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Taking Submissions: Hell’s Empire

February 1, 2018

Deadline: February 1st, 2018
Payment: 1 cent/word, to a maximum of $50,

The infernal fires have begun to burn, and the Enochian writing is on the wall. Yes, we’re at the starting line for the forthcoming anthology, Hell’s Empire, to be published by UltharPress and edited by John Linwood Grant. So here are all the details you need…

hell's empire

If you want the general submission details, skip down to the Technical Details for Hell’s Empire part at the bottom of this post. If you want to submit, you’ll need to read the rest.

HELL’S EMPIRE from Ulthar Press


These guidelines are detailed, so please read them carefully. Within the framework, there is room for a wealth of stories, from tales of very personal challenge and loss or triumph, through subtle occult ventures, to large scale slaughter. Technical details and requirements are give on the last page. If there is a role model for the anthology, then it is basically H G Well’s ‘War of the Worlds’. A more occult version of that. We can set a few basics first:

  • Hell’s Empire is set firmly in the real Britain and /or Ireland of the 1890s.
  • We are not looking for Lovecraftian Mythos, steampunk or alternate dimensions. Sorry.
  • The British Empire is not prepared for the Incursion, and in its early stages the Incursion might not even be recognised for what it is.
  • Military and civilian technology levels are exactly what they were in the 1890s.

If you prefer to pitch an outline idea before investing a lot of writing time, you are welcome to do so. Send your outline to the email address at the bottom, subject line: Hell’s Empire/Pitch.


a) The Incursion

The simplest part. At some unspecified point in the 1890s, the forces of Hell invade Britain. And there you have it. The Incursion includes:

  • subtle attempts to undermine or demoralise the British;
  • lone demonic appearances in unexpected places;
  • strikes at key places and organisations;
  • seemingly random acts of terror and destruction, and/or
  • outbreaks of direct combat between Infernal and Victorian forces.

b) The Physical Setting

Anywhere in Victorian Britain or its coastal waters. The Incursion occurs there, and we’re not looking at stories set anywhere else in the Empire. It is also possible to set a story in some infernal ‘circle’, where directly relevant to the Incursion, but this will be harder. Pitch first if unsure.

cThe Two Empires

The British Empire’s far-flung and over-stretched nature is one of the reasons why Britain may be vulnerable. Queen Victoria is not a character in the book, except for possibly distant glimpses, second-hand rumours, and anything the editor or the anchor writers use in their framing text.

The Infernal Empire is an unknown which may be both chaotic and cruelly logical at the same time. Aspects of Hell and its peoples will be seen only through human eyes, and may therefore be completely false. As with Queen Victoria, the Infernal Prince Himself is not a character in the book, except for rumours, and anything the editor or the anchor writers use in their framing text.

d) Human Protagonists

Human protagonists may be from any class or station, civilian or military. It would be preferable to have a range of quite different protagonists, including diversity in gender, social station, normal role in society, and so on. ‘Stiff upper lip’ military men may well occur, but we don’t want them to swamp the anthology. Here are just a few throwaway protagonist ideas to encourage you:

  • The country vicar’s wife
  • The factory worker (male or female)
  • The veteran Army sergeant
  • The charitable woman of ‘good breeding’
  • The Muslim Indian, working or visiting
  • The policeman’s mother
  • The journalist (male or female)
  • The visiting American businessman
  • The harbour-master
  • The sceptical rabbi
  • The shopkeeper (male or female)
  • The naval officer
  • The occult scholar or antiquarian (m or f)

eThe Infernal Hordes

Demons and demonic forces can vary from brutal foot-soldiers to complex, highly rational horrors from the Infernal Circles. Their motivations may be fear of their masters and mistresses, or subtle personal gain from the situation. There can be nuance to the demons – they don’t need to be simply unthinking monsters. In Wells and War of the Worlds, the Martians have internally consistent reasons for their actions, even the genocide. We would prefer to see that reflected in some aspects of the enemy.

hell's empire

Given the context, we expect that most demons will be based on genuine sources – Judaeo-Christian (including Dante, Milton etc) as well as Mesopotamian religions and mythologies etc (e.g. Sumerian, Babylonian). There’s a useful Wikipedia page with a list of theological demons which could be a good starting point. Classic demons, in other words – again, no Lovecraftian horrors, please. Attempting to write from the point of view of an infernal character is possible and we would be interested in seeing that tried. It may be harder, and if in doubt, feel free to check with the editor.

fReligion and the Occult

Some responses to the Incursion in Hell’s Empire will be from the People of the Book and related churches, sects and movements of Britain at the time. Christian mainstream and mysticism, Jewish Kabbalah and Islamic mysticism are all valid. If a rabbi sees his neighbours having their heads pulled off or their minds scrambled, he’s not likely to sit back and say ‘Nothing to do with me’.

