• 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!

     

     

Machines with Soul

‘Biting the Sun’ by Celine Loup

In a recent interview in Uncanny Vernal Equinox, the Voyager author Tanith Lee said, . . . who, apart from the calmest among us, has never wanted to hurl their typewriter or laptop or cell phone through a window, since it has just deleted a vital something, gone to sleep . . .

I thought immediately, how Mercury Retrograde is that? But there’s much more to Tanith Lee’s views than a passing frustration at mechanistic ‘inanimate objects’. In her books, particularly Don’t Bit the Sun, Drinking Sapphire Wine and The Silver Metal Lover, she explores the nature of sentience, intelligence and the growth of soul in humans and their creations.

Machines, even if vastly physically like or unlike humans, are also ‘living’ in their own fashion, and probably more resemble us, as we them, than we normally care to notice. -Tanith Lee in PGB

The animistic view, where metal and rock, rivers and streams, storms and trees all have a ‘nature of being’ and are all part of the whole (M Theory anyone?), comes shining through Tanith Lee’s work and I know I have been strongly influenced by her beautiful prose and the elegant philosophies. In the interview, I am also deeply honoured to be quoted:

One of the things I love about (The Silver Metal Lover) 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 mean pornographic. I’m refer-ring to Eros, the god of love—the original meaning is some-thing that brings two people together in such a way that it creates a lasting transformation. –Kim Falconer in PGB

What is this erotic, soul transforming writing of Tanith Lee like? Here is a glimpse, from a post I did on the Voyager Blog a few years ago. It’s one of my favourite passages. I said:

‘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….’
TSML

Beautiful, isn’t it?

As we relax with Mars Rx and Mercury Rx we might notice all the ‘inanimate’ things in the world ‘come alive’ to deliver their messages to us. As they do, you might very much enjoy reading Tanith Lee, or even get acquainted with a certain ‘quantum sentient’ named Jarrod, the Juxta-quantum arranged rad ram operating determinant who comes to ‘life’ in Path of the Stray.

Any experiences to share? You KNOW I’m curious!

Creating New Souls by Kim Falconer

Quillian the Were-fey over Timbali Temple, Southern Continent by Aaron Briggs

Quillian the Were-fey over Timbali Temple, Southern Continent by Aaron Briggs

The inspiration for Road to the Soul came like a match strike, lit by my publisher Stephanie Smith in the spring of 2008. I wasn’t looking for ideas at the time or even thinking about new characters. Far from it!

Stephanie and I were going over the ‘proof reader queries’ for The Spell of Rosette, a gruelling process of discussing the copyedit questions. My first novel was nearly ready to print, save for these scribbles and marks still waiting in the margins. We got to page 131, a moment in the story where Rosette stops to collect herself. She sits under a jade statue of a Were-fey, a winged serpent-like creature leaping out of an ‘angry’ sea.

Quillian protecting Tryn from a rogue Lupin, Northern Continent by Aaron Briggs

Quillian protecting Tryn from a rogue Lupin, Northern Continent by Aaron Briggs

Steph asked, ‘Kim, why is the sea angry?’

I said, ‘Because it surrounds the Southern Continent which is  . . .  in trouble.’

‘Really?’ Steph was interested. ‘What kind of trouble?’

‘Big,’ I said to HarperCollins Voyager’s Associate Publisher. ‘Big, big trouble.’

‘I see . . . Will it appear in future books?’ she wanted to know.

Pause . . .

‘Yes.’ I said. ‘It will.’

And that was it. The story of the lost Southern Continent and a magical Were-fey named Quillian had begun.

Archaeopterx the ‘first bird’—a dino with feathers.

Archaeopterx the ‘first bird’—a dino with feathers.

In the end, the Were-fey statue at Treeon Temple wasn’t depicted in a roiling sea, but the story had gotten a foothold and there was no stopping it. The deeper answer to the question—‘Why is the sea angry?’—has turned into the Road to the Soul and one jade Were-fey has come to life in full Technicolor.

Were-fey are amazing creatures and like most of my ideas, they began with a grain of truth. I wanted to portray a sentient, non-human being with a sharp mind, agile body and Shakespearian wit. This Were-fey had to be adept in four elements–land, sea, air, and time. He had to be special, the last of his kind.

