Notes from the Shadowed City by Jeffrey Alan Love

Notes from the Shadowed City is Jeffrey Alan Love’s first book. It charts the journey of an amnesiac within the shadowed city, our narrator recording what he sees in his notebook as he tries to make sense of his quest to find magical swords, love and his way home.

dscf6820I’ve read it several times now and each pass gives me a different experience. I become the journeyman and what I take from it depends on what I bring to it. It’s a demanding book that requires a different type of interaction to the traditional narrative. Each spread is an image partnered with a line or two of intriguing text, which gives the reader space to fill in the gaps and it gives the whole project a dream-like feel.

And the images are sublime, all in Love’s signature style.

dscf6822I’ve interviewed Mr Love before (here) and as a fan I wanted to ask him more about the book.

Priya: Welcome! What came first for this? The concept or did the inspiration arise from a collection of your images?

Jeffrey: The images came first, accompanied by their line of text. At first I would just make one each day, and at some point before the next morning the next piece would suggest itself to me. It wasn’t until I had perhaps 20 or so that the larger story started to suggest itself. Up until that point it was purely play, seeing what story the juxtaposition of these separate moments would create merely by being next to each other.

dscf6824P: Tell me about your protagonist. Why did you make him an amnesiac?

J: I think so that the reader and the protagonist would discover the world together, and that the sparseness of actual information that is given through the words and images would make sense instead of frustrating a reader who would feel that they weren’t getting the entire story, that the narrator was holding out on them. If the protagonist had been someone familiar with this strange world, the book might seem only a sketch or outline that needed fleshing out instead of something that could stand on its own, playing with that edge of how much information is needed for the reader to fill in the gaps and tell a satisfying story for themselves. I’ve also moved around quite a bit in my life, and have often felt like an eternal outsider, lacking the basic information that others have about their place in the world.

P: I’ve put this book in other people’s hands and watched them look through it. In each dscf6825case, they open it and then compulsively turn the pages, usually until the end. It’s fascinating to watch. I think there’s something about the stripped back quality and the imagery that’s very compelling. How did you settle on the balance between text and image? Have you written a longer text to go with this?

J: With my artwork on its own I try to always ask myself “how much is enough?” and I tried to do that with the book. I wanted to leave room for the viewer to take what is presented and then head off into their own head to connect the dots and fill it in with the story that they most wished it would be. I wanted to leave room for imagination and dreaming. My fear, of course, was that there wouldn’t be enough, and that readers would leave with a feeling of dissatisfaction, of wishing that it was a novel instead. What I tried to do was craft a sentence or two that, when paired with an image, suggested other moments, other scenes, a fullness to the story that expanded from the compressed image and text. The bad joke answer would be that I tried to make each picture worth 1000 words. I don’t have a longer text written, but there is more to the story in my head but again, I wanted to find that space where the reader makes it their story, not just the one that is presented in totality by me.

dscf6831P: I’m interested in the proliferation in hand lettering and font development in recent years. Your use of handwritten text is lovely and completely in keeping with the concept of this being a notebook. Did you develop a font for this?

J: I did. At first I thought it might be a little more ornate, cursive, done with a nib, but the plain block print of my handwriting with a pencil seemed more appropriate to the book. Legibility became key so that the story wouldn’t be interrupted by trying to decipher words.

P: You do beautiful work in colour but here you’ve gone with a stripped back palette- black, white and red accents, which I think feels quite primal. Why?

J: All of the pages were actually taken from my sketchbooks, so the short answer is that dscf6827black/white is the direction my sketchbook has taken in the past few years. But I also really love black and white art. In today’s photoshop era where every single color is easily available to the illustrator one way to stand out is to step away from color. But it also comes back to the question I always ask myself: “how much information is enough?” There is also a sense of timelessness with black/white, a seriousness or starkness that I think works well with what I do, which is find the silhouette that most effectively tells the story I want it to. I like that my work can feel like sculpture at times, hewn from ancient rock.

P: I liked that our hero’s love interest isn’t a predictable princess but a warrior (“Never have I loved her more than when she slew the giant of the deep”). Tell me more.

J: I think that came from imagining my wife as being the love interest. We have similar tastes, and often find ourselves reading a book after the other. She would comment to me dscf6838about the female characters in the fantasy books written by men, telling me how they could have been better, stronger, more interesting. Indirectly she guided the creation of that character. Also I often try with my work to turn stereotypes on their head. They give me something to fight against. The stereotype in fantasy is the princess as the love interest, but if a woman happens to be a warrior she’s wearing a chainmail bikini, she’s an object of beauty – here I completely wrapped her in mystery, in shadow, and what he loves is not her looks but her actions, her strength, her ease and absolute mastery of this strange world that seems to escape his grasp. Which seems to describe my relationship to the real world, and the things I love about my wife.


