Spec-Fic Month: New Zealand Speculative Fiction Roundup

During June 2017, we're celebrating Aotearoa New Zealand speculative fiction with excerpts, interviews, and poetry. First up: here's our roundup of five recent spec-fic publications, and two classics.

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Speculative fiction is a broad genre that encompasses science fiction, fantasy, fantastical horror, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, and their many glorious combinations. The key to the term lies in the word 'speculate': spec-fic asks 'what if' the laws of our world were different, and how would a character react to that? For instance, what if a child could walk through walls? What if vampires are real but didn't want to hunt humans? What if we are all hooked up to a matrix of computers, but you could take a pill to see the real world?

During June 2017, we're celebrating the fantastical, futuristic, and magical with excerpts, interviews, and poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand spec-fic authors. First up: a roundup of recent spec-fic publications (and two re-released classics). 

The Crossing by Mandy Hager

Multi-award winning Mandy Hager writes novels for adults and young adults, short stories, scripts, and non-fiction resources for young people. Her book, The Crossing (2010) has been called 'utterly compelling' and ‘classic young adult fiction.’ As we all know, YA fiction is as much for older adults as it is for young adults. 

The Crossing is a dystopian novel and first book in The Blood of the Lamb trilogy. Hager's story follows the fate of Maryam and the people of Onewere, a small island in the Pacific, who have been chosen to survive the deadly event that consumed the Earth. In this world, the elite control the population from the rotting cruise ship Star of the Sea. Maryam must choose to obey the leaders and very likely die, or turn her back on every belief she once held dear. The Crossing is followed by Into the Wilderness and Ressurection.

The Bridge by Jane Higgins

Jane Higgins lives in that 'shaky place' Christchurch. As a child she 'read a lot of classic science fiction, fantasy and myth and was captivated by the astonishing beauty and strangeness of the universe and by the writers who explored it.' Her novel The Bridge won The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing, 2010, and was commended in the New Zealand Post Book Awards, 2012.

The Bridge is a story about division, war, courage and friendship (and a book that has its own trailer!). The city is at war: Southside, the hostiles live in squalor and desperation; Cityside, Internal Security is in charge. It recruits only the best for its elite command, and Nik is smart. So why is he rejected? Before he can find out, the hostiles have taken the bridges, and they’ve kidnapped Fyffe’s brother. Now Nik is on the run, and Fyffe is going with him, across the bridge. Havoc (2015), the sequel to The Bridge, is also published by Text.

Engines of Empathy by Paul Mannering

Paper Road Press likes to publish books that 'poke holes in old genres and stitch them up with something new,' which perfectly describes Wellington-based Paul Mannering's sci-fi adventure novel, Engines of Empathy.

Mannering's story follows Charlotte Pudding, computer psychologist and recent orphan, when her life is disrupted by a shadowy corporation and a man who claims to be a retired god. As her family's secrets come out, Charlotte’s quest for answers lead her on a perilous journey into a religion based on Quantum Physics, a hunt for unexpectedly rare plant oil, and a fight to the shame against a black-belt in sarcasm. Engines of Empathy won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel in 2015, and was followed by the sequel, Picies of Fate

Daughter of Blood by Helen Lowe

Helen Lowe's work has been praised as 'powerful' and 'vivid.' While Lowe is based in Christchurch, her novels are published internationally. Her first novel Thornspell, (Knopf) was published to critical praise in 2008, and in 2012 The Heir Of Night (The Wall Of Night Book One), won the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for Best Fantasy Newcomer. 

Lowe has released the third installment in The Wall of Night series, Daughter of Blood. The Wall of Night series is about the Derai Alliance who are alien to the world they inhabit, Haarth. While they believe themselves to be champions of good, they are xenophobic and divided by prejudice and fear. Malian, heir to the Derai leadership, must reunite her people in order to prevent the world being destroyed by the Swarm. In Daughter of Blood, an orphan boy falls foul of dark forces among Haarth back streets as Malian dodges deadly pursuers to return home from exile. The Swarm is rising and time is running out: for Malian, for Kalan, and for all of Haarth.

Breach Magazine

Breach is a new online magazine for speculative fiction, horror and dark fantasy short fiction. The founders' focus is on new and emerging Australian and New Zealand writers and artists, and to help them get their work out into the world.

Travel to the mesosphere to catch a glimpse of Hannah C. van Didden's 'The Unknown,' while in 'Matey,' Peter Kirk wonders what happens when robots get old. With 'Hurk + Dav,' Arthur Robinson introduces two of our favourite new characters, and poet Jesse Hayward plays with time in 'The Devil's Loop.' Issue #01 is out now, and submissions are open!


After Z-Hour by Elizabeth Knox

Elizabeth Knox, the author of twelve books including The Vintner’s Luck, Mortal Fire, and Wake, needs no introduction. Knox is one of New Zealand's most acclaimed writers, and known for her speculative fiction. 

After Z-Hour is Knox's first published novel, but the third she wrote. The first, One Too Many Lives, was completed when she was nineteen, but not published; The second, Salamander, Knox 'disliked intensely, and put away in a drawer.' Begun in Bill Manhire’s Original Composition class, After Z-Hour was published by Victoria University Press in 1987, on Armistice Day, and went on to win the PEN Award for Best First Book of Prose.

In 2014 Victoria University Press published a new edition of After Z-Hour. The story follows six people stranded by a South Island storm, who take refuge in the stillness of an old house. As they tell the fragments of their story, a seventh voice responds: a young New Zealand serviceman who died in 1920 soon after his return from France. As the storm deepens, the hauntings of the mind and the hauntings of the house become one. 


The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

First published in 1984, Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover is considered a classic YA fantasy novel. To coindice with the film adaptation of the book, The Changeover was re-released by Hachette in April 2017.

The Changeover follows the story of Laura who lives in the new suburb of Gardendale in Christchurch. In the coming-of-age story, Laura must risk her life to save her brother, Jacko, who has been bewitched by the sinister Carmody Braque. As Jacko becomes increasingly ill, Laura seeks the help of Sorensen Carlisle, who she recognises as a witch, and at the same time begins her own transformation.