Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Tuesday, 1 February 2011


Every so often - but not nearly often enough - a new book appears that instantly becomes not only a classic work but also a standard work. One such literary rarity is Strange Lands: A Field-Guide to the Celtic Otherworld, written and illustrated by Andy Paciorek, a highly-renowned graphics artist, and now in print at last after having previously existed exclusively as a website. After reading the original manuscript and marvelling at the imaginative, intricate beauty of its artwork, depicting a vast array of mythical and magical Celtic entities, I was more than happy to pen a foreword to Andy's spectacular volume - which is now available to purchase online at:


Meanwhile, as an appetiser, here is my Strange Lands foreword:

Think of any major stage or screen musical, and the chances are that it will have been written by a composer/lyricist partnership – Rice & Lloyd Webber, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Gershwin & Gershwin, Lerner & Loewe, Sherman & Sherman, Schoenberg & Boublil, to name for a few. There is, however, one very significant exception – Cole Porter, a uniquely gifted individual whose talent for composing wonderful, melodious music was matched equally by his ability to pen complex, witty lyrics. But Cole Porters are few and far between.

The same principle applies in the world of books. There are countless talented writers, and countless talented illustrators, but individuals able to accomplish both to a suitably high standard are an extreme rarity, to be treasured and appreciated like a Renaissance Old Master or an exceptionally fine vintage of wine – which is why I am so impressed by this book and, most of all, by its creator.

I first came to know Andy Paciorek through Facebook, and was immediately captivated (mesmerised, even) by his extraordinarily detailed, imaginative artwork – and also by the prodigious quantities of it. Andy seems able to create his spectacular illustrations as easily as the rest of us draw breath, and yet every single one is as meticulously crafted as all of the others. Indeed, when viewing his numerous albums of artwork on his Facebook page and his various art websites, I have often been reminded of the famous quote by Edward Bulwer-Lytton:

“Talent does what it can; genius does what it must”.

Unquestionably, Andy is a man whose life is driven by a passion for creating art – but when he sent me the manuscript for Strange Lands to read through, I was shocked to discover that his art was just one side of a coin whose very existence I had not even suspected before.

Long before I had finished reading it, I had discovered that Andy is not only a supremely talented artist, he is also a remarkably adept writer and researcher! Right from a child, I have always been fascinated by mythology and folklore, especially the rich corpus originating in the British Isles, and I have read very extensively on the subject. However, I can say in all honesty that Strange Lands is one of the most comprehensive single volumes on British mythological entities that I have ever encountered. Even Dr Katharine M. Briggs’s essential tome, A Dictionary of Fairies, universally acclaimed as the standard work on such beings, now has a rival in terms of the sheer diversity of examples documented.

And where Strange Lands effortlessly outpoints even that classic work is of course in its illustrations, which are truly breathtaking in their beauty, intricacy, and vibrancy. Moreover, especially with regard to the more obscure examples, Andy’s may well be the first illustrations of such entities ever executed. Certainly, in addition to all of the well known examples of British (and Breton) supernatural being, there are numerous far less familiar ones included and illustrated here too – everything, in fact, from muryans, hyter sprites, the Lob, bwbachs, the Coranied, duergars, fir darrig, foidin seachrain, and the memorably-named wag by the way to the lunatishee, brown men, the dark men of dreams, hobyahs, bull beggars, merrows, gwrach-y-rhibyn, grugach, and many more!

Strange Lands has been available online at its very own website - http://www.batcow.co.uk/strangelands/ - for quite some time, but if ever there was a manuscript crying out to be produced in book form, with its spectacular illustrations reproduced in large format, this was the one. So I am absolutely delighted that Andy has now done so, and I am very honoured to have received the opportunity to pen for it this foreword – or, as I see it, a well-deserved paean of praise for what will unquestionably become a standard work of reference as well as a true thing of beauty that will indeed be a joy forever.

On his Facebook ‘Like’ (formerly Fan) Page, Andy includes the following quote from Charles Baudelaire:

"A frenzied passion for art is a canker that devours everything else."

Much as I hesitate to question the viewpoint or tamper with the words of such an esteemed literary figure as Baudelaire, in Andy’s case I feel that a more apposite wording of that quote would be something along the lines of:

"A heartfelt passion for art is a fire that warms, nourishes, and sustains the life that it feeds above all else."

Certainly, I cannot ever imagine Andy existing even for a moment without his eternal fervour for art coursing through his veins like divine, fiery ichor. And long may it continue to do so – I for one am already eagerly awaiting his next published art project!

UPDATE: 25 October 2011

Strange Lands is now available now available to purchase as an e-book for i-pad /i-phone. Just go to: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1957828

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