Brian M. Sammons is a writer and editor. His short stories have appeared in such anthologies as Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Twisted Legends, Mountains of Madness, Deepest Darkest Eden, and others. He has edited the anthologies; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, and Steampunk Cthulhu. For the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game he wrote the book Secrets, has contributed to both Keeper’s Companions, wrote a companion scenario for the Keeper’s Screen, and has had scenarios in the books; Terrors From Beyond, The San Francisco Guidebook, Houses of R’lyeh, Strange Aeons 2, Atomic Age Cthulhu, Island of Ignorance, Punktown, and Doors to Darkness.
Glynn Owen Barrass lives in the North East of England and has been writing since late 2006. He has written over a hundred short stories, most of which have been published in the UK, USA, France and Japan. He also co-edits anthologies for Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu fiction line with Brian M. Sammons starting with Eldritch Chrome, Steampunk Cthulhu, and Atomic Age Cthulhu with more to follow. He also writes material for their flagship roleplaying game: Call of Cthulhu
Brian and Glynn took time out of their busy schedules to speak to George Anderson.
For readers who are perhaps unfamiliar with your published work can you please describe the genres that you edit in?
Glynn – The genre Brian and I are most known for in editing is the Cthulhu Mythos. The Cthulhu Mythos is a shared, ever expanding fictional universe, based on the work of writer H. P. Lovecraft, and identifies the system of lore, entities, and the history Lovecraft employed in his works. The Cthulhu Mythos, in a nutshell, consists of a universe filled with ancient, powerful alien beings, many of which are trapped on the earth, sleeping in a deathlike manner. They have human and alien worshippers, who throughout history and pre-history, have worked to raise these entities from their sleep and reinstate their reign. When we started working together, we did not want to stop at the Cthulhu Mythos, and thought up some ideas to make our anthologies cross-genre.
Brian – Yes, while both of us are fans of many genres, we are huge fans of weird fiction and the terrifying, collective world known as the Cthulhu Mythos. But because we also love genres other than Lovecraftian fiction, most of our anthologies have combined the Mythos with other themes not normally associated with them. So far we have brought out Eldritch Chrome, which is a blend of Lovecraftian horror and the cyberpunk genre. The book, Steampunk Cthulhu, pretty much says it all right there in the title, and to date it is our largest work. With World War Cthulhu, we wanted to combine the Cthulhu Mythos with war/espionage tales made famous by Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum, and many others. In the future there will be our Atomic Age Cthulhu, the first of a series of books that looks Lovecraftian horror set at different points in history. Atomic Age is set in the 1950s, which we believe is a golden time for such stories. That will be followed by The Summer of Lovecraft, which takes the Cthulhu Mythos and looks at it through the lens of the 1960s, and there will be more of those decade-centric books to follow. There’s plenty more to follow after that.
Who or what has influenced you or has been an inspiration to your editing?
Glynn – I have been a lifelong fan of the Cthulhu Mythos, but for a long time the only books available were those by Lovecraft and August Derleth, with the odd story written by other authors available in generic horror anthologies. This all changed for me when I discovered the Robert M. Price edited anthologies from Chaosium. Such books as The Azathoth Cycle, The Dunwich Cycle, and many more, not only reprinted some of Lovecraft’s best Cthulhu Mythos tales, they were also filled with material by other authors expanding on Lovecraft’s universe. While reading these books I said to myself, ‘I want to create books for this fiction line,’ and well… I am! So in answer to the question, undoubtedly Bob Price is my inspiration, he has done the biggest service for all Cthulhu Mythos fans with his wonderful books, and I wouldn’t be an editor without him.
Brian – Let me echo the appreciation for Mr. Price here. I always wanted to be in one of his books, and it tickles me to no end that now not only have I done that, but he regularly appears our anthologies. There is an old saying about never meeting your heroes, but Bob proved that isn’t always true. Other editors that have put out great books would be Martin H. Greenberg, Stephen Jones, Ellen Datlow, and there are so many more, so let me just use this time to spotlight one of my all-time favourite anthologies. It’s called Between Time and Terror, and it’s one that has seem to been forgotten by many, but it is a sci-fi/horror antho where every story in it is simply amazing. Check it out.
As both writers and editors you have worked individually and collaboratively on short stories and anthologies. In terms of writing and editing, which is the most satisfying for you and why?
Glynn – I love writing, and the majority of my fiction tales are written solo, but I have also written a fair few stories with Brian. The thing about collaborating with another author is that with two minds working on the same story, the other person may think of something you wouldn’t have, and as such, the story will grow in new ways and be much better for that input. Sharing the creative process is a great experience. All that I have said about sharing the duties on a story can also be said about the creation of an anthology, i.e., when we put together the guidelines asking what we want from our authors. There are different satisfactions to be had, and for me, I can’t really decide what I get the most satisfaction from. Seeing a book you created and compiled published is a great experience, but so is the creation of a story and having it see print.
