• 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!



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?

Judging the Aurealis Awards – Lynne Green

As the Aurealis Awards are coming up in just two weekend’s time – Saturday 24 January, to be precise – I thought it might be nice to hear something from one of the judges. Lynne is one of my colleagues from the Fantasy Short Story judging panel as well as a writer herself (her full bio is at the end of this post) and she kindly agreed to write about the judging for that category. Fear not, nothing is revealed … you’ll have to wait two weeks for that!

How do you become a judge? For anything?

I stumbled into judging through my university studies. One of my lecturers was a judge for the Aurealis Awards, and she suggested that being a judge was good for your own writing. You got to see everything in one area, and so would have a very good idea of what was current in that genre. As well, you were able to see what was good and bad in other people’s work, which would make you more critical of your own prose.

So, I offered to be a judge. I wasn’t expecting to be accepted, as I hadn’t been a judge before. It was exciting – and flattering – to discover I was considered knowledgeable enough to be selected for a judging panel. This year, there was even more competition for places on the judging panels. It is an honour to be selected.

Being a judge means several things, both good and bad at the same time. It means you get to read a lot, and you don’t have to pay for the privilege. Doesn’t that sound like heaven? However, you have to read everything, and by a certain date. You can’t skip the bad and the awful, as they deserve as much consideration as the well-written and original stories. Every item means a lot to their author, particularly if they have thought enough of it to nominate it for an Aurealis.

You have to read critically, which is very different for reading for enjoyment. Sometimes, it gets to the point that you can’t turn off that little critic, and even sitting down to read for entertainment becomes an exercise in grammar, voice, verisimilitude, plot, characterisation and setting, and everything else you have to consider when reading a piece for the judging. Even watching television can flip the switch, and you’ll be picking plot holes in your favourite movie without realising it. That is when it is time to give it a rest for a day or two.

As a judge, you can’t favour your favourite types of writing. If you recognise a friend, you have to switch off that recognition. I’m always scared that I will go harder on anyone I know, so that I won’t be accused of favouritism.

I’ve enjoyed the challenge of reading work that I may never have read otherwise. My breadth and depth of knowledge has been tested. I’m amazed at how original, innovative and exciting, how talented, Australian authors are.

While I am reading my way through the nominations, I fill out a spreadsheet. This spreadsheet is supplied by the convenor of the judging panel, and contains a list of the virtues we are to consider for judging. This way, nobody gets lost among the many fine entries, and great stuff I read at the start of the year isn’t forgotten before the end of the year. I reread all the best entries, while trying to study for my end-of-year exams.

At this point, the real judging occurs. Everyone on your panel suggests a shortlist. Now, I have been very lucky with my panels. The teamwork needed to come up with a shortlist has always been superb. Often, the same titles will appear on everyone’s suggested shortlist, though not in the same order.

And there is the shortlist. So…who wins? This year, the spreadsheet system was priceless. Each judge’s nominations were tallied, with each nomination weighted for where it fell in the individual shortlists. The story that received the most points was the outright winner.

This is a very fair system. By having a panel of judges, it cuts down on possibility of subjective choices. I must admit, knowing that the other judges had chosen the same stories as I favoured was a relief. It meant that I had been making consistent choices, which can be hard when you are reading over a period of months.
I always tried to spend one day a week working on my readings and updating the spreadsheet. Towards the end of the judging period, I wasn’t as diligent as I had been (due to university commitments), and I had to make up the work in larger time blocks. If I am selected to be a judge next year, I will again put aside a set amount of time each week. Letting the readings build up might be a tragic mistake…particularly near the end of the judging period when the scattered showers of nominations became a deluge.

Even though being a judge is time consuming, it is very rewarding. At the end of the year, I always sit back and feel I’ve made a real contribution to the writing community. Who knows, maybe we’ve been lucky enough to encourage some talented people, and reward them for their efforts with the recognition they deserve.

Lynne Green writes under her own name, as the Voyager Science Queen, and under the pen name of Lynne Lumsden Green for everything else. Though she already has a B. Sc. in zoology, she is currently studying Creative Writing at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Her long term goal is to become a respected writer and academic in the fields of Fantasy, Popular Science Fact, and Science Fiction. Her favourite authors are Diana Wynne Jones, Isaac Asimov, Neil Gaiman, and all of the Voyager authors, with Terry Pratchett as her personal hero. Recently, Lynne has had some quiet success with her short stories, and hopes this will lead to her ultimate domination the world.

See the Aurealis shortlist

Learn more about the Aurealis Awards

There are still tickets available for the ceremony, which is in Brisbane on Saturday evening, 24 January – it’s a good excuse for a long weekend break, as it’s also the Australia Day long weekend so Monday is a public holiday! AND The State Library of Queensland has a fantastic expo on video gaming called GAME ON.