Announcing Swords v. Cthulhu


Due to the unexpectedly high volume of submissions, we were not able to reply to all of the contributors by our target date of March 31st. We will respond to all submissions by the end of April, if not sooner, and apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause. Thank you all for submitting, and more soon…

Stone Skin Press is proud to announce our newest anthology, Swords v. Cthulhu. As you might have guessed from the title, this project is a spiritual successor to our previous Shotguns v. Cthulhu, but while Shotguns featured mostly modern or futuristic settings for its action-heavy eldritch tales, this tome will collect stories of a historical or fantastical bent. Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington will be co-editing the project.

If you’re simply an excited reader then there’s nothing more to report at present. But! If you’re interested in potentially submitting a story, there will be an open reading period for a few of the slots in Swords v. Cthulhu. Read on for the full guidelines…

The brass tacks (or red nails, as the case may be):

We are paying five (5) cents a word for original works of fiction of up to 5,000 words.

No poetry. No reprints.

No multiple submissions. No simultaneous submissions.

The open reading period for story submissions will be from February 1st to March 1st, 2015. All submissions will be answered by the end of March.

During the reading period, all submissions should be sent as a double-spaced word document in standard manuscript format to Please address the subject line SVC Submission: “Story Title.” Any stories submitted before or after the open reading period will be deleted unread.

To fulfill the promise of the title, we want at least a few adventure romps in which sinewy muscle and cold steel are pitted against the minions of the Great Old Ones. That said, we’d also like some stories combining movement and violence with the existential despair at the heart of Lovecraft’s work. What we want to see is the cerebral cohabitating with rowdy action sequences.

“Action sequence” could, among other things, evoke the spirit of:

  •  The adventures and escapes in The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath
  •  Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted mythos tales, especially the Kull and Bran Mak Morn tales
  • The perils of Jirel of Joiry, C.L. Moore’s proto-Red Sonja
  • Ashitaka’s mounted combat against the demon boar in Princess Mononoke
  • The bloody-handed heroics of Charles Saunders’s Imaro
  • The Clark Ashton Smith school of sword and sorcery (inherited by Jack Vance & Michael Shea)
  • Or that of Fritz Leiber
  • The sword & planet stylings of Leigh Brackett
  • The epic battle sequences from Tolkien or Burroughs (or their film adaptations)
  • The doomed hero standing alone against a greater demon in the Dark Souls video game series
  • or the tight-knit party beset by hordes in the Dragon Age franchise
  • That over-the-top Dungeons and Dragons game you ran when you were thirteen and had just discovered HPL, REH, and the rest of the Weird Tales crew…

These are just a few of the potential interpretations we’re hoping to see represented when we compile our Table of Contents. So long as there’s an action sequence of some sort and a Mythos element, you’ve met the minimum criteria. Stories can be set in any real or imagined setting, so long as melee weapons are the order of the day as opposed to firearms and futuristic technology. Prehistory, historical, fantasy, and science fantastical (you know, like Krull) settings are all fair game. Be aware that historical European settings will be a much harder sell than other eras or locales—we’d like to see a diverse array of landscapes and cultures.

And speaking of diversity, Lovecraftiana—historical and modern—has a somewhat-deserved reputation as being a tentacle club, and a fairly pasty one at that. We would like to see that continue to change, and strongly encourage any and all interested women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and other historical outsiders to the Mythos to submit their fiction. While both of the editors are enthusiastic about Lovecraft’s writing, we are also committed to doing our part to expand the Mythos beyond Lovecraft’s interpretation of who belongs, and in what roles. No matter if your mashup is a cautionary tale, a romance, or a straight-up wish fulfillment fantasy, we want stories that embrace difference, rather than shun or punish it.

Also, while Lovecraft’s work has fallen ambiguously into the public domain, the works of other writers who derived from him have not. To steer clear of rights issues, please reference only the stories of H.P. Lovecraft himself or texts that are unequivocally in the public domain. Do not derive from material appearing only in Howard, Lumley, or Campbell, et al.

Please feel free to ask any relevant questions in the comments below. If you would like to have a better idea of what sorts of tales the editors are looking for, consider picking up copies of Stone Skin Press’s previous anthologies Letters to Lovecraft and Shotguns v. Cthulhu. Best of luck, and we look forward to reading your stories!

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57 comments on “Announcing Swords v. Cthulhu
  1. Michael Mock says:

    Is there a limit on the number of stories that a single author can submit? I doubt it’ll be an issue in my case, but this is an area where several of my interests converge, and I have been known to get carried away…

    • Jesse Bullington says:

      Hi Michael,

      If authors could limit themselves to one story (their best!) we’d be much obliged. Good question, and I’ve updated the guidelines to include it. Thanks for your interest!

