• 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!

     

     

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I only ever wanted to be a Nordern Herd rider called Troy

(An excerpt from Kim Westwood’s Guest of Honour speech at Conflux, October 2011)
One of my all-time favourite books is a novel by André Norton called Catseye, in which Troy was the main character. The dog-eared copy I read when a kid, and still have in my bookshelf, mentions in the publisher’s foreword that the novel will appeal to boys. The publisher’s assumption was, of course, that we readers are drawn to stories containing primary protagonists whose gender matches ours, that identification eclipsing other reasons for reading the story. This seems a good starting point for today, as Catseye appealed mightily to me, and, I suspect, a whole generation of girls who were bored shitless by Anne of Green Gables and The Famous Five, and who were practised at putting themselves in the shoes of more adventurous characters, regardless of gender—or genre.

A good story is both escape from the world and vicarious engagement with it. Sometimes it’s comfort food; other times it’s the trepidation and visceral thrill of the roller coaster without the fear of throwing up—which makes it the perfect place to explore all kinds of anxieties. Fictional characters in difficult situations allow readers to litmus test their own mettle, and ask: What if this were me? It’s comfort and discomfiture, excitement and safe haven, combined. I read Catseye and other books like it (for instance, Le Guin’s Earthsea Quartet) because they explored agency—and the struggle for it—on a grander, scarier scale than those stories set on the domestic front, so much more at stake than the petty traumas of schoolyard slights and missed teatimes. For me, parlour tales held no interest; I wanted to walk in Troy Horan’s shoes.

Which brings me, many years later, to The Courier’s New Bicycle.
In August 2008 my first novel, The Daughters of Moab, had been published, and I was starting on my next, when someone burst forth in my imagination who wouldn’t be denied. So I put aside what I thought was going to be my second novel and began to write a completely different one.

The story is set in the alleyways of inner Melbourne just around the socio-political corner from now. Melbourne is a city in recession, with rolling power outages, fuel rationing and curfews. A flu pandemic has been and gone, and the vaccine dispensed Australia-wide has caused en masse infertility. A population in crisis—emotionally, financially—creates the conditions for radical political change; in this case, the coming to power of the Nation First party, bankrolled by an evangelical group (think Hillsong without the song) called Saviour Nation.

 Here I want to mention that Melbourne—the physical Melbourne—was a major inspiration for me. As far as Australian cities go, no other would have done. The story was born in those atmospheric inner-city alleyways, and every time I go back, I feel the possibility of the story all over again. That specificity of site means most of the places in the novel are findable, albeit a tad altered. Inspiration came from the people there too; for instance, the bike couriers who tempt fate every day with the traffic and pedestrians. These elements ground an imagined near future in the real and immediate. As for the premise of ordinary life utterly changed by a major event—in this case a pandemic—it’s a scenario that’s just one small step away from now.

 Anyway, imagine that the previous government’s measures put in place to try to solve the fertility crisis—research facilities and hormone replacement therapy, surrogacy organisations and expanded immigration parameters—are all now banned, and petitioning God for reprieve through prayer is the only allowable substitute.

 Generally, things that are banned don’t stop existing; they go underground. Prohibition invites all kinds of bootleg possibilities to flourish—including the cruel kind. In this milieu, it’s not only the once-legal hormone companies now producing and selling their wares on the black market to a desperate population, but also the barbarously run hormone farms, in league with the abattoirs and harvesting their produce from live and dead animals.

 Imagine also that in this environment of fear and conservatism—this battening down of the hatches and closing of borders, reducing the community’s connection to the rest of the world—there are new measures put in place on the domestic front ‘for our own good’; measures that restrict personal freedom and impinge on civil liberties. Loss of fertility challenges a certain raison d’être—the perpetuation of the species—and in such challenging circumstances, a communally shared fear can slide easily into blame. Government sanctioned, this can make for scapegoating. In The Courier’s New Bicycle, those intent on shoring up the ‘proofs’ of their sexed and gendered selves by over-asserting their maleness or femaleness, their masculinity or femininity, viciously target those who, by appearance or behaviour or both, don’t fit the required non-intersecting binaries.

 Enter Salisbury Forth: bike courier, gender transgressive and accidental sleuth.

