Shadows on the Wall
These stories are beautifully written and subtle, and in their subtlety, they linger uneasily in the minds…Their particular potency lies in the honed sharpness of the writing, in the repertoire of emotional responses to strangeness they offer through brilliant and detailed characterisation…They are shadows, shifting on the wall, barely seen, slipping into our minds to lie, light and cold over our hearts… – Isobelle Carmody, bestselling author of the Obernewtyn Chronicles.
The beauty of Steven Paulsen’s Shadows on the Wall lies in its accessibility: dark though the stories may be, we read them and nod – we know. Off the wall though its characters may be, they live next door. Reading Shadows is like talking to the neighbours – if you do (if you dare) you might just learn something about life. – Gary Crew, CBCA Award winning author of Strange Objects.
Shadows on the Wall will take you into some dangerously dark places, places that you know you should not enter, but enter you will, for, alas, you won’t be able to help yourself. The stories contained within are rocket-fuelled with narrative drive. These subtle, ironic, humorous, and sometimes horrific extrapolations and fantasies showcase Paulsen’s wild talent and tight grip on craft. – Jack Dann, multi-award winning, international bestselling author.
Paulsen’s body of work, as evidence by this impressive collection, explores the nature of our fears, effortlessly exposing us to shuddering horrors and milder terrors while drawing us in with utterly real characters. – Kaaron Warren – author of the multi-award winning The Grief Hole.
From its fathomless Lovecraftian horrors to the more intimate terrors that dwell far too close to home, this career-spanning collection deserves a prominent place in any library of quality Australian dark fiction. – Kirstyn McDermott, Aurealis Award winning author of Madigan Mine.
Don’t let the domestic settings fool you – these stories confront the murky truths that lurk deep in the hidden heart of humanity. Paulsen peers over the brink of the abyss – and sees dark Lovecraftian forces looking right back at him. This collection is strong stuff – read it at your own risk. – Janeen Webb, World Fantasy Award winner and author of Death at the Blue Elephant.
No matter the genre, there’s a dark undercurrent in Paulsen’s work, a gleeful malevolence that betrays a deeply nihilistic worldview somehow both addictive and soul-shattering. – Aaron Sterns, author of Wolf Creek: Origin, co-writer Wolf Creek 2.
Paulsen’s tales range across the past, present and future, from settings totally common to the exotic and the magical. Uniting these wide-ranging tales is an unsettling, often supernatural, essence that puts his characters – and his readers’ perceptions of reality – to the test. – Jason Nahrung, Aurealis Award winning author of Blood and Dust and its sequel, The Big Smoke.
A lively collection of Australian horror with a little comic adventure thrown in for fun. The Cthulhu-myths stories within the collection are my favourites but the modern depictions of sentient machines, ghostly possession and the twists that love can take are superb as well. – Narrelle M. Harris, author of crime, horror, fantasy, romance and erotica novels and shot stories.
In this collection, Steven Paulsen showcases the breadth of his diversity: comedy to YA to horror and then some. An intriguing, surprising and satisfying read. – Deborah Sheldon, award-winning author of short stories, novellas and novels across the darker spectrum of horror, crime and noir.
A sharp as hell collection of short stories. Paulsen doesn’t mess around. These stories are tightly written, twisty, atmospheric and by turns hilarious, wrenching or intriguing. Every piece is perfectly structured and economically written, but without ever stinting on character or detail. This is how it’s done. – Jason Franks, author of Bloody Waters and Faerie Apocalypse novels, and The Sixsmiths graphic novels.
I gotta say, the folks in the Southern Hemisphere sure are knocking it out of the park. Many writers from Australia and New Zealand quickly made their way onto my list of those who never fail to deliver a solid good story. Well, it’s time to add another name to that list, because this collection by Steve Paulsen displays strong talent, mastery of a wide range of genres, deft craftsmanship, and undeniable skill. – THE HORROR FICTION REVIEW (Full review here on Amazon).
Steven Paulsen showcases his diversity in the short form with a range of flash fiction, short stories and novellas. The narrative allows a sense of levity, with pun-filled stories as in ‘Greater Garbo’, the tale of a garbage auditor in a world of artificial intelligence gone rogue. You will find everything, including a remake of Aladdin’s lamp in the story where Peter Briggs and his girlfriend score a find in a maze of oddments. Brilliance emerges in the 50-word sudden fiction aptly named ‘Logic Loop’. Dark may not be the best description for [all the] stories in this collection, but they are certainly weird. There’s body horror, the paranormal, light-heartedness and a talking sword… – Aurealis
And last, but far from least, a longish heartfelt review by World Fantasy Award winning writer Anna Tambour, author of Crandolin and The Finest Ass in the Universe:
What an exceptional collection – SHADOWS ON THE WALL by Steven Paulsen, Foreword by Isobelle Carmody, cover art by Shaun Tan, published by Gerry Huntman’s IFWG Publishing. The fifteen stories (three original to this collection) have an unusually high level of diversity in tone and content, from “Two Tomorrow” and “Christmas Morning” that produce a lump in the throat, to the playfully funny novelette “Harold the Hero and the Talking Sword (written in collaboration with Jack Dann, incorporating his story “The Talking Sword”), to a Cthulhu Mythos horror “In the Light of the Lamp” that is so well written, I refuse to call it Lovecraftian; to the horror that evokes our childhood fears, “Fixed in Time”; to the dark historical thrilling tale set in India in the mid-1800s, “The Black Title of the Elephant God”. And those are only some of the stories.
