Who do you call good?

October 13, 2019 at 12:59 pm (Daily Awesomeness)

The title is a quote from the Bible, when someone calls Jesus “Good Teacher” (or something like that) and Jesus says, “No one is good but God alone.”

Which from him has a multitude of layers. But it’s also interesting, given how much Westerners like to think of ourselves as “a good person”.

I think I may have found one of the conclusions this blog entry will draw: that no one is “good” but God.

However. That doesn’t mean we may as well stop trying.

[Sidebar: The way Christianity fundamentally works is that Jesus died in order to save us unconditionally ie as soon as we accept him we got our ticket to Heaven, no matter if we just ate a delicious orphan lunch five minutes ago. BUT if you believe Jesus is who he says he is, and saved us, and loves us… then there is a side effect on your behaviour. A goodening effect, but it comes from gratitude and love rather than fear of damnation or being caught.]

This blog entry is about white guilt.

I am what I call “Omo white” based on those overdramatic ads of a white SO WHITE that it shines like the sun. That’s me.

The more history I learn, the more I realise that my life is as good as it is because my ancestors did horrible things. So although I’ve never personally attempted genocide, I benefit tremendously from the racist work of others. (And I’m sure I’m plenty racist myself, too. But today I’m concerned with systemic rather than individual racism eg the fact that my name and skin is white enough that I’m more likely to be hired than an equally qualified person with darker skin, or an accent, or a non-European name.)

Guilt is designed to tell us when we have done something wrong. White guilt is trickier, because it’s (mostly) not ME, the individual, who did the bad thing. But it IS me who benefits. So we get several possible reactions:

-Denial. “I didn’t do anything wrong” (or sometimes, “I earned everything I have from my own merit; history/racism has nothing to do with it.”)

-Repression. “I can’t fix this. Better not to think about it.”

-Anger. “How dare you make me feel bad when I didn’t do anything wrong!”

-Despair. “The world is evil; I’m evil. Everything sucks and can’t be fixed.”

-Assuage guilt. This is where I sit, acknowledging that I benefit from awful things done in the past (and present), and others suffer—and that this is not fair, and concluding that I need to do… something.

Some options for action are:

*Loudly acknowledging the facts, especially where people are angry or in denial. (Much social media liking/meme-ing etc ensues.)

*Give to charities, particularly those that are concerned with global problems.

*Join protests.

*Vote for the left, which tends to be less selfish.

*Devote one’s life to aid work.

*Become a vigilante killer (not recommended).

So much of the Western World is obscene or fantastical to poor people in third world nations (or even homeless or otherwise poor people in the West). Here is my daughter and I on a Ferris Wheel. It cost over $30 for a ride that took a few minutes.

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$30 is sufficiently alarming that we didn’t go on the Ferris Wheel last year, or the year before. But oh, the look of wonder on my son’s face as our gondola began to rise!

But… thirty dollars. For many people around the world, that is a month’s wages.

Should I sell all I have and give my money to the poor? Knowing what a difference my relatively small amount of cash would make in another country (a country that is poor because my ancestors and my politicians treat the people there as subhuman)?

Is it evil for me to buy gifts for my children, as others go hungry?

In Season Three of “The Good Place” TV show, the main characters discover that, as the world gets more complicated, it’s virtually impossible to do anything truly good. Five hundred years ago, you could gather wildflowers to give to your mother. Aw, how nice—and it doesn’t hurt anyone.

But today, in a city, you can’t gather wildflowers because all the flowers are in someone’s yard, or public property (for everyone to enjoy, so you shouldn’t take them away). So, gathering flowers is stealing. (Sidebar: you can gather certain weed flowers, which my children do for me regularly.) So you can buy flowers… which means either driving to a flower shop (using petrol, which is bad for the environment and has a bunch of other issues) or using your phone (manufactured in a third-world sweatshop?) and having the flower shop drive (using petrol).

