The Hugo nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

“You’re Hell’s Angels, then? What chapter are you from?’ ‘REVELATIONS. CHAPTER SIX.”
― Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

The Hugo’s have a long and noble history of recognising dramatic presentations (the first award being made in 1958). It is probably true to say that at that time Science Fiction was more the domain of a smaller, exclusive, forward thinking circle of fans. Nowadays however and thanks in large part to the efforts of these dedicated fans and others, Science fiction is now very much a major element of the mainstream media World and big, big money. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Hugo nominees for this year’s dramatic long form award. To illustrate this point this year’s nominees features not only the largest grossing movie of all time and two of the biggest movie franchises ever, but it is not the success or the money that attracts these fans it’s the wealth of clever, engaging and compelling ideas, characters and worlds that attracts the fans. And this richness of content is really evident in this year’s longlist featuring as it does an Apocalyptical comedy, The final conclusion of the Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker story arcs and ground breaking super hero movies to name but a few. And most are available from our library network as well as a plethora or related items. Enjoy.

Below we list the Hugo nominees for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form and some items currently available within our libraries that directly relate to them.

Avengers: Endgame.

Click here to check the availability of the Avengers: Endgame movie.

Marvel Avengers endgame : the official movie special
A deluxe collector’s edition detailing the follow-up film to the epic cinematic phenomenon Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame. Go behind the scenes on the highly aniticipated Marvel film.” (Catalogue)

Captain Marvel

Click here to check the availability of the Captain Marvel movie.

We also have a fabulous range of Captain Marvel graphic novels. Such as….

Captain Marvel : prelude / Pilgrim, Will Corona
“Follow another adventure in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Meet the Marvel Universe’s mightiest hero Carol Danvers, NASA’s youngest head of security – but when an encounter with the Kree soldier Mar-Vell gives her amazing powers, she begins a costumed career…as Ms. Marvel Determined to prove herself the best of the best in a world full of fearsome foes, Carol soon takes on the mantle of Captain Marvel – and the responsibility of protecting the entire planet But what happens when she comes face-to-face with Mar-Vell…who died years before? ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Good Omens.

Click here to check the availability of the Good Omens series.

Good omens : the nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, witch / Pratchett, Terry
” The world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Except that a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon are not particularly looking forward to the coming Rapture. They’ve lived amongst Humanity for millennia, and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle. So if Crowley and Aziraphale are going to stop it from happening, they’ve got to find and kill the AntiChrist (which is a shame, really, as he’s a nice kid). There’s just one glitch: someone seems to have misplaced him.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Russian Doll (Season One)

Currently Russian Doll is only available to stream.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

Click here to check the availability of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

We also have a vast wide range of Star Wars titles and films available to borrow.
Star Wars, the rise of Skywalker : the visual dictionary / Hidalgo, Pablo
Star Wars- The Rise of Skywalker- The Visual Dictionary is a 200 page definitive guide to Star Wars- The Rise of Skywalker, revealing the characters, creatures, droids, locations, and technology from the new film. Packed with information and 500+ images, plus cross-sections of new vehicles, as penned by Star Wars scribe Pablo Hidalgo, it’s a must-have for all fans who want to go beyond the movie experience.” (Catalogue)

Us, written and directed by Jordan Peele .

Click here to check the availability of Us the movie. .

The day the Empress came to town

In late 1937, an exciting news announcement quickly spread across Wellington; the RMS Empress of Britain was going to visit the city the following year. Launched in 1930, she was one of the largest, fastest and most luxurious ocean liners of the period.

Only slightly smaller than the Titanic, her design incorporated lessons learnt from the tragic sinking of that ship and included double-steel plating to deal with the ice-infested waters which were common on her main Atlantic run between England and Canada.  As trans-Atlantic passenger numbers would fall dramatically each winter and the freezing of the St Lawrence River made Canadian port access difficult, towards the end of each year she would be seasonally converted into a luxury cruise liner and it was in this capacity that she visited New Zealand.

