• 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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Q&A with Jack Dann

Jack Dann, editor of Dreaming Again, an anthology of Australian fantasy and speculative fiction, which is out this month, agreed to jump on board the Voyager and answer some questions from Purple Zone fans. He’s still got a couple more to answer a bit later in July, but here are his answers to the first lot! If you have more questions to ask – post them on the Voyager Message Board or as a comment to this entry.

Q: Do you think Australian Speculative Fiction offers a more hopeful or, conversely, a darker world view than contemporary SF literature from other countries? (from Willandra)

A: Interesting question. My sense is that Australian speculative fiction covers the entire spectrum of dark…and bright world views; and I think the same is true of most English language-based SF literature. Even though we have a small population in comparison with, say, the US, we have a wide diversity of genre writers. The stories in Dreaming Again show that diversity, I think. To mangle an old boxing phrase, we punch far beyond our (population) weight!

Q: Would you consider magic realism as falling under a spec-fic umbrella? And if not/if so what importance do genres hold for writers, as opposed to readers and booksellers? (from Azquim)

A: That’s a big question! I think that as many speculative fiction writers write stories and novels that could be called magical realism, this style of fiction falls under our genre umbrella. But there are many writers from Borges to Marquez to T. Corgehessen Boyle who have written or are writing work that could be arbitrarily placed under our umbrella, but whose fictional concerns are quite different than ours.

I should mention here that categories are a marketing tool to help purchasers find what they want…or think they want. From the writer’s perspective they are extremely porous. For example, I write in and out of genre, yet even my most mainstream work has elements of magical realism—see my novels The Silent and Bad Medicine.

There is certainly pressure on writers to reproduce their past successes, so it can be commercially dangerous for a writer to move from one genre or category to another; but as artists, I think writers have to ‘follow their bliss’, to steal a phrase from Joseph Campbell, and write what feels to be important and necessary. (And I make no comment about how important or necessary art might ever be!)

Q: Do you have to be a published author to appear in this collection? [probably should have expected this one!] (from Lord Ramoth)

A: No, you blindsided me. *Grin* To answer your question, “No, you don’t have to be a published author, but the story will sure as hell have to have the juice!”

Take a look at Christopher Green’s story “Lakeside”. That’s the first story he ever submitted for publication. As Christopher wrote in his afterword to the story: “Lakeside” was written during the week Kelly Link tutored at Clarion South, 2007. Somewhere along the way, amidst Brisbane’s heat, humidity, and nights full to bursting with three whole hours of sleep, I found a lake in my mind, and fished something out.”

Clarion South is a speculative fiction writers’ workshop, often referred to as a boot camp for writers. You can check it out on the net.

Q: What are you working on next?

A: Well, that answer would take up a lot of space and probably bore the readers silly, so here’s the super-duper-abridged version. I’ve just started Shadows in the Stone, a big fantasy novel, part of a larger work called Dark Companions. Once I’m writing, the characters take me kicking and screaming to places I never expected to go. They even decided the first line: “Lucian peered through the spy hole in the floor at the angels that appeared and disappeared in the roiling mist of the large crystal gazing-globe below.”

A number of anthologies are in various states of progress. Jonathan Strahan and I are working on a Legends-style anthology for HarperCollins, which will showcase short novels by Australia’s most important and best loved fantasy writers. These short novels will take place in the popular magical worlds these bestselling Australian authors have created or, conversely, in brand new worlds that these authors are just starting to create.” (Hype alert, hype alert!) I’m also working on an original anthology with Gardner Dozois called Dragons, and…no, that’s enough.

My autobiography called Insinuations will be published as a stand-alone book, and will also be part of Contemporary Authors Autobiography series. I’ve finished a short novel about the holocaust called The Economy of Light, which should be out very soon from England, and I’ve just put together a collection of stories that deal with the dark themes of the holocaust entitled Camps. (Who says I’m not a happy-go-luck sort of a writer?)

I will be writing an introduction to a limited edition volume of my early novel Junction. Philip K. Dick said, “I may very well be basing some of my future work on Junction. I don’t usually react to the writing of other SF authors with such pleased satisfaction as I did to Junction. It’s daring; it’s original; it’s fun.” (Oops, another hype alert!)

