Sean opera

Singing in Handel's opera Julius Caesar (1974)

Sean was born in Victoria, Australia, of Scottish, Portuguese and Irish ancestry on his father's side, and French, English, Scottish and Irish on his mother's.
Following in the footsteps of his engineer father, he spent his childhood making model rockets, radios, telescopes, and even a radio telescope.
All this changed when he was given a guitar for his 16th birthday. Realising that one meets more girls as a musician than an engineer, he taught himself to play and sing, then sang as stand-in with the schoolboy bands Electric Toads and Party Animals.

1973 - Pirates of Penzance
(Sargeant of Police)

At Melbourne University he worked with George Whaley and John Duigen in the Student Theatre, most notably in two seasons of The Chapel Perilous by Dorothy Hewett in 1972.
Later that year
he moved on to folk music, performing at Frank Trayner's famous folk club, the Dan O'Connell, Woolpack Inn, and Tankerville Arms folk clubs in Melbourne, mainly singing with Graeme Smith.
In 1973 he married the singer and guitarist Mary Davies, and after moving to Canberra they sang in the Lyneham and Bluefolk clubs. Sean also became lead singer in the electric folk band Joe Wilson's Mates from 1975 to 1976.

In classical music Sean first sang with the Victorian Opera Company in 1972. At this time her was studying with Lucy Altman, a former colleague of Maria Callas. He also sang with the Melbourne University Choral Society, the Trinity College Consort, the Grainger New Music Group, and as guest singer in various shows staged by other groups - such as Sargeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance in 1973.

In 1975 Sean made a foray into instrument building, turning out highland harps for the singers Declan Affley and Peter Parkhill, an electric harpsichord for use in Joe Wilson's Mates, and a 13 string lute which he still plays.


1977 - Adelaide Folk Festival

He met the Irish folk group the Chieftans on their first Australian tour, when Derek Bell played one of his wire-string harps, and Sean Potts took one of his medieval hornpipes back to Ireland.
Sean graduated from Melbourne University in 1974 (physics and history), then completed a postgraduate diploma in library and information science in 1976, and passed the Australian Music Examinations Board theory exam in 1977.

2000 - Aurealis Awards Party


In 1978 he visited Europe, busking with his 1865 concertina in Austria, Germany and Holland, then played in a Celtic folk festival in Trinity College Dublin, and in folk clubs in London and the Isle of Wight.

He continued singing professionally on his return to Australia, but pressure of rehearsals and performance, along with postgraduate studies in computer science, forced him to give up music for writing. All this acting and singing gave Sean strong background in vocal production, however, and Sean has records audio versions of some of his stories (See the NEWS page).



Sean earns his first money in SciFi, singing in Poulenc's SF operetta The Breasts of Therese (1973)



Sean and Terry Pratchett

With Terry Pratchett, 1999 Worldcon

In 1973 Sean became a science fiction professional for the first time when he sang in Poulenc's SF Operetta The Breast of Therese with the Victorian State Opera. After changing careers to work in computing in 1981, he also began having SF stories published in amateur magazines.
While doing a Master's degree, he was elected editor of the Melbourne University SF Club's fiction magazine Yggdrasil.
In 1983, Sean developed a leaner, more intense writing style after hearing Harlan Ellison speak and read at the Australian National SF convention.
Sean co-founded the Society for Creative Anachronisms in Melbourne in 1983, and gained his black belt in karate in 1985.
At the 1985 World SF Convention he won the convention's writing competition with his short story The Deciad.
His daughter Catherine was born in 1988. A published writer by the age of 10, her webpage can be found here.
Sean's first professional story, The Pharaoh's Airship tied for first place in Omega magazine's reader's poll.
When the Australian market for SF temporarily collapsed at the end of the 1980s, he sold The Colours of the Masters to America's Fantasy & Science Fiction on first submission.
His stories have since appeared in Analog, Interzone, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Eidolon, Aurealis and numerous anthologies.
In 1988 he began contributing the report series SF in Australia to Locus magazine, initially with Julie Jones, then with Terry Dowling, and continued to do so until 1998. Like many SF authors, Sean established his name in short fiction before going on to novels, and has had over three dozen stories published.
In 1991 his Fantasy and Science Fiction story While the Gate is Open won the Australian Science Fiction (Ditmar) Award, and he won the award again the following year with his Eidolon story Alone in his Chariot.
With the 1990s boom in Australian SF and fantasy publishing beginning, Sean sold his first collection, Call to the Edge (Aphelion, 1992).
The Centurion's Empire was subsequently published by Tor in 1998.
The Greatwinter series really established Sean as an author. Voices in the Light was runner up for the Ditmar Award in 1995, and Mirrorsun Rising won the award in 1996.
He combined and rewrote the first two Greatwinter novels as Souls in the Great Machine (Tor, 1999), for the American market.
This novel received widespread critical acclaim, and came equal 10th in the 2000 Hugo nomimations.
The sequel to Souls, The Miocene Arrow, won the 2001 Aurealis Award.
The third Greatwinter book, Eyes of the Calculor, was published in September 2001.

In 2000 Sean began his next major project, the Moonworlds series. Voyage of the Shadowmoon, the first of the series, was published in November 2002.

In January 2003, while researching the second Moonworlds novel, Sean travelled to the Strezleki Desert in central Australia, where he did a series of treks in 12th Century costume and armour to get a feel for real quest-style travel. Travelling in conditions so extreme that even the flies stayed out of the sun, he busted many myths about the main aspect of the quest - walking! The vivid sense of reality in Sean's novels comes from hard-won experience like this. The next Moonworlds novel, Glass Dragons, featured a great deal of walking.

Voidfarer was published in 2006, and the series concluded with The Time Engine in 2008.

Sean has written over a dozen Young Adult and children's stories. Before the Storm was published by Ford Street in 2007, and is a time travel novel set in Melbourne in 1901. It tells the story of a group of teenagers trying to prevent an apocalyptic war breaking out in the near future. The sequel, Changing Yesterday was published in 2011.

Dr was added to Sean's name in 2008 when he was awarded a PhD from the University of Melbourne for his research into the popularity of medieval fantasy. Three years later his novelette Eight Miles was runner up in the 2011 Hugo Awards for Best Novelette. Sean has continued to win awards, the most recent in 2013 when he won the Analog Readers' Award a second time for his novelette Ninety Thousand Horses.

His two most recent collections were published by Reanimus Press in 2014. They are Ghosts of Engines Past, his steampunk collection, and Colours of the Soul, containing his recent science fiction. In 2015 Sean collaborated with Paul Collins on the six book young adult fantasy series, The Warlock’s Child, and was made a judge for the Norma K. Hemming Award.



Sparring (2000)

Sean, Neil Gaiman & co

With Neil Gaimen, Glen Lumsden, and Dave deVries (1992)


First Award (1991)


Dinner in the desert (2003)



William Gibson and Peter Nicholls launching Voices in the Light 1994


Waking the Strezleki 2003


Researching The Miocene Arrow 1996


Party music, 2000