The latest from GeyserCon 2019

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GeyserCon Prizes!

posted May 15, 2019, 12:51 PM by Grace Bridges

Our thanks to Jan Butterworth who has been emailing up a storm and asking for donated prizes from various businesses around NZ!

Here are a few pictures of some of the things you could win - just a taste really, as there is so much more as well. 

There are prizes for things like the Limerick Masquerade (how's your costume doing??), the fiction contest (Kaaron Warren is judging the winners!), other random contests through the weekend, door prizes on Friday night, AND random prizes that will be handed out by our official Santa Claus, James Revell, as well as in certain sessions.

Plus, at registration, there are 40 sets of Keyboard Earrings to be handed out with registration packs - first in, first served.

And no, the last pic isn't a prize, or even a booby prize - but it COULD be your way to win an actual prize! Can you guess how?

Geothermal Rotorua

posted May 2, 2019, 9:52 PM by Grace Bridges   [ updated May 2, 2019, 10:17 PM ]

By Peter Brownbridge, Geothermal Inspector, Rotorua District Council

Photo: Peter being interviewed for TV

Peter Brownbridge is being interviewed at GeyserCon for the session "Geothermal Apocalypse" - to explore with us what a geothermal disaster scenario might look like and what we should be preparing for in fiction, and perhaps in real life. 
We asked him to introduce himself here for our attendees.

I have lived in Rotorua for the past 35 years and started work for the Rotorua Lakes Council in 1993. In 1995 I transferred to what was then known as the environmental services department, within which group the geothermal inspector (Bill) was based. Bill had held this role for a number of years and was very knowledgeable on all things geothermal here in Rotorua. Bill was nearing retirement and was looking for someone to take on the role. 

It was never planned, however over the next five years I helped Bill out in his role of Council's Geothermal Safety Officer. It was during this time I met a local geologist who spent a lot of his time working in and around the geothermal activity in our area. For the next 8 or so years until he moved to Australia I would get carted to all sorts of geothermal related sites and incidents. This time taught me a lot about the geothermal fields in and around Rotorua.

When Bill retired in 2000, I was deemed the Council expert on all things geothermal, and the job was mine. 

Bill's retirement coincided with  the geothermal aquifer under Rotorua undergoing a period of recovery after the bore closure program of 1987-89. We were experiencing geothermal surface feature recovery including hydrothermal eruptions in and around Rotorua. Some of these were occurring under dwellings. 

This was an exciting time as this sort of thing was new to all of us, mistakes were made and lessons were learnt, buildings were lost and saved. 

In the end, Rotorua and I survived. Just when I thought I had everything under control the geologist informed me he was off to Aussie to live. And true to form, over the next few years there was a run of geothermal bores failing and going rogue, deadly gases venting into houses, and more geothermal surface activity. I was on my own and learning fast but feeling more and more comfortable with my decisions.

The end result of the above is that I'm now comfortable around all things geothermal, I understand how it works and what is going on under my feet. 

I do not like the term "expert" - I do however consider myself knowledgeable on the geothermal system I live on top of and with this knowledge comes an awareness of the hazards it poses if things should go wrong.

Register for GeyserCon now at http://www.geysercon.nz/register
Queen's Birthday 2019, Rotorua

Register for GeyserCon and go in to Win!

posted May 1, 2019, 7:04 PM by Grace Bridges   [ updated May 2, 2019, 5:46 AM ]

Rotorua is ready for us! Our presenters and panellists are locked in, the costumes are being primped and the geysers are bubbling.

With only 29 days until GeyserCon kick-off, we’d like to remind you to register for the conference here before the late registration fee kicks in. Everyone who registers and pays for their tickets before midnight 12 May, goes in the draw to win a refund on their membership or a fantasy book pack.

The fantasy book pack includes the two award-winning books from the Riders of Fire series by Eileen Mueller, two books in the Quest series by SJV-winning author A.J. Ponder, both sponsored by Phantom Feather Press, and At the Edge, a compilation of Australasian dark fiction edited by Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts, sponsored by Paper Road Press.  

Feel free to share GeyserCon by bringing along a friend. You never know, they may win their registration fee back or end up owning and loving these top kiwi books. We look forward to seeing you in Rotorua on Queen’s Birthday weekend.

