We are writing to nominate New Zealand Fantasy author
Hugh Cook (1956-2008) for a Julius Vogel Award, in the Special Awards Category of Services
to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. We have made this nomination in the past, and hope
it is acceptable to do so again.
Hugh Cook was one of New Zealand's most successful yet least recognised authors,
publishing seventeen books in 25 years, from Plague Summer in 1980 to Cancer Patient in
Hugh's epic 10-Volume saga The Chronicles of an Age of Darkness sold over 450,000
copies, including 160,000 copies of the first in the series, The Wizards and the Warriors.
This achievement alone is worthy of recognition, but Hugh did not stop writing when the
Chronicles came to an end.
Cook went on to champion many forms of electronic publishing and was an early adopter
of Print-On-Demand technology and free PDF releases as a means of growing his audience. He
was well ahead of the curve on many new technologies well before the mainstream even knew
they existed. He was possibly one of the first authors in the world to write and publish a
blog, building each page in code, long before the ease of Wordpress or Blogger.
Cook's work was often brutal and always challenging, at turns elegiac and tortured.
China Mieville describes Hugh Cook as "one of the most inventive, witty, unflinching,
serious, humane and criminally underrated writers in imaginative fiction. Or
Cook was one of New Zealand's most prolific and successful writers of Science
Fiction/Fantasy, but that is not the only reason that he is deserving of this award. His
success as a Kiwi writer in the mainstream market has inspired many New Zealand writers of
SFF to embrace the genre where they otherwise may have been convinced that the road to
publication was too hard. Julius Vogel Award-winning author Phillipa Ballantine is among
'I grew up with a dream of being a writer, but being from New Zealand as well I always
assumed that I could never write in the genre I loved: science fiction and fantasy. I
remember finding Hugh Cook among the books my Dad was reading, and loving the worlds he so
effortlessly carried me away to. And then I found out that he was from New Zealand too.
From that moment on I knew my dream was possible. For both his talent and being a
trailblazer I'll always be grateful to Hugh Cook."
Phillipa has gone on to publish many successful fantasy works, a testament to Cook's
inspiration and his real impact on a whole new generation of New Zealand Fantasy and
Science Fiction Writers.
Cook also celebrated New Zealand and its lore in his work. His prose drew heavily on
the landscape, places and mythology of Aotearoa, from the legendary Taniwha of Quilth, to
the Ngati Moana, to a prison called Maremoremo. Our native flora and fauna often made
cameo appearances in wild locales, including weka, kauri and rimu, to name but a few
all of this well over a decade before Peter Jackson delivered our country up to the
world as Middle Earth. Cook refused to suffer from cultural cringe; he embraced our
countrys uniqueness and used it to flavour his own inimitable world and style,
however far removed his worlds may have been from our own.
Cook was always ready to engage with his fanbase, and treated those who contacted him
with respect and candour. He was truly a gentleman and a scholar.
Hugh Cook was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2005. He was treated and the
disease went into remission, during which time he wrote a memoir entitled Cancer
Patient, which is available as a free ebook. He was on the road to recovery when the
cancer returned. He passed away peacefully in November 2008, and is survived by his wife
and daughter, who live in Auckland.
Ultimately, Cook was both Wordsmith and Warrior. Poems, stories and characters were his
tools and his weapons. He wrote with a passion, producing fiction at a prolific rate, and
the English language would be greatly enriched if all the words and terms he had coined in
his oeuvre were to be introduced into common parlance. He fought to find new ways forward
in the publishing world, exploiting technologies that are only now starting to establish
their true place in the electronic market. He maintained his integrity as an author to the
very end, determined to always share the stories he had to tell, and not those that others
wanted him to tell. At the end, he fought an unseen enemy fought it and beat it, if
only for a short time. Even in this he had a story to tell, and while the telling of that
story may not have been able to completely defeat his insidious foe, it may yet bring
comfort to others who face those same demons at some stage.
To quote Mieville again, To honour the memory of this wonderful and
generous-spirited writer and man, those - too bloody few - of us who know his work should
do all we can to bring it to the world's attention.
An article about Hugh Cook written by Dan Rabarts was published by World SF News Blog,
and covers his life and work in more detail. It can be found here. Also, his
obituary, published in the New Zealand Herald, can be found here.
Hugh Walter Gilbert Cook (1956-2008): Wordsmith; Warrior; New Zealander.