Happy birthday, Douglas Adams

March 11, 2013

He was one of the hoopiest froods ever, a thinker, entertainer, genius and master storyteller. He would have been 61 years old today. His trilogy of five books in The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy series sold over 15 million copies in his own, far too short, lifetime. If you haven’t read it, go and rectify that now. He was man who knew where his towel was.

douglas adams 300x192 Happy birthday, Douglas Adams

He was one wise man, who, through his writing, flew by learning how to throw himself at the ground and miss.

Vale, Mr Adams.


A new authorly tattoo

December 7, 2012

I’m no stranger to inking my skin. For a long time now I’ve wanted a writing related tattoo – a writer’s quill, in fact. I know several writers who have the quill or a variation of it, so it’s definitely a bit of a thing among writerly folk. In fact, myself and two friends all discovered a couple of years ago that we wanted a quill tattoo and decided we would get one together at the Australian Worldcon, as we were all going to be there. As it turned out, only one of us, who happened to live in Melbourne anyway, managed to organise it then. She got a very cool peacock-style quill on her thigh. It’s taken me until now, two years later, to finally get mine. The third among us, and he knows who he is, is still very slack on the whole affair.

Anyway, I wanted my quill to be unique, obviously, even though it was following a common theme. I wanted it to reflect me as a person and a writer, and to reflect my writing and style too. I worked on the design for a long time. I’m no artist, so I had to source suitable images and work in photoshop until I’d built the design I wanted. Then I took it to a tattooist of high repute, Karen Rand of Rand Family Tattoo. Karen did an amazing job of turning my photoshopped design into an actual tattoo. I couldn’t be happier with the finished result.

Along with the quill/writing aspect, you’ll see that there are obviously other influences at work – ravens, crows, bats, clouds, and so on. There’s actually a lot going on in this design, but tattoos being, at their core, intensely personal things, I’m going to go into too much detail here. Feel free to interpret it however you see fit. If you get me drunk at a con one day, I might be persuaded to talk more about it.

(Note: the fact that the tattoo is on my chest meant that there was very clear nipple action in the photos below which, when posted online yesterday, caused quite a stir. So I’ve spared you all the nipple in this version.)

tattoo nipples covered A new authorly tattoo

These photos are obviously taken during and right after, to show the process, so the skin is very red. Once the tatt heals, all the areas that look red or brown will settle back to black or grey. I’ll try to remember to post a follow-up pic when it’s all healed.


Words by Craig Furnis

November 23, 2012

A friend of mine sent me this recently because he thought I’d like it. He found it via a mutual friend on Facebook. He was right – I fucking loved it. It’s a poem about words by a guy called Craig Furnis. He posted it at his new blog and was happy for me to reproduce it here. He’s been too nervous to put his words out into the public until now, and I think he needs to keep at it. Make sure you visit his new site to see when he puts up some more words. In the meantime, check this out. It’s long, but worth it.

