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Story Crimes: The Line between Critique and Nitpicking

I’m one of those people that you hate at the movies. The lights have dimmed. The ads are a distant memory, like the faint scent of artificial butter clinging damply to your empty popcorn box. The film is building up toward a stirring climax, and suddenly this nitwit in the row in front of you sighs loudly and slumps back in her chair. What the hell? You’re temporarily distracted, but you manage to refocus on the movie quickly enough. Until …

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How Game Dev Tycoon taught me to be a Writer

If you haven’t heard of it, there is a fantastic little simulation game called Game Dev Tycoon. You start off as the stereotypical solo game developer in a basement in the 1980s. You develop a small indie game and release it. And then you do it again, and again, chasing the big hit that catapults you to the next level: your own office. With each game, you try to get the right balance between different elements such as dialogue, level …

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What Ninja Warrior Australia means for People of Colour

I’m generally a shitty Australian. I don’t watch much TV. If I do, I always skip the sports games in favour of Masterchef. I don’t even barrack for an AFL team (I’m sorry, Melbourne). But my god, I have never felt so proud and patriotic as when Ninja Warrior Australia started airing. Watching the show reminds me of the Australia I love. The good-natured ribbing. The terrible puns. The Aussie pride. But for me, what brings tears to my eyes …

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Good Fiction Needs Broken Characters: A Personal Essay on Mental Illness

Good fiction needs broken characters. It’s a powerful rule. Like all other rules, people who know what they’re doing can happily ignore it. But generally, I think it’s a rule worth respecting. Because broken characters remind us that we’re not alone. Broken characters do stupid things. They drive conflict – the heart and engine of any narrative – because their messy emotions get in the way of the nonexistent Reasonable Person. We love them because none of us are perfect. …

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5 Reasons You Should go to an SFF Convention

We writers are notoriously shy. For that matter, so are many readers and pop culture consumers. But fresh from my first experience of an SFF Convention, the incredible Continuum 2017 held last weekend down here in Australia, I’m going to share with you 5 reasons you should go to an SFF convention. Stat. 1. Learn Something New This one is a no-brainer. A standard feature of conventions is panels, where a bunch of smart and varied people get together to discuss …

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Great Escape Books – Book Shop Love Letters

One of the greatest things about travelling is discovering a new book shop. A fortnight ago, I drove down to the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia, to take part in the Great Ocean Road half marathon. A lot of my friends and family called me crazy. But the fact is, I got to slowly jog along some beautiful coastline for a few hours unmolested by motor vehicles, get handed lollies and sports drink every few kilometres, and soak in …

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The March for Science and the Unconquered Mountain

It is a strange, frightening world when we need a March for Science. I know it was a while ago and that the news cycle has passed. But I find myself thinking back to it whenever I see pseudoscience headlines or another announcement of cuts to science funding. Because the March for Science was heartening to see – the protesters, the crowds, the hilarious signs, and above all, the action of coming together as a movement and making a statement: We …

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Turning Strong Female Characters into Powerful Female Characters

Strong Female Characters are fucking great. I love them, and I’m glad we have them. And there are some really, really good ones. It’s just a shame that many storytellers have taken the shape of Strong Female Characters and run with it in the opposite direction. A History of Strong Female Characters I’m not going to tread old ground here. There are a lot of really, really good analyses out there as to why the Strong Female Character archetype is …

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The Weird and Beautiful Relationship Between Science and Science Fiction

Nature boasts some rather beautiful symbiotic relationships. There’s the honeyguide bird in Africa (of the family Indicatoridae), that leads humans to honey in return for beeswax. There’s the famous and intricate relationship between tropical clownfish and certain species of sea anemone that allow both to flourish. And of course, there’s the mutually beneficial, enduring and brilliant love story between science and science fiction. Now, at university I didn’t study creative writing or science. I studied law, international studies, history and …

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The Hell Yeah Test – How to Choose a Great Book to Read

Between the ages of around four to fourteen, I pretty much read anything within a ten-metre radius that had pages and a spine. I read trashy spy thrillers next to Lord of the Rings, and then jumped straight into non-fiction survival handbooks and guidebooks about spiders. I chewed through David and Leigh Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean series in weeks. It became a point of pride with me that when a new Harry Potter book came out, I’d sleepwalk through a …