Thursday, 15 December 2011

Mike Hinge - Nigel Rowe and Mike Kowalski

I was recently put in touch with Nigel Rowe who is a writer, researcher and SF fan. Nigel has written several fanzines and a book Timeless Sands - A History of Science Fiction in New Zealand and contributed to Tom Cardy's obituary for Mike. Nigel told me that he first met Mike in the early 80's and here I am publishing his email to me which include some wonderful memories of Mike. As well Nigel included this rather nifty "Lawrence of Arabia" passport photo of Mike and a very special short story  "The Quest For Mike Hinge's Boxes" by Mike Kowalski drummer of The Beach Boys on a 25th anniversary tour in New Zealand in 1984.

I really hope that we can hear those tapes one day and view some of Mike's early art. Many Thanks to you Nigel.

Mike's passport photo circa 1978.
Mike was a friend of mine who I met in New Zealand in the early 80's. He was amazed when after introducing himself as "Mike Hinge" I replied "Oh, not *the* Mike Hinge who immigrated to the States in 1958..." As a researcher and SF fan for some time I was probably one of the few people in NZ who knew who he was and his subsequent success overseas.

Over the years we kept in touch after he moved back to the East Coast. And when he unexpectedly passed away, I volunteered to take his ashes back to NZ on my next trip. And I delivered these to his brother in the rural wilds of NZ in 2004.

I subsequently bought some of his artwork from his collection as it was sold on eBay. I also own some of his original artwork from the 50's that he gifted to me when we spent a long time sorting through his original NZ possessions that had been in storage down there for the 30 odd years he had been away. I'm including here a story written about the trip to reclaim his stuff from his elderly aunt.

I also owned a bookshop for many years, and Mike helped me get it going.
Including designing the store logo, signs, and selling books when I went off to get lunch. We spent a lot of fun times together before he headed back to the States. I have several hours of him on tape talking about his early days, the Time covers and other interesting stuff that was intended for a magazine interview that never eventuated.

My one regret is that as I too moved overseas (Chicago) I had to part with some cherished possessions including the hand made wooden art drafting table he built in the 50's and left with me. Unfortunately it had too much wood borer after being in storage in humid conditions. Oh well, I enjoyed it while I could.
And it was fun seeing him draw my store logo on it, much the same as when he last used it 25 years earlier.

Enjoy the enclosed. I can't wait to check out your site! He would have been chuffed that 8 years after he shuffled off this mortal coil that people were still enthused and talking about him.


August 1984

Mike Kowalski

We drove down through the rain and hills to Huia.
"This is just like Wellington," said Nigel as we descended. Easy to imagine the bush-clad hills covered instead with houses and winding streets, and aircraft passing through the huge gulf of air between the headlands. The windscreen on the hired station-wagon kept misting up, and it was hard to see through the heavy rain.

The blue Skoda we were following pulled over to the side. Across the road was a row of houses. We clambered out of the car, and I unfolded my umbrella.

The tide was out and the mudflats stretched out past the headlands, which were like a row of great grey spikes fading in the rain.

Mike Hinge, itinerant SF artist, hopped out of the other car and ran to the gate. The driveway was two strips of concrete but ran only from the other side of the gate. Before the gate was a stretch of spongy grass slowly puddling up with water. Mike swung the gates open, and I backed the wagon across the grass, leaving deep muddy ruts, and down the long driveway. The shed doors opened after a fair bit of pushing, and the wagon backed up half inside the garage. Mike went into the house and talked to his aunt and then came back out and showed us to the rear of the shed. The boxes were stacked to one side. They were each a metre and a half long and more than a metre high. The bases of some were damp and rotted; most had been riddled by silver-fish around the metal bands on the ends. These boxes had been sealed for twenty-five years.

We dragged them out one by one and prised them open with a crowbar and a hammer. Dust soon gathered in the rear of the shed, already festooned with cobwebs. Outside the grimy window sat a water-tank grown around with weeds. Mike com plained steadily and bitterly about relatives with no appreciation for the value of culture, as we unearthed time and again some especial treasure damaged by time and age.

The bottom-most crate was full of art material, and this had almost all perished, the most crushing blow to Mike. But three or four boxes of jazz 78's had weathered well, and a few boxes of books. Here were first editions of Arthur Clarke and others, an early Arkham Lovecraft collection, a first British edition of Foundation amidst a whole bundle of books about the saucer craze which had once occupied Auckland fandom. It was hard to guess what, if any, was valuable, but there was a lot that was very interesting. A booklet put out by the ARA (Auckland Regional Authority) in 1955 mapped out proposed changes to the public transport system, most of which still haven't got off the ground.

Finally the wagon was loaded, and the last box went into the other car, after the back seats had been taken out. The ground between the driveway and the road was very soggy by now, and the wagon heavily laden. It didn't seem likely we would be able to get out. So we carried down old planks from the box lids and placed them on the grass. Nigel drove the wagon down the drive and across the grass, managing to miss every single plank. For a moment one of the wheels slid, but he made it to the road. By this time we were all very wet, very tired.

We unloaded the boxes on Queen Street and took them up the lift to Martian Way Press. Mike shouted us dinner at the Hungry Horse. Over coffee we argued politics. It was the day of the General Election (I didn't vote, of course). Back at Nigel's office we phoned the Values Party party at Cathryn Symons' house to find the election result, and to learn that Cathryn - who had stood for election - was not destined to become New Zealand's first fannish politician.


  1. wow, I come back to see what's up and there's MORE wonderful info being unearthed!!

    this is better than finding another Egyptian burial

  2. Hi Cecilia, Yes it has been a very interesting journey and there is more coming very soon. Sorry for my absence I have had a busy few weeks.