• 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!

     

     

All Dwarves are Scottish

Our inhouse Voyager reading club recently decided to go back and re-read ( or read for the first time- *gasp!* ) Raymond E. Feist’s original classic fantasy epic Magician, published in 1982. Upon reaching the introduction of Feist’s Dwarves, and the character Dolgan in particular, it struck me that I assumed the ‘deep, rolling burr’ of the Dwarven accent was Scottish. The names of their mines ( “Mac Mordain Cadal”), Dolgan’s frequent use of ‘lad’ & organisation into clans didn’t help either.

So I got to thinking: when, exactly, did the Dwarf become synonymous with Scotland? Despite being responsible for much of the modern fantasy concept of Dwarves as an imagined race, Tolkien never gave them any distinctively Scottish traits. They were based much more on nordic myth I thought. One of our Sales Managers pointed out that a possible source for aspects of dwarvish culture for Tolkien may have been the archetype of the “rough & hearty” working class miners of Cornwall or Wales, which would certainly fit with his stated goals of creating a modern mythology for the British Isles.

Wikipedia argues that the modern version of the ‘Scottish Dwarf’ originates from the book Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson (published in 1961, but originally a novella from 1953 ) which featured a Dwarf named Hugi with a Scottish accent and a man transported from WWII to a parallel world under attack by Faerie. The book was a major influence on Dungeons & Dragons, which introduced Dwarves as playable race in 1974 and helped disseminate a “standard” idea of what Dwarves were like.

From there it seemed to become a self-perpetuating idea. The parallels between the bearded Dwarves as warlike mountain dwellers and long-haired Scottish Highland warriors are fairly obvious, and perhaps this was Anderson’s starting point too. The love of drinking, feasting and fighting has perhaps more Viking or sterotypical “working class miner” associations. A recent animated film, How to Train Your Dragon ( based on a children’s book of the same name ) features Vikings with scottish accents ( though all the children & teenagers mysteriously have American accents ) who also look a lot like oversized Dwarves. The enormously popular Warcraft universe has steampunk Dwarves with Scottish accents.

It all came full circle with the film version of The Lord of the Rings having Gimli sport a very Scottish accent. It will be interesting to see how far they take this with The Hobbit film though. From the little we’ve heard in the trailers they don’t seem particularly Scottish, but time will tell …! What do think? Do you usually associate dwarves with Scotland or is it just me?

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Tolkien Week & Hobbit Day roundup

Last week was officially Tolkien Week foy Harper Voyager! On Friday the 21st we celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the first publication of The Hobbit in 1937 and participated in the global Second Breakfast party. We had Tea, Scones, Pikelets, jam & cream (The bakery were out of seed cakes and the building folk wouldn’t let us light up our pipe weed!), not to mention a few rounds of Hobbit & Tolkien trivia.

Peter Jackson then announced the release of a brand new full length trailer for the first Hobbit movie!

Then on Saturday it was Hobbit Day, otherwise known as both Bilbo & Frodo Baggins’ birthday! Our UK colleagues posted up some fantastic images of Hobbit Day festivities in the UK on their site here: http://www.hobbitsecondbreakfast.com/oats-and-ounces/ Did you get up to anything? We’d love to hear about how you celebrated! It truly is a landmark book, practically responsible for the creation of fantasy as a literary genre and introducing generations of children and adults alike to an imagined world like no other. How many  times have you read The Hobbit?

Supanova Sydney: Cosplay, Bronies, Natalia Tena and letting your nerd show.

There are few places where I feel comfortable letting my nerd show.

In my every day life, I let it show by degrees. I might geek out by knowing every single detail about an obscure TV show, or forsake a Saturday night out in favour of staying in and watching Doctor Who, or curling up on the couch and getting lost in a book. Some of my friends know that I lean towards the very nerdish, but even with them, I don’t let it all show.

But every year in June, I let it all out and venture to Olympic Park, in full costume and character to the Supanova Pop Culture Expo. The lead-up to this Nova was spent frantically putting together a new costume – the Black Widow from The Avengers (specifically, the version of Widow seen in the Iron Man 2 movie).

