Category: Special Guest Bloggers

Maybe it is inevitable that I became a fantasy writer.

As the daughter of an adult immigrant (my mother) and the great-grandchild of immigrants on my fathers side, I grew up with an awareness of living between worlds.

While I very much lived within mainstream rural America (such as rural America is mainstream, but it was moreso then than now), at home we had special foods, a second language, ways of going about things and expectations of how one ought to act that were subtly or sometimes quite overtly different from the general culture around us.

Also, for the year I was five, my father was teaching on a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship in Denmark (my mothers birthplace and my fathers ancestral home), so I was additionally dislocated for a year at a young and formative age.  First I didnt want to speak Danish;  later, I didnt want to speak English.  (I was a stubborn and opinionated child.)

So even though I was entirely at home growing up in rural Oregon, playing outdoors, climbing trees, swimming in the river, and making up adventures, there was a part of me that always felt at one remove.  Like maybe I wasnt quite in the place I was supposed to be.  Like if I just found the hidden gate, I could step through into that other world.

Which world, precisely, was that other world?  My true home?  No, for I never felt that I was a changeling or a secret orphan.

Maybe by that other world I meant a place where I felt I fully belonged.  I cant be sure;  Im speculating;  Im certainly comfortable in this world, even if at times I feel a yearning in my heart for something I cant quite describe or put my finger on.  But from an early age I found myself drawing maps and writing snippets of scene and story about those other places.  These landscapes changed as I changed and grew, but the fundamental process of seeking did not change.

Eventually, of course, I wrote a couple of not very good novels, and with practice, I got better, and eventually began publishing what I sincerely hope are much better novels than those early attempts.  I am still writing novels set in other worlds.  If there is one constant in all those plots, it is one of characters who are seeking to find their place, maybe by crossing from one land into another or else by uncovering the hidden landscapes of the world they live in.

My latest novel, Cold Magic, fits seamlessly into this personal tradition, about a girl who, quite unexpectedly, is forced into a journey in which she uncovers secrets about her own past and about the world she lives in.  The character of Cat Barahal is not based on me, nor is she meant to be in any way a secret second persona for myself.  But her story is definitely the kind of story I have been exploring for a long time, and one that I really truly love to write.


“Kate Elliott” published her first novel with DAW Books in 1992.

She is currently working on the Crossroads series (Spirit Gate and Shadow Gate, with Traitors’ Gate ), published by Tor Books (USA) and Orbit Books (UK). It’s an “HBO-style” fantasy with a focus on character and landscape, and an epic plot.

Earlier, she wrote the seven volume epic fantasy series, Crown of Stars, set in an alternate European landscape where magic has been (literally) woven through the land. The first volume,King’s Dragon, was a Nebula Award finalist in 1998.  Crown of Stars is published by DAW Books (USA) and Orbit Books (UK) and has been translated into German, Russian, Polish, and Spanish.

Her Novels of the Jaran, set in a speculative future, follow the nomadic people known as the jaran after their first contact with the technologically more advanced society of Earth. The author has described Jaran, the first in the series, as “Jane Austen meets Genghis Khan” in a science fiction setting.  The series is published by DAW Books.

With Melanie Rawn and Jennifer Roberson, she co-wrote the bestselling fantasy novel The Golden Key, a 1997 World Fantasy Award finalist (published by DAW Books in the USA and Pan Books in the UK).

She has also published short fiction in various anthologies.

In a previous literary life, she published four novels under her real name, Alis A. Rasmussen.


A few days ago I received a poster in my email—a very cool poster that Orbit, my UK/ANZ publisher, have put together for Worldcon. The poster features planet earth and the moon (two moons in fact!) and the names of all the Orbit authors attending Worldcon in Melbourne this year—of whom I am one. Which is very exciting for me, not just to be an Orbit author—which is, of course, very exciting—but because this is the first time that I have attended a World Science Fiction Convention. I am a long time avid reader of scifi-fantasy and lover of shows such as Babylon 5, Buffy and Firefly, not to mention Blade Runner being one of my all-time-favourite movies—but I have never been to a Worldcon or voted on the Hugo Awards. (I’ve even blogged about this sad fact on Out of this Eos, my US publisher’s blog.)