She first visited Sydney and Melbourne where hundreds of thousands of spectators turned out to see the ship. Then on 6th April 1938 she crossed the Tasman Sea, heading first for Milford Sound which had been promoted to passengers as the highlight of the cruise, before coming to Wellington. As the vessel approached NZ, much was made of her size and technology. Readers of newspapers were advised of how passengers could make a ship-to-shore phone call to London if they wished…at a cost of £3/12 for a three-minute conversation, the equivalent today of around NZ $400! Features included a regulation size tennis court, picture theatres and a ‘country fair’ with a coconut shy, hoopla stalls and a fortune teller. There were 390 staff employed in the catering department alone, while the ship’s three great white funnels could be used as a beacon in emergencies; when illuminated by powerful flood lamps they could be seen by other vessels 50km away. When she arrived in Wellington on the morning of Sunday 10th April 1938 (thankfully a calm sunny day) excitement was at a fever-pitch. A live radio commentary from Mt Victoria commenced on Radio 2YA as soon as she was spotted off the Wellington heads and thousands of people lined the shore and hillsides to catch a glimpse of what was then the largest passenger vessel ever to enter the harbour. That afternoon there was a radio broadcast of a live concert given by the ship’s orchestra, while what was said to be “the wealthiest and most distinguished aggregation of passengers ever to visit Wellington” toured the city. Car-owning locals picked up random passengers from Pipitea Wharf, inviting them to their homes and driving them all over the region to show them the sights. When she departed that evening just after 11pm, songs were sung, thousands of streamers were thrown from the deck by passengers and Oriental Bay was jammed with cars lined up nose-to-bumper with all of them sounding their horns to echo the horn blasts coming from the ship.

After being converted into a troop carrier for World War II, she made another brief visit to Wellington in May 1940 to transport New Zealand soldiers to the UK. Unlike her visit two years earlier, wartime restrictions meant that this time there was no public announcement, no media coverage and not even a simple listing in the Evening Post’s daily ‘shipping news’ column. With all of the secretive war-related shipping activity that was happening in the harbour at the time, many in the city may have been unaware that the great ship had returned.  However, five months later came some shocking news that was reported and which likely would have had some people in the city in tears; on 26th October 1940 the Empress of Britain was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland by a German U-Boat. She was the largest passenger vessel lost during the war and the largest vessel of any kind to be sunk by a U-Boat. 

The hand-tinted photo above captures the ship tied up at Pipitea Wharf on the evening of 10th April 1938 shortly before its departure to Auckland (by coincidence, this was 30 years to the day before the storm that resulted in the sinking of the TSS Wahine).  Pipitea wharf no longer exists after it was demolished for the construction of the container wharf in the late 1960s but it was located just north of the Wellington Railway Station. You can see the photo in full detail and read more about the port’s activities during this period in this Handbook of the Wellington Harbour Board which has been digitised on our Recollect site.

 

The 2020 Hugo nominees for Best Graphic Story

Since 2009, the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story has been given to comics, graphic novels and other illustrated works that best exemplify the possibilities of speculative fiction and the comics medium, and we have all six of the 2020 nominees available for you to catch up with!

The nominations are a stacked field this year. The final volumes of two beloved long-running Image Comics series, The Wicked + The Divine and Paper Girls, were nominated this year, the last chance for either creative team to get the award (Paper Girls having been nominated a previous four times!). Three-time Best Graphic Story Hugo winner Monstress has also been nominated for its fourth volume. But those three veteran series face some strong contenders in new books like the fantasy deconstruction DIE, witchy love story Mooncakes, and the sci-fi immigration tale LaGuardia by previous Hugo winner Nnedi Okorafor.

Who will win the Hugo? We won’t know until the award ceremony on August 1st, but till then, you can catch up on the nominated books below!

Die, Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker, by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image)

Die. Volume 1, Fantasy heartbreaker / Gillen, Kieron
Pitched as “Jumanji meets Stephen King’s IT”, DIE follows five embittered adults returning the fantasy world they were trapped in as teenagers to rescue their friend who stayed there, only to find he’s gone native and is subjecting them to a deadly adventure campaign. Gillen, a former game journalist, wrote DIE to both critique and celebrate tabletop games and the fantasy genre overall, while Stephanie Hans renders the imaginary worlds of DIE with lush, dream-like detail. This is Hans’ first Hugo nomination, and Gillen is also nominated against himself this year for The Wicked + The Divine. Will DIE roll a nat 20 for the critical win?

