Thursday, 26 June 2014

A Writer On: Me, apparently...

In a turn of events that my reveals my general ignorance of the blogging world I have so recklessly plunged into, I have been nominated for the Liebster Award. Please, hold the applause. The five people who are going to read this have probably all been nominated too.

Apparently anyone with less than a certain number of followers can be nominated (no surprises I'm eligible), and after listing eleven facts about yourself it's basically one of those 'answer these questions then pass it on' deals that spend most of their time floating around the shallow end of social media. Nevertheless, it was the delightful Lola who put me up to this, so her questions are worth answering.

Eleven alarmingly quirky facts about me:

1. I love the smell of cardboard. Seriously. Given enough time in a warehouse full of empty cardboard boxes, I could get high.
2. Power-points that are left switched on with nothing plugged into them irritate me. Usually enough to go and switch them off.
3. Same deal with crooked photos or paintings.
4. My love for cats could put many crazy cat women to shame.
5. I feel I would be happier if I lived in medieval times, despite the widespread poverty and plagues and such, because I love the idea of a world that can still contain big unknowns and 'undiscovered' lands. Plus, I'd be decent with a sword.
6. I am black-belt in karate and an instructor.
7. I own over 250 books, the majority of which are fantasy, spread between two bedrooms at home and my Dad's place.
8. As a child I invented something called a 'Tuckey'. It involved filling a cup with bathwater while the tub was emptying, stuffing a flannel inside and capping it off with the bath plug. Patent pending.
9. When shaving I remove the ends of my moustache first, to enjoy the moment that I look like Hitler.
10. I love immersing myself in water so much, I look forward to taking showers.
11. When bored I look up and correct Wiki entries on my favourite fandoms.

Now, on to Lola's questions.

What is my least favourite book genre?
Does non-fiction count? 
What is my least favourite colour?
I find orange very insincere. 
Pick one fictional character to snog, marry, avoid.
For completely shallow reasons I'd enjoy making out with Kaylee from Firefly. If I had to marry any fictional character it would be Marshall from How I Met Your Mother, even though I'm not gay, because he'd be the best husband ever. As for avoid, I think it's wise to give the dark lord Sauron a wide berth. 
What is your favourite TV program from childhood?
Blue Water High is the only thing I can remember being devoted to when I was young. It's the closest I've ever been to surf culture. 
Were you ever afraid of a children's show character?
Not that I can remember. 'And They Shall Know No Fear' and all that. 
What fruit do you consume most frequently?
Bananas. Emphasising the not-gay thing again. 
Would you rather be able to do a backflip or stand on your head?
I'm close to being able to do both. Backflip would be more fun, because headstands move all your blood to your head. 
(Question eight was answered in question seven)
What style(s) of dance have you had lessons for?
None. Don't tell my girlfriend. 
Which of your own characters are you most proud of having created?
Well, I'm not proud of Harlan, him being a psychopathic serial killer and all, but he is pretty cool. 
Would you rather like in Westeros/the Free Cities, Middle Earth or Narnia?
Middle. Earth. I'm planning to frame a map of that place and put it up on my wall. 

Well there you have, a lot of useless information about me. Check back next post when I write about something interesting (maybe).


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Brotherhood in Murderland

For this post I'm changing my normal tone to do what most people do with blogs: write about personal experience. Unless you have specific interest in my life, feel free to stop reading here.

There's something about the male psyche that is intrinsically drawn to the sound of machine-gun fire. Luckily for the world at large, the only kind I've ever used are fired with the left mouse button.

I'm not a big gamer, despite the fact that several of my friends are. When I do game, I almost always play a tie-in from something else I like: the first real game I ever played was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets for PC, and a shameful portion of my life at 13-14 was spent conquering and re-conquering Middle-Earth as various races from Lord of the Rings. It wasn't until later that I got my first taste of a first-person shooter, during Friday lunchtimes at my high school when a loose collective of the thin and pasty would gather in one of the computer rooms to eschew sunlight and social interaction in favour of simulated violence.

