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THE PEOPLE OF THE ABYSS Liveblog Part 3 by Alan M. Clark

poverty-childrenIn chapter 3, with the help of his detective acquaintance, Jack London found a refuge from the East End within the East End, a small lodging of better quality than most in the area that he could periodically visit to wash himself, keep warm, and assemble his text. That gives us an opportunity to learn something of the housing prospects for those living in the East End.

Most of the housing was of the single room variety. Whole families, sometimes more than one family lived in one room. I learned in research for my Jack the Ripper Victims Series that houses in many neighborhoods built early in the 19th century or earlier, those meant for a single family and having several rooms, were broken up into single room dwellings by the latter part of the century. The vast majority of those dwellings had no indoor plumbing. Indeed most had no room for bathing facilities. Privies were outdoor facilities, usually shared by several households. People availed themselves of public bathhouses when they had need to wash. These conditions persisted into the early 20th century, and generally had not improved by the time Jack London made his stay in the East End.

Over the course of the first half of the 1800s, London, already the largest city in the world, had tripled its population, and a similar level of growth continued for the rest of the century. The loss of labor positions during the industrial revolution had forced the unemployed out of the countryside and small towns into the big city. People came to London also from other parts of the world where there were similar problems finding work. By mid-century, more than 50% of the population of the city were born elsewhere. Landlords found it more profitable to split larger homes into tenements of one-room dwellings. Neighborhoods in which landlords took this approach soon became slums. As more and more Landlords took up the practice, the slums spread like a blight through the old neighborhoods. Large sections of London suffered severe squalid conditions, the worst being the East End. In 1888, the time of Jack the Ripper, there were approximately 800 people living per acre in Whitechapel. Those who could afford to do so fled to take up residence on the outskirts of the city. When eventually those neighborhoods suffered the blight, people fled further and the city kept growing, swallowing up many smaller towns.

PeabodyBuildings Peabody Buildings

Some of the first housing projects (an American term) were installed in the city of London by American philanthropist, George Peabody. He was a banker and financier. He helped finance the Transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866, and created educational opportunities in various parts of the U.S. for blacks as well as whites, even before the American Civil War. Peabody loved London and the British people and decided to try to help alleviate their poverty. He bought up land in the worst rookeries of the city, razed the buildings to the ground, and put up tenements, usually 4 story structures arranged in boxes or “U” shapes with garden courts between. Access was through a locked gate. All adult tenants had a key to the gate. The only requirement for application for rental was that the one applying have employment.

Polly Nichols and her family lived in Peabody D Block, Duke Street in South London for several years. She no doubt counted herself extremely lucky. Her flat had 3 rooms. There was a water closet shared by neighbors on the landing outside their front door, and bathing and laundry facilities on the roof. Some of those buildings still exist today. They were so loved that when, during WWII, some of the buildings were bombed, they were rebuilt and improved. Those still in existence got electricity, some as late as the 1950s.

While writing about all this for the novel A BRUTAL CHILL IN AUGUST, about the life of Polly Nichols, and researching the Peabody Buildings, something nagged at me, something that seemed familiar about the Philanthropist, but for the longest time I couldn’t figure out what it was.

PeabodyDemonstrationSchool Peabody Demonstration School in 1925

Then it came to me. I’d hated my junior high school in Nashville, Tennessee, gave up on my education, and failed the eighth grade. My parents enrolled me in a private school so I wouldn’t have to go back to the place I hated so much. The new one was a demonstration school, attached to an educational college, a college for teachers. The demonstration school existed so that student teachers could get experience teaching in a classroom. I was continuing my education at the Peabody Demonstration School attached to George Peabody college, a school started by the philanthropist. I was bowled over with the discovery. I suddenly felt embedded in the history I was trying to portray in the novel, and that gave me an odd feeling, somewhat thrilling. I did finally pass the eighth grade and was forgiven the lost year later by my high school in San Francisco.

Dore_London Engraving by Gustave Doré

Jack London wasn’t so lucky as to land in one of the Peabody Buildings. He described the dwelling he found as opulent in comparison to the very few other accommodations available. For one thing, he wasn’t required to share the single room or his bed. He was used to open skies, dwellings more spacious, surrounded by at least a small plot of land, and he wondered at the willingness of Londoners to tolerate such condition. All the housing he’d encountered, he described as shoulder to shoulder, with but a tiny yard in back surrounded by a wall. Many of those “yards” were paved with stone, with no greenery, and virtually no trees to be seen throughout entire neighborhoods.