Related Reading

DIE Volume 2. Split The Party — If you’re hooked on DIE after the first volume, check out the second volume ‘Split the Party’.

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 3. Commercial Suicide —  Stephanie Hans has also worked with Kieron Gillen on a issue of his series The Wicked + The Divine, collected in this volume.

The Adventure Zone Volume 1. Here there be gerblins — If you’re after more comics about Dungeons and Dragons, check out the first comic adaptation of the beloved roleplaying podcast ‘The Adventure Zone’.

LaGuardia, written by Nnedi Okorafor, art by Tana Ford, colours by James Devlin (Berger Books; Dark Horse)

LaGuardia : a very modern story of immigration / Okorafor, Nnedi
In a world where extraterrestrials regularly emigrate to Earth, a controversial travel ban goes into effect in America and separates a Nigerian-American couple who are expecting their first child. LaGuardia is a refreshingly sensitive science-fiction take on immigration and citizenship; Nnedi Okorafor has thought out every aspect of this all-too-familar sci-fi Earth, and Ford and Devlin depict the world and characters in lovingly dense detail, particularly with the alien designs. This is Ford and Devlin’s first nomination, while Okorafor has already won a Hugo for her novella Binti. Can LaGuardia net Okorafor her second Hugo win?

Related Reading

Black Panther: Long Live the King — Okorafor and Ford also worked together on this Black Panther series for Marvel Comics.

Binti — Check out Okorafor’s Hugo-winning series Binti here or on Overdrive.

The Green Lantern Vol 1. Intergalactic Lawman — This sharp new take on the Green Lantern character sees him as an intergalactic beat cop, where even ordinary crimes happen on intergalactic scales.

Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image)

Monstress. Volume four, The chosen / Liu, Marjorie M
A fusion of a war diary, a horror manga, and young adult fantasy, Monstress has been a critical and fan-favourite since it began in 2016. Set in a war-torn land inspired by 20th century Asia, Monstress follows the adventures of Maika Halfwolf, a magical ‘Arcanic’ who is hunted by an order of sorceresses who use her species as magical fuel for their spells. Every volume of Monstress has won the Hugo for Best Graphic Story for the past three years running. Will Volume 4 continue Liu and Takeda’s winning streak?

Related Reading

Monstress Volume 1. Awakening — Start reading Monstress from the beginning with the first volume here, or for download it on Overdrive.

The iron hunt — The first book in Marjorie Liu’s urban fantasy series Hunter Kiss, which follows a demon hunter trying to rescue her beloved from a bloodthirsty army.

Calamity Kate — In an urban fantasy world, a monster hunter moves to LA to find the ultimate bounty: the Seven Fabled Beasts of Yore.

Mooncakes, by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker, letters by Joamette Gil (Oni Press; Lion Forge)

Mooncakes / Walker, Suzanne
Young witch Nova and her werewolf friend Tam have reunited after ten years apart, but their reunion brings forth struggles both mundane and magical, including family conflicts, maturing to face new responsibilities, and battling weird horse demons. Originally a webcomic, Mooncakes was published as a a graphic novel by Lion Forge in 2019, earning praise for centering on the romance of its queer Chinese-American protagonists. This is Walker, Gil and Xu’s first Hugo nomination; could Mooncakes cast a spell on the Hugo judges?

Related Reading

For more young adult comics about witches, check out:

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Spell on Wheels by Kate Leth and Megan Levens.

Paper Girls, Volume 6, written by Brian K. Vaughan, drawn by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image)

Paper Girls. 6 / Vaughan, Brian K
Four paper girls in the 1980s get embroiled in a war between rival factions of time travellers, facing cavemen, mutants, pterodactyls, robots, and their own future selves as they attempts to find a way home. Recently concluding after 30 issues and this sixth collection, Paper Girls has been nominated four times for the Graphic Story Hugo. Will the last volume finally deliver a win for its creative team?