Words by Craig Furnis

I love words
Mapping emotional, spiritual, political topology
But sometimes, irrelevant of meaning, it’s just the sounds that get on top of me.
Get right into me.
Tickling and pleasing me.
Piglet – all percussive symmetry
Infinity – small label for a huge dude so big I can’t begin to grasp your magnitude, you’re just too big for me
Flippantly – thrown out with no forethought you care not a jot for the other words or phrases surrounding
Allegorical – your meaning woven through the pages of prose or poetry
Love – four little letters, so simple yet with just a thimble full of you dark turns to light, day from night and I find the might to struggle on, despite the pain remaining in the rest of my life.
Fuck – filthy-dirty and deliciously potent; violent, sexy and ready for all manner of moments
I love words
When packed with meaning they move and abuse me, hearing or reading them they allow me to lose me
Fusing me to a thought or thoughts that hadn’t previously visited or viewed me
Crudely I try to use them to express the complexity I feel, the complexity that is in me, that is me
I don’t say that lightly and I don’t say it self indulgently
We’re all complex, we’re beautiful and we’re all dying slowly
This staggeringly complex strength and frailty exists in each and every one of us eternally
Birth to death, from first to last breath we each express our best and worst and worst and best through the words we get off our chest
The ones we use, and yes the ones we have the unfortunate habit of using to abuse
We’re all the conflicting feelings of peace and rage, action and passivity
The horror and the beauty is inside all the yous and all the Me’s, it’s in all our do’s and all our deeds, it’s in the he’s, the she’s and the we’s, it’s in our wants and in our needs across races, religions, colours and creeds.
I love words.
They’re our greatest achievement.
Language gives is freedom, gives us the opportunity and the tools to reason, it both describes and inspires feeling, can leave us reeling in a million different ways; hurt, laughing or healing
I love words
It’s words with which me make starts to the journey we share with the one person who, because of how much they seem to care, we dare to show our whole self to.
And it’s words we throw like stones. When we’re overcrowded yet somehow alone and every hard word is blown up and out of all proportion.
Yes its words with which we make starts, but it’s also words we use to break hearts.
But I love words.
They’re the building blocks for the stories we tell
Foundations laid to build heaven from hell so shout, scream, yell,
Compel the world to change through words placed on a page or spat from a stage
It’s not about rage or rebellion, it’s about connection
About communication, about education, about evolution of ideas
Change the story, change the fears and watch as these changes echo through the years to change everything
Cheer as the mere musings of mortals written and told affect the young and the old alike
Watch as the dike of opinion bursts it’s banks and give thanks that words have this power
With words we can make deities cower
We’ve invented cellophane flowers and saved princesses from the tallest of towers
Our ideas given birth to – we’ve shown sin, we’ve shown virtue
We’ve shown reflections of out world to be beautiful though it seems sometimes determined to hurt you.
I love words.
They can change the world.
Change your own world by changing the words that you use.
Change all your cant’s to can do’s, your No’s to yeses.
Change to determination, forget second guesses.
Blessed be the ones who embrace a new story for life.
Blessed be the storytellers and blessed be their minds because they take us out of here, away from here, take us anywhere, everywhere, somewhere
To see anything
They’ve shown mountains exploding and seas emptying
We’ve seen the coronation of kings, wooden boys alive with no strings – words breathe life into so many things
So soar on the wings of a story through fantastic landscapes teeming with life gloriously never before imagined.
Laugh and cry as you learn how it happened. How it all began.
Where it’s come from and where it’s going.
Slack-jawed and astounded at the storytellers showing it all to you
Leading you hand in hand through wonderland, the sands of time slowing into a stretched moment you know you can visit again and again.
Pick up a pencil.
Pick up a pen.
And tell me your words. Your moments.
Tells me your stories, tell me your lies.
Tell me of good times. Of bad.
Tell me the worst nightmare you’ve ever had.
I want to hear it.
Speak your words direct to my soul, I want to feel it, breathe it, be it, believe it.
Let me spend five minutes in your mind and you can spend five minutes in mine.
Let’s get a cheap bottle of wine and spend some time sharing our words.
I offer you mine.
I’d love to hear yours.
Because I love words.
They’re our greatest achievement.
Language gives is freedom, gives us the opportunity and the tools to reason. It both describes and inspires feeling, can leave us reeling in a million different ways; hurt laughing or healing.


Good, eh? Stick at it, Craig – don’t hide this talent away.


Festival of Learning and Leornian

October 17, 2012

Many of you may have heard me mention here and there that I’ve had the pleasure of working on a videogame recently. It’s not some huge release by a big international studio, but it’s been great fun all the same. It’s called Leornian, and is a game about Game Based Learning, or GBL. Leornian is being developed for the education sector in NSW, and I’ve been on board in charge of writing the narrative.

While the game itself is designed to showcase all different types of gameplay, which teachers can then play in order to understand gaming and use it in their classrooms, it needs to be more than just a collection of examples. To that end, the PLANE team were tasked with creating an open sim environment within which to situate all these gaming examples. To keep people interested, the whole thing needed emotional engagement. For that, we need story. That’s where I came in, developing a story that gave players a reason to continue on to the next task. We set the game over three levels – medieval, steampunk and sci-fi. The story is woven through all the levels, with an overreaching plot and all kinds of sub-plots and minigames throughout. It’s been enormous fun and a good challenge to get this thing happening, so I’m very pleased I got to be a part of it. I’ll embed a video below that shows the opening sequence to the game.

This weekend, Friday and Saturday, I’ll be at the PLANE Festival Of Learning in Sydney. PLANE stands for “Pathways for Learning Anywhere, anytime – Network of Educators”. To take the description from the website:

PLANE is a Professional Learning community built by educators for educators. It is an environment in which educators can enrich their own and others professional practice in an ever evolving technology-rich world. Since its inception, PLANE has been shaped by the ideas and needs of educators who are looking to impact change in student learning. This continues to be a guiding principle of PLANE.

