Thursday, 19 October 2017

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is like being immersed in an awesome massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) and reading a wonderful book simultaneously.

On a dystopian Earth, destroyed by a global energy crisis, the only thing left for people is the online utopia of the OASIS, where you can do anything, be anyone, where the lines of distinction between a person’s real identity and that of their avatar begin to blur. When the creator, James Halliday dies, he leaves behind the biggest Easter egg hunt the world has seen. The prize: ownership of his vast fortune and total control of the OASIS.

Wade Watts is just one of the many ‘gunters’ (those who have devoted their lives to Halliday’s hunt) and since it was announced five years ago, he’s learnt all he can about the god among geeks, the nerd uber-deity on the level of Gygax, Gattiott, and Gates: James Halliday.

When Wade deciphers the location of the first clue and is awarded the Copper Key, the first of three, his avatar ‘Parzival’ shows up as the first name on the scoreboard. Passion for the hunt reignites. Hot on his heel are thousands of competitors including the Innovative Online Industries (IOI) who, in Wade’s words, want to turn the game into a fascist corporate theme park where the few people who can still afford the price of admission no longer have an ounce of freedom. Wade soon realises that the IOI will stop at nothing to control the OASIS, and when he can’t be bought to their side, everything he has is threatened.

I was late coming to this book, originally published in 2011. It was the name that drew me in, and the frequency in which it was appearing in recommended read lists. I was not disappointed.

It’s not science-fiction, it’s not fantasy, but it is. Think ‘Enders Game’, think ‘Surrogates’, ‘Gamer’ and ‘Westworld’. The front cover quote says; ‘Enchanting. Willy Wonka meets The Matrix.’ It’s all comparable, but nothing I know is like this book.  It’s a smorgasbord of ‘80s pop culture. There were so many references it didn't matter that I didn't get half of them. Joss Whedon eat your heart out.

It’s not a hard read, it’s a simple plot – good versus evil. Moving from the real world into the action-packed OASIS is seamless. The descriptions of the world outside leave me wanting more, in a good way. I was genuinely anxious when I had to close the book because I was invested in the lives of these characters.

I haven't been this excited over a book since I read Transformation by Carol Berg. For me, like that book, this one is a game changer.

This book was amazing. I read it in a few days. I didn't want to let it go. I can't wait to hand it around to my friends and family so they too can share my excitement.

Read this one.

Saturday, 30 September 2017


So, I just discovered Goodreads, yeah, yeah, I know.

So, go there and take a look at the first two chapters from my forthcoming (perhaps 2018) novella (?) Drawing Dead.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

FTM Magazine Article

I am officially a published author...

Originally published on (HERE) on 10 April 2017, the link is no longer active, so I am posting my article here:

Self-Harm, Transition...

It was never a choice. I did not one day decide to be a boy. One day I simply allowed my true self to come into being. | Erik Garkain

My body is scarred.

From my shoulders to fingertips, under my clothes, over my chest, my stomach and my legs – all support a tracery of scars inflicted through deliberate self-harm. Self-harm had been a way for me to release emotional pain and stress: the only way I could feel in control of my life.  It made me feel alive. It made me feel something, not just so disturbingly numb.

If you could see under my shirt, you’d see other scars too: surgical scars that helped salvage this life. I have two identical scars curving from my armpits to my sternum – double bilateral mastectomy with chest reconstruction; and, a horizontal 20cm scar underneath my belly, just above my pubic line – total hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy.

Ten years ago I was living a completely different life. I was bordering on my 21st birthday, working with the elderly in an aged care hostel, and, at the beginning of what would become a five year relationship of relative heteronormativity.

I was also a girl. I often wonder if my self-harm was a consequence of my latent gender dysphoria?

I was male on the inside. It was a feeling I hadn’t come to accept, or believe could be fact. I was carrying a weight that I’m sure rings familiar with anyone who has borne the confines of a closet. My ‘closet’ was an identity I had been taught, not one that was true. The hormones were wrong, my body was wrong; it had bits I couldn’t associate with, it did things that terrified and disgusted me.