So even with the purest heart, it’s impossible to exist in the West without being connected to pollution/Climate Change (which of course is already hitting the poor hardest), sweatshop labour, and so on.


I’ve also been reading a very interesting fantasy series in which magic is literally stealing from the poor. If a person is healed by magic, someone else gets sick. If a beautiful building is made with magic, a building elsewhere falls down. And OF COURSE it’s the pretty pretty Elvish types who use magic to make beautiful clothes, and cities, and art—while the ugly orcish types live in filth and dirt because they are the source of all that magic. And beauty. And art. Eg if an orc has a beautiful singing voice, they sell it to the elves for a few bowls of gruel. They do it willingly, because the system is so crushing that if they don’t sell all they have, they will starve.


See, the thing about sweatshops is that people line up to work in them, because there is no alternative. Or the alternative is to starve. So they work long hours for not-quite-enough. Then they are too tired and hungry to do good work or to work safely, or to find better work.

Welcome to the cycle of poverty.

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One of the characters is a teenage white female human. She has grown up loved and secure, so when she discovers how magic works she is devastated and immediately challenges it. When she is standing facing the leader of the Elves, she chooses not to kill him, but to lay down her own life and trust that others will give up all they have, like her, because it’s the right thing to do.

Another character is her boyfriend, a black man. He knows about daily systematic injustice, so when he discovers how magic works he believes the only way to stop it is to utterly destroy the elves. Because even if he kills the evil leader of the elves, the next elf leader will still be in a position of power over the orcs. So even if the next elf leader is “good” they can withdraw their favour at any time. That, of course, is why the White Saviour trope is so insidious. Because it keeps the “other” on the bottom, and the powerful White/Elf type people on the top. (I really hope he’s wrong, because I don’t want the Western World destroyed. And I don’t want it to be subservient to other parts of the world, either. I don’t want to be the “other” that has to rely on the goodness of the more powerful class.)

A third character points out that they are acting as if magic is finite. What they need to do is not to destroy all that has been built, but to use magic in such a way that it doesn’t destroy the orcs, but benefits them.

That has a real-world echo. There IS enough food in the world, already. And we could definitely create more resources ethically.

And isn’t that a nice “out” for people like me? Because I’m not a scientist, or a politician, so what can *I* do?

I’m going to leave it there, for now. Mostly because I’ve written quite a bit. Not because I’ve actually found an answer. But maybe the idea that “helpful must mean I suffer” is innately harmful, causing more guilt and fear rather than usefulness. So that’s something, at least.

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IF Comp: Roads Not Taken

October 3, 2019 at 4:11 pm (Daily Awesomeness)

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I only did one play-through of this story, which took 40 minutes. “Slice of life” is a good description because it feels autobiographical*—both because of the detailed storytelling (good storytelling) and because it has the rambling uncertainty of real life. A lot of hyperlinks add detail, and the writing is good enough that they’re worth clicking on. Other times there is an obvious hub where one can investigate several options and then return to make a branching choice.

I’ve been avoiding realistic stories because… well, ugh. Who wants to read about real life when they’re already living it? (Real life and I are frenemies at best.)

But this is clearly a very well-written story with a vast amount of options. I suspect there are certain choices that lead to a more positive outcome than I got (so people who like the genre will definitely play multiple times), but mine wasn’t terrible or unsatisfying.

So although this didn’t give me the escapism I look for in a story, it is fundamentally perfect (a few spelling errors, but not enough to detract from the overall tale). So it gets 4 stars. In my system, that means a story that is fundamentally perfect.

*I don’t believe it’s actually autobiographical (more than any other story); it’s just so well written it feels real.

Edit: I actually gave it a 9, because the scores are out of 10.

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IF Comp: Dull Grey

October 2, 2019 at 4:57 pm (Daily Awesomeness)

Okay, so the title is very off-putting. Gonna play it anyway.

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I’m enjoying the simple but layered visuals, even if they don’t technically count towards my score (it’s all about the words). But it shows the writer has spent time on making an involving and professional story. Mostly, in my mind, because it means they’ve ironed out a higher number of bugs.