Brian – I began as a writer and I will always have the need to tell stories, and the editing work is something that I sort of fell into by degrees. That said, I have found that I like it as much as writing my own stories. I sort of see it as directing a film. A movie director didn’t write the story that’s being filmed, and they’re relying on the skills and talent of countless others to make it happen, but it is his or hers vision that everyone is trying to bring out. In many ways, that’s how it is for me when I edit an anthology. Every anthology I’ve done, either separately or with Glynn, has been based on either my idea, or one of Glynn’s that I was behind 100%. So they are very personal for me. These are the books that I always wanted to read, but no one else was doing them, so now I/we are, and I love that. Looked at it that way, they are just as satisfying as having one of my personal stories see print. So I still love to write and tell my own tales, but I have this new love of producing amazing books by talented authors, and now it’s hard to tell which I enjoy doing more.
In publishing, the majority of anthologies are usually edited by one individual but you have shared editing responsibilities. How did you end up working together and what are the benefits or challenges of collaborating on writing stories and editing anthologies?
Glynn – We first met on a social media site, me knowing of Brian due to his work on the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. As I have said, it had long been a dream of mine to create Cthulhu Mythos anthologies, and as Brian had published some already through Chaosium, I asked him if he would be interested in getting together to create some books. Brian was very interested, and that is how Eldritch Chrome came about. We wanted to create anthologies using themes that hadn’t been done before, which is why we followed Eldritch Chrome with Steampunk Cthulhu. I have covered the benefits on collaborating on short stories above, and as for anthologies, we are very like-minded individuals in regards to what we want in our books, so when we read submissions, usually the stories we have in our shortlists are the same. We have very similar tastes in the authors we like too, so when an anthology is closed submissions, we are always in agreement as to who to contact for the book. Another benefit in editing anthologies of course, is having another set of eyes to read over the stories when editing, as we pride ourselves in the editing quality of our books.
Brian – I like the give and take that comes with working with a partner. While I have edited books on my own, I usually work with someone else mostly because I just like it. To date, I have put out books with Glynn, David Conyers, Kevin Ross, and Peter Rawlik. The way I do it with all of my partners is for each of us to read all the submissions separately, and then compare our individual YES, MAYBE, and NO lists at the end of the submission deadline to come up with the table of contents. That can be a lot of fun as it allows you to sometimes see a story from someone else’s perspective and give a second chance to something good that might not have hit you the right way when you first read it. Now you’ve got to have faith in the tastes of the person you’re working with for that to be successful, but thankfully that has never been a problem for me with the gentleman above. And yes, having someone to share the workload with, and to catch any mistake that might have slipped past you, is pretty nice too.
Your most recent collaboration is the just published World War Cthulhu from Dark Regions Press. How did you come up with the concept for the anthology?
Glynn – World War Cthulhu has long been a dream book of Brian’s, so the idea originated from his fevered imagination! We discussed what we both wanted from the authors, and of course read the submissions together and picked them so as to create a well balanced book.
Brian – I am a fan of military/espionage fiction, so there is that, but also, I think that if the government found out about some aspect of the Cthulhu Mythos they would either race to exterminate it, or try to utilize it for their own war machine. Lovecraft’s ending to “The Shadow of Innsmouth” is testament to some of that. So that was the starting point of the idea for me. But then I started to think; warfare is one thing that has been with humanity from the beginning, and it seems to be one of our favourite pastimes as a species. I say that as sort of a joke, but really, if you think about how long war has been with us, how much time we’ve spent during it, how there’s never been a time when warfare wasn’t being waged somewhere on this planet, how it has had a major effect in global history throughout time, the joke become less funny and all the more real. The only other thing that would be as long lasting and globally affecting as war would be Lovecraft’s Great Old Ones themselves, so the two seemed to be a good fit.
I am also a fan of taking a horror idea and asking, what’s scarier than that? So what’s something that’s scary? Being in a war is frightening as all hell. What’s scarier than that? Lovecraftian horror and all that entails would be. What’s scarier than that? Being involved with a war and somehow dealing with Lovecraftian horrors at the same time. And you notice that I didn’t just say, being at war with Lovecraftian horrors. While World War Cthulhu has stories like that in it, and they’re great, we wanted more than just that kind of war story. We wanted all aspects of warfare, from hot, gun-blazing action, to the cold dread of dealing with defeat, to the dirty secrets of nations throughout history, to the sombre sadness of those on the home front, and everything in between. Furthermore, warfare is not a human invention, as Lovecraft’s eldritch races all waged war on one another in the distance past, and would do so again if given the chance now. The races of the Cthulhu Mythos are not one big happy family. So the more and more I looked at the idea, the more I liked it.
