Here is my first post on the various stories included in Cthulhu’s Dark Cults. This post focuses on “Captains of Industry”, an opening novella by John Goodrich.
John lives in the Green Mountains of Vermont, which he calls “the last remnant of true Lovecraft country”. He has published several Cthulhu Mythos stories, all of which reflect some aspect of his unsavory life-style. When not writing or reading tales of madness and horror, he divides his time between hepatomancy, fencing, Facebook, and an obsessive regimen of feline grooming. He regularly gets Honourable Mentions from Ellen Datlow in her Year's Best Horror summations. An exciting new voice in the Cthulhu Mythos sub-genre of horror, he's appeared in the anthologies Cthulhu Unbound 1, Tales Out of Miskatonic University, R'lyeh Rising and Arkham Tales.
I asked John to provide me with some information on his story, which is set in Boston, Massachusetts and features the Hermetic Order of the Silver Twilight from the first Call of Cthulhu role-playing game campaign, Shadows of Yog-Sothoth. In his tale union members of a washing machine manufacturing company wanting better work conditions, and so are forced to go up against a private detective agent in the pay of the company owner. The owner in turn is backed by a more sinister organisation.
John said about his story, “one of the major inspirations for “Captains of Industry” is the fiction of Robert Howard, specifically, his dichotomy between barbarism and civilization. For Howard, barbarian meant freedom, as opposed to the lockstep knuckling under required by civilization, and I wanted to explore those themes for myself.
“Just before writing this story, I had spent six months working in factories. I realized that it didn’t matter who you were when you worked on the line. You could be strong as a bear, swift as a panther, or as brilliant as Steven Hawking; to the guys upstairs, you were just a cog in the machine. I decided to write a story in which Conan was forced to get a factory job to feed his family, and the character of János was born. At the same time, I learned that my government was torturing people at Camp X-Ray, and the story came together.
“The story is intended to feel like a twenties-era Socialist protest story, in the tradition of Jack London and Upton Sinclair, while (hopefully) maintaining its readability for a modern audience.”
An extract from the story follows:
CAPTAINS OF INDUSTRY
Boston, Massachusetts, United States, 1921
The strikebreakers formed a grim skirmish line opposite the strikers. Whatever the color of their greatcoats, they looked grey against the gently falling Boston snow. Among the union men, an uneasy current of conversation sprang up, muffled by fear and snow. They held the bottleneck, the defensive ground just inside the black, wrought iron gates of Emerson’s washing machine factory. To break the line, or even get to the factory, the strikebreakers would have to physically smash their way through the striking workers.
“Come away.” Dimitri’s insistent hands plucked ineffectually at the threadbare cuffs of János’s woolen overcoat. “The strike is over.”
János looked down at the narrow shape at his elbow. Dimitri’s mouth was full of rotten teeth, and his small, delicate hands would not be much use in the battle with the strikebreakers. The pipestem Russian read books aloud on the factory floor, to keep the workers somewhat entertained. He had been a good friend to János, even if their countries had fought in the last war. There was something somehow refined about the small Russian, but János couldn’t say how the impression had wormed its way into his brain. While Dimitri had been a great supporter of the union and the strike, the fight with the strikebreakers was not going to be something he should be involved in. János placed a powerful, calloused hand on the Russian’s smaller one in a gesture meant to reassure his fellow striker.
“I owe it to the union. But you should go.”
“Little brother, they are from the Agency. They had coal miners hanged in Pennsylvania, and burned women and children who were hiding from their machine gun bullets in Colorado.” His clutch on János’s coat was hard with desperate strength. János watched the easy, familiar way that the strikebreakers held their long truncheons.
“It is 1921. Emerson cannot simply hire a gang of thugs to beat us into submission in the streets.” János knew how hollow his words sounded.
“You will get your head knocked in.” Dimitri’s voice was hard and angry, but it did not make him any less right. The Agency men weren’t here just to break the strike; they were here to break heads. Where anger had failed, Dimitri began to wheedle. “Who will look after your wife and beautiful baby?”
János’s face clouded, and he gave the little man a hard shove.
“Run while you can, Dimitri. This will get bad.”