• Fiona McIntosh: Voyager Author of the Month

    Fiona McIntosh was born and raised in Sussex in the UK, but also spent early childhood years in West Africa. She left a PR career in London to travel and settled in Australia in 1980. She has since roamed the world working for her own travel publishing company, which she runs with her husband. She lives in Adelaide with her husband and twin sons. Her website is at www.fionamcintosh.com.

    Her latest book, The Scrivener's Tale, is a stand-alone and takes us back to the world of Morgravia from her very first series, The Quickening:

    About The Scrivener's Tale:

    In the bookshops and cafes of present-day Paris, ex-psychologist Gabe Figaret is trying to put his shattered life back together. When another doctor, Reynard, asks him to help with a delusional female patient, Gabe is reluctant... until he meets her. At first Gabe thinks the woman, Angelina, is merely terrified of Reynard, but he quickly discovers she is not quite what she seems.

    As his relationship with Angelina deepens, Gabe's life in Paris becomes increasingly unstable. He senses a presence watching and following every move he makes, and yet he finds Angelina increasingly irresistible.

    When Angelina tells Gabe he must kill her and flee to a place she calls Morgravia, he is horrified. But then Angelina shows him that the cathedral he has dreamt about since childhood is real and exists in Morgravia.

    A special 10th Anniversary edition of her first fantasy book, Myrren's Gift, will be released in December!



Fictional (Fantasy) Cities

Power and Majesty

Over at the latest CreatureCourtCast I discuss some of the inspiration (and hard work, and occasional cartographical disasters) that went into building the city of Aufleur for my trilogy.

I also talk a little about my love of cities in fiction. I’m a sucker for a well-realised city, and not just because of that whole thing about not being a fan of forests. Historical cities are brilliant. Colleen McCullough made me fall in love with Ancient Rome, but it was Lindsey Davis and Falco that sealed the deal, long before I started in on classical academia and found some non-fictional reasons to love Rome.

But then there’s London with its many brilliant historical periods. Elizabethan London as seen in Shakespeare in Love! Restoration London in the Fidelis Morgan novels! Victorian London, the only good thing about a Charles Dickens novel (okay, I liked A Christmas Carol, shall we move on). Then to top it all off, the whole city gets ravaged by the Blitz! How’s that for drama? (I loved Connie Willis’ Blackout but the movie Hope and Glory is my first Blitz London Love, followed closely by Mary Wesley’s The Camomile Lawn).

I could go on like this for some time, and indeed I probably will. Because that’s just historical cities. Modern cities are just as awesome in fiction – I’m pretty much certain that’s what the crime genre is for. V.I. Warshawski (and her author, Sara Paretsky) introduced me to Chicago long before E.R. sold me on the place as one of great mystery and myth, and Robert B. Parker’s Spenser sold me on Boston. Right here in Australia, Kerry Greenwood does a brilliant job of conveying Melbourne’s past and present.

And then… aha, you were waiting for it, weren’t you? Science fictional and fantasy cities! Some based on those of our world, with some lushly added magic (Anita Blake’s vampire-ridden St Louis, the London underground of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere), extra cities tucked into the world we know (Metropolis, Gotham City) and then there are the cities of completely fictional worlds…

We all have our favourites, right? Whether from movies, TV, comics or good old fashioned books. I have to admit, of all the beautifully realised science fiction and fantasy cities that I love, I really can’t go past Ankh Morpork. I read the early Discworld novels long before I read Fritz Leiber or Robert Howard or any of the other classics that Pratchett was pastiching (that’s a verb, right?) and fell in love with Ankh Morpork as a real, breathing, rather smelly place full of braintwisting architecture and completely bonkers city planning. Later I came to love and appreciate the Lankhmar that was such an inspiration to the original descriptions of the main city of the Discworld, but there is no denying how far Ankh Morpork has come in its own right, even as Pratchett’s novels have themselves developed far beyond parodies of classic fantasy tropes to become themselves powerful works of fantasy that also happen to be beautifully-crafted comedies.

Ankh Morpork is and remains the only city I would ever buy a map of, even though I am pretty sure I would not want to visit.

So what’s your favourite city from fantasy or science fiction? Would you actually like to visit it, or would you rather admire it from a literary distance?

7 Responses

  1. I can’t think of a favourite city at the moment, but I am rather pleased with one of mine – Eagleholm. It’s a griffiner city, built on a mountaintop. It made sense to me that people who lived with griffins would feel at home living somewhere high up. Luckily for them they had slave labour to help them build it.

  2. I love the sound of the ancient Elderlings/Dragon cities in Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders series – it sounds absolutely magical, to have these gorgeous cities that are created both for dragon-sized creatures and humans, with fountains, and warm spots, and artwork and grace in design … I would like to visit – but only if I hadn’t angered a dragon.
    And I love Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere alternate London but in this case I’d rather not visit lest I end up forced to remain … or fall off a bridge …

  3. I have to cast the ‘classic sci fi/fantasy’ vote, because I always liked the idea of living in one of Anne McCaffery’s Weyrs or Holds. Or anywhere on the Southern Continent. That sense of being ‘closer to nature’, the possibility of having a dragon (big or small!), eating bubbly pies on market/fair days (I have a good recipe for these!)… sure, occassionally you’d have to dodge some thread, but nowhere is perfect!

    • Holly, good choice – I wish I’d gone for that although I always felt that the Pernese were a wee bit behind the times with equal rights … just thinking of the relationship between Lessa and F’lar in Dragonflight. But I do agree wholeheartedly – bubbly pies for all! And it would be cool to be a harper :).

  4. Starhaven from the book Spellwright by Blake Charlton.

    A once Chthonic (Ancient race) city now inhabited by Wizards who haven’t fully uncovered its secrets. Any place with an immense history would have my approval.

  5. Ankh Morpork is pretty fabulous – I love a city that’s a character in its one right.

    I love the stories where you learn more about the city. One of my favourite short stories is Stuart Barrow’s Widdershins from CSFG’s Elsewhere anthology, where the whole Masonic/occult side of the design of Canberra is revealed and played with. I had no idea about that part of my home town’s history and it just made it all the more an interesting place to me.

  6. Charles De Lint’s city of Newford. But more for the people who live there than the city itself, although it sounds as though it has a wonderfully bohemian feel which I love.

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