This took me ten minutes to play through once. I could tell it was translated into English because some of the phrasing was just unusual (not quite wrong but not quite right) and some mistakes had gotten through too. Quite a few… but it still felt like a well-written story that just needed one or two more drafts from native English speakers.

It is, as the name suggests, a somewhat depressing story. Which is fine. I made the same choice over and over, and that got me a fairly common ending. I gather than changing one’s mind can change the ending, but I don’t like the story enough to play a second time (only because of personal taste, not because the story is bad).

As I said, the writing is genuinely good throughout. I’m going to give it 4 stars despite the errors, because I respect the effort of translation done well. Some of the errors add to the atmosphere, actually.

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Bits and Bobs from “Brass”

May 7, 2019 at 10:35 am (Daily Awesomeness, Escape Room, My Novels, Steampunk, Steampunk Australia Stories)

I spent last weekend at Nimmitabel’s Steampunk @ Altitude festival, and the weekend before that at IronFest in Lithgow, so it’s been a wild steam-powered ride for the last couple of weeks.

But a few old pics related to HEART OF BRASS just came to my attention, so I’m posting them here before they return to the aether and vanish.

First, here are two pics from an unusual book review. Mawson is a bear, and one of my fellow Odyssey authors (he’s published under the more visual “Publisher Obscura” imprint). You can read his full review of HEART OF BRASS here. Here are some photos Mawson took, featuring his friends:

Mark O'Dwyer - Heart of Brass 2

Mark O'Dwyer - Heart of Brass

(This is the sort of thing that makes writers go “Squee!”)

Now here’s something I don’t think the general public has ever seen before: a picture that the publisher (Odyssey Books) provided way back in the very beginning of the cover-making process. This is a fabulous pic, but we ended up not using it.

You can print it out and colour it in, if you like.


Lovely, isn’t she?

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Goulburn Comic Con & Wagga GammaCon

March 15, 2019 at 12:22 pm (Daily Awesomeness, I get paid for this)

So I’ll be quite busy for the next 8 days as Goulburn Comic Con is literally tomorrow (free entry, Veolia Arena, 10am-5pm) and Wagga Wagga Gamma Con is literally one week later.

I haven’t been to either event before but I’m very excited about both.

Goulburn Comic Con is actually the reason my kids’ fantasy trilogy is accepted for publication. My publisher was there two years ago and came home desperate to have some more Middle Grade (roughly age 10-14) fiction. Guess who happened to have a completed middle grade trilogy sitting on her hard drive?

I literally received the physical copies of Book 2 yesterday, ready for Comic Con. Here it is!

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Or, if you prefer to see your books side by side…

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Look, I know book covers don’t gotta be pretty to be fantastic, but MINE ARE and I’m glad of it.

My parents lived in Wagga not long ago, and both my sister (of “Octopus and Family” fame) and I will have stalls there. ROAD TRIP BABY.

Right now I have the flu and I am semi-delirious. Tomorrow should be an interesting day!

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Madam Alchemist

January 27, 2019 at 6:46 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Escape Room, Interactive Fiction, Steampunk)

This weekend is CanCon, and I have a stall there, with the tabletop version of my escape room (now called “Madam Alchemist” since it takes place in a mad scientist’s secret laboratory). I ran five play-tests during the day yesterday, and all of them went off without a hitch.

I also had people approaching me asking about party and conference packages. I seem to have discovered a market. *blink blink*

I’m already developing a second room, scifi/horror/comedy called “The Amazing Shrinking House” (adjective may vary) so I can run two different games at the same time… and sell a “Party Package” that lets party guests swap rooms so they can do two in one night.

Sometimes I wish I could buy my own products!

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This is the CanCon setup; the stall in its entirety. Also corset and tutu 🙂


It was nice to see fairly equal proportions of men and women, and this notice in the ladies’ bathroom:

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Plus plenty of teens, some (usually slightly bored) kids, a range of age and fitness levels, and several gay couples and singles. CanCon is a happy place.


