I’ve had bitter author rivalries on my mind of late. They’re funny things, and demonstrate how petty and vindictive creative people can be. But they’re nothing new. And they’re not exclusive to any one genre. Take these as examples:

Mark Twain on Jane Austen (1898): “I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”

William Faulkner on Mark Twain (1922): “A hack writer who would not have been considered fourth rate in Europe, who tricked out a few of the old proven sure fire literary skeletons with sufficient local color to intrigue the superficial and the lazy.”

Henry James on Edgar Allan Poe (1876): “An enthusiasm for Poe is the mark of a decidedly primitive stage of reflection.”

D.H. Lawrence on Herman Melville (1923): “Nobody can be more clownish, more clumsy and sententiously in bad taste, than Herman Melville, even in a great book like ‘Moby Dick’….One wearies of the grand serieux. There’s something false about it. And that’s Melville. Oh dear, when the solemn ass brays! brays! brays!”

Joseph Conrad on D.H. Lawrence: “Filth. Nothing but obscenities.”

W. H. Auden on Robert Browning: “I don’t think Robert Browning was very good in bed. His wife probably didn’t care for him very much. He snored and had fantasies about twelve-year-old girls.”

William Faulkner on Ernest Hemingway: “He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”

Ernest Hemingway on William Faulkner: “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”

Vladimir Nabokov on Ernest Hemingway (1972): “As to Hemingway, I read him for the first time in the early ‘forties, something about bells, balls and bulls, and loathed it.”

Elizabeth Bishop on J.D. Salinger: “I HATED [Catcher in the Rye]. It took me days to go through it, gingerly, a page at a time, and blushing with embarrassment for him every ridiculous sentence of the way. How can they let him do it?”

H.G. Wells on Henry James (1915): “It is a magnificent but painful hippopotamus resolved at any cost, even at the cost of its dignity, upon picking up a pea which has got into a corner of its den.”

Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”



Nocturnal Reader’s Box – December 2017 – Unboxing Videos (featuring Word Horde titles!)

Recently, I was invited to supply a couple Word Horde books to the December Nocturnal Reader’s Box, a “blind box” subscription service focusing on horror fiction. And now, unboxing videos have begun to appear on YouTube. Here’s a round-up of the first eleven (!) videos. SPOILER WARNING: If you don’t want to know what’s in the box, don’t watch the video! But if you do, press play below…



From the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival to the Sonoma and Napa County Fires

I spent this weekend at the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, OR, selling Word Horde books, launching Tales from a Talking Board, teaching a writing workshop, listening to pitches, participating in a pair of panels (Women of Weird Fiction [w/Anya Martin, Rose O’Keefe, Mike Griffin, and Liv Rainey-Smith] & Small Press Publishing [w/Rose O’Keefe, Sean Hoade, Andrew S. Fuller & Cody Goodfellow]), and reading the introduction to TTB as part of a reading block with Orrin Grey, Nathan Carson, and Edward Morris. I brought David Templeton along to help out at the table (and to introduce him to some wonderful people), managed to catch Philip Gelatt’s latest film, They Remain (based on Laird Barron’s story “–30–“), and got to hang out with folks like festival organizers Brian and Gwen Callahan, Hippocampus Press’s Derrick Hussey, Dominique Lamssies, Kim Bo Yung, Bawb Hale, Obadiah Baird, Christine Morgan, and Kelly Young. Normally, I’d tell you all about it, but…

Driving home Monday morning, David and I began to hear news stories coming from Sonoma County. An unprecedented number of wildfires combined with high winds and dry conditions created a series of disasters ranging from Santa Rosa to Napa to Petaluma. At current count, more than 1500 homes have been destroyed and at least eleven people have died because of these fires, and thousands are displaced, waiting for word on whether or not they have lost everything.

We were lucky. Our homes, our neighborhoods were spared. But at points it seemed touch-and-go over our ten-hour journey, and we worried over friends and loved ones. Others weren’t lucky. Because I was traveling with David, I was witness to just how devastating these fires were to his colleagues in the Sonoma County theater and newspaper communities. Venues have been destroyed, homes have been gutted, people have been injured. So many people have lost so much. So many lives have been disrupted by this disaster.

But at the same time, so many people are rising to the occasion. Taking in the displaced, collecting food and blankets for local shelters, helping out. In the worst of times, we can see the best in people, and that is what defines community.

If you’ve read this far, I urge you to keep that spirit of community alive in your own lives. I urge you to rise to the occasion. Please make a donation to one of the organizations I’m linking to below. Or make a donation to your local food bank. Or your local blood bank. Help others wherever you can. Make the world a better place. And thanks!

