Author Archives: David

Squeeing Over Supergirl: Episode Five

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 5, “Livewire”

TEHANI: Well, I’m just going to say it: this episode had my least favourite dialogue of the season so far. Some of it was downright clunky, and a lot of it was disjointed and awfully juvenile. I mean really, would Supergirl say … “You MEAN girl!” in the middle of a battle? It was just a bit naff, and I kind of expect better. And the “coming out” innuendos were cute, but just a touch overdone.

DAVID: I really didn’t know how take those, as nice to see that TV has moved to a point where those references are just part of everyday culture rather than being used as insults, or whether it is appropriating the real experiences of people and using it in a way that cheapens it. I don’t think I am qualified to make that call, but I would be interested to hear from people for whom it has a personal meaning.

TEHANI: I also had some concerns about the mother/daughter dynamics portrayed here. I mean, Kara doesn’t even call Eliza “Mum” (or Mom, whatever…), but Eliza does and apparently consistently has put Kara above Alex. And the kind of non-resolution at the end was very wishy washy. I get what they were aiming for, but it fell a bit flat.

DAVID: I thought that was really weird, and actually kind of toxic! When Winn calls Eliza Kara’s mom, and Kara very clearly and very firmly corrects him with “foster-mom” I saw that as a bit of a warning sign that the relationship had a weird dynamic—even if Kara doesn’t call her mom, you would think in that context she wouldn’t have been so quick to correct it.

FamilyI am also not sure that one Thanksgiving mother/daughter chat is going to make up for decades of psychological trauma on Alex’s behalf. Those sort of things just don’t go away, and it isn’t as if she is all of a sudden not going feel undervalued or under extreme pressure from her mother’s expectations.

Eliza just didn’t come across as a very nice person, or a particularly good mother. I know that’s harsh, but we only go by what we see. Now, that’s an interesting story choice, because the Kents are held up as the gold standard of parenting (and even their relationship with Supergirl is traditionally much better than the one with Eliza shown here). It’s fascinating to see a Supergirl whose family life is a bit more…dysfunctional.

TEHANI: It will definitely be interesting to see if we get more of this. I’m going to make a prediction here – I reckon Alex’s dad, Jeremiah Danvers, isn’t really dead…

I was completely unsurprised to discover (thank you Wikipedia) that this episode was originally slated to air as episode five, with another episode (“How Does She Do It” – scheduled now for next week) supposed to run prior. The sudden jump in James and Lucy’s relationship didn’t make sense, and Cat Grant has mellowed somewhat, rather abruptly it seemed. Sort of feels like something else has gone down with Winn and Kara too. A couple of times while watching I wondered if I’d missed something!


DAVID: I’d already heard that they had changed it but, yes, there are some bits that seemed to have jumped well ahead. I’ll be interested to see the one that was meant to show.

The James and Lucy thing is a bit odd, too, he is so obviously into Kara that I feel bad for Lucy.

TEHANI: I think we really missed something in the network switching the air dates – hopefully that will be a bit clearer after this next week.

Despite my reservations about the dialogue, there was a lot I liked about the episode. I think it started really strongly, and I continue to adore the relationship between Kara and Alex. It was also lovely to see Helen Slater and Dean Cain getting airtime, although I really hope we don’t fall into the flashback trap that can become a bit tedious in Arrow. And this is a show about Supergirl, so keeping the focus on her is important.

DAVID: That’s very true, but the twist with the history with Henshaw has made things very interesting, and made the flashbacks worthwhile all by itself. I can’t wait to see where that goes, because it has major ramifications not just for Kara, but for Alex.

HankTEHANI: I particularly liked Cat Grant’s shot at Leslie Willis regarding attacking Supergirl about her body and that sort of thing. It was a bit undermined by the idea that Cat was only defending Supergirl because she was trying to build a relationship with her to exploit, but I think that’s a bit of a front. It certainly follows on from other points like this that have been made previously, and is echoed when Cat decided not to publish awful photos of young celebrities the day after Thanksgiving.

DAVID: I think it is good that Cat made a stand on that sort of toxic commentary, but it is weakened by the fact she didn’t do it until it was affecting her plans for Supergirl and her magazine. I am sure that Leslie did the same to other celebrities, so why was Cat only reining her in now. Leslie was quite justified in calling her on her double standards.

But, maybe the photo thing did show that she has had an epiphany?

TEHANI: I wonder if the next episode (which should have come before this) will mean we see this differently? Perhaps there was another lead up event. We’ll have to see!

Look, I know that Marvel and DC riff (rip?) off each other a lot, but seriously, Livewire? Last week a cut-rate Iron Man, this week, a genderbent Electro, for goodness sake!

LivewireDAVID: In fairness, Livewire is a very established DC character (who is also a very fun character), so I am not sure who was first. However, I had never heard of Reactron before and, given Iron Man’s current profile, I think they made a mistake there by not distinguishing the two enough. But, I doubt too many people would be comparing Livewire and Electro in the same way.

TEHANI: Oh, I googled it and Electro was first by a good three decades. AND he was in the relatively recent Amazing Spider-Man movie!

I’m going to put this out there – I think Cat Grant knows Kara is Supergirl…

DAVID: I wouldn’t be surprised if she does. Maybe she has a plan for that knowledge?