For the richest country in the world, huge chunks of their capital seemed a shameful slum.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

Get a free ebook copy of The People of the Abyss from Project Gutenburg—available in various formats including Kindle and Epub, : http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1688

Preorder A Brutal Chill in August Bunhill_Color_Filters_Cropped_text_flattened
Visit Alan M. Clark online: www.alanmclark.com

About Alan M Clark ControlledAccidentAutoPortrait

Author and illustrator Alan M. Clark grew up in Tennessee in a house full of bones and old medical books. His awards include the World Fantasy Award and four Chesley Awards. He is the author of seventeen books, including ten novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. Mr. Clark’s company, IFD Publishing, has released 44 titles of various editions, including traditional books, both paperback and hardcover, audio books, and ebooks by such authors as F. Paul Wilson, Elizabeth Engstrom, and Jeremy Robert Johnson. Alan M. Clark and his wife, Melody, live in Oregon. www.alanmclark.com

THE PEOPLE OF THE ABYSS Liveblog Part 2 by Alan M. Clark


Take note of the haze in the air–that’s not just because this is an old photo.

In chapter 2, Jack London went to visit his detective acquaintance, nicknamed Johnny Upright, who lived in one of the best neighborhoods—that isn’t saying much—within the East End. The man wasn’t home, but London met the detective’s wife, daughters, and a woman servant. Playing the part of a lower class individual of the area and dressed as he was in rags, the family tried to turn the writer away. Finally he let on without explaining that he was bringing a financial opportunity to the man of the house. Still, he wasn’t admitted to the home, and sat out in the rain until the servant girl came for him. The wife apologized, and sat him in the dining room to await the return of her husband.

Knowing what I do about the hardships of life in London of the period, the author’s description of the daughters is poignant.

…pretty girls they were in their Sunday dresses; withal it was the certain weak and delicate prettiness which characterizes the Cockney lasses, a prettiness which is no more than a promise with no grip on time, and doomed to fade quickly away like the color from a sunset sky.

Perhaps Johnny Upright was doing well enough financially that his daughters didn’t have to work, but I doubt it. Assuming they were wed and began families of their own, they would probably have to do some sort of work to help support their husbands and the children on the way. Eventually perhaps even those children, while still children, would have to work as well. If Johnny Upright’s daughters became spinsters, he would certainly expect them to pull their weight with some sort of earning occupation.

Employment for the lower classes was fraught with risk of one sort or another. After reading extensively about the various sorts of occupations available for the poor in a time of vast unemployment, an employer’s market so to speak, I wrote this in my upcoming novel A Brutal Chill in August about the difficulties Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols had trying to find work as a young adult:

Polly and Bernice Godwin had worked at home as fur pullers on and off since 1853. The piece work involved pulling the loose undercoat from rabbit pelts so that the furs would not shed the down once they were used to line garments. The action created a myriad of tiny broken hair fibers that floated freely in the air. The girls could not avoid breathing the particles into their lungs. The undercoat that didn’t float away, they saved in bags to sell for a small sum per pound.

At fourteen years of age, they both wanted to find better work. Bernice had her father’s blessing to look for a job.

“You’ll stay home, do your piece work, and keep house,” Papa had told Polly. Even so, she believed she might persuade him if she found work. With heavy competition for labor, positions rarely became available.

“I’ve heard the Ryan paper factory needs a rag sorter,” Polly told Bernice one day. “Tomorrow, I’ll go try to get the position.”

Bernice’s eyes became large and she shook her head. “The rags are collected from all over the city. They don’t care as some come from the worst places. The vermin, the lice, the disease—you shouldn’t want that.”

Polly reconsidered.

While they looked into jobs at the Jessup cotton spinning mill, Polly spoke to her brother about the possibility. “Eddie told me the boss there pushes his workers to move fast to meet quotas,” she told Bernice, “and the steam-powered machinery snatches a limb or a life at least once a month.”

Bernice took a job at the white-lead works for a short time. One day she returned home with a haunted look about her. “I quit. I found out the girl I replaced wasted away and went mad. Then I learned that happens to most of the girls as works there—five already this year.”

The rate of accidents, poisoning, and disease, and the stress upon the body of the different types of work available had all become discouraging factors. Polly imagined industry as a hungry giant that preferred to feed on the young and tender, chewing or biting off a limb, crushing a head or chest, setting a poisoned trap to catch the inexperienced off guard, leaving many unfortunates ill, maimed, or dead.

London-1800sthe-thames-below-westminster-claude-monet1And of course the environment of London itself was a danger. Above we have a photograph taken in London during the 19th century, and a painting by Claude Monet created in 1871. Literally tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Londoners were killed by the pollution in the air, water, and food. The air was filled with the chemicals and particulates that results from burning coal. New industries popped up everywhere to support the burgeoning population and to exploit the cheap labor market. Small factories occupied converted tenements or houses that once held families in residential neighborhoods. Sometimes, only a part of such a tenement or house was occupied by industry while the rest still functioned as a residence for individuals or families. With an increase in the use of chemistry, and with little knowledge of the damage many chemicals inflicted upon the bodies of those exposed to them, industries, such as match making, destroyed the lives of their workers and those living within close proximity to production. Those who suffered often did so without knowing why until it was too late. Matchmaking is only one example of the industrial poisoning of Londoners. Deadly chemicals were everywhere. They were used in medicines and in prepared foods as preservatives. Madness abounded, if not as a result of the emotional hardships of life, then from chemical damage to the brain. The piece work, fur pulling, as portrayed in the excerpt I provided from A Brutal Chill in August, caused pulmonary diseases.

