Arthur Rackham’s 150th Birthday Celebration

This 150th birthday celebration of Arthur Rackham, including a concert and panels, is led by V.H. Leslie.
Victoria’s wonderful novella, “Bodies of Water”, has been nominated for a British Fantasy Award.

V.H. Leslie

19 September 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of Arthur Rackham’s birth. Rackham (1867- 1939) was one of the leading illustrators in Britain’s ‘Golden Age’ of book illustration, and his works are still hugely popular today. He is linked to Bateman’s, Rudyard Kipling’s home in Burwash, East Sussex, through his illustrations of Puck of Pook’s Hill, a tale Kipling based on the house and gardens, and to Sussex in general through a number of locations. I am very excited to be involved in a series of events run by the Sussex Centre for Folklore, Fairy Tales and Fantasy and the University of Chichester.

Arthur Rackham in Sussex: A 150th Birthday Celebration

  • Exhibition, 8 September – 29 October 2017, Bateman’s, East Sussex

With thanks to the National Trust, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Chris Beetles Gallery, Brighton Royal Pavilion and Museums, the East Sussex Arts Partnership, the Arthur Rackham…

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British Fantasy Awards 2017

The British Fantasy Award nominees have been announced- hearty congratulations to everyone on the list!

Winners will be announced at FantasyCon 2017, at the BFA Banquet at the Bull Hotel, Peterborough, 29th September – 1st October.


Best Newcomer
James Bennett, for Chasing Embers
Daniel Godfrey, for New Pompeii
Erika L Satifka, for Stay Crazy
Phil Sloman, for Becoming David
Martin Owton, for Exile

Best Magazine / Periodical
Black Static
Ginger Nuts of Horror
Uncanny Magazine

Best Non-fiction
Blood Spectrum – Gary Couzens
The Geek Feminist Revolution – Kameron Hurley
Ginger Nuts of Horror ed. Jim McLeod
This Spectacular Darkness – Joel Lane, ed. Mark Valentine
The Women of Harry Potter series – Sarah Gailey
Words are my Matter: Writings about Life and Books, 2000-2016 – Ursula K Le Guin

Best Comic / Graphic Novel
2000AD (progs 1963-2011) ed. Matt Smith
Monstress, Vol 1: Awakening – Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! (#2-13) – Kate Leth & Brittney Williams
Saga (#33-40) – Brian K Vaughan & Fiona Staples
Sixpack and Dogwelder: Hard Travelin’ Heroz (#1-5) – Garth Ennis & Russ Braun
Skal (Chapter 3, pages 1-19) – Jennie Gyllblad

Best Independent Press
Alchemy Press
Fox Spirit Books
Grimbold Press
NewCon Press
TTA Press

Best Artist
Ben Baldwin
Evelinn Enoksen
Sarah Anne Langton
Daniele Serra

Best Anthology
Asian Monsters ed. Margrét Helgadóttir
Dead Letters ed. Conrad Williams
Fight Like a Girl ed. Joanne Hall & Roz Clarke
People of Colour Destroy Science Fiction ed. Lightspeed Magazine
The Starlit Wood: New Fairy Tales ed. Dominik Parisien & Navah Wolfe
Something Remains ed. Peter Coleborn and Pauline E Dungate

Best Collection
The Parts We Play – Stephen Volk
Secret Language – Neil Williamson
Sharp Ends – Joe Abercrombie
Some Will Not Sleep – Adam Nevill
A Tiding of Magpies – Pete Sutton
The Unheimlich Menoeuvre – Tracy Fahey

Best Film / Television Production
Black Mirror series 3
Captain America: Civil War
High Rise

Best Novella
Arrival of Missives – Aliya Whiteley
The Ballad of Black Tom – Victor LaValle
Bodies of Water – VH Leslie
Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire
The Grieving Stones – Gary McMahon
Hammers on Bone – Cassandra Khaw