How to help evacuees of Northern California fires:

How you can help people affected by the North Bay fires (or get help if you are an evacuee):

RESOURCES: Getting in touch, marking yourself safe during Napa, Sonoma County fires:…/2513223/

ichael Bailey Fire Recovery:



BizarroCon 2016: The Wonderland Awards: Stories Matter

I’ve been home from BizarroCon for just over a week, trying to get back into the swing of things while fighting a cold. As has been the case for the last several years, BizarroCon was a wonderful experience, a chance to reconnect with friends and industry peers, to talk shop, workshop, give and listen to readings, and, most importantly, laugh. Shortly before this year’s BizarroCon, Rose O’Keefe invited me to present the Wonderland Book Award for Best Collection. “Of course,” I said. “Three- to five-minute speech? No problem.” So I set to writing down a few thoughts on short fiction, Bizarro Fiction, and why it’s important. Here’s that speech…


We are all storytellers.
It’s what we do as a species. It’s what sets us apart.
Bedtime stories, faerie tales, cautionary stories (what’s in the woods?), erotica, religious parables, jokes!
Stories are as much a part of culture as food. They sustain us, they keep us alive.
Stories are communion.
Stores are communication.
Stories matter.
We are all stories. Some have only been read so far. Others are much further along.
Stories matter.
…and resolution.
Sometimes, even, happy endings.
We are a community: The Bizarro Fiction Community.
An incredible diverse community of stories.
Bound together in this book called Bizarro Fiction.
Stories bound together form a collection. And that’s what we are recognizing here tonight, with this award.
Stories of love and strangeness, terror and titillation, rage and respite.
Bizarro stories by authors who make us laugh and cry and more.

The nominees for the 2015 Wonderland Book Award for Best Collection are:

Midnight Earwig Buffet, by Andrew Goldfarb
Our Love Will Go the Way of the Salmon, by Cameron Pierce
Strategies Against Nature, by Cody Goodfellow
The Art of Horrible People, by John Skipp
The Pulse Between Dimensions and the Desert, by Rios De La Luz

I had a tough time voting. I loved all these collections.

The winner?

The Pulse Between Dimensions and the Desert, by Rios De La Luz


Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. Or five, and get them all.



The Red Badge of Courage with Werewolves

Like many of you, I’ve been watching the legal proceedings between Hachette and author Seth Grahame-Smith with a weird combination of curiosity, dread, and schadenfreude. I don’t think anybody is surprised (not even Hachette) that SGS’s post-Pride and Prejudice and Zombies novels have failed to sell as well as that flash in the pan, that one-hit wonder. After all, PPJ was a Borders-era phenomenon, and by the time the film came out earlier this year (really, that was THIS YEAR? It seems so long ago), most folks were pretty much over it. But let’s take a quick look at SGS’s approximate Bookscan numbers (supplied by an anonymous friend):

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: ~758,000
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter: ~628,000
Unholy Night: ~30,000
The Last American Vampire: ~22,000

Actual numbers tend to be higher, but since Bookscan is the rubric by which publishers and bookstores tend to measure things, we’ll stick with these approximations. What do you see? On the surface, I see what’s commonly known as the Retail Death Spiral. Bookstores are conservative. They don’t like taking risks. So they look at what the previous title sold and and order a smaller percentage of the next. So sales numbers get smaller and smaller and smaller. But I also see a failure on Hachette’s part to market The Last American Vampire as a sequel (which it is) to Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. A shame, since they otherwise packaged the book well. Though I’ll admit, I skipped it, and I think that’s also part of the problem: SGS’s literary work is viewed as a gimmick, his mashups sell, more original work, less so.

Which brings us to the manuscript SGS turned in to Hachette, which they rejected, and are now suing him over. Reportedly, SGS turned in something “not original to Smith, but instead […] in large part an appropriation of a 120-year-old public-domain work.” Honestly, they should have expected that. After all, he’s trying for a hit, and that’s what has been hit product so far.

I’m guessing SGS turned in a trunk novel, something he put together a few years ago with Quirk in mind. Looking at books published in the 1890s, I can only speculate: The Red Badge of Courage with Werewolves? The Island of Doctor Moreau with Yetis? The Turn of the Screw with Swamp Monsters?

Actually, if it’s the last one, Seth, call me. I’d love to have it at Word Horde.