The Festival of Learning will mark the official launch of the PLANE online learning environment, including the first level of Leornian. I’ll be presenting there about storytelling and speakers include Adam Elliot, Kitty Flanagan, Dr Jason Fox and others. If you’re interested, you can learn more about it here.

Here’s the opening sequence for Leornian:


Planet of the Knob Heads

August 29, 2012

I had to share this one. Thanks for my friend, Cat Sparks, for pointing it out. Although I’m somewhat concerned that she saw it and thought of me. My favourite part? Other than the truly awesome title, note how it’s a “new book length novel“! Brilliant. (Cat found it here.)

819 713x1024 Planet of the Knob Heads

Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106

August 2, 2012

enterDreddHoriz1 300x231 Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106This is a new one for me and it seems very cool. Aussie voiceover artist and friend, Kevin Powe (@voiceover_au), put me onto this as he has the incredible honour of supplying the voice of Judge Dredd himself in this new gamebook for iOS. Dredd! It’s the first Dredd iOS gamebook and it comes from Tin Man Games. Here’s the official blurb:

Drokk! It’s an adventure game. It’s an interactive book. It’s an RPG. You are Judge Dredd, the toughest judge to patrol Mega-City One, a vast futuristic city, set in the 22nd Century!

Sector 106 of Mega-City One is short of senior Street Judges and only the most experienced Judges have been reassigned to fill this shortfall… foremost among them yourself, Dredd! What begins as a routine patrol arresting juves and skysurfers, turns into a race against time, as mysterious “Voices of Dredd” find their way into the hands of the local perps. Riding your Lawmaster bike and armed with your trusty Lawgiver, you must pit yourself against Sector 106′s brutal criminal underworld. Quick Dredd! The countdown has begun…

It’s basically an interactive story where you play the role of Dredd and choose your path. Remember the old “Choose your own adventure” books from Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone? This is the modern incarnation of those. With voiceover by a local boy, no less. Sounds brilliant.

It looks like loads of fun – I’ll be checking it out. I have to say, I’m pretty pleased to see the current resurgence in Dredd and 2000AD. I read the comic throughout my teens and still read it to this day, and have a deep affinity with many of the characters. My friends and I have spent many hours playing the Judge Dredd: The Roleplaying Game as well. This iPhone app strikes me as a sweet little nostalgic revisit to those days. And the new mnovie looks like it’s a pretty solid homage to the original vibe of the comic stories, so I’m cautiously hopeful about that too.

You can learn more about the game here:


Music in Post Marked: Piper’s Reach

April 6, 2012

photo 2 copy 300x300 Music in Post Marked: Piper’s ReachI’m very pleased to present here an interview with Jodi Cleghorn and Adam Byatt. Jodi and Adam are embarking on a very interesting literary experiment. Post Marked: Piper’s Reach is “an ambitious organic narrative collaborative project”, with Jodi and Adam “traversing an odd path between old and new forms of communication, differing modalities of storytelling and mixed media, all played out in real and suspended time”. That’s a fancy way of saying that they’re producing a collaborative story through writing letters to each other.The project has at its heart a love of letter writing and music, with the letters posted in “real time”.

Post Marked: Piper’s Reach aims are to:

  • rediscover the love of letters (writing and receiving), and by extension, reintroduce readers to the form.
  • write a serial narrative in a non-traditional form.
  • write a serial which brings together the best of new and old technology to create a cross-platform merging
  • of digital and paper, instant and delayed gratification, music and prose.
  • work collaboratively.
  • utilise an organic narrative development process to as closely model a real exchange of letters and reveal between characters.
  • explore the different impacts real time and delayed gratification have on the process of writing, character and narrative development.
  • participate in a writing project which is fun and does not require massive investments of time in editing and redrafting, which slots between, and complement, exisiting writing projects and professional relationships.

The fictional setting for the project is described here:

In December 1992 Ella-Louise Wilson boarded the Greyhound Coach for Sydney leaving behind the small coastal town of Piper’s Reach and her best friend and soulmate, Jude Smith. After twenty years of silence, a letter arrives at Piper’s Reach reopening wounds that never really healed. When the past reaches into the future, is it worth risking a second chance?

So I had a chat with Jodi and Adam about the musical aspect of the endeavour and why certain songs were included:

Alan: What role does music have in your life and writing?