 Salisbury is the novel’s storyteller. That The Courier’s New Bicycle is told solely from the primary protagonist’s point of view means there are no pesky pronouns apart from ‘I’ and ‘me’ and ‘my’ to bother me, the author—which suits Salisbury, my primary protagonist, just fine. Salisbury’s identity sits right in the grey area between those entrenched binaries of sex and gender, the androgynous land where there are no adequate pronouns but a multitude of names, both retrograde and reclaimed. She calls himself a gender transgressive—a twist on the insulting label of ‘transgressor’ that the powerful conservative elements in the novel have coined for anyone seen to be outside the gender box. Sometimes he calls herself a genderbender (but only in like company). As far as biology goes, that’s a private matter, and that’s how it’s going to stay. In Salisbury’s words: “My biology is nobody’s business but my own.” Some readers aren’t going to like this. They’ll see it as wilful ambiguity on my, the author’s, part, and they’re going to want to know what Salisbury really is: girl or boy? They’re going to want to know what’s under the clothing. I, the author, am going to disappoint them. There is no big reveal, no tying of gender identity—or anything else for that matter—to some biological ‘proof’. Salisbury’s androgyny is not a disease, disorder or psychosis, and nor is it a way station on the road to somewhere else. As Del LaGrace Volcano, the gender abolitionist says: “I’m not going from A to B or B to A. I’m just going.”

Personally, I’ve long had an ambivalence to binaries of any kind. Which brings me to Venn diagrams—and genre labelling.

Unlike fractions (those sharp-edged and unyielding divisions that caused me no end of pain), the circles that I learnt about in primary school geometry class, their intersections alluringly shaded, hinted at a world with grey areas, ambiguities. These days I wonder if my fascination for Venn diagrams was because I knew from quite young that I was attracted to girls as well as boys, desire floating in an as yet unnamed place, and those grey areas speaking to me of the possibilities that might live inside me and at the interstices of things. This might explain, in part, the gravitational pull cross-genre writing—intergenre writing, as I prefer to call it—has always had on me, and one reason why I’m drawn to outsider characters who live at the borders of things and in-between places in other peoples’ books, and tend to create them in my own.

 Writing, I never think of genre; I just relay the story that’s demanding to be told. The danger for fiction that crosses genre lines is that it runs the risk of not being judged on its own terms but according to the label it comes with, preconceptions firmly attached. I coined the term ‘poetic apocalyptic’ for The Daughters of Moab in an effort to flag to readers something of the style and substance of its interior: a poetic sensibility and literary bent. The Courier’s New Bicycle I call a genre amalgam, because it engages with the conventions of a number of genres rather than confining itself to any one. I also call it a fast ride, being twenty adrenaline-fuelled days in the unconventional life of Salisbury Forth.

 I’m happy to say that the reviewer in Australian Bookseller+Publisher described the novel as ‘a disturbingly credible and darkly noir post-cyberpunk tale’. This quote-worthy phrase opens up the field of interest: the ‘noir’ a nod to crime fiction, the ‘cyberpunk’ to SF, and the ‘credible’ to current societal aptness. Hopefully, any or all of these elements will spur a variety of readers into wanting to know more about a bike courier and accidental sleuth who has a mystery to solve in the alleyways of a dystopian near-future Melbourne.

Read More: The Courier’s New Bicycle, The Daughters of Moab

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Voyager and Swancon – a happy combination

Voyager authors, family and friends gathered at Chez Pierre for wine, food and great company

This time last week, I was in Perth, preparing for the start of Swancon 36, the 50th National Science Fiction Convention. At that point, it was just a blur of potential, a string of days that could either be great or not.

Now, it’s over and I’m happy to report that the word ‘great’ doesn’t even begin to describe Swancon. It was a particularly great con for Voyager – A.A. Bell’s Diamond Eyes took out the Norma K Hemming award and Tansy Rayner RobertsPower and Majesty won the Ditmar Award for Best Novel.

On Saturday afternoon, Tansy, Glenda Larke and I sat with HarperCollins WA rep Theresa Anns on a panel entitled ‘Meet the Voyager authors’. After giggling over Theresa’s question of how Voyager queen Stephanie Smith hogtied us to get our novels (if you’ve ever met Stephanie you’ll know how ridiculous an image that is – although I’m still having issues with the rope burns…) we discussed the journey to becoming part of the Voyager clan and how we’ve been enjoying it.

Someone (I think it might have been Theresa) asked if being a Voyager author meant being part of a community. At first, we answered no – the three of us had known each other before Voyager took our books and our friendships extended beyond.

Jonathan Strahan obviously enjoying himself

But as we kept talking, we realised that in fact, there was a community of authors out there. There are folks that we’ve only met the once or twice but feel we know through the internet, such as Mary Victoria or Kim Falconer. Then there’s the people we get to meet just through being with Voyager, such as Duncan Lay and Bevan McGuiness. Then there’s the authors that aren’t published with Voyager Australia any more but are still part of the clan at these events – Simon Brown, Sean Williams, Trudi Canavan.

