record for media releases and press contacts, and together we constructed the documentation to be sent out to newspapers, magazines, radio, distributors, and libraries. Laboriously, Eileen inducted me into the mysteries of Amazon advertising and we began a campaign that continues to this day (Hmm, I wonder how that’s going – whoops, I better check it!).

Orders began to flutter in from bookstores, libraries, and even schools, distributors added us to their catalogues, and media representatives requested review copies. Articles appeared in several local newspapers, headlined in each case by the contributors from that area. Then Lee kicked off the blog series here at SpecFicNZ, and it’s been awesome to read the inside stories behind the creations. And now you’ve seen a bit behind the scenes of the overall project.

Work continues on marketing and fulfilling orders; in many ways it will never stop now that it’s begun. But we’ve launched our book-baby into the world with the stringent quality checks that are so important in indie publishing. I would like to thank all of the team and the contributors for their hard work – I believe we have a product we can truly be proud of, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

You are the home fires we speak of. You are Ahi Kā.

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Anthologies Kiwi Writers Reviews 

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā – A Review


edited by  Grace Bridges, Lee Murray and Aaron Compton

Review by Simon Litten

Te Korero Ahi Ka is a collection of works by members of Speculative Fiction New Zealand. The collection is of both new works and reprints, but the new works predominate. This is neither a themed anthology nor a collection of one particular author, rather it is a showcase of the variety of short stories (and occasional art work) produced by the members of Speculative Fiction New Zealand. To that end the collection is a very mixed bag with science fiction, fantasy, horror, poetry and even to my eye at least a non-genre work. Given that breadth of content what can one say about such a collection?

Did I enjoy it? Yes, I did. There was the odd piece that was not to my taste but that is no surprise with thirty plus written works.

Would I recommend it to others? Yes, I would.

Could I remember any of the stories? Yes, there were several pieces that stuck in my memory. Chief among them were:

  • Gatekeeper, what toll? by Mike Reeves-McMillan was an intriguing story about the price that can be set on fame, fortune or revenge.
  • Dance, tiny particle, dance by Sean Monaghan was an excellent piece about time dilation in the seconds before death.
  • The Mysterious Mr Montague by Jane Percival was a delightful bit of horror. And
  • Dancing west to east by Simon Petrie and Edwina Harvey was a story about hope after disaster.

As a showcase of talent Te Korero Ahi Ka has more than achieved that aim. All I can say is that if you enjoy short fiction, buy this book.

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Anthologies In the News Kiwi Writers SpecFicNZ 

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā in the Gisborne Herald

Reporter Mark Peters of the Gisborne Herald talks with Te Kōrero Ahi Kā co-editor Aaron Compton.


Science fiction fans in for a treat with anthology featuring local author.

When people come to the end of their lives their brains are resurrected and preserved in bottles, in Gisborne writer Aaron Compton’s story Moa Love.

The story, in which the bottled brains rely on people in the real world for sensory experience, is Compton’s contribution to speculative fiction anthology, Te Korero Ahi Ka (to speak of the home fires burning).

The very New Zealand collection includes a zombie story written in colloquial Kiwi (“I eat heaps of burgers, so I’m slow as,” says the living narrator. “Now I have to be hardout cunning.”), a tale of madness and a taniwha, and another about pigs with AK-47s. Then there is Compton’s story about ancestors’ bottled brains who maintain their sanity by living vicariously through full-bodied people’s sensory experience.

“When it comes to love and lust things get complicated,” says Compton.

We’ll leave it at that for now; stories in the anthology are Kiwi-as, wildly original and well-written — as you’ll find out for yourself when you read them.

All contributors are members of SpecFicNZ, a society of writers with a love of horror, fantasy and science fiction. Along with downbeat New Zealand humour, the rouched landscape and the threads of Maori and Pacific Island culture, there is the wilderness in this country that can change a person forever, says historical-fantasy writer Juliet Marillier in the foreword.

“There’s history and there’s what lies far deeper than history: the bones and blood of the land; the heart and spirit of the story.”

Compton loves science fiction and fantasy so he was a good match for the society.

“There is a community of these writers who a lot of people wouldn’t know exist,” he says.

As a SpecFicNZ member he also took up the opportunity to volunteer as a mentee editor to work on shaping the anthology and to extend his own skills.

“When a lot of new writers’ work gets edited they think ‘leave my art alone’ but the few changes editors make can make a huge difference to any story.”

The editors read all submissions.

“Then we made a pass over the final stories. Some of that was just proofreading to check for consistency. We had a spreadsheet to put our thoughts on.”

