By Lee Murray
Te Kōrero Ahi Kā is a community building project instigated by SpecFicNZ as a key activity for 2018. Over recent years, initiatives such as writing competitions and one-off publishing grants had seen dwindling entries, so, in a bid to increase member engagement and awareness of our work at SpecFicNZ, the committee proposed a non-themed speculative showcase anthology where members could submit prose, poetry and artwork, including cover art, in return for a small fee. The project was intended as a learning tool, the committee calling for applications for a mentee editor to work on the anthology with experienced editor and assessor President Grace Bridges, and myself. Member Aaron Compton won the bid and although he had never done any editing before, Aaron’s keen eye and quirky taste meant he quickly became a great asset to our editing line-up.
Since Te Kōrero Ahi Kā was a community project, we decided against sending fellow members a clinical acceptance or rejection; instead all entrants received comment from the editors, who highlighted positives and, on occasion, made suggestions for potential improvements to the work. Stories and poems which had been accepted then went through the normal editing process. It was my second time editing an anthology project with Grace Bridges and once again she amazed me with her professionalism, insight, and attention to detail. It also helps that she is an uncanny mind reader and suffers from insomnia even worse than my own. Meanwhile, Paul Mannering, SpecFicNZ Treasurer and our project convenor, worked hard behind the scenes liaising with creatives to finalise contracts and payments, in some instances the first experience of the business side of our industry by contributors. Best loved New Zealand fantasy writer Juliet Marillier very kindly provided us with a foreword, and iconic New Zealand speculative writer and Arthur C. Clarke finalist, Phillip Mann provided a cover blurb. Finally, publicist Eileen Mueller rolled up her sleeves to promote the work both online and to New Zealand print media. The result is a true community effort and a wonderful inaugural publication, which I am proud to be associated with. Te Kōrero Ahi Kā is an eclectic mix of high fantasy, science fiction, and dark fiction, as the back cover copy reveals:
Here, between the realms of the Sky Father and Earth Mother, hellhounds race, ghosts drift aimless, and the taniwha stalks. Home fires drive them back, at the same time sparking stories and poems that traverse seconds, eons, and parsecs. Tales of gatekeepers, cloak wearers, and secret keepers. Of pigs with AK-47s or ruby-hued eyes, of love-struck moa, and unruly reflections. Stark truths, and beautiful possibilities…
Te Kōrero Ahi Kā, a term which means to speak of the home fires burning, is an anthology of science fiction, fantasy, and horror, showcasing work from both established and emerging members of the SpecFicNZ organisation of writers, poets, artists, and creatives. It is a statement about how New Zealand creators of speculative fiction and art shine their light on our literary landscape.
A reprint of my dark fiction speculative story, Selfie, appears in the anthology. First published by SQ Mag in May 2016 (cover art above by Christian Chapman) as part of their themed edition on Symbiosis, the story was edited by the very capable Sophie Yorkston, a factor which surely contributed to its reaching the finals of the 2017 Australian Shadows Awards:
Depressed since the loss of her baby and abandonment by her partner, Eve’s sister sends her on a trip to cheer her up. Eve has other ideas: she plans suicide, only an apocalyptic event intervenes and she is unexpectedly teamed up with Steve.
Here is a snippet:
“I can’t,” I protested. “My back hurts.”
“It’s because you’re fused,” the Pigeon-man said.
He giggled, a hysterical cackle that sent a shiver through me, and pointed at my right hand. I lifted it to see what was so funny. My stomach dropped. For an instant, all sound melted away. I closed my eyes. Opened them again.
“I already told you. You’re fused.”
My fist had been reduced to a club, my selfie stick welded to a swollen blob of purple flesh. Molten metal seeped between my tendons. Suddenly, the wings on the man’s shoulder made sense.
Pigeon-man gave a stiff nod, then lifted his chin indicating the man beneath me. “You’re fused to him, too.”
My eyes fluttered and the sky disappeared.
The guy underneath woke me, his voice in my ear. That, and the searing in my back. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been out. Maybe only seconds.
“We’ve got attached somehow,” he said.
Dazed, I lifted my arm and looked at the lump. My hand was a selfie stick, and I was fused with someone. I twisted my head, and took in the ruined monument, the grimy cracks between the cobbles, some drifting litter.
A box of print copies of the Te Kōrero Ahi Kā, featuring evocative Evelyn Doyle cover art, arrived just before my trip to the United States for the Horror Writers Association annual StokerCon convention, so I was able to take some along and get photos of the book with my fellow contributors Dan Rabarts and Alan Baxter. Dan is SpecFicNZ’s webmaster and a general committee member, and Alan is one a small but active group of Australian members of SpecFicNZ.
Te Kōrero Ahi Kā will be launched online over March-April culminating in a contributor meet up at Conclave III, the 30th annual science fiction and fantasy conference to be held at Easter, 2018, at the Surrey Hotel in Auckland. Reviewers and bloggers who would like to receive a copy for review should contact email@example.com
Buy links: Amazon Paperback and Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079QHH1F7
Other ebook sites including Apple and Kobo: https://www.books2read.com/u/mgrdz6