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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Hugh Cook - Obituary Published

After a couple of false starts, The New Zealand Herald yesterday published the obituary for Fantasy writer Hugh Cook which I wrote for and on behalf of the family.

It was only ever so slightly tweaked for brevity, for which I'm grateful. I think it's excellent that our national newspaper has done this fine writer the honour of remembering his life and work.
For my part, I can take pride in the knowledge that my first ever published piece of non-fiction journalism was for a man whom I respected and admired very much, and which appeared in about as widely-read a publication as I could have hoped for.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Hugh's family for trusting me with the task, and for all their support and sharing, during what must have been a heartbreaking time in their own lives. I'd also like to thank Peter C, and Phoebe at the Herald, for making this happen.

My previous posts on Hugh can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4.

Once the silly season is over, I'll be working on a longer bio of Hugh's life, which I would like to see published around the internet wherever possible. Feel free to comment if you would be willing and able to host an article remembering one of New Zealand's most prolific and daring creative minds on your page.

And just since the obituary has not been made available online (that I can find - if anyone spots it please let me know!) I've taken a scan and popped it up here to share around.

And for those of you without telescopic vision, the text, more or less, follows:

Hugh Walter Gilbert Cook (1956-2008); Author, Poet.

Most well known for his Fantasy/Sci-Fi novels, Hugh Cook was arguably New Zealand’s most prolific and daring author of his generation.

In 1962 Cook’s parents relocated from Essex to Ocean Island (now Banaba Island, Kiribati), then to New Zealand in 1964, where Hugh wrote poetry during his college years. Plague Summer (1980) was his first novel, a drug running story set in New Zealand against the background of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

He spent ten years as an army medic, attaining the rank of sergeant. England’s castles, the tropical islands, New Zealand’s dark rugged landscapes, his training in battlefield injuries, and his travels through Asia and Europe would all influence his later works.

Cook left the Army to write, publishing The Shift in 1986 before moving onto the ten-part Chronicles of an Age of Darkness (1986-1992), which garnered a dedicated fan base. However, as the Chronicles grew progressively darker and less conventional, sales dwindled. Cook’s publisher curtailed his sixty book plan, and he concluded the Chronicles with The Witchlord and the Weaponmaster (1992).

Cook’s remarkable ability to adopt new writing styles for each of his books earned praise from his fanbase, as he eschewed High Fantasy clich├ęs in favour of barbarism, murder, and torture. Yet underneath this bloody mask Cook etched a world of poetic lustre unmatched by his contemporaries, examining issues such as religion, history, politics, and race with striking clarity and subtle wit.

In 1997 he moved to Japan, where he went on to champion emerging Internet publishing technologies. As well as blogging prolifically, Cook rereleased three out-of-print Chronicles and several novels set in strange new worlds. He wrote To Find and Wake the Dreamer and the Oceans of Light Trilogy in this period.

In 2005 Cook endured months of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. During this time he wrote poems and posted to his blog, After the cancer went into remission Cook compiled a memoir, Cancer Patient.

A dedicated and loving husband and father, Hugh Cook was a deeply private man who lived his childhood dream to be a writer with a passion, encouraging others to “seize the dream today – there is no tomorrow”.

Hugh continued to write and teach, until in December 2007 the cancer returned. He spent his last months in Auckland, and passed away peacefully on Saturday November 8th 2008. He is survived by his wife and daughter.


Anonymous said...

Dan, you have shown our family such kindness and generosity and we will always remember the ease with which you took up the role of writing Hugh's obituary - with such little notice and fitted into your incredibly full life. Hugh's last year of life has connected us to the goodwill of strangers in a way that is heart-warming. Congratulations on your publication!
Catherine - Hugh's sister

Dan said...

Thanks Catherine, and you're welcome.

It was an honour and a pleasure to give something back to Hugh.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Dan, nice work. I passed a note about this to SF Signal.

Dan said...

Thanks Steve.

I'll start working on a longer article once Christmas is out of the way. Hugh's family have given me a wealth of info to work with, and it just couldn't fit into the 400 words that the Herald allowed.

I've also posted on the Facebook group:

Anonymous said...


Is it possible to you speak with Hugh's family about somehow getting the content access on lulu changed?
Since lulu changed the content access level, the mature level content is unsearchable.
Lulu says they can only change the level with the author's permission. There's probably a few people interested in downloading his books, who are unable to at the moment.


Dan said...

Hi Anon 1.01,

I have been in touch with Lulu about this same issue already, and they haven't yet come back to me.

I will contact Hugh's family about it in the New Year, once all the busy-ness of Christmas and holidays are behind us.

Thanks for reminding me about it. I'll post here on FG with any progress I make.


Unknown said...

I was Hugh's Trainer and supervisor/boss for most of his first stay in Japan up to the time his cancer was diagnosed. We wish that the family would have informed the company, as it is our custom to at least send our condolences.

On a personal note, I have a large volume of memories of working closely with Hugh that I'd like to make available to his fans.

Dan said...

Hi Daniel

I would be more than happy to work with you to share your memories of Hugh with his fans. I intend to put together a longer biographical article of Hugh's life and achievements in early 2009, and anything you might be able to add to that would be greatly appreciated.

You can contact me directly on rabarts (@) gmail dot com.

