• 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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Argh! Zombies!

There has been so much talk lately of the colour grey but, let’s be honest, it’s such a boring colour. Comparatively, red is fantastic. It’s bright, attention-grabbing and … bloody.

Which brings me to zombies.  They are covered in the stuff.

Zombies have made a resurgence of late as the face of horror, largely due to the success of The Walking Dead television series and they are the opposite of those sparkly vampires that the tweens love but we have had enough of.  I think that we can all rest assured that zombies will maintain their monster status quo and contain to be the relentless horde that will keep leading the revolt against their emotionally unstable undead cousins. Vampires have gotten soft and cuddly, zombies instill fear and panic. In this time where erotica sells, the undead must rise against it.

Why? Because zombies will never play the romantic lead. Their love of brains doesn’t translate to a love of intellectual conversation and nights in playing scrabble. And their desire to eat you sounds sexy but it’s not going to be a pleasant experience. Although they might give you cause to scream ‘Oh God!’ and leave you panting for breath – it’s not the happy sort of exclamation and its more of a marathon run where you flee for your life than a marathon bonk session that’s going to affect your lung capacity.

In the literary world, Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies took the world by storm in 2009 and only recently (23/8/12) the BBC News have asked  (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19359570) if literary mash-ups are the next big thing (clearly it took them a while to jump on to the zombie bandwagon — better late than never). A recently published literary mash-up is Corrupted Classics, a compilation of short stories by some emerging writers which will appeal to zombie fiends, corrupting tales from your childhood with a zombie-esque edge like you wouldn’t believe.

Corrupted Classics
is a digital anthology of short stories based on scenes from literary classics that have been twisted into harsh zombie apocalyptic worlds. Now some of history’s best-loved characters face a fate even more cataclysmic than academic obscurity … These are the classics like you have never seen them before, alive and well in the realm of the undead. Alice in Wonderland (becomes Alice in Zombieland) and Peter Pan (becomes Never Neverland) are just two of the twisted tales that are feeding the zombie zeitgeist. Corrupted Classics has some great re-imaginings that would work as full-length novels, even if they are only published as e-books. The world needs more tales of zombies, and the 10 million Walking Dead fans would agree.

One of the best things about zombies are the zombie fans. They totally get it. They are absorbed into the notion of the undead stumbling along the streets, turning the moment they get a whiff of fresh meat, I don’t know many zombie aficionados who don’t have a plan for when the zombie apocalypse begins. In the US, Halloween allows fans to embrace it, with The Walking Dead being a huge influence last year and people happily adorned dangling bits of fake flesh to their face and covered themselves in red corn syrup. In Australia, you have the annual Brisbane Zombie Walk (www.brisbanezombiewalk.com) that not only lets you stagger around the streets but also aptly raises funds for The Brain Foundation of Australia. This year it will be held this Sunday, 21st October and a gold coin donation will get you walking the streets amongst the sea of undead covered in as much gore as you’re comfortable with.

If you haven’t already, check out the Corrupted Classics Facebook page (www.facebook.com/corruptedclassics) and join the horde.

Also, if you REALLY want to survive the inevitable coming zombie apocalypse, there’s loads of resources online-One of our fans sent this link in!

Win a copy of the Game of Thrones RPG for Xbox or PS3!

     You’ve read the books. You’ve watched the show on TV. Now A Song of Ice and Fire fans can dive right into Westeros and play as a character in the Game of Thrones RPG!  The RPG has its own storyline and you can play as either a member of the Night’s Watch or a rogue Knight as part of a detailed story full of political intrigue and twists overseen by George himself.
For your chance to win  a copy of the PS3 or Xbox360 version, Comment on this post and tell us in 25 words or less which character from the books you’d love to play as in a game and why. Don’t forget to let us know which version of the game you’d like too.
We’ll choose the winners next Thursday. Australian residents only, sorry!

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.

Game of Thrones net roundup

With the explosive success of the HBO adaptation of George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire the net has seen a wide variety of interesting articles and creations inspired by both the show and the books, from the sublimely thought-provoking to the groan-inducingly silly.

Here’s a few choice picks we’ve came across so far:

i09 has a great array of sci-fi/fantasy/spec-fic/general geeky articles and these are just a few of the neat Game of Thrones themed articles they’ve had up. They’ve posted up concept art from the TV show, including some unused designs for The Eyrie and the Sept of Baelor. They’ve also posited some real-life scientific explanations for the unpredictable seasons of Westeros- perhaps their myth of the origin of Dragons has some truth to it! And here’s one for the old-skool D&D fans ( or perhaps those with a philosophical bent )!

If, like us, you’ve planned trips to New Zealand around locations used to shoot The Lord of the Rings, this article about the locations used in Game of Thrones is pretty useful for planning your next holiday! While we’ve posted it on the blog before, this speculative map of Westeros and beyond by SerMountainGoat is so spectacular its worth sharing again.

