• 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!



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!

Tanith Lee: on The Silver Metal Lover

SilverIn 1980 I went to the USA for the first time, to attend one of the big conventions. I was just 33, and in the middle of writing a large novel concerning a parallel Romeo and Juliet in a parallel Renaissance Italy. Somehow the combination of America – which I loved on sight – and the Shakespearian dream of young lovers, subsequently resolved into the idea of another novel, which arrived first as a title.

Back in England then, I was sitting in the BBC TV Centre in London, talking with some of the people from Blake’s 7, an SF series I had already written an episode for. We were discussing that old question, so ably brought into the light by such brilliant writers as Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov – the true relation between Man and Machine. Were they ultimately destined to be enemies – or friends. Something in the conversation stayed with me. If enemies, then was it really a war to the death? And if not enemies – then just how far would tolerance stretch. Romeo and Juliet must then also have intervened. What about a man of metal, a man who was a machine, and therefore … perfect … What about a lover made of silver?

The title wrote itself across my inner eye. Pretty soon I started to write the book. (The original Romeo and Juliet had to wait a while to be resumed and finished. That book is called Sung in Shadow. But I actually wrote The Silver Metal Lover in much less than a month. In fact I think it was nearer two weeks. I sometimes did, and still do, write the occasional book extremely fast. )

I had no notion, which is usual with me, what direction the novel would take itself. But it did know; there it went. One event I do recall – completing the very harrowing section near the end around 1 a.m. – and then noticing a strong scent of burning. I had left the oven grill on after a late piece of toast made around 11.30. The grill pan was duly ruined. But the novel was fine.

One curiosity too. My own much-loved, beautiful, talented and clever mother died in 1980. For some reason, perhaps mere contrariness, I seemed to react to that by creating, in TSML, Demeta, the Mom from Hell. I wonder why? Maybe just my way of saying no one could match my mother?

Silver’ has always been popular, by which I feel very honoured and touched. It moved me. If it can move others, that is a very great extra reward for me. I’d never considered a sequel. But then, 23 years later, interest flared among fans and publishers. The book had been optioned for a movie in 1997. (Sadly they didn’t follow through, though the wonderful director, Randall Kleiser, still maintains a firm commitment to ‘Silver’, and recently there is a possibility things may happen.) However, back then, it occurred to me TSML might after all produce an inevitable second act. The main problem – not for me but for a devotee of the book – was that the second act wouldn’t primarily be about Silver, or Jane – except, as it were, off stage.

Metallic Love isn’t The Silver Metal Lover. It isn’t meant to be. Though it may be a Truth that most writers tend to write the same story, or group of stories, over and over in different forms, I certainly didn’t want to, or could have, written a carbon copy of Jane and Silver’s love story. Instead, Loren and Verlis took centre stage. Of course I understand this may have disappointed readers, but I didn’t do it to be perverse. It simply was, for me, the next thing that needed to be said, looked at, explored. Despite being a love story, TSML is still very much about that question I mentioned earlier: the antagonism/attraction/comparison of Man and Machine. And ML is about this, too. While both address that other issue – Do machines have souls? The exact same thing so much of mankind has asked itself through the centuries. But ML is a love story as well. And anyone who reads all the way through, sees where the third book – if ever there is a third one, (it does have a title: The Tin Man) will be going. Which is straight back to Silver, and so too straight back to Silver-and-Jane.

Tanith Lee, UK 2009

Tanith Lee is the author of a huge number of books, and you can find a full bibliography here. She lives in the UK and besides her many novels she has also published 9 collections of novellas and short stories. She has twice won the World Fanatsy Award for short fiction and was awarded the August Derleth Award in 1980 for her novel Death’s Master.  And if it is not already obvious, the Captain of this blog is possibly Tanith’s biggest fan in the world (although I suspect most of her fans feel that passionate about her work). Voyager author Kim Falconer is another fan… click to see her review.

And please do post a reply and tell us: What was the first Tanith Lee book you read, and how did you find your way to it?

Kim Falconer: Solstice Surprise!

Kim Falconer talks about the spontaneous launch of her book, The Spell of Rosette.

Rosette was more coveted than the seasonal fruit

Rosette was more coveted than the seasonal fruit

When I was invited to a mid-summer solstice party, my thoughts were simple—which dress, and what hors devours. I certainly wasn’t preparing a speech or going over my notes on post-apocalyptic technology and magic. I did consider calling the hostess to see if any ex beaus would be present, but that was all. On the day, I made a cheese platter, wore the blue dress and forgot about the exes.

It was an eclectic group—musicians and acupuncturists, academics and artists, dentists and authors, paramedics and photographers. What tied them together, more than the grand food, music and solstice cheer, was The Spell of Rosette. It floored me. They were all talking about my book. Many had brought copies for me to sign and were passing them around. Everyone was asking questions and I was flung in front of an eager audience, most of them strangers, waiting for me to speak.

Admiring Cliff Nielsen's  cover art and Matt Stanton's design

Admiring Cliff Nielsen's cover art and Matt Stanton's design

All I could think of was Bridget Jones. Fortunately that fear was short lived and the energy and enthusiasm carried us all along, the afternoon spent meeting and talking to people individually and in small groups as they asked questions, read aloud from the pages and offered their congratulations. I found they all had one common query—worth a whole blog in itself. Everyone asked, ‘How did you get published?’

There are some powerful beliefs out there about the publishing industry, boiling down to it’s nigh impossible—but impossible is not a word I use. I’ve deleted it from my vocabulary and hence from my mindset. This line of thought evoked some interesting conversations. I also talked about the Hero’s Journey, energy, technology, magic, gender biases, occult history, environmental issues, and the premise of the Quantum Enchantment series—which can be summed up with Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd lawAny sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

He wouldn't put it down, even when the dinner bell rang.

He wouldn't put it down, even when the dinner bell rang.

What a day! It was rewarding to talk to so many readers, especially after writing for years in isolation. I can’t imagine a more rich and beautiful launch for The Spell of Rosette. The best part was, it all happened spontaneously. Good solstice! Has that every happened to you? A total surprise event? Something out of the blue? I’d love to hear about it! Comments welcome.

The Spell of Rosette is available across Australia right now and you can contact Kim via her website Quantum Enchantment.Kim lives in Byron Bay and is at work on the sequel to The Spell of Rosette.