Sir Julius Vogel Award voting – distance votes close 10 April.

Read our nominated story, Ahi Ka, below.
Read our nominated story, Ahi Ka, below.

10 April 2014, is the deadline for Sir Julius Vogel Award voting from afar. If you are not attending Conclave II, the NZ National Science Fiction and Fantasy convention, held over Anzac weekend in Auckland, then you’ll need to vote by tomorrow. (Main voting takes place at national convention.) I have two works that have been shortlisted as finalists for the SJV awards:

  • Best Short Work: Ahi Kā. 
  • Best Collected Work: Twisty Christmas Tales.

Please read Ahi Kā below.
To vote, you need to be a member of SFFANZ, Science Fiction Fantasy Association of NZ. Details are here. If you are a member already, the voting details are here.

 Ahi Kā.

  • (Prose and interwoven sonnet, Truth Lies in Fire and Dies in Flame)
  • Winning entry (first equal) in NZSA NorthWrite 2013 Collaboration Contest
  • By Eileen Mueller and Alicia Ponder

Howls pierced the fog of my dreams. I clutched Ahi, shaking her awake. “Are they real?” Yowling wound through my ear canals, ricocheting inside my head. “The dogs, Ahi, can you hear them?”

She woke, startled. “Hurry, Manaaki. They’re coming.”

We scrambled out of our bush-clad hideout, dashing up the hillside, sliding in the damp earth, ponga fronds whipping our faces.

Frenzied yelps closed in on us. The creatures’ vicious snarling drowned our laboured breathing.

Blue eyes pursued us, hot gas flames in the dark.

Were they real?

I yanked my meds from my pocket. Pills scattered in the dirt. I scrabbled for them. One stuck in my throat before sliding down.

#

Cry havoc and let us unloose the dogs

the dogs, let slip those hellish brutes of war

for tonight Manaaki will have to choose

to run—

#

“Hellhounds,” Ahi yelled, bounding up the mud and crumbling rock.

Menacing growls raced through the underbrush. Ahi yanked a nail from her fingertip. It flared to light, illuminating the black-hackled beast leaping towards us.

“Ahi?” In all our time together, her fingernails had never exploded into fireballs. I stared at her and swallowed another pill, tasting dirt.

The hound, with pain-stricken yelps, was devoured by flame. Wild baying echoed in the valley below. More hellhounds.

Ahi stood, fingertip bleeding. Her hand, with only four nails, reached out. Warm blood sticky in my palm, she yanked me uphill.

Had my medication stopped working?

To be sure, I gulped another down.

#

Laugh in the shade of the slavering beast

let fire light his eyes and make death tame

the boy is mad—

#

 The hellhounds thundered behind us. Racing through the darkness, we tripped, smashing our knees on jutting rocks.

I gagged on the stench of the hounds’ hot breath. They snapped at our heels—and bit deep. I screamed.

Ahi ripped off another nail, flinging it over her shoulder. The beast yelped and fled, trailing flames.

Fingers spraying glistening blood in the flame-light, Ahi aimed nail after nail at the perilous beasts, until only two nails remained.

#

The boy is mad to thwart this hunter’s feast

the dirt he tastes will never bear his name

and yet he stops and turns—

#

Ahi flung her penultimate nail through snarling fangs.

The beast combusted. Singed fur and burning flesh. A pale demon loomed behind the hellhound’s flaming carcass. Worse than hellhounds. Worse than my lover-turned-stranger beside me, oozing blood from her torn fingertips. Worse than hallucinations.

I screamed.

Ahi smiled through her blood and tears. She tore the final fingernail from her hand and pressed it into mine. “Swallow this,” she whispered.

#

Truth Lies in Fire and Dies in Flame   

Cry havoc and let us unloose the dogs

the dogs, let slip those hellish brutes of war

for tonight Manaaki will have to choose

to run through fire and flame or face the maw

 

Laugh in the shade of the slavering beast

Let fire light his eyes and make death tame

The boy is mad to thwart this hunter’s feast

The dirt he tastes will never bear his name

 

And yet he stops and turns, his wild fear tame

Ahi Kā, Manaaki keep the home fires burning

In blood and fire—with life he stakes his claim

Ahi Kā, let us stand where he is standing

 

Not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds;

But burn those who chase Manaaki out of bounds

END.

Notes:

Ahi Kā was placed first equal in the NZ Society of Authors’ NorthWrite 2013 Collaboration contest, which required two authors to write a short story and a poem, or two short stories. Instead of penning  a short story and a poem individually, Alicia and Eileen chose to collaborate closely, interweaving their work and honing it until it was seamless.

Ahi Kā includes:

  • A sonnet containing direct quotes from Shakespeare.
  • References to the Māori legend of how Maui bought fire to the world via a goddess with flaming fingernails.
  • Political elements—oblique references to Māori land wars through Māori language:
    • Ahi Kā = to keep the home fires burning; burning fires of occupation; gain a title to land through long-term occupation; hold influence over land and defend successfully against challenges, thereby keeping their fires burning.
    • Manaaki = hospitality, support;
    • Ahi = fire;
    • (Source Māori Dictionary online)

Alicia and I hope you enjoyed our work. We’d love it if you’d vote for Ahi Kā and Twisty Christmas Tales (available on Amazon.)