Coming out was a challenge. I have always been shy. I don’t often speak up, even if I have something worthwhile to contribute, so, to come forward to the people in my life with something so personal, was a terrifying prospect. When you come out as trans, it immediately cultivates all sorts of unwanted and personal intrusions: Is it a sexual thing? Does that mean you’re gay, or straight? Do you like boys or girls now? Are you pre-op or post-op? What have you got ‘downstairs’? And my favourite: If you don’t have a penis, you’ll never be a ‘real’ guy. But I shouldn’t have worried. My family have always been supportive, my sisters – amazing. I don’t often give people a chance to be anything else. If they want me in their life, they will respect my choices.

Strangers are harder. Historically gays have been persecuted by just as much misunderstanding and judgment as the transgender community, but a lot of trans people feel ostracised in queer safe spaces, as if we don’t belong. A lot of the discrimination I have had has come directly from the gay community: My choosing to be male didn’t make it so because I would never have a penis.

It was never a choice. I did not one day decide to be a boy. One day I simply allowed my true self to come into being. I would never choose to become a second class citizen; to open myself to discrimination and hate with possible abandonment and rejection from family and friends; to jeopardise my job security; to lose the right to marry; or, risk ever finding a partner who could accept me… None of this is anything I would willingly choose. It was simply the next step of my existence, and it was always going to happen.

Looking back this past decade, to the start of my transition, the doubts were strong. But now I can see what I have achieved. Physically and mentally I am in the happiest place I have been. As each day passes, my confidence grows, and with it, strength to be who I really am, and that is a wonderful feeling. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change my journey, because changing that would change the essence of who I am. But perhaps some words of solace for the darkest of nights: You’re not weird, you’re not crazy, and these feelings, they won’t go away. Don’t listen to the people in your life that want to make you feel worthless. Don’t listen to the people who want to tell you who you should be. Listen to yourself. Only you know how you truly feel. And yes, at times it will be tough – out on that ledge, exposed to the world – but you need to be yourself. That is where your happiness is. You are better than you think you are. You are great, and people love you, for you.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Patrick White Playwrights’ Award 2016

...Thank you for applying for the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award 2016. We have now received your online application and script.

The judging panel will have selected the winner of the Award by May 2017, at which point we will advise you of the outcome of your entry.

Please note that the judges’ decision is final and no correspondence or discussion will be entered into. We also regret that we are unable to provide individual feedback to your submission...

Saturday, 1 October 2016

A fantasy novel I am working on...

Where dense forest joined water on the outskirts of Forest Blakt, I crouched. I stared unblinking out into the Waterfalls of Lake Neb, focused on any movement among the cascades. Lined with jagged rocks and algae that waggled beneath surging water, the Skyggen prince Azrayh stood motionless under the deluge, his lean and pale body almost luminescent under the glow of the moon. Frightened that any movement could scare away my prince, I watched him carefully, as I had since he’d surfaced when the sun disappeared beneath the horizon some hours ago. I’d been waiting for the young Skyggen to lift his head and take a breath, but Azrayh remained as he had, a drowned water statue.
‘Azrayh,’ I whispered finally, desperate for my lover’s return. Impossibly, he snapped to attention, his amber eyes finding mine in an instant. He dove into the water and surfaced just metres away. I could almost touch him. I edged closer but he stayed just out of reach, his wings slowly undulating the water, gazing vacantly at me. His eyes, once bright and filled with curiosity, were empty and hollow, devoid of the passion he’d once had. I could have sworn there was a faint blue tinge to his skin, he’d never been quite so pale, his scars transformed into translucent purple veins about his flesh.
Stepping into the muddied edges of the lake, viscous darkness engulfed my legs to the ridge of my black boots as I waded further into the water – closer to Azrayh. I reached out to collect him into my arms but he frowned and backed out of reach with a flick of his wings. In the water he was faster. He smiled at me, as if this was a game, lifting a svelte arm and holding it out for me.  I grasped it before he could change his mind. With a strength I had never imagined he dragged me down into the water, laughing as I was doused up to his chest, soaking my clothes through.

