• 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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Food for Thought (in Fantasy Fiction)

I have this theory about food in fantasy fiction.  Possibly brought on by listening to too many Discworld audio books in quick succession.  But my brain is the kind that likes to make lists, and catalogue things, and organise them in my head.  So here is my theory:

There are three kinds of food in fantasy fiction: stew, lark’s tongues, and sausages in buns.

Sydney restaurant Gastro Park’s recent sell out Game of Thrones menu

Don’t believe me?

When I say ‘Stew’ I mean camping food generally, though of course Stew itself is the star of any fantasy hero’s menu – a nourishing substance which travellers eat every single night while questing.  I was first made aware of this tradition when reading The Belgariad by David and Leigh Eddings, in which Polgara the sorceress took great pride in feeding brown sludge to everyone for dinner (and its breakfast counterpart, gruel).  As an adult, I wonder whether Polgara had a magical crockpot bubbling away in her saddlebags throughout the day?

The late, great Diana Wynne Jones, who left a marvellous legacy to fantasy readers and writers everywhere with The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, had this to say about stew:

You may be shortly longing passionately for omelette, steak, or baked beans, but none of these will be forthcoming, indoors or out.  Stew will be what you are served to eat every single time.  Given the disturbed nature of life in this land, where in camp you are likely to be attacked without warning, and in an inn prone to be the centre of a tavern brawl, Stew seems to be an odd choice as a staple food since, on a rough calculation, it takes forty times as long to prepare as steak… Do not expect a salad on the side.”

Other staples of travel food involve some variation between Tolkien’s elf-made lembas, the magical crackers which give you the ability to move forward with your plot without stopping for a sandwich, and Pratchett’s dwarf-bread, which is made with gravel and kitty litter and exists solely to make you feel very creative about the art of roadside foraging.

Next there’s the lark’s tongues – which is to say that most aristocrats and/or villains of fantasy fiction tend to eat like characters in the Roman Satires.  Never mind the hearty meat-on-meat dishes that kings like Henry VIII actually feasted upon – while medieval is the order of the day in a great deal of fantasyworld building, the posh menus are more likely to borrow from The Feast of Trimalchio: decadent, outrageously expensive and often tiny portions of food, eaten delicately and with great ritual.  You can’t help wondering if sometimes they’d like a plain old bowl of stew instead of poached peacock slivers in aspic!

It also has the side effect that you begin to question whether anyone eating quail’s eggs is in fact a villain. I got served them unexpectedly in a caesar salad the other day, and I could feel myself turning into a grand vizier as I ate…

Mostly when I think about food in fantasy it’s those first two categories that spring to mind, but as I said at the beginning, I’ve been revisiting a lot of Discworld lately, and musing upon the repeated use of the sausage as plot hub and convenience food.  One of the most consistent supporting characters (never a protagonist) in the long run of Discworld novels is CMOT Dibbler, or “Throat” for short, named after his catchphrase “and that’s cutting my own throat” when he offers discount prices.  While he’s a seller of many things through the series, his core product is sausageinnabun, and it’s this foodstuff that he returns to whenever his other moneymaking scams have run dry.
As with all true junk food, Dibbler’s sausages are both appealing and appalling, sometimes in the same mouthful.  The appeal is often their cheapness and the fact that they are there, but those who do eat them often regret it.

“And then you bit into them, and learned once again that Cut-me-own-Throat Dibbler could find a use for bits of an animal that the animal didn’t know it had got. Dibbler had worked out that with enough fried onions and mustard people would eat anything.
— Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

While Dibbler’s sausages are probably the most epic example, there must be more convenience food in fantasy, right?  I’d love to hear some examples from readers – as well as their favourite instances of Stew or Lark’s Tongue Cuisine in fantasy fiction.

This post was written by Tansy Rayner Roberts for her Flappers with Swords Blog Tour.

Tansy’s award-winning Creature Court trilogy: Power and Majesty, The Shattered City and Reign of Beasts, featuring flappers with swords, shape changers, half-naked men and bloodthirsty court politics, have been released worldwide on the Kindle, and on Kobo &  iTunes in Australia & New Zealand.  If you prefer your books solid and papery, they can also be found in all good Australian and New Zealand bookshops.

You can also check out Tansy’s work through the Hugo-nominated & Aurealis-winning crunchy feminist science fiction podcast Galactic Suburbia.  You can find her on the internet at her blog, or on Twitter as @tansyrr.

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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 2012 Norma K Hemming Awards

5 Voyager authors have been shortlisted in the 2012 Norma K Hemming Award!  The Devil’s Diadem by the late great Sara Douglass, Hindsight by A A Bell,  Eona by Alison Goodman,  Road to the Soul  by Kim Falconer & The Shattered City by Tansy Rayner Roberts. The Norma K Hemming Award recognises excellence in the exploration of race, gender, sexuality, class and disability in Australian speculative fiction. Congratulations guys!

