• 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!



Rocket Science

So you’re into sci fi? But what about sci fact? Sometimes fact is stranger than fiction…

Each month our very own Voyager Science Queen* will bring you interesting, quirky and downright bizarre tasty morsels from the world of science. And its all completely, totally, 100% true!


The Cartwheel Galaxy
(Photo credit: IYA2009, FETTU, NASA/ESA, P. Appleton, JPL-Caltech, J. Uson, NRAO/AUI and Palomar Sky Survey.)

We’ve all heard that saying ‘it’s not hard, it isn’t rocket science’. This infers that rocket science is complex and complicated, and you have to be very bright to understand it. Nineteen year old Aisha Mustafa, a physics student from Egypt’s Sohag University, has come up with a theory for a new type of fuel-less space-propulsion system using an esoteric physics concept … the Casimir Effect. So, Aisha has come up with a type of rocket science even more complex than balancing a rocket on a controlled explosion.The Casimir Effect is based around the string theory in Quantum Physics; that there is really no such thing as a vacuum and every point in space is an oscillating field, flashing through a range of ‘vibrations’ that we understand as ‘space’, ‘time’, and ‘matter’. If you want a more complex explanation that that … you will probably need to start studying for your Ph.D. in Physics. From my own limited understanding, one of the implications of the Casimir Effect it that it supports the concept of the breakdown of the laws of causality – and causality is where one thing causes something else to happen, one event after another in a logical progression. To me, this is the point where Physics is synonymous with Philosophy.

So, how does Aisha’s design work? Aisha uses shaped silicon plates – similar to the ones used in solar-power cells – placed close together but not touching. The Casimir Effect is the repulsion/attraction that the ‘vibrations’ – quantum particles, matter/anti-matter foam or whatever you want to call it – creates between these plates.  In the vacuum of space, this should create a force that would ‘pull’ or ‘push’, creating the basic thrust of propulsion system. This system works in a vacuum because is no particles of matter to interfere with the creation of this force.

Now, think of the benefits of a fuel-less propulsion system. It can run forever without the need for input from another energy source; in fact, the further it gets into the depths of space the better it should run!  How this might dramatically improve humanity’s ambitions for exploration of the universe, with probes or ships that can propel themselves for eternity. If that thought can’t excite, I don’t know what else can.


*The Voyager Science Queen is also known as Lynne Lumsden Green- find out who she is in About Our Contributors!

Winter Be My Shield Launch!

photo by Sari Yong

When the characters of my series Children of the Black Sun first came to me, there was one thing about them that I knew for certain, one thing on which they all seemed to agree: they needed to live somewhere cold. The northern nation of Ricalan where Winter Be My Shield  is set is a land of Siberian cold, dominated by taiga forest where snow can fall even in summer and covers the landscape for half of each year.

Environment shapes the culture of those who live within it — it’s no coincidence that people living in the harshest environments have the strongest traditions of hospitality. The story of Winter be My Shield is tied closely to the culture of the people who live in Ricalan. It’s a society of interdependence, where one person alone has a low chance of survival and where a single misfortune could mean their death. The harsh and unforgiving landscape forces people to work together, rely on each other and find common ground — even when their goals and values put them at odds and drive them to conflict. Ricalan is a place where you have a responsibility to the welfare of the people around you, as they have a responsibility to you; a land where if you find a stranger half-frozen in the snow, you bring her into the warmth of your home, whether it be stone walls or a tent of hide and fur, because tomorrow it could be you stranded, alone and defenceless amid the elements.

