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Noumenon

The original Noumenon was a Science Fiction Fanzine with occasional comic strips and illustrated covers. It was written, edited, produced and published from Waiheke Island, Auckland, by Brian Thurogood. He encouraged artists of all types and abilities to contribute, as published articles, news items and reviews. Issue number 1 was dated March 1976. The last issue was number 46/47 in June 1982.

Colin Wilson, who also helped with the artwork and design and production of Noumenon was a creator for Strips Comic Fanzine. Issue number 1 was dated February 1977. The last “Waiheke” issue was number 18 in July 1982. Strips continued until issue 22 in 1986.

An extensive history of NZ fanzines was compiled by Nigel Rowe in a number of iterations of Timeless Sands: http://www.sffanz.org.nz/lists/Timeless_Sands.pdf

Mentions of Noumenon frequently appear in fanzine histories:

NOUMENON, The New Zealand Science Fiction Magazine, was consistently directed at readers of contemporary science fiction in New Zealand, but also looked at fan activities like conventions and fanzines. Many familiar names appeared in its letter column, and contributed material.

Issue #11 contents include Thurogood’s editorial, Quidnunc’s Page, featuring notes on the approaching release of The Silmarillion; Viewed from Another Shore, a column on SF and illustration by Rollo Treadway; a column by Pete Graham, Broad Moonlight; The Long Result: A Glimpse into the use of Time in SF by Bruce Ferguson; Rags, Solecism and Riches, a listing of fanzines and other magazines received in trade; Book reviews by Bruce Fergsuon, Chris Fountain, Pete Graham, Tim Hassell, Rod Scott and Thurogood; Letters of comment from Mike Glicksohn, Gil Gaier, Ira Thornhill, Lynne Holdom, Bruce Ferguson, Dave Pengelly, A. Bertram Chandler, Don D’Ammassa and Alan Dean Foster; and a listing of science fiction publishers. Front cover art by Jim McQuade; interior illustrations by McQuade, Colin Wilson and Bill Taylor. Reproduced by offset printing.

From the collection of John D. Berry, a longtime fanzine fan, who received most of these titles in the mail when they were originally published. John also reviewed fanzines for AMAZING STORIES in the early 1970s, and some of these items were submitted there.

More history to come, including WellCon that was held in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1979.

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Posted by on September 10, 2018 in Conventions, Fandom

 

Dangerously close to death of various kinds

Crash Deluxe (Parrish Plessis #3)MARIANNE DE PIERRES
Crash Deluxe
Volume three of the PARRISH PLESSIS series

Parrish Plessis returns in the third of the series, and now she’s a fabulous chameleon, still grounded in an unlikely Earth-mother sense of responsibilities, yet with skills and determination that are discovered/grow with each new battle.

The quick-thinking problem-solving can also lead Parrish into more danger, so de Pierres carries on, allowing her heroine to grow into a fantastic combination of a James Bond and/or Max from Dark Angel, each sticky situation taking its toll and yet offering another glimpse of potential – for both the heroine and the story arcs.

This is science fiction/fantasy (currently often referred to as speculative fiction) of the highest order. While the main story is terrific in its pace and exploration of de Pierres’ fantastic future world, there are moments of truly clever thinking by the author.

For example, just after a third of the book, Parrish is a speck, a tiny mote in a huge data stream, adrift and directionless, dangerously close to death of various kinds. After numerous failures her ‘inner Angel’ suggests a solution: “Use smell to find your friend.”

The reader (and Parrish) are lifted from the digital virtual space, away from issues of power and corruption, away from good and evil or any thoughts of mortality and the universe:

“I followed a pale auburn stream of data, seeking out a familiar smell. It was there, behind the salty tangs of the data-streams and the mustiness of the repositories – the faintest odour of life.

“I set myself after it like a dog.”

This ability to infuse the fantastic with the immediate, to step down from the ‘mighty path’ that can strangle much fantasy, is a rare skill that de Pierres can use in just the right measure.

Crash Deluxe is a fine third installment in the Plessis novels. More enemies have been avoided/repelled/vanquished and Parrish is more or less whole at the conclusion of another wonderful series of capades. Easily 5 stars and I wait for further installments.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Reviews, Speculative Fiction

 

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A Harsh Land of Extremes and Perilous Journeys

Code Noir (Parrish Plessis #2)MARIANNE DE PIERRES
Code Noir
Volume two of the PARRISH PLESSIS series 

Power, responsibilities and debts are never far from immediate if not perilous concerns for Parrish Plessis and this, the second book of the series begun with Nylon Angel, hurtles the heroine from talented adolescent to weight-of-the-world adulthood.