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Escape Room

January 23, 2019 at 1:30 am (Daily Awesomeness)

I have designed a portable escape room (with a tabletop version that I shall be running at CanCon this weekend). There will be more info soon, but here are some pics in the meantime!

It’s set in the same steampunk fantasy world as all my steampunk, but takes place at the same time (with none of the same characters) as “Choices: And The Sun Went Out”.


In case you can’t tell, I’m very excited. I don’t expect this to be a big moneymaker (apart from anything else, it requires a staff member—most likely me—to be present, which means I need to leave the house, ugh!) but it’s awfully fun right now.

I’ve run one test so far (with Chris, Lousiette, and TJ—yep, it’s child friendly), and have more already lined up ready to go.

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Dogs, Goths, Kilts, Pirates, and Octopuses

October 22, 2018 at 10:43 pm (Daily Awesomeness, Steampunk)

Last weekend was the weekend of the annual Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk & Victoriana Fair. It’s always an absolute blast. The standard of garb at Goulburn is always amazing: corsets, top hats, pocket watches, waistcoats, bustles, crinolines, and epic boots galore!

I thought I’d do a super quick blog on some of the side effects of steampunk: some of the grand traditions that are steampunk due to pure coolness factor rather than any rational connections.

Goths of course.

Okay, that connection is obvious. Lace parasols and corsets for both men and women? Yes please! One of the many definitions of steampunk is that it’s what happened when goths discovered brown.


(I’m sorry I didn’t turn that pic around the right way. I’m VERY tired. Not only was the Goulburn Steampunk Fair two days long this year—yay!—but I also just completed a 3-day speed game-writing jam. Over the same weekend!)

I believe I mentioned dogs. There’s a dog in my Iron Lights trailer (from the Goulburn Fair last year, in fact*) and there were loads of dogs (many in costume) this year too.


Kilts and military attire are both well represented at such events (this year there were real cannons firing across the water, too!)


So if you like a man in uniform and/or admiring a man’s legs (or the unpredictable thrills of seeing men in kilts on a very windy day) then you should hang out with steampunks.

Especially if you like them sideways.


Ditto pirates and octopuses.

And reimagined superheroes/princesses.  I saw a lot of amazing steampunk Iron Men a few years ago. Lately lots of steampunk Wonder Women, and some really excellent steampunk Belles (especially at Supanova events).

My kids dressed as a unicorn rainbow princess (who then had her face painted as a kitten) and Batman (painted as a scary monster). As you can perhaps tell, my children are at the age when they’re very strong on external expressions of gender identity.


Steampunks like cats too. Because steampunks are cool. So here’s a pic of Zipper I took today. May it please you.




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GUI ChoiceScript?

October 16, 2018 at 10:35 am (Daily Awesomeness, Interactive Fiction Tutorials)

I just found out that various people are working on making ChoiceScript easier to learn and use.

I… probably won’t use these tools because I’ve grown comfortable with using CS directly and don’t want to mess with that (yes, I am old and crotchety. Shut up).

Here‘s the link to much usefulness!

Here’s Zipper, getting better at venturing outside (but still terrified by birds).

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Me, me, me!

August 26, 2018 at 10:40 pm (Advanced/Publication, Daily Awesomeness, My Novels, Steampunk Australia Stories)

The brilliant writer and photographer Cat Sparks was kind enough to photograph the IRON LIGHTS launch at Old Parliament House today. If you’ve heard her name linked to the Canberra Writers Festival before, it’s because she was on some of the panels.

There are so many brilliant photos that I’ve decided to save this entry for pics that are specifically of me. Which is, not surprisingly, a lot. I suddenly have a million options for my next Author Photo.

The lady in the top hat is my friend, another Odyssey writer and also an editor for Iron Lights, KJ Taylor.

Tragically, Louisette was absent due to having a birthday party today. So no Sparksian pics of her.

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