GeyserCon featured in Rotorua Daily Post

posted Apr 30, 2019, 2:31 AM by Grace Bridges

"Jam-packed weekend of fantasy and science fiction action coming to Rotorua"

A weekend jam-packed with fantasy and science fiction inspiration and action is being held in Rotorua in the form of GeyserCon.

GeyserCon is the 40th national science fiction and fantasy convention, and will be held over Queen's Birthday weekend.

The weekend will include events for writers, students and fans of genre fiction and movies, and also features an all-weekend Book Expo with new titles from Kiwi and international authors.

International guests and award-winning authors Kaaron Warren, Laura VanArendonk Baugh and Alan Baxter will feature in the writers' and students' education programmes, along with a line-up of New Zealand authors.

Two of the award-winning New Zealand authors attending are AJ Ponder and Eileen Mueller, who will help primary pupils to hone their writing skills through the Young New Zealand Writer's Day Out.

This is a series of programmes for students from Year 5 through to Year 13 on May 31 as part of GeyserCon.

Mueller said she loved teaching students who were keen and helping them on their journey.

She said they would be creating impromptu stories, having fun with interactive fiction and embarking on a superhero's journey.

"I've seen kids come to these and their enthusiasm explodes."

Mueller said this convention was a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people, was great for networking, and a chance for people to learn a lot from experts.


posted Apr 30, 2019, 2:26 AM by Grace Bridges

By David Hair

“Create your own mythology” is the title of an album by American country-rock singer Kristin Diable (the best track is “Time Will Wait” which is worth the price of admission on its own, a building succession of change-ups with powerful vocals).

Creating our own mythology is also something all of us do, all the time.

Our personal mythology is in the stories we tell, to create and uphold our world. It’s that funny story you tell someone on a first date to charm them, and the dreams you share of who you want to be; it’s time you got up from your sickbed and soldiered on, or that cautionary tale about being ripped off. Your mythology contains your successes and your strivings, and its peopled with the old gods – parents, siblings, grandparents – and new gods like bosses and supervisors and coaches that have the power to reward or punish. Its heroic, tragic, comedic and mundane. It’s a good luck, bad luck, hard won story of triumph or failure or endurance.

Myths explain our world, recall ancient deeds, contain life lessons and teach us right from wrong. They’re vivid, strike to the heart of human existence, and are full of adventure, horror and romance. They’re archetypal tales that are retold in new contexts, over and again.

Mythology is a huge and fertile landscape for us to plough into. Sometimes we re-tell them verbatim, other times we apply them to our own times, or we twist them and create a new version. We seek new meanings, hidden nuances and exciting combinations. We incorporate them into our own worlds (like Marvel incorporating the Norse Gods in their cinematic universe) or put ourselves into theirs (various stories in which modern protagonists find themselves pitted against mythic beings or monsters). It’s in the nature of myths for us to redress them into our own time and place, to learn anew from them.

Some of my favourite books when I was young were mythology collections – I remember especially devouring books about King Arthur, Robin Hood, and the Greek myths. My History and Classics degree included papers on mythology. And it looms large over my creative output: if I look at the 20 books I’ve had published to date, twelve of them are directly related to mythology, and those that aren’t are still powerfully influenced by it. I’ve dipped into New Zealand mythology in my Aotearoa series, Indian myth in my Return of Ravana series, and (alongside Cath Mayo) Greek myth in the Olympus series. The first thing I want to know about any culture is their folklore, and I find it a continual inspiration in my writing.

So I’m very much looking forward to the panel discussion on the first night of GeyserCon in Rotorua (Friday 31 May 2019). I’ll be discussing the mythic influences on modern fantasy and sci-fi alongside Laura VanArendonk Baugh and J C Hart, with Grace Bridges keeping us on track. I hope you’ll come along.

Zines with Zee

posted Apr 30, 2019, 2:21 AM by Grace Bridges   [ updated May 16, 2019, 7:13 PM ]

Zee Southcombe, a writer, illustrator and producer of zines, is sending DIY zine packs for purchase in GeyserCon's craft area. Today she discusses why Zines are important to science fiction and fantasy fandom. 