Things were getting better, though. Child labor was prohibited below the age of ten in 1878. Compulsory education for children ages 5 to 10 began in 1880, and the government actually started funding that in 1891. By 1918, 16 years after Jack London stayed in the East End, the compulsory education age was expanded to include children 5 to 14 years of age.

Yes, knowing what I do about labor in London of the time, the author’s description of Johnny Upright’s daughters’ fragile, transient beauty is indeed poignant.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

Get a free ebook copy of The People of the Abyss from Project Gutenburg—available in various formats including Kindle and Epub, : http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1688

Preorder A Brutal Chill in August A Brutal Chill in August by Alan M. Clark
Visit Alan M. Clark online: www.alanmclark.com

About Alan M Clark ControlledAccidentAutoPortrait

Author and illustrator Alan M. Clark grew up in Tennessee in a house full of bones and old medical books. His awards include the World Fantasy Award and four Chesley Awards. He is the author of seventeen books, including ten novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. Mr. Clark’s company, IFD Publishing, has released 44 titles of various editions, including traditional books, both paperback and hardcover, audio books, and ebooks by such authors as F. Paul Wilson, Elizabeth Engstrom, and Jeremy Robert Johnson. Alan M. Clark and his wife, Melody, live in Oregon. www.alanmclark.com

THE PEOPLE OF THE ABYSS Liveblog Part 1 by Alan M. Clark


Jack London (1876-1916)

In 1902, the year following the death of Queen Victoria , which of course ended the Victorian era, Jack London, disguised as one of the city’s poor, went to stay in the East End of London. He was there to get first hand experience of a place notorious for its crime, squalor, and increasing human degradation. At the time, London was the largest and wealthiest city in the world. His book, The People of the Abyss, a piece of investigative journalism, is his account of that experience.

The squalid conditions of the East End are enumerated in the Preface, painting a picture that provides me with eye-witness confirmation of much of what I’ve learned in researching the environment for my Jack the Ripper Victims series of novels, including A Brutal Chill in August, soon to be released by Word Horde in August. By 1902, fourteen years after the end of the JTR killings, the East End of London had become more dangerous, more densely packed with humanity than it had been in 1888.

In the first chapter, Jack London describes the difficulty he had in finding help in merely setting up his investigative endeavor. His friends, colleagues, and even those he tried to engage professionally wanted nothing to do with his effort for fear that he headed toward certain doom. Finally, he found a private investigator in the East End who agreed to vouch for him if his body were to turn up.  With that, Jack London bought second hand clothes of the ragged variety commonly worn by those in the area, and then disappeared into the East End.

At that point in his life, Jack London, born John Griffith Chaney, was a successful author. He’d done well selling his fiction to the growing magazine markets. For a quick biography of Jack London, try Wikipedia. Although an adventurous sort who’d been to sea, lived as a tramp, spent time in prison, been a laborer, and experienced his share of hardships in life, he currently wore nice clothing and could afford fine food and lodging.

He refered in the book to the difficulties Americans (I assume he means those identifiable as middle or upper class individuals) had visiting British and European cities without losing their shirts to the hordes who contrived assistance for the traveler and then expected gratuities for even the least effort. After shedding his finer clothes in favor of the common rags of the street, the unctuous bowing and scraping of the lower class and the poor, which of course was the vast majority of the population, ceased.

london_slumThe class system that still thrived in Europe, largely also existed in the United States, yet was tempered by the fact that we did not have a noble class, ruling aristocrats that earned their station merely by the accident of their birth. The gap between the haves and have-nots in both America and Great Britain was large, but no more so than in London. The Industrial revolution had led to large-scale unemployment, much the way the Tech Revolution has done in America and elsewhere today. During the bulk of the 19th century, the city of London, like large American cities at present, suffered from overcrowding and large numbers of unemployed and homeless. Those with little were careful not to displease the upper classes. Quite the contrary. The poor, referred to as “the unfortunate,” and the lower class, when in the presence of their “betters,” often effusively praised those of a higher class and pretended to defer to them in all things for fear of losing employment, reputation, or any other form of possible favor. Frequently, life, liberty, and access to shelter and sustenance depended on behaving that way.

