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 clichés 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, zenvirus.com. 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.