Hi Zee! Before we start, what’s your definition of a zine?
Zines are, by definition, hard to define – the whole point of them is freedom of expression and form, and giving less-heard voices a platform. I tend to describe them to people as “the DIY end of self-publishing”. 
For me, one thing that makes a zine stand out is being able to see the hand of the creator in the final piece, whether that be slightly off-kilter folding, handwritten text, the shadow of sellotape in the photocopied pages, or maybe something special like hand-cut pages that would be difficult to create in a mass-produced product. The stock-standard zines you'll see are 8-page minis that are folded from a single sheet of paper, and staple-bound booklets. 

You’re an artist and illustrator. How did you get interested in producing zines?
I have a background in visual art, and came to writing as an adult (I was always an avid reader, of course). I hadn't made any art for a while, and while I loved the process of writing and publishing, I found I was craving something more hands-on. 
At ArtWeek Auckland a few years ago, I attended a panel discussion on independent publishing. One of the panellists spoke about zines and I was drawn by the experimental aspect; zines are, by nature, a forgiving medium. It was also a way for me to return to my visual art roots without getting too distracted from my WIP.

You also write for children and produce non-fiction, so what is it that attracts you to zines?
It was actually through zine-making that I discovered a liking for non-fiction, and collaborative publishing. After my (wo)manpower zine series, I embarked on books that used my experience in zine-making to inform the process.
Zines have become an important element in my role as a children's author because they're an accessible format for publishing – one of the schools I visited last year are even going to host their own zinefest! I've become so fond of the format that I'm re-releasing my own children's fantasy novels as zines.

How are zines important to fans of science fiction and fantasy?
Science fiction and zines go way back! While the self-publishing of booklets and pamphlets, which could quite comfortably fit most people's definition of a zine, have been around since before Gutenberg's press, the first zines are generally agreed to be the sci-fi fanzines (sometimes called chapbooks) of the early 20th century (the first of which was published in 1930 by the Science Correspondence Club, titled The Comet – think the snail mail version of online forums, with some fanfic and short stories chucked in for good measure).
Contemporary zines are actually quite similar, generally being either short fiction (quite often illustrated) or a fanzine celebrating a particular world, niche genre, or film / book / game. Zines are a way to share our own stories in a very tangible, but low cost format, and to dive a little deeper into fantasy worlds we know and love.

Zee is a mixed media book artist & author/illustrator with a penchant for zine-making. She lives with her cat and her husband, nestled between hills and sea in the beautiful Otago. 
Visit Zee's website at http://lifeinanalogue.co.nz

Selling Your Book at GeyserCon

posted Mar 20, 2019, 7:46 PM by Grace Bridges

We're pleased to announce the opening of registration for authors and makers wishing to sell books and other items at GeyserCon!

The Book Expo will run daily at the Con: Noon to 8pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and 10am-4pm on Monday (Queen's Birthday).

Atlantis Books of Rotorua will be handling all sales for us, and will receive a cut of the sale price.

For more information and to register your book or item for sale, 

Items for sale can be registered until NOON on Friday 17th May.
We look forward to seeing your items in the Book Expo! 

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SpecFicNZ Podcast Features GeyserCon

posted Mar 13, 2019, 2:26 AM by Grace Bridges

In their inaugural show, the SpecFicNZ Podcast team interviews GeyserCon programme director Lee Murray and Young NZ Writers convenor Piper Mejia about what you can expect at the Con. Have a listen!

The Pre-Breakfast Redwoods Ramble

posted Mar 11, 2019, 3:42 PM by Grace Bridges

Hi Everyone! It’s Lee here. 
I just wanted to let you know that I popped over to Rotorua in the weekend to check out a potential route for our pre-breakfast Redwoods Ramble which will be the first event of the first full day of the convention. If you’re new to Rotorua and have never visited the Redwoods, please consider joining me on this early-morning moderate one-hour walk from the Holiday Inn to Whakarewarewa Forest. The 5600 hectares of forest parkland, colloquially named ‘the Redwoods’, includes bike trails, walking tracks, lakes and panoramic look-outs, as well as providing an important cultural history hub. There is also an awesome Redwoods Treewalk, which won’t be open at that hour, but which attendees might like to do one evening. In short, the Whakarewarewa Redwood Forest is an essential part of the Rotorua experience.