 

Related Reading

Paper Girls Volume 1  — Start Paper Girls from the beginning here or for download on Overdrive

Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood — Check out the Paper Girls art team’s (Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson) recent work on Wonder Woman here, or download it on Overdrive.

Saga Volume 1 — Writer Brian K Vaughan won the Best Graphic Story Hugo for Saga‘s first volume in 2013.

The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 9: “Okay”, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image)

The wicked + the divine. Vol. 9, “Okay” / Gillen, Kieron
Every 90 years, twelve gods return to Earth in the form of teenagers to inspire humankind and gain followers, only to die after two years. In 2014, this ‘Pantheon’ of gods return as popstars. The Wicked + The Divine (or WicDiv to its fans) follows Pantheon super-fan Laura as she becomes embroiled in the god’s inner conflicts and tries to attain godhood for herself. Long-time comic collaborators Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, and Cowles conclude the long-running series in this final volume, which has been a commercial and critical hit for its resonant themes on fame, death, religion, art, and artists. Volume 9 of the Wicked + The Divine is Jamie McKelvie’s first Hugo nomination and Gillen’s second with DIE, also nominated this year. Will this final offering be enough to sway the Hugos in their favour?

Related Reading

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 1. The Faust Act Start WicDiv from the beginning here or for download the first volume on Overdrive.

Young Avengers Volume 1. Style > substance  See how the WicDiv team first got together on the second iteration of Marvel’s teen superteam, the Young Avengers.

God complex: Dogma. Volume one — Another modern comic book take on the gods of antiquity, this cyberpunk thriller sees a forensic investigator meeting the god-like beings that secretly run the world.

Understanding Racial Politics In Aotearoa

As the world becomes increasingly galvinised by the Black Lives Matter and Anti-Racist movements we must remember that New Zealand is not immune to racism. Our history of colonisation and immigration has given us our own struggles that need to be understood and overcome. The books listed below offer a starting point for understanding racial politics in New Zealand from a Māori perspective.

Hīkoi: forty years of Māori protest / Harris, Aroha
Hīkoi provides an overview of the contemporary Māori protest movement, a summary of the rationale behind the actions, and photographs of protests, marches, and the mahi behind the scenes. Results of protest are also discussed including the Waitangi Tribunal; Māori becoming an official language; Māori-medium education; and Māori television.

Imagining decolonisation.
What is decolonisation and why do we need it in New Zealand? This book discusses why it is needed if we are going to build a country that is fair and equal for all who live here, as well as what it could look and feel like.

Ka whawhai tonu mātou: Struggle without end / Walker, Ranginui
A revised edition of this best-selling history of New Zealand from a Māori perspective. Dr Walker discusses the fact that Māori have been involved in an endless struggle for justice, equality and self-determination for the last two centuries. A challenging must-read for all New Zealanders.

Decolonizing methodologies: research and indigenous peoples / Smith, Linda Tuhiwai
This is a revised and updated edition of a landmark work. It explores how imperialism and research interact and how this has had an impact on ‘knowledge’ and ‘tradition’. Social justice and concepts such as ‘discovery’ and ‘claiming’ are discussed and it is argued that it is necessary to decolonise research methods in order to reclaim control over indigenous ways of knowing and being.

Journey towards justice / Workman, Kim
Kim Workman is a central figure in the ongoing discussion of justice and prison policy in New Zealand. This is a powerful first-hand account of struggle, spirituality and questions of cultural identity as well as the state and social forces that have helped shape contemporary New Zealand.

Colonising myths–Māori realities: he rukuruku whakaaro / Mikaere, Annabel
A collection of a series of papers that reflects on the effect of Pākehā law, legal processes, and teaching on Māori legal thought and practice.

Online resources

Bridget William Book Treaty of Waitangi Collection
This amazing collection of ebooks is available on our Wellington City Libraries Online Resources page. You will need your library card and pin number to access these full-text scholarly works.

Bridget Williams Books The NZ History Collection
Provides online access to over thirty years of award-winning history and biography publishing from Bridget Williams Books – includes over 90 New Zealand history titles. You will need your library card and pin number to access these full-text scholarly works.