One of the many thrills of the de Pierres stories is the clever conceal-and-partially-show of both characters and story arcs. The thrilling pace of the books, interspersed with just enough social and/or technological grit, leaves the reader both satisfied and wanting more.

De Pierres, just like Plessis, appears to have a soft spot for many of the secondary characters, and some reappear hundreds of pages later in significant episodes of the story. And what secondary ‘characters’ some of them are – virtual PAs, biotech mergings, sentient ‘trees’ etc. Whether allies or foes, major or minor, all characters in this series have a role or purpose that exceeds those of most ciphers in much fiction. This is something I look for, and often find, in current speculative fiction.

The setting for the novels is a harsh land of extremes, with facets of ‘old’ Australia and a certain belligerent stubbornness in a few characters that could easily be considered an Oz trait! The haves and have-nots are both at the mercy of powerful forces, with Parrish and her allies, old and new, often buffeted in unexpected and very violent ways.

Describing Parrish as a ‘kick-ass cyberpunk heroine’ does no disservice to her or Lisbeth Sander – both have the guts, street cred, street smarts and sexual maturity to overcome most adversity, even when at a cost to themselves. But no, there is no happy-ever-after male companion at the end of the novels – and that is another huge plus. 5 stars.

Footnote: The historical Code Noir was a decree passed by King Louis XIV in 1685, defining France’s living conditions for race, slavery and freedom.
 
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Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Reviews, Speculative Fiction

 

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Guts, Personal Demons, Internal Dialogues, New Heroines

MARIANNE DE PIERRES
Nylon Angel
Volume one of the PARRISH PLESSIS series

Science Fiction, Fantasy, Steampunk, Post-Apocalyptic, Speculative Fiction – whatever you want to call it, there is a strength and depth to it that surpasses other fiction genres.

Crime and Thrillers and Mystery can have terrific stories and be well told, but in most cases those novels are ploughing the same ground, with most characters only a few degrees different to hundreds of others. Only a few authors like Andrew Vacchs have created outstanding bodies of work in those genres.

Nylon Angel, the first of the Parrish Plessis series, introduces a fascinating and internally-consistent post-disaster world, cleverly populated with characters that shout their individuality from each page.

Tough girl Parrish has all the guts, personal demons and internal dialogues that are common to the Crime Thriller style, but the sheer talent and audacity of de Pierres imagination raises the stakes – and the reader’s interest – well beyond the norm. Each chapter propels the story lines, introducing essential detail along with plenty of opportunities for moral and/or philosophical musings.

This is not a slick but ultimately hollow cops and robbers in space (and I guess the Political Correctness Police will not let us say cowboys and indians in space any more in case someone will get ‘upset’ by such terms). Rather, this is a wonderfully created alternate world with its own breeds/races/cultures and loyalties/animosities that can be enjoyed as great story telling. 5 stars.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Reviews, Speculative Fiction

 

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Lost in One-Eighth of a Quartet

IAN IRVINE
A Shadow On The Glass
“A tale of the three worlds”
Volume one of THE VIEW FROM THE MIRROR quartet.

Although I enjoyed the first half of this book, especially the rich world-building and character portrayals, the second half became standard fantasy fare, with insurmountable odds eventually becoming insurmountable for the author, and each character became a weak shadow of their early potential.

By chapter 26 (page 349 of 572 in the Penguin edition), my reading was more task than enjoyment. The story held interest but one character after another lost significance. I finished the book but by then didn’t care enough about any character to want to read more of the series. It seemed as though the characters escaped from Irvine, that he couldn’t harness their potential or keep their interaction at a dynamic level, so in the end all became ciphers that failed both their tasks and the story.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2011 in Reviews

 

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Much Ado About Nothing? The Unseen Is Too Visible

There were quite a few mentions of the work of China Mieville at WorldCon 2010 and his position as one of the leading lights of fantasy or “new weird” or maybe even steampunk.