What stands out in all of Paulsen’s works, from the flash to the long stories–is an unabashed depth of emotion, without a speck of melodrama or reader manipulation. The characters and settings don’t seem as if they’re constructed, everything is so alive, but also raw. I imagine that this writer might be embarrassed if one were to see him in the act of writing–for I’m sure he must cry and laugh and grimace and make sounds like someone in Bedlam–controlled by the selfish fictions coming out of him. That he lets himself be knocked up by life to produce these stories might be hard on him, but good for us.
It shouldn’t be, but it’s all too rare to find fiction that is sad and loving and beautiful, uncynical, yet fully engaged in the problems and tragedies of the world on a global down to the most personal levels. The opening story, “Ma Rung”, is a great example of Paulsen’s attitude. It reads as if he were there, as if he had to have been there.
Paulsen also has a fine comedic sense, without using gags.
Another exceptional aspect: the settings are enthralling. Paulsen is quite obviously not only a seasoned and curious traveller but also someone who is fascinated by history and cultures, and fiction and myth through the ages. His horror tale “The Sorcerer’s Looking Glass” is all the more effective for his intellectual restlessness entangled with his penchant for putting on other people’s shoes. But he doesn’t have to go far to make a setting live and writhe. “Pest Control” is a story set in a house he lived in close to Melbourne. The hole in this story and its treatment are so logical, and terrifying, that though this was first published in Cthulhu: Deep Down Under, it’s a classic horror tale that can take its place amongst the creepiest in messing up our minds.
The arrangement of stories flows beautifully, as does the variance in length. The few flash pieces prove that flash is not just flash. They are some of the most powerful stories in this richly rewarding collection.
The Stray Cat
Steven Paulsen’s The Stray Cat is an excellent example of macabre writing, while Shaun Tan’s illustrations, using graphite pencil, pen and ink, are worthily sinister [and] contribute greatly to the story’s atmosphere.
Susan Hayes – Radio 5UV
The Stray Cat is unforgiving in its pursuance of the macabre. While the reader is aware that all is not right in this household from the moment the cat enters it, the fast-moving and evil conclusion will surprise even the most hardened young reader.
The After Dark series provides an avenue for young readers to probe the genre of horror fiction. It is a series rich in imagery and captivating tales that will undoubtedly encourage even the most reluctant reader to explore the excitement of reading further.
William Norris – Viewpoint
All the stories [in the After Dark series] are strong, dramatic and chilling. They are rich in symbolism and meaning. They are well crafted and feature a range of story structures from simple narratives to complex multi-layered plots. After Dark offers the promise of heart-stopping, spine-tingling drama and it doesn’t disappoint. Creatures from the sinister feline in The Stray Cat to the furry monsters which will have arachnophobes crawling up the wall in The Giant Spiders.
Cathryn Crowe – Brisbane Weekend Courier Mail
The four After Dark titles presented for review comprise one work by [Gary] Crew, several by names new to me, and The Stray Cat, by Steven Paulsen, a writer familiar to Australian SF readers … Of the writers, Crew is less sparse and somewhat more conventional than in his other writing – therefore a bit of a disappointment. Lawrance’s story shows a formidable thriller writer in the making; Measday’, I suspect, would be the most popular work with the age group. The text with the real edge, though, is Paulsen’s, which is creepy enough to cause ailurophobia.
Lucy Sussex – Thyme
The Melbourne University Press Encyclopaedia of Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy
‘Worth purchasing for the feature articles on early Australian SF and fantasy, comics, radio, television, dark fantasy and feminism alone, but one gets so much more. . . Useful and entertaining, this has appeal beyond a specialist readership.’
Kerry White – Bookphile Newsletter
‘As the first and only guide of its kind to be published in Australia, it is the perfect handbook for anyone interested in Australian speculative fiction of all kinds. Whether one is new to the genre and is seeking some guidance or an old hand checking what has been included, or simply interested in a general anthropological sort of way, there’s much to detain and interest the reader. . . a landmark in Australian literary history and publishing.’
Sophie Masson -The Australian
‘. . . remarkably comprehensive and astonishingly up-to-date, with lots of fascinating little essays.’
John Marsden – Herald Sun
‘This book . . . is an excellent and interesting resource, with alphabetical listings of writers and their works, plus essays on various topics, such as indigenous mythology