Te Ara — The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Te Ara has great information about the history of Anti-racism and Treaty of Waitangi activism, Māori protest movements and the Human Rights Commission.

The Waitangi Collection: NZ On Screen
Includes films about Treaty and activist groups such as Ngā Tamatoa (see below).



Te Tiriti Based Futures And Anti-racism 2020
An online conference, 21-30 March, 2020. Includes Jen Margaret and  Julia Whaipooti.

You can also learn about how other ethnic groups have experienced racism in Aotearoa through the resources below:

Polynesian Panthers : Pacific protest and affirmative action in Aotearoa New Zealand 1971-1981
The Polynesian Panthers sought to raise consciousness and take action in response to the racism and discrimination Pacific peoples faced in New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s. Interviews, memoirs, poetry, newspaper articles, and critical analysis help create a thought-provoking account of this period in New Zealand history.

Old Asian, new Asian / Ng, K. Emma
Did you know that a 2010 Human Rights Commission report found that Asian people reported higher levels of discrimination than any other minority in New Zealand?  This anecdotal account is based on Ng’s personal experience as a second-generation young Chinese-New Zealand woman and explores the persistence of racism against Asians in New Zealand.

Justice and race: campaigns against racism and abuse in Aotearoa New Zealand / Sutherland, O. R. W.
“This is the story of ACORD – the Auckland Committee on Racism And Discrimination. For 15 years ACORD exposed and campaigned against the institutional racism of police, justice and social welfare systems. It laid the groundwork for a national duty solicitor scheme and gained protections for children incarcerated by the state.” (From our catalogue)

Libby app is now available in 10 languages

It’s now possible to enjoy the award-winning eBook and audiobook app Libby with the following languages:

• Spanish                                     • Japanese                     • Swedish
• Simplified Chinese                 • Russian                       • Italian
• Traditional Chinese               • French                         • German

If you already use one of the languages above with your device, Libby will automatically browse, search and display account information in that language now. By changing the default language on your device within settings, you can then view Libby in your newly chosen language.

Account in Simplified Chinese
Browsing in Italian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can also access Wellington City Libraries Libby website  with the language options above if you are already using your preferred language, or change to another language within your browser’s settings to access a new one.

At the same time, improvements have been made to Libby’s controls, playback speed and sleep timer within the eBook reader and audiobook player. Watch a brief tutorial on these new updates here.

Please contact our eLibrary team for any help here

Important note: To support this upgrade and enable future feature development in the app, Libby’s minimum Android operating system requirement will change from version 4.4+ (KitKat, released in 2013) to version 5.0+ (Lollipop, released in 2014). The iOS minimum requirement for Apple devices (iPhones and iPads) will remain unchanged at 9.0+.

 

 

New eMagazines and other eResources about Cars and Transport

Our eMagazine collections are always growing and have a lot of amazing titles. Today our picks are on Cars and Transport. If you are new to eMagazines check our Quick Start Guide.

RBdigital eMagazines:

NZ Classic Car [electronic resource].

BBC Top Gear Magazine [electronic resource].

Wheels [electronic resource].

Motorcycle trader.


Pressreader eMagazines:

Truck & driver.

NZ performance car.

NZV8


eBooks:

Skunk works : a personal memoir of my years at Lockheed/ / Rich, Ben R. (eAudiobook)
Skunk Works is the true story of America’s most secret and successful aerospace operation. As recounted by Ben Rich, the operation’s brilliant boss for nearly two decades, the chronicle of Lockheed’s legendary Skunk Works is a drama of cold war confrontations and Gulf War air combat, of extraordinary feats of engineering and human achievement against fantastic odds.” (adapted from Overdrive description)

Grease junkie : a book of moving parts / China, Edd (eBook)
“As you’ll discover in his incomparable memoir, inventor, mechanic, TV presenter and walking tall as the definition of the British eccentric, Edd China sees things differently. An unstoppable enthusiast from an early age, Edd had 35 ongoing car projects while he was at university, not counting the double-decker bus he was living in. Now he’s a man with not only a runaround sofa, but also a road-legal office, shed, bed and bathroom.” (adapted from Overdrive description)