Surely as one who had been a laborer of humble beginnings, Jack London knew quite well the social mechanisms involved, but the sudden contrast with merely changing his clothes—his costume so to speak—was so sharp-edged that he couldn’t help but take notice in his text.  Suddenly, the average person on the street was “real” with him.  He was treated as a regular guy, trusted with honesty and welcomed warmly into conversation and confidence. As downtrodden as many of the denizens of the East End were, they also had a hardy lust for life they willingly shared with one another.

Makes me wonder how many within the upper classes knew that such warmth and good feeling existed among common people—that sense of camaraderie within the struggle for existence—and if they knew, what they thought about it.

When I was still living in Nashville, Tennessee, where I grew up, I remember a middle-aged white fellow telling me that he’d gone to a church attended almost exclusively by black parishioners, and how surprised he was to see such a nice clean place, with all the people there happy and having a good time with one another. He probably didn’t realize that he sounded like a bigot to me.

Class barriers born of our strange need to stereotype still exist in the world today, ones meant to wall off the undesirable, having to do with anything from skin color, gender, sexual orientation, religion, to politics. Since the broader society often does not accept that such barriers should exist, silent conspiracies are required to build those walls.  They are more a product of personal opinion, less formalized and institutionalized than that of the class system of the Victorian period.

I do not know if the middle-aged fellow talking about the black church was a bigot. Perhaps he was just woefully ignorant. But I’d had such things said to me by people who looked me in the eye after speaking as if to carefully assess my reaction, I believe to determine if I was with them; to see if I thought the same way. I don’t tend to react well to people trying to make others into “Other.” I have seen some people respond positively to that sort of crap. When I do see that, I always feel a little dirty and have the sense that a silent conspiracy has just picked up a new member or that existing members have made themselves known to one another.

When Jack London stayed in the East End, the haves and have-nots were segregated—many public places didn’t allow access to those below a certain station. An establishment, like a tavern or inn, often had separate sections for classes to keep those of a higher station from suffering the proximity of those of a lower station. By saying, “suffering,” I’m being sarcastic for effect. Inevitably, the less fortunate and the poor had developed their own culture and shared little of it with the upper classes. Does that seem familiar? It’s a pattern of reaction that can be seen in numerous marginalized groups of minorities throughout the world. In the case of the London poor, though, they were in fact the majority.

I’m intrigued to read London’s honest words about it from so long ago.

Next post on Wednesday July 6, 2016 will deal with Chapter 2.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

Get a free ebook copy of The People of the Abyss from Project Gutenburg—available in various formats including Kindle and Epub, : http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1688

Preorder A Brutal Chill in August      A Brutal Chill in August by Alan M. Clark
Visit Alan M. Clark online: www.alanmclark.com

About Alan M Clark ControlledAccidentAutoPortrait

Author and illustrator Alan M. Clark grew up in Tennessee in a house full of bones and old medical books. His awards include the World Fantasy Award and four Chesley Awards. He is the author of seventeen books, including ten novels, a lavishly illustrated novella, four collections of fiction, and a nonfiction full-color book of his artwork. Mr. Clark’s company, IFD Publishing, has released 44 titles of various editions, including traditional books, both paperback and hardcover, audio books, and ebooks by such authors as F. Paul Wilson, Elizabeth Engstrom, and Jeremy Robert Johnson. Alan M. Clark and his wife, Melody, live in Oregon. www.alanmclark.com

Word Horde at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, CA


Join Word Horde as we return to the Los Angeles area in order to sell you books at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in San Pedro, CA, April 29-May 1, 2016. We’ll be sharing space with the incredible Dim Shores, and we’ll have plenty of free Word Horde buttons, stickers, and bookmarks (just sign up for our mailing list). Plus, we will be debuting Michael Griffin‘s new collection, The Lure of Devouring Light, at the festival, and Mike will be on hand to sign copies. Tickets to the festival are still available, and it’s going to be more fun than you can safely shake a shoggoth at. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

A New Interview with Nicole Cushing

When the news broke last week that Nicole Cushing had been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in two categories, for her Word Horde debut novel Mr. Suicide and her Cycatrix Press collection The Mirrors, we knew it was time for a new interview. So here’s Sean, talking to Nicole about transgressive horror, awards, writing one of the best books of 2015, and more…

Do you think that works of transgressive horror tend to get less acclaim due to their shocking elements?

It depends on who’s bestowing the accolades.

I think I’ve been given a fair shake by most of the reviewers who’ve chosen to talk about Mr. Suicide. Peter Tennant of Black Static, Frank Michaels Errington at Cemetery Dance, Nick Cato at The Horror Fiction Review, and George Anderson at Ginger Nuts of Horror all mentioned Mr. Suicide on their lists of the best books of 2015.

But sure, there will always be readers, reviewers, editors and critics who will clutch their proverbial pearls when faced with a book like Mr. Suicide. If everyone liked it, then–by definition–it wouldn’t be transgressive.

Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing

Do you think Mr. Suicide is too controversial for The Stokers?

There’s no way for me to answer that question impartially. That question is better answered by readers, reviewers, bloggers, and the voting membership of HWA.

I will say this, though. The very fact that the book garnered a nomination is encouraging. I also take heart from the fact that just last year, the HWA bestowed a lifetime achievement award on Jack Ketchum. So this is an organization that’s open to honoring controversial authors.

What do you think the role of genre is in fiction?

Genre labels are there to help readers find writers and vise-versa. And, if that’s how the labels are used, I’m cool with them.They only become a problem when they devolve into dismissive stereotypes.

Do you work slow or fast?

It depends on how we define the terms. On the one hand, I think I’ve managed to be reasonably prolific over the last year or two. On the other hand, I’ll likely never be one of those authors who can routinely write three thousand words a day.

I’m a little too obsessive for that. The words don’t have to sound pretty, but the sentences do (if that makes any sense). I want the sentences to have the right rhythm, and that takes time.

So I’m a tortoise, slow but steady. I usually can get in around 1200-1700 words a day, when things are going well. Towards the end of a project I find I build momentum and might routinely do 2,000 words a day. But sometimes I have to spend time on the business end of the job and I get very little written.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Rituals? No. Habits? Yes.

I’ve taken to writing on my laptop while slumped down in my comfy office chair with my feet propped up on a piece of luggage I use as a makeshift ottoman. I have terrible posture and probably look like a loon, while writing.

What do you hope to achieve with your fiction? What emotions do you want to elicit?

When someone reads one of my books, I want them to experience an altered state of consciousness. I want them to experience a waking nightmare that is both weird and utterly convincing. I obviously want this altered state of consciousness to be temporary and voluntary (the reader can always stop it by putting the book down). But I want the ride to be intense, because my life experiences have been intense and intensity seems more honest than coziness.

I’m a traumatized person. To some degree, an alienated person. I’ve had more than my share of intense emotional ups and downs. All of these facts shape how I look at the world. I suspect that the readers who feel a strong connection with my work are those who can relate to what it’s like to be traumatized, alienated, or intensely emotional. Either they’ve lived a life with similar issues, or they know people who have.

Quiet, subtle horror has its place, but I don’t want to write fiction that’s gentrified or predictable. I like juxtaposing stretches of quiet horror against moments of graphic horror and moments of graphic horror against moments of absurdity. I feel a novel is a large canvas, so there’s room for all of these approaches.

In that way, a horror novel can be a bit like a symphony. If you listen to a Shostakovich symphony, for example, you hear that his work isn’t all loud, or all quiet. He juxtaposes stretches of quiet, introspective strings against blasts of monstrous horns and the throbbing of monstrous drums. (A perfect example of this is the final six minutes of the Fourth.) I dedicated Mr. Suicide to another Russian composer, Alfred Schnittke, who possibly went even further than Shostakovich in advancing a so-called “polystylistic” approach. As ridiculous as it may sound to those who think transgressive horror is for boors, Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso No. 1 was an inspiration for the polystylism of Mr. Suicide.

Got any pluggy-wugs?

Four, but I’ll make them quick.

First, I want to encourage readers to check out my Youtube channel. I’ve recently started a series of brief (five minute long) videos called Forgotten Lore. Each week I discuss an unjustly-forgotten work of dark fiction from an author who is no longer with us. It’s a labor of love and I’m having a lot of fun with it.

Second, I want to mention that my short story collection, The Mirrors (Cycatrix Press), was also nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. It’s available at Amazon, directly through Cycatrix Press, and at a couple brick and mortar bookstores.

Third, I want to share the news that my next book, The Sadist’s Bible, will be coming out in April from 01 Publishing. You can pre-order from Amazon now.This is a novella weighing in at about 30,000 words. Readers who enjoyed Mr. Suicide will probably dig this one, as well.

And speaking of Mr. Suicide, I should mention that–to celebrate the Bram Stoker Award nomination–Word Horde is taking two bucks off the price of the Kindle edition. It was $4.99 and is now $2.99. It also appears (as I write this) that Amazon has taken ten percent off the price of the paperback So if you’ve been on the fence about buying it, now’s a good time to go ahead.

Still on the fence? Check out this recent review of Mr. Suicide at The Conqueror Weird, in which reviewer Brian O’Connell calls Mr. Suicide “…one of the greatest novels ever written.”

This Is Horror Award nominations… and your chance to vote!

With the dawn of the new year, awards season has begun. And Word Horde has been recognized with nominations in two categories of the prestigious This Is Horror Awards. It is indeed an impressive ballot, filled with many friends of the Horde and a number of our favorite books of 2015. Now, it’s up to you to vote. Drop by the This Is Horror website, check out the full ballot, and cast your vote today! And while you’re there, check out the This Is Horror podcast and shop. You won’t be disappointed.

