Thursday, 16 June 2016


Author: Belinda Crawford

Belinda is an Australian sci-fi author, who lives in rural Victoria.  Her debut novel, Hero, is a fast paced, YA adventure set on a unique world with feisty young heroine and really cool genetically engineered companion animals. (Yes, I really liked it :-)  ) 

Tell us a little about yourself

I’m nuts about horses, live with four cats and have far too few books to read (just over 250, not counting the ebooks) for my peace of mind. My favourite t-shirt features a picture of Yoda wearing sunglass and headphones at a rave; I really, really hate baby pink and if there is leftover pizza anywhere in my vicinity I will hunt it down and devour it, one delicious layer of topping at a time.

Did you always want to be a writer? If no, what made you decide to become a writer?

No. I wanted to be a zoologist, a vet, a mounted policewoman and (during my Top Gun phase) an airforce pilot, but never a writer. Even when I started writing as a hobby, I never thought of myself as a writer, and it certainly never occurred to me to do something as crazy as write a book.

One of my aunts had been telling me for years that I should write a book, but it wasn’t until I decided that hated my then job (and mum convinced me to go back to university) that I decided to give it a go.

What did you read as a child? / What writers do you believe have influenced your style? (could be TV/ Film too)

As a kid, I read a lot of fantasy; Tamora Pierce, Raymond Feist and Anne McCaffery featured heavily in my reading. They influenced the kind of stories I like, but whenever I think about the authors that influenced the way I write, my mind goes first to David Weber, in particular Path of the Fury.

Weber writes military sci-fi/space opera, heavy on the action with strong female protagonists whom he loves to put through the grinder but always come out on top. I singled out Path of the Fury because it begins with an incredible action sequence that’s tense, sad and horrible but impossible to stop reading. That’s how I strive to write (although not always with the sad and the horrible). 

Tell us briefly about Hero
Hero is a science fiction adventure set far into the future on an alien planet. Humans colonised the planet long ago, only to discover that a native spore was killing them, so they built giant cities that floated above its reach. 

The story is about a girl called Hero who wants, more than anything, to escape her parents’ overly protective bubble. Her only friend is Fink, a 600kg genetically engineered ruc-pard (a little bit of rat, mixed with a little bit of leopard and a whole lot of alien), who’s her confidant, protector and ice-cream-eating buddy.

When Hero finally has a taste of the freedom she craves, she discovers she’s part of centuries-old plan, set in motion by the first colonists, to change the world.

Where did the idea for Hero originate?

A cartoon called Dragon Booster. Dragon Booster was a sci-fi cartoon about a bunch of kids and their faithful dragon companions who, in between saving the world from a dragon-human war, competed in street races. I was only a few episodes in before something about the show stuck in my mind, which was when I knew that I had to turn it into a book.

It took a while to figure out what it was about the cartoon that appealed to me the most, and then more time to make the idea mine, instead of a carbon copy of the TV series. In the end, I think I’ve succeeded.

When can we expect a sequel? 

You can expect it this September! The second book takes a darker turn from the first, throwing Hero into some troubling situations that she can’t hack or sneak her way out of. There’ll be some new faces, some old faces, a (large) spot of trouble with Fink, explosions, hover chases and roaches. Lots of roaches. We’ll also dig deeper into Ayumon’s final prediction about Cumulous City falling out of the sky and uncover some long-held secrets regarding Hero and those like her.

How many books will there be in the series?

The Hero Rebellion is a trilogy, so you can expect another two books after Hero, and after that there’ll be another series that will take the world of Hero into space. It’s set a two hundred years after The Hero Rebellion and features different characters, but you can expect the same action and snappy protagonist although this time with a generous helping of spaceships and aliens. 

Is sci-fi your preferred genre? Why?

I’ve never really thought about it, but now that you ask, I guess it is. I think, once you get beyond the dystopias that seem to dominate near-future fiction, sci-fi is inherently optimistic. The human species has managed to avoid annihilating itself and found its way into the stars, where anything is once again possible because there is so much space for it to be possible.

It’s a nice change of pace from the doom and gloom on the nightly news.

