• 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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Winter Be My Shield Launch!

photo by Sari Yong

When the characters of my series Children of the Black Sun first came to me, there was one thing about them that I knew for certain, one thing on which they all seemed to agree: they needed to live somewhere cold. The northern nation of Ricalan where Winter Be My Shield  is set is a land of Siberian cold, dominated by taiga forest where snow can fall even in summer and covers the landscape for half of each year.

Environment shapes the culture of those who live within it — it’s no coincidence that people living in the harshest environments have the strongest traditions of hospitality. The story of Winter be My Shield is tied closely to the culture of the people who live in Ricalan. It’s a society of interdependence, where one person alone has a low chance of survival and where a single misfortune could mean their death. The harsh and unforgiving landscape forces people to work together, rely on each other and find common ground — even when their goals and values put them at odds and drive them to conflict. Ricalan is a place where you have a responsibility to the welfare of the people around you, as they have a responsibility to you; a land where if you find a stranger half-frozen in the snow, you bring her into the warmth of your home, whether it be stone walls or a tent of hide and fur, because tomorrow it could be you stranded, alone and defenceless amid the elements.

When it came time to plan the book launch, I wanted a way to introduce people to the culture and the landscape of the story. In our world, our first exposure to a foreign culture is often through their food and their traditions of hospitality, and so when I wanted to introduce Ricalan to the folk who came to help celebrate the launch of my book, I decided to do it through the foods that would be familiar to the people of Ricalan. Some foods, like ramps, the tender young fronds of fiddlehead ferns, are difficult to find in Australia, but there are many things in our supermarkets that would be known to the people of the Taiga forests. At the launch we had rare roast meat with horseradish on parsnip fritters; goat’s cheese and cured pork with cherry preserves; salmon, that ancient staple of the north, smoked and served on sourdough with cultured cream; and kimchee pancakes, a version of the traditional bannock which northern travellers have eaten for centuries. To follow we had cranberry pies with fresh cream, and panna cotta tartlets sweetened with maple syrup and forest berries.

photo by Sari Yong

photo by Sari Yong

It’s an incredible feeling to walk into my regular bookshop and see Winter Be My Shield on the shelves, when for so long it’s been just a file on my desktop and words running through my head. It was amazing to see so many people come to share this latest step in a long but very rewarding journey; from friends who’ve known me since I first started to write, to folk I only met a few weeks ago. I hope I was able to give my guests a symbolic taste of the north, and that it let them feel a connection to the people and the landscape of Ricalan. It may be a harsh and dangerous land, but there are warm places hidden away from the biting cold. I hope you enjoy seeking them out as much as I have.

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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.

Are you game to eat like they do in Game of Thrones?

   The Gastro Park restaurant in King’s Cross Sydney are putting on an amazing Game of Thrones inspired menu designed by Chef Grant King next month from the 7th March to coincide with the DVD release of Season 1 of the TV show.

Featuring roast pork served on a mossy plank, mozzerella eyeballs, pepper raven’s feet and dragon egg desserts, all served by wait staff dressed as Westeros natives, it sounds like the perfect night out for any serious Song of Ice and Fire fans! I must admit, the eyeballs are kinda disturbing, but other dishes sound fantastic.

Most of the Voyager crew are keen to try it out, but would you? Let us know! Hopefully we’ll get a chance to go, and rest assured, we WILL blog about it if we do!

Check out some more photos here and read more about how they made the dishes here.