Walking through Milsons Point on a Sunday morning dressed in black pleather with plastic guns strapped to my legs and a spare tucked into my boot, accompanied by a female Hawkeye (who was carrying her plastic bow and arrows), was an experience. People pointed, stared, and laughed and one girl asked if we were playing a war game. But by the time we switched trains at Olympic Park, the looks we were getting went from confusion to admiration.

When someone told me that I was the best Black Widow they’d seen at the con so far, Hawkeye had to remind me that the real Widow probably wouldn’t have jumped up and down and squealed with excitement.

For me, being among other nerds and pop culture devotees is probably the best part about Supanova. Where else will people compliment you on your costume making? Where else do you get all excited when you make the big decision about an obscure costume you’re going to make for next year and someone else jumps up and down with excitement? Where else will you find a public screening of Friendship is Magic and be able to sing the opening credit song with a whole group of Bronies (My Little Pony fan community)?

Cosplay and fandom wasn’t the only reason I went to Supanova. There was also a bunch of great celebrity guests. I was most excited about seeing Game of Thrones TV series actors, Natalia Tena (who plays Osha, and who was also Tonks in the Harry Potter Movies) and Alfie Allen (who plays Theon Greyjoy). With the second series ending the weekend before, I couldn’t wait to hear about their experiences filming the show.

Natalia Tena was amazing!  She was funny, honest, a bit naughty, and handled questions from the audience like a pro. She’s hoping that the rumours that George RR Martin loves the character of Osha are true so that she might have a chance of getting to work on the show until the end. Although, that did leave me thinking that if GRR really does love Osha, then maybe that doesn’t bode too well for Natalia’s future Game of Thrones employment.

Mel meets Natalia Tena, Osha from Game of Thrones and Tonks from Harry Potter!

On Sunday, I met Natalia and had my picture taken with her. For every fan that stepped up to her, Natalia shook their hand, introduced herself, smiled for the camera and the shook their hand again as they left the booth. When it was my turn, she held out her hand, looked me up and down and said: “Hi I’m Nat…WOAH you look AWESOME.”  This is why, in my picture, I have a goofy look on my face. Natalia Tena liked my Black Widow costume. She told me that I looked awesome.

On Sunday night after meeting celebrities, buying bags of comics, and posing for a thousand photos, Hawkeye and I reluctantly changed out of our costumes and shed our characters for another year.

On Monday morning, there was no pointing or staring because I looked like a normal girl on the train. But if you looked very closely, you might have noticed the tiny Black Widow badge I had pinned to my coat – that one tiny little bit of nerd I let show in public.

Mel works in the HarperCollins Publishing department.

Of Polished Steel & Burnt Ice

This month  we’re launching a brand new Voyager author, Steve Wheeler, and his epic Science Fiction novel Burnt Ice. It’s been a while since we had some new pure science fiction gracing the blog, so we’re very excited about this one!
Burnt Ice is set in a distant future where the Sphere of Humankind is a vast interstellar empire ruled by The Administration and wars are run & televised to entertain the masses by the omnipresent Games Board. Featuring rogue AIs, massive Space Urchins, a rag-tag squadron of soldier-engineers and genetic engineering, Burnt Ice is the beginning of fantastic new series A Fury of Aces.
Read an except here.
In his other life in New Zealand, Steve Wheeler works as a metal worker and has crafted knives, swords and props for The Hobbit movie ( How awesome is that?).  He’ll be launching Burnt Ice at the Weta Cave at Weta HQ on April the 14th and we’ll be sure to post pictures afterward!

Cover illustration by John Howe ( yes THAT John Howe!)

Stranger With My Face Horror Film Festival in Hobart this weekend

This sounds fantastic! If we were able to get to Hobart this weekend, we’d be there!  ( thanks to Tansy Rayner Roberts for the heads up. ) Here’s the official press release:

  Hobart Tasmania will host a film festival with a difference this month, with the inaugural Stranger With My Face Horror Film Festival in Hobart from 17 to 19 February.

It will screen dark, subversive and entertaining films by women, from exploitation to art house, gore to ghost stories. It takes its name from the teen horror novel by Lois Duncan, inspired by archetypes like the ‘mad woman in the attic’ and the ‘evil twin.’

Stranger With My Face is the creation of award-winning Tasmanian filmmakers Briony Kidd and Rebecca Thomson and is an official ‘Women in Horror Recognition Month’ event.

