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Juliana provided the illustration for the January 18th story “Secrets of the Kath,” by Fatima Taqvi, and shares here with us her creative process for the issue.

Sketch of “Secrets of the Kath” © 2021 by Juliana Pinho

The way I see it, this story is full of symbolic touchstones—visual elements with layers of meaning that are not always obvious, or even accessible, to the reader. For my illustration, instead of choosing a specific scene, I decided to depict some items that are placed on the narrator as if she were a doll herself—the scarf, the jewels, the purses—in an attempt to turn her into a symbol of her husband’s power and wealth. In contrast, I wanted to show the kathputli as a symbol of a narrative that is out of anyone’s control. In the background, the leaves of the neem tree dominate all narratives.

Lineart of “Secrets of the Kath” © 2021 by Juliana Pinho

As soon as I read the story, I started to research for visual references of kathputli and of Sindh in general. I thought the illustration would best serve the story if it helped get the reader in the right mindplace by providing them with some aesthetic reference. At first, I thought of illustrating the scene when the narrator’s son finds a braid on a tree—an event we only hear about, but so haunting that the scene that stayed in my mind the most after I finished reading. But then I realized I wanted more than anything to draw the kathputli and to make the illustration as heavy with symbols as the story felt to me.

I was also excited to explore the colors and movement of the dolls, and the general idea for the composition of the art came to me very quickly before I’d even started sketching, which is unusual. You’ll notice there’s little difference between the sketch and the final product. The only alteration is that I also wanted to draw the haunting braid caught on the tree branches along with the purses, but I later decided against it.

“Secrets of the Kath” © 2021 by Juliana Pinho

Currently adapting to the American midwestern climate, Juliana Pinho is a Brazilian artist who has been passionate about art in all its forms ever since she can remember. She has illustrated stories and articles for publications such as the Aiglos Almanac and the Dates anthology. See her portfolio at
Current Issue
30 Jan 2023

In January 2022, the reviews department at Strange Horizons, led at the time by Maureen Kincaid Speller, published our first special issue with a focus on SF criticism. We were incredibly proud of this issue, and heartened by how many people seemed to feel, with us, that criticism of the kind we publish was important; that it was creative, transformative, worthwhile. We’d been editing the reviews section for a few years at this point, and the process of putting together this special, and the reception it got, felt like a kind of renewal—a reminder of why we cared so much.
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