Terry Dowling

Terry Dowling

Terry Dowling in 2007.
Born (1947-03-21) 21 March 1947
Sydney, Australia
Occupation Writer, freelance journalist, award-winning critic, editor, game designer and reviewer
Nationality Australian
Genre Science fiction

Terence William (Terry) Dowling (born 21 March 1947), is an Australian writer, freelance journalist, award-winning critic, editor, game designer and reviewer. He writes primarily speculative fiction and dark fantasy though he considers himself an "imagier" – one who imagines, a term which liberates his writing from the constraints of specific genres. He has been called "among the best-loved local writers and most-awarded in and out of Australia, a writer who stubbornly hews his own path (one mapped ahead, it is true, by Cordwainer Smith, J.G. Ballard and Jack Vance)."[1]

He has worked as a communications lecturer, (1976–2013); freelance journalist (1987–88); and genre reviewer for The Australian, from 1989.

He has been Guest of Honour at several Australian science fiction conventions (including Syncon 87 and Swancon 15) and regularly tutors workshops on fantasy writing at venues including the New South Wales Writers' Centre, University of Sydney's Centre for Continuing Education,[2] the Powerhouse Museum, the University of Canberra's Centre for Creative Writing, the Perth Writer's Festival and the University of Western Australia Perth International Arts Festival - (for example, "Marvellous Journeys: Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing" and "Worlds and Futures That Work: What you need and what to avoid"). He was a panellist and presenter at Aussiecon 4.


Early life and work

Dowling was educated at Boronia Park Public School, Sydney, 1952–59; Hunters Hill High School, Sydney, 1960–64; and Sydney Teachers' College, 1965–66, following which he was conscripted for national service as an infantryman and admin clerk during the Vietnam War. During these years Dowling wrote poetry and songs and some fiction. Dowling began buying science fiction magazines in the early 1960s and was influenced early by writers such as J.G. Ballard, Jack Vance, Ray Bradbury, Cordwainer Smith and the Horwitz horror anthologies edited by Charles Higham. (Dowling contributes an essay discussing the influence of Higham's horror anthologies on his own writing to Stephen Jones Horror: Another 100 Best Books.) He was also highly influenced by the Surrealist painters, particularly Salvador Dalí, Paul Delvaux, Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico..[3]

After teaching for a year at Horsley Park Primary School in Sydney, Dowling matriculated to Sydney University, where he won a scholarship to complete his BA (Hons) in English Literature and Archaeology, then won a research award via which he completed his M.A. (first class Honours) in English Literature. His Masters thesis discussed J. G. Ballard and Surrealism.

During his nine-year stint at university he continued songwriting and performing with rock band The Many Moods of Albert (1966–67), worked as an actor and songwriter with Sydney's Pact Theatre (1972–78), made appearances on Australia's national broadcaster ABC television on some children's programs in the late 1970s and then appeared in an eight-year stint as a musician and songwriter in regular guest appearances on the long-running Australian Broadcasting Corporation children's television program Mr. Squiggle and Friends (1979–1982).

The ABC also financed production of seven of his songs for Amberjack, a musical about a stranded time-traveller, with musicians including Doug Ashdown. The songs are "Glencoe", "The Lure of Legendary Ladies", "Ithaca", "Bermudas", "The Blue Marlin Whore", 'Gantry Jack", and "Minotaur". They were broadcast in 1977 on the ABC/2FC radio program "Talking Point"). Dowling has performed these and other songs live at science fiction conventions over the years. Sections of the lyrics from Amberjack are included as linking pieces between the stories in Dowling's 2009 collection Amberjack: Tales of Fear and Wonder (Subterranean Press). These include lyrics to songs which were not included in the ABC broadcast.

Dowling's earliest published stories were "Illusion of Motion" and "Oriental on the Murder Express", both published in Enigma, the magazine of SUSFA, the Sydney University SF Society, and "Shade of Encounter" in the second issue of Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature, on which Dowling became assistant editor and short-notice book-reviewer and eventually co-editor (with Dr Van Ikin). Dowling did critical work and continued to play with bands – Temenos (rock band, 1970–72); Gestalt (acoustic band, 1972–75) after taking a teaching position at a Sydney business college. At least one of his rock bands used to play for the patients at a mental hospital at Bedlam Point, near his home – a source for 'Cape Bedlam', location of the Madhouse in the Tom Rynosseros cycle.

The 1980s

He wrote a science fiction play called "The Tunnel", and eventually sold his first professional story to Omega Science Digest ("The Man Who Walks Away Behind the Eyes", in the May/June 1982 issue).