What do you think is the most important bit of advice you can offer new authors or those aspiring to be authors.

Believe in yourself and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.

Ever since I can remember, my stepmother has told me 'you can do anything you want to do’. It took 25 years for those words to sink in, but by the time I decided I wanted to be a full-time author, I believed them, which made it easier to take the very scary step of quitting my day job to write books. 

There were a lot of raised eyebrows when I told people what I wanted to do for a living, and if I hadn’t believed in myself, then I’d still be working at job I disliked so much, I’d burst into tears on the way to work. 

So, just in case you need a push, here is me telling you, that you can do anything you want to do.

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Friday, 3 June 2016

Film Review

Alice Through the Looking Glass


Starring: Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska, Rhys Ifans, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall.
Director: James Bobin
Producer: Tim Burton, Joe Roth, Suzanne Todd and Jennifer Todd
Screenwriter: Linda Woolverton
Run Time: 113 min

Review by Hannah M. King 


Following the call from an old friend, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) steps through a mirror and finds herself back in Underland with the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Her friends soon inform her that the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is depressed over the death of his family. Hoping to save his family and restore his sanity, Alice steals from Time (Cohen) and travels back into the past. While there, she witnesses a manner of secrets and events that could change everything.

What I enjoyed most about this film is Alice’s consistent and unwavering independence. From the very beginning, she stands her ground against those who doubt her, belittle her and believe her incapable of doing more with her life. In my book, her acts of defiance and bravery earn her place among the likes of Elsa, Anna, Merida, Mulan, Rapunzel and Tiana, all Disney Princesses who have proven themselves strong and capable without the aid of men, and who are defining and inspiring the next generation of women. She is surely a character young girls nowadays need to look up to.

Her acts of defiance also offer comic relief. One scene that sticks in my mind is when Alice and her mother arrive at the Ascot mansion. Alice is wearing a rather outrageous, rainbow-coloured dress; made for the likes of China, and not for the uptight English society. Her mother is clearly embarrassed by her choice and asks despairingly, “Must you always been so headstrong?” Alice is unfazed by this and simply replies: “No. It’s just more fun that way.” Well, you have to applaud the girl for her wit and honesty. Well said.

Another aspect of this film I enjoyed was the idea and wisdom of Time, who was portrayed by the somewhat charismatic, but awkward Sacha Baron Cohen. His wisdom about time is both insightful and thought-provoking. Cohan provides wit and comic relief, however I fail to see his importance to the film. All he was doing was chasing after Alice and making matters worse for himself! The same goes for the Red and White Queen. Granted, it was interesting to see their origins, to see how the Red Queen’s head doubled in size, but again I failed to see their importance.

Alice through the Looking Glass clearly follows Alice’s attempt to restore Hatter’s sanity and reunite him with his family. If that’s the case, why did we need background to the Queens’ feud? Was it really needed, or was it just a storyline to fill the time?

I regret to say Johnny Depp’s reprisal of the Mad Hatter was weak and somewhat devastating. His voice was impossible high and for much of the film, he acted like a lost, moody, moany puppy. He played the Hatter so well in the first film. He was funny, impressable, and he had a dark side to him that only a Tim Burton film could get away with. I am honestly disappointed by his portrayal.

As always, the set design and CGI of the film was impeccable. I can’t fault the careful art and design of our favourite Underlanders - the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, the White Rabbit and even Time’s minions – as well as the villages, Time’s epic castle and the Red Queen’s heart-shaped castle made of roots and bugs. One scene I found truly astonishing was the deterioration of time throughout Wonderland. As Alice, Hatter and the White Queen race to restore the Chronosphere, they are chased by, what can only be described as a living, breathing entity made of rust. It is Time itself, collapsing around them. The way it was animated and created was so well done and realistic. The finale definitely redeemed the film. 

I was delighted to see Disney’s dedication to the late Alan Rickman. He reprised his role as Absolem, the erudite blue caterpillar-turned-butterfly who brings Alice back to Wonderland. His time in the film was brief, but it will forever immortalise him. He was a great and irreplaceable talent. He deserves it.