Tag Archives: spec fic

Confession of a Spec Fic Writer: Sometimes We’re Not Clever, We’re Just Plain A-Holes.

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In October of 2012 I started this blog as a budding Spec Fic writer. I wrote Doctor Who Horoscopes, I shared Fantasy excerpts and short stories that I had written. However, in March 2014 I went into a psychiatric hospital with postnatal depression. My blog focus shifted but strangely enough I still often identify myself as a Spec Fic writer. For the next couple of years I have Spec Fic slated to come out. A Historical Fantasy this year and a Paranormal Crime next year. As such I am having more Spec Fic focused conversations with fellow writers. We all think we’re pretty clever. We all like playing with reality. We all enjoy coming up with clever tricks…. But sometimes we fail. Sometimes we unintentionally write things that are harmful and bigoted. 

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of a concept that an ex came up with when we were in our early 20s, about 15 years ago. It was a vampire film (yeah, I used to do short film, I’ve even got an award, I’m quite the Jack) and he was so excited about it because it combined his two great loves, medical science and vampires. He had a medical science degree. He had honours. He was doing his PhD. In short, he knew his stuff. And as he told me his plans I said, “Wow, that’s really fucking interesting.” 

His premise was that vampires were a result of a blood mutation and that people with hemophilia were actually descendants from the original vampires. He had way more science behind it than that but that’s about the extent that this aging, arts-degree brain can remember. We hi5ed to good thinking and how solid the science was. We listened to Placebo’s Haemoglobin. We were sooooo cool. But then some thoughts started cropping up…

…. Hang on, are we saying that very real people who exist today are not entirely human? Are we saying that a group of real people are part parasite ready to suck the blood of others? Have we made out that they’re different and savage because of a medical condition? Have we seriously othered them? Oh shit, we had. But aren’t vampires cool? Doesn’t everyone want to be one? No. People who have been systematically excluded already probably don’t want to be further dehumanised. 

You know what we ended up doing? We set the idea aside. We decided not to run with it because there were too many issues. Sure the science was interesting, the play of ideas was interesting, but actually putting that dehumanisation of a group of people out into the world was not interesting. It wouldn’t be fun or cool. It would be actively othering and already misunderstood group. 

What did we do? We came up with other ideas that didn’t dehumanise a group of marginalised people. Just because and idea seems interesting on the surface doesn’t mean it’s actually a good concept to film or write about. We’re creative people. We can think of more things. We can do better. We can come up with equally exciting concepts with out dehumanising marginalised people. I believe in us. We’re thinkers. 

This was 16 years ago and I’m still having similar conversations. Let’s do better. I know we can do it. Don’t get me wrong, we’ll all fuck up at times, I definitely do, but at least put it on our radar.

Speculative Fiction Workshop with Marianne de Pierres through New South Wales Writers Centre

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Over the weekend I undertook a Speculative Fiction course taught by Marianne de Pierres (MDP) through the New South Wales Writers Centre. I saw a few familiar faces from other Spec Fic courses and got to meet a couple of people I interact with on twitter in person. More importantly I noted that the real New South Wales Writers Centre Stick, had been replaced with an imposter. Which I’m sure you don’t care about at all. “JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU GOT TAUGHT,” you demand “Maybe a little more info about the stick, because we all care about that, but seriously, JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU GOT TAUGHT!” Now of course to get the full benefit of MDP’s wisdom you’ll actually have to go to a MDP workshop yourself. There really is no substitute for the real thing. But I’ll share some takeaways. But seriously, you need to attend a workshop yourself to take it all in.

The course was largely about world building so I’ll give some tips I picked up from that part of the workshop.

In regards to researching to build your worlds MDP says, before writing, during writing, or during editing, is all good. Just do what works for you. There is no best way. The only way to learn what works for you is through trial and error. Which means, you actually need to try different ways and see which one suits. Play to your strengths rather than work to a formula.

Her rules for using your research in your writing are essentially be original, don’t simply rehash, don’t distract the reader with slabs of info, be authentic, and know more details then you actually include. Don’t bore your reader.