It will feature two blocks of short horror films by women on 18 February, including a showcase of films from the Viscera Film Festival, a US-based festival which starts in LA and tours its ‘sick chick flicks’ around the world.

The festival will also screen the outrageous feature film Dead Hooker in a Trunk on 17 February.

Directed by and starring Canadian twin sisters Sylvia and Jen Soska, Dead Hooker has become a low-budget surprise hit on the genre circuit, championed by cult horror director Eli Roth.

The short film selection includes a twisted tale about a female hitchhiker from Canada’s Karen Lam, Doll Parts, and a poignant take on the idea of being haunted by a past relationship in Emily Carmichael’s The Ghost and Us. There’s the moving The Last Post (written and directed by Axelle Carolyn and starring British character actor Jean Marsh) and Tasmanian werewolf chiller Tahune’s Beast (directed by Joshua Llewellyn and produced by Catherine McClintock).

The festival includes a series of talks and workshops on topics as varied as writing suspense for theatre, why spooky music works, Italian ‘giallo’ cinema, true crime literature and creating special effects horror make-up.

Finally, Stranger With My Face boasts a unique scriptwriting competition, the 10 By 10 Horror Script Challenge. Registered participants have 10 days to come up with a bold, brilliant short horror script.

“We have over 60 registered participants for the challenge, which started on 1 February and will conclude on 10 February,” says Rebecca Thomson. “That’s pretty amazing. We didn’t expect that many people to sign up.”

Participants range from professional writers, such as playwrights and poets, to horror fans. The winning script will be given a live reading and feedback from high profile judges.

The judges are horror journalist Heidi Honeycutt, renowned Australian film critic Adrian Martin, filmmakers Donna McRae and Victoria Waghorn, Canadian producer and filmmaker Karen Lam and fantasy novelist Tansy Rayner Roberts.

BACKGROUND

Contrary to popular belief, women love horror films. This was demonstrated by a string of big budget horror hits last decade driven by female audiences, from The Ring to the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

And yet, for as long as films have been made, female fans of horror have been offered up the cinematic nightmares of almost exclusively male filmmakers.

Troma Entertainments’s Lloyd Kaufman recently commented, “Unfortunately, and counter intuitively, the genre of horror seems, to me, to be the most male chauvinistic area in pop culture.”

But this seems to be changing. More and more women are beginning to make horror films…

“Horror is the genre that most taps into the subconscious of the society, reflecting back to us our concerns, and our deepest nightmares,” says filmmaker and festival organiser Briony Kidd.

“There’s room for incredible diversity in this genre and horror fans really embrace new ideas and new voices. The festival is a celebration of that.”

So what do the horror films of women say about the concerns and fears of women in today’s world? And is there such a thing as a uniquely ‘female’ approach to horror?

These are questions best left for audiences to argue about on the way home…

For the organisers of Stranger With My Face, it’s enough to be able to bring the fresh and exciting work of women genre filmmakers to audiences.

———

Stranger With My Face Horror Film Festival ~ 17-19 February

Salamanca Arts Centre, 77 Salamanca Place, Hobart

For more information about this event contact Briony Kidd and Rebecca Thomson by emailing: swmfhff@gmail.com

For film, program and ticketing information, see www.strangerwithmyface.com or follow the festival on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SWMFHH

Life And Death In Sin City: The Mayan Tree of Life in Jungle Hollywood

I was thinking about death. Someone else’s actually… Earl Curtis, one of the main characters in Hoodwink, the latest book in my Timestalker series. You see he’s obsessed by a scary Mayan death goddess and…as you can imagine…it gets him into VERY nasty trouble indeed.

Not only that, he’s a sleazy, double-dealing scumbag operating in one of the most sinfully decadent eras in human history – Hollywood in the 1930s. And believe me he enjoyed every last lick of the forbidden fruit in that particular version of paradise.

Yep, no wonder Earl meets a most sticky end… Wonder what he was thinking as he breathed his last? Did he believe his fierce-eyed Mayan death goddess was going to save him?

What do you think’s going to happen to you?

Whether we admit it or not, everyone wants to know what happens after we take the biggest ride in the amusement park – death. And being the cheeky monkeys that humans are, every culture in history has come up with an intricate explanation about what happens after we step off that rollercoaster.