I’m about half-way through the sequel to High Steel, a novel I wrote in collaboration with Jack C. Haldeman. Sadly, my dear friend passed away, and I’m completing the sequel—Ghost Dance—with his widow, author Barbara Delaplace. I’m doing a number of speaking gigs, which I must post on my website, and…and…it’s definitely time to catch my breath and move on to your next question…

 

 

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Jack Dann: the final part

Here’s the final part of Jack’s introduction to Dreaming Again:

Dreaming AgainWe weren’t really challenging genre conventions (although we did, sans polemic and proclamations); and although there was plenty of literary experimentation, we weren’t part of any movement. We were part of a vibrant, creative community; and we felt that something new and exciting was happening, and it was…us. It was as if we had suddenly broken through the barriers of distance and isolation. Yet although individual writers had gained international recognition, Australian genre fiction in general was still flying under the radar. Most Australian genre writers weren’t connecting to the influential American, European, and British publishers, editors, critics, and, most importantly, readers. All that began to change after the publication of Dreaming Down-Under and the catalyzing World Science Fiction convention, a truly international event, which was held in Melbourne. A number of American editors, friends that I had known for dog-years, approached me with, “Damn, you were right about these Australian writers. They’re terrific.” I was much too humble and ego-less to say, “I told you so.”

According to The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, the “renaissance” in Australian genre fiction gained wide acceptance thanks to Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy Byrne’s Australian Year’s Best series, David Hartwell and Damien Broderick’s huge reprint anthology Centaurus…and Dreaming Down-Under.

So we all did it in the nineties.

Why then do a sequel to Dreaming Down-Under now? After all, a sequel is a dangerous sort of two-headed literary beast. Dreaming Again will inevitably be compared with Dreaming Down-Under. There sure as hell better be a good reason for this book.

So what’s changed?

Well, thanks to the phenomenon known as Clarion South, often called a “boot camp for writers,” some astonishing new writers have surfaced…and we find ourselves once again squinting into the bright reflections of another gold-tinged time …a continuation and consequence of Australia’s golden age of genre. Writers such as Kim Westwood, Jason Fischer, Chris Lynch (and his American collaborator Ben Francisco), Christopher Green, and Peter M. Ball are all “products” of Clarion South. They are some of the names that we will certainly recognize in the future. The ‘New’ writers of the 90’s such as Trudi Canavan, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, and Margo Lanagan are making seven-figure deals, winning awards, and making international names for themselves, while the last generation of ‘hot’ writers, such as Garth Nix (who has over four million books in print), Sean Williams, Terry Dowling, Isobelle Carmody, and Sara Douglas, have garnered major international audiences and are going from strength to strength.

There is also a generation of writers who have been around for a while…and have suddenly sparked. Richard Harland comes to mind. He won an Aurealis Award and the prestigious Golden Aurealis Award for his satiric horror novel The Black Crusade. For my money, his Dreaming Again story “A Guided Tour in the Kingdom of the Dead” is a knockout. And…there are those important established writers who did not have stories in the original Dreaming Down-Under, such as the bestselling authors John Birmingham and Garth Nix.

When I started editing this anthology, I’ll confess that I was worried that I might not find the keep-you-up-at-night, genre-bending stories by the new Young Turks. Man, was I wrong about that.

In short, enough time has passed.

It’s a whole new world of writers working under the southern sun.

It’s steam-engine time again.

It’s time to take another laser-lit look at what’s happening in this special place.

And lastly—and firstly and in-between—it’s all about the stories!

I invite you to go forth into this land of wonder, terror, and mystery…this wild side of Terra Australis.

Dreaming Again is out in just one month’s time. It’s filled with superb stories by amazing Australian authors – anyone who loves Australian fantasy MUST read this book.

Dreaming Again – Jack Dann’s introduction continued

Last week we posted the start of Jack Dann’s introduction to Dreaming Again, a new anthology of Australian fantasy. Here’s a continuation of the introduction. We’ll be conducting a Q&A with Jack in coming weeks.

