• 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?

The Silver Metal Lover by Kim Falconer

 The Silver Metal Lover

When discussing Sentience, our captain mentioned her favourite book, The Silver Metal Lover, by Tanith Lee. She encouraged me to read it and the experience opened my eyes. For those who aren’t familiar, here is a review by Victoria Strauss.

One of the things I love about TSML is how Tanith explores the hard problems of consciousness without intruding on the story. It was only during times ‘away from the book,’ that I pondered her insights—how the erotic nature of love can grow souls.

When I say erotic, I don’t me pornographic. I’m referring to Eros, the god of love—the original meaning is something that brings two people together in such a way that it creates a lasting transformation. In this sense, sex is rarely erotic, but it can be, as can the non-sexual relationship between an artist and their craft or a teacher and student. In TSML not only is the sex erotic but so is the art, music and intimacy shared between Jane and Silver.

To begin with, Jane is far from individuated. She says, ‘My mother has a lot of opinions, which is restful, as that way I don’t have to have many of my own.’ Jane is sentient but has little self awareness. Then she falls in love.

Mother, I am in love with a robot.
No. She isn’t going to like that.
Mother, I am in love.
Are you, darling?
Oh, yes, Mother, yes I am. His hair is auburn, and his eyes are very large. Like amber. And his skin is silver.
Silence.
Mother. I’m in love.
With whom, dear?
His name is Silver.
How metallic.
Yes. It stands for Silver Ionized Locomotive Verisimulated Electronic Robot.
Silence. Silence. Silence.
Mother….

Silver has a sense of self from the start. I’m a robot, he says, but is he sentient? He’s like a toaster making lovely golden toast but then he explains a ‘cruel look’, showing he is more than the sum of his circuitry. ‘When something occurs that is sufficiently unlike what I’m programmed to expect, my thought process switch over. I may then, for a moment, appear blank, or distant.’ How ‘human’ is that?

By the middle of TSML I realised Tanith wasn’t writing about romance, or coming of age, or social inequality or advanced technology or environmental disasters—even though these themes are present. She was writing about the nature of being. In her beautifully woven story is a Cartesian thesis on mid-body dualism. Are we the product of our physicality—a result of biochemical reactions in the brain? Or is consciousness spirit, reflected in our capacity to transform through love?

When I reached page 232 I wanted to stop. Jane . . . Jain says, ‘I love him. He loves me. It isn’t a boast. I can hardly believe it myself. But he does. Oh God, he does. And, I am happy.

This moment reflects the perfect lightness of being, the epiphany before the fall—I longed to stay in this Eden of consciousness—the brilliance before expulsion from the garden. But Tanith holds us to our mythologies that say the ‘fall’ is necessary—separation is necessary for soul growth.

TSML is an extraordinary tale of erotic love and the lasting transformation it brings. Highly recommended. Who else has read it? Please share your thoughts!

arrows of timeKim Falconer is the author of The Spell of Rosette, Quantum Enchantment Book 1. She lives in Byron Bay in Australia with two black cats. As well as writing, she runs Falcon Astrology, and I am sure wishes you all Happy Solstice for yesterday and Happy New Moon today! Her next book, Arrows in Time, Quantum Enchantment Book 2, is due out in August 2009. Look out for a post from Tanith Lee herself, coming this week, all about The Silver Metal Lover.

Love and Robots …

The Silver Metal LoverThe Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee is one of my ‘life changing’ books. It’s the book that made me realise how deeply I love fantasy – and how much an author can change your point-of-view, your feelings, make you so emotionally caught up with a character. I read it on the recommendation of Cecelia Dart-Thorton (author of the Bitterbynde trilogy) – and I have never been more glad about a suggestion for reading material! While trawling the web (as I do) I came across this review – which I think captures the spirit of the book. Victoria Strauss kindly gave me her permission to reproduce it. Voyager publishes The Silver Metal Lover in Australia – with a beautiful cover done by Kinoko Craft. I can’t recommend it more highly.

I’ll be asking various Voyager authors about the book that made an impact on their life – whether it was the one that turned them to writing, or one that made them weep, laugh, exult in life! Let’s see what they have to say.

Taelian

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I read my first Tanith Lee novel when I was in my teens, and I’ve been eagerly devouring her fiction ever since. Sadly, a great deal of her work is out of print, and so it’s an occasion for rejoicing when one of her books is re-issued. The re-publication of The Silver Metal Lover (out of print for more than a decade) is an especially exciting event, for it’s one of Lee’s best — lush, sensual, dark, and utterly enthralling.

Jane is a pampered rich girl. She lives in a fantastic house raised high above the city on metal struts. Her doting mother gives her everything her heart could desire: luxurious rooms, fabulously expensive clothing, a bigger allowance than she can think how to spend, all the conditioning and cosmetics and beauty aids that money can buy. Jane has no idea that she’s bored until she encounters Silver, an impossibly beautiful, impossibly human-seeming robot created by a company called Electronic Metals Ltd. Silver has been built to be a musician, and his exquisite singing stirs something in Jane that she has never felt before.

Jane knows it’s crazy to fall in love with a robot. But she thinks she’s seen something in Silver — something more than clockwork and computer chips, something beyond the machine. When she discovers that Electronic Metals intends to dismantle Silver, because he hasn’t checked out on their function tests, she persuades a wealthy friend to buy him. Together, she and Silver flee to the only place where they can live undisturbed: the city’s decayed and violent slums. There, in a dilapidated apartment they transform into a fairy tale refuge, Jane begins to understand that she wasn’t mistaken when she glimpsed a soul inside the metal body of her lover.

The accompanying literature describes The Silver Metal Lover as a romance. And indeed it is, capturing with breathless intensity the delirium of first love. But it’s also a story of becoming human. Silver, acquiring free will, learning to feel love and fear, makes this journey; and so does Jane, who has spent her whole life cocooned in wealth, parroting the tastes and beliefs of those around her, pre-programmed by her environment and education just as Silver has been pre-programmed by his builders. Layer by layer they shed their conditioning, a struggle to freedom that parallels their unfolding love story, and lends it depth and poignancy.

Lee’s prose is lush and lyrical, her settings exotic and powerfully atmospheric. There’s a cyberpunk feel to the world she creates, with its machine-driven culture and huge gap between rich and poor, but unlike a lot of early cyberpunk, it doesn’t seem dated. The characters — Silver and Jane especially, but also the many secondary players — are unforgettable, rendered with great feeling and delicious flashes of humour. The Silver Metal Lover is a feast for the mind and the heart, one of the most purely enjoyable reads I’ve had in ages. Bantam is to be commended for bringing this wonderful novel back into print, and giving a new generation of readers a chance to discover it.

Copyright © 1999 by Victoria Strauss, reproduced with permission, originally appeared at http://www.sfsite.com/07a/sil60.htm

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Click here to visit her website.