Space 2.0 : how private spaceflight, a resurgent NASA, and international partners are creating a new space age / Pyle, Rod (eAudiobook)
“No longer the exclusive domain of government entities such as NASA and other national agencies, space exploration is rapidly becoming privatized, with entrepreneurial startups building huge rocket boosters, satellites, rocket engines, asteroid probes, prospecting craft, and even commercial lunar cargo landers to open this new frontier. While the world has waited since the Apollo lunar program for the next “giant leap,” these critical innovations, most of which are within our grasp with today’s technology, will change the way we live, both in space and on Earth.” (adapted from Overdrive description)

Zines come to Arapaki Manners Library

Our CBD branch, Arapaki Manners Library on 12 Manners Street, now has a zine collection! Zines are self-published and independently produced print publications. Zine (pronounced “zeen”) comes from the words “magazine” and “fanzine”. Zines come in many different shapes and sizes. They can be handwritten, or computer-printed, and are made by people of all ages. Zines come bound in different ways: some have bindings like books and even ISBN numbers, whereas others will be stitched or stapled together.

The zines are free to borrow, and are issued for three weeks, just like books! Most of the zines in Arapaki’s collection are brand new, and were acquired at the Wellington Zinefest held in November of last year. Nearly all the zines are written by local New Zealand authors and produced in New Zealand.

Our zines are loosely categorised into 6 topics identified by coloured dots on the covers: Comics are orange; Literature, such as poems and stories are green; Personal zines, about the author and their life, are blue; Art zines featuring drawings, photography, etc, are yellow; DIY zines about how to make or do things are black; and lastly, zines about politics, history, and everything else are white.

We also have zine collections at our Newtown and He Matapihi Molesworth branches. So check them all out and get borrowing today!

Visiting libraries under Alert Level 1

covid19 logo

Under the Covid-19 Alert Level 1 all Wellington City Libraries branches will return to normal opening hours from Monday 15 June, while continuing with additional cleaning and providing QR codes for people to track where they’ve been.

“It’s been great to see people coming back to our branches over the past few weeks, and we’ve really appreciated everyone for their patience in following the sign-in and physical distancing rules,” says Laurinda Thomas, Manager Libraries and Community Spaces.

“We will continue to provide regular cleaning of shared resources, such as children’s toys, and keep our QR codes up so people can continue to keep track of where they’ve been”

“Our teams loved entertaining Wellingtonians by delivering our Storytime, Bedtime stories, and Baby Rock and Rhyme programmes live through Facebook, and we were delighted with how well received they were.

“Now we’re back in the branches, our Storytime and Baby Rock and Rhyme programmes will be gradually restarting. But we’ll continue to help Wellington kids get off to sleep by reading Bedtime stories on Facebook.”

To see the branch opening hours and which programmes are available, and where, please visit the opening hours and event calendar pages.

How Crofton Downs got its name

Crofton before restoration in 1978. Photo by Charles Fearnley

The Wellington suburb of Crofton Downs is known for its steep hills, shopping centre and how several of its streets are named after Winston Churchill (e.g. Winston Street, Churchill Drive, Spencer Street and Downing Street). However, the origin of the suburb’s name can be found in neighbouring Ngaio. Tucked away at the back of a section on the eastern side of Kenya Street lies a house (once part of a larger estate) called ‘Crofton’.  Seen today from the street, at a glance you could be forgiven for thinking that it is an example of a 1970s or 1980s faux-colonial cottage, the style of which was popular with house builders during that period. In fact Crofton is one of the oldest surviving houses in Wellington and its early history is connected with some of New Zealand’s most significant figures from the Victorian period.

The house was built in 1857 for William Fox, one of the most polarising NZ politicians of the 19th century. Born in 1812 in County Durham, he started his working life in the UK as a lawyer, moved into journalism, immigrated in 1842 to Wellington where he helped manage the New Zealand Company and finally drifted into politics. As an indication of how tumultuous the political scene was the time, Fox became Premier (i.e. Prime Minister) on four separate occasions between 1856 and 1873. His longest period as ‘PM’ was just over three years but his shortest was only two weeks! Crofton may have been used by Fox and his family as a weekend retreat when they were in Wellington (his parliamentary seat was actually Rangitikei and the town of Foxton is named after him).