Hugh's family have been absolutely outstanding during these past months leading up to his passing, and his condition was fairly consistently updated on his own blog by his sister.

I'm sure they would love to hear from anyone who knew Hugh and would like to pass on their condolences.


Anonymous said...

Any update on getting Lulu's content access changed?

Dan said...

Dear Anonymous, and others of Hugh's fans who might be interested in obtaining some of Hugh's rarer out-of-print works through the POD site

I have opened up a dialogue with the staff at Lulu again, since I had no reply back in October when I started this process.

Hopefully Lulu will be willing to work with myself and Hugh's family to make these works available again. A copy of the message I sent is copied here. I will keep this space updated as things progress.

Thanks for checking back.


(Message to Lulu below:)

Hi there

Recently, I was in contact with your staff regarding making some material available on your website which could not be accessed due to changes to the Lulu website, as per the conversation ticketed above.

The conversation regards various books by Mr Hugh Cook, particularly the Oceans of Light Series, among others.

Mr Cook passed away in November of last year. A post on his blog by his family can be found here:

His obituary, which I wrote and which was published in the New Zealand Herald, can be found here:

I have had queries from fans regarding my contact with Lulu to make his inaccessible works available again, and I am therefore following up this query with you, in the hope that those works of Mr Cook's which were not available because of their mature content before the changes to Lulu's website might be released again for purchase.

Alternatively, I would be happy to work with Mr Cook's family to load the extant works again from scratch, if this meant that these rare pieces were available for his fans to read.

Mr Cook was a staunch supporter of the self-publishing model and a champion of Lulu in particular. If you were to peruse his two websites, the blog mentioned above and also, you would find many references to this.

I will be forwarding a copy of this email to Mr Cook's family, and also posting it on my site so that his fans will know that we are working to get these books back into the hands of those who wish to read them.

I look forward to hearing back from you soon, and working together in Mr Cook's memory.


Dan said...

Regarding the comments above, I have started a thread on the Facebook Group Fans of Hugh Cook:

I will also update here as appropriate.

The Facebook post reads thus:

I have had requests from fans wondering how and when Hugh's rarer books, such as the Oceans of Light trilogy, will be available to buy.

Many of these books, which were formerly available on but have been inaccessible for some time, will hopefully be released to the public again at some point this year.

I have been in touch with and Hugh's family to discuss this issue, and they plan to work their way through Hugh's enormous volume of intellectual property over the next few months. This will be no small task, and will not happen quickly.

I will keep in touch with Hugh's family and update this page as I learn what progress has been made, providing links as and when I can.

Watch this space.

Murray Lorden said...

Hugh Cook is most dearly one of my favorite authors! This is partly for the time in my life that I read the books (as a teenager), but mostly due to their sheer uniqueness and liveliness. No author I have read since can put a light up against wildness! And in Hugh's books, somehow through of their abstraction of the real world, he commented on the issues and absurdities of the real world!

The antics of his Age Of Darkness books was incredible and entertaining. I loved his refusal to sit back and settle into a style and play it safe. He really pushed the medium – writing from different perspectives. His angle of writing from the role of a record-keeper from the world of the books itself in books 6 and 7 of an Age of Darkness was hilarious and brilliant, especially the more-and-more outlandish editors notes that were inserted into the writings, highlighting the racism of the imagined-author. Haha. Gold.

“The Walrus and the Warwolf” will always hold a special place in my heart due to the outlandishness extremes of the dearly beloved Drake Dreldragon. I own about 5 different copies of the book, from an old hard back original, to a variety of different colored Corgi versions. I'm always keeping an eye out for second hand copes of the books in old book stores. I think this will always be a past time of mine through the years!

I like to give away copies of that book as presents to my friends and loved ones, to pass on the love! Thank you Hugh.

I still haven’t read the final 10th book, which I don’t think was ever published by Corgi along with the rest of the series. I'm saving that experience up as long as I can.

Like so many things that don’t succeed among the masses at the time of their release, these books shine bright as ever.

I really hoped to meet Hugh one day. It saddened me greatly to hear of hiss passing.

Dan, I would love to read a lengthier tale of Hugh's life, as I always longed to know more of where this amazing imagination came from!

I also have a website with virtually unlimited webspace and bandwidth, and I would be happy to host your bio about Hugh, if you’re still looking for some hosting.

I'm also wondering whether a broader website would be appreciated by his family and fans.

Hugh Cook’s work is special to me, and it would be an honor to set up a little something to honor his memory and his work.

My heart goes out to his family and friends.

Dan said...

Hi Muz

Thanks for the comment. I have left it in the family's court to come back to me when they're ready to share a bit more towards a longer bio of Hugh's life.

I would most certainly appreciate a little bit of web space if you had some available.

To everyone who has offered to share memories, anecdotes, or anything else about Hugh's life that would fit into a public bio, please feel free to contact me directly at rabarts AT gmail dot com.

As I've said, there isn't a timeframe on this project yet, so there's no rush. When Hugh's family are ready, I'll move forward, and probably not before.

Thanks everyone


Murray Lorden said...

Thanks Dan,

All the best to one and all.

- Murray

Bjorn said...

Thanks for writing this! I'll look forward to your future efforts!