Episode 49: Pip Adam talks to Rhydian Thomas about his novel MILK ISLAND

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I spoke with Rhydian Thomas, a writer and musician from South Wales who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. His writing has appeared in The Pantograph PunchSportHue & Cry and Turbine. He has released music with The Body Lyre and Strangers.

Milk Island

We got together to talk about Rhydian’s new novel Milk Island published by Lawrence and Gibson

With the 2023 NZ election approaching on Milk Island, the novel’s four main characters are interwoven into the same sprawling web of prisons, politics, tourism and media. On the former South Island, patriotism and prosperity trumps all else and life matters very little unless you’re Milky Moo, the nation’s favourite genetically-enhanced cow.

The cast of characters includes:

  • A freelance farming journalist who infiltrates the Press Gallery for a behind-the-scenes tour of New Zealand’s reconstructed South Island.
  • A new inmate in Christchurch Men’s dairying prison who wails a tale of blood and milk to the interactive avatar of comedian Billy T James.
  • A private agri-prison operator who juggles two escapees and a political hit, with far too much of her money and pride riding on a prison fight.
  • A rogue Twitter account who wanders the wilderness of Milk Island, reporting on environmental collapse under accusations of domestic terrorism.

“It is a very serious joke,” says Wellington-based author Rhydian Thomas. “I have spent years of my life on this joke. I hope someone will laugh at it.”

Rhydian is reading with Dominic Hoey and Ria Masae at Timeout Bookshop on August 19

Rhydian will also be at the New Zealand Young Writers Festival in Dunedin September 7-10

This episode includes sounds released under Creative Commons licenses from Freesound.org

Thanks to Freesound users: jschi

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Episode 49: Pip Adam talks with Rhydian Thomas about Milk Island

Episode 48: Pip Adam talks to Maria McMillan about ‘Phantasia for Elvira Shatayev’ by Adrienne Rich and ‘In which I attain unimaginable greatness’ by Maria McMillan

Maria McMillan

Photo by Grant Maiden

In this episode I talk to poet Maria McMillan about Adrienne Rich’s poem ‘Phantasia for Elvira Shatayev’ and Maria’s poem ‘In which I attain unimaginable greatness’ which is in her new collection of poetry The Ski Flier

I spoke to Maria just as she was about to embark on Poets on Tour with Airini Beautrais whose new collections of poetry Flow: Whanganui River Poems is launched on 14 July, 2017.

Maria and Airini have readings in Napier, Thames, Auckland, Wellington, Palmerston North and Paraparaumu Beach during July 2017. You can get information about the tour here

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Maria talks about the opening scene in Werner Hertzog’s film The Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner you can watch this scene here

Better off Read is available on iTunes where you can subscribe by clicking here

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Episode 48: Pip Adam talks to Maria McMillan

Episode 47: Oryx and Crake Series 3 – Pip Adam talks to Antonia Bale

I started this podcast because I had a theory that all books were about writing. That if I talked to writers about books I’d could learn something about how they wrote. I had this idea that talking about a book not written by an author would tell me something about their craft that asking them about their craft couldn’t.

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NEON CAPITALISM Image licensed under Creative Commons by Flickr user Gino

I’m not sure how this experiment is going. I have no idea what the findings are because really, I’ve been a bit swept up in what I’m learning about reading.

When I started this series, I wasn’t completely convinced by Oryx and Crake. I had some misgivings. I worried that I’d chosen the wrong book, they we should be reading The Handmaiden’s Tale. But as I’ve talked to people they’ve shown me, through their reading, that actually Oryx and Crake is quite an exceptional book. You’ll hear me in this episode with the awesome prose writer Antonia Bale come to a state of mind-explosion about how exactly this book talks to our moment in time. Antonia first read this book in a fevered weekend and has since gone back to it and I really benefited from her close reading and the passion she has for this trilogy.

Antonia Bale

Antonia is the only guest in this series who hasn’t been on the podcast before. So here’s a brief bio.

Antonia Bale is currently writing a collection of short stories for her MA in Creative Writing at the IIML. She’s a proud Wellingtonian and works as writer and senior content producer at a digital agency. Reading is her first love. Her favourite short story writers include George Saunders, Tracey Slaughter, Tobias Wolff, Janet Frame, Wells Tower and Katherine Mansfield. When it comes to novels, she’s a big fan of Charles Dickens and Toni Morrison. She’s currently reading Bad Behaviour, a collection of short stories by Mary Gaitskill. She heard about it on Better Off Read 😉

Better off Read is available on iTunes where you can subscribe by clicking here

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Episode 47: Oryx and Crake Series 3 – Pip Adam talks to Antonia Bale

Episode 46: Oryx and Crake Series 2 – Pip Adam talks to Bill Nelson

In this, the second in our Oryx and Crake series Pip talks with Wellington poet Bill Nelson.

Bill and I talk about the place of memory and flashback in Atwood’s Oryx and Crake. We also talk about how Snowman is possibly the worst last man and why that makes this book so compelling.

Short story writer Antonia Bale is the next guest on the Better off Read Oryx and Crake Series.

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Memory by Sarah Hina (Licensed under Creative Commons)

Better off Read is available on iTunes where you can subscribe by clicking here

Better off Read is also available on PodBean where you can subscribe by clicking here

Or you can listen to it here:

Episode 46: Oryx and Crake Series 2 – Pip Adam talks to Bill Nelson

Episode 45: Oryx and Crake Series 1 – Pip Adam talks to Danyl McLauchlan

My first conversation in the series is with novelist Danyl McLauchlan.

