Shaun Tan is one of the most interesting comics creators working now. Last year he broke through with his picture novel The Arrival, seen above. This is from an interview with the Guardian, in which he comments on fiction writing:

“The detail adds an element of unexpected something,” Tan explains. “All fiction is false; what makes it convincing is that it runs alongside the truth. The real world has lots of incidental details, so a painting also has to have that element of imperfection and irregularity, those incidental details. I’m constantly testing with the details. I go on a hunch and try it out. I might have a character and have a feeling that he needs to have a hat and so I put it in and it feels right and then I realise that he needs to have a hat because he’s trying to hide something.”

The result of this careful attention to detail is that Tan’s worlds, however fantastical they may appear on first glance, have their own internal logic. It is what he describes as “groundedness”, and he regards it as crucial to the success of the stories.

“By itself, just to draw crazy creatures has limited appeal – if I had to give up one thing it would be the wild imagination. When the work becomes too detached from ordinary life it starts to fall apart. Fantasy needs to have some connection with reality or it becomes of its own interest only, insular…”


  1. I love The Arrival. I taught ESL in PA this summer, and I suggested it as possible pre-req reading. No matter their level of English, the kids can totally immerse themselves in it. Such a beautiful story.

    (And where should I snatch up the new book from when it comes out? You’re on my highly selective non-library/secondhand list.:-)

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