All this became clear later on Saturday when we Voyager mob (with a few ring-ins) went out for dinner. It’s something that happens often at conventions – a chance for us all to sit and chat and you know what – there is definitely a family feel to these things. We catch up, we laugh, we joke, we have fun.

Tansy Rayner Roberts, bookseller Robin Pen and myself ordered the snails - how could you not? Tansy loved them.

My snails, before they were devoured. Delicious, my friends. The venison was good too.

And that’s just the authors – I know that there’s a network of readers out there as well. I wasn’t part of the famous Purple Zone – the forums that used to run on the Voyager website – but I know a lot of those folks are still in touch and at Worldcon, there was a Purple Zone dinner. And this blog is now the heart of the Voyager community in Australia and it’s great to be able to share news and ideas and find out what is going on in each other’s lives.

Later this year is another convention that will prove to be a highlight for Voyager. At Conflux (Sep 28-Oct 1, Canberra) Voyager web-mistress and HarperCollins digital editor Natalie Costa Bir is going to be a guest. I’m looking forward to another opportunity to connect with the Voyager family (authors, editors and readers) and continue to celebrate the fabulous work that Voyager is publishing.

Nicole Murphy lives in Canberra with her husband Tim. She is the author of the Dreams of Asarlai trilogy, which starts with Secret Ones and is wonderfully active at Conflux and other conventions.

Update on Conflux from K J Taylor

Katie’s written an update on her time at Conflux with some photos of the Voyager dinner with Stephanie Smith, Jack Dann and Duncan Lay. Check it out at her blog:

http://community.livejournal.com/griffins_eyrie/60805.html

(and we’re happy to hear the edit for book three is done!)

Tune in tomorrow for an update on Conflux by Tracey O’Hara.

Voyager authors at Conflux

So, here is where you can find Voyager authors – and the panel with Stephanie Smith, our Associate Publisher (and Head of the Kingdom) at Conflux in Canberra over the weekend:

Friday:
12:30pm – Workshop with Jack Dann – Keys to the Kingdom

Saturday:
10am – Panel Vampires: Keri Arthur, Tracey O’Hara, Jane Virgo (chair)
3:30pm – Panel Authors and Editors – Jim Minz, Stephanie Smith, Richard Harland, Robert Hood
5:30pm – Author in Residence: Duncan Lay

Sunday
9am – Kaffeeklatsch with Duncan Lay
11am – Panel – The Secrets of Writing Humour – Richard Harland(c), Duncan Lay, Val Toh
12:30pm Panel – Fantasy Literature Panel – Sabrina de Souza, Duncan Lay, KJ Taylor, Jenny Blackford(c)
1:30pm – Panel -Where to From Here? After The First Novel Richard Harland, KJ Taylor, Others TBA
3:30pm – Panel – Writing 101 (or “The Things I Wish Some Had Told Me When I Was Starting Out”)
Keri Arthur, Jim Minz, Nicole Murphy (c), KJ Taylor
6pm – Literary Beer with Jack Dann

Monday
12:30pm – Panel – Beating Writers Block – Jack Dann, Richard Harland, Karen Herkes
… simultaneous with …
Panel – Twitteratii – Alan Baxter, Rachel Kerr(c), Nicole Murphy
2pm – Panel Fictional History – Jack Dann, Richard Harland, Dave Luckett(c), Gillian Polack

Full program can be found here.

Conflux 6

Reminder! Conflux 6 is on from this Friday to Monday in Canberra – a spectacular long weekend of good sf/f panels, writing workshops and other events, including a mass signing – so if you haven’t yet planned out your October long weekend, there’s your time sorted.

http://conflux.org.au/index.shtml

Special guests this year include Emily Rodda, James Minz and Mark McBride plus a multitude of writers, dealers and fans (or combinations of all three).

Voyager Associate Publisher Stephanie Smith will also be in attendance and if the weekend is anything like last year then it will be good fun and an opportunity to corner authors ad hoc and make them sign your books!

Still on the undead path …

Why don’t we have an Aussie version of this?

http://zombiepubcrawl.com/_2008/

Who’s game to start it?

They even have make up tips. And it would be a matter of one phone call to get the camels.

Thanks to Eneit for posting it on the Voyager Message Board.

