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Horror in Ancient Times


by Craig Shaw Gardner, HWA’s fourth President, served from 1990 to 1992

I spent two years each as president of HWA and president of the HWA board of trustees. Twenty-plus years later, some of these events tend to run together, but I thought I’d give a brief rundown of what we did, and were trying to do, way back then.

HWA had been the brainchild of a number of big name horror writers, who then turned the reigns over to Charlie Grant, who really got the organization up and running. The next president was Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, and the folks who were trying to establish the organization as a viable, long-term organization, were looking around for her replacement—someone with organizational skills and a recognizable name within the industry. So they asked me—I had written a fair amount of horror short fiction (since collected in A Cold Wind in July), but was better known for my humorous fantasy and my bestselling media tie-in to the first Batman film. And hey, I had been interviewed by a half dozen media outfits and had even appeared on the Today show. I was also a close friend of Charlie’s, and was honored to be chosen for the position. (Back in the early days of HWA, we would be lucky to find enough people to volunteer to run the basic business of the organization. Actual contested elections had to wait for the rise of the internet.)

So what happened on my watch? HWA grew into a more stable organization, with well-attended meetings in New York and fabulous Redondo Beach, CA, both of which involved a great deal of leg-work by everyone (especially secretary Cheryl Sayer, aka Tamara Thorne) and a great many phone calls by me when our original main speaker in California was unable to fulfill his duties (and great thanks to Clive Barker, who filled in admirably.) We came up with a basic health care program (thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Thomas Smith), changed our name from Horror Writers of America to the more universal Horror Writers Association, and spent a good part of our budget on printing and postage (Kathy Ptacek was already editing the newsletter, but an awful lot of stamping and sealing of Stoker ballots was performed by yours truly). The first horror community rose up online thanks to the GEnie bulletin board, and we all got to experience our first flame wars. But most business was still conducted by phone, and I would get regular late night calls from Certain Famous Horror Authors who didn’t want to be directly involved in the organization, but were helpful in other ways. I also had a tremendous group of fellow writers who gave great amounts of time as officers and committee members.

I passed the presidency on to others. HWA and the horror field in general had since had their good times and their bad times. I watched more recent administrations completely reinvent some of the stuff we had done—a side-effect of a writers’ organization run almost entirely by volunteers—but whether I’ve agreed with their decisions or not, I’m happy to see HWA still alive, and still helpful to all its many members, past and present.

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