In the 1980s Dowling met Jack Vance after doing critical work on his oeuvre (Vance later named a planet after him in the novel Throy); Fritz Leiber; and Harlan Ellison, with whom he travelled in the Australian outback. Dowling went on to co-edit (with Richard Delap and Gil Lamont) Ellison's large single-author collection The Essential Ellison (1987; revised/expanded edition 2000).

Dowling began to publish short stories prolifically in the 1980s and was soon recognised as one of Australia's most talented science fiction writers, winning the Ditmar Award multiple times.

The 1990s: The 'Rynosseros Cycle'

During the 1990s Dowling wrote his four-volume series featuring the hero Tom Tyson (aka Tom Rynosseros), set in a far-future Australia. The first volume. Rynosseros, collected short stories written up to 1990. Further stories of Tyson were written in the early 1990s, with two further volumes of Tyson's adventures appearing in 1992 and 1993. The 'Rynosseros Cycle' would not conclude until publication of the fourth volume in 2007, but stands amongst Dowling's most important work – a major conceptual series achievement in Australian science fiction.

The 'Rynosseros Cycle' is set in a far future Australia where great sandships ("charvolants") roam the outback, and the Ab'O tribes control hi-tech and set protocols which restrict the movements of the "Nationals" (white people). In this future Australia, high technology and mysticism co-exist, and piracy and an intricate social order breed a new kind of hero. Tom Tyson, an Everyman figure who has echoes of the Fool of the Tarot, Tom O'Bedlam, the Green Man and other mythic figures, has emerged amnesiac from an Ab'O punishment place known as the Madhouse, with three images that may provide the key to his identity – a Ship, a Star and a woman's Face. Tyson becomes one of the "Coloured Captains" – seven Nationals permitted by the Ab'O to cross the landscape – and wins his ship Rynosseros in a lottery, thereafter becoming known as "Blue Tyson". To quote Van Ikin, "In this future Australia, the coastal cities, home of white Australians, are urbanely cosmopolitan centres of culture, while in the interior, around an inland sea, the Ab'O states represent the emancipation of the Aboriginal race whose heritage is both its past and its future destiny. Ab'O Princes use satellites to spy on tribal conflicts, and graceful wind-propelled sand-ships roll across the deserts, giving [the series] its symbol of freedom and inquiry."[4] Dowling has attributed part of the inspiration for the Tom Tyson character to Blue Tyson, a character from one of his high school story fragments, and to the song lyric "Loving Mad Tom" (also known as Tom o'Bedlam), which was drawn to his attention by sf fan and co-founder of Norstrilia Press, Carey Handfield in 1982.[5]

Notes: Three linked Tom Tyson stories - "Marmodesse", "The Library" and "First Matter" - were originally written to form a Tyson nopvel, Malgre, but Dowling abandoned this idea. Two of the stories have been published elsewhere - an abridged edition of "Marmodesse" appeared in Omega Science Digest Jan/Feb 1987). "The Library" was published in Keith Stevenson, ed, X-6, coeur de lion publishing (2009) and in Dowling's collection Amberjack (2010). "First Matter" remains unpublished. "Marmodesse" and "The Library will be reprinted in The Complete Rynosseros.

An edition of The Complete Rynosseros is forthcoming from PS Publishing, UK. The three volumes (initially to be published as limited signed hardcovers and later as paperbacks) will include all previously published Rynosseros stories, together with nearly 30,000 words of supplementary writing on the series and its origins written by Dowling.

“The Only Bird in Her Name”, a story from Rynosseros, was dramatised in 1999 by Hollywood Theatre of the Ear. Adapted for radio by Yuri Rasovsky. Hosted by Harlan Ellison. Narrated by Peter Dennis & Kaitlin Hopkins. Available as a paid download from www.audible.com

An uncollected Tom Tyson story, "Down Flowers" was published in Orb (Sept 1999). This tale will appear in The Complete Rynosseros.

During the same decade, Dowling published the horror thriller novel An Intimate Knowledge of the Night, and the collection of linked science fiction stories Wormwood.

21st century

Dowling spent the first several years of the 2000s authoring the scenarios for several PC adventure games published by the Polish firm Detalion.

He also expanded The Essential Ellison: "To celebrate the golden anniversary of Harlan Ellison's half a century of storytelling, Morpheus International, publishers of The Essential Ellison: a 35-Year Retrospective, commissioned the book’s primary editor, award-winning Australian writer and critic Terry Dowling, to expand Ellison’s three-and-a-half decade collection into a 50-year retrospective. Mr. Dowling went through fifteen years of new stories and essays to pick what he thought were the most representative to be included in this 1000+ page collection."

