British Fiction Focus

Return to Sender: Covering Dead Letters

After 499 years of public ownership, the UK’s primary postal service, namely the Royal Mail, will celebrate the 500th anniversary of its founding in 2016 as an entirely private enterprise. I’m not sure what plans the PLC has to revel in its heritage, but Dead Letters represents a humorously perfectly passive-aggressive way to start the party: with an anthology composed in memoriam of the massive amounts of mail the Royal Mail has lost.

The Dead Letters Office: the final repository of the undelivered. Love missives unread, gifts unreceived, lost in postal limbo. Dead Letters: An Anthology of the Undelivered, the Missing and the Returned features new stories from the masters of horror, fantasy and speculative fiction, each inspired by an inhabitant of the Office.

Read on for the complete table of contents, which includes original fiction by Joanne Harris, Adam LG Nevill, Maria Dahvana Headley & China Mieville among others, and your first look at Julia Lloyd’s characterful cover art.

Before all that, though, I spoke to International Horror Guild award-winner Conrad Williams, the erstwhile author of London Revenant, Loss of Separation and One—as well as Hell is Empty and Sonata of the Dead, both of which are to be released in 2016—and the editor of Dead Letters, about how the upcoming collection came about:

There had been a mix up with a signed book an independent publisher had sent to me, but it didn’t arrive. He sent another copy, and that didn’t arrive either. Weeks later they both turned up. I’d emailed him and we’d corresponded about it and I mentioned that it was probably languishing in a dead letter office somewhere. I told him there was a story in where all these undelivered parcels go, and then it kind of cascaded from there. I actually received a nominee token from the Shirley Jackson Awards from 2014 a year after it had been sent to my old address. It only got back to the sender in June. So where had it been for the best part of twelve months? That kind of mystery was the spur for the book.

As to how Williams went about assembling the seventeen stories collected in Dead Letters, contributor Christopher Fowler—the mind behind the Bryan and May books—spoke about the oh-so-appropriate process in this post.

Now how about that cover art?


And the table of contents, as revealed on Conrad Williams’ blog back in August:

  • The Green Letter—Steven Hall
  • Over to You—Michael Marshall Smith
  • In Memoriam—Joanne Harris
  • Ausland—Alison Moore
  • Wonders to Come—Christopher Fowler
  • Cancer Dancer—Pat Cadigan
  • The Wrong Game—Ramsey Campbell
  • Is-and—Claire Dean
  • Buyer’s Remorse—Andrew Lane
  • Gone Away—Muriel Gray
  • Astray—Nina Allan
  • The Days of Our Lives—Adam LG Nevill
  • The Hungry Hotel—Lisa Tuttle
  • L0ND0N—Nicholas Royle
  • Change Management—Angela Slatter
  • Ledge Bants—Maria Dahvana Headley & China Miéville
  • And We, Spectators Always, Everywhere—Kirsten Kaschock

Dead Letters is due out from Titan Books on April 22 in the UK.

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.


Back to the top of the page


This post is closed for comments.

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.