TEHANI: Look forward to finding out!

Big Screen

Previously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…

Episode One, “Pilot”
Episode Two, “Stronger Together”
Episode Three, “Fight or Flight”

Paying for Our Passion – Craig Cormick

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

You have probably notice this blog hasn’t been very active of late. I was lucky enough to travel to the United States for–amongst other things–Worldcon, and it has been a struggle getting back in to the swing of real life! I had thought that the series had reached a natural end, but when I got back I went to Conflux where we had been asked to do a panel on the subject. Alongside Tehani and Maureen, who had done posts, it also featured Sean Williams and Craig Cormick.

Everyone had amazing things to say, which made my job as moderator so easy, and it was clear that people were still interested in reading about the topic. So, I rounded up some more contributors, including Craig and Sean, and this will be the first in a relaunch of the series.

First up is Craig who, as well as being a fascinating raconteur and talented writer, had some amazing insights that he shared on the panel. It’s a pleasure to kick off the next stage of the series with a great post from him.

Craig 1: So I have been mulling over all the ways I have had to pay for my passion to have a writing life. All the costs and all the sacrifices that I have made in life for writing – those late nights and early mornings and missed opportunities. Jobs I’ve passed up on. Parties I’ve never gone to and movies I’ve never seen. Even simple things that most of my family do that I’ve never done, like watching any of the Sopranos or Breaking Bad, or hanging out a lot… but then I thought, wait a minute, all those things were voluntary choices that I made in order to have a writing life.

Craig 2: Wait a minute, you’re not going to tell me it’s a good thing to miss all those things in life are you?

Craig 1: I’m just saying that they are decisions you make in life. And you shouldn’t consider things costs that you voluntarily gave up.

Craig 2: Then let me ask you about the things that you haven’t given up. Your day job and family and all those things that suck all your writing time away.

IMG_3281Craig 1: I think even my day job has helped my writing, it takes up a lot of my time, sure, but it has sent me all over the country, and all over the world, meeting all kinds of interesting people – which has given me great inspiration for stories and novels. Have a look at the list of books I’ve published – many of them have sprung from opportunities that arose from my work as a science communicator. Think about it: In Bed with Douglas Mawson – from my trip to Antarctica. The Shadow Master – from that conference in Florence. My Ned Kelly book – a wrote a lot of that when I worked at CSIRO.

Craig 2: But if you weren’t working you might be writing a lot more. There are so many other books you still want to write that are floating around in your head, but you just don’t have the time and opportunity to write them all down.

Craig 1: You think so? I’ve published over twenty-five books and over a hundred stories and have a shelf of awards and commendations – but I know there are other books that are going to get written and I know there are also some books that aren’t going to get written.

Craig 2: How can you call yourself a writer if you’re okay with that?

Craig 1: Well, sometimes I think how awesome it would be to live a life that was just writing 24-7. But when I’ve actually had that opportunity, like when I’ve had an Australia Council Grant or something – I found it a very lonely existence. I think a writer needs social interaction as well as the social isolation time to write. You also need your family to keep you balanced.

Craig 2: But don’t you resent the time they demand? Everybody wants your time. You have a wife and child with disabilities that you have to be a carer for, and you have three grown-up kids who all need time and support too.

craig website grabCraig 1: No. I wouldn’t trade it for quids. It’s a part of the balance in life that makes you a writer. Those things that are difficult in life, and there are quite a few in my life if I’m honest – for my life might look a lot of fun on the outside, but it’s not all laughs up close – well, those things sharpen your soul. They demand you examine them and question them, and many of those things that don’t have easy answers can only be addressed through creatively trying to understand them. They give you a reason to write.

Craig 2: But how many times have you thought about just taking off and living in a caravan down the coast, or a house up in the Blue Mountains and writing the thing you want to write?

Craig 1: Sure, there are times like that. Of course there are. But there are more times when I stand at the door of my son’s bedroom at night and watch him sleeping and think how blessed I am. My books are very important to me – they have been a lot of heart-ache and trouble and greatly rewarding too, but truthfully, my kids and my wife are more important to me. They have all caused me greater heart-ache and trouble but greater rewards too.

Craig 2: And greater interruption to your time to write!

Craig 1: Another choice I have made in life. Let me remind you of that quote I have hanging over my desk for the past 20 years, the German poet Rilke’s advice to a young poet

“… There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”

Craig 2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know the quote well. But I think you haven’t done that. If you had you’d be living on your own in that caravan, or that house in the Blue Mountains, writing all those books and stories you have in you to write – even in your most indifferent hour.

Craig 1: You miss the point. A writing life isn’t just about having time to write. It’s also about having experiences in life to write about. How do you write honestly about love if you haven’t loved? How do you write honestly about loss if you haven’t lost something dear? How do you write about life and death and everything if you are not out there living it and experiencing it?

Craig 2: That’s the great writer’s cop-out, claiming that everything you do that is not writing is actually research for writing.