Best Short Fiction
Charmed Life – Simon Avery
Greenteeth – Gary Budden
The Watcher – Sammy HK Smith
Waxy – Camilla Grudova
White Rabbit – Georgina Bruce
The Women’s Song – Nadine West

Best Horror Novel
13 Minutes – Sarah Pinborough
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock – Paul Tremblay
The Hidden People – Alison Littlewood
The Searching Dead – Ramsey Campbell

Best Fantasy Novel
The High King’s Vengeance – Steven Poore
The Silver Tide – Jen Williams
The Summer Goddess – Joanne Hall
The Tiger and the Wolf – Adrian Tchaikovsky

I Promise

OKNotOK 1997 2017 from Radiohead features the original twelve tracks of OK Computer plus three unreleased tracks and eight B-sides.


Book Giveaway

I’ve been having a sort out to make bookshelf space. I have two copies of “The Year’s Best The Fox Maiden reprintedDark Fantasy & Horror 2012″, edited by Paula Guran to give away. Even if you’re not interested in my work, the rest of the line up is stunning.

I’m happy to post them anywhere in the world. Just drop me a line in the comments section and I’ll get in touch for an address.


• “Hair” by Joan Aiken (The Monkey’s Wedding & Other Stories / F&SF July/August)
• “Rakshasi” by Kelley Armstrong (The Monster’s Corner: Through Inhuman Eyes)
• “Walls of Paper, Soft as Skin” by Adam Callaway (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue #73, July 14, 2011)
• “The Lake” by Tananarive Due (The Monster’s Corner: Through Inhuman Eyes)
• “Tell Me I’ll See You Again” by Dennis Etchison (A Book of Horrors)
• “King Death” Paul Finch (King Death)
• “The Last Triangle” by Jeffrey Ford (Supernatural Noir)
• Near Zennor by Elizabeth Hand (A Book of Horrors)
• “Crossroads” by Laura Anne Gilman (Fantasy, August 2011)
• “After-Words” by Glen Hirshberg (The Janus Tree and Other Stories)
• “Rocket Man” by Stephen Graham Jones (Stymie, Vol. 4. Issue 1, Spring & Summer 2011)
• “The Maltese Unicorn” by Caitlin R. Kiernan (Supernatural Noir)
• “The Dune” by Stephen King (Granta 117)
• “Catastrophic Disruption of the Head” by Margo Lanagan (The Wilful Eye: Tales from the Tower, Vol. 1)
• “The Bleeding Shadow” by Joe R. Lansdale (Down These Strange Streets)
• “Why Light?” by Tanith Lee (Teeth)
• “Conservation of Shadows” by Yoon Ha Lee (Clarkesworld, August 2011)
• A Tangle of Green Men, Charles de Lint (Welcome to Bordertown)
• “After the Apocalypse” by Maureen McHugh (After the Apocalypse)
• “Why Do You Linger?” by Sarah Monette (Subterranean #8)
• “Lord Dunsany’s Teapot” Naomi Novik (The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities)
• “Mysteries of the Old Quarter” by Paul Park (Ghosts by Gaslight)
• “Vampire Lake”, by Norman Partridge (Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2)
• “A Journey of Only Two Paces” by Tim Powers (The Bible Repairman and Other Stories)
• “Four Legs in the Morning” by Norman Prentiss (Four Legs in the Morning)
• “The Fox Maiden” by Priya Sharma (On Spec, Summer 2011)
• “Time and Tide” by Alan Peter Ryan (F&SF, Sept/Oct 2011)
• “Sun Falls” by Angela Slatter (Dead Red Heart)
• “Still” by Tia V. Travis (Portents)
• “Objects in Dreams May Be Closer Than They Appear” by Lisa Tuttle (House of Fear)
• “The Bread We Eat in Dreams” by Catherynne M. Valente (Apex Magazine, Issue 30, November 2011)
• “All You Can Do Is Breathe” by Kaaron Warren (Blood & Other Cravings)

Review of “Black Feathers” edited by Ellen Datlow

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Emotion Pictures, A Film Review by Dev Agarwal

My thanks to Priya, for the invitation to make another visit to her blog.