The beautiful Bird of Paradise by Tim Laman

The beautiful Bird of Paradise by Tim Laman

My first reference for creating him was Archaeopterx, the Greek name for ‘ancient wing.’ This first ‘bird’ was a sharp toothed, claw-winged, feathered dinosaur that lived in the late Jurassic period, 150 million years ago. I mixed in the Bird of Paradise for a brilliant plumage and the Loon for underwater grace and fishy appetite. Thus was born Quillian, a perpetually hungry, telepathic, highly vocal risk taker, bonded to the young apprentice Tryn and the pivot on which Road to the Soul turns.

I had a very clear picture of Quillian in my mind but it wasn’t until my cover artist, Aaron Briggs, interpreted the depictions that I trusted readers would see him vividly as well. I hope they continue to engage with this character as book two in Quantum Encryption unfolds its epic journey.

Loons and cormorants dive down to 45 metres!

Loons and cormorants dive down to 45 metres!

Speculative fiction is full of ‘made-up’ creatures and environments from Tanith Lee’s Silver, Glenda Larke’s myriapedes, Karen Miller’s Vampire Butterflies and Mary Victoria’s World Tree. What are some of your favourite beings? What makes them so believable? I would love to hear more about it.

Gender in Speculative Fiction Part II: Early Works by Kim Falconer

Lilith (1892) by John Collier - one of the most potent and misunderstood faces of the feminine

After contemplating gender roles in speculative fiction, I thought it might be interesting to look at portrayals of women in earlier literature. How much has changed in the last five thousand years?

In classical times, many female protagonists were touched by the gods or divine themselves. Some were ‘virgin goddesses,’ a term having nothing to do with sexual innocents (they often had many lovers and offspring). Here ‘virgin’ means intact, self-contained—no need for the auspice of a man. Examples include the Egyptian Neith who says, I am all that has been, that is, and that will be. No mortal yet has been able to lift the veil that covers me. She reminds me of Tracey O’Hara’s Antoinette Petrescu, or Traci Harding’s Tory Alexander, at least until they ‘fall’.

The motive of female characters, ancient or contemporary, is often love. Stephenie Myer’s Bella Swan falls, of course, just like her two thousand year old predecessor, Psyche in Lucius Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. Psyche, much like Bella, is young, beautiful, despondent, clumsy and suicidal. She complains (and cries) a lot, needs rescuing and falls for an immortal. Aphrodite is jealous and sets her a series of impossibly tasks. She fails each one until aid comes unbidden and is saved from death, finally, by Eros. It’s a beautiful story though, not so much romantically but spiritually. This redemptive/divine aspect of love is echoed in Tanith Lee’s character Jane who initially has the same despondency (over her perfect ‘man’) though she grows from her experience, possibly much more so than either Bella or Psyche. Jane’s love becomes a spiritual awakening, a connection with the divine.

The Sumerian story of Inanna and her dark sister Ereshkigal is about psychological transformation. It is one of the oldest narratives—surviving thousands of years in buried coniform text. Inanna finds herself face to face with the queen of the underworld, not unlike Rosette’s first encounter with Kreshkali in the catacombs beneath Los Loma. This is the image of feminine initiation. In both cases the meeting leads to dire events and eventually to individuation and self-awareness.

The ancient Greek Medusa portrays yet another face of the feminine—one seen as the embodiment of evil. But she was not always so! A daughter of sea titans, Medusa was once extremely wise and beautiful. Men found her enchanting and came to ask her ‘favour’ but she was devoted to Athena and ignored them. When raped by Poseidon, she was turned into a monster with dragon wings and snakes for hair. Medusa embodies the outrage of subjugated women. She is angry and poisonous. Any man who ‘sees’ her is literally petrified. This portrayal of the dark feminine is echoed in Sara Douglass’ Ariadne and her decedents. These ‘evil’ women may not find peace or redemption save in death, but they certainly know how to move a story forward!

The fabric of the many-worlds is starting to unravel ...

Who are your favourite female characters? Do you see roots of their personalities in literary works of the past? Amazons? Healers? Leaders? Seers? Wanderers? Lovers? Mothers? Comments most welcome.

Kim Falconer is the author of the Quantum Enchantment trilogy, which starts with The Spell of Rosette, continues with Arrows of Time and will conclude come February with Strange Attractors … until it all begins again with The Quantum Encryption series in October 2010.

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

____________________________________________________________________________________

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.