Monthly Archives: June 2007

Harry Potter and the power of love

June 30, 2007

Whether you like it or not, whether you think the whole thing is uber-hype or really as good as the hype would have you believe, you can’t ignore the Harry Potter phenomenon. J K Rowling’s success as an author and merchandiser are beyond doubt. Whether you think she’s any good or not, selling three hundred and fifty million books is success by anyone’s standards.

J K Rowling
Joanne Kathleen Rowling, Potter-meister

And so we enter the month of July and the countdown begins. The seventh and final Harry Potter installment is released in three weeks. Little children (and grown adults for that matter) are dusting off their wands and wizard robes once more, preparing to stand in line for their copy of, arguably, the most anticipated book of this century so far.

The internet abounds with theories of what will happen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Rowling has already said that two major characters will die in this last book, but she’s being cagey about who those two are. Of course, Harry dying is foremost in many people’s minds and, given the nature of the story so far and the mythical hero archetype that Harry Potter is, this would be a likely outcome. But will she dare? Will the great Harry Potter Merchandising Machine grind to an ignominious halt if Harry carks? Or will he rise to an even greater, almost divine status and rule forever as the Half-Muggle Merchandise Messiah?

Only time will tell. A very interesting article in this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald by Sophie Gee is well worth a look. Sophie Gee is assistant professor of English at Princeton University. She presents some thought-provoking hypotheses and even admits her position on the biggest question on everyone’s mind – is Severus Snape a good guy or a bad guy? Or what, exactly? Does even he know?

On the greater theme throughout the books, Gee suggests:

The battle between Harry and Voldemort pits the power of love against the fear of death. Which will prove the stronger? If, as we hope, Harry is the victor and the fear of death is vanquished, what will be left to keep Harry alive?

You can read the whole article here.

It’s nepotism, Jim

June 28, 2007

This is completely unrelated to words, but a bit of nepotism never goes astray. My wife, Halinka, the excellent artist whose webpage you can find in the links section on the left, had an exhibition open last night at MOP Projects.

It was a great turn-out and her show looked awesome. Of course, I would say that. But it’s true. If you’re in the area, see if you can get along and see the show before it comes down on July 15th.

MOP Projects Shop 2, 27 – 39 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale NSW 2008.

The show will run from 28/6/07 to 15/7/07, open Thursday to Saturday 1 – 6pm and Sunday & Monday 1 – 5pm.

The opening:
MOP Opening

MOP Opening

A couple of examples of Halinka’s oil paintings:

Cobham Avenue

The Bridge

Parramatta River

Patting myself on the back

June 27, 2007

Well, I made a promise to myself and I made it a public promise here on this blog too. I said I wanted to have a finished first draft of the sequel novel to RealmShift by the end of June. Just call me Mr Deadline. I wrapped up the first draft today, two days early. There are few feelings to compare with completing a novel, knowing that the story you wanted to tell is done.

Obviously there’s still a lot of work to do. I need to re-draft and edit almost right away. There are things that need tidying up, new scenes to add in, other scenes to rewrite or revamp to fit into the whole thing more comfortably. Then it needs to go out to proof-readers and editors. The first draft is really only the beginning, but it’s also the biggest hurdle to jump.

So I’m on track and hopefully the book will be out by the end of the year.

Horror or dark fiction, the debate continues

June 25, 2007

Some time ago I tried to wrap up just what dark fantasy actually was. Seeing as that is how my writing is most often classified, I wanted to try to answer the question that forever arose: What’s the difference between dark fantasy and horror? You can use the Search box on the right to find the original post I’m referring to.

Well, adding further explanation to the debate, I recently read an online interview with Angela Challis, one half of Brimstone Press, Australia’s premier independent publisher of dark fantasy. She was asked:

“Let’s get the tough one out of the way early: dark fiction or horror?”

Her reply was interesting:

Tough? Naaah! Not at all. I’m actually at a loss as to why the banner title is even deliberated. It seems clear to me that Dark Fiction is the catch all phrase, and Horror is a sub-set representing the extreme reader-recoil end of the Dark Fiction spectrum (marking the extreme lighter end with sword-wielding trolls having a bad day).

The term ‘horror’ is far more rigid than ‘dark fiction’.

Horror suggests the reader should expect to be left with an overwhelming feeling caused by something frightfully shocking, terrifying, or revolting — i.e. something horrific. Given this conventional definition of horror, for me, it doesn’t exist within fiction. Any events likely to provoke this type of reaction from me can only be found within the constraints of non-fiction.

Dark Fiction, on the other hand, rarely evokes a preconceived expectation as it doesn’t suggest the intensity of the ‘scare’ factor of the story. A story of a locust plague may not be considered horror by one reader, but will evoke extreme recoil from a reader suffering with entomophobia. Although the first reader may not consider the story to be horrific, I believe very few people would deny that this type of story has the potential to provoke a wide range of reactions from reader to reader depending on the intensity of their aversion to the subject matter.