China Mieville, The City & The CityHis novel The City & The City won the 2010 Arthur C. Clarke Award, 2010 Hugo Award, and 2010 World Fantasy Award, as well as being a Nebula Award nominee in the Best Novel category.

However, there are some rather worrying aspects about such popularity. Like, what happened to good editing and great sub-editing. A few examples can explain my reservations.

Suspension of Disbelief

Science Fiction and Fantasy with the capital letters are all about readers accepting one or two “what if” elements to a story, and then seeing how well the author can examine, express, develop and/or personalise that mutually-agreed deceit.

Mieville didn’t believe his central theme in The City & The City or maybe his editor didn’t understand that sf&f readers are comfortable with a pretence at the core of a story. There is no other way to explain the continual, repetitive and superfluous explanations about needing to “unsee” by just about every one of the characters and in just about every major scene in the book.

In fact, Mieville’s writing is often closer to a thesis than a novel, as if a third-year literature student is debating and trying to convince others about an aspect of form and function. Even if we treat the book as a police procedural in a crime genre rather than sf&f, the overstating of the “unseeing” would still be tedious.

Cardboard Characters

In much of American fiction, whether in books or tv shows, the girls get killed and the guys do a lot of shouting and running about shootin’ n’ fightin’ and, occasionally, thinkin’ a little bit. A good example is the recent, impoverished and repetitive works of James Patterson and his many “co-authors”.

In The City & The City the nosy and noisy female gets killed, the bureaucrats bumble, the detective keeps telling us he is a detective and how he operates as a detective, the innocent but attractive female friend of the dead female gets killed, and the story gets “solved” when the detective does all the obvious things, too late, and after getting everyone else to act out of character to get to the conclusion.

Some commercial entertainment is deliberately easy to access and understand and, when done well, can be a success as both art and business. Mieville is not close to this with The City & The City because the strings pulling the monster’s arms and legs are too obvious.

TV Script Repetition

Most TV shows now rely on repetition and restating the obvious, usually two or three times in any ten-minute span. This is now true, unfortunately, of everything from comedies, crime shows, documentaries and, of course, reality shows. Key facts, already obvious and accepted by viewers, are restated:

  • at the start of the show
  • before the ad break
  • after the ad break
  • before the next ad break
  • etcetera, etcetera

Mieville may have saved a team of TV script writers a lot of work. The repetitions are all there, every chapter laden with reminders. I can hear the voiceover now:

“You will remember we have been examining cross-hatching, where people in one city will ‘unsee’ people in the other city alongside them. Inspector Borlu has been trying to explain the concept to a visitor. The story continues when …”

Rating: 2 stars out of 5

The central “conceit of the book” as Mieville calls it is worth one star and the occasional flourish adds a second. Yet overall the book was disappointing, laboured and, in the end, slight. It stands as a potentially good short story or novella, all dressed up in fancy “best selling author” packaging as a novel.

I’m surprised that my views on this book are so different to many others. Perhaps the general dumbing down in media generally, especially populist newspapers, TV shows and movies, is now infecting sf&f.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2010 in Reviews, Writing

 

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Making A Living – professional writing for speculative fiction authors

Being a professional writer is not an easy career path for most of us, according to Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi and George Ivanoff in a discussion at AussieCon4 in Melbourne.

George Ivanoff

George Ivanoff

George advised the audience that to write for a wide range of genres can help create opportunities. He said the education market can be well paid, if you have the interest and knowledge.

John Scalzi

John Scalzi

John is a freelance writer and uses his skills for both fiction and non-fiction. He added that the corporate market can be a great balance for a creative writer, especially as his creativity is “about three hours a day”. His two streams of work for Tor and Subterranean are complementary rather than “either/or”.

Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow

Cory describes himself as a “freelance entrepreneur” rather than a writer, although his SF and speculative fiction is increasingly well-known and award-winning. Some advice to budding writers is that trade publishing is not profitable to many except the big stars, so a well-paid job may be a better option while a writer enjoys a part-time craft.

Piracy was considered “small-time” by Cory. The three big players – Sony, Apple and Amazon – over time will become almost universally accepted, he said, and all easier to use than torrents.

AussieCon4 was the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Melbourne, Australia, Sept 2nd-6th 2010. The panel discussions included SF, fantasy, speculative fiction, steampunk, movies, comics and fandom.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2010 in Fandom, Publishing, Social Media, Writing

 

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