Depending on the weather and the numbers attending, we’ll be completing the Redwoods Memorial Grove Track, where we will be among the first visitors of the day to stroll beneath the stunning Californian Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). Planted in 1901, and later dedicated to New Zealand Forest Service workers who died in the two World Wars, these majestic trees measure approximately 67 metres and provide a stunning canopy for a number of native and exotic plant species. The walk includes a board walk across a thermal pond. If time permits, we might extend our walk to include the Waitawa Track, which is slightly steeper and meanders through native bush. Hopefully, it will be light enough to read the labels on the plants!

We’ll head back to the hotel as the sun comes up, walking past the thermal river at the edge of the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley, where I took this photograph. We should arrive back with plenty of time for breakfast before conference sessions begin.

Remember, GeyserCon will be held over the first weekend in June, which makes it early winter in New Zealand. This means it will be cold and dark when we set out, so warm gear and sturdy footwear are essential. I’ll be bringing a headlamp and torches, but if you’d like to bring a torch to help us see where we are going on the dimly-lit trails, that would be helpful. I don’t want to be carrying anyone back to the hotel with a twisted ankle!

For the runners, Lewis and Darcy are offering a similar experience but at a slightly faster pace. Again, headlamps are advisable.

We look forward to starting the full day of the conference with a good dose of Redwood oxygen. We hope you’ll consider joining us.


Redwoods Ramble


Weather permitting, Lee Murray hosts a pre-breakfast walk through the Redwoods. Four kilometre walk approximately. Moderate fitness required. Please meet in the lobby ahead of time as we will be leaving at 6.30am sharp. Sensible shoes, warm gear, and a torch recommended. Our sincere apologies, but this off-site excursion is not accessible for wheelchairs. Runners ‒ your running guides are Lewis Morgan and Darcy Perry.

Laura VanArendonk Baugh: Books, Travel, & Animals

posted Feb 25, 2019, 5:19 PM by Grace Bridges   [ updated Feb 25, 2019, 5:20 PM ]

Laura, you’re an award-winning author who writes in multiple genres. Can you give us the run-down on how many books you’ve published and what genres they are?
Oh, this is a more complicated question than it might first seem, because some of my stuff is stories or novellas rather than novels, and some are stories in anthologies, etc. But, I have two non-fiction books (my day job is in animal behavior and training), some magazine appearances, a half dozen short stories or novelettes sold alone, and somewhere between 14 and 16 anthology appearances and four and six novels, depending on when this piece posts. /grin/ Most of my fiction is fantasy (epic, historical, and urban), but I’ve done a few other genres as well. I always come back to speculative, though.

You travel a lot. What are some recent places you’ve been?
I love travel! It’s great fun, it’s a great way to learn, it’s fantastic to get out of routine and see something new and do something in a new way.
I’ve been very, very fortunate to take some dream-of-a-lifetime trips in the last couple of years, from a guided cruise in the Galapagos and backpacking through the Andes to my recent trip from Argentina to Antarctica. So astounding, I’m so fortunate and happy to have done that.

What have your travels inspired in your writing?
So much world-building has already been done for us writers, in that we have all of human history to pull from. Travel (which should, in my opinion, always include some history and at least a bit of language) is really good for inspiring twisty story bits and syntax for subtle dialect. 
But the biggest inspiration for me is probably setting and mood. I didn’t know where Thor’s battle in The Songweaver’s Vow would take place until I started writing the scene and realized I was picturing the western Irish coast, and then obviously he was visiting the Wyrmhole, because where else would you find a supernaturally large serpent? And then having that setting made it much easier to write that scene, because I knew what it should feel like. In the same way, visiting all those museums and Viking village reenactments made writing that Asgard setting much more successful. I even had a reader in a book club comment, “Oh, no wonder it felt like a real place, then!”
It’s not always that direct, of course. I’ve pictured a Portuguese coastline while writing a story about medieval Spain, and I’ve used Renaissance Italian neighborhoods in my second-world cities. It’s less about copying something as it was and more about getting the mood and tone of it.

How does your work in animal behaviour influence your fiction?
That’s a great question! Very occasionally, when I need to work a character through something that is terrifying or emotionally difficult, I think about how we might do it with a fearful or aggressive animal, and then I translate that. But far more often, I think it shows up in body language. We actually share a lot of the same little emotional tells—a tongue flick in a nervous dog is the same as a nervous human licking a lip, and we avert our eyes the same way (it’s about avoiding unwanted confrontation, not submission, sorry pop culture egotism), and so on. So it’s natural to incorporate some of those in my writing.