I am confident Lovecraft…

I am confident Lovecraft
Would never have
Forgiven me
For not being
His kind of
And instead being
A short
From California
Who associates with
All the wrong
Sort of people
And rejects
The “cultural norms”
Of Western
As antiquated,
And too-often cruel.
I am confident Lovecraft
Would have been
The embodiment
Of a YouTube
Comments field
Brash and blowing
Hard, offensive,
On every level,
And racist to boot.
I am confident Lovecraft
Would have,
In a fit of pique,
Unfriended me
On Facebook,
Like [redacted] did,
After attempting
To start a fight
On my wall
Over electoral politics.
(Don’t forget to
Vote your
Conscience, folks!)
I am confident Lovecraft
Would have been
A tremendous douche
In person, a
Truly poisonous
Individual, occasionally
Charming in conversation,
But dropping N-bombs
And complaining about
Jews and fags and
Probably even voting
For Donald Trump.
But then, Howard
Is not my friend, but
Merely a writer
Who died
Thirty-something years
Before I was born,
Whose work
And grim visions
Of cosmic horror
I can—and do—admire,
As much as I find his
Barbarian opinions
Irksome. So while
I often play
In a sandbox
He created, I am
Confident I don’t
Need to do
a damned thing
To impress

For Scott R Jones and, indirectly, S. T. Joshi, on the 126th anniversary of H. P. Lovecraft’s birth.

And just to mention, the ebook of my latest Lovecraft-inspired anthology, Cthulhu Fhtagn!, is currently just $2.99 for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook. Here’s a link.



Shrubberies (for Joe Pulver)

For Joe Pulver

I’ve seen the man eat shrubberies,
Pulling one,
Then another from a pill bottle,
Pop them into his hoary maw,
Some kind of anti-Lorax,
Masticating, molar-grinding,
Felling tiny trees.
“You know that’s less effective,”
I say, understanding a thing
About pain management.
“Combustion is key.” He grins,
Flecks of green revealed
Inbetwixt expatriate teeth.
“Cest n’est pas une pipe,”
He murmurs. I suggest a beercan,
Crushed & punched, a lighter,
Hot knives. He laughs,
Drops a tiny Christmas tree
Into my palm, closes
My fingers around it.
And what do I do?
I eat the damned thing.
And I dream…

{Frank Sinatra, “Some Enchanted Evening”; Charles Mingus, “The Clown”; Thelonious Monk Quartet, “Monk’s Dream”}




The Return of #FeedCthulhu / Saying Thanks

One week from today is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday which we celebrate by gathering together, sharing food, and saying thanks. This year, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, because you’ve helped Word Horde succeed in its most ambitious year yet. We published five books this year: Molly Tanzer’s weird western, Vermilion; Nicole Cushing’s ultra-dark delve, Mr. Suicide; Orrin Grey’s captivating collection, Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beasts, and the anthologies Giallo Fantastique and Cthulhu Fhtagn! So, to celebrate this success, and to give back, I’ve decided it’s time for The Return of #FeedCthulhu.

In 2011, when my first anthology, The Book of Cthulhu, was published, I challenged readers to make a donation to a local food charity, and to share news of that donation on Twitter, using the hashtag #FeedCthulhu. That year, we raised several hundred dollars in pledges across the country to local food banks and homeless shelters. In 2012, to accompany the publication of The Book of Cthulhu 2, we repeated the challenge, raising over a thousand dollars worth of pledges.

Thanksgiving may be the time to celebrate our prosperity and providence, but people still go hungry. And hunger sucks. So once again I’d like to challenge you to make a difference, by making a donation–no matter how small–to a food charity. This can be a local food bank, church, temple, mosque, coven, bin outside your grocery store, or national (or international) hunger relief organization. The organization doesn’t matter, so long as they’re feeding people. Once you do that, post the following on social media:

I fed Cthulhu [your donation] to [organization] #FeedCthulhu @lossrockhart

Don’t forget to include the hashtag (#FeedCthulhu) and my Twitter handle (@lossrockhart) so that I can see–and share–your post. Also, if you send a link to your post via email to publicity[at]wordhorde[dot]com, in return for your generosity, I’ll send you the ebook of my latest anthology, Cthulhu Fhtagn!. Just let me know if you’d prefer ePub, mobi, or PDF format. I’ll be checking social media for the hashtag, and on December 1, I’ll be selecting three random posters, who will receive a personalized autographed copy of Cthulhu Fhtagn!

2015-09-03 266
“Pie is my favourite dessert, and blueberry (for summer) and mince (for winter) are my preferred kinds—with apple as a good all-year-round third. Like to take vanilla ice cream with apple and blueberry pie.” –H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard (7 November 1932)

And for dessert, I’d also like to say thanks to you by making you a special offer. Place an order with Word Horde between now and the end of November, use the coupon code THANKS, and take 20% off your purchase. It’s our way of saying “Thank you!” for a great year, and encouraging you to give Word Horde books to your cool friends this holiday season.