Previously edited anthologies such as Eldritch Chrome and Steampunk Cthulhu came through what may be seen as a traditional route by being funded and printed by a publisher, namely Chaosium. World War Cthulhu was funded through crowd sourcing via Indiegogo. What impact do you think this has on both the creative and publishing process?
Glynn – the thing about crowd sourcing, first of all, is that there are risks involved. Will the public be interested in the idea? Will we get the funding we need in time? These risks are pretty much curtailed by the quality of the product and what the person who pledges gets in return for their faith and money.
On a creative level, we had no doubts about the book being a success. World War Cthulhu started as a standard book, at least in format not theme, but we chose an array of well-known masters in the field of weird fiction, alongside some newer authors whose work we found outstanding. The contributors all knew it was a crowd sourced project, and for it to succeed they would have to help promote the project, which they did admirably. The publishing process was greatly enhanced as the project made more money, and thus we have a book that is fully illustrated and available in limited hardcover, something that would not have been possible for us going the tradition route of publishing.
Brian – This book was always going to come out, but partially funding it through Indiegogo allowed to make it so much better. First, it allowed us to do other formats, like the aforementioned limited edition hardcover and even an upcoming audiobook. Second, it allowed us to make it one hell of a great looking book, with over 20 beautiful, full colour illustrations and multiple signatures for the signed copies. Third, and most importantly for me, it allowed us to put in more great stories. When you do an anthology, you always have a strict word count limit to the size of the book you can do, so you’re going to have to say no to good stories just because you don’t have the space for them. Well thanks to the people who supported the Indiegogo, we were able to expand the book’s size and include more stories. That really made me happy, as I hate doing rejection letters.
The print versions of World War Cthulhu have gorgeous artwork from M. Wayne Miller that accompanies each story. Why did you decide to illustrate this particular anthology for Dark Regions Press?
Glynn – This was something the publisher and we editors wanted pretty much from the start. As we knew the book was going to be something special we wanted to make it look as good as it read. M. Wayne Miller, whose work is incomparable, had already done a lot of art for Dark Regions, so he was an obvious choice. The art depended on the crowd funding however, so it was really amazing that the fans donated enough so that every story could have its own illustration.
Brian – What Glynn said. I mean, who doesn’t want awesome artwork for the book they’re doing/in? It was thanks to Dark Regions Press’ willingness to do it, and the backers of the Indiegogo, that made it a possibility. And I am very thankful to both sides of that equation for making it possible.
Reading the table of contents pages from your edited anthologies frequently reads like a “who’s who” of Lovecraftian writing legends such as Robert M. Price, C.J. Henderson and Jeffrey Thomas to name but a few. How do you select stories for inclusion? What is the process?
Glynn – As I mentioned above, Brian and I have very similar tastes in our fiction reading, and this extends to favourite authors. When we get together to edit a book we do a list, a dream team so to speak, of authors we would like not only to have in the book, but also authors whose take we would like to see on the particular theme we have created. So we’ll start off with a list of the authors we want in the book, and send them invites. These writing legends love working with us, and we love working with them, so it is always a win-win situation.
We also like to have new blood in our books too, and often our books are open submissions so that everyone has an opportunity to submit, unlike the closed submission process where only a certain number of authors are invited. Open submissions are harder, as there is a lot more to read through and a lot more rejections to send out, but we have discovered some absolute gems of writers, such as Neil Baker, and Konstantine Paradias, whose work we might not have been aware of if not for the open submissions process. Many of these lesser known, but amazing writers, can be found in World War Cthulhu.
We never select a story just by the name of the writer however, and when submitting to us everyone is on an even standing when it comes to their story.
Brian – We like having a stable of go-to-guys (be they male or female) that we invite to all the books we do. That said, every one of my regulars know they must earn their space in any book we do. I don’t think there is an author I have regularly worked with that we haven’t rejected at least once. So for us, only the best stories make the cut. Period. To do anything less, to only include the editor’s friends, or just recognizable names in an attempt to sell the book on name recognition, is cheating the buyer/reader. It’s all about the best stories for us, and we don’t care who writes them. That’s why you will always see new names in our books. So if you see the same names again and again in our books, that’s because those authors are just that damn good. Also, they’re that driven and professional. Even if we have to reject something by them because it’s not perfect for the kind of book we’re doing, they won’t stop until they send us something that is exactly what we’re looking for.
The last couple of decades have seen resurgence in the popularity of Lovecraftian fiction and authors inspired by him. What is it about H.P. Lovecraft’s work that keeps inspiring you?
Glynn – there is something so special about his writing and the worlds he created, that has me re-reading his works, the fiction of other past masters who wrote Cthulhu Mythos fiction, and of course the new fiction. Lovecraft’s vision of cosmic horror, it is infinite, as infinite as I see the universe as being, and in this infinity, infinite horror, madness, (at least in the fictional sense), means that his works is a never ending font of inspiration to write and read Cthulhu Mythos fiction.