I threw my arms around his naked waist for an instant before recoiling so violently I smashed backwards into the surrounding banks of rock. His skin was ice cold, even in the tepid water. The void that embraced me when I held him was endless. Desperate I pressed my hand against his chest. ‘What’s happened to you?’ I withdrew. ‘How long have you been out here?’

‘Swim with me pretty,’ he cooed, ignoring my questions. ‘I will show you sights of this world unknown to the—’

‘Azrayh, do you know who I am?’ He wasn’t there.

He laughed delightedly and for a moment I allowed myself to indulge. That laugh. But it wasn’t him. He wasn’t there. ‘Of course I do… You are beautiful…’ He ran a finger down my cheek. I could see the green tinge of algae collected in his long nails, and he reeked of the depths, of coral and darkest caverns. All familiarity I once knew – gone. ‘I would show you a world that mirrors—’

‘Come with me!’ Angered at the unfairness of life, I hauled my lover from the water. 

Azrayh shrieked as he hit the rocky banks, water running in rivulets down his torn and scarred leathers – last remnants of the proud armour he’d once donned.

I collapsed next to him, my hand on the Skyggen’s chest holding him against his will, with strength and incantation. ‘Your heart is not yet cold,’ I warned. ‘You are not yet of the deep. Please fight it Azrayh. Please.’ The fear of losing my lover was too real.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

She'll kill me when she reads this...

My best friend is an avid gardener. In a few short years she’s turned a once barren backyard into a wonderland for native birds and insects. She is macabre with a penchant for gore and surgery and a love of nature and native propagation. She is androgynous with a shaved head and large green eyes. She has body piercings, scarification, and a pair of gargoyle wings tattooed on her back which she wants extended into a xenomorph tail down her legs. She has the chemical elements for psilocybin mushrooms and DMT tattooed on her neck but tells people who ask that they’re dopamine and serotonin. Other than this half-truth she is incapable of telling lies, shy, somewhat anxious (especially with phone calls), hates conflict, super intelligent, gentle, meticulous. She can’t make decisions and is often sad. She doesn’t like social gatherings, prefers to be alone or with close friends, loves to cook with fresh ingredients from her garden, and abhors clutter. Her home is minimalist – everything in it has purpose. If there is artwork it’s dissected bodies or true-to-life medical illustrations. She’s building an anatomically correct piƱata from skeleton up, to bash away personal demons, for an upcoming birthday. She works in an indigenous plant nursery and has plans to one day own her own business selling native plants, homemade food and handmade wares. She just needs to banish self-doubt to enable her plans to come to fruition. She has lots of acquaintances and few true friends, but those she has know her worth and adore her completely, even though sometimes she doesn’t have the confidence to see it herself. She’s spiritual and believes that this is only one of many lives lived.

Clues to her personality (some truth, some fiction):

1. Can’t lie but hates conflict – so when she tells people her half-truths about her neck tattoos, saying they’re ‘feel good’ elements, she can’t keep eye contact and fiddles with her lip piercings. She doesn’t trust that people will be reasonable with the truth.

2. Shy – She doesn’t like to meet new people. If there’s a stranger in the house she will linger in her bedroom until they go away.

3. Anxious – She will sit at her desk for half an hour staring at her phone in preparation to make a phone call.

4. Intelligent – Her words aren’t casual and every one is thought out and planned ahead. She lives in her head most of the time. She won’t casually respond to a question – her answers take time.

5. Gentle – She holds her budgerigars in her hand while they happily nibble on seed.

6. Meticulous – Everything in her house, bag, and mind, has a perfect place and a perfect order.

7. Sad – Her smiles are rare and take some effort to form.

8. Self-doubting – Compliments from others are often shrugged off, or excuses found to discount them.

9. Doesn’t like making decisions – She often becomes frustrated if she has to make a decision, something like what to order for dinner can have her in tears and without food.