The Floating CityCraig 1: No. You can write every day all your life and never come close to writing that one heart-wrenching razor-sharp story that cuts open the reader as they read it. But you might spend years and years learning from life and then write that one perfect thing. That’s what I aim for as a writer. Every story has to be a little bit better. A little bit closer to the bone. A little deeper stab into the heart. I write a lot because I’ve ordered my life to enable to me to do so. But as I’ve gotten older I’m more prepared to let some stories just wither on the vine that I don’t think are going to improve on what I’ve already done. And it took me a long time to learn to accept that.

Craig 2: Well I don’t accept it. If you’re a writer you need to be writing. You need to be listening to the voices like me that disagree with your certainty. That question what you’re doing. That demand you come back to the keyboard and write.

Craig 1: And I appreciate that. If you don’t have a voice that questions everything you do you’ll start never knowing those questions.

Craig 2: So you’re saying I’m write?

Craig 1: I’m saying you have to listen to those questions, as you need to question everything you do before you know if it is good.

Craig 2: And what do you do then?

Craig 1: You learn to then ignore that nagging incessant doubting voice in your head.

Craig 2: Hey, you can’t ignore me! I’m a part of your psyche. I’m the little voice in the back of your head that makes you think doubt and then think deeper about everything you’re doing. You need me!

Craig 1: Sorry. Just one of those sacrifices you have to make in life…

Craig Cormick is a Canberra-based author. His most recent-books are The Shadow Master series with Angry Robot Books. He has published over 25 books and his writing awards include the ACT Book of the Year Award and a Queensland Premiers Literary Award. He has been chair of the ACT Writers Centre, has taught creative writing at University and community levels, has been a Writer in Residence at the University of Science in Malaysia and has been an Antarctic Arts Fellow, travelling to all three of Australia’s mainland bases in Antarctica. You can find more things about Craig on his website: www.craigcormick.comMugshot

Squeeing Over Supergirl: Episode Three

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 3, “Fight or Flight”


DAVID: Three episodes in and I am still really enjoying Supergirl, but it is clear that they are going the “monster-of-the-week” route which definitely has its weaknesses. I thought the idea of the villain being one who saw Supergirl as a way of getting at Superman was a good one, as was his back story, it’s just a shame that he looked like a cut rate Iron Man. It will be interesting to see where the show goes from here, because there is only so long that this style works before it gets repetitive, but the good news is that lots of shows that have started out like this have matured and developed, and been very successful—Smallville and Buffy are both examples. Hopefully we see more of an emphasis on season long story and character arcs as it goes on.

TEHANI: I don’t really mind the monster-of-the-week just so long as we continue to also get Kara growing into her role as Supergirl, Alex being badass, and lots of lovely team byplay and Cat Grant truisms. Although Reactron really was an Iron Man rip off, you’re definitely right there!

DAVID: We also saw a ramping up of the love triangle and I am definitely Team Winslow—for the simple reason I always go for the underdog, and he is definitely overshadowed by James! However, he hit on the winning strategy of not trying to hold Kara back, but instead supporting her in her decision to do the whole hero thing. I am calling something early, though, I am tipping that we will see Maxwell Lord as another love interest. There was some good development of James with his confession that his calling Superman was about him, not her, and his dependence on the Man of Steel. Superman casts a long shadow.

Team Win

TEHANI: You and I are on different sides of this one—Team James here! And nopeity nope nope to Lord as love interest. Not a chance there, although he and Cat Grant are another story…

DAVID: How about a friendly wager? I think they are setting him up for it, he is too pretty for a start! And, it would be a contrast with the “good” guys in her life—similar to one of the key romantic pairings in Smallville.

TEHANI: I’ll take that bet!

DAVID: Speaking of Cat, her interview raised the interesting point of the difference in questions men and women get. I can’t imagine Superman being asked when he was starting a family. That’s one of the strengths of this show, I think, the way it contrasts the way different genders are treated.

TEHANI: Isn’t the underpinning commentary WONDERFUL? It’s not always subtle, but it does shine a light on so many things. I also like the lovely little pop culture references—sure, they may date, but they make the show feel super modern, which is great for NOW. I do like that there’s some fallout from the interview, in that Kara realises how what she says can be taken out of context.


DAVID: The were a lot of mentions of Superman in this episode, but I think it makes sense that Kara would constantly be measured against him. He is obviously an established hero in this universe, and the moment she started wearing the “S” people would be comparing them. This is a fairly standard theme in the comics/other spin offs as well, where Supergirl tries to establish herself as a hero in her own right, not just as Superman’s cousin. Even the theme of Superman always wanting to rescue her, or being overprotective, is quite common and a source of tension between them—albeit usually minor. The show is walking a fine line here between acknowledging their relationship and turning this into a show about Superman, and I think they are getting it mostly right. And, I did love the IM conversation!

TEHANI: I’m interested by how they are dealing with the Superman stuff. I’ve read some really great team-up stuff with Superman and Supergirl, and while I don’t think we’ll get that in this show, I do like that he’s a part of Kara’s story. I think it’s important to always keep in mind who the actual audience for the program is—we’re talking about appealing to the teen demographic, mostly. Just as for many of them, life is about figuring out how they work and who they are out from under the shadow of their families, Kara is doing the same thing, except that her family is Superman. Well, it’s Alex and the DEO as well, to a point, but that’s not quite the same.