Dowling was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Western Australia in 2006 for his mystery/dark fantasy/horror novel, Clowns at Midnight, and accompanying dissertation The Interactive Landscape: New Modes of Narrative in Science Fiction, in which he examined the computer adventure game as an important new area of storytelling.

Dowling's 2010 horror novel Clowns at Midnight has been compared to the work of John Fowles.

Dowling holds the distinction of having more stories than any other single writer selected for the anthology series Year's Best Horror and Fantasy (edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling during its twenty-year run from 1988 to 2008.

Dowling retired in 2013 from his position as lecturer at the June Dally Watkins Finishing School. He continues to run writing courses at the University of Sydney – the introductory "Magic Highways" workshops and the more advanced "Dream Castles" workshops.

Published works

For a detailed bibliography online see



Dowling's latest collection, The Night Shop: Tales for the Lonely Hours, will be published in the US by Cemetery Dance Publications in early 2016, featuring eighteen of his dark fantasy and horror stories in a companion volume to his International Horror Guild Award-winning Basic Black from 2006. It will feature three original tales of appropriate fear.


Works edited

Computer games authored

Anthology and magazine appearances

As well as appearances in The Year's Best Science Fiction, The Year's Best SF, The Mammoth Book of Best New SF, The Year's Best Fantasy, The Best New Horror, all five volumes of Exotic Gothic, and The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror (a record eight times; he is the only author to have had two stories in the 2002 volume, one chosen by each editor), his work has appeared in such major anthologies as Centaurus: The Best of Australian Science Fiction, The Best Australian Science Fiction Writing,The Dark, Dreaming Down Under, Gathering the Bones and The Oxford Book of Australian Ghost Stories and in such diverse publications as the prestigious SciFiction, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Interzone, Oceans of the Mind, Ténèbres, Ikarie, Japan’s SF and Russia’s Game. Exe. His fiction has been translated into many languages and has been used in a course in forensic psychology in the US.

The Tenebres appearance is:

Selected critical papers

Recent and uncollected short fiction

Critical reception and awards

Critical regard for Dowling's work is extensive. Locus magazine (Nov 1999) said: “Who’s the writer who can produce horror as powerful and witty as the best of Peter Straub, SF as wondrously Byzantine and baroque as anything by Gene Wolfe, near-mainstream subtly tinged with the fantastic like some tales by Powers or Lansdale? Why Terry Dowling, of course." It also regards his first book Rynosseros as placing him "among the masters of the field" (August 1990).

In The Year's Best Science Fiction 21 (reprinting Dowling's story "Flashmen"), twelve-time Hugo Award-winning US editor Gardner Dozois called him: “One of the best-known and most celebrated of Australian writers in any genre”, while in the Year’s Best Fantasy 4 (reprinting “One Thing About the Night”), editors David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer described him as a "master craftsman" and "one of the best prose stylists in science fiction and fantasy.”

Dowling has also been called "Australia's finest writer of horror" by Locus magazine, and "Australia's premier writer of dark fantasy" by All Hallows (February 2004). The late leading Australian SF personality Peter McNamara (on his SF Review radio show on Adelaide's 5EBI-FM, 23 June 2000) called him "Australia's premier fantasist."For the US edition of Rynosseros (1993), multi-award-winning US Grand Master Harlan Ellison said of Terry: “Here is Jack Vance, Cordwainer Smith, and Tiptree/Sheldon come again, reborn in one wonderful talent. If you lament the chicanery and boredom of so much of today's shopworn sf, then like those of us who've been reading his award-winning stories for a few years now, you'll purr and growl with delight at your great discovery of the remarkable, brilliant Terry Dowling. He comes from Downunder, and he knows how to stand you on your head with story.”

Dowling's fiction has won many national and international awards:

As follows:

Prix Wolkenstein, 1991 (Germany).

Readercon Award for Best Collection, 1991 (USA).

(World Fantasy Award nomination for Best Collection, 2001). 2000 Locus recommended reading List (Locus, Feb 2001, p. 44)

(World Fantasy Award nomination for Best Short Story, 2001). 2000 Locus Recommended Reading List (Locus, Feb 2001, p. 46)

1999 Locus Recommended Reading List (Locus, Feb 200, p. 40)

The story "Cheat Light" was also nominated for an International Horror Guild Award for best horror Short Story of 2006.[7]

Dowling co-edited (with Richard Delap and Gil Lamont) the 500,000-word single-author collection The Essential Ellison: a 35-Year Retrospective (works by Harlan Ellison). The volume was nominated for the 1987 Hugo Award in the (then) newly created "Other Forms" category; it also won the 1987 Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Fiction Collection.

