When the title doesn’t match the content – a cautionary writing tale

Over the years I’ve signed an awful lot of publishing contracts. And every one of them has had a clause which reads much the same way. The publisher has full control not just of the appearance of the book but also its title. It’s done for good reason. An author might well call their book … More When the title doesn’t match the content – a cautionary writing tale

Why super-powers should be all or nothing in sci-fi

I have never completely understood the latest sci-fi fixation with ‘super powers’, where the main protagonist is just some ordinary person who just happens to be able to go invisible, or read minds, or teleport (but not all three). Inevitably this singular ability then becomes the ‘gimmick’ on which plots are hung. To which I … More Why super-powers should be all or nothing in sci-fi

The silliness of Star Wars’ single-climate planets

Single climate worlds are all through the Star Wars universe – worlds that, inexplicably, have a single ecosystem – ice, desert or forest, usually. Yet they’re all habitable by humans. I can see where the idea comes from. Here on Earth we often travel from one climate to another. Islands, particularly, often have a single … More The silliness of Star Wars’ single-climate planets

In which Elvis chats with me about ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

I ran into Elvis in a spaghetti restaurant the other day He lives on Mars, disguised as a walrus – something that tells me he probably isn’t the real Elvis. But he talks sense, and he’d just seen the new Star Wars movie. As had I. Elvis was devouring a plate of bolognaise when I … More In which Elvis chats with me about ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

Essential writing skills: the art of the book review

The other week the New Zealand Listener published my review of Christopher Pugsley’s new book on the Second New Zealand Division, Bloody Road Home. I hadn’t written for the Listener for a while, so it took me a moment to slip into ‘book reviewer’ groove. And there is one. Reviews of this sort – professional … More Essential writing skills: the art of the book review