The games played there were varied, but the important part is that I was introduced to online multiplayer gaming. Those lunchtimes lost their attraction for me after a while, but gaming never has, and it was through them that I met some of my best friends. A large part of what kept me sane through the trials and tribulations of VCE was coming home and joining a Skype call with my friends before we all jumped on someone's server and unwound with whatever game we enjoyed at the time. Some of us from those days have gone their separate ways now, but those that remain are a close-knit group I am lucky to be part of, and even though we only see each other a few times a year the friendship remains because we talk over Skype and bond over simulated slaughter on a regular basis.

Whether it's building houses to keep the monsters out, mowing each other down with hails of bullets or standing back-to-back against hordes of infected, these guys are my gaming-world brothers. Even when it's each other we're pinning to walls with crossbow bolts or vaporizing with explosive barrels (which is most of the time) the bond is strong and the laughs just keep rolling out. In the spirit of friendship, we annihilate each other.

I know these guys have my back in the real world because they've got it in there, and I will always have theirs. So this is a shout-out to my gaming buddies Nimrod, DeltaHax and TrolleyFodder, may the slaughter never cease.

Your friend,

Amoeba Man   Creepy Magee   DeadPotato   FlawlessCowboy    


Sunday, 1 June 2014

A Writer On: The F Word

Once more I acknowledge if not apologize for the long gap between posts. I have been busy getting published. I am pleased to say Deakin University's Arts journal 'Wordly' has published a piece of mine examining the plot differences between Game of Thrones Season 3 and the book upon which it is based, and many thanks to Lola for getting me the opportunity. The piece may be appearing on their online blog in which case I will provide a link. Now, onwards.

This post is about something deeply personal to me. Fantasy.

Fantasy is something I have loved since I was a child, and it's probably not an exaggeration to say that fantasy novels have been one of the greatest shaping forces in my life. Growing up I greatly preferred roaming Deltora, the Edge, Aloria, Alagaesia and Middle-Earth to anywhere I went in real life, and now that I'm older the love has continued as I explore Westeros and begin to craft my own lands.

George Martin, the man responsible for Westeros, once wrote a short essay entitled 'On Fantasy' that, when I read it, felt a chord being struck in my soul. Here it is in abbreviated form:

"The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real, for a moment at least - that long magic moment before we wake.
Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab... Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?
We read fantasy to find the colours again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.
They can keep their heaven. When I die, I'd sooner go to Middle-Earth."

In just a few paragraphs Martin has found the heart of why fantasy speaks to me and countless others. Compared to reality, fantasy is a wonderland, despite its dangers. There is a core of escapism to most fantasy enjoyment, and a large part of why I loved it so much as a child was because it allowed me to escape the bleak reality of my social existence.

One of my primary motivations in becoming an author is so I can speak to kids who every day go through what I did, and offer them a means of escape and conciliation. That said, there is another reason.

Many people don't understand the appeal of fantasy, and that's fine. I do pity them, however. For some, they don't see the attraction in immersing yourself in something that is not real, has no relation to everyday experience and no practical benefits. Perhaps their reality has always seemed more preferable to any other. Perhaps they simply haven't tried fantasy yet. Perhaps their minds just don't work that way. These people can be just as happy as those who enjoy the non-real, but not reading is like not listening to music, or never eating gourmet food. You can survive that way, but your life will never be as enriched.

Speaking from experience, fantasy stories serve a purpose beyond escapism. Fantasy is a means of truth-telling. Pre-postmodern fantasy is often criticised for its simplistic, black-and-white morality, but what these stories tell us is that it is good to act in these ways and not others, that anyone no matter how humble can achieve greatness, that all it takes to overthrow great darkness is the courage and love of a few, and that, in the end, good will always triumph. Naive though these views may seem, it is only the people who don't understand fantasy saying that, and they are beliefs that I have carried into my (semi) adult life and am determined to use to make this world a better place. That is the true effect of fantasy, and it is a lesson that needs to be shared.