Letter from Octavius Hadfield to his sister Octavia dated 1866 mentioning his son Henry attending Crofton School

In 1864 the house and land was sold to the first Bishop of Wellington, Charles Abraham. He established a ‘grammar’ boarding school on the site, essentially one of the first serious attempts of an institution providing formal secondary education to teenage boys in Wellington. One of its pupils was Henry Hadfield, the first-born son of the missionary Octavius Hadfield. We recently discovered several references to Henry’s education at Crofton in the letters Octavius wrote to his family back in England. These were later repatriated back to NZ, gifted to Wellington City Libraries by Henry’s sister in 1951 and have now been digitised on our Recollect site (click on the caption to see more). Little snippets include how Henry grew quickly and was physically strong for a boy of his age but took a while to find his feet academically and socially. Meanwhile, his father often wondered how he was going to pay his son’s school fees on a reverend’s salary. It is likely that Octavius would have made the journey to Crofton with his son many times via the tortuously steep Old Porirua Road, especially when his friend Rev. Henry Woodford St. Hill purchased the school and became its headmaster.  The school closed in 1875 after Wellington College opened on its current site with much better facilities and easier access. The original 14 acres of land which surrounded the house was gradually sub-divided and sold off and the house became a normal residential property.

Its location was originally called Upper Kaiwarra (a corruption of Kaiwharawhara) but in the 1870s the suburb took on the name of the house and the whole area became known as Crofton. Confusingly, around this time William Fox created another estate also called Crofton not far from Marton in Rangitikei which he hoped to develop into a ‘temperance’ (i.e. alcohol free) township. With mailed letters continually ending up in the wrong place, in 1908 the suburb changed its name to Ngaio after the species of tree which are abundant in the area and ‘Crofton’ fell into disuse. Then in the 1950s, a neighbouring semi-rural area was developed after the addition of a train stop to help make it attractive to commuters and the name re-emerged as the suburb of Crofton Downs. As to the source of the original name that William Fox gave his property, the most likely explanation is that it came from the small village of Crofton in Wiltshire where his wife Sarah Halcomb was possibly born or her family may have owned land. As village lacked a church, she was christened in the neighbouring town of Marlborough only a few kilometres away in 1816.

Road Trip of the Weird & Wonderful!

There’s nothing like a road trip to bring out the strangeness in a country: the oversized fruit; the abandoned houses; the mysterious side-roads that go who-knows-where. But if you choose carefully–or have help from your local librarian–then the same feeling can be created with books: the sense of being in between, or out of time, or unhooked from the everyday world.

That’s where this blog comes in! Join us as we travel across America, stopping at seven weird, wonderful, scary and strange sites, from New England to California and a few places in between. Along the way we’ll recommend a selection of titles that create a similarly peculiar feeling. Read on to begin!


Bread and Puppet Theater, VT

What: Politically radical puppets and sourdough bread
Where: Just outside Grover

Born in the midst of the anti-Vietnam War protests, the puppets of the Bread and Puppet Theater have loomed over crowds since the 1960s. Their giant faces and stilted legs have become one of the key symbols of American counterculture–but where do they go when they retire? To this barn, of course!

Related Readings:

The Mannequin Makers by Craig Cliff — What kind of life would you lead if you’d been trained to be a living mannequin?

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion — Suffering from writers block, Joan Didion sets off to the heart of America’s counterculture.

The Quiet American by Graham Greene — Written in 1955, The Quiet American predicted America’s role in Vietnam throughout the ’60s and ’70s.


Centralia Coal Fire, PA

What: A small town perched upon an everlasting fire
Where: North-west of Philadelphia

There are several theories about how a fire began in the tunnels beneath the coal mining town of Centralia, but when a 12-year-old boy almost fell into a fiery sinkhole in his backyard, one thing became certain: the town would have to be abandoned. Today Centralia has fewer than 5 residents, and is the inspiration behind the Silent Hill series.