Nominated for Anthology of the Year: Cthulhu Fhtagn!

Nominated for Publisher of the Year: Word Horde

Cthulhu Fhtagn! edited by Ross E. Lockhart

Word Horde Pitch Sessions at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon

Have you enjoyed reading recent Word Horde novels such as J. M. McDermott’s We Leave Together, Molly Tanzer’s Vermilion, and Nicole Cushing’s Mr. Suicide? Are you looking forward to collections like Orrin Grey’s Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts and Livia Llewellyn’s Furnace: Stories? Have you written a novel (or long novella) that you think might be a fit for Word Horde? Or would you just like the chance to ask a professional editor a few questions? Are you attending next weekend’s H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon in Portland, OR? Now’s your chance to sign up for a one-on-one pitch session with Word Horde’s editor in chief, Ross E. Lockhart. On Saturday, October 3 between 12 pm and 2 pm, Ross will be listening to pitches and looking for the next break-out hit book. Only a limited number of slots are available, and those slots are going on a first come, first served, basis. Interested pitchers should send an email to submissions[at]wordhorde[dot]com. We’re looking forward to hearing your pitch! Sign up today!


What we’re looking for: Intelligent, adult-oriented fantasy and horror novels, not necessarily in the Lovecraftian tradition, where the writing is excellent and the ideas are fresh. We are not currently looking for Young Adult, superhero, or anthology pitches. Short fiction pitches for in-progress anthologies will be considered.

For the Word Horde!, by Sean M. Thompson


Word Horde

Thousands of them, warriors covered in the blood of fallen subjects, their axes stained crimson from predicates who never knew it was to be their end.

“Sean, this is not just any group of warriors you’re teaming up with, this is the Word Horde!”

Their swords are terrible in the light of a scalding sun, gleaming with the ferocity of verbs, nouns, and adjectives ready for a fight. I too am ready to do battle; to sacrifice my body, (mostly my fingers and hands) to the cause.

“I will join the Word Horde!” I scream, and the din around me is terrifying, but it certainly gets my adrenaline pumping.

The drums thunder with the promise of hand-to-hand combat, page after page of it.

We charge, individuals made strong by a common goal. To whoop these readers upside the head, and go in for the kill. To shake those in search of literary entertainment to the core. None of them have any idea what’s in store, but oh let me tell you, we got a fever inside us. Inside of me, my ancestors are high off wode, and the thrill of Valhalla, cheering in unison.

Lightning cracks the sky, scorching the horizon, and a storm begins in an instant. I grit my teeth, get ready for it. The smile on my face would set a clunky paragraph to crying.
Rain soaks the land, and a qualifier falls beside me: I grab his mace. A terrible spiked metal ball attached to a wooden handle: I slam it into the spine of an adverb as it advances upon me, shrieking onomatopoeic obscenities.

“Great job Sean, I like what you’re doing here!” Ross says, and he’s in a terrifyingly scant amount of armor, his hair underneath a horned helmet.

“I didn’t see you, brother,” I say, knocking a weak noun off of its feet, ducking as one of my Horde looses an arrow, which slams home into the heart of a particularly poor word choice.

“I’ve been here since the beginning!” Ross shouts, and the slash of his mighty golden editor’s sword is a thing to behold.

A beast of war barks by my feet. I see it’s none other than Elinor Phantom, the terrifying battle hound out for blood with our Word Horde. May the gods help whoever crosses her path of vicious bloodthirsty hunger.

“How many words did you want me to kill?” I shout over to he of the Locked Heart, and he shouts back “as many as seems appropriate,” before he slices another poor word choice down the middle with his powerful blade.

“FOR THE WORD HORDE!” I scream, and lose myself in the chaos of battle, a berserker in a frenzy.

This battle is just beginning, friends. We need warriors to join up with the Word Horde. Can we count you among our number? Do you long to slay boring sentences in the moonlight? Do you worship the Gods of Story, and plot, and Character? Understand, once you join, you must dedicate your energy to the Word Horde. The only way out of this is in a hole in the dirt.

Our Word Horde has anthologies like Cthulhu Fhtagn!, Giallo Fantastique, the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated The Children of Old Leech, and Tales of Jack the Ripper. Our Word Horde has novels, like Mr. Suicide by Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author Nicole Cushing, Vermilion by British Fantasy Award nominee Molly Tanzer, and We Leave Together by J. M. McDermott.

“Tell them about the upcoming warriors joining up with the Word Horde!” Elinor growls at me.

“I didn’t know you could talk!” I shout back, breaking a lazy sentence’s neck with my mace, my word killer.

“Shut up and tell them about the stuff on the way!” she barks out, and proceeds to rip the Achilles tendon of a sad antecedent.