Because the anthology was a community project, the editors gave written feedback to all contributors. This included those who did not make the final cut – a rare thing in a climate now in which most publishing houses do not even tell an author if their work has been rejected.

Writers whose work was selected for the anthology include 14 literary award-winners.

“The collection is really diverse,” says Compton.

“There’s a lot of fun stuff, then there’s really dark stuff and everything in between.”

Compton has wanted to write since he was a child. Two or three years ago he embarked on an ambitious writing project that involved a series of novels.

“I got up at four or five in the morning to write, before my two daughters woke up. I built a rich world to base these stories on then I started writing those books.”

About 60,000 words in though he realised the epic wasn’t working.

“That was disappointing but it was good to know I had the dedication and the stamina.”

To sharpen his writing skills he turned to short story writing — and has started on another novel.

  • Te Korero Ahi Ka (to speak of the home fires burning) is available now at Amazon, $11.99. Ebook version $3.88
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Conclave III – GoH Daphne Lawless

We’re delighted to present the full text of the speech of Conclave III Fan GoH Daphne Lawless, who talks about filking as a form of community building and the role of youth in maintaining our science fiction and fantasy community.

My name is Daphne Lawless and I AM NOT INSANE. Thought I’d better get that out there.

Warning: I use big words, abstract concepts, adult language, and have a habit of jumping from one subject to another like Catherine the Great. My apologies if it leaves you behind. Feel free to ask for clarification later.

I’m here to talk about 4 things in no particular order:

  1. Generational Change in Fandom.
  2. How I shouldn’t even be here.
  3. Filking and fan creativity.
  4. The politics of rrrrevolution.
  5. Cycle lanes
  6. Why science fiction at all?


To start, I don’t think I deserve to be FgoH.

Not that I’m ungrateful – I love having an audience to talk at. I’d talk at the opening of an envelope.

But I get the drift that this honour is due to my services to filking. For that, and for my introduction to fandom in general, the credit has to go not to me, but to my very dear friend of almost two decades now, Ms Kelly Buchanan.

She’s been going to conventions since the early 90s; she was on the concom for at least one; and it was her who talked me into going to my first con – Con with the Wind, Wellington, 2002.

It was also her who introduced me to filking. She’d been doing it since the early 1980s, and I was already a songwriter when I met her – so it seemed a natural area of cooperation. In the 15 years since then, our filking partnership – the Cousin of Mercy – has finished an entire book of filks and we’ve started a second. Every single filk I write has been co-written with, or at least edited by, Kelly. So she should be up here herself.

Kelly has done much more for New Zealand fandom I ever have. The only difference is that I like to perform and speak publicly, and she doesn’t. Applaud her anyway.

Anyway, filking. Commonly known as taking the tunes of popular songs and changing the words to be about Macgyver or whatever.

I was familiar with the concept before that – the works of Mr “Weird” Al Yankovic. He’s extremely good at what he does. But originally, I kind of thought his stuff that made the pop charts was weak sauce. Changing Madonna and Michael Jackson lyrics so they’re about foodstuffs? Kinda meh. (I now think he’s a comedy genius, you should certainly check out his movie UHF and his album with synthesizer pioneer Wendy Carlos if you can find them.)

But once I engaged with the filking circles at actual conventions, I began to understand the link between “filk” and “folk” – apart from the fact that one originated as a misspelling of the other.

I’ve been a musician since the age of 7 and I’ve played “folk music”, i.e. the traditional music of Britain, Ireland, and thus of the Pākehā New Zealand. The big difference between “folk music” and most of the music that gets attention – whether classical art music, or commercial pop music – is that it’s not all about “the author”. It’s about creativity that comes out of a community, rather than an individual.

That’s contrary to the individualist culture of capitalism. All creativity must be ascribed to an individual – or to the corporate entity administering that individual’s intellectual property – if it is to be COMMODIFIED, MARKETED and PROFITED FROM.

Folk music, on the other hand, goes through what is called “the folk process”. A song, a story, a joke passes through the minds and mouths of ordinary people (usually not trained or academic musicians) – they retell it in innumerable variations. Sometimes variations happen when someone forgets an important part of the original, and they make up something to fill the gap – or they borrow bits from another story or song that seem to fit. Or sometimes you get parallel evolution – the same idea arises in different places at the same time. Which is why there are at least two, maybe three completely separate versions of Hey There Deliliah rewritten so it’s about Macgyver.

Joseph Campbell and Carl Jüng are a little bit discredited now. But the idea of archetype – of stories or characters which keep reasserting themselves, which keep reappearing throughout history, because they speak to humanity, or to a particular kind of people living in X way in Y place at Z time – makes a lot of sense when it comes to the folk process.