Several academics and professional political analysts have enjoyed speculating on the apparent political viewpoints portrayed both diagetically and non-diagetically by the series & the show. This rebuttal article is an interesting read, particularly as much of the speculation is based purely on the events of the first season ( and largely, the first book ) of the series.

While it’s far from specific to Game of Thrones, this BBC article provides some interesting theories as to the origins of the ubiquitous British accents in fantasy films & TV. Apparently it’s all Kevin Costner’s fault!

Best author photo ever.

And now for the silly stuff: Prepare to never take Bronn seriously again: here he is singing Unchained Melody on Top of the Pops in 1995 ( he’s the one on the right! ).
Have you ever wondered what Daenerys Targaryen would look like playing air guitar? Wonder no more!
In case you missed it, i09 has a link up to the Simpsons Game of Thrones intro sequence that’s pretty awesome.
A couple of keen Lego fans have put together some Game of Thrones scenes in plastic brick form, and one dedicated fan even re-created the opening sequence in stop motion!
Continuing the brick-theme, those crazy Minecraft kids have built some astounding recreations of the locations in Westeros, inspired more from the books & their own imagination than the TV show.
Lastly, GRRM’s US publisher put up this great April Fool’s news item. It also gave us possibly the best author photo of GRRM ever.

And we’ll leave you with this little gem of badly photoshopped wisdom.

If you’ve seen any other cool Game of Thrones articles or amusing tidbits, let us know!

George R.R. Martin interview with Jane Johnson – Part One

GRRM in conversation with UK publisher Jane Johnson At the Bloomsbury Theatre in London this Tuesday night, 500 George R.R. Martin fans had the opportunity to listen to the man himself in conversation with his UK editor (and Voyager Publishing Director, and successful author in her own right) Jane Johnson.  Here’s the first part of the conversation transcript!

Jane: I’ve heard you say that historical fiction and fantasy are “sisters under the skin”. Can you tell me more about what you mean by that?

George: Historical books are a little grittier, which is one of the things I wanted to do when combining the two; to take that sort of gritty realism you find in a historical novel and combine it with the imagination and wonder of Fantasy.

I have thought about writing historical fiction myself, when I interviewed Bernard Cornwell for Harper a few months ago we talked about this.  For me the frustration in writing real historical fiction is that if you know history you know how it comes out. You can write about the actual Wars of the Roses and you know what’s going to happen to those princes in the tower and you know what’s going to happen at the battle of Bosworth Field. With my books I like to keep them a little off balance. Ultimately you don’t know what’s going to happen to the kids in my books or who’s going to live or die or end up with their head on a spike.

But the reading experience can be quite similar. Jane has been reading the Accursed Kings series by the great Maurice Druon – a wonderful series of historical novels.  One of the great things for me when I read them was that I didn’t know a lot of the history. You know, French people may know all of this but for me it wasn’t something that was covered on our history courses, nor presumably, in history courses here. I didn’t know who these people were, even only the most abstract terms, or how this was going to come out. That was a very similar reading experience to a fantasy novel.

Jane: They read incredibly fresh. We’ve just bought the world rights to publish them because they’ve been out of print since the sixties, I think it’s going to be great fun to make them available to people. They read as if they were written yesterday, they’re really sharp and funny, as well.

The brothers Goncourt said: “History is a novel that has been lived…” I think that’s a really good quote but I feel also that with A Game of Thrones, you feel that every character in your books has a life that goes on behind the scenes: they’re not just walking out on stage and playing out what you want them to play out. You do see them as real people. How much of that elaboration do you have in your head before you set out writing your characters?

George: I’m not actually deluded enough to think that they are real people. I know that I’m making them up. It seems obvious but I’ve met some writers over the years that have peculiar views on the subject and seem to think they’re receiving emanations from other dimensions or something. I don’t buy into that but certainly when I’m writing these characters and living with them they achieve enormous reality to me.

You know, many years ago I wrote a short story, a novelette actually, that won the Nebula award called “Portraits of His Children”. It is about a writer and his relationship with his characters. Its sort of a cliché that characters are a writer’s children but there’s a great amount of truth to it. At least for a writer like myself; the characters I have created over the years are a part of me, are a part of my life. They are not me, but they are created by me and are a part of me. The analogy with the children has a certain apt-ness to it.

Jane: Well you’re a cruel father

George: I take after the Romans; they had the whole “paterfamilias” thing going on there. If you were a disappointing son “I’m sorry son you’re disappointing me would you please commit suicide”…“Yes dad I’d be happy to”. We’ve lost some of these traditions over the years.

Stay tuned for the rest of the interview!

AWESOME Fan-made interactive Song of Ice and Fire map

A Song of Ice and Fire & Game of Thrones fan ‘Ser Mountain Goat’ has created an amazing interactive map of the world of George RR Martin’s epic series, from the continent of Westeros to the Dothraki Sea and beyond! They’ve even made a Google-Earth style planet view (Though its a bit big for slow internet connections.)