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!

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“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.



Giallo Fantastique

My latest anthology, Giallo Fantastique, is out now. As we say on the back of the book, Giallo Fantastique is “An anthology of original strange stories at the intersection of crime, terror, and supernatural fiction. Inspired by and drawing from the highly stylized cinematic thrillers of Argento, Bava, and Fulci; American noir and crime fiction; and the grim fantasies of Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, and Jean Ray, Giallo Fantastique seeks to unnerve readers through virtuoso storytelling and startlingly colorful imagery.”

With stories by authors Adam Cesare, Orrin Grey, Nikki Guerlain, Brian Keene, John Langan, E. Catherine Tobler, and more, Giallo Fantastique will take you on a wild, cinematic ride.


Here’s what the critics are saying:

“Lockhart translates giallo fantastique as weird crime, and each story, while very different in style and tone, melds crime and supernatural horror with panache and verve. […] The stories’ conclusions are never definitive, leaving the reader with a delicious sense of lingering unease.” —Publishers Weekly

“A lavish, sumptuous tapestry of luxurious surrealism and strangeness.” –Christine Morgan, The Horror Fiction Review

“…ultimately satisfying, with a few tales that skirt tantalizingly close to brilliance.” –Mer Whinery, Muzzleland Press


If you’re in the North Bay Area, I’ll be officially launching Giallo Fantastique at Copperfield’s Books in Petaluma this Wednesday, May 20, at 7 pm. I’ll be talking about Word Horde, the origins of the anthology, and reading a story or two. Come on by and say hello if you can. And if you RSVP, you can save 20% on the book the night of the event.

Ask for Giallo Fantastique by name wherever better books are sold.

And a big shout-out and a round of applause to our two Final Girls, Katie Wigglesworth and Ashleigh Rose Walker.



The Children of Old Leech Nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award

It is with pleasure and gratitude that we announce the following: The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron has been nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award. Needless to say, we are over the moon.


It requires an army of people to put together an anthology like The Children of Old Leech, so a huge THANK YOU! goes out to the following: Co-editor Justin Steele; authors Allyson Bird, Jesse Bullington, Michael Cisco, Jesse James Douthit-Nicolay, Gemma Files, Richard Gavin, J. T. Glover, Cody Goodfellow, T.E. Grau, Orrin Grey, Michael Griffin, Stephen Graham Jones, John Langan, Daniel Mills, Scott Nicolay, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Molly Tanzer, Jeffrey Thomas, and Paul Tremblay; copyeditor Marty Halpern; hardcover artist/designer Matthew Revert; softcover artist Dalton Rose; softcover designer Scott R. Jones; and, of course, Laird Barron, for letting all of us play in his universe. Thanks also to all of you who purchased the book (and other Word Horde titles), and to all of the readers and reviewers who have taken the time to recommend the book to others. Thanks to the Shirley Jackson Awards Board of Directors and jurors. And thanks to everyone who shared a toast to Old Leech with us back when we launched the book. Cheers!


Read the full list of nominees here:



Cthulhu Fhtagn! Table of Contents Reveal!


This August, the stars will be right. Cthulhu Fhtagn! Weird Tales Inspired by H. P. Lovecraft will be unleashing cosmic horror onto an unsuspecting–but deserving–world, just in time to commemorate H. P. Lovecraft’s 125th birthday. In the next few weeks, we’ll be revealing the cover and opening up pre-orders, so that you can bring this monster home, but today, as promised, here’s the full Table of Contents:

Cthulhu Fhtagn!
Table of Contents

Introduction: In His House at R’lyeh… – Ross E. Lockhart
The Lightning Splitter – Walter Greatshell
Dead Canyons – Ann K. Schwader
Delirium Sings at the Maelstrom Window – Michael Griffin
Into Ye Smoke-Wreath’d World of Dream – W. H. Pugmire
The Lurker In the Shadows – Nathan Carson
The Insectivore – Orrin Grey
The Body Shop – Richard Lee Byers
On a Kansas Plain – Michael J. Martinez
The Prince of Lyghes – Anya Martin
The Curious Death of Sir Arthur Turnbridge – G. D. Falksen
Aerkheim’s Horror – Christine Morgan
Return of the Prodigy – T.E. Grau
The Curse of the Old Ones – Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington
Love Will Save You – Cameron Pierce
Assemblage Point – Scott R. Jones
The Return of Sarnath – Gord Sellar
The Long Dark – Wendy N. Wagner
Green Revolution – Cody Goodfellow
Don’t Make Me Assume My Ultimate Form – Laird Barron

Photo: H. P. Lovecraft’s own depiction of Cthulhu.