Context: The Shoggoth in the Room

In 1975, a group of horror and fantasy fans and authors, frustrated that the Hugo Awards focused on the whizz-bang of rockets and rayguns rather than the subtle chill and grotesque strangeness of their preferred end of the genre swimming pool, founded their own convention and award: the World Fantasy Convention and the World Fantasy Award. For the award itself, they chose a bust of pulp fantasist H. P. Lovecraft, sculpted by cartoonist and author Gahan Wilson to resemble a grotesque, primitive, pagan idol: The Howard. This wasn’t an arbitrary choice, but a nod to an inspirational figure central to their fandom, and a personal correspondent to some of the first recipients of the award, including Robert Bloch and Fritz Leiber. Others had connections to the Lovecraft-centric publisher, Arkham House (Ray Bradbury, Lee Brown Coye, Donald M. Grant). The first few World Fantasy Award winners for best novel were Patricia A. McKillip, Richard Matheson, William Kotzwinkle, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, Elizabeth A. Lynn, Gene Wolfe, John Crowley, Michael Shea, and John M. Ford. Over the last forty years, the World Fantasy Award has come to be considered one of the most prestigious awards in the genre field.

Social mores evolve over time, and while Lovecraft is still an inspiring figure central to Weird and fantastic fiction, many of his personal views on race, not uncommon in a time before the Civil Rights movement, mass communication, and the end of Jim Crow laws, feel repugnant when viewed through a twenty-first-century lens. And though it may be easy to dismiss Lovecraft’s racism as simply a product of its time, Lovecraft was somewhat of an overachiever, not quite to the point of donning a white hood and burning crosses, but certainly allowing sentiments of white supremacy and non-white inferiority to inform his fiction, poetry, and letters. And yet, Lovecraft and the Weird Fiction movement were contemporary to the Harlem Renaissance, with such works as W.E.B. Du Bois’ The Gift of Black Folk, Wallace Thurman’s The Blacker the Berry, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes were Watching God all written and published during the same period Lovecraft was writing and publishing his weird tales of Cthulhu, Azathoth, and Nyarlathotep. Between 1924 and 1926, when Lovecraft lived in New York City, Louis Armstrong and Fletcher Henderson played at the Roseland Ballroom, jazz was showcased at Aeolian Hall, and the Savoy Ballroom opened. Lovecraft was likely unaware of these literary and musical movements, but it is fascinating to realize that while Lovecraft penned “The Shunned House,” “The Horror at Red Hook,” “He,” “In the Vault,” and “Cool Air,” a few blocks away, the world was changing.

I discovered Lovecraft’s fiction around 1980, initially through the Dungeons and Dragons book Deities and Demigods. And this discovery led to a lifelong fascination with the Old Man of Providence and his work. I’ve written about this extensively in the introductions to the three volumes of Lovecraft-inspired fiction I’ve edited, The Book of Cthulhu, The Book of Cthulhu II, and Cthulhu Fhtagn! On some levels, I think of Lovecraft as a difficult uncle, admirable, yet repellent. Inspiring, yet frustrating. I own T-shirts with the man’s image on them. Books by, about, and inspired by Lovecraft line my shelves. A rubbing of his gravestone hangs in my office (a gift from a friend). But these are conversation starters, and I am quick to talk about the love/hate aspect of my relationship with H.P.L., as a fan of his work, as a creator inspired by his oeuvre, but as a human being frustrated by his racism and xenophobia.

Photo by Scott Nicolay

Which brings me back to the shoggoth in the room: The World Fantasy Award. A few years ago, I worked for a World Fantasy Award-winning small-press publisher. I regularly admired the Howard, as it sat, gathering dust on the company owner’s neglected fireplace, and I said to myself, “I’m going to win one of those some day.” Not for the sake of Lovecraft, per se, but for the recognition and accomplishment of achieving one of the highest honors in the Weird Fiction field. For putting together stand-out fiction. For breaking the mold. For bringing diverse authors together to entertain, enlighten, and uplift. With the announcement this past weekend that the World Fantasy Award committee would be changing from Lovecraft to a less-offensive trophy, starting next year, that personal goal must change, but then, if I stuck to every childish goal, I’d likely be a railroad engineer today. I understand and appreciate what the World Fantasy Awards is doing by changing the award. They are not bowing to pressure. They are not being bullied by Social Justice Warriors. They are not caving. They are moving into the twenty-first century. They are demonstrating that racism ends with us.

This week, people who should know better are throwing tantrums. Some are returning their Howards to the WFC committee. Some are threatening boycotts. Some are making short-sighted, hateful statements. They need to grow up.

Photo by Scott Nicolay. #BlackLivesMatter



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

As posted as Word Horde:

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.

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