  2. Adrian Cole says:

    I have a ripping yarn in mind for you and I was thinking of Romans, Druids, a la BRAN MAK MORN, set on the edge of the Roman Empire, but you’ve hinted in your guide notes that you’d rather writers used a fantastic world than a historical one. I could write the story, but set it in a fantasy world (I’ve done several novels this way) – would you prefer the latter version? Either way it will be a roller coaster.

    • Jesse Bullington says:

      Hi Adrian,

      We can’t really offer advice on individual works in progress, but we’re excited to read whatever you decide on. In general, the best route is to use whatever setting makes for the strongest story. Cheers!

  3. Sophie says:

    Can you clarify the word count please. Is that “up to 5000 words” a hard limit for the story or simply a limit of words that will be paid for? i.e. Would a story of 5500 be accepted but the author only receive payment for the first 5000 words?

    • Jesse Bullington says:

      Hi Sophie,

      Stone Skin Press strongly believes in paying authors for every word they produce, so that is indeed a firm limit on the word count. Thanks for asking, and we hope to see something from you!

  4. Glynn Owen Barrass says:

    If you don’t mind my asking, how many slots are actually available for this open submission?

  5. Robert McGough says:

    I have a story that is set in the 1800s, but no guns are present. It would be more ‘cutless vs cthulhu.’ Does that stray too far from what you are looking for?

    • Jesse Bullington says:

      Hi Robert,

      We can’t say until we’ve read it, but once submissions open up we’d certainly be willing to see if it fits the bill. Thanks!

  6. Craig says:

    Would either August Derleth’s Ithaqua or Frank Belknap Long’s Chaugnar Faugn be considered out-of-bounds? I figured it would be best to ask for clarification… both have been referenced by other mythos authors, including Lovecraft himself in the case of the latter, but better safe than sorry. Thanks!

    PS. Hell, while we’re at it, how ’bout Clark Ashton Smith’s Tsathoggua?

    • Jesse Bullington says:

      Hi Craig,

      As mentioned in the guidelines, please limit yourself to referencing only the entities et al that are clearly in the public domain. Since Swords v. Cthulhu will be jointly published in the US and the UK, that means only those texts created by HPL himself, or works published by other authors prior to 1923. The waters are obviously murky in many instances, but if for no other reason than out of respect to authors like Derleth and Long–and their copyright holders, like Chaosium–stick to those Mythos elements that are definitely fair game.

      When in doubt, do some detective work to make sure you’re okay, or write the estate or copy-holder asking for permission, or invent your own monsters or gods, or settle on something else that is definitely in the public domain. Thanks for asking, and all the best.

  7. Mark M. says:

    I expect content can be mature, but thought I better ask since I don’t see anything mentioned above.
    Even though, technically, I haven’t asked.

    • molly says:

      We’d love to see tales of high adventure featuring older women and men! Long in the tooth doesn’t mean weak in the arm, so go ahead and write about anyone from any age bracket that inspires you.

  8. Jeremy says:

    Hi, I’m considering submitting to this but I am wondering about rights and such (e.g. is it one-time print, will there be a digital version, and so on). If the editors could state what sort of rights they aim to purchase (or point me to where that’s already covered) I would appreciate it. Thanks.

    • Jesse Bullington says:

      Hi Jeremy,

      Stone Skin’s contracts are very writer-friendly; they basically cover industry-standard non-exclusive English world rights. If your story is accepted you’ll of course be able to examine the contract at length before committing.


  9. Sean says:

    Hi, just curious: does the story have to reference the Lovecraftian mythos directly – Cthulhu, Shub-Niggurath and the like – or can we have Great Old One-style creatures of our own creation? How explicit does the Lovecraft connection need to be?

    • molly says:

      There’s no mandate that Cthulhu himself must appear in your story by any means. “Lovecraftian” means many things to many people! If you feel your S&S story is Lovecraftian, whatever that means to you, we’re happy to consider it.

  10. Voss Foster says:

    Hello. It doesn’t say in the guidelines, but is there any sort of confirmation email sent out after submission, to let an author know their submission was received?


    • molly says:

      Nope, since we’ll be getting back to everyone relatively quickly, but if you’re concerned, it looks like yours is in there!

      • Ben Stewart says:

        good to know, I was getting slightly nervous that I’d made a mistake on the email address or that I’d missed something… but a prompt response is much better than a confirmation of receipt in my book

  11. Robert Rappoport says:

    The piece that I will be submitting has the possibility to be read aloud in a Podcast either in its entirety or partially. Would this violate the “no reprints” clause of this anthology?