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:

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.



Giallo Fantastique: Cover and TOC Reveal

Coming May 15, 2015 from Word Horde: Giallo Fantastique


An anthology of original strange stories at the intersection of crime, terror, and supernatural fiction. Inspired by and drawing from the highly stylized cinematic thrillers of Argento, Bava, and Fulci; American noir and crime fiction; and the grim fantasies of Edgar Allan Poe, Guy de Maupassant, and Jean Ray, Giallo Fantastique seeks to unnerve readers through virtuoso storytelling and startlingly colorful imagery.

What’s your favorite shade of yellow?

Table of Contents

Introduction • Ross E. Lockhart
Minerva • Michael Kazepis
In the Flat Light • Adam Cesare
Terror in the House of Broken Belles • Nikki Guerlain
The Strange Vice of ZLA-313 • MP Johnson
Sensoria • Anya Martin
The Red Church • Orrin Grey
Balch Creek • Cameron Pierce
Hello, Handsome • Garrett Cook
We Can Only Become Monsters • Ennis Drake
The Threshold of Waking Light • E. Catherine Tobler
The Communion of Saints • John Langan
Exit Strategies • Brian Keene

Cover art by David Palumbo
Cover design by Scott R. Jones

Coming May 15, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-939905-06-2
Preorder soon at Word Horde



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.



The Children of Old Leech: Introduction: Of Whisky and Doppelgängers

We told you there would be more this week. What follows is Justin Steele‘s introduction to The Children of Old Leech, “Of Whisky and Doppelgängers.” And stay tuned for more!

Justin Steele

If you value your health, sanity, and general sense of well-being, then you should stop reading this book right now. Close the cover, put it back on the shelf, and head on over to the non-fiction section. Pick up a book on fishing, or pottery, something safe. Anything but this book.

If you’re still reading you must be damaged goods, nothing to lose. Maybe you saw that I started with a warning and felt the need to prove me wrong, to prove that you like to live life on the edge, laugh in the face of danger, shit like that. Maybe the warning tugged at your curiosity, intrigued you enough to carry on. Just remember what happened to the cat.

I’m supposed to be writing an introduction. That’s what Ross wanted me to do anyway, but I owe some responsibility to my fellow man, and what we did with this here book, what we unleashed, well, it’s just wrong. I’m sitting here at my desk, a near empty glass of Lagavulin on the desk edge, the bottle in easy reach. Three feet from me, propped in the corner of the room, is a 12-gauge pump-loaded with double-aught buckshot. If that’s not enough I have two .45s and a recently sharpened hunting knife within reach, so no matter how it goes down, it won’t go down easy. But who am I kidding. THEY want me to write this. It’s part of the project. Until my part’s done I’m safe. At least I think so.

I should probably start from the beginning. Tell you how I first discovered this Lovecraft guy, and how reading his fiction kicked me off onto this whole “weird fiction” thing, but I’m sure you’ve heard that one time and time again so I’ll skip ahead a little bit. A few Cthulhu Mythos anthologies into my tentacle binge, I picked up Ellen Datlow’s Lovecraft Unbound, and was pleased to see an anthology striving to avoid falling into pastiche territory. It was during my late night readings that I discovered my first Laird Barron tale. “Catch Hell” did something to me that only a few special stories managed to do: upon finishing I reflected on the story for a minute or two, and then turned back to the first page and immediately reread it. After the second read I walked over to my computer and ordered The Imago Sequence and pre-ordered Occultation. There was no question that I had stumbled upon something special, something dangerous. Who was this Laird Barron guy? He looked like a pirate, or a grizzled Viking warrior. His writing was a blend of genres that I loved. One part pulp, one part noir, two parts pure cosmic terror, blended smooth and seasoned with a literary skill that few possessed. I had found weird fiction for the connoisseur. If I had only known what I was getting into.