10. Macabre – She rejoices while watching real-life TV shows about surgery.

My friend is meticulous (Latin meticulosus from metus ‘fear’. Is she afraid of what might go wrong if things aren’t so perfect?) In everything she does, she has an extreme attention to detail. She cares about the small things and getting things exactly right every single time and won’t stop until they are perfect. She thinks before she talks and creates structure, order and compliance. She is organised, graceful, hates making mistakes and writes lots and lots of lists. She needs space, quiet and sensitivity. I don’t know why she is like this but it’s helpful to me because she edits my work, organises our trips away, and cooks awesome meals. I think she likes to be in control. She doesn’t thrive on chaos, can barely function in it. When she is in my kitchen she gets frustrated because I don’t have the perfect tool for a certain requirement. I’m a ‘many uses for one thing’ person. Any cup will do for a measurement, if indeed I even measure. She needs precision. She likes to produce things of a high standard and as such she needs to be meticulous.


The child looked upon the needle in wide-eyed horror. Azha trapped his attention in her placid green eyes and only then was she was able to pick up the needle without him flinching away. It was a large needle – far better at closing wounds on a warrior, not a small child who’d fallen from a tree – but it would have to do, it was all she had.

‘Do you have any sister’s Tobin?’ She asked as her fingers deftly threaded the bone needle with a braided silk suture. Quietly she blessed the needle and pointed it east before shifting her attention to the boy. As she worked she hummed a barely audible enchantment that soothed Tobin’s mind and dulled his senses. His anxiety flittered away and Azha was able to stitch the wound closed. Drunkenly the boy blathered of his family and life in general until she had finished.

‘Done,’ she said simply. The boy’s mouth dropped open a little before he dared look at his arm. Where moments ago it had been a red raw gash now nine neat little stitches disguised the wound. His face changed in an instant. Forgotten were the moments of intense distress that had penetrated Azha’s afternoon nap. Forgotten were the streams of blood he’d thought he’d lost and never recover from. Now it was a warrior’s wound, one he’d survived, one none of his friends had… He beamed.

‘Thanks Healer Azha!’ He jumped up, restless to be back with his friends.

She flinched at the title he’d named her, but he was already off with barely a nod. The villagers had dubbed her their healer, and though she didn’t refute it, she disliked the dependence it gave them. They respected her for her knowledge of medicine but were wary of her solitary life and use of magic. Despite the fear, Tobin’s mother was sure to come by later to offer thanks. They were diligent with their thanks and continued to remind her of her worth to them. Azha would conveniently be out picking herbs or collecting water when they came by. A gift basket of dried meats and fresh fruit would be left on her porch as always. Many times the villagers had offered her services or insisted she allow an assistant into her home, but every time, she refused. She enjoyed things as they were, however hard chores were becoming.

Azha rose with a sigh and rinsed her hands and instruments in the stream. Cold water jarred her joints. The cramps were getting worse. How long until she could no longer wield a needle, plant a tree, hold a cup of tea? Banishing the thoughts she unfolded her instrument wrap and replaced the tools carefully into their assigned places to be sterilised later that evening.

She wandered home stopping to admire the seedlings that had sprouted in the recent rains. She discovered a cluster of rare purple herbs and breathed in deep the sedate mint aroma.

Her home was small and offered little in the way of creature comforts, but it offered all she needed. To a casual gaze it was invisible in a copse of fallen trunks and dense bush; spider webs lined the porch protecting her from negative energies.

A large black bird cawed at her from a tree top, its beady yellow eyes judging her for being away so long. ‘Oh shush Worm, it was hardly an hour!’ It cawed again and landed gracefully on her right shoulder, instantly fussing with her scarf to make more room for its oversized body. ‘You need to cut down on grubs.’ She said as it unhooked her scarf and pitched it to the ground. Worm croaked and looked away. Azha smiled and poked the bird playfully.