What’s Owed

Growing up as a budding writer in Perth, filled to the brim with disgusting quantities of ambition, it felt predetermined I would end up in Melbourne.

At age 13 I was awarded first place in the Tim Winton Young Writers Award; Lower Secondary Category and, naturally, felt I had peaked in my career. In Perth, at least. After the award, the only rung left on the local literary ladder was to directly challenge Tim Winton to a duel for dominance as the West Australian writer. And I’m a pacifist at heart.

So, within the space of one especially hot summer I graduated high school, turned 18 and booked a flight to the East Coast.



I have been enriched, time and time again, with what Melbourne has to offer. I think of the panels I have attended, the workshops, the talks, the discussions, the in conversations. I think of the arts criticism residency I conned my way into, that with time… turned me into an art critic. I think of the Hotdesk Fellowship, here at the Wheeler Centre, that I just finished. I think of what a good decision it was to move here, for me, almost every day.

Equally, I remain acutely aware of all that I have missed, still miss, from this city. Acutely aware that I am enjoying only a fraction of all that I want. My muscular dystrophy, mild though it is, necessitates I only do 1 out of every 3 things I really, really, really want to do.

On those days, when a mutation in the TTN gene leaves my body hypotonic, flimsy like a rag doll – I might as well still be in Perth, for how insurmountable leaving the house becomes.

And then, in those hours upon hours of absolute stillness, deathlike limpness, my brain continues ticking – and I wonder whether one day I might still enjoy all that Melbourne has to offer from my bed.

What does the one City of Literature a country has owe to those who are the entire width of a country away? Or those who feel like they’re the width of a country away?

The promise of the internet suggested that digital space could and would be the way to dismantle the barriers facing those made distant from location, class and disability.

But as long as digital space is rendered as a second class experience, a pale documentation, the nominal $20 fee so a publication can claim ‘we pay writers’ – then those whose only access is through the digital space will be second class citizens within Australia’s literary world.

How much effort does a City of Literature owe to its execution of a digital space? How much effort do we, who can sit in this room, owe to those who can’t?



A friend of mine, a writer, a Victorian through and through, recently moved to Perth because she got a job on a show being made there – a long-running show, a new soap opera, one that employed a whole team of writers for more than half a year.

This would have been unthinkable to me as a teenager, that something like this could exist in WA.

I’m grateful that I moved to Melbourne. I’ve learned so much, grown so much, made so many friends and (for now) can finally live off of writing.

But I can’t help wondering – what do I owe to the version of myself that stayed on the West Coast?


This piece was written for the event Our City of Literature – Parliament: Future Melbourne, held at the Wheeler Centre to celebrate 10 years of Melbourne being a designated UNESCO City of Literature.

I’m The Winter Olympics Witch Here To Trap You With My Devilishly Befitting Snow- & Ice-Based Sporting Curses

You might have apologised for accidentally bumping me at the PyeongChang Olympic Village Wine & Cheese Mixer had you known the delightfully apropos punishments I could dole out with my very specific brand of witchcraft.

Or then again, you might not have. The cold fame of Winter Olympic stardom seems to attract only the rudest egomaniacs, and as I awake from my inverse-hibernation every four winters I find myself dreading my inevitable confrontation with a new batch of young upstarts.

It was last Tuesday. I was drinking frosé, which is something that just happens when I try to drink rosé. You backed in to me to peacock for someone’s Instagram Stories update, and your vigorously incorrect performance of the Gangam Style dance for cheap laughs was not only contextually racist but spatially ignorant. You knocked my frose all over me — and didn’t even apologise.

Now I don’t know which country you were representing (although you certainly had the vibe of a Swiss) nor which Winter Olympic sport you compete in. But the moment my hookup comes through with a half-litre of liquid nitrogen I will have all the necessary ingredients for my Basic Contact Info Potion.

But trust me — no matter who you are or what you compete in, I have a devilishly befitting punishment in the barrel, locked and loaded, ready to go.

A figure skater? That’s easy. Next time you’re on the rink and attempt a basic figure eight you’ll find your skates can never deviate from that 8, doomed to repeat that same digit again and again — like a solar-powered monorail — ad infinitum.

40 minutes into this purgatory you’ll realise that an 8 on its side is the symbol for infinity and say Huh, that Maltricia (the Winter Olympics Witch) really is devilishly smart. I should never have crossed her.

Or perhaps you’re a curler. Like sweeping, do ya? Well how about sweeping — ad infinitum — with a broom that only makes the ice dirtier! And the ice is actually the floorboards of your living room. And someone very important – like the King or Queen of whatever country you’re from – is coming over, sure to be horrified at your messy, messy floorboards.

On a four person bobsleigh team? Here’s a new team for you; yourself, someone on Tinder you ghosted, your mum (nude) and me, monologuing about the intelligent irony of the tailored purgatory I’ve crafted. And before you freakin’ ask, yes, it’s gonna be ad infinitum.

Also for this one there’s a frustrating lack of clarity about whether or not I’ve killed the other members of your original bobsleigh team.

I have so many of these, and guess what — they’re all really smart.

Luge, except it’s down the urethra of an ice giant (ad infinitum). Skeleton, except you are literally a skeleton (ad infinitum). Ice hockey, except that for every point you score you have to eat the puck (ad infinitum).

So yeah, bad move buddy. I give you a day, tops, before I track you down and deliver the most intelligently apt vigilante justice you’ve ever seen.