Simply put, the term Dark Fiction is sympathetic to the gamut of subjective opinions, whereas Horror is far more restrictive in its definition.

Not a bad stab at the definitions there. You can read the whole interview here.

The Word movie tip of the week

June 24, 2007

If any of you fantasy fans enjoy a good fairy tale, do I have a tip for you. By “a good fairy tale” I’m not talking about some Disney bulldust with singing teapots and happy rodents. I mean real, dark, menacing fairy tales, just like proper fairy tales should be.

Pan’s Labyrinth has just been released on DVD. If you missed it at the movies, rent or buy the DVD and make up for it. It’s an awesome movie, brilliantly played and brilliantly shot with a fantastic story that’s really quite twisted.

Pan’s Labyrinth

You can learn all about it from web searches.

Muslims demand murder of Knighted author

June 19, 2007

“If someone commits suicide bombing to protect the honour of the prophet Muhammad, his act is justified.”

Yes, that’s right. Adherents to the so-called religion of Peace are at it again. The quote above was from the Pakistani Religious Affairs Minister, Mohammad Ejaz-ul-Haq in response to the Knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday honours list for the author Salman Rushdie. Ejaz-ul-Haq also said, “The West always wonders about the root cause of terrorism. Such actions are the root cause of it.”

So, Knighting a writer for his outstanding contribution to world literature is justification for the murder of innocent civilians that had nothing to do with the book, the Knighthood, the religion that claims to be affronted or anything else remotely connected. Sounds like more barbarian chest beating to me from people desperate to justify their violence. Then again, what do you expect from a religion that has world domination as a central tenet?

The Pakistani parliament passed a unanimous resolution deploring Rushdie’s honour as an insult to the feelings of the world’s Muslims. Rushdie spent around a decade in hiding after the Ayatollah Khomeini denounced his book The Satanic Verses as an insult to Islam and the prophet Muhammad and issued a fatwa calling for his murder. In 1998, when the Iranian government said that it would not support the outstanding fatwa, Rushdie emerged from hiding. Now there are fears for his safety all over again. Apparently Ejaz-ul-Haq was later forced to clarify his statement and claimed that he was speaking about the wider causes of terrorism and not of Sir Salman specifically. Yeah. Sure.

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie

According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

On Monday Pakistan’s religious parties ordered supporters onto the streets of two provincial cites. Effigies of the Queen and Sir Salman were burned while some protesters chanted “Kill him, kill him.”

Brainless idiots jump at the chance to burn another flag. (Pic from

Pakistan’s lower house Minister for Parliamentary Affairs, Sher Afgan Khan Niazi, said, “This is a source of hurt for Muslims and will encourage people to commit blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammad.” It’s ironic that he doesn’t consider calling for the murder of someone for a book they wrote some kind of blashpemy against all humanity. After all, is it not written in the “holy koran” “when you kill one human, you kill all of humanity”? Of course, as usual, religious zealots are picking and choosing what suits their current agenda as they have little else to occupy their feeble minds. There are even those that consider non-Muslims to be less than human and apostates even worse.

The Iranian foreign ministry’s director for Europe, Ebrahim Rahimpour, said, “The British government’s insulting, suspicious and ill-considered act is an obvious sign of Islamophobia which has terribly hurt the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims.” What a load of bollocks. Has he asked all 1.5 billion Muslims? I’m sure the large majority of them consider statements like that far more damaging than anything Salman Rushdie has ever written.

When comedy meets fantasy

June 19, 2007

There are a few people that have merged comedy and speculative fiction with outstanding results. The Polish writer Stanislaw Lem was one of the earliest sci-fi writers to get funny with it and some of his work is really worth a look. For anyone that has never heard of him before, I advise you to discover him soon.

Take this opening sentence from the short story collection The Cyberiad:

When the Universe was not so out of whack as it is today, and all the stars were lined up in their proper places, so you could easily count them from left to right, or top to bottom, and the larger and bluer ones were set apart, and the smaller, yellowing types pushed off to the corners as bodies of a lower grade, when there was not a speck of dust to be found in outer space, nor any nebular debris-in those good old days it was the custom for constructors, once they had received their Diploma of Perpetual Omnipotence with distinction, to sally forth ofttimes and bring to distant lands the benefit of their expertise.

Other writers to venture into this territory have met with varying levels of success. Of the most successful, Adams and Pratchett stand tall as serial over-achievers. Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (“the increasingly inaccurately named trilogy”) has become a benchmark for satirical sci-fi, as has Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books for the fantasy genre. In fact, Terry Pratchett’s work is so cleverly a commentary on our modern world that the fantasy tag is almost a misnomer, such is the skill of the man. Again, anyone that hasn’t read Adams or Pratchett (are there any such unfulfilled souls left in the world?) should rectify that situation immediately.

So, the general thrust of what I’m getting at here is that it’s not unusual for writers to combine the elements of speculative fiction and comedy, but few people can do it well. Very, very few.