(AB) Music has always been in the background of whatever I was doing. I’m an occasional drummer and percussionist, currently learning to play guitar and bass, so I have a vested interest in music. Even if I abandoned playing an instrument, music would still form a significant part of my life. My Mum used to ask why I could remember song lyrics better than my History or Mathematics homework. I’m loving getting out to gigs again, hearing live music, playing it when I can. Otherwise, it’s me, a pair of headphones and blissful enjoyment.

(JC) Music is the essential white noise of my life. I play it in the car, when I write, when I cook… I even have it on in the shower (a habit acquired in adolescence). I don’t remember a time without music (apparently I could sing ABBA before I could talk). In my 20s I was a massive consumer of live music and a night club devotee.

(AB) My teenage years were characterised by heavy metal, and I’m still a lover of metal, but I love a wide variety of styles and genres of music. Some of these have crept into Jude’s letters. Some are ubiquitous, others more obscure. I listened avidly to the radio as a teenager, and hearing some of those songs again transports me back to that era.

(JC) Music is my ever-evolving companion: nurturing, soothing, inspiring an outlet for the best and worst in life. In some ways I feel my life is catalogued more by music, than the dusty photo albums in my bookcase. Ella-Louise and I share this. Visceral and primal, music is a limbic connection to thoughts, emotions and memories, and is middleman between myself and the stories queued for scribing.

(AB) I identify with the emotional impact music and can swing through a whole dynamic range of emotions while listening. I often use music to help set a mood or a scene when writing. Picking and choosing the ‘right’ music to write to can be tricky.  And I like to drop hints as to my preferences in music here and there. It captures the subconscious levels of our intellect and our emotions.

Alan: The characters use music throughout their correspondence, either referencing song lyrics to suggest the character’s emotional state or mention a song to convey a sense of their relationship. How does music add to the narrative and the characters’ relationship?

(JC) Writing, reading and music were the three staples of my life as a teenager, so it made sense to use music as one of the vehicles to explore a fictional relationship between two people who were best mates as teenagers.

(AB) Jude uses music as a bridge to link him to the past (the experiences he shared with Ella-Louise as a teenager) and to the present. Jude sees the broken Ella-Louise and remembers the girl he loved. There are songs he remembers from their past. But he is unsure of what to make of it now. J: When Adam included a reference to Dire Strait’s “Romeo & Juliet” he had me in tears. I’d never told Adam this was one of my teenage love anthems

(JC) The songs appearing in Jude’s letters heavily influence Ella-Louise’s thoughts, which in turn shape her decisions. I listened to “Don’t Give Up” on speed rotation for an entire cooking session, exploring how it made Ella-Louise feel and it became the soundtrack to her meltdown, but also dominated her climb out of it. The darkness and the redemption in the lyrics appealed to Ella-Louise, as much as they appealed to me.

(AB) Jude’s preference for songs from the past is perhaps an indication of his inability to grasp the present situation with Ella-Louise. Even though they have different musical tastes, the music they share amplifies their emotional connection. Some of the songs I’ve used in Jude’s letters reflect of how I understand Jude as a character but also how Jude wants to engage with Ella-Louise.

(JC)  Ella-Louise uses music as a mirror to her past, and later the changing dynamic of her relationship with Jude. The lyrics she shares are tiny glimpses inside her, but for every answer they illuminate, twice as many questions are spawned. For example, in her second letter she pulls lyrics from Birds of Tokyo’s “Wild at Heart.”  She writes:

As I walk to the water to cleanse off the blood on my hands
The weight of this crime leaves a stain in the sand
I hope new tides come to wash me clean for good

It is a forerunner to what is an epic meltdown for her and I’ve often wondered just what Jude makes of it all… these strange, ephemeral disclosures from the girl-woman he loved twenty years ago.

(AB) Some of my favourite songs from adolescence appear in the playlist, having knowingly incorporated them into Jude’s letters. Others, for example, U2’s Ultraviolet (Light My Way), I was listening to while writing and it gave me an idea that fed into the narrative. I’m a bit of a melancholic, which certainly comes through in my song choices.

I tend to think of music in this project as a soundtrack, much like a movie. It conveys another emotional dimension from the words the characters use. If the reader is familiar with the song referenced, I hope it’s played in their heads while they read it.

(JC) If not we drop a youtube clip at the end of the digital transcript, adding another layer and dimension to the letters.

Alan: Two songs appear in the first letter, Placebo’s “Pure Morning” and The Waterboys’ “Whole of the Moon”. Was it an intended inclusion and what was the impact of those two songs on the rest of the project?