DOEDAVID: I am not sure why Kara is taking orders from DEO about who she is allowed to take on, and Wynn’s control room should give her some more independence. Anyone familiar with the other versions of the mythos will know where they are going with Hank’s glowing eyes, but it is good to see his and Alex’s working relationship being explored.

TEHANI: I think I get why Kara is listening to the DEO. Partly it’s because of Alex, but I reckon mostly it’s because for all her talk about standing on her own two feet, it’s reassuring for her to have backup. She appreciates the support, even when she feels like it chafes, but you’ll notice how quickly she will take matters into her own hands if she disagrees, even this early on…

I don’t know what the deal is with Hank—bad fan, Tehani! But I have resisted looking it up, because I’m enjoying the not-knowing, so don’t tell me :) Also, I had no idea Lucy Lane was a canon character. I totally want she and Kara to become BFFs and sit around comparing Jimmy stories…

What did you think about James and Kara letting slip to Wynn about Superman’s secret identity? They really are rubbish at keeping secrets!


DAVID: I have to admit that I actually did laugh at loud at that moment. I mean, it really is terribly bad of them, but it was pretty funny. Not sure Superman would be thrilled, though!

TEHANI: And can I just add how absolutely adorkable the last scene between the sisters was? I was in fits of giggles watching it.

Kara: …I will melt your face.
Alex: I hope you get fat.
Kara: Not on THIS planet…

Previously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…

Episode 1, “Pilot”
Episode 2, “Stronger Together”

Squeeing Over Supergirl: Episode Two

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 2 (“Stronger Together”)

TEHANI: Well, I’m going to admit it now, but I was a bit worried that I’d overinflated my hopes for this show in the waiting period since the first episode was “leaked”. I had wondered if it really was going to be as good as I hoped, based on that first amazing and intense 45 minutes, and would the showrunners really and truly commit to the lovely standup “it’s awesome to be a girl” message? So it was with a little trepidation I came to episode two. I need not have worried. “Stronger Together” was just as great to watch, with a whole bunch more of the wonderful, female-centric storytelling the first episode set up. Yay!

“It’s not because you’re a woman, Ms Danvers.” – Director Henshaw

The boys

DAVID: I was relieved that the second episode wasn’t a let down, too! It was a little cheesy in parts, but that is part of what they are going for—this is not the grimdark superhero story we have so much of. They have introduced a promising story arc and some good villains, we are seeing some great character development and, most importantly, there is still such a sense of fun about it. Kara’s powers aren’t a burden on her, she isn’t an unwilling hero. She wants to help people, and she enjoys her powers the way that you’d think most people would. Who wouldn’t love being able to fly and wouldn’t love dodging missiles and stuff? I am a bit over the whole mopey superhero who wishes that they could just be normal thing.

TEHANI: There is so much great critical commentary in this show. The way the media is so fickle, turning quickly on Supergirl when she’s messing things up (and heck, yes she really messes up!) but within DAYS turns around and makes her the media darling again when she’s doing good. On that same topic, I loved the message that it’s actually okay to mess up, and you can do better, without it being hyper harped on. Added to that, the way that a bunch of people around her suggested in different ways that maybe she was taking on a bit too much too soon, but it was the way Cat Grant explained it to her that stuck.

“Every woman worth her salt knows that we have to work twice as hard as a man to be thought of as half as good.” – Cat Grant

Cat speaks

DAVID: I found that whole idea that her heroics would not be greeted with universal acclaim, and that her mistakes would be seized upon, very true to life. We only need to look at the polarisation of opinion on media, especially social media, to see how differently different people react to the same story or public figure, and how quickly criticism or praise can spread to see this. Even the idea that the media might try and “manage” or “manufacture” a hero doesn’t seem too far fetched.

The bit I didn’t like was that for all her speeches Cat seemed more willing to tear down a female superhero than build her up. But that is human nature, you’d like to think someone who had had to overcome obstacles would be supportive of someone else trying to do the same, but often you see people can be less forgiving in that scenario if they think the other person is doing it wrong.

Two of those lessons you mention were really good ones, the idea that we can mess up and get better being one of them. But, I did like that whole learning to be willing to work your way up to things and be realistic in your expectations. A lot of “Chosen Ones” in stories mess up because of their arrogance and unwillingness to admit that they aren’t ready for certain things. Kara has a good group of people around her—but also a lack of arrogance that is refreshing.

TEHANI: If I have one criticism, it’s that I’m not sure about the blatant love triangle set up – look, I know it’s a staple of young adult stories but it’s really very tired… And yes, I absolutely believe this show is made primarily for the teen audience, despite the fact lots of adults love it too (of COURSE we do), but this isn’t about me projecting adulting on it, it’s about thinking that our young people are smarter than the overdone love triangle trope implies they are, and wanting media to show them other options for young relationships. Or NOT – I mean, couldn’t Kara have a season when she just discovers who she is, without romance getting in the way?

The boys

DAVID: Haha I thought I was reading one of my comments from a New Who review there for a moment! 😛

I am hoping that they really don’t push the love triangle too much. I think that James makes a better mentor figure through his friendship with Superman, and Winslow doesn’t need to have a romantic interest in Kara for their relationship to work. The idea that men and women can just be friends and still want to support each other in their dreams and passions is not that crazy, is it?

