• 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!

     

     

The great rise and fall: Sean Williams on Geodesica

Some time ago, I asked Sean Williams if he would write a piece for the Voyager blog, and he agreed to write on the Geodesica duology – made up of Geodesica: Ascent and Geodesica: Descent, two books which make a whole that I found amazing to read. So, in two parts, here is Sean’s piece, a wonderful exploration of writing these two books and the themes explored within them.

Ascent

Ascent

What’s Geodesica about? Perhaps I should start by describing where the idea for this story came from. As a young boy I spent a lot of time on buses, going back and forth between my home in Adelaide and the small country town where my grandparents lived. I’m sure I’m not the only such kid to have day-dreamed about taking a bus to another planet. In 1992 I tried to write a story about just that.

“Cloverleaf” detailed the escape of a criminal into a vast, space-bending maze that connected all the far-flung worlds of humanity’s future empire. He’s chased by cops and ultimately falls foul of an intelligence that has taken root inside the maze, an emergent property of the minds of all the commuters travelling through it like him.

No one bought “Cloverleaf”, and so the idea languished. It wasn’t until 2003, when I was looking for a series to follow Orphans, that the idea came out of the bottom drawer and leapt back into the forefront of my mind.

This being an old story for which I felt a great deal of affection, I quickly decided that it would be a “Williams with Dix” rather than “Williams and Dix” project–meaning that it was something I would work on alone, through development, pitching and writing, with Shane coming onboard much later to give me vital editorial support.

Descent

Descent

Having decided that, I proceeded to ditch almost everything about the original story except the central conceit and the title–and soon enough even the title went too. The duology was originally pitched as Cloverleaf, with individual volumes called Bedlam Watch and Palmer’s Wake. They then became Geodesica and Geodesica Falling before evolving into versions that ended up on the shelves.

Next I had to invent a new space opera milieu for the maze to intersect with. The one I settled on featured waves of progressively more advanced post-human sorts expanding outwards from Earth, each taking over territory controlled by their predecessors–something I’d never seen in fiction before. I made the maze of alien origin, something stumbled across and exploited, rather than built, and set the story off-Earth instead of starting at home and moving elsewhere–because sometimes the view over our shoulder is more terrifying than that ahead.

Sean Williams is the author of twenty-nine novels and over seventy short stories, and won an Aurealis this year for his collection of short stories in Magic Dirt (link below). To find out more about him, go to www.seanwilliams.com.

Part two of this piece will go up tomorrow, but below is the list of further reading that Sean sent through.

Further reading:

2006 Conjure GoH Address (the million-year romance)

“A Longing for the Dark” (the future of fighting), presented in podcast form, read by me, courtesy of the Terra Incognita Australian Speculative Fiction podcast:
www.tisf.com.au or
www.keithstevenson.com/terraincognitasf/tisf005.html or
www.keithstevenson.com/media/TISF_005.mp3

Lastly, “Night of the Dolls” (lots of the themes mentioned here), in my best-of short story collection Magic Dirt:
http://ticonderogapublications.com/publications/magicdirt.html
(Like “A Longing for the Dark”, this is a standalone excerpt from Geodesica: Descent)

The Crooked Letter available free

Sean William’s The Crooked Letter, First book of the Cataclysm, is currently available as a free PDF from his overseas publisher Pyr.

See: http://ladnews.livejournal.com/112580.html

Sean says: For those who aren’t familiar with it, The Crooked Letter is kinda urban New Weird on a massive scale. It’s been compared to China Mieville, Philip Pullman, Ursula K Le Guin, Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, yada yada, and it won both the Aurealis and Ditmar Awards the year it was released (the first fantasy novel in the history of the awards to do so). Chronologically speaking, it’s the first book in my Change series, and stands as a prequel to The Stone Mage & the Sea, The Blood Debt, and The Changeling. It’s also my attempt to take all the world’s religions and wrap them up in a crazy Darwinian package that even an atheist like me might be tempted to believe. It was the most difficult book I ever wrote, and now it’s free. Check it out!

Keep an eye on this blog in about 2 weeks when we’ll be posting up something Sean wrote on the Geodesica duology.

Lynne Green: Starstruck at the Aurealis Awards

Fantastic Queensland should be very proud. The running of the Aurealis Awards showed how an awards ceremony can be both sophisticated and fun. The awards were everything you expect from such occasions: beautiful women in fabulous frocks (too many gorgeous women to name names), dashingly handsome men (Sean Williams suits up nicely), and civilised drinks at a posh venue.