“We have Orrin Grey’s new collection Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts coming in October!” I roar, and snap the forearm of a demonstrative pronoun with my bare hands. This pleases me.

“And ALSO?!” she bellows in a timbre I didn’t think such a small creature could emit.

“Oh, and Livia Llewellyn’s collection Furnace in 2016!”

Before I know it, the Word Horde is alone, our foes seem to have retreated, for the moment. Seeing their comrades rendered into so much spilled ink seems to have put the necessary fear into them they should have had from the start.

“Not bad for a first battle,” Ross says, and puts his hand on my shoulder.

“Do you always wear so little armor?” I ask he of the curly man-mane.

“What do you mean ‘so little’? This is a lot of armor for me. Normally I have on way less.”

The adrenaline of the battle having died down, I start to seriously question my decision to become social media manager for Word Horde.

“Come on, I’m gonna order a pizza,” Ross says.

And like that, I’m back on board!


–Sean M. Thompson
Social Media Manager

Strike a blow for the small press by nominating Word Horde authors for a Hugo Award

The nomination period in this year’s Hugo Awards will be closing on March 10, 2015, and while I’m under no illusions that my scrappy, horror-and-fantasy small-press, Word Horde, will be bringing home a rocket, I can dream. And if you share that dream, whether you’re a Social Justice Warrior or a Sad Puppy, and are a voting member of the 2014, 2015, or 2016 Wordcons, I do hope that you’ll consider the following choices as you finalize your ballot.


The Worldcon 2015 ballot is available here: http://sasquan.org/hugo-awards/nominations/

Best Novel:

We Leave Together, by J. M. McDermott

Best Related Work (as there is no Hugo anthology category):

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron

Best Novelette:

“Of a Thousand Cuts,” Cody Goodfellow, TCoOL
“Love Songs from the Hydrogen Jukebox” T.E. Grau, TCoOL
“Ymir,” John Langan, TCoOL
“Tenebrionidae,” Scott Nicolay and Jesse James Douthit Nicolay, TCoOL

Best Short Story:

“The Golden Stars at Night,” Allyson Bird, TCoOL
“Learn to Kill,” Michael Cisco, TCoOL
“The Harrow,” Gemma Files, TCoOL
“The Old Pageant,” Richard Gavin, TCoOL
“Pale Apostle,” J. T. Glover and Jesse Bullington, TCoOL
“Walpurgisnacht,” Orrin Grey, TCoOL
“Firedancing,” Michael Griffin, TCoOL
“Brushdogs,” Stephen Graham Jones, TCoOL
“The Woman in the Wood,” Daniel Mills, TCoOL
“The Last Crossroads on a Calendar of Yesteryears,” Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., TCoOL
“Good Lord, Show Me the Way,” Molly Tanzer, TCoOL
“Snake Wine,” Jeffrey Thomas, TCoOL
“Notes for ‘The Barn in the Wild’,” Paul Tremblay, TCoOL

Best Professional Editor, Short Form:

Ross E. Lockhart

Best Professional Artist:

Julien Alday
Matthew Revert
Dalton Rose

Best Fanzine:

The Arkham Digest

Best Fan Writer:

Justin Steele, “Introduction: Of Whisky and Doppelgängers,” TCoOL, The Arkham Digest

Should you be nominating/voting in the Hugo Awards, I would be happy to send you an electronic copy of The Children of Old Leech or We Leave Together by email, provided you drop me a line with proof of membership. And thanks for supporting Word Horde and helping us continue bringing you the best independent fiction out there.

The Children of Old Leech: Afterword

Today brings the final installment in our series of excerpts from The Children of Old Leech. We hope you’ve enjoyed these excerpts as much as we’ve enjoyed bringing them to you, and we sincerely hope that we’ve persuaded you to pick up a copy of The Children of Old Leech for yourself. And while this round is over, we will be back with more samples of Word Horde books, photos, reviews, and previews, so we would encourage you to stay tuned. So with the melancholic sense of a journey’s impending conclusion, but no regrets, we bring you a look behind the curtain with co-editor/publisher Ross E. Lockhart’s “Afterword.”


One of my first gigs in this crazy business we call publishing was writing the flap copy for the hardcover edition of Laird Barron’s first collection, The Imago Sequence. As I recall, I got paid in books for this, which is fine because I’d likely have spent any monetary compensation on books anyhow.

The Imago Sequence blew me away. I was already fairly well versed in the weird tale, and in the typical tropes associated with Lovecraftian pastiche, but Barron’s approach did something unexpected with the form, fusing the strangeness of supernatural horror with the stark naturalism of Jack London (whose “To Build a Fire” Barron himself classifies as Cosmic Horror), daring to deliver something different, a high-stakes carnivorous cosmos populated with tough, rugged protagonists more accustomed to inhabiting hard-boiled tales of crime or espionage than Lovecraft’s prone-to-fainting academics. Through this (at the time) unlikely combination, Barron managed to, in the words Ezra Pound once pinched from a Chinese emperor’s bathtub, “make it new.”

