Scene from Steven Universe: Steven and Lapis Lazuli sit contemplating the stars Lapis wants to reach

How much realism should you demand from your writing?

I have developed a bad habit of getting too hung up on the realism of the fiction I consume.

I don’t mean that it has to portray the real world – I’m a fantasy and sci-fi fan, after all – but I find myself nitpicking anything that looks like a logical flaw in a story.

“That’s stupid,” I say of some character choice or plot point. “Why did this character pal around with that one for half the plot if she was planning to turn on him all along? Why not just kill him at the start and get on with her evil scheme?”

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Mother of Invention Australian launch date/time announced

Exciting news! The Australian book launch for Mother of Invention – which includes, you may recall, my first professionally-published short story, ‘Arguing with People on the Internet’ – has been scheduled for 2pm on Sunday 10th June at Continuum Speculative Fiction Convention in Melbourne.

If you want to attend, you will need to have at least a Continuum day membership (they offer a discount if this is your first time attending), but I highly recommend it – Continuum has been a mainstay of the Australian fantasy/sci-fi/horror community for over a decade, and it’s a great experience for writers, readers, media makers and consumers, and any spec fic fan looking to connect further with Melbourne/Australian fandom.

If you’re in the US, of course, you don’t have to wait until June – Mother of Invention is being launched there this very weekend at WisCon. But since I’m not in the US, I guess I’ll have to make do with attending the launch in my very own hometown, at a convention that had been close to my heart for a very long time.

Hope to see you at the launch of my first pro-published work!

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18th Century portrait of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

This week I learned – the coital quandary of Louis XVI

This started out as an entertaining tidbit that arose from my recent tour of Versailles (“hee hee, royal sex ed”), which I was originally going to tack on to the end of my last TWIL post. But, as sometimes happens when I try to turn “this cool thing I heard” into “this well-researched and hopefully accurate information I’m willing to share publicly”, the real story turned out to be much more complicated – and, in this case, of much more personal interest – than I had expected.

So today I delve into the historical mystery of: why did it take Louis XVI and his queen Marie-Antoinette seven years to consummate their marriage?

N.B. the following, as well as several of the links included, discusses sex and may be considered NSFW.

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Tattoo in the asexuality pride flag colours, on a background of the actual ace pride flag

The Talk

I know, I know, I said I was going to post about Louis XVI. He can wait a week.

Last night we had dinner with Ben’s Hungarian relative (we call her that because “mother’s cousins’s ex-wife” is too much of a mouthful) and her Dutch partner. Both of them speak excellent English – they have to, since she doesn’t speak Dutch and he doesn’t speak Hungarian – and before and over dinner the conversation roamed through all sorts of interesting subjects, from personal to political.

And, at one point, we had what I’ve come to think of as The Talk.

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Reception of the Grand Condé at Versailles following his victory at Seneffe. Condé advances towards Louis XIV in a respectful manner with laurel wreaths on his path, while captured enemy flags are displayed on both sides of the stairs.

This week I learned – Kings Louis XIV-XV special edition

I know I normally make these about three different interesting things, but this week I visited Versailles, France, and learned enough things about the eccentricities of Kings Louis XIV-XVI (a.k.a. the last three kings before the French revolution) and their nearest and dearest to fill pages of blog. Here are two stories of Louis XIV and one of Louis XV (or rather, of his most prominent lover) that especially caught my fancy. As for Louis XVI, my favourite story about him has turned intriguing enough to receive its own post next week…

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Alien landscape with two suns

Set-up and pay-off – focusing on what is relevant

Today I read an amateur science-fiction short story that opened by describing at length the twin-sunned planet the protagonist’s ship was orbiting. It then moved on to several paragraphs about the mega-corporation whose employees worked on planets like this, the unfortunate circumstances of said employees, and why they needed the protagonist’s services.

And then the action started with the protagonist arriving at a completely different planet to engage in work that had nothing to do with the corporation or its employees. None of these things was ever mentioned again.

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Glass sea urchin at the Natural History Museum, London

This week I learned – Natural History Museum edition

Recently I was lucky enough to get a look around the Natural History Museum in London. This glorious building houses a vast collection of artefacts representing the fascinating (if deeply colonialist) history of the British exploration and developing knowledge of the natural world.

Presented with such a wealth of historical and ecological information, the challenge wasn’t learning new things, but narrowing down my choices on what to write about. Here are three that stood out: a feat of comparative anatomy, sea life recreated in glass, and the secret of the opal’s colours.

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This is my brain on anxiety… and this is my brain on drugs (pt. 2)

Quick recap from last week: my psychiatrist has put me on clonazepam, a benzodiazepine-class tranquilliser, while I ramp up the dosage on my new SNRI.

The clonazepam has created an immediate and very measurable transformation – enough so that, for the first time, I feel like I’m in a position to observe the differences in my patterns of thought and behaviour with and without anxiety.

So I’m recording my observations. If you’ve never had anxiety (or if you don’t know if you have it), I hope this helps you understand what the world feels like to someone who does.

Part one was about the “obvious” (in hindsight) effects of anxiety; this week is about the rest of it. Before clonazepam, I would have said that anxiety was just one of a suite of problems my brain had in functioning. It turns out they were a lot more related than I’d realised.

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Black and white diver inspecting a brain coral

This is my brain on anxiety… and this is my brain on drugs (pt. 1)

Brain weasel update: I’m lucky enough to have found a psychiatrist who really seems to listen to me and to have good ideas about what I need (it only took two tries – would that everyone in the mental health care system could be so fortunate).

After concluding fairly definitively that my major (perhaps only) weasels are variations on anxiety, he’s put me on an SNRI antidepressant to try out (SNRIs can also be effective in treating anxiety) – and since this style of antidepressants take effect only after four to six weeks, and since we’re ramping my dosage up slowly to see what happens (therefore requiring even longer), in the meantime he’s also put me on clonazepam, a benzodiazepine-class tranquilliser.

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Agar art - 'Finding Pneumo' by Linh Ngo

This week I learned: agar art, Japan’s senior citizens behind bars, and the strength of spider silk

This week I learned how to make art with microbes, why so many older Japanese women prefer to be in prison, and about the amazing possibilities of golden orb-weaver silk.

A note for any arachnophobe readers – the last of these pieces contains no imagery (unless you follow the links), but plenty of spider-related text, so I leave it to you to assess your level of OK-ness with that. I’ve placed it last so that you can still read the rest of the post if you want to.

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