• 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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Planning the Newest Adventure for Humanity

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!


Astronaut Dr Mae Jemison ( Image copyright: John S Needles Junior)

Dr Mae Carol Jemison is a remarkable woman. Not only was she an astronaut, she is a medical doctor, a pro-space-exploration lobbyist and now she has been chosen to run the 100-year Starship project, an investigation into the logistics of a multi-generational mission beyond the solar system. She was awarded the role due to her contribution towards setting up the 100-year Starship symposium organised last year by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. Dr Jemison’s life-long interest in space travel inspired her to work hard towards achieving goals that might have seemed impossible when she was a child.

So … what does this study mean, in particular those dedicated people in the team leaving Earth aboard a generational ship? What must Dr Jemison consider while researching the logistics and challenges of such a voyage?

Dr Mae Jemison: also the first real astronaut to play a small role on Star Trek

With current technology, we could probably build a generational ship right now, by hollowing out an asteroid and converting it into a self-sustaining environment. In a hundred years, who knows what innovations might be brought to the project. Anyone who wants more details about how a generational ship might be constructed should read Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama. This article is going to focus on the people and culture.

A generational ship, as the name implies, is a vessel designed for journeys so lengthy that generations are born, grow up, have their own children, and die, all while living aboard the ship. The first generation has to be large, healthy, mentally stable, and genetically diverse with no inheritable diseases or defects, or the inbreeding would soon drive the population to stagnation and extinction. I would not qualify for inclusion in the first team, even with two degrees, as I suffer from asthma and diabetes, both of which have a genetic component. And – let’s face it – I probably would fail the psychological profile needed; team members would have to be of an even temperament, and able to subsume their individual egos for the good of the team (Spock had it right).

The biggest issue would be how to structure the society and culture of the ship so that the descendants of the first team would remain loyal to their task. After all, once the last of the Earth-born dies, it would be easy for Earth to become a myth and legend. In five hundred years, the occupants of the generational ship might cease to believe in Earth. This means that the mission must become a vital part of their culture, taking on a similar significance to a religion; after all, it would be based on faith.

Communications with the generational ship would become problematic the further they travelled. Once they were past the edge of the solar system, any real communication breaks down because of the lengthy delays in transmission. Even a crew sent to Mars would find the time lag hard to adjust to, as we earthlings are all used to nearly instantaneous communication.

There would most likely be a continuous communication stream between the ship and the home planet, but when they are light years away it would be no way that the communication could be called ‘news’. They would be as isolated as the original colonists to Australia or America, and would have to be fairly self-sufficient for entertainment. However, they would still be able to receive all the movies and books, music and art, and other cultural touchstones from Earth. In return, Earth would receive cultural works as well as research back from the ship. It could inspire a new Renaissance.

This aspects is just one small part of the big picture when planning the generational ship. I don’t envy Dr Jemison all the headaches and heartaches that must be a daily part of her life. But the fact that she is in charge of this project gives me hope that one day, mankind will be making some effort to reach the stars.

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


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.

Threshold and Tutankhamun

So, the other weekend, I had a trip to Egypt.

From the website for the exhibition: http://kingtutmelbourne.com.au/

Not the actual Egypt– oh, how I wish it had been. But I went to Egypt in terms of the artefacts and the culture via the Tutankhamun exhibition in Melbourne. I also went to Egypt in the literary sense by re-reading one of my favourite books – Sara Douglass’ Threshold.

 Re-reading Threshold was not just about paying a kind of homage to Sara, but I was interested to see the impact it would have on me when I then went to the exhibition.

 First, for those few who haven’t read Threshold, a quick recap – A young woman and her father are forced into slavery by his unpaid gambling debts. Because of their skills in working glass they are taken from their homeland to a place far south – a place of sand and heat and where the spectre of Threshold, a giant pyramid, looms over all. There, the horror of Threshold unfolds and along with new and discarded loves, she must fight to defeat the evil and restore balance and peace to the land.

 Oh, there’s so much to love about Threshold. Not just the uniqueness of the Egyptian-based setting (and when this was published in the 90s it was truly unique) but also the idea of number and mathematics as the basis of a magic system. Fabulous!

 Threshold the structure was created by a mountain of slaves – first when making the building, then the artistry as theentire thing is encased in glass. I was struck on this reading as to how difficult it must have been, particularly for those doing the most intricate work, to have faced the fact they had to destroy their creation to save themselves. A piece of you goes into everything you create – years later it still resonates and you see where you were, what you were needing and feeling at the time.

 There was a sense of that wandering around the exhibition and seeing the extraordinarily beautiful things that were there. Honestly, we in our day and age tend to think we’re pretty damn cool, with what we can create. Then you look at the delicate, precise, astonishing things that could be done 3000 years ago, without all our so called technology and education and think – art really does surpass all of that. And those artists put their heart and soul into these pieces, to honour a man they considered a god.

 And yet, they were doing all this and it was going to be locked away, never to be seen again. Art is meant to be viewed, is it not? Admired and seen and interacted with and loved. So it must have been a bitter sweet thing to both spend all those days and hours creating these incredible objects, and know that few people would ever get to admire it.

 The whole push of the building of Threshold is about the search for immortality. This is where it divulged from the Egyptians – their belief was that you were already going to be immortal, that this was just a step to the next life. You’re going to live forever, so let’s make that next life a good one by being good in this one.

 In Threshold, there was no sense of thinking of the implications beyond that of having what had been dreamed of for generations. I think that some of those chasing had plans for what they would do when they were immortal, but I didn’t get the sense that they thought through all the practicalities.

From the website for the exhibition: http://kingtutmelbourne.com.au/

 In this, the ancient Egyptians were to be admired. The tombs were filled with everything a good man or woman could need to have a comfortable life in the next place. Tut had games buried with him. Don’t want to spend the afterlife without something fun to do – how boring would that be?

 But most interesting was that Tutankhamun came to power at a terrible time for Egypt– his father had tossed out the old gods, established a new one and it had caused ructions throughout the empire. In just the nine years he was pharaoh, Tutankhamun turned all that around and left Egypt once again in touch with its pantheon of gods.

 At the beginning of Threshold, the people of Ashdod are under a thrall to The One, but that is tearing the country apart. It’s easy to see that Threshold may indeed have been heavily influenced by the story of Tutankhamun and his need to rebuilt his fractured country and make them whole again.

 Unfortunately, I’ll never have the chance to ask Sara Douglass if that was the case.

Nicole Murphy is the author of The Dream of Asarlai trilogy: Secret Ones, Power Unbound and Rogue Gadda