• 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!

     

     

Announcing a new blog!

Hi everyone!

We’re excited to announce that we’re re-launching the Voyager blog with a brand new look, extra features and a Forum! We’re working toward making it a really fun, exciting, interesting and useful place you’d like to come to and hopefully hang out with fellow fans. The new blog is live now over at www.voyageronline.com.au if you want to have a look.

To sign up and create your Forum ID head here: http://www.voyageronline.com.au/community/index.php?login  or click on the Forum button in the blog top menu. The new forum means we can add achievements and badges for forum users and we can more easily run competitions, post exclusive extracts and host chats with your favourite Voyager authors!

We’re planning on officially launching the new look site at Supanova in Brisbane on the 9th November so held along if you can- we’d love to meet you there! We will be redirecting this current address (www.voyagerblog.com.au) to the new site by the end of this week hopefully. We have backed up this blog’s posts & comments, so don’t worry about them being lost!

Looking forward to seeing and chatting with you all at the new Voyager Online!

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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?

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?

Voyager’s new frontiers

Voyager, or at least our namesake,  truly has gone where no one has gone before!

Click to go to the article and watch the video

The video image above comes from  a Sydney Morning Herald article celebrating the
35th birthday of the Voyager spacecraft and its imminent departure from our Solar System.

With all the advances in everyday technology it is perhaps too easy now days to not recognise the extraordinary first step that Voyager’s journey represents.

More than 18 billion kilometres from home, Voyager is still yielding terrific  science as it battles through the last fringes of our star system.

“It is providing us with extraordinary data, with precious information” about  the structure of the Solar System, said Rosine Lallement of the Paris  Observatory.

Voyager was launched on September 5, 1977, a few weeks after its sister scout  Voyager 2, and the pair carried out a magnificent tour of all the giant planets  – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Afterwards their missions were reconfigured so they would fly to the edge of  the Solar System, and then beyond, into the utter unknown.

Who can know what it will send back, or when? How far will it go? So many questions and so many exciting possible answers! Hopefully it won’t be back surrounded by a giant energy field….

From Star Trek the Motion Picture

Taking Photos of the Atom

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!
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As excited as I was by the discovery of the Higgs Boson Particle, I have discovered that this historic event did the scientific community in Queensland no favours.  The day before the announcement, there was another science news story causing waves in the world of Physics. Scientists at Griffith University in Queensland had taken a photo of the shadow of an atom. I was lucky and got to meet with two of them: Professor Dave Kielpinski & Ben Norton, a PhD student.

Professor Dave Kielpinski & Ben Norton – you can just glimpse an image of five atoms lined up on the screen to their upper left. (Photo taken by Lynne Green)

Now, you might think that this doesn’t sound like the most exciting achievement – after all, we’ve all seen those amazing pictures taken by electron microscopes. But electron microscopes are old hat and old technology (heck, I was taking photos of the nematocysts of peanut worms using one back in the 1980s). Taking the photo of a shadow of an atom is a whole new quantum level of technical difficulty – and I’m using the word ‘quantum’ in its correct sense here. Atoms are so tiny and it is hard to manage to isolate just one, let alone managing to photograph it.

Firstly, you have to pick the right atom: Ytterbium (atomic weight 70), because the atom has to be opaque to the frequency of the beam of laser light. The atom has to be big, so it will cast a large enough shadow to register. You have to use a special lens to trap miniscule levels of light – the scientists in Griffith University’s Centre for Quantum Dynamics designed the lens and it was fabricated at the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin. The atom has to be manageable, in the sense that you can arrange to have a single atom in the beam and not fifty or none. There has to be no vibration, so the atom has to be in a nearly-perfect vacuum so it can’t get ‘knocked’ out of place by other atoms or molecules. You have to slow the atom down with the cold of absolute zero. There are a lot of factors that have to line up perfectly for the photo to happen.

Now, I was lucky enough to see the equipment on the Griffith University Open Day and to meet with some of the team who managed this supremely difficult feat. (And, at this point, I want to mention that one of them, Ben Norton, admitted he had actually READ the Science Page and had heard of me – which thrilled me to no end.) The equipment was as complex, but not dramatically so.  There was a screen above it that actually showed the photo of the atom’s shadow.

Now – some of you may ask ‘Why wasn’t this photo of an actual atom?’ Well, for a start, an atom isn’t a ‘solid’ object as we understand solid. It is more like a vibration, or a cloud, or a spinning particle, and the reality is a combination of all these and so much more. And – as I mentioned – they are tiny beyond our ability to imagine. We tend to think science controls atoms, thanks to CERN and the magic[1] the collider seems to control; this is incorrect. Part of the reason the photo of an atom is such an amazing achievement is because atoms are so hard to control. And our scientists at Griffith University did it without a machine the size of a city and a budget of billions.

Ordinarily, an achievement of this magnitude would have created a buzz that would have lasted for weeks. Only news that they had discovered the Higgs Boson was big enough to push it out of the headlines. As a footnote … I also saw a plasma dot on the same day and in the same laboratory. All-in-all, I had a wonderful day. )


[1] Using Arthur C Clarke’s definition of Magic. If you don’t know it, go look it up! I’ve mentioned it before.

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

National Bookshop Day and a fantasy author’s guide to reviving the bookshop.

When he’s not writing awesome fantasy epics, our Voyager author of the Month Duncan Lay is a journalist and masthead chief at the Sunday Telegraph. Last Sunday his article entitled “The Death of the Bookshop?” and his own editorial column appeared and  it makes for a great read ( not surprisingly!) For those struggling to understand the changes in the book marketplace and the role of ebooks, Duncan’s article, and those he interviews, could help explain them.

In his accompanying column (the header of which is on the right) he suggests a few key things to keep bookshops alive, most essential of which is to simply foster in children a love of reading.

This Saturday 11th August is National Bookshop Day and many bookshops around the country are celebrating with local authors coming for signings or other special events, so put it in your calendar and be sure to head down to your local store and support them by buying a book!

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.