About Tony

Tony’s path has taken him from a PhD in laser physics to a long career in telecommunications regulation. Over the past year he has been writing his first novel, Terra Incognita, set mainly in Australia, which reflects his life-long love of science fiction stories in all their forms. 

Originally from Tasmania, he has lived in Melbourne since the 1990s, where he battles the bright night skies to attempt astrophotography from his backyard.

Having written SF stories in his teens, Tony has in recent years re-engaged with his passion for writing through producing short stories and taking part in creative writing courses in early 2021. As part of an exercise in one of those courses, the idea for Terra Incognita was born, and he has been enjoying the process of discovering his characters and how they react to unfolding events. Even when they decide to take the story in new directions.

This website showcases Tony’s work, as well as capturing the journey of writing and attempting to bring to market his first novel. His blog will also dip into some of his other interests.

author bio

Tony grew up in Tasmania, and studied physics at the University of Tasmania, completing an Honours degree. This included a research thesis in radio astronomy, where he built and used receiving equipment for the 26m dish located just outside Hobart, to observe pulsars.

After spending a brief period at the Telecom Australia Research Laboratories in Melbourne, he travelled to the United Kingdom on a Rotary Scholarship, where he completed a PhD in laser physics in the early 90s at the Optoelectronics Research Centre at Southampton University. Returning to the Melbourne after a post-doc year, he continued to work for Telecom/Telstra, moving through a variety of roles that ultimately led to him working in telecommunications regulation for the past 20 years (a career path that looks entirely logical in hindsight, if not when starting out…). Along the way, he also picked up an MBA degree, as everyone seemed to be doing at that time.

Tony has always been an avid reader of SF. In his teens, this consisted mainly of the “Golden Age” authors such as Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, as well as Frank Herbert, James Blish, Larry Niven and the like. And Douglas Adams, of course. He also wrote  a number of short stories during this time, and while managing to get into print (and paid!) by a long-defunct Australian SF magazine, he did not pursue writing after starting university.

Over the past decade, Tony has written extensively as part of his “day job”, and enjoyed the challenge of attempting to write clearly on technical and complex professional topics. He has toyed for many years with the re-commencing fiction writing, and tested the water with a few short pieces written within the framework of John Birmingham’s Patreon projects. This gave him the confidence and inspiration to tackle creative writing courses to develop his skills, and in doing so, led to the initial ideas for his first novel.

Terra Incognita, still being written, uses the familiar theme of first contact between humans and extra-terrestrials, but does so through the eyes of a number of “ordinary” people who get caught up in events. It explores their reactions to what is unfolding around them, and as they becoming increasingly involved in Earth’s dealings with the aliens. It also looks at themes around the notion of “home”, belonging and what it means when we meet technology that satisfies the criteria for Clarke’s Third Law, i.e., is indistinguishable from magic. Reflecting his background in science and early exposure to “hard” science fiction, Terra Incognita attempts to stick closely to the “rules of the game” for physics, although minds may differ about how much leeway can be given!

early influences...

All the classics – Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, Frederick Pohl, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Robert Silverberg, Larry Niven, Poul Anderson, Walter M Miller, Daniel Keyes. And not really fitting in here, but both need to be included – JRR Tolkien and Douglas Adams.

Later on...

While still reading other “classic” works, I added the following to my list: Philip Jose Farmer, Harlan Ellison,  Philip K Dick, Ursula K Le Guin, Stephen Baxter, David Brin, Harry Harrison, Vernor Vinge, Orson Scott Card, John Birmingham, Joe Haldeman, Greg Bear, Robert Charles Wilson, Iain M Banks, and Greg Egan.

current SF favourites

Not as extensive a list as it should be – too many other (non-SF) books to read! But in more recent times I’ve enjoyed Andy Weir, Matt Haig, Neal Stephenson, Cixin Liu, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Richard Morgan, Ernest Cline, Hugh Howey, and William Hertling.


is creating an author website while still in first draft of my first novel a folly? watch this space...

tony neilson