Backstory can be the enemy of narrative drive. If the reader doesn’t need to know it, don’t explicitly list it and bore your reader. NEVER BORE YOUR READER!

Be mindful regarding tropes. You have to make choices as you write as to whether you subvert or use tropes. Always be thoughtful, don’t simply bung them in.

Think of your setting as another character. How does it feel to be in it? What are the smells? What is the history? And never forget the food.

The workshop also included segments on narrative drive, blending genres, new media, transmedia and a one hour question time where participants got to ask whatever we wanted. So, as I said earlier, there really is no substitute for attending in person.

#CBCA2015 Celebrating Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Week 2015 – Chloe Prime : Alien Space Vet, Chapter Two #BookWeek

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This week was Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book Week. In celebration of this wonderful event, that helps bring the spirit of fandom to children’s reading, I am going to pop up chapter 2 of Chloe Prime: Alien Space Vet. Chapter 1 is HERE for people that have missed it. Enjoy, and I hope you enjoyed all the celebrations around Book Week that took place.

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Chapter Two: Greedy Goldfish

The next morning Chloe lay in her backyard pulling faces at her reflection in her fishpond. Meanwhile her mother rushed about inside the house getting Chloe’s things ready for school. Chloe enjoyed listening to the gentle trickle of water running through her backyard and the feel of the soft blue-green grass on her stomach. She reached out her hand and gently ran it through the cool water, carefully not to scare the fish. Chloe laughed at her funny faces as she waited for the fish to surface for their feed. One fish nearly leapt out of the water in fright as it came up for air to the sight of Chloe flaring her nostrils and pulling her lips back over her gums. Chloe giggled excitedly at the response and kicked her legs up behind her; her metallic leg braces glinted in the sunlight.

Leg braces might have slowed some children down but not Chloe Prime. She had been born with hip dysphasia which meant that her hip sockets were out of phase with her legs and had not formed properly. Despite the braces, Chloe was an utter tear about. She could often be seen leaping about her backyard playing ‘Super Ninja Rabbeets’ with her best friend, the amazing Hippopotati, Joshua Suza.

Chloe stood up and moved around the fishpond that she loved scouting for fish. She followed the small stream that sprang from the pond winding its way around the lush green yard. Chloe stopped and flopped down on one of the two small bridges that crossed the stream. She reached out her hand and softly parted the ferns that grew around the water, peeking in carefully to check for fish. She was hoping to be able to hand feed a few of her favourite fish friends before heading off to school.

“Chloe…” A voice drifted out to the yard disrupting Chloe’s face pulling. “Have you fed the fish yet?”

“In a minute Mum.” The little girl called back, quickly rushing back to the pond.

“You’ll be late for school. You better get a wriggle on.”

Chloe wriggled cheekily on the spot and then grabbed a tiny cube of bread from a basket beside her. She hovered the cube over the water and waited. Pretty soon a large bright orange fish broke the surface, mouth eagerly open. Chloe gently popped a piece of bread in the gapping gob and watched the fish duck back under the surface. She repeated this process for a few minutes with fish of a variety of bright oranges and pearl white, and any splotchy combination of the two colours.

“Chloe.” Mum’s voice cut through the quiet garden again. “Hurry up Sweetie. I’ve packed your bag, and the school shuttle will be here soon.”

“Two more minutes Mum.” Chloe called back.

Chloe kept emptying her bread basket into the pond. SPLASH! All of a sudden a big greedy fish leapt from the surface and tried to snatch a piece of bread from another fish. Chloe gasped in shock.

‘No, no, no! Naughty Glen,’ Chloe scolded the silly, snatching fish. ‘You know you can’t have bread. It makes your tummy sad. You don’t want to have a sad tummy do you?’

Glen’s guilty gills could be seen skulking below the surface, and he looked pleadingly at Chloe with his big, sad, googly eyes.

‘Don’t pout Greedy Glen,’ Chloe said. ‘I’ve brought rice crackers for you.’