I think they will continue to work the romance angel, because of the type of show it is, but it doesn’t need to be at the forefront to create dramatic tension—as you allude to, the real story here is Kara discovering how to use her powers and become a real hero.

TEHANI: I really liked that Alex Danvers both ended up saving herself and demonstrating her inherent kick-assery at the same time. I adore that we have awesome female characters who are not all the same, but could we please have some more? With a variety of backgrounds? Does Kara not have any other girl friends?

The girls rejoice

DAVID: One of my favourite episodes of The New Batman Adventures (and, in fact, one of my favourite of the Timmverse)  was “Girl’s Night Out” where Supergirl and Batgirl teamed up to take on Livewire, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.  The best thing about it was seeing them all just hanging out as friends (the three villainesses as one group, Supergirl and Batgirl as the other). It was a really rare example of seeing female heroes and villains as more than just extensions of the “central” male characters and I would love to see more stuff like that.

TEHANI: Yes! I hope the showrunners give us something like this, rather than fall back on the usual stuff. Let’s find out!

Previously, in “Squeeing over Supergirl”…

Episode 1, “Pilot”

Squeeing over Supergirl: Episode One

David McDonald and Tehani Wessely have been squeeing about the new Supergirl television show for months, so they decided to take time each week to discuss the new episodes as they air. They may occasionally rope in their friends to get excited too.

Supergirl – Episode 1 (“Pilot”)Mirror, mirror on the wall

DAVID: The first thing that struck me about Supergirl was how bright and colourful it is! It’s a welcome contrast to the gritty, washed out look that has become the norm of late. It was also reflected in the sense of fun that permeated the show. It wasn’t just that there was a sense of wonder in her discovering her powers, but also just a different feel to the way the characters interacted. It was like everything didn’t have to be brooding or ominous, we got to see them simply being people separate from their other role. It reminded me more of The Flash than something like Daredevil or Arrow.

TEHANI: Agreed! It definitely has a lighter vibe than anything else we’ve seen—for me, that reflected the target demographic the show is being aimed at, but my, so refreshing!

DAVID: However the show that it reminded me of the most was Smallville, which is one of my all time favourite television shows, and still one of the best versions of the Superman mythos that’s been done. So far, like Smallville, Supergirl seems to show an understanding of the core of what Superman/Supergirl is about—and what it really means to be a hero. It certainly has a better handle on it that Man of Steel did! It looks like it is going to follow the Smallville trend of nice little shout outs to the comic and to other versions—we’ve already seen Dean Cain (Lois and Clark) and Helen Slater (Supergirl: The Movie) pop up! I loved playing spot the reference in Smallville, and it looks like that will be a feature.

TEHANI: Ahem, so this is where I admit I never really watched Smallville? But it absolutely made me smile with glee to see Dean and Helen!

Mom and PopDAVID: Speaking of casting, I think they have been spot on. When I heard that Melissa Benoist had been cast as Supergirl, I was a little dubious, but she brings an adorable goofiness to the role that suits this version of Supergirl perfectly. It’s great to see Calista Flockhart back in a role that gives her a lot of room to move, and I really enjoy this more imposing version of Jimmy Olsen—a character that has, at times, had very little presence or simply been there for comedic effect (and often as successful at that as Jar Jar Binks). I was interested to see that we have at least three actors who have significant musical backgrounds—Benoist (Glee), Jeremy Jordan (Smash), and Tony Award winning Laura Benanti (Nashville and lots more). Perhaps we will see a musical themed episode!

TEHANI: I love the James Olsen character and the way he’s being played, and I also love Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers, Kara’s adopted sister, and I LOVE the way Calista Flockhart is playing Cat Grant—it’s brilliant! I think the casting choices are excellent.

DAVID: I am actually really impressed with the decision DC have made about who this series has been aimed at. Rather than the usual demographic of young men, they appear to have realised that girls are interested in superheroes, too! I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, but my female friends who are watching this feel that this is something that has been made with them in mind, rather than treating them as an incidental benefit on top the people studios normally cater to. It seems like a no brainer to many of us, but most of the studios have been avoiding a female helmed series or movie as best they can (the closest being Captain America: Winter Soldier which was really a buddy cop movie like Lethal Weapon with Captain America and Black Widow deserving equal billing). Hopefully this is a much needed step in the right direction and, along with shows like Jessica Jones, will herald a sea change in marketing.Jimmy!

TEHANI: Look, it’s crazycakes—us gals are YELLING for content that has at least got SOME women, let alone someone as the lead. I continue to be particularly disappointed in Marvel for the lack of women—we got Agent Carter, and yes, Agents of SHIELD has some excellent female characters, but the films, and shows like Daredevil, despite being excellent in so many ways, are absolutely woeful for gender diversity (among other diversities…). I really hope Jessica Jones gives us more but we’ve most recently been disappointed by Ant-Man, and by the news that the potentially awesome Captain Marvel movie has been pushed back. DC is doing better, with some interesting and engaging female characters in Arrow, Flash and Gotham, but this is the first time (other than iZombie, which isn’t really a superhero show, despite being great!) that we’ve got ourselves a female-led series. And not just that, we’ve got other women who Kara gets to TALK to and everything! So woohoo DC!