P: There are also some elements of humour in here, such as the masked swordsmen meeting for morning coffee and cigarettes.

dscf6828J: I think that was inspired by M. John Harrison’s Viriconium novels and Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner. Bringing those small moments into it, real life. Also making fun of myself and my work. Everything doesn’t have to be serious, or epic, and what there is that is epic can also be made fun of. Masked swordsmen is “cool” but it’s also kind of ridiculous – I wonder how well someone could fight with a sword with a giant homemade mask on top of their head?

P: Previously you mentioned that your travels have influenced your work- such as visits to ancient sites in Greece, Italy, the UK and Germany. You talked about capturing the magic of those places in images (I greatly envy this skill!). What have you channelled in creating the Shadowed City?


J: I think it was less of a physical place and more of the feeling of my childhood and early adulthood. Moving often, being a stranger, an outsider, always searching for my place and something that would make me feel like I belonged. Wondering if I could find magic somewhere, find love, if my life would be what I hoped it would be.


P: Will you ever revisit the city for other projects?dscf6833

J: I don’t know! When I wrote it I wanted it to stand on its own, to retain its mystery and strangeness. But now of course I have all sorts of things popping into my head in that world. So perhaps!

P: Flesk have done a beautiful job with the book- very high quality binding and paper. Did you have any input into these choices?

J: John Fleskes did a wonderful job with the book. He asked for my input, but when I work with someone that is an expert at something I try to let them do what they are best at without muddying the waters. I knew from seeing previous books from Flesk that they made really wonderful books, not just in terms of content but as objects, and I trusted him to bring that same care and attention to this and he did a spectacular job. I couldn’t be happier with it.

P: Can I ask where things are up to with your graphic novels?dscf6836

J: I wish I could say that I’m all done and they’ll be out next year, but I became a father 12 weeks ago and my life has been thrown into wonderful, love-filled chaos. I have the utmost respect now for anyone who has ever done anything after having a child – please forward me your secrets.

P: Have you got any other projects lined up that you can talk about?

J: I’m in the middle of working on over 100 paintings for an illustrated edition of Norse Mythology by Kevin Crossley-Holland that will be out next year from Walker Books UK and Candlewick Press in the USA.




Jeffrey Alan Love is an award-winning artist and writer whose clients have included The New York Times, TIME, The New Yorker, Scholastic, HarperCollins,Tor, Gollancz, and others. Nominated for the World Fantasy Award, the Chesley Award, the British Science Fiction Award, The British Fantasy Award, and the Spectrum Fantastic Art Award, he has won a gold medal from the Society of Illustrators and two Academy of British Cover Design Awards. Born in South Carolina, he has lived in Germany, Texas, North Carolina, Nebraska, South Korea, Hawaii, Colorado, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, California, and Missouri.


Notes from the Shadowed City can be purchased directly from Flesk Publications in the USA and from on this side of the pond.

Jeffrey Alan Love’s Website, and on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr
Jeffrey Alan Love at Flesk Publications.

(Photos by Priya)

Guest Post: “New Voices” by Mark Morris

The horror genre is in fine fettle at the moment. In fact, I can’t remember a time when the work being produced has been more wide-ranging, inventive and exciting. This is not only due to the fact …

Source: Guest Post: “New Voices” by Mark Morris

Reviews of Best Horror of the Year:Volume 8


Ellen Datlow is one of the hardest-working, iconic figures in Horror, Dark Fantasy, and elsewhere. When she speaks well of a certain author, I—by default—make a point to seek out writing by that person. Datlow won, on August 20, a Hugo Award for Best Editor, Short-Form.

Hence number eight in Night Shade Book’s annual compilation, and 20 tales curated from print, online and, perhaps, cobwebbed nowheres isolated in extragalactic gloom. Opening with “Summation 2015,” the editor replays that year’s incredible fertility. These summations are pure gifts highlighting output both well-known and obscure—notepad opportunities aplenty.

What distinguishes Datlow-edited anthologies from most (not all) others is the mix of newer and not-so-new names tilting toward those less known. William Grabowski for Horror Notes. His  full review including his favourites are here.


The book opens with a “best of the year” introduction from its editor, Ellen Datlow, my favorite editor of anthologies. I have a love/hate relationship with these intros, especially when they are written by someone whose opinion I hold in such high regard. I love these because I am informed of all the brilliant books/movies/events/etc. that I may have missed out on in the year. I hate these for the exact same reason; everything I don’t have immediately goes on the wish list and it ends up costing me money. It’s bitter sweet. In the case of The Best Horror of the Year: Volume Eight, “Summation 2015” contains about 33 pages of things I need to buy if I haven’t already …Honestly, many people will be tempted to skip this, but don’t. It’s a wonderful breakdown of the past year, and everything that Datlow recommends that I too have read, I’m in full agreement with. The lady really knows her stuff.