So – with the exception of a few big names like Yankovic, Leslie Fish or Seanan Macguire – filks are not bought and sold. They are traded, passed on, embellished. They don’t belong to a person. They belong to a community. Some of the best filks I know of, I don’t even know who their original author was – again, like Hey There Macguyver.

Anyway, I know not all of you are filkers. Some people just don’t want to hear untrained people trying to sing, no matter how funny the words. Fair enough.

But I think filking can be seen as a lens through which we can see all fan creativity. Because all fan creativity comes out of a community, like filking. You can’t make money off it because it’s someone else’s intellectual property (excluding the “pro” fanfic known as tie-ins).

It is vital to why I am here – why I am still coming to NatCons in my 40s – that I honestly believe, like the British radical cultural critic Ben Watson, that quite often fan creativity is much more interesting than the commodity pop culture that provoked it.

As a queer woman, the following might sound like heresy, but I never dug Xena: Warrior Princess. I totally approve of how it gave gainful employment to New Zealand’s working actors, actresses and stunt people (and fan journalists, hi Wolfie). But it was too deliberately cheesy and played too fast and loose with myth, legend and ancient history for me to get into it.

But as for the fanfic surrounding it… let’s put it this way. Being gay in the 1990s was like being trans today. It was increasingly something which was obvious, known and present in pop culture. But it was also very risky and very hard to represent without causing squawking from easily offended busybodies.

I know at least one woman who was a teenager of the time for whom Xena/Gabrielle slash fiction was her sex education – at least, her queer sex education. There’s a whole story to be told about how slash fiction – going all the way back to the primordial example, Kirk/Spock – allowed woman writers and woman readers to explore options for gender and sexuality which were simply not open in any but the most avant-garde fiction, let alone real life.

Seanan Macguire, to mention her again, wrote a very interesting thread on Twitter about how writing fanfic is, in her opinion, a far superior apprenticeship for writing professionally than any university creative writing course. And that’s because of the community aspect of it. Professional art has the producer on one side and the consumers on the other – joined only by the cash nexus, separated by the apparatus of publishing, agents, etc, coming together only at special events like these cons.

Fanfic (like filking) is a circle where producers, editors, critics and consumers are all the same people, taking turns producing art of a community, rather than art as a commodity.

So that’s what I find the most interesting part of sci-fi fandom – in fact, of all fandom, as I am a quite obsessive fan of various musical artists whom I will discuss at great length later over a drink. Community creativity, rather than the fetishisation of mass-cultural commodities. Another example would be the audience participation rituals around The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and more recently other films such as The Room.

My fandom partner Kelly and I ran three National Sci Fi cons, from 2008 to 2016, under the banner of Au Contraire. Our vision was precisely to prioritise fan creativity. Rather than fetishising the products of the mass culture industry themselves – kick-ass though they certainly can be – we wanted to celebrate the creativity of fan communities. But to do this, we had to do things quite differently from previous generations of NZ fandom.

This, ladies gentlemen and others present, is where we get into the “generational change” aspect of things. You’ve all heard those nonsense stories in the paper about how “the boomers ruined this” or “the millennials are ruining that” and how “Generation X never did anything interesting.”. As a member of Gen X myself, I take exception to that.

The proposition I want to bring you about fandom, in this country and globally, at this point is: if a community ceases to evolve, it ceases to exist.

We founded Au Contraire because the older kinds of convention – run by the people who had come of age in the 1970s and 1980s, for the most part – were not doing it for us. Okay, the filking was okay. But in general, we believed that national conventions in this country were too expensive, that they spent too much in flying in big-name authors for people to pay homage too, and in general were doing things which didn’t appeal to our generation.

One issue was of course that our generation was and is quite poor. Asset-poor, at least, compared to the generation which came before us. You don’t have to be a raving communist – although it certainly helps – to notice that the people who call the shots are the people who are rich in assets, and/or have high incomes.

This isn’t a political speech – I’ll give one of those later over a drink, once again. But it is simply a fact that the people who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s in the Western countries have managed to accumulate assets and built up investments that we of younger generations – the children of neoliberalism, of Rogernomics – will never feasibly be able to. (Unless our parents were already rich and they don’t leave it all to the SPCA in their wills.)

Homer Simpson was quite right to suggest that rock music reached perfection in 1975. Why was that? Because that’s when the generation which created rock music as we know it were at the height of their wealth and power. In the 1950s and 1960s, broadly speaking, teenagers had truckloads of money to spent, they could get a job or leave a job easily, and they had every reason to expect that they would be wealthier and happier than their parents.

