• 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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Defining Strong Women by Kim Falconer

Kim Falconer training with the katana on the beach

This post was originally a contribution to a series of conversations about strong female characters on Mary Victoria’s blog. This is such a hot topic – how do we write strong women. The most interesting thing is, we have to ask the question at all.

 Back in the day, strong women, (where strong equals powerful/autonomous) were evil. Insert social subtext: It’s bad for women to be powerful, or worse perhaps, only bad women can be powerful). Snow White’s step mother was very strong but not many girls wanted to be like her. Macbeth’s three ‘hags’ had it all going on, brewing their ‘Charm of powerful trouble,’ but they were feared at best, despised at worst. Certainly they were not venerated. This social subtext might read – a woman’s intuition is a source of power but she has to get down, dirty and ugly to use it.

 Then there is the Femme Fatale. She is hot hot hot, and bad to the core. Dangerous. Spellbinding. The new subtext? Powerful women are evil and also sexy. Makes sense; we all know sexy women are ‘bad’. I’m not sure if this is a step up from Macbeth but it’s not too hard to see who is doing the defining. Hint. It’s not women.

Finally we have the wo-man, which are male characters with breasts. Nicole Murphy mentions this in her post. The wo-man is written exactly as a man with all his interests, attributes, entanglements and characteristics except he/she has sex with male characters. Interesting. Starbuck, in BSG, the gods love her, is a good example. Wo-man to the soul. Is she a strong female character? Not really. The subtext here is, to be strong you have to be a man.

 It seems our society lacks the language and conceptual insights, given the patriarchal inheritance, to write strong autonomous women without props. Usually female roles fall into four categories—powerful rulers who need a man to tame them/make them complete, helpless rulers that need to be rescued and fall in love with a man, wo-man who don’t need anything and women who are simply invisible. George Lucas stepped outside of these limitations (the scene where Princess Leia rolls her eyes, takes the gun off of fumbling Harrison Ford, AKA male rescuer, and shoots her way out) but viewers weren’t ready for it. By the third film he has her in a gold filigree bikini chained to a giant phallus. Hmmmmm.

 Marshall McLuhan said ‘Art is what you can get away with.’ I think what he means is ‘Art is what you can get away with in the current social paradigm.’ Like Mr. Lucas, you can write a strong woman authentically but if the social climate isn’t ready, she won’t fly. So how do we write strong women minus the subtext and props? As long as we have to ask, we don’t. But as writers, we can keep pushing the social limits, ‘getting away with’ more and more until the question is void and we have true equality, in art and in life. Viva la evolution of our female characters!

Kim Falconer is an author writing evolving, strong and wonderful female AND male characters. If you haven’t already joined her legion of fans, pick up a copy of The Spell of Rosette to get into the world of the Quantum Enchantment.

Visit Kim Falconer’s website for more information on her writing and other pursuits.

Read the whole set of Writing Strong Women posts over at Mary Victoria’s blog.

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Kim Falconer: Archetypes, Agents and Oracles—Where Myth and SF Meet

Flycon, the online speculative fiction convention, offered a chance for authors, editors and fans from all over the globe to meet and discuss SF/F topics. One subject of particular interest was Mythology and Science Fiction, moderated and hosted by Nyssa Pascoe from A Writer goes on a Journey. The panellists were Dave Freer, Amanda Pillar and the transcripts are still up for viewing.

At first glance myth and SF seem opposed. Myths happen in the past and usually involve the numinous where science fiction happens in the future and involves speculative technologies, environmental shifts, space travel, or life on other planets. Amanda Pillar summed it up by saying mythology is the metaphorical framework which a culture uses to understand the world around them and science fiction is basically stories set in the future. But how do they work together?

Dave Freer gave an example. ‘I borrow heavily from the symbolism common in many mythological stories. I think this helps to quietly get under the reader’s skin. Issues like stories beginning at dawn and finishing at dusk. Issues of the trickster – a common myth figure – who is so often the bane and saviour of humankind.’

Joseph Campbell, a hero of mine, used the term monomyth to describe this archetypal portrayal of characters. Monomyths are enduring stories that reach a broad audience, archetypal in that they occur in all places, in all peoples, in all times. These stories touch something inside us—giving us as sense of meaning—something science doesn’t always do.

Star Wars—Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher 1977

Star Wars—Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher 1977

George Lucas’ Star Wars is an example of a monomyth/science fiction blend. In Obi Wan and Yoda we see the archetype of the Wise Old Man and spiritual Guide. Luke Skywalker is the young Hero and Darth Vader is the archetype of Death. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung believed these characters emerge from the Collective Unconscious, a deeper level of our personal unconscious that links the minds of every being—even back into our animal past.

He said, ‘This deeper level manifests itself in universal archaic images expressed in dreams, religious beliefs, myths, and fairy tales. The archetypes, as unfiltered psychic experience, appear sometimes in their most primitive and naive forms (in dreams), sometimes in a considerably more complex form due to the operation of conscious elaboration in myths.’

Keanu Reeves in the Matrix plays 'The One', a contemporary interpretation of the savior archetype.

Keanu Reeves in the Matrix plays 'The One', a contemporary interpretation of the savior archetype.

Another film that blends myth and SF is the Matrix Trilogy. Neo is the Hero called to adventure. Morpheus is the Wise Old Man, and the Oracle, like Yoda, is the numinous guide. The animas figure—the sacred feminine that tutors through love (or lack of it) like Medea, Ariadne and Princes Leia—is characterized by Trinity. It’s interesting how the hero’s journey hangs not on strength or knowledge but ultimately on a relationship to love. (Remember what happens to Jason when he rejects Medea?) In the Matrix, Neo is unable to overpower agent Smith until he is awakened by Love—a wonderful mythic theme woven into a post-apocalyptic SF tale.

Do you have a favourite SF/monomyth? Please share it here.

Kim Falconer is the author of The Spell of Rosette (Quantum Enchantment Book 1), which was published in January by HarperVoyager. Kim lives in Byron Bay and runs the website Falcon’s Astrology as well as a website dedicated to the Quantum Enchantment series.

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