• 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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The Courier’s New Bicycle: a review

The Courier's New Bicycle In case you needed any more convincing to go and read it, Nalini Haynes great review for The Courier’s New Bicycle  for the Dark Matter Fanzine blog really should do the job!

The Courier’s New Bicycle is a masterpiece; I haven’t felt this way about a work since Wings of Desire.  Highly recommended; this is brilliant speculative fiction not to be missed. ”

 

Be sure to check out more great posts and reviews over at the Dark Matter fanzine blog!

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The Aurealis Awards 2012

Last Saturday The Independent Theatre in North Sydney played host to the 17th Annual Aurealis Awards*. Harper Voyager Australia again sponsored the awards along with Galaxy Bookshop. It was a chilly windy night in Sydney so scarves & shawls were the fashion accessory of the evening!  We’re super-proud to announce that The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood (HarperAU) won best Sci-Fi Novel and Ghosts by Gaslight (HarperUS) edied by Jack Dann & Nick Gevers won best Anthology! Creature Court author Tansy Rayner Roberts’ podcast Galactic Suburbia also won the Peter McNamara award- go Tansy!The Courier's New Bicycle

As always, it was a great evening and a chance to catch up with all our authors, blogger friends, Tweeples and fans of spec fiction everywhere. Discussions ranged from the future of spec-fic publishing  and cover designs to Star Wars and hypothetical murder mystery plots.  We were also very happy to see Stephanie Smith, who presented the Best Fantasy Novel Award, before her imminent move to Tasmania. She took time to introduce our new Voyager publisher, Deonie Fiford, to the audience too!

Congratulations to our shortlisted authors as well –  The Undivided by Jennifer Fallon, The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts & Stormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke for the Best Fantasy Novel of 2011, and Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy for Best Sci-Fi Novel of 2011.

Stephanie Smith with 2 of our winning authors: Kim Westwood and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Susan Wardle, co-convenor of the awards, said that with approximately 700 entries across the thirteen categories, the judges had a challenging task. “The winners represent the best of Australian fantasy, horror and science fiction writing in 2011 as judged by a pannel of their peers.  This year’s winners join the likes of Sara Douglass, Garth Nix, Isonelle Carmody, Trudi Canavan, Shaun Tan and Sean Williams, all of whom are multiple Aurealis Award Winners.”

Congratulations again to our winners!

*The Aurealis Awards were established in 1995 by Chimaera Publications, the publishers of Aurealis magazine, to recognise the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writers.

Deonie Fiford and Stephanie Smith
photo by Cat Sparx ( http://www.flickr.com/people/42956650@N00/)

Voyager at the Ditmars!

We’re feeling super proud of our Voyager stars Kim Westwood and Tansy Rayner Roberts for their nominations in the 2012 Ditmar Awards. Congratulations! Tansy Rayner Roberts’ novel The Shattered City & Kim Westwood’s The Courier’s New Bicycle are nominated in the Best Novel Category. Tansy is also up for a load of other awards too!

To see the full ballot head over to Continuum http://continuum.org.au/ditmar-awards-ballot-released/#content

Aurealis 2011 finalists announced!

The finalists for the 2011 Aurealis Awards have just been announced and lots of Voyager authors have been selected! Congrats to Jennifer Fallon, Glenda Larke, Tansy Rayner Roberts & Kim Westwood!

This is from the official press release:
‘ Winners of the 2011 Aurealis Awards and the Peter McNamara Convenors’ Award for Excellence will be announced at the Aurealis Awards ceremony, on the evening of Saturday 12 May at the Independent Theatre, North Sydney. Details of the evening and a link to the online booking website are available at www.aurealisawards.com

An after party will be held at Rydges, North Sydney, following the awards presentations.  Accommodation is available at Rydges for $149 (room only) or $174 (including full buffet breakfast).  To take advantage of these rates please use the code ‘Aurealis’ when making your booking.

For further information about the awards please contact the convenors at: convenors@aurealisawards.com

The 2011 Aurealis Awards are sponsored by HarperVoyager and Cosmos Magazine and proudly supported by Galaxy Bookshop.’

Here are the Australian Voyager finalists:

FANTASY NOVEL

The Undivided by Jennifer Fallon (HarperVoyager)

Stormlord’s Exile by Glenda Larke (HarperVoyager)

The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts (HarperVoyager)

SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL

The Courier’s New Bicycle by Kim Westwood (HarperVoyager)

For the full list head to www.aurealisawards.com

The Courier’s New Bicycle Honoured in the Tiptree Awards!

The Courier’s New Bicycle  by Kim Westwood has made the Honours List of the Tiptree Awards! Congratulations Kim! Apart from the overall winner, there were just four other novels shortlisted (the other four appear to be short stories).
The James Tiptree, Jr. Award is an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.
The Courier's New Bicycle

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

Bookseller & Publisher’s Q&A with The Courier’s New Bicycle author Kim Westwood

Q1.

The Courier’s New Bicycle could have been set in an unnamed city, but it is set in Melbourne. Why Melbourne, and what effect do you think that has on the book?

Melbourne—the physical Melbourne—inspired me. The story was born in those atmospheric inner-city alleyways, and every time I go back to there, 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 Melbourne bike couriers who tempt fate every day with the traffic and pedestrians. These are elements that ground an imagined near future in the real and immediate. What’s universal, or ‘every city’, is the premise of ordinary life utterly changed from a major event—in this case a pandemic. It’s a scenario that’s just one small step away from what exists now.

Q2.

With its near future dystopian setting, mass infertility and cultural conservatism, The Courier’s New Bicycle will probably be compared to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. What are your thoughts on this comparison?

I’d be honoured—chuffed, even. Yippee! She’s a hero of mine, and I’ll never forget the emotional impact that novel had on me.

Q3.

As a science-fiction reader I put The Courier’s New Bicycle in the Cyberpunk section in my head. How would you define it to someone in terms of genre?

Writing, I never think of genre; I just relay the story that’s demanding to be told. However, I’d agree the novel does have elements of cyberpunk. It’s a dystopian Melbourne with a film noir feel, and the private investigator element is embodied by Salisbury, the main protagonist, who’s an outsider in many ways. Rather than confine itself to any particular genre, the story takes from a number of them. I’d say it belongs on more than one shelf in the bookshop. Let the reader decide—and the writer be amazed!

Q4.

Much of the book involves what could be seen as extrapolations of current anxieties. What role do you think fiction has in such a nervous world?

 For me, ficti0n 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: What if this were me? It’s comfort and discomfiture, excitement and safe haven, combined.

 Q5.

What was the last book you read and loved?

I’m currently reading and loving Stephen Fry’s biography, The Fry Chronicles. I’ve just read (and loved) Karin Fossum’s the water’s edge. Another lovely discovery (the illustrations too) is The Dog by Kerstin Ekman.

Originally published in the July Bookseller & Publisher Magazine