Michael Kelly, editor and author, started Undertow Publications in 2009 with an anthology called Apparitions, but it was Shadows & Tall Trees, the publication that came out later that same year, for which Kelly is perhaps best known. Named after a chapter from Lord of the Flies, Shadows & Tall Trees is an annual series dedicated to publishing original weird, macabre, strange, and ghostly fiction. This year saw the sixth, and perhaps final, release in June. Originally the series was offered in the form of a slim 128-page print-on-demand book until a couple years ago when ChiZine Publications took over distribution. For 2014, the yearly volume was doubled to over 200 pages and offered as an ebook in addition to a regular print version.
The journal has received quite a bit of acclaim from authors like Ellen Datlow and Peter Straub. Straub called it “a smart, soulful, illuminating investigation of the many forms and tactics available to those writers involved in one of our moment’s most interesting and necessary projects, that of opening up horror literature to every sort of formal interrogation. It is a beautiful and courageous journal.” Fans have also responded favorably; Shadows & Tall Trees, Issue 6 has a 4.55 rating on Goodreads. Many of the stories from past volume have made their way into Best Of collections as well, and the journal has received some award attention too being a finalist for British Fantasy Award for Best Periodical/Magazine in 2011 and 2013.
But acclaim doesn’t necessarily always translate into sales. Despite the positive response that S&TT has received, the sales have been lackluster. Kelly has said that he doubts he will recoup the costs he spent on printing volume six. As a result, the series has been put on hold indefinitely. It’s understandable though as Kelly has quite a few other obligations like his new Year’s Best Weird Fiction series and an upcoming Aickman tribute anthology.
Editor Michael Kelly has stated that he hopes to revive the series perhaps one day — but of course that’s dependent upon sales picking up. Nonetheless, Shadows & Tall Trees was one of the few periodicals out there dedicated to original weird fiction. It elicited an overwhelmingly favorable response from critics and fans — many of whom cited it as one of the best anthologies of the year. So it’s damn shame to hear that it’s on hold.