(JC) When I sat to write the first letter I had my iPod on random and “Pure Morning” came on and it seemed fitting, the beauty and rawness of Placebo’s lyrics and the repetition of the line: “A friend in need’s a friend indeed”. Without planning it, I channelled the underpinning theme of Jude and Ella-Louise’s letters from the start.

(AB) I tapped into Ella-Louise’s love of music and the reference to Placebo, and found Jude had a different taste in music, but it captured his understanding of their past and their experiences. People speak of moments in their lives defined or characterised by a particular song; a shared, almost spiritual, experience.

(JC) The inclusion of The Whole of the Moon was deliberate. It came on the iPod while I was cooking dinner the day before I sat down to write the first letter. It seemed to me the perfect anthem for two young people who would eventually go their own ways without each other. And it set up an interesting contrast of personalities, of optimism and pessimism, light and darkness.

(AB) The Whole of the Moon is a song I remember from my youth and I reconnected with it when Ella-Louise mentioned it. It was from that point I saw music as another aspect to the characters’ relationship.

(JC) Those two songs set up the precedence of music being pivotal to the characters understanding of themselves and each other, adding an extra dimension not just to the letters but to the online delivery of the project.


I’m looking forward to following this collaboration. Find out more about it all here:




Batman pulled over by cops, turns out to be a real hero

March 30, 2012

This is such a great story. You’ll know I have a bit a of a predilection for Real Life Superhero stories if you’ve been reading this blog for long. One of the greatest posts ever ended up with actual Real Life Super Heroes (RLSH) arguing in the comments, which subsequently had to be closed. Golden days. But I always keep an eye out for stories along those lines and this one is gold.

lenny batman Batman pulled over by cops, turns out to be a real heroMeet Lenny B. Robinson, AKA Batman. He was pulled over by cops recently because his black Lamborghini didn’t have licence plates. Just Bat symbols. You’re thinking this guy is a complete nutcase, right? Well, you’re wrong. The man is a legend. He’s a rich guy, using his money for good, just like the real Bruce Wayne.

He visits sick kids in hospital, dressed as Batman, and brings them all kinds of Batman paraphenalia like books, rubber bracelets, toys. He signs the books, t-shirts and other gifts as Batman. His custom-made suit cost $5,000. He spends around $25,000 a year on gifts for the kids and is having a Batmobile (modeled on the one from the movies, but I’m not sure which movie) built for $250,000. All this without seeking publicity. The only reason we know about him is because he got pulled over and people snapped pics of him talking to police and those pics went viral. Subsequently, journalist Mischael S Rosenwald, a personal friend, has written this piece all about him. It’s a really touching story – go read it now.

You want a real life super hero? You got one, in Lenny B Batman Robinson. Well done, sir!


Great news to wake up to

March 18, 2012

I woke up this morning (Sunday) to a few congratulatory messages from friends and discovered that my story, Punishment Of The Sun, from the Dead Red Heart anthology published by Ticonderoga Publications, was included in Ellen Datlow’s Honorable Mention list in The Best Horror of the Year #4.

I’m so pleased with this news. When I decided to submit a story for this anthology of Australian vampire fiction it was important to me to write a story where the vampires were as they should be (in my opinion) and that’s feral, nasty bastards who feed on humans without care or moral discomfort. They needed to be proper horror monsters. So for Ellen to pick the story for an Honorable Mention is a great indicator that maybe I achieved what I set out to. My thanks to Ellen Datlow for picking the story and thanks to Russell B Farr at Ticonderoga for publishing it.

Congrats to all the others listed. Here’s the full list, at Ellen’s LiveJournal.


Making the Impossible Real: Writing Speculative Fiction with Robert Hood

February 6, 2012

Here’s one for the Aussies near (or not so near) Sydney. Master’s Master, Robert Hood, is running a workshop on writing speculative fiction. It’ll be held at the New South Wales Writers’ Centre in Rozelle, in Sydney’s inner-west. It’ll be well worth travelling to, because I know Rob and he’s not only a fantastic writer, but a great bloke. This one day workshop will be well worth your time and money.

Whether dealing with angels or demons, past or future, aliens, post-humans or artificial intelligences, stories of alternate realities, imagined futures and fantastical impossibilities have been a never-ending source of fascination for writers and readers for as long as humanity has told stories. But once you leave the everyday world behind, once you embrace worlds where the impossible happens, how do you make your writing believable? How do you make the impossible possible?

All the details here.



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. Misanthrope. Learn more about me and my work by clicking About Alan just below the header.

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