    • molly says:

      I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking… if you’re concerned if an accepted work can EVER be reprinted, then yes, I believe after 12 months the rights to an accepted work return to the author.

      If you’re asking if a story can be simultaneously submitted to Swords v. Cthulhu AND an audio market, no. If your work is rejected during the SvC open sub period please feel free to submit it, but if it is out with an audio market, that still counts as simultaneous submission. Thanks!

  12. Leah says:

    Ghaaaaa a reference to a living author’s critters/crossover to that universe is most likely off-limits then, if I’m interpreting correctly?

    • Jesse Bullington says:

      Hi Leah,

      Generally speaking, unless you have express permission to use another living author’s intellectual property then you shouldn’t. US copyright law allows exceptions for obvious parody, but I seem to recall the UK not having the same protections for parody, and since Stone Skin is a UK press and this book will be released on both sides of the pond, it’s safest to avoid the problem all together. Thanks for your interest, and hope this helps!


  13. James Battaglia says:

    Is Steampunk okay?

    • molly says:

      Sure, as long as there’s a Mythos element, an action sequence, and melee weapons carry the day. See the full guidelines above to get a good idea of what we’re looking for!

  14. Brian McNatt says:

    I was wondering, aside from the specifics given, should we assume submission guidelines are the same as normally listed on the site? That is, in the body of the email we include a brief synopsis of the story?

    • Jesse Bullington says:

      Hi Brian,

      This post contains the complete submission guidelines for the project. No need for a plot synopsis in your email, or anything else not expressly listed above. Thanks for your interest!

  15. Jen says:

    Just checking real quick–with a deadline of March 1st, do you mean it must be sent by 11:59PM on February 28th, or that it must be sent by 11:59PM on March 1st?

  16. Leah says:

    Okay, before I wrap this thing up with a bow and send it your way, I suppose I’d better check how explicit or graphic would you prefer any love scenes to be? Is this geared towards an all-ages audience, or NC-17?

  17. Andrew says:

    At what haunted hour may we last submit? Is the deadline late on Saturday or Sunday?

    • molly says:

      Howzabout Monday morning, ghost-time? Meaning, America-time.

      • Kevin says:

        Ak! I only just discovered this. I’ve had an idea I’ve been kicking around in my head for six months now that I think would be perfect. Bless you for “Monday morning . . . America time.” I think I might be able to type this up if I work all weekend.

  18. Marco Subias says:


    I’m just checking to make sure that you got my submission for this anthology. I sent it in a week or so ago.


    Marco Subias

  19. Carlos says:

    Hi, I just sent the submission, but now I noticed I forgot to format for double-space between lines. Should I send a new e-mail with the proper spacing? Or would it just confuse things?

  20. Damien Kelly says:

    Submitted, for good or ill, hopefully without hitch. Thanks for the opportunity.

  21. Steve says:

    When you say March 1st, do you midnight, US time on March the 1st, or the same time on February 28th?

  22. Brian Dolton says:

    Submission sent, just creeping in under the wire I hope! Fingers now crossed…

  23. Jesse Bullington says:


    We hope all of you 13th hour submitters made good use of the weekend’s grace period, and Molly and I are greatly looking forward to reading everybody’s stories. You should hear something from us by the end of March, but due to the high volume of submissions we may hold your story a teeny bit longer if it makes it to the final round. Thanks for writing, and Ia! Ia!

  24. Pete Alex Harris says:

    Uh… have all the responses gone out yet? I haven’t heard anything.

    • Jesse Bullington says:

      Due to the unexpectedly high volume of submissions, we were not able to reply to all of the contributors by our target date of March 31st. We will respond to all submissions by the end of April, if not sooner, and apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause. Thank you all for submitting, and more soon…

  25. Peter Hentges says:

    Not to rush you folks, but you mentioned all submissions would be answered by the end of March. Haven’t heard anything, so was just wondering if everything was on schedule.

    • Jesse Bullington says:

      Due to the unexpectedly high volume of submissions, we were not able to reply to all of the contributors by our target date of March 31st. We will respond to all submissions by the end of April, if not sooner, and apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause. Thank you all for submitting, and more soon…

      • Peter Hentges says:

        Totally understandable. Great that you guys are getting so many submissions and I know that will make the final decisions that much harder.

4 Pings/Trackbacks for "Announcing Swords v. Cthulhu"
  1. […] full guidelines are here, on the Stone Skin Press site. Go forth—sally forth, even—and write us a tale of high adventure (and depressing […]

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