Geoff O'Brien

The active-minded author

Siren Plays Zeperno FAQ

To begin with, I'd like to show a reminder of my trouser-talk in SPZ's postface:

This has been a work of fiction. Aspects of deaf or hard-of-hearing people and their respective cultures; aspects of Australian Indigenous tribes, people, and their respective cultures; and aspects of online gaming and esports may all have been represented incorrectly. Locales may have been shown or referenced incorrectly.
I try to be respectful, in part by trying to be factual. Unfortunately, certain facts can detract from an intended narrative or it’s delivery. In other words, make story awesome first, make facts adhere second.

Also, please keep in mind that the author is a physically normal, straight, white non-'gamer' male–who, perhaps, tried to write a little too much of ‘the other’.

I tried as much as reasonably possible to show certain concepts in a fair, realistic way. If I got anything really, really wrong, I will try to change/update relevant story details as soon as reasonably possible, assuming it doesn’t significantly affect it’s theme or plot. Note that to change anything in any print versions of the novel(eg, paperback) costs me $25 for every time I upload a revised manuscript, so please adjust your expectations accordingly.

Jump to topic:

What is Thelsea signing on the cover?
Deaf people and music
Why doesn't Thelsea get cochlear implants?
Counterstrike Gambling Scandal
What is Zeperno?

What is Thelsea signing on the cover?

The Auslan sign for growth.


I have greatly exaggerated Thelsea’s ability in this regard, to make the novel more readable. Lipreading is possible, though it is imperfect. Visual issues are prominent, such as the level of light, how the speaker frames their speech–speed, mumbling and accents–and certain words ‘reading’ the same as others. Certain elements, such as the context of the conversation and how well known the speaker is, can offset these issues a little. For a deaf person, reading someone can apparently be a much more cognitively intensive–and therefore exhausting–process than normal people might realise.

In SPZ, I tried to indicate some of these problems, and thereby strike a balance between realism and readability, though leaning towards the latter.

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Deaf people and music

In short: as best as I understand(though I possibly don’t), they experience it a little differently through a heightened sense of feel, and may enjoy it thanks to their brains rewiring themselves.

Long answer: I’ll avoid spoilers. The mini-scene with Thelsea perceiving music was something I put off writing for a long time. Given how the rest of the scene unfolds, I thought it best for the others to be playing/listening to loud music. Then, the first thing that popped into my mind was: how would Thelsea(ie, a deaf person) perceive and conceive of music? It was reasonable to assume that, arriving at this point in the novel, readers would be curious as well. Therefore, I felt obligated to touch on this idea, to give readers something to wonder about, and hopefully pursue themselves.

Unfortunately, I found it difficult to conceptualise the issues relating to deaf people and music. Perhaps I didn’t spend enough time reading and thinking about it. Perhaps this is something I should actually ask deaf people about.

My two major takeaways were (a) deaf people perceive–and can enjoy–music mostly through feel, apparently with more nuance than normal people, because, in part, of their other senses being more sensitive; (b) this is probably due, at least in part, to how a deaf person’s brain ‘rewires’ itself to compensate for lack of hearing.

While a fascinating concept in it’s own right, Thelsea’s reaction to music was peripheral for me, a fair way outside of anything I wanted to explore in depth within the novel. Therefore, I probably didn’t give it the attention that it deserves, ignoring it during the first draft, and not even drafting a scene for it until late into my first edit. At that point, I decided to deal with it by having Thelsea dismissive and uninterested, then transitioning into a bit of description. I hope that sufficed(esthetically).

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Cochlear Implants

Why doesn’t Thelsea get or want them? Short answer: because that would distract and detract from the story. Unfortunately, this concept within the story may lead to readers misinterpreting my position in reality on cochlear implants.

Long answer: If Thelsea or her parents were to choose for her to receive cochlear implants, this would not only undermine many plot and theme elements of the story, it would also distract. SPZ is meant to be less about ‘fixing’ disabilities (though that can be rational) and more about not letting them, or any other perceived inadequacies, hold one back in the endeavour of striving to become the best version of oneself that one can be.