Dreaming AgainI won’t apologize for shooting for the stars, for turning my back on reasonably good stories and reasonably good writers, for wanting only the golden-tipped prose that makes old men think they are young, or makes the hair stand up on the neck, or carry the reader into that detailed day-dream we call sense-of-wonder. I won’t apologize for wanting only those stories that galvanize, that stimulate wonder and thought and laughter…that cause discomfort…that in their small, subtle, and mysterious ways transform all those who encounter them.

And, yes, I’m excited about the stories in this volume. And, yes, this probably sounds like hype. So what? This book isn’t about the editor. It’s about the stories. It’s about the numinous light shows and the Cimmerian darkness created by the talented authors who contributed to this book. It’s theirs…their talent, their ideas, their unique perspectives on life and death and the universe. They are the poets and tale-tellers and culture-changers. They are some of the best writers working in this wild, beguiling land with its great red heart and vast desert expanses. They are some of the best fantasists working in this country edged by blue seas, coral reefs, rainforests, and sophisticated urban culture. It just so happened that I was lucky enough to see these stories first and with great love and respect include them in this showcase collection, this ten year celebratory sequel to Dreaming Down-Under.

In his generous preface to Dreaming Down-Under, Harlan Ellison wrote: “Because the work, all this work, all this fresh, tough, and brilliant work, all these stories, they need no California fantasist to shill for them. They speak for themselves. They have voices. Now, go away; and listen to them.”

Harlan was absolutely right.

You don’t need my introduction or story notes; you just need the stories that are waiting like patient angels—or disguised demons—to embrace you. So I would not take offence if you gave up on this introduction right here and now and started reading the stories. In fact, in this unusual ego-less frame of mind that I seem to have slipped into…I would urge you to do so.

However, should you be in the mood for some shading and perspective and background, I’ll soldier on. After all, this bit of the book is free!

#

Ten years ago, Janeen and I had an agenda. Then as now, we wanted to shake up the established thinking about the “shape” of contemporary writing in Australia: to open up—and redefine—the literary canon to include the non-mimetic side of our literature. We wanted to showcase the very best contemporary stories that pushed the envelope of genre fiction and those stories that used genre tropes or might be considered magical realism. We referred to those stories as “wild-side fiction” to convey that evocative, almost dangerous sense of being right out there on the edge. And we wanted to get the word out to the rest of the world that there was something happening here in Australia.

Here’s a snapshot of how it looked back in 1998: The genre culture was vibrant. Writers and fans were meeting regularly at science fiction conventions, which were rather small and intimate. Mainstream publishers such as HarperCollins Voyager, Pan Macmillan, Random House, and Penguin were developing new lists of Australian fantasy and SF writers; and new, vigorous small press publishers such as Eidolon, Ticonderoga, Aphelion, and MirrorDance were pushing boundaries and publishing some wonderfully quirky and imaginative work. There was healthy competition between the two major Australian genre magazines Eidolon and Aurealis, each featuring cutting-edge fiction by Australian authors. Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy Byrne were editing the annual Year’s Best Australian SF, fantasy, and horror fiction; and although the Australian Ditmar Award (voted on by readers) had been long established, two new professional awards were created: the Aurealis Award and the Turner Award. A generation of hot new talented writers such as Sean Williams, Simon Brown, Lucy Sussex, Stephen Dedman, Aaron Sterns, Paul Brandon, K. J. Bishop, Kate Forsyth, Richard Harland, Ian Irvine, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Margo Lanagan, Scott Westerfield, Fiona McIntosh, Janeen Webb, and Kim Wilkins were making their bones and pushing the various envelopes; and established professionals such as Garth Nix, Terry Dowling, Damien Broderick, Isobelle Carmody, Sara Douglass, Sean McMullen, Greg Egan, and Rosaleen Love were writing at the top of their form. Harlan Ellison thought we were experiencing a Golden Age of Australian Science Fiction, and, indeed, it sure as hell felt like something was going on. In fact it felt like the heady days of the late 1960s when SF writers in England and the United States challenged genre conventions and started a period of experimentation called The New Wave.

What were we challenging ten years ago?

To be continued …

Dreaming Again will be available throughout Australia in July.

Dreaming Again: Jack Dann

Jack Dann is going to join the Captain of the Starship Voyager for a Q&A session in a little while, and in the mean time suggested I put up his introduction to Dreaming Again, a new anthology that follows in the footsteps of Dreaming Down-Under, showcasing Australia’s greatest fantasy writers and cutting-edge new talent. Dreaming Again comes out in July this year. This is the first part of the introduction, there’s more to come over the next few weeks before we chat to Jack.

