A prolific and award-winning science-fiction and horror writer who has referred to himself as fantasist, Terry Dowling was born and raised in Sydney. Educated at Boronia Park Public School and Hunters Hill High he later studied at Sydney Teachers College (1965-66). After two years' service in the Australian Infantry he undertook a Bachelor of Arts and a Master's Degree at the University of Sydney between 1970 and 1976. Since then he has undertaken careers as a communications lecturer, freelance journalist, and songwriter/musician whilst also establishing a reputation as on of Australia's most respected authors of speculative fiction. For six years, Dowling was also a children's television personality, making regular appearances on the ABC's Mr Squiggle and Friends.
Although he first began producing science fiction stories, Dowling later began to infuse elements of horror into these works. As Steven Paulsen and Sean McMullen note, however, 'even those stories which are not horror invariably have an undercurrent of darkness brought on by intense seeing, making use of dark deeds and of phantoms, monster and alarming images and situations, even if scientifically produced' (p. 190).
Dowling has produced three award-winning volumes concerning the adventures of a sand-ship captain in Australia's distant future: Rynosseros(1990), Blue Tyson (1992), and Wormwood (1991). He edited The Essential Ellison and, together with renowned fantasist Harlan Ellison, edited a collection of stories about the mythic qualities of Australia. His stories have appeared in Omega, Aphelion,The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction(US), and Eidolon. His story 'The Bone Ship,' which appears in the international horror anthology Gathering the Bones (2002), was picked to represent the book in the Australian Women's Weekly. Another short story 'Stitch,' was published online in 2002. In the late 1990s Dowling also entered into a collaborative venture with a Polish development team to produce a fantasy adventure game, for which he wrote the script. The game went on to win the Grand Prix for best computer game at France's Utopiales in 2001.
Dowling's first published story, 'The Ones Who Walk Away Behind the Eyes' won him a 1983 Ditmar Award for Best Australian Science Fiction or Fantasy, and he has since won more than 20 other awards (including ten more Ditmars in various categories). These include a 1983 William Atheling, Jnr Award (for science fiction criticism); Readercon awards for best Collection (1991) and Best Short Story (1993); Aurealis awards for Best Horror Novel (1995), Best Horror Short Story (1997) and a Convenor's Award for Excellence (2000).
As one of Australia's best known speculative fiction authors Dowling is in much demand and subsequently leads a very active professional life, presenting science-fiction and fantasy workshops for young and adult writers, speaking at science-fiction conventions, and tutoring. In 2002, he won a three-year scholarship to complete his doctorate in creative writing at the University of Western Australia.