This cheered glum Glen up no end, and he did a little fishy dance flicking his tail in excitement. He positively leapt for the rice crackers and gobbled them all up. Poor Glen could not have gluten without getting a big, bloated belly. It was very unfortunate for a bread loving goldfish. Luckily for Glen he was owned by Chloe Prime who had always been very good with animals. She just seemed to understand them. Glen had been her first patient and possibly most difficult patient. You see Glen was a bit of a glutton and he loved gluten so he was not exactly forthcoming with telling Chloe his issues. So Chloe was forced to use scientific methods in order to help gluttonous Glen. As she fed her fish each morning Chloe had noticed that Glen always got sick shortly thereafter. As he always got sick after food she believed that it must be the food. So Chloe scientifically tested out different fish foods until she discovered that Glen would swell up with any foods containing gluten but was fine when given rice or oats. As a result of Chloe’s careful testing Glen remained a happy and healthy fish some seven years later.

Fortunately future patients were a little more forth coming with information. Dogs would walk past complaining that they itched. Cats would wonder by wanting more water. Frogs would hippedy hop along saying they wanted a friend. Chloe would dutifully pass on this message to their owners. But despite Chloe’s expertise with animals there was one little hiccough. Try as she might she could never quite seem to understand insects. Each morning when she finished feeding her fish she would sit, cross legged with her eyes closed, trying to hear what the insects had to say to her. Sometimes she thought she could almost hear their words but she never could quite work out exactly what was being said. And so Chloe Prime sat, crossed legged listening for a message, on that very morning.

‘Chloe Prime,’ Mum’s voice cut through Chloe’s concentration. It was clear from Mum’s tone that she meant business. ‘I can hear the shuttle, you better come now.’

Somehow Mum could always hear the shuttle a good five minutes before it came. She seemed to have supersonic hearing. Mum could hear all manner of things, there was no keeping secrets of any kind with Mum around. Chloe scrunched up her little nose and twisted her lips, annoyed to be interrupted before she could hear anything. She quickly tossed another handful of bread into the goldfish pond and rushed inside calling goodbye to her fish friends. She really did not want to be late for her first day at school and miss out on any potential exploits.

Chloe Prime was an adventurer to the core. She was only ten but exploration was in her blood and adventure was in her bones. Chloe was related to the late and great Sir Giovanni Colompedia. One of the greatest explorers that the galaxy had ever known, he had travelled the universe in the twenty third century. Colompedia had discovered many new sights; including the very planet that Chloe lived on now. The adventurous Miss Prime was ready for New Earth Beta Campus but was it ready for her?

The inside of Chloe’s home was quite different from the outside. The outside was all lush green trees and ferns mixed with the gentle sound of trickling water. There was a constant gentle hum of insects and the popping noises of air bubbles reaching the surface of the water. The air was cool and crisp and tasted of fresh moisture. Chloe dearly loved her backyard but she also loved the inside of her house. It was white and clean yet still homey and always smelt of something being freshly baked. Chloe ran into her huge kitchen where she found Mum waiting for her, school bag in hand.

‘Can I smell double jam space biscuits?’

‘Already in your lunchbox,’ Mum replied, helping Chloe put on her school bag.

‘Have you packed enough for Joshua?’

‘Of course,’ Mum smiled.

‘What’s for lunch?’ Food was very important to Chloe.

‘You’ll have to wait and see,’ Her mum gently replied, taking Chloe by the hand to walk outside.

Chloe was serious about food and she was serious about flavour. She always loved to try the different things her mum made. Some kids always bought food from the school lunchroom but not Chloe. She always brought something fresh from home. The rich mineral soil of Giovanus meant that all of Earth’s food could be grown along with new delicious alien foods. Chloe felt her mother was aiming to become an expert in it all. Chloe did not know what kind of food she liked best. She enjoyed tucking into an Earthly lasagne as much as snacking on Neptunian urchin fruit. All Chloe really knew was that she was assured of a good lunch today. And to be perfectly honest, does anything else really matter?