Dowling also won the 1983 William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism for his essay: “Kirth Gersen: The Other Demon Prince”, Science Fiction: A Review of Speculative Literature, Vol 4, No 2, June 1982. He has received three World Fantasy Award nominations.

Work in progress

Future projects include a novel in the Wormwood mythos.

Film adaptations

Two of Dowling's short stories, 'The Maze Man" and "One Thing About the Night", are set to be filmed by American director Sergio Pinheiro, director of The Procedure. Pinheiro has also prepared a screenplay titled "The Chamber" based on Dowling's tale "The Bullet That Grows in the Gun" .


  1. Damien Broderick, X,Y, Z. T: Dimensions of Science Fiction. Holicong, PA: Wildside Press/Borgo Press, 2004, 215
  2. "Magic Highways: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing Course". Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  3. SELECTED NON-FICTION: A selection of Terry Dowling's non- fiction writing Terry Dowling website
  4. Van Ikin, "Terry Dowling" in St James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, ed. Jay P. Pederson, Detroit, MI: St James Press, 1996
  5. Postcards from the Flight Deck: An Eidolon Interview with Terry Dowling, at http://eidolon.net/homesite.html?section=terrydowling&page=/old_site/issue_04/04_terry...
  6. Locus Index to SF awards
  7. http://www.ihgonline.org/
  • Ashley, Mike & William G. Contento. The Supernatural Index: A Listing of Fantasy, Supernatural, Occult, Weird and Horror Anthologies. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995, p. 215
  • Attebery, Brian. "Aboriginality in Science Fiction". Science Fiction Studies, 96 (= Volume 32, Part 2) (July 2005).
  • Blackford, Russell, Van Ikin and Sean McMullen, (eds.) Strange Constellations: A History of Australian Science Fiction Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999, pp. 164–68.
  • Blackmore, Leigh. "'Marvels and Horrors: Terry Dowling's Clowns at Midnight". In Danel Olson (ed). 21st Century Gothic (Scarecrow Press, 2010).
  • Blackmore, Leigh. Deep in the Reality Crisis: Individuation, 'Mytho-Realism' and Surrealistic Traces in Terry Dowling's Tom Rynosseros Cycle. [Honours thesis, BCA, University of Wollongong, 2009]. Forthcoming in Van Ikin's Science Fiction in two parts, 2010.
  • Blackmore, Leigh. "Terry [Terence William] Dowling" in S.T. Joshi and Stefan Dziemianowicz (eds). Supernatural Literature of the World: An Encyclopedia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2005, pp. 350–51.
  • Blackmore, Leigh and Dr Van Ikin, The Eternal Yes: The Affirmations of Terry Dowling (forthcoming).
  • Blackmore, Leigh Terry Dowling: Virtuoso of the Fantastic (R'lyeh Texts, 2005). An abridged version was published earlier in the Conflux 2 Program Book (2005).
  • Blackmore, Leigh, Ellison/Dowling/Dann: A Bibliographic Checklist (R'lyeh Texts, 1996).
  • Clute, John. Science Fiction: The Illustrated Encyclopedia. London: Dorling Kindersley Adult, 1995.
  • Collins, Paul. The MUP Encyclopedia of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy. Melbourne, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1998, pp. 54–55.
  • Ikin, Van. "Terry Dowling" in Jay P. Pederson (ed) St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers. Detroit, MI: St James Press, (4th ed), 1996, pp. 266–67.
  • Ikin, Van. "Utopian Elements in Terry Dowling's Tom Rynosseros Fiction". Paper delivered at 'Antipodean Utopias' conference, University of Tasmania, Hobart, 7 December 2001. Published: Australian Cultural History 23 (Annual 2004), 137–41.
  • Nicholls, Peter. "Terry Dowling" in John Clute and Peter Nicholls, eds The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction London: Orbit/Little Brown (2nd ed) 1993, page 351.
  • Pringle, David The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Carlton Books, 1997, p. 195.
  • Stableford, Brian. The Dictionary of Science Fiction Places. NY: Fireside, 1999. Includes an entry on Dowling's 'Twilight Beach' milieu.
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