And OH MY GOSH do I love the discussion of being a girl!! Kicking butt, Cat Grant. Actually, I just love all of this. I truly hope that the show continues on the way it has begun—the gentle interrogation of certain superhero media tropes, the clever casting, the jump-in-with-both-feet-and-just-get-on-with-it style—it’s brilliant! Can’t wait for the next episode!


The Cabinet of Oddities is coming!

One of my oldest friends in the spec fic community is the incredibly talented Laura Goodin. Laura has a unique gift when it comes to facilitating collaborations and creating mixed media projects, like the radio play we performed at Conflux.

A few months ago, Laura approached me and asked if I was interested in contributing a story to a new project of hers. She asked for a short piece, and told me that she would then assign a composer to set it to music. I thought this was a fascinating concept and I really can’t wait to hear what sort of musical piece my story might inspire.

More details will be announced soon, but Laura has posted an announcement about it, and I am sharing it here. This is the sort of artistic collaboration that excites me, and I am looking forward to seeing the end result!Cabinet of Oddities


Paying for Our Passion – Emilie Collyer

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

I am delighted to welcome back the multi talented Emilie Collyer, who was a guest on Ebon Shores earlier in the year. Not only a gifted writer (and a fellow Clan Destine Press author), Emilie is a successful and talented playwright. Welcome, Emilie!

The question of creativity and money is difficult and fascinating. I came to writing in a serious way in my early 20s, after a few years pursuing a career as an actor.

I wrote a piece for a cabaret show at drama school and had one of those epiphany moments: Oh this is what I need to be doing! Telling my own stories, not channelling someone else’s! Truth be told, I also didn’t quite have the personality for an acting career: shy with strangers, sensitive and also critical of how I saw the system working, who got ahead and who got left behind.

Writing, I figured, would be much more suited to me and, maybe, less painful.

Yes on the first front, no on the second – as I found equally as much rejection and uncertainty. But a deep sense that here was a task I could commit my whole life to and that would, I could already tell, sustain me in many ways for a life time.

I actually never really considered that I could earn a full time living as a writer. Coming from acting and theatre, where – as the saying goes – about 95% of actors are out of acting work at any given time, I just assumed that choosing a career in the creative arts meant a life of casual or part time other work to sustain the ups and downs and generally low income.

A Clean Job

This balance has proven itself in terms of my life / work / income split so far. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps. I do know a number of people now who make a full time living from their art. For some I can see it is a combination of hard work and good timing – landing that one great job or having something become commercially successful. For others I know that they have willed their situation into existence, by refusing to do anything else and making it work by sheer determination.

I currently work two days a week as a copywriter for an online marketing agency. So I technically make a living from writing. This has pros and cons. I love that I get to use my creative and language skills. But it can also be draining and saps some energy away from my own work.

In the past I’ve worked in administration, hospitality and a range of other capacities – always part time. Other income boosts me up now and then – a payment for a piece of writing, a commission for a new play, a grant. I’ve also taught creative writing and improvisation on and off for many years.

I’ve never worked a full time day job. The thought of it makes me feel a bit suffocated. Even though I know the steady income would make life much easier my sense is that I would get depressed without the 3-4 days each week I carve out to make my own – whether it’s writing, developing or producing a play, or collaborating with others on creative projects.

The commitment to writing has paid off in that I have had nearly 20 plays produced, many stories and poems published, including two e-books of short stories and have been fortunate to win a number of awards and other accolades for my work. But income from this has not yet been enough to replace the income from my part time work.

I would like to reach a point where I can sustain myself fully from my creative writing. This may or may not happen. I’ll keep working towards it but I’m also not too hung up about it. Many factors contribute to whether this happens or not and they aren’t all within my control.

Equally as important to me, in the grand scheme of things, is creative freedom. There is also a strong part of my creative drive that is about experimenting and pushing myself into unknown territories. I love it when my writing gets out in the world and hits a mark, gets a positive response from readers or audiences. But just as valuable are the many pieces that don’t quite make it, where I’m trying something and failing at it. I protect this part of the creative process very fiercely. And the fact that I earn (just) enough money to live off from a separate income and work stream actually allows me that level of risk taking.

Autopsy of a Comedian resized

My partner is also an artist, a performer and writer. So he doesn’t support me financially. We share the load, live modestly and enjoy the small spikes in income when they occasionally come along.

I don’t travel much or buy new things very often. Sometimes I worry about the future: very little superannuation, no savings and no benefits like annual leave or sick leave entitlements – what will this mean as I age?

I also don’t have a family to support. Not having children is a decision I came to via many routes and for many different reasons. My life as an artist was not the sole reason but it did contribute – knowing the kind of financial pressure that would place on me was a factor in the patchwork of that long, slow decision making process.

My life is far from perfect but on the whole I value the shape of it. I don’t take any income or any job for granted. I relish every creative opportunity I get. At times I even enjoy the challenge of living on wavering and unpredictable income. I see it as a healthy antidote to the overt messages of capitalism that tell us to only value the worth of our lives based on the worth of our belongings and our bank accounts.