As cochlear implants appear to be such a prominent concept within the Deaf community, I thought that no mention of them at all would be a glaring omission. So I tried to ‘tie off’ the unimportant(for the novel) plot thread of cochlear implants by saying that Thelsea and her parents decided against them, giving reasons and explanations as reasonable and simple as I thought I could get away with.

Prior to reading the above, it’s reasonable for any reader to assume that my own position on cochlear implants is therefore negative. This isn’t the case, and I do regret any unintended misleading on my part. I don’t wish to jump into the cochlear implant debate with both feet, because that’s not very practical for anyone. Given the above though, I think I owe readers at least an indication of my thoughts on this subject.

Basically, I think cochlear implants–the concept of restoring the ability to hear–are a good thing. In Rex’s position, for example, I would argue for Thelsea to undergo surgery for them as soon as reasonably possible. As I mentioned, this is an indication of my thoughts. Any particular situation of this sort is too complex to be decided in a few seconds, and I don’t have the time–or think I need–to discuss the issue further.

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Counterstrike Gambling Scandal

The factual story for that is here. Anything I mention in the novel regarding this is a total fabrication, used for fictional purposes.

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What is Zeperno?

Short answer: A fictional card-collectible game(CCG) creation to use as a stand in for any real CCG.

Long answer: Zeperno is based on the greek word xepernó, which apparently means to transcend, surpass, outgrow, get over, etc. It is influenced by real CCGs, Hearthstone in particular. To begin with, my characters were playing Hearthstone.

To cut a long story short, a Blizzard software web page dissuaded me of this. Yes, I had been rather naive in this regard. Basically, Blizzard seem to be pretty good with people using any of their IP for fan-based or personal projects, but actually trying to make money using their IP is a no-no. Fair enough.

This presented a mini-crisis for me, as I’d already drafted an entire novel around Hearthstone. What would I do now? Have Thelsea play something like a first-person shooter instead? Or doing something else altogether? Give up on the novel?

I soon realised this setback was an opportunity in disguise. What if I decided to create my own CCG to be played in the novel? Something which could hopefully be absorbing to read about in it’s own right? Something to further reinforce some of the novel’s ideas? Thus, Zeperno came to be.

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Haven't seen what you were thinking about? Ask me.


Existence front cover


Existence exists.

Newly awakened young woman Zhéxué thinks she knows many things, from the Vatican to virtual reality, yet she doesn’t know anything about herself. Who is she? How was she created? Why is she at the centre of everyone’s schemes?

Rushed along in an unwitting tour–actual and virtual–of parts of post-cataclysmic Earth, constantly pushed around for days at a time by her so-called allies as much as her enemies, Zhéxué is barely able to stop and think. At last, she uncovers vital information about her nature, and of existence. These discoveries inform a desperate plan to save a friend she once thought lost.

Yet if Zhéxué cannot conceive the first axiom, the most fundamental truth, she and her friend will be killed… or worse.

Book one of the Philosophy of Life series.

Amazon ebook and paperback.
Everywhere else: ebook.
Blurb and sample(on this website).

Ambition (working title for Win-Win For The Win novel two).

Drafts:  28%
Content edits:  0%
Copy edits and proofreads:  0%
Miscellaneous:  0%

Better Together front cover

Better Together

A twelve year old girl with type 1 diabetes wants to play sport, but she has problems. Her diabetic routine must change. She’s horribly unfit. Her mother forbids it. Most of her team don’t care or dislike her. Winning the odd game would be nice.
And it's for one of the world's toughest sports: rugby league.

First book in the Win-Win For the Win series.

Amazon: ebook and paperback.
Everywhere else: ebook (universal book locator).
Blurb and sample (on this website).

Siren Plays Zeperno front cover

Siren Plays Zeperno

A deaf teenage girl and her mostly hard of hearing friends learn to play an online digital card-collectible game with a pro-disability esthetic called Zeperno. Despite trolls and well-meaning parents, they soon hone their skills enough to compete in esports.

Standalone novel.

Amazon: print and ebook.
Everywhere else: ebook (universal book locator).
Blurb and sample (on this website).

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