Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: II – On Fairies and Witchcraft

jonathan-strangeSusanna Clarke’s 2004 historical fantasy novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been adapted into a seven part television series currently airing on the BBC (beginning on BBC America June 14th). I’m plucking out some of the more easily disentangled fragments of folklore, magic, and the like from the book (and the show) and taking a closer look at them for The Daily Grail.

My second Strange & Norrell piece On Fairies and Witchcraft is free to read online now, and contains no (or only extremely minimal) spoilers.


Interview on the 2000 AD Thrillcast

Our new series Storm Warning starts in next week’s Judge Dredd Megazine. We chatted with PR Droid Molch-R about it for the 2000 AD Thrillcast.

Daily Grail Strange & Norrell articles: I – The Language of Birds

jonathan-strangeIn March 2006 Leah and I flew over to Dublin, Ireland for the first time in either of our lives as guests at the third annual Phoenix Convention (or P-Con, as most people know/knew it). The guest of honour that year was Susanna Clarke – author of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell which had, at that point, already been out for eighteen months and won a Hugo Award. I, a chronically slow reader at the best of times, had not yet started reading the 800ish page novel, and I think that Leah was only part of the way through it. Nevertheless, we found that we got on well with Susanna and her partner, sci-fi writer Colin Greenland – who were both lovely, charming and funny – and the brief time we spent together over the course of the con was very enjoyable. It was perhaps two years later that I finally finished reading Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. I have on only a couple of occasions in my life finished a book and at once turned to the front to begin reading it again. I thought about doing that with Strange & Norrell but I am, as I have said, a very slow reader. Instead I immediately downloaded the thirty two hour long audio-book version which to date I have listened to perhaps three or four times.

In a piece entitled “Why I Love Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell” published on the Guardian website recently, Neil Gaiman recalled writing to the book’s editor to say that it was, in his opinion, “the finest work of English fantasy written in the past seventy years. I am not so widely read as Mr. Gaiman and I don’t pretend to be an expert in such matters, but what I can say with certainty is that I, like Neil, love Strange & Norrell. The blend of alt. history and fantasy, the handling of Englishness and of English Magic, of otherness and madness, the subtly, the comedy, the eeriness, the epicness – in every sense; all these factors combine to make Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell a work which does not so much stand apart as it does occupy a space that seems no other work could ever fill. It is as though a Strange & Norrell sized gap waited hungrily on some shelf in the realm of forms up until a decade or so ago.

Today, in 2015, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been adapted into a seven part television series for the BBC and as I type we are three episodes in here in the UK. With Clarke’s wonderful world of magicians theoretical, practical, and street being beamed into living-rooms across this scepter’d isle, now seems like an ideal opportunity to pluck out some of the more easily disentangled fragments of folklore, magic, and the like and take a closer look at them.

Read on at dailygrail.com

Manchester Film & Comic Con this Saturday

Leah and I will be guests at Manchester Film & Comic Con this coming Saturday. We’ll only be there for the one day so please do come and say hello if you’re there.

Steve Yeowell is one of the other comics guests so Saturday would be the ideal opportunity to get your 2000 AD 1890-1899 signed by the three of us.

Hope to see you there!


Saint Mark’s Eve


Today is the Eve of the Feast  of Saint Mark – a date with a number of strange customs and traditions attached to it. You’ve probably never heard of any of this, but luckily for you I’ve written a new article for The Daily Grail all about it.

Read it now at dailygrail.com (and get ready for a night in the cemetery, or before an open fire)

Leah interviewed for Bleeding Cool about Swords of Sorrow

SoSDejahIrene01-Cov-A-AnacletoBB: For all her flaunted sexuality, Dejah Thoris of Mars has always been, at least in the modern comics, a strong and quite capable woman. What threat is she facing on Barsoom as our story begins here?

LH: Dejah Thoris is only flaunting her sexuality by Earth or Jasoomian standards. On Barsoom she is wearing the equivalent of jeans and a t-shirt.

Burroughs took the idea of a white man turning up in some remote village and being utterly amazed to see the women’s breasts out in the fresh air, and transposed it into the fantasy pulp world. It’s a classic trope, where the young dashing man is sent to a planet where the natives only wear cling film and demand lessons in Earth Kissing.

Read the full interview at bleedingcool.com

M. R. James conference report on A Podcast to the Curious

A couple of weeks ago I attended the first M. R. James and the Modern Ghost Story one day conference in the atmospheric and aptly antiquarian setting of Leeds Library.

Highlights for me included meeting Will Ross, Mike Taylor, Jane Mainlley-Piddock and Helen Grant in real life, being introduced to the likes of Chris Rose and Prof. Aaron Worth, and chatting with BBC Ghost Story for Christmas originator Lawrence Gordon Clark. Here’s a picture to prove that happened:

Lawrence Gordon Clark and John Reppion

I was there to deliver a paper on adapting James’ stories into comics. I spoke about comics and adaptation generally a bit and then focussed on the Ash Tree because, happily, I had a couple of pages which Alisdair Wood had drawn for an adaptation of that story. The Ash Tree - Alisdair WoodI’m very pleased to finally announce that Leah and I have adapted all eight stories of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary which will be published in a single volume by Self Made Hero in Autumn 2016.

Anyway, I intended to write a little report on the whole thing but I didn’t find the time, sadly. Now Will and Mike at A Podcast to the Curious have spared me the guilt by devoting a whole episode to the conference, including interviews with Helen Grant, Prof. Darryl Jones, Jane Mainlley-Piddock, and even me.

You can download it, or listen here: mrjamespodcast.com

Oh, and look at my weird sideways face here:

Swords of Sorrow checklist

As I’m sure you know by now, Leah is writing a 3 issue mini series as part of Dyanmite Entertainment/Gail Simone’s Swords of Sorrow crossover event.
Here’s a full list of all the issues in the series and when they’ll be published.

John talks Dracula on H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast #250

FireShot Screen Capture #004 - 'Episode 250 – Dracula – Part 4 I The H_P_ Lovecraft Literary Podcast' - hppodcraft_com_2015_03_26_episode-250-dracula-part-4

This month the H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast has been covering Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Knowing I still have a brain stuffed with far too much information on the book thanks to the work Leah and I did on The Complete Dracula, Chris and Chad were kind enough to invite me on to talk about the dramatic climax of the book when the tables turn and the Count goes from hunter to hunted.

The episode is available to subscribers only but if you’re interested in Lovecraft and Weird Fiction it is well worth signing up.

Here’s the link: http://hppodcraft.com/2015/03/26/episode-250-dracula-part-4/