When it came time to plan the book launch, I wanted a way to introduce people to the culture and the landscape of the story. In our world, our first exposure to a foreign culture is often through their food and their traditions of hospitality, and so when I wanted to introduce Ricalan to the folk who came to help celebrate the launch of my book, I decided to do it through the foods that would be familiar to the people of Ricalan. Some foods, like ramps, the tender young fronds of fiddlehead ferns, are difficult to find in Australia, but there are many things in our supermarkets that would be known to the people of the Taiga forests. At the launch we had rare roast meat with horseradish on parsnip fritters; goat’s cheese and cured pork with cherry preserves; salmon, that ancient staple of the north, smoked and served on sourdough with cultured cream; and kimchee pancakes, a version of the traditional bannock which northern travellers have eaten for centuries. To follow we had cranberry pies with fresh cream, and panna cotta tartlets sweetened with maple syrup and forest berries.

photo by Sari Yong

photo by Sari Yong

It’s an incredible feeling to walk into my regular bookshop and see Winter Be My Shield on the shelves, when for so long it’s been just a file on my desktop and words running through my head. It was amazing to see so many people come to share this latest step in a long but very rewarding journey; from friends who’ve known me since I first started to write, to folk I only met a few weeks ago. I hope I was able to give my guests a symbolic taste of the north, and that it let them feel a connection to the people and the landscape of Ricalan. It may be a harsh and dangerous land, but there are warm places hidden away from the biting cold. I hope you enjoy seeking them out as much as I have.

UnConventional & the full Sir Julius Vogel Awards Wrap-up

Via Mary Victoria’s own site: http://maryvictoria.net/

Well, now that I’m home and have emerged from under a pile of unanswered email and unwashed laundry (or is it the reverse?) I can finally give you the promised Con report.

This was my first real experience of a New Zealand fantasy and science fiction convention and I must say, it was lovely. The panel discussions were engaging, the company excellent (of course) and the turn-out and interest high. We could barely all fit into the main hall when everyone gathered together. I’m happy to report that NZ fandom is alive, kicking, and often fetchingly dressed in steampunk finery.

I arrived on Saturday after a short delay to my flight, just in time for my first panel, ‘Women in SFF.’ Trudi Canavan, Helen Lowe, Lyn McConchie and I yakked for an hour or so on subjects ranging from how to define strength of character to the vexed issue of chainmail bikinis… I could see some audience members gazing at us quizzically, perhaps asking themselves what we had against chainmail bikinis. I mean, all the vital bits are covered, right?

Saturday evening was about unwinding a little, catching up with friends and a sumptuous Indian dinner! I didn’t make it to the zombie ball but did dodge many of the undead on my way to bed.

     Sunday dawned uncomfortably early (and perhaps may be termed a Dawn of the Dead without inviting too much heckling…) with a 9am panel on the subject of ‘Armageddon as Allegory.’ I took one look at the faces of my fellow panelists gathered in the cafe – Darusha Wehm, Simon Petrie, Beaulah Pragg and Phil Simpson – and thought, “yes, I know exactly how you feel.” But despite our need for sleep and largely due to the valient efforts of Simon as panel chair, we actually came up with a game plan for the discussion! It turned into a fantastic one – I think my favourite panel of the lot. We talked about the different approaches to ‘end of world’ scenarios in fantasy and science fiction, collective responsability vs. the mechanism of a Dark Lord and other interesting subjects.

By two o’clock, it was time to head back to the trenches at a ‘Geography in SFF’ panel with Russell Kirkpatrick, Trudi Canavan, Stephen Minchin and myself debating the merits of fantasy maps. Trudi and Russell both had some slides to show of maps in their own books, as well as some older efforts. The audience seemed passionate on the subject, with most falling in the ‘we love maps’ category but a vocal minority standing up for themselves in the opposite camp. We talked physical geography, geography as an influence on society and finally mental or idea maps… we could have gone on for twice as long, I think.

But all good things come to an end and thereafter it was signing and reading time. I read from ‘Samiha’s Song’ and Alma Alexander’s ‘River’ for a very appreciative audience sitting in leather armchairs. That’s the way to do it.