Related Readings:

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer — Area X has been sealed up for over three decades, and has a strange influence on anyone who enters.

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson — The book that broke the romantic notion of life in small town America (and the traditional structure of the novel).

The Denniston Rose by Jenny Pattrick — 2000 feet above sea level lies Denniston, a tough, West Coast coal mining town for those with something to escape.


Fury 325, NC

What: The world’s best steel roller coaster four years running
Where: Carowinds Amusement Park

Have you ever wondered what goes into making a roller coaster? In the case of the Fury 325, the designers took inspiration from the hornet–not just the insect, but also Charlotte’s reputation as a “hornet’s nest of rebellion” during the American Revolution. (For the record, the Fury 325 is the fifth tallest roller coaster in the world, with a top speed of 153 km/h!)

Related Readings:

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal — There are just 50 years before Earth becomes uninhabitable, but for pilot Elma York, the first challenge will be convincing people that women should be allowed to fly.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe — Did you know that when NASA was preparing the first manned space flight, they wanted to use trapeze artists? (But settled on test pilots instead.)

Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather — A convent of nuns (and a living space ship) tackle the theological and physical dangers of a post-war solar system.


Creation Museum, KY

What: A museum where dinosaurs and humans co-exist
Where: Petersburg, Kentucky

It’s not often that a museum opens to protests, but that’s exactly what happened at the Creation Museum in 2007. With a focus on young Earth creationism, the Creation Museum has displays showing the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs, and drew 800,000 people in 2017. (By comparison, in 2015/16 Te Papa had 1.7 million visitors.)

Related Readings:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson — A dying reverend writes a letter to his six-year-old son about the strange wonders of the world and his place in it.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman — The book (and TV series) that asks the question, “What happens to gods when people stop believing in them?”

Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin — Baldwin weaves together race, religion, sexuality and family in this seminal–and semi-autobiographical–work.


Iowa State Fair, IA

What: One of America’s largest state fairs (and home of the Butter Cow)
Where: Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines

With its carnival rides, butter sculpting and delicious deep fried foods (cookie dough in a waffle on a stick, anyone?), the Iowa State Fair is a Midwest institution. And every four years it’s also the place you get to see presidential hopefuls vie for votes while trying to eat deep fried oreos–never easy.

Related Readings:

Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter — The life and times of Sophie Fevvers, a winged woman who tours with a circus to the far reaches of Siberia.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury — Did you know that Ray Bradbury’s inspiration for writing was a magician named Mr. Electrico who told him to “Live forever!”?

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern — When magicians fight, giant dreamlike circuses are the result. ‘Twas ever thus.


Neon Museum, NV

What: Where Las Vegas’ neon signs go to die (and be resurrected)
Where: Las Vegas Boulevard

When you think about visiting Las Vegas, stopping at a museum isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. But the Neon Museum–or Neon Boneyard, as it’s often called–isn’t an ordinary museum! Scattered across the campus are signs from some of Vegas’ most well-known historic casinos and motels, including the Sahara, the La Concha and more.

Related Readings:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson — No matter what you do in Vegas, chances are it won’t rival what Hunter S. Thompson got up to (which is probably a good thing).

The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoevsky — Did you know that Dostoevsky wrote The Gambler to pay off his own gambling debts?!

The Power by Naomi Alderman — When women gain the power to emit electrical currents through their fingers, the world is changed forever.


Winchester Mystery House, CA

What: Secret passages, mystery doors, staircases to nowhere…
Where: San Jose, California

If you were designing a house for ghosts, and you had an unlimited budget, you’d probably end up constructing something like the Winchester Mystery House. Built between 1884 and 1922, the house was designed to appease (or escape) the ghosts of all those who had been killed by Winchester rifles. Pop in and have a look around…

Related Readings:

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson — Did you know that The Haunting of Hill House is one of several novels influenced by Winchester House?

The Amityville Horror by Jay AnsonThe Amityville Horror is supposedly based on true events, but has caused a lot of controversy!

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes — A body is found in a Detroit tunnel. The top half is human, but the legs are those of a deer.