Paying for my passion has definitely not been easy. But overall it is a price I have been willing to pay and one that brings rewards and benefits in sometimes unexpected ways.


Emilie Collyer is an award winning writer of plays, fiction and poetry. Recent publications include stories in Allegory (USA) and Cosmic Vegetable (USA). Her speculative fiction has won three prizes at the Scarlet Stiletto Awards (2012 & 2013) and she has two collections of short fiction published with Clan Destine Press. Her play The Good Girl (2013) won Best Emerging Writer at Melbourne Fringe & a Green Room nomination. Dream Home (shortlisted 2013 Patrick White Award) premiered at Darebin Arts Speakeasy in 2015. Read more about Emilie and her writing here:

Paying for Our Passion – T.B McKenzie

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

Today’s guest is a genuine renaissance man! Father, teacher, swordsman–and gifted writer–despite all his excellent qualities, Travis McKenzie still manages to be a humble and all round good guy–lesser men might let it go to their head! Travis is a fellow Satalyte author, and you can check out his new release here (and how awesome is that cover?!), or go along to his launch by joining the Facebook event here.

It hurts to talk about how I fund my writing. It hurts because in doing so I have to admit certain uncomfortable truths. Like the fact that I am a lazy man. That I am full of anxiety and fear of failure. That I am a hypocrite, who spouts the virtues of hard work, persistence and growth mindset theory to his students every day, yet would rather time travel to the point where my books are published, than have to go through the slog of actually writing them. But admitting these problems is only the first step to recovery. And this brings me to my central metaphor, which I intend to twist, stretch and mix to make my point. If writing is my answer to self-actualisation, then not-writing is a dark addiction I must overcome.

I made the drastic choice in 2014 of putting myself into procrastination rehab. I took long service leave and wrote every day. Then, after a term of one long hard-work-montage in which I re-wrote my first novel from scratch, I went back to work, albeit at a much reduced part time load. My money wealth was limited that year, but the time I bought was worth it. I continued to live the Hemingway dream (minus the hunting) and polished up my sequel then outlined book 3. It seemed that I had cured myself forever. But as any addict will tell you, only your behaviour back in the real world counts.


I re-entered that real world last December with the arrival of a new baby, and the move to a new home that was needed to keep us in the comfortable upper levels of the Maslow pyramid scheme we had signed up for. I went back to full time teaching because it turns out you can only pay a mortgage by the alchemical process of converting time back into money and then giving it all to the bank. And here is the hardest admission of all. I used that as an excuse and haven’t written a thing since I packed away my study last November.

I lied to myself, of course, like any addict does. I said I’d write at nights, on weekends, in the spare hour on Monday after my Year 9 English class. But I was back on the good stuff: pure procrastination (intermixed with moments of new-baby panic and nappy changing) After all, I consoled myself, I had earned it.

This is where my higher power of anxiety comes to the rescue. Many try to silence this voice, but I have learned to trust a little of the truth it tells me at 4.15am when my son decides to jump in our bed and warm his frozen feet on my lower back. I need to get back on the wagon.

The good news is that I already know the answer. I need to give up my beloved HBO and write at night; I need to stop trawling Reddit posts and write on the weekend; I need to close the Facebook tab at work and use that hour after Year 9 English to, you guessed it, write.

Of course, had I stuck to that last rule I wouldn’t have seen the post from David calling out for a writer to talk about how they pay for their passion, and it turns out that this has been a wonderful moment of catharsis. Mostly, I guess, because for the first time in months, I’m writing.



Born just before the ‘80s began T.B McKenzie grew up in South Gippsland Victoria, where boys either surfed or played football. He did neither and, as this was a time before the Internet, he found his escape in books. Somehow he missed the boat on Tolkien but discovered instead the works of Lloyd Alexander, Terry Pratchett and Ursula Le-Guin, who all had a lot to say about things people seemed to have forgotten.

He never looked back and ever since his first story — written in grade four about a monster, a sword, and a hero — he knew he wanted to be a writer. He lives now with his wife and young son in Melbourne, where he makes money to pay the bills as an art teacher and stays up way past his bedtime writing the sequel to The Dragon and the Crow

Paying for Our Passion – Cat Sparks

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

One of the first people I met when I became involved in the Aussie spec fic community was Cat Sparks, and ever since then she has not only been a great friend but a mentor who has encouraged and supported me as a writer. I could list all her achievements, but it would end up longer than this post–it is safe to say she is one of Australia’s leading writers, editors and designers. Welcome, Cat! 

David has had to nag me a great many times to get this post for his blog series. Thing is, I thought I’d written it already and that it had been published and, quite possibly, that I had spared a minute to glance over it. Turns out none of those things were true. Right now, I’m juggling way too many plates and everything’s a multicoloured blur.

For the past three years I’ve been engaged in a PhD on YA climate change fiction whilst simultaneously functioning as Cosmos Magazine’s fiction editor and wrestling with an Ausco-funded science fiction novel that never seemed to get finished, no matter how hard I tried. The ending was rewritten many times at my agent’s request. Finally it passed muster and now I’m waiting to see if she can sell it.