This time I’d like to discuss three films that I saw (relatively) recently.

The first one I saw by accident rather than design, and was Skull Island. The film we planned to see was sold out (Logan).  That’s not a ringing endorsement for any film — go see it if the main screen sells out.

Skull Island is the latest incarnation of the King Kong story.  Kong’s first screen outing was in 1933.  He has come around almost generationally, and is famous enough to warrant his own wiki entry.  This observes that his cinematic visits range from “a rampaging monster to a tragic antihero.”

Skull IslandIn this version, Kong falls somewhere in between.  There’s an environmental angle to the story, and much pyrotechnic noise.  I saw this film with my friend Nik.  He observed that the story moved fast and didn’t waste a lot of time on build up. It jumped straight in, treating the audience as either mature enough, or familiar enough, not to have to lay many foundations. This is a film built on well-established Kong lore and an audience that knows what it’s about to get (even if that includes not getting into Logan).  It’s pretty efficient in moving Kong from rampaging monster to hero and it sits firmly between the other two films that I can report on, The Magnificent Seven and Get OutSkull Island is determinedly middle of the road, successful on its own terms, and trimmed of most narrative fat.

Get Out, directed by Jordan Peele, was described by The Guardian as a “comedy-horror hybrid.”  That could put it as a relative of Skull Island. In another sense, it definitely is if we apply the critic James Baldwin’s observations of the original RKO Kong of 1933.  That film, Baldwin observed, was an overt riff on black representation as hysterically animalistic and savage.

Get Out also arrives at a time when science fiction contains loud voices decrying diversity and criticising those writers whose stories include non-white characters.  Those voices reject the benefit of such stories and argue that they are examples of “virtue signalling” and message fiction.  Message fiction, its critics say, is where the message outweighs all other considerations, especially in telling the story and making the film (or novel) entertaining.  As one commentator has said, “Let’s shove more message fiction down their throats! My cause comes before their enjoyment!”

The schism in science fiction is magnified into the far greater one in western society itself.  We are in the age of extremes: Brexit, Corbyn, the near miss that was Le Pen in France.  Long held certainties are in question.  And, of course, looming over everything is the remarkable phrase, President Donald Trump.

And none of this is fiction.  Not even the most outlandish science fiction.  In this context, where fiction is outdone by fact, Get Out posits the story of a black man, Chris, driving from his comfortable middle-class New York home to Alabama.  Chris has been invited to meet his girlfriend Rose’s family.  Rose’s family live in a huge estate in Alabama.  That premise could be lifted from Poitier’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner from 1967 — then projected through the lens of both horror and science fiction.  I’ll avoid any spoilers, which will hamper how far I can discuss the film, but what makes Get Out work for me is a combination of its confident construction, its understanding of pace and its ability to be relevant (you know, having a message) to our modern concerns.  This might be distilled down to having a story worth telling, telling it well and entertaining the audience at the same time.

Small details established early on become crucial by the end of the film.  At the same time the film is not just a horror story, or a series of attempts to make the audience jump.  This is because the film’s Director, Jordan Peele, asks us to emotionally invest in the characters’ lives.

A staple of horror is that things begin very normally — Chris’ life is urban, comfortable, even humdrum.  Things then begin to steadily deviate from normal.  In this case, as we journey further south and closer to Rose’s family.  On the drive down the couple hit a deer — a jump scare and also a distressing and bloody encounter.  A policeman arrives and immediately asks Chris for his ID.  It’s Rose who challenges the white police officer, criticising his attitude to a black man.  So we’ve encountered two events — the death of an animal and the threat of a police officer.  Neither instance is fantastical, and yet they add to the accumulation of tension and discomfort.