Steve Pattee for Horror Talk. For his full review and commemts on his favourite stories are here.


Tagged , ,

Bar, Liverpool, UK 2016


Motel, bar on Fleet Street, Liverpool


Nightmare Magazine: People of Colour Destroy Horror

This special edition of Nightmare is now available from and

I’m delighted to be included with a reprint of my short story, “The Show”. For more about this edition see my previous blog post: here.


 Table of Contents

Original Short Stories (edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia)
◾A Diet of Worms — Valerie Valdes
◾Wish You Were Here — Nadia Bulkin
◾None of This Ever Happened — Gabriela Santiago
◾The Taming of the Tongue — Russell Nichols

Reprint Fiction (selected by Tananarive Due)
◾Cruel Sistah — Nisi Shawl
◾The Show — Priya Sharma
◾Wet Pain — Terence Taylor
◾Monstro — Junot Díaz

Author Spotlights (edited by Arley Sorg)
◾Valerie Valdes
◾Nadia Bulkin
◾Gabriela Santiago
◾Russell Nichols
◾Nisi Shawl
◾Priya Sharma
◾Terence Taylor
◾Junot Díaz

Nonfiction (edited by Maurice Broaddus)
◾The H Word: The Darkest, Truest Mirrors — Alyssa Wong
◾Horror is…Not What You Think or Probably Wish It Is — Chesya Burke
◾Terror, Hope, Fascination, and Fear in Filipino Horror — Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
◾Horror, Inside Out — Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
◾The Thing We have to Fear — Chinelo Onwualu
◾Interview: Victor LaValle — Maurice Broaddus
◾Artists Gallery by Reiko Murakami, Kimberly Wengerd, Maggie Chiang, Saïna Six

Illustrations (art direction by Pablo Defendini)
◾Kimberly Wengerd — “A Diet of Worms” by Valerie Valdes
◾Maggie Chiang — “Wish You Were Here” by Nadia Bulkin
◾Saïna Six — “Cruel Sistah” by Nisi Shawl
◾Reiko Murakami — “The Show” by Priya Sharma (cover story)

Tagged , ,

Les Machines de l’île

In my previous posts, I’ve mentioned the work of Jean-Luc Courcoult’s Royal de Luxe, whose magnificent marionettes have toured the world and which I’ve had the joy of seeing in Liverpool for the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic and also the city’s WW1 centenary commerations.

I’ve long hoped to visit Nantes (north-west France) to see Les Machines de l’île (“The Island of Machines”). It’s the brainchild of Pierre Orefice and ex-Royal de Luxe designer François Delarozière, housed in a former shipyard.

Their website describes their work as Leonardo da Vinci meets Jules Vernes (who, incidentally, was born in Nantes). It was as marvellous as I’d hoped.

The site features 3 main projects, the Great Elephant, the Marine Carousel and the Machine Gallery which contains prototypes for the Heron Tree.

The Marine Carousel is on 3 layers- the sea bed, the abyss and on the sea’s surface. Each creature is designed to be sat on or in, with moving parts that the rider can work like a puppeteer.

The Heron Tree promises to be an awesome feat. It’s due for completion in 2018 and will be 55 metres in diameter and 35 metres high. It’s a steel structured tree to be sited on the banks of the Loire river in Nantes, some of whose branches will reach out over the river itself. It’ll be topped with a pair of herons and filled with a mechanical bestiary including ants, aphids, spiders and a caterpillar, all of which visitors will be able to ride.

What excites me more is that it will be a living, breathing structure with plants rooted within it, their foliage overhanging. Sixty-five botanical gardens from around the world have sent seeds. The photos below are of the Machine Gallery that contains small scale prototypes of the machines and a test version of a branch.

(Photos by Priya)

Tagged , ,

Fantasycon by the Sea

Thank you to everyone I talked to at Fantasycon. It’s been a fantastic weekend. I’ve really enjoyed catching up with all the lovely people I know and meeting new ones too.

Thanks again to everyone who voted for Fabulous Beasts, which won the 2016 British Fantasy Illustration for Fabulous Beasts by Jeffrey Alan LoveAward for Short Fiction. To be included alongside writers whose work I have read and admire, some of whom are friends, is a real honour. Thanks to The British Fantasy Society and to the jurors.