One does not read a Laird Barron story so much as one experiences it in a visceral manner. A tale like “Shiva, Open Your Eye” strips away a reader’s reason, flaying him, leaving him floating in the primordial jelly, innocent of coherent thought. “Hallucigenia” is, quite literally, a kick in the head. The painstaking noirish layering to be found in “The Imago Sequence” culminates in a ghastly, shuddering reveal of staggering proportions. And it is that sense of culmination one finds echoing throughout Laird Barron’s work, binding the whole together into a Pacific Northwest Mythos reminiscent of, but cut from another cloth entirely from, Lovecraft’s witch-haunted New England.

A handful of one-off copywriting gigs led to greater opportunities, and soon, I found myself working full-time for the publisher of The Imago Sequence, which led to my meeting Laird in the flesh at the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga, NY. I found we shared a kindred spirit… and a taste for rare spirits and supernatural tales. Upon my return, I worked on the trade paperback edition of The Imago Sequence, and on Laird’s next collection, Occultation, where I not only wrote the jacket copy, but laid out the book, coordinated the production team working on it, supervised copyedits, approved those edits with Laird, and corrected the book (as a nod to Robert Bloch, I suppose you could refer to me as “The Man Who Corrected Laird Barron.”).

Shortly after Occultation landed, my wife and I embarked on a road trip up the West Coast, a drive where the scenery—stark mountains, tall trees, steep costal drop-offs—constantly reminded me of one Laird Barron story or another. Our journey brought us to Olympia, where we met Laird for lunch, talked martial arts and American literature, and I snapped a few photographs of Laird playing with our little dog, Maddie.

Somewhere along the line, both The Imago Sequence and Occultation managed to win Laird his first and second Shirley Jackson Awards, and I began working with Laird as editor of his first novel, The Croning, which he sent to me in bits and pieces over the course of a tough year, building it like a wall, brick by brick and layer by layer. With The Croning, Laird metaphorically opened a vein and bled words onto the page, and while a casual reader might not spot the author’s open wounds, the emotional wallop delivered by the book more than assures you that those wounds are not only there, but that they are raw.

I published Laird’s novella “The Men from Porlock” in my first anthology, The Book of Cthulhu, and his “Hand of Glory” in my second, The Book of Cthulhu II. And over the course of 2012, I worked on Laird’s third collection, The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All, reading stories as Laird finished them and sent them along. One of my favorites in the collection, the wickedly sardonic “More Dark,” managed to get me in trouble when I read it on my phone during a baseball game, prompting my wife to elbow me as I laughed—then shivered—at a situation that rode the train from bad to weird to worse to a downright Barronic level of darkness. The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All was the final project I worked on for its publisher, which might bring us full circle, were it not for the fact that this circle, like the sigil marking Moderor de Caliginis, is an open—and hungry—curve.

In 2013, I started my own publishing company, Word Horde, launching the press with Tales of Jack the Ripper, an anthology that included Laird Barron’s tour-de-force “Termination Dust,” a fractured narrative not only providing the thrills and chills expected from Barron’s oeuvre, but marking a new venue for his brand of cosmicism, a strange, savage, and sanguine land that Laird knows quite well… Alaska.

Not long after the publication of Tales of Jack the Ripper, Justin Steele, who had reviewed The Book(s) of Cthulhu and Tales of Jack the Ripper at his weird fiction website, The Arkham Digest, approached me suggesting this anthology. I receive—and say no to—a lot of anthology pitches, many of which are suggested as possible co-editorial projects, but I found the idea of honoring Laird, an author whose work has influenced and intersected with much of my professional career, irresistible. I approached Laird, asking for permission to let other authors play in his sandbox, and to my delight, Laird said yes. For that, Justin and I owe Laird a lifetime of gratitude. We immediately set to building a roster of our favorite authors, authors who we felt shared Laird’s vision of a ravenous universe, and an understanding of that terrible, beautiful thing that awaits us all.

There are no accidents ’round here. The editors of, and the authors included in, this volume have been inspired and affected by Laird Barron’s carnivorous cosmos. We’ve all gazed at mysterious holes, wondering where they lead. We’ve all found ourselves in conversation with a stranger, staring at a scar and wondering if it is, instead, a seam. We’ve all heard the voices whispering in the night, praising Belphegor, and saying, “We, the Children of Old Leech, have always been here. And we love you.”

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron may be ordered directly from Word Horde or wherever better books are sold. Ask for The Children of Old Leech and other Word Horde titles at your favorite bookseller.