That wasn’t true for my generation; it certainly isn’t true for the Millennials. We don’t have the financial resources of the people who bought a villa in Grey Lynn for 50 grand in the 80s, and now it’s worth $2 million. More money than I can realistically expect to earn for the rest of my life.

Look at the state of sci-fi movies these days. What was the big one of the last 20 years? The Matrix. But take a look at everything else. Reboots of Star Trek and Star Wars. Variations on the Aliens and Blade Runner franchises. Endless output from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whose characters were all invented between the 1940s and 1960s.

Friends, it is my firm belief that Western culture has become static – reached what Faction Paradox creator Lawrence Miles calls the Ghost Point – because the young people ain’t got nothing. That’s why we’re still listening to 70s and 80s bands on the radio. The music is good, don’t get me wrong! But can you imagine a teenager in the 70s listening to 30s music on the radio?!

The generation which are now reaching retirement age have the lions’ share of the cultural power and are not really interested in seeing anything fundamental change. I don’t say this as an accusation. I see it as a personal fact.

But what does a generation do when it becomes impoverished? What did the generations of the 1930s and 1940s do faced with global economic crisis and global war? (We’ve got the first, and with Dorito Mussolini in the White House, the latter isn’t probably far away.)

They MAKE DO AND MEND, that’s what. Everyone of my generation has a story about their old grandma who would never throw out a plastic bag because they grew up when you couldn’t throw out ANYTHING, when everything had to be repaired and used a thousand times.

The situation is of course different in the era of Moore’s Law, of ever-expanding computer power, when corporations like Apple try to deliberately sabotage perfectly useful tech to try to get you to buy the newer model. It’s now generally cheaper and easier to buy new stuff than to fix old stuff.

But what do you get when you have the desire to make something new and you don’t have the fancy tools? You experiment. That’s what we used to mean by the Kiwi “No 8 Wire” culture. During most of the 20th century we were a tiny farming outpost of the British Empire at the far end from anywhere.

You couldn’t order parts without paying prohibitively expensive freight costs and/or import duties and it would take 6 months on a leaky boat to get there. So you fixed things with what you had to hand. That’s what those people in those stupidly overstaffed New Zealand Railways workshops of the 1960s did with their times – experiment and fiddle with things.

The irony is that that tradition of what the French call bricolage – putting fancy things together from random things lying around – started dying out when you could get not only the newest tech but the newest TV and films ten seconds after they hit the streets in New York or London. I’ve heard it argued that  the early films of Peter Jackson – who is a few years older than me and went to the same high school – were possibly the last gasp of that tradition.

So anyway – Au Contraire is now over. I would argue that it was a project of my generation, of Kelly’s generation – the people who were in their 20s and 30s ten years ago and wanted to take over and shake things up, doing it our way, the cheap way, the collective way.

Whatever happens next in fandom will be the work of those derided Millennials. And whatever comes after them.

Millennials get a lot of crap, but frankly I’m 100% on their side. I might not understand WhatsApp or Instagram. I may think the Internet was better, more fun, and less useful as a tool for corporate spying and Russian propaganda bots when it was, to quote the Simpsons again, just a way to find out what some nerd thought about Start Trek.

But I like what they’re doing. I honestly think that the reason my generation were thought of as “slackers” was that we had all the confidence knocked out of us. Our parents’ generation had changed the world irrevocably in the 1960s and 1970s, won freedoms that couldn’t be imagined before. Then they made it big in the property market and decided to keep the world exactly like it was, forever.

Generation X swallowed the lie that our lives were harder than our parents because we weren’t as good. You can argue whether Nirvana were better than the Beatles. But the Beatles were the voice of a generation on the way up. Kurt Cobain, rest his soul, spoke the truth of one on the way down.

Millennials, as far as I can see, don’t fall for that guilt-tripping. They’ve never grown up with the illusions that you can do things like the 1960s in a 21st century economy. They never thought they’ll own a house or have a job for life. They know they have nothing to lose. They’re digital natives who’ve learned to travel light, live under the radar, do shit that the 60-somethings can’t understand and my generation find weird but generally praiseworthy.

They are the ones who will have to organise the equivalent of Au Contraire – to create a rebirth of fandom conventions for the 2020s and beyond. I hope it will still involve filking and that Kelly and I will be welcome at it!

What I’m getting at is that I believe that the Millennials have the potential to shock and overthrow the world just as much as the radicals of 1968 did. They’re doing it in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers hit the streets to demand an end to the United States’ ridiculous trade in weapons of human slaughter. They don’t care when they’re personally abused, called the Hitler Youth or whatever, by the ancient fascists. In their lives, they’ve gotten much worse than that from the basement dwellers on 4chan, etc.