I did recently discover an online comic, however, that does a pretty good job of it. Now this guy is no Lem, Adams or Pratchett (few mere mortals are), but he has taken a good solid swing at The Lord Of The Rings and scored a pretty impressive hit. However, one issue about this is that it will really only appeal in its full glory to people that have some experience of roleplaying in the Dungeons & Dragons style.

Just let me stand up here. Ahem. My name is Alan and I’m a role-player.

There, I’ve done it. Now none of you need to be concerned about “coming out”. Sadly I don’t actually have the time or a gaming group to play with these days, but for years and years my friends and I played every week. Those friends, back there in the land of my birth, still do play every week and I envy them.

The reason that this The Lord Of The Rings webcomic parody will appeal mainly, though not exclusively, to role-players is its basic premise. The idea is that the story is something written by a Games Master running a D&D style campaign and the players are all typical role-players, giving their Games Master a really hard time. The players in this case are Frodo, Sam, Aragorn and so on. The results are notably fine, especially as the comic has been put together using cut scenes from Peter Jackson’s movies. The construction of the comic is excellent and the gags are pretty consistent. There are spelling errors and flat points, some gags so gamer specific that even nerds have to quickly pick up the Player’s Handbook to unravel the comedy, but on the whole it’s a hit.

If you’re a fan of fantasy, parody, role-playing or all three, then give it a go. Here’s the first installment to whet your appetite:

From the Twenty Sided websiteDM Of The Rings

DM Of The Rings
DM Of The Rings

Images from Shamus Young –

Click on the images to see the full work. He’s halfway through the third film so far.

Pot calls kettle black

June 17, 2007

Remember that Catholic nutter George Pell threatening MPs with “consequences” if they backed a stem cell bill recently? Here’s the post from June 6th. Well, Greens MP Lee Rhiannon has requested a privileges committee investigation into Pell’s comments in order to determine if his they amount to contempt of Parliament. A very fair request in this supposedly secular land with a separation of church and state.

Well, in a statement of breathtaking hypocrisy that would be funny if he wasn’t serious, Pell has claimed, “There is a whiff of Stalinism or perhaps only of Henry VIII in her attempt to use this referral as a warning to me.” Pell accusing the government of using anachronistic threats as a warning? No blacker pot ever pointed its finger at a kettle.

I suppose one small upside of all this is that the whole debacle descends ever faster into the realm of unrecoverable farce, where it truly belongs.

Still busy

June 13, 2007

I’m still plugging away at writing the sequel to RealmShift and the first draft is nearly finished. I know I said that before, but it was nearly finished then and it’s still nearly finished now. A hundred thousand words and a hundred and ten thousand words are both nearly finished for a one hundred and forty thousand word document, right? Right! So get off my back. No, I’m not touchy or anything. In actual fact, it’s closer to one hundred and twenty thousand words now and the one forty total is an estimate. I promised myself, after the recent traumas back in the UK around the turn of the year, that I would revise my first draft deadline to the end of June and stick to it. And I plan to do just that.

But along the way I’m still working on other things. The life of a writer is a busy one, usually with many projects on the go at once. I’ve spent this week catching up on some of my short story writing and I’ve submitted three different short stories to three different publications (online and print). It’s important to keep these things going and writing short stories is excellent practice of the craft. Writing a novel is a whole different kettle of writing fish, not to mention a shockingly mangled metaphor. Writing short stories while working on a novel is a bit like going for a jog in between weight lifting sessions at the gym. It’s all important and getting too focussed on one thing can be detrimental. Yeah, I’m a Personal Trainer by day; it’s showing in my similes.

So wish me luck with the submissions. Like any writer, I could paper my house with rejection slips. Not that I have a house. Being a writer, I can’t afford one. But you get the idea. We learn to live with the fact that just about every submission will result in a rejection, but on those rare occasions when a piece of work is accepted, it makes it all worthwhile. We’re a thick-skinned, masochistic lot, us writers. I’ll let you know when the rejection slips arrive.

A bunch of new words

June 12, 2007

The Washington Post Style Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter, and supply the definition of the new word. There have been some excellent entries in the past. Here are this year’s winners. See how many of them you can get into conversation over the next few days.

Bozone (n): The substance surrounding a stupid person that stops bright ideas from penetrating.

Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting another to sleep with you.

Cashtration (n): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.

Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease in one’s bones.

Karmageddon (n): It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

Decafalon (n): The grueling grind of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

Glibido (v): All talk and no action.

Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

Arachnoleptic fit (n): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

Beelzebug (n): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

Caterpallor (n): The color you turn after finding a grub in the fruit you’re eating.

Ignoranus (n): A person who is both stupid and an asshole.


The website of author Alan Baxter

Alan Baxter, Author

Author of horror, dark fantasy & sci-fi. Kung Fu instructor. Personal Trainer. Motorcyclist. Dog lover. Gamer. Heavy metal fan. Britstralian. Zetetic.

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