There are a number of reasons for this. I live in Middle Earth—I mean, New Zealand—and most Worldcons are in the northern hemisphere, i.e. a very long way away. (So it’s great that so many northern hemisphere folk are making the journey “downunder” this year.) Also, a little like some other residents of Middle Earth fame, I am something of a moss gatherer by nature and not unhappy with my study and my garden, my manuscripts and my books . . .  But Melbourne is not only closer than your average world city, it’s also one of my favourite cities. And this is Worldcon—and the opportunity to meet a whole lot of other people who love writing, and reading, and viewing the same stuff I do, many of them writers themselves. So you can see why even a long-time moss gatherer like me had to close my eyes, take a deep breath—and go!

(OK, so there’s the whole not liking flying thing—or as I like to think of it, ‘David Bowie, Sean Bean and me’—but I’ve read Dune, I can recite the Litany Against Fear: i.e. close the eyes really tight, take a boddhisattva breath—but still go!”)

Oh—the writing? OK, back on track. Yes, I am a writer, or as I say on my blog, “a novelist, poet, interviewer and lover of story”. The poetry is for the page and for performance. The interviewing is mainly around books and writers, for a local radio station, and has also lead to my chairing and compering a number of public events, including an evening with Orange and Whitbread prize winning author, Andrea Levy, which was a lot of fun. But mainly, I am a novelist, and when the ideas for novels come to me, they arrive almost exclusively in the guise of fantasy-science fiction.

My first novel, Thornspell (Knopf 2008), has just come out in paperback and is a fairytale retelling:  in this case of Sleeping Beauty, butfrom the perspective of the prince destined to break the spell—with a dark little backstory around the motivation of the wicked faery who has not at all given up her vile plots and machinations. Described variously as “darkly imaginative” (Canvas), and a “full blooded tale of ambition and romance” (Booklist) Thornspell was my first foray into the kind of Fantasy I love to both read and tell: swashbuckling, adventurous, and romantic, with overlapping layers of mystery and magic. And it won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel: Young Adult in 2009.

But coming very soon, in October in fact, from Orbit here in Australia/New Zealand (also the UK, but not until a little later there—March 2011) and Eos in the USA, is my second novel The Heir of Night (The Wall of Night, Book One) which is a darker and more epic tale for adult (but also “crossover”) readers. Heir is a story of darkness and peril, mystery, friendship and love, which unfolds in a broken world of shadow and conflict where nothing is exactly as it seems . . .

Currently, I am hard at work writing the second book in the Wall series—but you can read all about that and my books, as well as other people’s books, the writing process, ideas, interviewing, story, poetry and a whole lot more on Helen Lowe on Anything, Really. Right now I’m taking time out to visit Melbourne in the springtime—and Worldcon. Having an adventure, in fact—which even we moss gatherers have to do from time to time!


Helen Lowe is an award-winning, New Zealand-based novelist, poet and interviewer. Helen won an inaugural Robbie Burns Poetry Award in 2003 and her first novel, the YA Fantasy Thornspell, is published by Knopf (USA, 2008). In 2009, Thornspell was selected as a Storylines Children’s Literature Trust “Notable Book” and won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for “Best Novel, Young Adult”. In the same year, Helen was also awarded the Sir Julius Vogel Award for “Best New Talent”. Helen’s second novel, the Heir of Night, the first of the adult Wall of Night quartet, is due out in October in the USA (Eos) and Australia/New Zealand (Orbit), with UK publication (also with Orbit) scheduled for March 2011. Helen’s poetry and short fiction has been published and anthologised in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

In Which Gail Carriger Gets Snippy Over Proper Attire

Today Gail climbs onto the proverbial soap box and blogs about something evil, something so base and vile, that you may, just possibly, wish to stop reading right this very moment.

She may offend you.

She is not holding back.

Still reading? Right, here goes.

This is something I believe in, possibly more than anything else, Gentle Reader. So I am going to take the plunge. This is a highly embarrassing topic that everyone seems afraid to broach. Well, I have the courage. Someone must be strong, and I am that person. Yes, we are going to talk about . . . Appropriate Dress.

Let me start this off by listing some inappropriate dress for a convention, mixer, signing, event, party, rout, etc.

* Sweat pants

* Shorts

* Track pants/gym clothing

* T-shirts with offensive slogans (in fact t-shirts with slogans period I would strike down if you are over the age of 30, but I don’t think the SF/F community could cope with the great black void this would leave behind)

* PJs or anything that looks like PJs (for The Love, people!)