Brian – I don’t think there is another author that is as influential in horror as H.P. Lovecraft. Once you know what to look for, you can see his creeping influence in countless books, films, comic books, video games, etc. It can be read/seen/felt in many works that have no direct link to Howard Phillips Lovecraft, but it is undeniably there. So it’s no wonder to me that Lovecraft has never truly been forgotten. Furthermore, Lovecraft’s most recognizable creation, Cthulhu, has gone mainstream for some weird reason. You can find his agelessly evil visage on t-shirts, plush dolls, and in cartoons such as The Justice League, South Park, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Scooby Doo, and many more. Some Lovecraftian purists bemoan that fact, they think that is taking something that is meant to be horrifying and defanging it, making it cute and cuddly, but for me, I love it. If someone sees a silly version of Cthulhu on South Park then maybe that will inspire them to look into the history of that big, green, tentacle-faced monster, and that will get them to read the original Lovecraft stories that they would otherwise never know about. As for why it keeps inspiring me, it’s his cold, uncaring universe that I find miles more terrifying than a zombie apocalypse, ghosts, psychopaths, undead things that want to suck my blood, etc. Now, I love all those other flavours of horror as well, but when compared to Lovecraft’s nihilistic view of the universe and how humanity fits into it, well they start to feel rather small, at least to me they do.
What other projects are in the pipeline for you both on an individual and collaborative level?
Glynn – on a collaborate level as editors, we are just putting together the finishing touches to a book from Chaosium called The Summer of Lovecraft, which consists of Cthulhu Mythos tales set in the 1960s. This is a follow up to the 1950s anthology Brian and I created and compiled, Atomic Age Cthulhu, as Brian has the idea to release anthologies covering many decades and what defined them combined with the Cthulhu Mythos.
Our next big project together will be World War Cthulhu II, as the first book was so immensely successful that a second volume seemed the right thing to do. This will be released from Dark Regions Press, and we envision having a dream team of writers in it and having it fully illustrated like the first volume.
As for my solo projects, I am currently putting the finishing touches to the anthology In the Court of the Yellow King, a book from my own publishing house Celaeno Press. It has many of the authors who have appeared in mine and Brian’s collaborative books, and even an excellent tale by Brian himself. The theme of the book is from Robert W. Chambers King in Yellow Mythos, a sub-genre that is often combined with the Cthulhu Mythos and indeed, our collaborative anthologies often contain King in Yellow Mythos stories. As well as editing, I am also a full time writer, and I have stories appearing in the upcoming anthologies: AMOK! Ancient and Lowly Cults, Flesh Like Smoke, Hidden in Your World, Occulte Detective Monster Hunter – A Grimoire of Eldritch Inquests, The Mark of the Beast, The Starry Wisdom Library, and Twisted Yarns. I have two novellas upcoming early next year, A Timeline Darkly from Dynatrox Ministries, which is a post apocalyptic Cthulhu Mythos tale, and Swords Against The Snakes, a King in Yellow Mythos tale being published by Pro Se Productions.
Brian – as for me, I am proud to announce that Dark Regions Press, based off of the success of World War Cthulhu, has started up a new Weird Fiction Line, and that I will be the managing editor of it. So that means more great Lovecraftian anthologies from Dark Regions Press, but I also want to start publishing weird fiction novels and a line of novellas. There are many great books already lined up for this, but I can’t go into too much detail about them yet, other to confirm what Glynn said about World War Cthulhu 2, and that I’ve already had responses from many great authors about the new line, so I’m very excited to see where that leads. If you’re a lover of weird fiction, please stay tuned to what’s coming from Dark Regions Press.
I also recently finished up two solo editing projects. One is for Golden Goblin Press, is called Tales of Cthulhu Invictus, and is a short collection of Lovecraftian horror stories set in ancient Roman times. For April Moon Books, the same publisher that released my Dark Rites of Cthulhu book, there will soon be an anthology of shape shifter stories called Flesh Like Smoke, which shows that while I love Lovecraftian fiction, I love other subgenres of horror as well. Similarly, Chaosium, the publisher of many of my Cthulhu-related anthologies, will soon be releasing a collection of horror westerns (a genre mashup I’ve always loved) I coedited with Kevin Ross called The Edge of Sundown, and going back to Lovecraft for a moment, next year there will be The Legacy of the Re-animator that Peter Rawlik and I did together.
While all the new editing gigs have taken up much of my time, I also continue to write. I have a bunch of short stories all set to come out in various books. I am currently co-authoring a novel with the crazy-talented writer, Jeffrey Thomas. I have started work on my own first novel. And one of my stories has been optioned by a film company, and at last it looks like work is about to commence on it in earnest, so hopefully there will soon be a feature film with “based on the story by Brian M. Sammons” in the credits.