Proteine für Oberflächen / Proteins for surfaces

Spherical spores produced by Emericella nidulans fungus (Image by BASF licensed under Creative Commons)

Atwood has described Oryx and Crake as speculative fiction and “adventure romance” rather than science fiction because it does not deal with things “we can’t yet do or begin to do” and goes beyond the realism she associates with the novel form.

Danyl and I talked about Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake as a science fiction novel and how the genetic engineering fear in it looks 14 years later.

Danyl and I ended up talking about a lot of other books. And I’ve put a list of these on the wordpress page for you to have a look at: betterreadnz.wordpress.com

One issue with the recording is that there is some cell phone noise in it. After checking both our phones Danyl worked out that the interference was coming from people walking past the room we were in. There was something very odd and almost science fiction about that in itself. So sorry but also … weird.

Danyl’s Oryx and Crake Reading List:

Red Plenty by Francis Spufford

Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson

French film La Jetée by Chris Marker

The Sense of an Ending; Studies in the Theory of Fiction by Frank Kermode

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard

The Road by Cormac McCarthy ‘a long shear of light and then a series of low concussions.’

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

The Elementary Particles or Atomised by Michel Houellebecq

Book of the Long Sun by Gene Wolfe

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

Seven Eves by Neal Stephenson

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Passage, The Twelve and The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin

The Stand by Stephen King

Wellington poet Bill Nelson is the next guest on the Better off Read Oryx and Crake Series.

Better off Read is available on iTunes where you can subscribe by clicking here

Better off Read is also available on PodBean where you can subscribe by clicking here

Or you can listen to it here:

Episode 45: Oryx and Crake Series 1 – Pip Adam talks to Danyl McLauchlan

A Short Announcement: The ORYX AND CRAKE series

In about a week and a half we are going to be publishing the first in a four part series of episodes about Margaret Atwood’s 2003 novel Oryx and Crake. The four episodes will play once a fortnight over the next couple of months.

Oryx and Crake focuses on a post-apocalyptic character with the name of Snowman, living near a group of primitive human-like creatures whom he calls Crakers. Flashbacks reveal that Snowman was once a boy named Jimmy who grew up in a world dominated by multinational corporations and privileged compounds for the families of their employees. Near starvation, Snowman decides to return to the ruins of a compound named RejoovenEsence to search for supplies even though it is overrun by dangerous genetically engineered hybrid animals. He concocts an explanation for the Crakers, who regard him as a teacher, and begins his foraging expedition.

Announcement Pix

The series was inspired by a protest sign I saw saying ‘Make Margaret Atwood fiction again’. I chose Oryx and Crake because it’s one of the less obvious novels to use when talking about how Atwood’s work might fit in the current political moment. I wanted to see what this book, written in a climate of fear around genetic engineering (Dolly the Sheep was also born in 2003) looks like in a time when genetic engineering isn’t really the main contender for ‘destroyer of earth and humankind as we know it’. Although the book uses genetic engineering as the catalyst to its apocalypse, Oryx and Crake also has chilling things to say about capitalism.

So, I thought I’d publish this short announcement to give you time, if you’d like, to read Oryx and Crake so we don’t spoil it. Or not. The podcasts work just as well if you haven’t read the book.

Better off Read is available on iTunes where you can subscribe by clicking here

Better off Read is also available on PodBean where you can subscribe by clicking here

Or you can listen to it here:

A Short Announcement: The ORYX AND CRAKE series

Episode 44: Pip Adam talks to artist Murray Hewitt

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Image by Dionne Ward taken during Common Ground the Hutt Public Art Festival

In this episode I talked with Murray Hewitt an artist who works mostly in video on the occasion of the recent screenings of his work The Rising Gale as part of Common Ground the Hutt Public Art Festival. The theme for the 2017 festival was Groundwater and explored our relationship with water – the Hutt River Te Awakairangi, it’s streams, springs and aquifer – and its importance to our sense of place, health and wellbeing.

Shot from a drone, The Rising Gale maps a path from the aquifer in Taita to Matiu/Sommes Island flying over the water in real time.

The Rising Gale screened at five bore  and river sites  across the Hutt Valley from 25 February to 4 March during Common Ground a festival produced by public art and urban revitalization organisation Letting Space in partnership with the Hutt Council.

You can see some great photos of the various screenings of The Rising Gale on the Common Ground website

During this episode you’ll hear excerpts of work by Gem Wilder, Damien Wilkins and Helen Heath written in response to and as ‘soundtrack’ for The Rising Gale. These were performed alongside the video on 26 February and GNS Science.

Murray Hewitt works mostly in video. His works have contemplated consumer behavior, remembered historic events, or mulled over current political ones through the considered actions of a lone costumed figure, or repetitive stationary camera shots that encouraging sustained deliberation from the viewer.

You can see Murray’s work at Circuit: Artist Film and Video Aotearoa New Zealand

We discuss many of Murray’s works but dwell especially on:

Burnings

Jessies Girl

Recessional

Weeping Waters

Better off Read is available on iTunes where you can subscribe by clicking here

Better off Read is also available on PodBean where you can subscribe by clicking here

Or you can listen to it here:

Episode 44: Pip Adam talks to artist Murray Hewitt