Then again, it had all the unique twists you would expect from a community event of SF writers. Some of the attendees were wearing eye-catching items of clothing; a black kilt – and I have to give an honourable mention the pair of very nice legs so revealed; enviable purple, velvet cloaks that glowed like gems, pink shoelaces for breast cancer awareness; and Simon Higgins was sporting a rather swish coat. There were Star Trek jokes flying all over the place, and that pun is very much intended. Whenever someone was announced as a winner, the audience was just as thrilled as the award recipient, which is a most delightful experience.
However, you can probably get all this information from other sources. So I will share my personal impressions of the function.

My biggest thrill was meeting with people who had just been virtual acquaintances; hello Trudi, Angela and Kathleen! Trudi had her book launch before the ceremony, and was also one of the presenters on the night. Because I know that Trudi is a mad knitter, I was expecting someone more mumsy and not such a glorious glamour puss. I was able to recognise Angela because of her hair and glasses; she is attending Clarion at time of writing and looked wonderful for a woman under the stress of continuous creativity. Kathleen recognised me from my Facebook photo. I have been requested to put up a right-side-up photo on Facebook to make recognition easier in the future.

As well, I was able to meet up with Natalie, one of my fellow judges. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch up with the other two judges attending the ceremony. That was disappointing, as we had worked well as a team and I was hoping to chat with such perceptive, cooperative and charming people.

To be truthful, I was star struck on the night. At one point I was standing next to Jack Dann, and I couldn’t make my mouth open to say ‘hi’. I felt the same when I saw Sean Williams, even though I give him cheek on Facebook – I’ve been known to make fun of his love of baked goods – I felt too shy to go up and chat. I was stunned when I spoke with Trudi, even though Trudi is as nice and approachable a person as you could ever meet.

Everyone talks about a ‘Golden Age’ or era for Science Fiction or Fantasy or Horror. For me, Australia is going through a ‘Golden Age’, and I am so lucky to meet with SF Australian authors, who are among the best writers in the world. Proof was provided last night, with stellar names accepting or presenting awards. I was walking with the stars.

So, my highlights of the night: Alison and Simon as presenters, because they were relaxed and had fun; watching the winners struggle up and down the stairs, because they weren’t expecting to win and so sat up the back; the sudden intake of breath from the couple behind me as the husband was announced as a winner; mixing with ‘the SF community’, though they are more like a family.

So, if you get a chance to attend the awards in the future, do go. I relished the opportunity to see the hardworking writers and illustrators receive their well-deserved recognition. All the nominees were of the utter, soaring, pinnacle of Australian talent, and they all deserved to win. I still feel like I’m gleaming with stardust.

(And thank you to my husband, who is painfully shy and loathes crowds, for attending with me. (((Hugs))) sweetheart.)

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.

So, who won an Aurealis on 24 Jan?

Learn more about the Aurealis Awards

Clarion South: Getting Creative … Part 1

We asked: Were there any exercises to stimulate the creativity while at the Clarion South workshop? The answers came free-flowing and prompted a lot of LOLZ from this blog maintainer – seriously! Smutty collaborations, stationery, haikus and inspiring movies (ha!), physics (see Lee Battersby’s response tomorrow re: unicorns), the necessity of french toast (Christopher Green, tomorrow). I toyed with calling this post ‘getting stimulated’ in the spirit of the answers below, but had an eleventh hour change of heart. Read on!

NB. Margo Lanagan attended Clarion West, which is one of the US counterparts of Clarion South, and was then a tutor at Clarion South.

Margo Lanagan: At Clarion West we had a high-speed progressive story-writing session with Gwyneth Jones that pretty much undid me with laughter. Gwyneth seemed to realise how far we’d regressed in the 5 weeks before she arrived. She let us have our heads and get silly. Apart from that, who needed stimulation? Talking story for hours a day was quite stimulation enough.

Deborah Kalin: One of Margo’s first acts was to send around prompts — an image, an opening line, I forget the third — and asked us to write the start of a story based on each prompt. I remember being terrified, imagining we’d have to read them aloud or hand them in (clearly, I have assessment anxieties!). When we’d finished, she told us: you have three more weeks of Clarion and now, if you can’t think of anything else, you have three stories you can work on. It was so amazingly simple and sweet I fell in love with her then and there.

Brenn McDibble
: Well, I think the most stimulation came from sitting around the table with a bottle of wine after class. The whole chatter was wild and far out science, memes, extrapolations and revolved around writing, books, movies and occasionally stationery. Stationery is important to writers, and you can see what I mean. It was full on immersion in all things speculative 24 hours a day with like-minded individuals… although we’d all been assimilated into a kind of single-minded entity by the end.