Thanks, thanks and thanks again to Ellen Datlow, to and to Jeffrey Alan Love for his gorgeous artwork.

I’ve been very fortunate to receive great kindness and encouragement from many quarters but in particular from Paula Guran, Andy Cox, Mike Kelly, Nina Allan, and Dev Agarwal.

Thank you to my mum, dad and brother, Ravi, for a house filled with stories in all their forms- Hardy, Hitchcock, Ganesha, Shiva, DC and Marvel. To Michelle Noble for a lifetime of long walks and gothic conversations.

And thank you to Mark Greenwood, my partner, for eveything.

I’ve had some lovely, lovely emails today. Thank you  xxx

Best Fantasy Novel (the Robert Holdstock Award): Uprooted, Naomi Novik (Macmillan)

Half a War, Joe Abercrombie (Harper Voyager)
Sorcerer to the Crown, Zen Cho (Macmillan)
Signal to Noise, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Solaris)
Guns of the Dawn, Adrian Tchaikovsky (Tor)
The Iron Ghost, Jen Williams (Headline)

Best Horror Novel (the August Derleth Award) : Rawblood, Catriona Ward (Weidenfeld & Nicholson)

Welcome to Night Vale, Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor (Orbit UK)
The Silence, Tim Lebbon (Titan)
A Cold Silence, Alison Littlewood (Jo Fletcher)
Lost Girl, Adam Nevill (Pan)
The Death House, Sarah Pinborough (Gollancz)
Rawblood, Catriona Ward (Weidenfeld & Nicholson)

Best Novella: The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn, Usman T. Malik (

Witches of Lytchford, Paul Cornell (
The Bureau of Them, Cate Gardner (Spectral)
Albion Fay, Mark Morris (Spectral)
Binti, Nnedi Okorafor (

Best Short Fiction :“Fabulous Beasts”, Priya Sharma ( 7/27/15 )

“When the Moon Man Knocks”, Cate Gardner (Black Static 10-11/15)
Strange Creation, Frances Kay (Tenebris Nyxies)
“The Blue Room”, V.H. Leslie (Skein and Bone)
“Dirt Land”, Ralph Robert Moore (Black Static 11-12/15)
“Hippocampus”, Adam Nevill (Terror Tales of the Ocean)

Best Collection Ghost Summer: Stories, Tananarive Due (Prime)

Probably Monsters, Ray Cluley (ChiZine)
The Stars Seem So Far Away, Margrét Helgadóttir (Fox Spirit)
Monsters, Paul Kane (The Alchemy Press)
Scar City, Joel Lane (Eibonvale)
Skein and Bone, V.H. Leslie (Undertow)

Best Anthology: The Doll Collection, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Tor)

African Monsters, Margrét Helgadóttir & Jo Thomas, eds. (Fox Spirit)
Best British Horror 2015, Johnny Mains, ed. (Salt)
The 2nd Spectral Book of Horror Stories, Mark Morris, ed. (Spectral)
Aickman’s Heirs, Simon Strantzas, ed. (Undertow)

Best Independent Press: Angry Robot (Marc Gascoigne)

The Alchemy Press (Peter Coleborn and Jan Edwards)
Fox Spirit (Adele Wearing)
Newcon (Ian Whates)

Best Non-Fiction :Letters to Tiptree, Alexandra Pierce & Alisa Krasnostein, ed. (Twelfth Planet)

Fantasy-Faction, Marc Aplin & Jennie Ivins, eds. (Fantasy-Faction)
The Art of Horror: An Illustrated History, Stephen Jones, ed. (Applause Theater & Cinema)
Ginger Nuts of Horror, Jim McLeod, ed. (
Matrilines, Kari Sperring (Strange Horizons)
King for a Year, Mark West, ed. (

Best Magazine / Periodical: Beneath Ceasless Skies

Black Static
Holdfast Magazine

Best Artist : Julie Dillon

Ben Baldwin
Vincent Chong
Evelinn Enoksen
Sarah Anne Langton
Jeffrey Alan Love

Best Comic / Graphic Novel :Bitch Planet (#2-5), Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro, Robert Wilson IV & Cris Peter (Image)

Red Sonja (#14-18), Gail Simone & Walter Geovani (Dynamite)
Nimona, Noelle Stevenson (HarperTeen)
Saga (#25-32), Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples (Image)
Ms. Marvel, Vol 2: Generation Why, G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt & Adrian Alphona (Marvel)

Best Film/Television Production: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

Inside No. 9: The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge
Jessica Jones: “AKA WWJD?”
Mad Max: Fury Road
Midwinter of the Spirit
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Best Newcomer (the Sydney J. Bounds Award):Zen Cho for Sorcerer to the Crown (Macmillan)

Becky Chambers for The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet (Hodder & Stoughton)
Peter Newman for The Vagrant (HarperVoyager)
Steven Poore for The Heir to the North (Kristell Ink)
Marc Turner for When the Heavens Fall (Titan)

Winners were chosen by jury, except for the special award (the Karl Edward Wagner Award) which is chosen by the BFS committee.