In New Zealand, the younger generation have shown the most political acumen around the issues of urban design, transport, and climate change – the three are not distinct subject. Young people of today don’t want to sit in cars in hour-long commutes on motorways to get to their McMansion in the wopwops. They want a buzzing urban culture in a clean, sustainable city with apartment-style living and public transport which can get them wherever they want to go.

And this scares the hell out of the older generation, who demonize them just as badly as the gun protestors in the United States. In both Wellington and Auckland, you’ve got older, wealthy people who were radical back in the 1970s calling young climate change activists “neoliberal wo lf cubs” and “puppets of the property developers” for wanting cycle lanes. Cycle lanes. These people are putting nails on the cycle lanes or trying to destroy them with hammers. And sometimes, they are doing it while wearing Beatles T-shirts. While wearing the cultural paraphernalia of their radical youth, they have become just as bad as the squares they fought back in the day.

History is repeating itself. Just recently I found on the internet a drawing of Emma Gonzalez – a teenage anti-gun protestor – depicted with David Bowie’s lightning-bolt makeup, and captioned with the words from his song “Changes”:

I later found out it was drawn by Bowie’s widow Iman, which is pretty special. But we can also quote that other icon of 60s radicalism, Mr Bob Dylan:

don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command

So that would be my request – to come back to the point – to the fandom of my generation, and of the fandom before it. The kids are all right. Let’s back off and give them the space, and resources, to create something we couldn’t even imagine.

I’ve got an 18 month old daughter and I love her to death. That’s her over there.

She loves books and music. She draws and plays music instruments. What will her future be like?

It’s absolutely impossible to tell. Technology could speed up so fast that we’ll hit the mythical Singularity, where the machines will take over, for good or ill (from a human POV)

Or global high-tech civilisation will collapse. The latter is more likely to happen if the people who have the power and wealth right now would rather trash the whole planet than lose power. There’s a fellow in Syria who has trashed his whole country rather than lose power. This is not hypothetical.

Whether the future is more like The Matrix or Mad Max, though, I want to be able to give Frankie the tools to make it a better world, and the ethics to want to make it a better world. And for me, the intersection between the tools of the future, and the ethics of the future, are all about what science fiction means.

The same is probably true for fantasy – although the “tools” don’t have to be actually possible, the ethical decisions remain the same.

I’ve been told that little Frankie is already a “fan”. I hope so. Maybe she’ll even be a filker. Maybe, 20 or 40 years from now, she’ll be writing or painting or drawing a different future – or living one. I look forward to sticking around to seeing it.

Thank you very much. Come to the gig tomorrow night.

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Te Kōrero Ahi Kā and the Spec Fic Community in New Zealand

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā and the Spec Fic Community in New Zealand

By Sally McLennan

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā is a book born from a group. That group is more than our legion of writers, editors, fans and publishers. We are supported by families, film-makers who love our genres by association, and hoteliers who host our conferences. We are supported by those who work to make those conferences happen. I’ve been supported by a friend who came and did housework for me, and walked my dog, so I could write. We are supported by people in every trade and every part of the world: the poor souls who we email with random questions when formulating our work. What is the effect of two moons on a habitable planet? What do you consider the worst way to die? How would you get different coloured sky? These are questions I’ve asked total strangers. Though the work is utterly Kiwi in flavour, notice how gleefully we rope people from other nations into our work even while we invite them into our world.

The group that helped make Te Kōrero Ahi Kā is broader and more blurred around the edges than we generally ever think about when picking up a book. Like New Zealand’s society it is diverse, and we are inclusive.

How lucky we are that community includes those who have worked to make Te Kōrero Ahi Kā happen. Our heroes are Juliet Marillier, Lee Murray, Grace Bridges, Paul Mannering, and Aaron Compton. These people treasure our literature and give it voice. Yes, I said the L word. New Zealand has a rich tradition of speculative fiction that it doesn’t seem to recognise as such. Our classics include The Halfmen of O, The Bone People and the writing of the late, great Margaret Mahy (most of which is speculative fiction though she did some fine writing on history and astronomy, too). We have a film industry nearly entirely built on the genres we write in and it brings in billions. Yet it seems that often New Zealanders are incredibly unaware of the talent in speculative fiction writing in New Zealand and the greatness of the speculative fiction community. We struggle to attract publishers, mostly being published overseas, and cannot attract funding. Media is just starting to cotton on to our existence which seems so strange in our genre-loving society.

Te Kōrero Ahi Kā: We speak of the home fires burning. This book fans the blaze beautifully. Please, pick up this sparky book, and join us around the fire. We have a story for you…

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