On the estate, the awaiting family ranges from the enthusiastically liberal to the loutish and offensive.  In between are those family members who find Chris awkward to be around.  These reactions were the ones Chris anticipated at the outset.  So far, the story is more social drama than horror.  However, by this point we’ve already been given cues that will resonate later in the film (thus demonstrating the novice film maker Peele’s confident control of his material).

Get Out PosterAlmost everyone Chris meets is white, and the setting resonates with the memory of a former slave state in the antebellum South.  The black characters are mostly servants and they remain distinctly uncommunicative, or weirdly out of sync in their behaviour.  Indeed, it is the black characters, and their disjointed presence, that creates the gateway into the horror as the skin of normal white culture is increasingly peeled back.  It’s this aspect of the narrative that is most important, as its details accrete like coral.  It’s built out of the black servants’ disturbed presence and the reactions of the white characters to them.  Soon the film steps entirely off the path of normality and reveals itself as a genre piece.  The genteel veneer hides menace, the minor characters hide secrets and the smallest details imply warnings of the looming terror.

Most audiences have been satisfied with the jump scares and surprises, while more schooled genre viewers have taken the extra pleasure that the film provides with its understanding of horror and SF tropes.  Peele presents more “otherworldly elements” — hypnotic suggestion, out of body experiences and experiments on human subjects that would fit within David Cronenberg’s body horror films.  We even get grainy video footage of the 1980s that looks like the Dharma Project from Lost, or that moment in Quatermass where a major plot development is explained by silent film footage.

As I said earlier, I am constrained by not spoiling the film by talking about its details.  But I can add that the film could not be more relevant in the current climate.  This may explain Get Out’s numbers: it cost $4.5 million dollars and took $33.3 million on its opening weekend.  It’s now surpassed the $165 million mark in the US alone.  In financial terms, Get Out is a success, but as a film it also understands its genre and respects its antecedents — in a more sophisticated echo of Skull Island’s relationship with the original King Kong.

Just as Get Out has its antecedents, so does the third film.  That is Antoine Fuqua’s remake of The Magnificent Seven (originally filmed in 1960).  I watched the original film many times as a child and note, slightly to my surprise, that it’s well over 50 years old.  The original is also too slow by today’s standards and while good, it’s not a film that transcends changes in taste to remain wholly accessible (in the way Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon and The Searchers do).

The remake did everything that the previously mentioned Sad Puppies would hate.  The remake is still an adventure, and still a western, but it’s aware of cultural change, the concept of discrimination and that a film can be both a western and bring a message.  The new Seven are a careful mix of minorities, including Chinese and Native Americans, and are led by a black man (Denzel Washington).  The film ticks further boxes, effectively it’s The Magnificent Eight, with the female lead (Haley Bennett) fulfilling an active, gun-toting role that may leave the Puppies conflicted as she’s a woman who fails to stay in the kitchen, but at least she respects the Second Amendment.

The remake replicates the original in that three of the Seven survive.  There’s deviation The Magnificent Sevenin exactly who, with the Steve McQueen/Chris Pratt role getting a heroic death this time around.  Watching the remake, without knowing too much detail, I felt confident in identifying that the Native American was going to survive (a cultural apology for their historic slaughter).  Similarly, it was unsurprising that the villains are carefully not Mexicans, they’re white men.  And worse than white men, they’re capitalists — it’s the railroad men that menace the town now.

My objections to the film don’t really relate to any of the above.  The remake is in some way treading the same ground as the other films — conscious of history and current contexts and also addressing the original film’s lack of strong parts for women.  More fundamentally, however, the film fails in the areas that Get Out and even Skull Island excelled at.  Seven‘s mechanical execution is dull and lacks any flair.

Fuqua is a workmanlike director but Training Day and the Equaliser are both better thrillers.  More surprising for me was that the film was co-written by Nic Pizzolatto.  Those unfamiliar with his writing will be pleasantly surprised by series one of HBO’s True Detective.  But, similarly to The Magnificent Seven, they will find series two less pleasant (or rewarding).  Pizzolatto appears to be talented by uneven.