Flash forward a few years later, and I’m sitting here in my dimly lit office space, gulping scotch and wondering how I ever let myself get drawn into this mess. The light from my lamp is reflecting off my tin poster of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. I let Clint Eastwood’s stoic squint and Lee Van Cleef’s predatory glare serve as reminders that I have to be tough, finish this up. The wind is whipping at the window and I find myself eyeing the 12-gauge once every few seconds.

In September or so I had a conversation with Ross Lockhart, the other man responsible for what we’ve done here. We were both huge fans of Laird’s fiction, recognized its power. By the end of our talk, the wheels were in motion. We were so excited, completely oblivious as to what the actual significance of the anthology would be.

Finding the authors to take part actually proved to be the easy part. Laird’s work is highly respected, and offers authors much to work with. Ross and I wanted to find some of the best writers of weird fiction and offer them a chance to play in Laird’s playground. They could use the more literal elements of Laird’s growing “Pacific Northwest Mythos” or utilize his themes. Pastiche was not welcome. We wanted the authors to use their own unique talents and voices in order to do Laird justice, yet not by simple mimicry.

The thing is, Laird’s fiction is powerful, and not just in the literary sense. Some theorize that there exists some fiction that has the ability to bleed into reality. The words serve a higher function, act as a sort of formula. When these words are read they open a gate to somewhere else, allow them to come over. What Ross and I have done is complete the formula, see? Laird’s works were the base, the true source of the power. With these stories we amplified it, radio towers strengthening the signal.

Ross experienced it first. He’d be out walking his dog in sunny California, or out at his local bookstore when he would see him. Only it wasn’t actually him? Ross would catch a glimpse, just enough for him to realize he’d seen Laird. When he looked back he would see Laird standing there, at the mouth of an alley, or the end of a row of bookshelves. And it was definitely Laird, his mug isn’t the kind you mistake for someone else. Ross was perplexed, he told me later, because he was sure he was seeing Laird. He looked long enough for the imposter’s face to split into a black grin, and then with a wink the not-Laird would duck into the alley or step away from the aisle of books. Ross thought Laird must have been playing some kind of elaborate prank on him, until I pointed him to one of Laird’s blog posts. Apparently some of Laird’s friends have seen this doppelgänger before, but never more than once. I know this spooked Ross, and he hasn’t been the same since. I often ask him if it’s happened again, but whenever I bring it up he goes pale, changes the subject. If I push, he firmly denies anymore sightings, but I have my doubts.

I figured it out. Ross thinks we are just putting together a good group of stories, tries to justify his weird sightings with lack of sleep and too much reading for the project. But I know better, the dots are all there, easy to connect. Several of our authors have confided in me that during the writing process they were fraught with night terrors, and even a few cases of sleepwalking. One author turned in his story in a daze, and swore to me that he doesn’t have a single memory of writing it. One could chalk all this up to writer’s stress, working in overdrive to meet the deadline, but that doesn’t explain what happened with our foreword. A certain big-shot author sent us a foreword, before disappearing. Nobody has heard from him since. Ross and I debated on using the foreword regardless, only to find that it had somehow been erased from both of our computers. Strange coincidence considering we both reside on opposite sides of the country.

And then there’s me. Being woken up in the middle of the night by whispers from friends long departed. Easy enough to pass off as echoes from dreams, but that doesn’t explain why I would find the dog cowering under the bed whimpering. Or the black, sticky footprints left across my kitchen floor, cellar door ajar although I always check the latch before heading to bed.

If you’re still reading this you must now know that it’s too late for you, too. You’ve started to twist the handle, and the opening of the door is soon to follow. You’re going to meet the dwellers on the other side. The Children of Old Leech will soon be whispering in your ear, and they will whisper the same thing they whispered to me: “There are frightful things. We who crawl in the dark 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.

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