What have been your most successful books so far, and what do you put that down to?
By sales figures, the most successful books have absolutely been my non-fiction, and that’s due to my professional work and the platform I built there. But in fiction, The Songweaver’s Vow has gotten the most critical attention, and I put that down to a variety of factors: I’d built a readership by then, I got some very good reviews from Kirkus and book blogs, and I had a brilliant cover which helped grab attention. I also think timing helped; I saw the Viking/Norse trend coming and hurried the book (the idea for which I’d been sitting on for a few years) to catch it. 

Do you incorporate feedback from your fans into your writing?
I have to answer this one with a qualified yes, I think. I tend to be a more conservative writer, not sharing a lot of the story before it’s finished. I have author friends who are always sharing excerpts and snippets and I feel I should do more of that, but I’m always thinking, What if I change this before it’s final? Does this make any sense out of context or will it just confuse people? So I don’t tend to get a lot of fan feedback while a work is in progress.
But I absolutely incorporate feedback from my critique partners and beta readers, oh yes!  And now that I am planning some series, I will of course watch for what readers most enjoy in early books as I work on later books. 

Who is your favourite character from your latest fiction? Tell us a little bit about them and the book.
Oh, this is hard, because my latest project is an epic fantasy with so many great characters. Shianan and Tamaryl both make incredible sacrifices for what matters to them, even as they oppose each other. Luca rises above a horrific past to defy victimhood. Ariana is relentlessly idealistic. Elysia is the quietly ferocious woman many of us would love to grow up to be.
But I might have to talk about Soren, who uses his position of power to be brave in a way I’m not sure I could match. He just opens up to his half-brother mid-crisis and says, “Hey, I know we hate each other, and there’s good reason for that, but do we have to?” And that really impresses me, even as his author. He tries so hard to do the right thing, even when it’s hard or when it hurts.
The story is Shard & Shield, first in a trilogy, and it’s about… a lot of things. Heroism and sacrifice and family, and who your family is when it isn’t your blood relatives. /clears throat/ “King's bastard Shianan finds his whole purpose in protecting his homeland from magical raiders—but to save the life of his only friend, he must steal the artifact that shields his world..”

You’re a member of the face-blindness club (more info in a recent interview with GeyserCon's Jean Gilbert). 
How does this affect your writing, your characters?
Oh, that’s easy. I don’t describe anyone. /laugh/ That has long been the number-one complaint about my writing, that I don’t spend time describing characters’ appearances. I’ll toss something out about hair color or height and that’s enough for me, but not for a lot of readers who want to know about chin clefts or nose shape! 
On the other hand, people have said that I have a lot of body language in my books, as I mentioned, and one author I really respect told me she could tell I worked with body language and animals because that’s how all my characters express themselves—and that’s how I tend to recognize people, too.

What’s the funniest stranger-than-fiction thing that’s happened to you as a result of being an author?
How bizarre—I can’t think of any! I have plenty of stranger-than-fiction moments, but right now I can’t remember any specifically related to being an author.
I do clearly remember the first writers conference I ever attended. I arrived early, while a small pre-conference workshop was happening but before the rush of general attendees. I crossed the parking lot alone and was just reaching for the facility doors when they burst open and a woman ran out, sobbing.
I fumbled, asked if I could help, the usual caught-off-guard responses, but she didn’t speak a word, just ran off into the parking lot crying.
I looked back at the doors. So, writers conference. Good idea, right? We’re sure? Really sure?
I did go in, and I had a fantastic time, and that’s where my critique group started and we’re still going strong over nearly seven years later, which is like a hundred in critique group years.

Name a place you haven’t yet been that you want to go, and why.
Iceland, because the landscape looks amazing. I just want to soak up the scenery and go hiking there.
I have a friend writing a setting based on a town in northern Norway, and I keep telling her that I will make that research trip with her. No matter how I’ve tried, northern or southern hemispheres, I have never seen the Aurora, and I really want to do that.
I haven’t yet been to the African continent, but it’s so big with such varied options! Perhaps Morocco to start? Or all the way down to South Africa? So many different choices.

Thanks so much for having me on the blog! I really appreciate it, and I’m so looking forward to GeyserCon!

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