Now excuse me — I have to superimpose a pentagram with really weird proportions over the five rings of the Olympic logo pictured on this coaster to ensure my mana if fully charged to hex you in the smartest way possible.

It was ice meeting you. Haha!

Maltricia xx.

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A micro sci-fi tweet I wrote recently – hopefully the first of many! Check out more from the Story Seed Vault, they have some awesome microSFF

Story Seed Vault

The dystrophy meant Tom needed an exoskeleton to stay mobile. He just didn’t expect it to scratch at his door everyday at 6am for walkies.

Relying on more “lo-fi” exoskeletal supports to stay mobile (i.e. leg braces), Alistair Baldwin’s vested interest in upgrading human mobility has caused him to become obsessed with the stylish Superflex “soft robot” bodysuit from SRI International’s Robotics Division – one of many defense force funded exoskeletons that are being rebranded for disabled people. But how long before these suits become enmeshed with hyperactive AI, and demand walkies at inconvenient times?

//Alistair Baldwin is a screenwriter, arts writer and comedian with a pair of cyborg legs that combat lameness on two levels. Find him on twitter at @BaldwinAlistair.//

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‘Alternative Facts’ Deemed Valid After Peer-Review From ‘Alternative Medicine’ Practitioner

Senior White House aide Kellyanne Conway came under fire recently for using the term ‘alternative facts’ to describe false White House claims that Donald Trump’s inauguration crowd was the biggest in history. Leading expert in ‘alternative medicine’ Alistair Baldwin lends his homeopathic support to the Trump administration.

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When you look at the above images – Trump’s inauguration turnout on the left, Obama’s on the right – you might be mistaken into thinking Obama had the better turn out…

But what if I told you that diluting Obama’s big crowd into a much smaller crowd actually boosted the Trump crowd’s therapeutic, homeopathic potency.

And that when Donald’s spokesman Sean Spicer referred to Trump’s inauguration turnout as “the biggest in history” he meant ‘biggest’ in the homeopathic meaning of the word, i.e. 100% interchangeable with ‘smallest’.

And that when Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway defended Spicer’s claims as giving the “alternative facts”, she was in fact opting into the very lucrative tradition of removing any burden of ‘proof’ or ‘legitimacy’ placed on her by liberal use of the word ‘alternative’.

Readers, it’s come to my attention that alternative facts – the very foundation of the alternative scientific method I hold dear – are under attack. As Australia’s foremost homeopath & alternative medicine expert, I’m here to set the record straight on homeopathy in the age of Trump.

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Homeopathy refers to a system of alternative medicine “in which ailments are treated by minute doses of natural substances that in larger amounts would produce symptoms of the ailment”. In this case, Obama’s large crowd produced symptoms of inferiority in Trump, so he treated this inferiority by having a miniscule version of Obama’s crowd at his inauguration. Genius.

How do I know all this? I’ve been moonlighting as a homeopath for the past 6 years (moonlighting is a play on words here because I get most of my power from the moon, also I don’t declare any income for tax).

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Me (pictured) absorbing moonbeams

And unlike some forms of alternative medicine, like Chinese herbal medicine – whose inclusion under an ‘alternative’ umbrella is largely due to medical Eurocentrism despite Nobel Prize winning research otherwise validating centuries of empirical data – homeopathy has the advantage of being completely without scientific weight cross-culturally. Build bridges, not walls, guys.

Instead, homeopathy runs purely on the power of belief, and if I’ve learned anything from skimming through a WikiHow article on the placebo effect and reading Tinkerbell’s memoir Finding Your Voice: Tales From Neverland, it’s that believing in something basically makes it true.

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I do believe in fairies! I do, I do!

Never mind that actual medicine also benefits from the placebo effect, in addition to the positive physiological effect it will have whether you believe in it or not. Overkill much, science nerds?

Trump knows all this because he’s heir to a great tradition of homeopathy. The Trump name is an anglicization of Drumpf, a German surname – meaning Donald is likely a direct descendent of German scientist Samuel Hahnemann (1755 – 1843, RIP), founder of homeopathy.

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What a hot guy (no homeo)

Or maybe Donald’s not a direct descendent and is instead Hahnemann’s cousin’s postman’s girlfriend’s sister’s great-great-great-grandnephew. But given blood is 55% plasma, and plasma is 92% water, and water has memory… they’re basically father and son when you think about it.  

I for one am very glad that Trump is getting in touch with his German pseudoscience roots – because harmful German ideology using a “scientific” framework to lend itself rhetorical legitimacy has never resulted in something bad happening. Never. Not once.

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Social Darwinism by Alistair Baldwin, mixed media (stolen Darwin pic + Clip Art party hat)

That being said, sources tell me homeopathy wasn’t Trump’s first foray into alternative sciences. Tobias ‘Sweaty Palms’ Johnson, a palm-reader based in Washington DC, tells me that Trump approached him for a reading in the leadup to the election.

Johnson unfortunately had to turn away the reality TV superstar, stating that “his hands were so small […] and my eyesight ain’t what it used to be”.

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“I literally do have a genetic disorder which means I have abnormally small hands so this line of humor is 100% above board” – Alistair Baldwin, on reclaiming small-hand humor.

It should be pretty apparent now, after explaining how homeopathy works, that terms like ‘alternative facts’, ‘post-truth’ and ‘fake news’ aren’t a vernacular litmus test signalling some larger culture of misinformation in the new US government, causing mistrust and anxiety to spread through the nation like a cancer.

If you are concerned about actual cancer, however, please refer to this recipe for Pete Evans’ bone broth to build your immunity.

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