• 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!



Voyager’s new frontiers

Voyager, or at least our namesake,  truly has gone where no one has gone before!

Click to go to the article and watch the video

The video image above comes from  a Sydney Morning Herald article celebrating the
35th birthday of the Voyager spacecraft and its imminent departure from our Solar System.

With all the advances in everyday technology it is perhaps too easy now days to not recognise the extraordinary first step that Voyager’s journey represents.

More than 18 billion kilometres from home, Voyager is still yielding terrific  science as it battles through the last fringes of our star system.

“It is providing us with extraordinary data, with precious information” about  the structure of the Solar System, said Rosine Lallement of the Paris  Observatory.

Voyager was launched on September 5, 1977, a few weeks after its sister scout  Voyager 2, and the pair carried out a magnificent tour of all the giant planets  – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Afterwards their missions were reconfigured so they would fly to the edge of  the Solar System, and then beyond, into the utter unknown.

Who can know what it will send back, or when? How far will it go? So many questions and so many exciting possible answers! Hopefully it won’t be back surrounded by a giant energy field….

From Star Trek the Motion Picture

The Sacred Tattoo – Kim Falconer

Star trek ‘Geek ink’—Spock, Kirk, Picard and Data, but we already knew that!

Star trek ‘Geek ink’—Spock, Kirk, Picard and Data, but we already knew that!

‘A tattoo is a permanent affirmation that should be taken in a serious and sacred way,’ said my tattoo artist, Gary Mooney. ‘Whether you know it or not, it will influence your path the rest of your life.’

For all its recent popularity, a tattoo is more than an adornment or a fashion statement. The entire process—the idea, designing, placement and receiving—is like an initiation. Something is evoked. When approached with clear intention and reverence, one can’t help but be transformed.

From the Inuit peoples of Alaska to the Mayans of South America, from the thousands of men and women gathering at temples in Thailand to the current mainstream renaissance, tattooing has always carried a powerful message.

Bast — Egyptian goddess and protector of felines, adoring Kim's arm

Bast — Egyptian goddess and protector of felines, adorning Kim's arm

Historically, the Egyptians developed the technique and spread it to Crete, Greece, Persia, and Arabia. Four thousand years ago, tattooing followed the Silk Road to China and Japan. In 1991 a 5,200 year old mummy was found between Austria and Italy with over 57 tattoos—lines and dots thought to be used for healing as their placement corresponded to acupuncture meridians. The ‘Ice Maiden’ discovered in the Altai Mountains in 1993 is 2,400 years old. She has tattoos of mythical creatures including elk with twisting horns that turn into flowers.

Tattoos have multiple meanings both symbolic and literal. They can indicate rank, expertise in battle craft or sport, membership to a group or a connection to the divine. They can carry healing or protective spells—the tattoo artist channeling the energy of the animal or symbol into the person as it is given.
New Zealand - ‘Moko’ designates rights of passage and significant life events

New Zealand - ‘Moko’ designates rights of passage and significant life events

The elaborate tattoos of the Polynesian cultures are an initiation and feature geometric designs, curves and dots which can cover the whole body. Following James Cook’s expedition to Tahiti in 1769, the islanders’ term ‘tattau,’ (to hit or strike), or possibly ‘tatu’ (to make a mark) gave us the western term ‘tattoo.’ The art then became fashionable among Europeans, (after being banned by Pope Adrian I in the 6th century AD) particularly so with sailors and coal-miners, occupations carrying high risk. Their tattoos of anchors and miner’s lamps were considered to have amulet-like protection.

Snake—snakes are images of power, knowledge, healing and the sacred feminine in many cultures. This one is a rattle snake found in north America.

Snake—snakes are images of power, knowledge, healing and the sacred feminine in many cultures. This one is a rattle snake found in north America.

After going underground for almost a century, the art of tattooing has reemerged in mainstream western culture. More and more people are getting ‘ink’ for personal and significant reasons. For me, each tattoo represents a change in my life, an expansion of awareness, a shifting perspective. They are expressions of reverence for the images and ideals associated with them—marks of initiation on life’s journey, a connection with my spirituality.

As my artist says, ‘Getting a tattoo is a discipline involving physical, psychological and spiritual awareness. If any one of these elements is taken out of context, then the wholeness and true quality of the image is lost.’–Gary Mooney
Does anyone have a tattoo story or image to share? Questions? (like . . . is it painful? The answer was too long to fit into the post!) Comments most welcome.

VOTE for your favourite tattoo!

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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Kim Falconer: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Part I The Science of Sentience

What is sentience? Is it sapience, intelligence, consciousness? The definition can blur between self-awareness, compassion, identity, ability to suffer and also to adapt, judge and change. Sentient entities are generally considered deserving of moral rights, respect, and freedom. Do these qualities belong to humans only? If not, where do we create distinctions?

It’s interesting to watch the answer shift over time. Not long ago the question was do these qualities belong to all humans? The line then was drawn between skin colour and gender. Once those issues are resolved we ask can sentience belong to animals? Plants? Machines?

The answer is a problem of both science and philosophy, at least in the Western world. In Eastern Philosophies, it’s simpler because there we find sentience a quality of all living things. It’s a given. That’s why there are no Buddhist chicken farms. But in the West, we call such concerns for animal rights anthropomorphism—attributing human emotions to non-human beings.

Kim with new foal Storm

Kim with new foal Storm, photo by Candida Baker

When a mare is separated from her foal, she runs up and down the fence line, whinnying for days, sweating, pawing the ground, going without food or water. If we say she is anxious, tormented, desperate to find her baby, we are anthropomorphizing. I think it’s more the other way around. When a human mother is anxious for her child she is exhibiting emotions like the horse, passed to her through the process of evolution. Mothers have been worried about their children long before the first human stood up and said, ‘I am.’

I am. Self awareness. Consciousness. Sentience. These are all ideas explored in speculative fiction where machines can think for themselves, animals can become spirit guides and trees are warrior allies. Like other Voyager authors I have looked at sentience in The Spell of Rosette through JARROD, the temple cat familiars and other animals. Tolkien’s subtle uses of non-human beings, especially eagles and trees, paved the way for us. These alternate forms of sentience not only move the story forward, they add spirituality, a connection to nature, to the divine.

Hence there is perhaps less Speciesism—the assignment of worth and rights based on species alone—in SF/F than other genres. At least we are free to investigate human verses non-human thought. Asimov’s I, Robot, and many Star Trek episodes, challenged sentience through holographic and android circuitry. Data’s autonomy comes under question as he stands trial for his rights in The Measure of a Man and Voyager’s EMH struggles with copyright issues when he attempts to publish his first novel. Initially his book was released without accreditation. The legal issue questioned whether The Doctor was an “artist” within the meaning of the laws that granted rights to control the dissemination of intellectual property. – Author Author. I’m guessing the HC Rights Department would not want to unravel that case!

Do you have a favorite novel or film that grapples with these notions? What makes sentient plants, animals or machines ring true? Tips on writing non-human sentience in Part II (to be posted on Monday 16 February).

Kim lives in Byron Bay and runs the website Falcon’s Astrology as well as a website dedicated to the Quantum Enchantment series. She is the author of The Spell of Rosette and the forthcoming Arrows of Time.