* Any article of clothing that has a hole that is not an arm hole, a leg hole, or a head hole

* Similarly, anything that is fraying, pilling, warn through, or sporting any kind of remnant of any kind of food

* Dirty shoes

* An untended beard

* Unwashed hair

I don’t care how alternative you think you are. How much a slacker. What counter-culture you believe you represent. You are none of these things.

You are a slob.

You are disrespecting the authors and presenters (if you’re a fan) and the fans (if you’re an author), not to mention all the other important individuals who have arranged for and attended the event (con organizers, editors, agents, producers, actors). Most importantly, you are shaming yourself and the SF/F industry as a whole. Yes you are. Suck. It. Up.

If you aren’t suitable to be seen in public, than you shouldn’t be in public. Go back, take a shower, take a nap, put on clean respectable clothing.

What sparked this rant, Ms. Carriger?

You might well ask. I was watching a (unnamed, to protect the guilty) video blog of some SF/F convention footage, featuring, I am sad to say, mainly authors. And I was ashamed. Ashamed, I tell you.

Please, let me explain something. Style is not hard. No matter what your shape or income level. All it takes is a tiny bit of time and effort. You can make it hard. I, for example, like a challenge. So do the Goths and the steampunkers out there. But it really doesn’t have to be difficult. And, as the person who spots the problem (namely, me) is responsible for its solution, here are some tips:

* Look around and find someone who’s about your shape and whose style you like. At a convention, in particular, this can work well because people are disposed to be friendly. Go up to them and ask politely where they shop, and how they put together their look. People, in general, love to talk about themselves and will be delighted to tell you.

* Invest in a few good pieces that you can pull out for public appearances in particular: a really nice pair of jeans, some basic black t-shirts, perhaps a sports jacket or a little fitted blazer. Ladies, never discount the inherent joy in one really nice day dress. It is far more important to spend money on basics than on the tux or the uber-fancy gown that you maybe wear once a year.

* You can do quirky, but try to confine it to accessories: hats, watches, jewelry, belts, belt buckles, and the like. Trust me, the people who do head-to-toe quirky put a lot of effort into it, you might want to ease in slowly.

* You have two choices: you can fit in, or you can stand out. You don’t want to fall to the wayside. If you are wearing inappropriate dress you will be dismissed. We are a superficial culture. Most cultures are. Appearance is important. No, don’t argue, it just is. There is no point in fighting this one; 34,000 years of clothing evolution is not something you can muscle down with one pair of ratty sweatpants. Besides, you and I both know the truth of it. You’re just being lazy.

* At a SF/F convention, to fit in, you wear jeans or BTUs, boots or sneakers, and a t-shirt with a nice graphic logo. This is very boring, but so long as it’s clean, at least you don’t look like a homeless person. Cheap corsets and old leather jackets are also known to make all-to-frequent appearances.

* At a convention, to stand out, you can do any or all of the following: go Goth, go vintage, wear a suit, were a nice jacket over your jeans and t-shirt, actually investigate the current trends an go fashionable (this one is hard), go hippy-dippy, go frat/sorority, and/or wear color (there’s an awful lot of black).

Right. So. There it is. Read it and shop!

Yours etc…


“Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.”
~ Oscar Wilde


New York Times Bestselling author Gail Carriger began writing in order to cope with being raised in obscurity by an expatriate Brit and an incurable curmudgeon. She escaped small town life and inadvertently acquired several degrees in Higher Learning. Ms. Carriger then traveled the historic cities of Europe, subsisting entirely on biscuits secreted in her handbag. She now resides in the Colonies, surrounded by fantastic shoes, where she insists on tea imported directly from London. She is fond of teeny tiny hats and tropical fruit. The Parasol Protectorate books are: Soulless (Oct. 2009), Changeless (March 2010), Blameless (Sept. 2010), Heartless (2011), and Timeless (2012). Soulless won the ALA’s Alex Award. She is nominated for this year’s Campbell award.

Gail will be appearing at AussieCon 4 in Melbourne in September 2010.


davitt-award  aurealis-award   logo-curtin-university

Peacemaker - Aurealis Award
Best Science Fiction Novel 2014

Curtin University Distinguished Alumni Award 2014

Transformation Space - Aurealis Award
 Best Science Fiction Novel 2010

Sharp Shooter - Davitt Award
Best Crime Novel 2009 (Sisters in Crime Australia) 





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