Janeen Webb and I co-edited the prequel to Dreaming Again ten years ago. That book was called Dreaming Down-Under. Publishers Weekly compared it with Harlan Ellison’s classic Dangerous Visions; Peter Goldsworthy thought it was probably “the biggest, boldest, most controversial collection of original fiction ever published in Australia”; Neil Gaiman said, “Ignore it at your peril; it’s the book your friends will be talking about”; Jonathan Strahan, co-editor of The Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, wrote that “It may be the most important anthology of Australian speculative fiction ever published”; and Gardner Dozois, editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction annuals said that it “may well be the best overall anthology of the year.” It was the first Australian volume ever to win the World Fantasy Award, and it also won the Australian Ditmar Award for Best Anthology. Stories from Dreaming Down-Under dominated both the Ditmar and the Aurealis awards: All six short story nominations for the Ditmar Award came from Dreaming Down-Under, and stories from Dreaming Down-Under won the Aurealis Award in both the science fiction and fantasy short story categories. Two stories in the volume were optioned for film, and others were chosen for American Best of the Year collections. And in the recently published reference work Australian Speculative Fiction: a Genre Overview, Donna Hanson writes: “This collection has been credited with putting Australian writing on the international map. It brought to the forefront Australia’s best-known authors and launched a few others. This anthology is so pivotal to the Australian scene that it is still being talked about and is still in print.”

Not bad innings!

Since Dreaming Down-Under was published, Janeen and I have been constantly queried as to when we were going to do another volume. Our refrain was consistent: “When the time is right.” We wanted to wait until the climate had changed…until new authors started writing the stories that would shock, astound, and delight us; and we wanted to give the established and up-and-coming authors showcased in the original volume time to develop new styles, themes, and audiences.

Well, that time is here, and Janeen and I were supposed to co-edit this book, but circumstances—damn all the fates, Norns, dark angels, doctors, germs, miasmas, and especially hollow-headed bureaucrats who gather like storm clouds just waiting to mix a multiplicity of metaphors and rain on our respective parades—have forced her to sit this one out. Janeen is a private person. Her ‘circumstances’ are nobody’s business. But, dammit, she should have had her name on the cover of this book.

Instead, she has looked over my shoulder, constrained me from my more florid idiocies, provided support, wisdom, and critical feedback. After all, she was an internationally known critic before she became a novelist.

So…what about this book? What about Dreaming Again?

Well, for a start, this is what I wrote to the authors:

Dreaming Again will showcase the very best contemporary “wild-side fiction” (those stories that have an edge of horror or fantasy, or could be categorised as magical realism) and the very best genre fiction, which includes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. We are looking for brilliant writing, style, and fresh ideas. Our only criterion is quality. Your story can be “new-wave,” or cyberpunk. It can be a “New Yorker story”, hard science fiction, soft science fiction, magic realism, contemporary fantasy. It can be a quiet vignette or ground-breaking extrapolation. We’re looking for the brilliant stories that we’ll remember in the years to come.

Dreaming Again will cross genres to showcase a combination of the very best Australian genre and non-genre short fiction. It will contain the cream of Australian science fiction, fantasy, horror, aboriginal fantastical fiction, and mainstream magical realism. This is the anthology that will shake up the established thinking about the “shape” of contemporary writing in Australia…that will open up—and redefine—the literary canon.

We are very interested in science fiction, fantasy, horror (dark fantasy), and stories of magical realism that use the Australian experience and geography; but that is secondary to good story. If your killer idea takes place in the far future, or in space, or on an alternative world—fine. Again, our criterion is quality.

This is an invitation to participate in the making of literary history. If you have a story that represents the very top of your form, we’d love to see it.

Keep an eye out here for more from Jack’s introduction to Dreaming Again, and our Q&A. The star-studded line up of writers for Dreaming Again includes: Sara Douglass, Garth Nix, Trudi Canavan, John Birmingham, Cecelia Dart-Thornton, Terry Dowling, Margo Lanagan, Isobelle Carmody and many more …