Jason Fischer
: We played a lot of Mafia, which is basically a bluffing game involving cards and secret identities. Some people got WAY too into that, but it was great fun. Another exercise that came about were some round-robin stories, where you write a sentence and pass them around. I hate to say that I sabotaged several of these masterpieces with my grotty sense of humour, but this was good for unclogging the creative process.

Michael Greenhut: Occasionally, some of us got around a table and did some round robin writing; Each of us contributed one sentence at a time to a Frankenstein story. Some these became interesting, while others became runaway smut.

Sean Williams: I encourage my Clarion students to write a haiku a day. I also buy them pizza and make them watch “Throw Momma from the Train”, since everything you need to know about writing is in that movie. Well, maybe not, but it does stimulate the two most important things to come out of week one: frank discussion and bonding (even if the latter is against my poor taste in movies).

Tune in tomorrow for the second set of answers from the Clarionites.
Check out the earlier posts about Clarion South
Find out more about Clarion South (intake is closed for the next Australian session, which will take place in Brisbane from Jan 4 to Feb 14)

Clarion South: What comes first, the successful writer or the workshop? Part One

Welcome to the first of many Clarion South posts. The Clarion South Writers Workshop is the most intensive professional development program for speculative fiction writers in the southern hemisphere. Previous tutors at the Workshops include Sean Williams, Kelly Link, Jack Dann, Gardner Dozois, Margo Lanagan and Marianne de Pierres. Past and future students of the program have agreed to answer a few questions on the Voyager blog which will hopefully give writers out there plenty of information on what Clarion is all about. The recent speculative fiction anthology, Dreaming Again (edited by Jack Dann) included a number of stand out stories from Clarion South graduates, and many have gone on to be published in prestigious publications.

Our first question to the Clarionites was to ask: why do you think Clarion has produced so many successful writers? Or, are successful writers attracted to Clarion?

Sean Williams: I think it’s a combination of several things. Clarion is an environment in which a focussed work ethic is both strongly encouraged and demonstrated to be effective. It provides a strong sense of community, and it also encourages critical thinking and a thick skin. All these things are crucial if you want to be a writer.

Lee Battersby: Clarion produces successful writers because it demands a massive commitment of time, energy, and sacrifice — it’s six weeks away from the world and the people you love, and that can be tough — as well as a significant expense, and that means that anybody who turns up on day one has already shown a huge amount of drive and dedication to their craft before they start the six week schedule. They don’t mess about when they call it a boot camp — it’s tough stuff, and the writers who come out the other side and go on to achieve success do so because they’ve learn to ally that dedication to a whole range of hard-nosed professional advice.

Jason Fischer: I’d say people who want to be successful are drawn to professional development workshops such as Clarion South. I can only really speak for the last course (2007) but Gardner Dozois told us that we were more-or-less doomed and that statistically speaking only three of us were likely to be heard of ever again. I think this spurred several of us onto various successes (with Writers of the Future, and sales to prozines like Realms of Fantasy) just to spite him. 🙂

Paul Haines: I think you need to have some standard of good writing to get into the course, a desire to succeed as a writer (or you wouldn’t be on the course), and a high level of determination to achieve whatever goals you set yourself to survive the bootcamp nature of the course. To answer those two questions: it’s both.

Six more Clarionites will answer the same question tomorrow. If you’d like more info on the Clarion South Writers Workshop, please visit www.clarionsouth.org and keep an eye on the Voyager blog for further posts.

Many thanks to Jason Fischer, author of (among many other stories) ‘Undead Camels Ate Their Flesh’, published in Dreaming Again, for gathering all these answers from the tutors, graduates and future students of Clarion South.

Sound the clarion call …

Make sure you check out the Voyager blog from next week on as we bring you the thoughts and advice of Clarion South graduates, and new students. This is the start of a set of posts that would-be speculative fiction writers should not miss out on reading!

Hear from Sean Williams, Lee Battersby, Angela Slatter, Aidan Doyle, Steve Turner,Amanda le Bas De Plumetot, Ben Julien, Jess Irwin, Helen Venn, Laura Goodin, Christopher Green, Paul Haines, Deborah Kalin, Bren MacDibble and Jason Fischer. You might recognise some of these names from Dreaming Again and other popular sf/f anthologies – because they are published short story writers (and in some cases, long story writers too … er, that is, novelists).

So …

Watch out

Clarion’s about.

Click here for more informaton on Clarion South.