Sunday evening rolled around and it was time for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards. These were presented with great flair – Kiwis have style! – by the Con organisers, Trudi Canavan and Helen Lowe. Trudi was channeling some great 1940′s Jessica Rabbit style with her cropped jacket and black gloves. As for me, I arrived at the ceremony somewhat flummoxed as I’d just heard my daughter was running a 40 degree fever (she has since recovered, never fear.) I had all the maternal angst and distraction going, therefore, and was totally unprepared when they announced ‘Samiha’s Song’ had won Best Novel…

Well, I’m afraid I lost it. I managed to say something resembling ‘thank you’ when collecting the statue but waterworks were threatening. In order to avoid general embarrassment I hightailed it back to my chair as soon as possible – only to have to come forward again to collect Frank’s award for artwork!

So if I look a little odd in these photos, forgive me. But it was an absolute joy to congratulate my fellow winners. They are, from left to right, below:

Kevin Berry for New Talent, and after Trudi, Lee Murray for Best YA Novel, yours truly for Best Novel (Adult) and Alicia Ponder for Best Short Story. (For some reason Anna Caro wasn’t in this photo with us but I was stoked to see her and Cassie Hart take away the award for Best Collection for ‘Tales For Canterbury’.)

The full list of all winners including fan categories can be found on the SFFANZ website.

So there we are! I’m home now, with a convalescing daughter and two spiky awards. I can’t tell you how happy and proud this makes me… the ‘Chronicles of the Tree’ were a NZ endeavour, very much inspired by the vegetation and landscape in New Zealand, so it’s doubly satisfying for me to strike a chord with Kiwi readers.

As to the artist who won a well-deserved award for his artwork on ‘Oracle’s Fire’ – he was suitably appreciative. I think he found the button to turn the award on, too. He looks evil in this photo – Frank, have you discovered a way to end the world, again?

Via Mary’s own site: http://maryvictoria.net/ Check it Out!

Mary & Frank Victoria win at the Sir Julius Vogel Awards!

On the weekend Mary Victoria’s ‘Samiha’s Song’ took the prize for best novel at the Sir Julius Vogel awards – and the cover for ‘Oracle’s Fire’ by her husband Frank took away best artwork!  Congratulations to you both on your well deserved wins!

Bran the Betrayer Part 15 ( a short story by K.J. Taylor )

Here’s part 15 of the new short story by K.J. Taylor, set in the world of her Fallen Moon Trilogy. Happy Friday reading everyone!

Bran the Betrayer Pt. 15

Bran tucked his sword into his belt, and went to inspect the weapons on offer. There was quite a range – swords of various lengths, spears and axes, clubs, and nets. He soon decided to take a spear – as a guard he had been trained in the short sword and the spear, so with it and his sword he would be armed with the weapons he was best with. After some thought he also took a small axe and put that in the back of his belt just in case he lost his sword and needed something else he could use at close quarters.

His two guards watched in silence for a while, but while he walked back and forth along the racks, considering whether he should take anything else, one of them spoke for the first time.

‘You want my advice, take a net,’ he said. ‘Those griffins move fast. Get a net an’ tangle the bloody thing up in it. That’ll give you a chance.’

Bran eyed him, and then inspected one of the nets that hung from a hook on the wall. It was made of rope, and looked sturdy. He fingered it while he thought. The guard’s suggestion sounded sensible to him. If the griffin managed to pounce on him and knock him down, he’d be finished. Tangling it up with a net would give him a chance.

He nodded and took the net down. He bundled it up and slung it over his shoulder before taking a second net just in case. Best be as prepared as possible.

‘Thanks for the advice, mate,’ he said.

The guard nodded respectfully to him. ‘It’s damned obvious you used t’be a guard. You sure don’t look much like a griffiner!’

Bran grinned. ‘Yeah, I ain’t much of one. I never wanted t’be a griffiner really. A guard’s all I ever was an’ that’s what I still am at heart. Always will be.’

‘Well, good luck out there,’ said the guard.

‘Yeah,’ said his fellow. ‘I reckon yer innocent. This whole trial thing’s a nonsense.’

‘Thanks,’ said Bran. ‘An’ it is.’

‘You’ll do fine,’ said the first guard. ‘Gryphus is on your side, right?’

‘Right,’ Bran nodded, and tried his best to believe it.

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