I guess you could say my writing career is going well at the moment, the main effect of which seems to be that finding time for actual writing is becoming problematic. As Tansy Rayner Roberts once pointed out, the reward for successful writing tends to generally be more work – which means, of course, more writing and writing related activities such as speaking opportunities: panels, workshops, festivals and the like.

The Bride PriceDon’t get me wrong – I am privileged and I know it. But I worked damn hard across many years to score my luck. Being a professional writer means other people want things from you: help, endorsements, participation, advice. You’re always paying it back or paying it forward.

I recall many years ago Sean Williams explaining that I ought to try to enjoy the pre-pro state I inhabited at the time. What he meant was that having no deadlines aside from the self imposed kind meant I could write whatever I wanted, write freely for enjoyment or experiment. Once I’d reached where I thought I wanted to be, the next rung up the achievement scale, everything would change and get much harder.

He was right because Sean is always right when it comes to the nitty gritty of the publishing landscape. I didn’t get it then, I was so hung up on making the grade, such as I saw it. That grade was everything to me and my passion to catch up with it has cost me plenty. Here are a few once treasured activities that have fallen by the wayside:

Dance: I was part of a group who learned and performed raqs sharqi – Egyptian folk dancing. It was fun and I particularly enjoyed mixing with women from walks of life far different from my own. But I gave it up because of the time and distraction factor.

Art: A fundamental element of my character and had been since I was a child, but art slipped through my fingers, piece by piece, once again, because of the time it took away from words. This sort of thing doesn’t happen to everyone, of course. Many of my colleagues are heavily into art and craft, but things did not work out that way for me.


Friendships: I have lost some to this game for a variety of reasons. Sitting around on a sunny deck sipping wine and nibbling cheese with lovely people sucks up valuable storytelling real estate. I am blessed with many friends but some of them I just don’t see much of anymore.

The Home Beautiful: [insert hysterical laughter]. I blame the fact that our house is falling down around us on the fact that we both write. Yeah, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I’m slow. I’m ponderous. I get sucked down infinite rabbit holes of reading and research. I polish everything I write to the nth degree. Long gone are the days when I could dash a story off across 48 hours.

My biggest support continues to come from my partner Rob. He has been the main breadwinner across the past fifteen years, although up until the grant, I always had a day job. In our house, writing is important. It gets to come first, before other things. I cannot imagine successfully co-inhabiting with the kind of guy who wanted to drag me off to boat shows or whatever on the weekends. Rob and I both dig genre. Our house is filled with pop culture crap. Nothing matches anything else, a fact that, fortunately, suits us both.

with jawa-cybermen

Cat Sparks is a multi-award-winning author, editor and artist whose former employment has included: media monitor, political and archaeological photographer, graphic designer and manager of Agog! Press amongst other (much less interesting) things. She’s currently fiction editor of Australia’s Cosmos Magazine while simultaneously grappling with a PhD on YA climate change fiction.

Paying for Our Passion – Grant Stone

In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.

Today’s guest is New Zealander Grant Stone. I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting him on my visit over there earlier this year, but from all accounts that was my loss! Welcome, Grant!

Writing in the Margins

As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to do two things: write stories and write code.

I work full time as a software architect. It’s a fairly intense role where I’ve got to try and manage a lot of in-house projects while still keeping up with emerging technology trends. While the hours aren’t necessarily long, by the end of the day my brain’s mush. And I’ve got three kids. By the time they’ve all been taken to ballet and hockey and fed and bathed and had stories read and everything else, I don’t have a lot of energy left. There’s usually no space for writing on evenings or weekends.

I take a ferry to work. It’s a thirty-five minute trip each way. So that’s when I get most of my writing done, five days a week. It’s not ideal. Going to work on a boat may sound romantic, but it’s usually noisy and cramped. But armed with my trusty netbook, it’s extremely productive time. I wrote the first draft of a novel last year in nine months, all in thirty-five minute slices.

To try and make the most of my limited time, I try and avoid getting distracted by fresh new ideas before my current project is complete. This never works. My phone is full of fragments of stories that grow a sentence or word at a time, until they’re too big to ignore. My ‘in progress’ folder is a wasteland of stories that have been trapped there for years.

use-only-as-directed-edited-by-simon-petrie-and-edwina-harveyI think having such a small amount of time has affected my writing. While I don’t get a lot of ‘typing’ time, stories are always bubbling away in my subconscious. When I’m finally able to get to a keyboard the words spill out quickly enough. My first drafts are relatively clean. But given my time constraints I’m unlikely to attempt an epic fantasy any time soon. In my current situation I don’t think I’d ever be able to complete more than a novel a year. And I’m fine with that.

I’m extremely fortunate that I love my day job. I get to hang out with talented and creative people every day and work on exciting projects. I’ve good books in my blood, but I’ve got code too. If someone came to me with a million bucks so I could write full time, I don’t think I’d take it. Well, okay, I’d take the money. But I’m always going to be coding too.

I’m pretty good at stealing little pockets of time, writing in the margins of my life. It would be nice if those margins were just a little wider. But every week I get to write code and I get to write stories.

I’m living the dream.

grant_stoneGrant Stone’s stories have appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and have twice won the Sir Julius Vogel Award. His novella ‘The Last‘ Is available now from Paper Road Press.