With the Seven, as you know not all of them will survive, it’s the quality of their deaths that distinguish them.  Here, Pizzolatto and Fuqua missed the boat.  There are two prominent Indians, the good one and the bad one (which itself is reductive).  In this version, the villainous Indian is dressed in the US Army’s uniform, denoting that he’s sold out other Indians in the past and as an ex-soldier, he’s part of the same military-industrial complex that brings the threat of the railroad.  He menaces the town’s white women but it’s OK because they’re rescued by the good Indian.  The two Indians fight and the good one kills the bad one.  That recounting summarises my emotional investment in that moment.  That fight, if thought out more carefully, could have been more dramatic, more complex and more satisfying.  And therein is the problem with the film as an entertainment.  In terms of understanding the Native American relationship with Americans (either then or now) would require another film entirely.

That leaves Get Out firmly top of the heap from the three films considered here.  But it would be on top of just about any heap this year.

Dev Agarwal

Dev Agarwal

Dev Agarwal is a science fiction and fantasy writer. His fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies in Britain and overseas. Dev is an associate editor for Ireland’s Albedo One and has recently begun editing Focus, the magazine on writing science fiction, for the British Science Fiction Association.


Terracotta Army marches on Liverpool


The Terrracotta Army of China’s First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, is to return to the UK  in 2018. Liverpool’s World Museum will play host from Feb-Oct 2018 and there’s more information here about the event and how to get tickets.

If you fancy a weekend of museums, then Liverpool has a long list of places to visit:

Walker Art Gallery

Sudley House

Maritime Museum

International Slavery Museum

Lady Lever Art Gallery (on the Wirral)

Tate Liverpool

The Beatles Story

British Music Experience

Victoria Gallery & Museum

Incidentally, if you’re a Watchmen fan as I am, you’ll be interested in Beyond Dredd and Watchmen: The Art of John Higgins, at the Victoria Gallery & Museum from March 2017- October 2017.

Liverpool-born artist John Higgins found global success as a comic book artist and writer for 2000AD, DC and Marvel.
John Higgins will be at the exhibition Friday 19th May (as part of Light Night a Liverpool wide arts and culture annual event) doing a Q&A and tickets are free.



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Nightmare Magazine Issue 56

Nightmare magazine issue 56

I am absolutely delighted to be included in Issue 56 of John Joseph Adam’s Nightmare Magazine.

“Pearls” was first published in Issue 4 of Bourbon Penn (2012), and reprinted in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror:2013, Ed.Paula Guran, Prime Books.



Purchase issue: Kindle, KindleWeightless Books (ePub/Mobi)

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Shadows & Tall Trees 7

Looking forward to this.

V.H. Leslie

After a three-year hiatus, Shadows and Tall Trees is back! Undertow Books has been busy in the interim, publishing four collections of short stories (from Eric Schaller, D.P. Watt, Sunny Moraine and myself) three volumes of Year’s Best Weird Fiction, guest edited each time, and accumulating numerous awards and nominations. But three years has been a long time for readers of the genre eager for the kind of fiction Shadows and Tall Trees has come to champion: quiet horror, weird fiction with a literary edge.

With stories from Malcolm Devlin, Brian Evenson, Rebecca Kuder, V.H. Leslie, Robert Levy, Laura Mauro, Manish Melwani, Alison Moore, Harmony Neal, Rosalie Parker, M. Rickert, Nicholas Royle, Robert Shearman, Christopher Slatsky, Simon Strantzas, Steve Rasnic Tem, Michael Wehunt, Charles Wilkinson, Conrad Williams and cover artwork by Yaroslav Gerzhedovich (paperback edition) and Vince Haig (hardback edition) Shadows and Tall Trees 7 will…

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