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

Demoiselles and Beamish Boys

Natalie Costa Bir is guest-posting over at David McDonald’s blog on the topic of vocabulary, and how exactly the right word can help convey a magical (or SFnal) world to the reader.  I was chuffed to see her mention my Creature Court series and some of the word choices I made, because I put a lot of thought into the use of vocab in those books.  My biggest nightmare (ha) was the decision I made early on that I would use the word ‘nox’ instead of ‘night,’ as one of the carefully chosen differences in the way my characters spoke, and because the night was so important to the story.

But the number of times I had to check AGAIN with search and replace, only to then discover I had to think about how to represent ‘nightgowns’ and ‘nightmares’, not to mention fortnights and knights on white chargers, and so on…  I stuck to my guns, but it was trickier than I had imagined.

Mary Robinette Kowal, who writes gorgeous Regency fantasies set in the era of Jane Austen, embarked upon a project to ONLY use words in the entire text of her novels that existed at that historical time.  Which is… rather more committed than I think I would ever be to authenticity.  On the other hand, I’m the first one to wince when I think I’ve spotted an anachronism.  One of my bugbears is ‘okay’ or worse, ‘OK’ in invented worlds.

It’s hard for fantasy authors who are also word nerds because they tend to know the origins in OUR world of so many words that then feel out of place when used in Magical Universe. So it makes sense a lot of the time to replace those with made up words – but you have to make that choice judiciously or you end up with a writing technique that’s a little too close to Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky (a marvellous poem, but would you want to read it as a novel?).

Names are another tricky issue.  I love naming characters and go to a lot of trouble to find the ‘right’ name for characters (that is, I get stuck on the writing until I find the right one).  But the ‘right’ name isn’t just about their character or their personality, it’s about their family, history and the world they belong to.  Why is it that we feel more relaxed about Victorian, Medieval or Ancient Roman names in fantasy worlds, but would tilt our heads at more ‘modern’ names?  You rarely find Jasons and Kylies in imaginary worlds (though Jason at least is a very old mythological name).  Can you have a fantasy queen called Wendy if you know that J.M. Barrie invented the name after a cute child lisped ‘my friend’ as ‘my fwendy?’

Then there’s the names that are ‘taken’ – you can’t write a story about an Alice without evoking Wonderland, Frodo without Lord of the Rings fans leaping for your throat, or Conan without tagging on ‘the Barbarian,’ and so on.

One of the first fantasy authors I loved was David Eddings,who we later discovered co-wrote his books with Leigh Eddings, his wife, and I liked very much the way that the names of those characters told you a lot about who they were and where they were from.  The depiction of the various countries in that world were problematic from the point of view of racial essentialism (looking back on it, I do wince a bit about how you have one country of drug addicts, one of farmers, one of thieves, one of slaves who feel empowered about being slaves, one of downtrodden slaves, one of Bad Guys, etc.) but I loved the way that you got hints of the various languages and vocabulary styles of those countries through the naming of characters.  Ce’Nedra, for instance (that’s not one you’re likely to see anyone re-using in a hurry) – as a princess, her name had been chosen in honour of their country’s god, and even the apostrophe was a common linguistic choice.  Likewise, the family of sorcerers all chose names that connected to each other with the prefix ‘Bel’ except the female Polgara – we were told ‘Pol’ was an honorific like ‘Bel’ but it was hard to tell as she didn’t share it with any one.

One of my favourite namers in all of fantasy writing is the legendary Terry Pratchett – the names he chooses come from a complex and clever cauldron of historical knowledge, metatextuality, and a tangled, inventive vocabulary.  From Rincewind the wizard to Conina the barbarian’s daughter, from Mort the apprentice of Death to Granny Weatherwax the witch, from Agnes-and-her-inner-Perdita to Magrat who was so traumatised by her own name that she ended up accidentally giving her daughter the middle names ‘Note Spelling,’ Pratchett’s names always sound absolutely right.  You can tell that Vetinari is evil and imposing, that Nanny Ogg is a salt-of-the-earth type, that there’s something very odd indeed about Moist Von Lipwig.  Pratchett’s Discworld is full of characters who not only live up to their names, but sometimes fail to live them down, or struggle to change them, or feel set on a particular destiny purely because of the syllables laid down for them at birth.  Names are important in all fantasy, but the Discworld makes them so much more!

Of all of his names, though, perhaps ‘Susan’ is the cleverest.  Death’s grand-daughter, destined for great and terrible things – but as Death himself noted when he first set eyes on her, the name ‘Susan’ (in a world where people are generally called things like Mustrum and Esmeralda) tells us that her parents wanted something normal and safe and ordinary for her.  Funnily enough, though, when you have ‘Death’ as a surname, no one’s ever going to think you’re ordinary!

Tansy Rayner Roberts is the Voyager author of the Creature Court series. Check out her blog here!

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.

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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