Many cultures actually map out their expected post-death journey…where you go, what you see along the way, such as in the Egyptian Book of the Dead and the Tibetan Bardo Thodol (Book of The Dead).

One element that many of these ancient maps of the afterlife use is an axis mundi or cosmic axis – a detailed description of the centre of the universe. It’s the place where heaven and earth meet, where mortals and gods interact and where all compass directions start…

So it makes sense sticking one in a map of the afterlife because if you see death as a transition from this existence on Earth to another plane of being…whether it’s heaven or…er, cough, cough…somewhere a little less comfortable, then you’d damned well better know how to find your way to where you want to end up! There’s no GPS available on this stretch of the cosmic tour. J

And the axis mundi, which connects the earth to the sky, has been depicted as everything from a sacred ladder to a great tree to a lofty mountain… To some the great red rock of Uluru is the axis mundi of Australia.

Now back to the question of whether Earl’s Mayan death goddess is going to do right by her boy?

The Mayans, living in the middle of a hot, steamy jungle, picked a tree. They depicted the centre of their cosmos as the mightiest living being they ever laid eyes on – the ceiba tree, It’s literally the veggie version of a green whale.

The ceiba tree is gigantic with huge buttressed roots and a massive trunk that reaches up and out into limbs that form the rainforest canopy. It reaches down through its roots to connect Earth to the Underworld below and up through its limbs to Heaven above.

   But to the Mayans the mighty ceiba was not only their axis mundi it was also the Tree of Life – it connected all creatures. In the jungle the mighty ceiba tree forms its own micro habitat sheltering a multitude of plants, animals and insects in its leafy embrace.

But life wasn’t all the Mayans were interested in…

Death is so fearsome to most humans that just the threat of it wields great power. The power over life and death has been the cornerstone of many of our political systems and control over what happens after it is the foundation of many of our religions.

The Mayans, like the rest of humanity, cottoned on to the power that death wields and ran with it. Everyone has seen pictures of (if not movies about) the human sacrifices that were made by ancient cultures in Meso and South America.

And the awesomely, frightening temples that were used as the performance venues for these death-magic rites.

Which brings me to that infamous axis mundi of the West…where mere mortals are turned into stars and placed in the heavens for worship – Hollywood.

Frank Lloyd Wright (arguably the most famous American architect of all time) may’ve believed Sin City was the axis mundi of barbarism…because when he was commissioned to build several houses there in the 1920s he turned to the ancient temples of Meso and South America for inspiration.

The most beautiful one he built was Hollyhock House in East Hollywood, which is inspired by the Mayan city of Palenque. Now the Mayans liked to decorate their temples with all sorts of fierce motifs: snarling jaguars, writhing serpents, screaming gods, howling sacrificial victims…

You know the usual house decor…

But somewhere along the way Wright decided to create a Mayan-style hollyhock motif for his new house project instead – which must’ve have been a HUGE relief to the people who were going to live there!

In the alternate reality of Hoodwink, my sleazy character Earl Curtis was lucky enough to convince Frank Lloyd Wright to build him a house too. One based on a Mayan temple just like Hollyhock House, but decorated with the symbol of his Mayan death goddess – a ceiba tree.

You see the ceiba connects all beings, mortal and divine, good and bad…and Earl’s hungry goddess watches over all from her own, special branch on that mighty tree.

Or rather she waits for prey.

So what does happen to Earl Curtis? Does Kannon Dupree find out in Hoodwink?

Maybe…maybe not.

The Hobbit trailer is out!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know that Peter Jackson has been filming a 2 movie version of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of Rings “prequel”  The Hobbit! Not surprisingly, we’re pretty excited about it!

While there’s been a steady trickle of images from the movies coming out  of the dwarves and Martin Freeman as Bilbo, there’s been a lot left unseen. The MTV movie blog did a nice list of things we’re hoping to
see in the trailer here: http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2011/12/19/the-hobbit-trailer/

Well, the news is, we don’t need to wonder any longer! The official Trailer for Part 1: An Unexpected Journey came out today. We won’t go spoiling it for everyone, but suffice to say, it looks brilliant!

Head here to check it out for yourselves!

PS. It looks like LEGO have got the license to produce Hobbit & Lord of The Rings toys. We’re so getting some for the office!