Jason Fischer: On Dreaming Again, the Birth of Undead Camels, and That Song

Firstly I’d like to give another plug to the Adelaide Natcon in 2009. I’d love to see heaps of people get onboard and book their tickets here and there is a LiveJournal community for those who want to receive updates here.

What can I say, Conflux was great fun, and it was nice to see so many people get involved in the various events, book launches, and general zaniness. Apart from the Marque’s Random Bar of Doom and the only huddle of eateries laying just beyond a comfortable walking distance, it was an excellent event. There were some brilliant panels this year, and I even participated in a couple of them. (The panel on Utopia, and Has Science Fiction Lost its Sense of Fun?) As the modern author is expected to be a toastmaster as well as a word-factory, it was great to get up in front of an encouraging audience, many of whom joined in the discussions. I don’t think I saw a dead or dull panel once during the whole weekend, and the organisers and convenors should be very proud of their efforts. They thought up some great topics, and lined up some very knowledgable and articulate folks to explore them.

More bloggings of my Conflux experience can be found here: http://jasonfischer.livejournal.com/115983.html

And my AMAZING SWAG of books can be seen here, it is a doozy:

(Secret subliminal message: Everyone should buy lots of books, especially from Voyager.)

For me, the most amazing part of the whole convention was the Dreaming Again stuff. Let me tell you about this book: it’s bloody outstanding. There is something for everyone in this book. You’ll see some of Australia’s premium SF novelists putting their hands to shorter fiction. There are also several new talents in this book, many sourced from the organised insanity that is the Clarion South literary bootcamp. It’s a powerhouse of a book, and if you don’t read Dreaming Again this year, you’re seriously missing out. Every word you’ve heard is true, and this book is literally and figuratively HUGE.

There was the actual book launch on Friday night, as shown earlier in the Voyager blog. Words can’t describe how it feels to be published in a book with several of your heroes, and the Voyager crew and Stephanie Smith deserve many kudos for making this all happen. We authors got spoiled good and proper, what with book signings and Jack Dann in raconteur mode, pimping this book to the heavens and back, until finally the moment where he revved the crowd up and got them to sing That Song.

You know the one, it’s got Undead Camels and a whole heap of Doo-Dah  a moment forever to be remembered! So let me tell you fine people about my Dreaming Again experience, and how I came up with a story called ‘Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh’, and how the song was born.

An un-undead camel

Watch out ... they're coming for you ...

Join me in the distant beyond of early 2007, when a bunch of emerging writers trekked to muggy Brisbane for six solid weeks of the mind-stretching Clarion South writing workshop. We emerged from the system with life-long friends, but that’s Stockholm Syndrome for you. One of our tutors was the legendary Gardner Dozois, longtime editor of Asimov’s magazine and, as it turns out, my long-lost dirty old uncle (DNA test pending). I wanted to write a story that would impress this man, and a few ideas were played with and discarded.

I promise I will never be that guy that poo-poohs the question, “where do you get your ideas from?” I’ll tell you true, my fair readers: we’d bought the supercool Lee Battersby a going-away gift, a book of schlock movie posters and such. One of the posters spoke of a movie called “Weasels Ate Their Flesh”. The next day, I read a wiki article on feral camels in Australia, giving their number at anywhere between 500 and 700 thousand. That’s a whole lot of dromedary. Somewhere, the Brisbane humidity baked the two ideas together and with every 2nd clarion story being a zombie piece, they became very undead.

When it was Gardner’s turn to crit my work, he launched into the Undead Camels song, and after a moment of stunned silence everyone joined in. I had the presence of mind to record this song, either on this occasion or one of the other 50 times. One of our convenors remixed it into a techno track. But apart from us Clarionites and Mister Dann, this recording shall not leave our sacred trust.

The awesome one-woman author-squad known as Margo Lanagan encouraged me to send this piece to Jack Dann, who advised story revision. And thank god he did, because the final product has perhaps 2% of the original swear words, and is missing a whole extra plot-arc involving a Danish secret agent, an unreliable Cessna, and a revived Danish Empire on the island formerly known as Tasmania. Just when you thought a story about zombie camels couldn’t get any more ridiculous…

Jason Fischer is based in Adelaide, South Australia. He is a graduate of the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and a recent finalist in the Writers of the Future contest. He has a story in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again, and stories in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine and Aurealis Magazine (forthcoming). Jason likes zombies and post-apocalyptic settings, and when he’s not writing he wishes he was. He can be found lurking online at http://jasonfischer.livejournal.com, and is a contributing member of the Daily Cabal.

Finding out more about Dreaming Again.