Tagged , ,

The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan

SingingBones_247x189_CVR.inddI came across “The Red Tree” by Shaun Tan many years ago and the text and graphics resonated with me very deeply.

I saw “The Singing Bones” today in a bookshop and have added it to my massive wishlist of books.

He’s reduced the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales to a sculpture (inspired by Inuit soapstone carvings and pre-Columbian pottery) and a few lines to accompany them that distills “the DNA of the tale, the core that haunts people forever”.


Clockwise from top right: Little Red Riding Hood, All Kinds of Fur, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and The Singing Bone.

There’s more images here.

Bloodbaths and bad dreams: Shaun Tan’s fairy sculptures by Sian Cain

Tagged , ,

People of Colour Destroy Horror

Following on from Nightmare Magazine‘s previous special editions Women Destroy Horror! POC-Destroy-Horror-pre-order_and Queers Destroy Horror! there will be a People of Colour Destroy Horror! released on the 1st October 2016.

“LIGHTSPEED was founded on the core idea that all science fiction is real science fiction. The whole point of this magazine is that science fiction is vast. It is inclusive. Science fiction is about people and for people—all kinds of people, no matter where they’re from or what they look like.

The People of Colo(u)r Destroy special issues exist to relieve a brokenness in the genre that’s been enabled time and time again by favoring certain voices and portrayals of particular characters. We’re bringing together a mix of all-POC editorial and creative voices from around the globe to present science fiction that is colored by the nuances of culture, race, and history. It’s science fiction for our present time—but most of all, our future.

Funded by another amazingly successful Kickstarter campaign, the People of Colo(u)r Destroy projects are our way of celebrating the work of POC creators in the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. Once again, we’re presenting special issues of LIGHTSPEED, NIGHTMARE, and FANTASY magazines entirely edited, written, and illustrated by the best POC minds in the business, including Nalo Hopkinson & Kristine Ong Muslim (Guest Editors, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction!), Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Guest Editor, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror!), and Daniel José Older (Guest Editor, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Fantasy!) and dozens of other familiar names.

Enjoy the destruction.”   From

The table of contents have now been released and I’d like to say a big thanks to Tananarive Due for including my story, “The Show”, which originally appeared in Box of Delights, Ed. John Kenny, Aeon Press (2011) and was then reprinted in The Best Horror of the Year 4 (2012), Ed. Ellen Datlow, Night Shade Books.

Original Short Stories (edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia)
A Diet of Worms — Valerie Valdes
Wish You Were Here — Nadia Bulkin
None of This Ever Happened — Gabriela Santiago
The Taming of the Tongue — Russell Nichols

Reprint Fiction (selected by Tananarive Due)
Cruel Sistah — Nisi Shawl
The Show — Priya Sharma
Wet Pain — Terence Taylor
Monstro — Junot Díaz

Author Spotlights (edited by Arley Sorg)
Valerie Valdes
Nadia Bulkin
Gabriela Santiago
Russell Nichols
Nisi Shawl
Priya Sharma
Terence Taylor
Junot Díaz

Nonfiction (edited by Maurice Broaddus)
The H Word: The Darkest, Truest Mirrors — Alyssa Wong
Horror is…Not What You Think or Probably Wish It Is — Chesya Burke
Terror, Hope, Fascination, and Fear in Filipino Horror — Rochita Loenen-Ruiz
Horror, Inside Out — Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
The Thing We have to Fear — Chinelo Onwualu
Interview: Victor LaValle — Maurice Broaddus
Artists Gallery by Reiko Murakami, Kimberly Wengerd, Maggie Chiang, Saïna Six

Illustrations (art direction by Pablo Defendini)
Kimberly Wengerd — “A Diet of Worms” by Valerie Valdes
Maggie Chiang — “Wish You Were Here” by Nadia Bulkin
Saïna Six — “Cruel Sistah” by Nisi Shawl
Reiko Murakami — “The Show” by Priya Sharma


Adobe Photoshop PDFPOC-Destroy-Fantasy-pre-order_

This issue of Nightmare magazine as well as Lightspeed’s People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction! and Fantasy’s People of Colour Destroy Fantasy!, are all available here.


Tagged , ,

Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder

A sad, sad day. A very underrated actor.