A second set of responses will be from ‘magicians’, esoteric scholars, John Dee and pre-Crowley types (by the mid-1890s, the Golden Dawn was well established in Great Britain), pagans and others. These may have a go at responding to the threat – or welcoming it. They may also be pressed or coerced into service by the British Empire, in desperation. Maybe some of them suspected this was coming.

You can be literal, and take this as an invasion by a real Hell. Or people in your story might argue that this cannot be Hell, rather a construct of the shared Christian conscious – a mass ‘guilt trip’ brought into reality. Characters might construct a theory of complex occult influences masquerading in a form relevant to the mass of the population. Bad things will still happen.

Religious and occult methods for protection or fighting back will be used. Some may not work. We would expect some religious, literary or historical basis for these, not just shouting pretend magic and rhyming nonsense at a demon with a twenty foot skewer. Augmentation of mundane weapons, and the use of various folklore, temple or church beliefs and rituals, are all sound, and will probably be essential. Enochian magick will come up at some point.

g) The Military Response

Note, from above, that the main forces of the British Empire are busy elsewhere, and that the incursion was largely unexpected. Forces to hand would therefore be the Volunteer Force, Cadet Corps, Yeomanry (light cavalry) and regimental HQ staff, reserves etc. Limited number of artillery batteries. These would be depleted from sending reinforcements to conflicts overseas for years.

So there will be no full-strength mainline regiments charging across Suffolk. The police would be a mainstay, with local constabulary, mounted police and detective forces all pressed into use, as would coastal naval forces and reserves. The RN probably would have front line units of the Channel Fleet, so there is the possibility of seeing professional sailors and marines, who would in the 1890s be accustomed to disembarking and fighting ashore and fighting alongside the army – eg. the machine gun (Gardner Gun) team at the Battle of Abu Klea. So there may be small groups of bluejackets available to shore up local levies.

Aerial response would be limited to what you can do with rockets and balloons. No armoured airships. Bear in mind that a lot of the weapons are going to be older generation technology. In the 1890s, even at the end of the decade, the majority of rifles are going to be the Martini-Henry, which will mean cartridge extraction problems and sticking breechblocks, black powder smoke in abundance. There will be breechloading artillery pieces, but a lot of rifled muzzle-loaders too – difficult and clunky to operate and not very good rate of fire.

The blunt force effectiveness of weapons will apply, but without any kind of mystical or religious enhancement, they will damage and slow down, but not always kill or destroy. A Martini Henry shot could knock a man-sized demon down, an artillery round would scatter a knot of them, maybe mangle the odd limb etc, but some may still rise. Hence the need for religious and occult support.


h) Terminology

We don’t want lots of laboured and archaic speech, or an excess of Cockney chimney-sweeps and ridiculously posh-talking nobility. Moderate and appropriate use of contractions and period slang, cant and vernacular, please.

Terminology for demons, devils, spirits, fallen angels, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan and all the rest can and may vary from story to story, according to the views of the narrator or protagonist. As mentioned, names from classical demonology would be a sound choice.

i) The Stories

Anchor stories at either end will be provided by Matt Willis and Charles Rutledge. Everything in between from the start of the Incursion is fair game. Simple rules apply, drawing on all the above:

  1. Stories can range from a rousing local victory to a tragic loss (as humans see it).
  2. You can suggest a breakthrough or specific solution to a demonic problem, but not guarantee one that will always work.
  3. Do not use Queen Victoria or the Infernal Prince as a character.
  4. Do not destroy London (you can seriously damage parts of it, though).


Submissions are open from 25th October 2017 to 1st February 2018 inclusive.

Around 5000 words is the sweet spot; 3500 – 4000 is OK. Anything much more than 5000 words may work if you have a great idea for a tale, but this is best queried with the editor first.

Please submit as a standard double-spaced document in a common file form, either doc or rtf, with your name, email address and title at the top of the document. This is so we can match submissions to submission emails if they get separated.

Headers and footers are not required. Italics for italics. No fancy fonts. Submit in Calibre or Times New Roman font at 12 point size. No lines between paragraphs. Do NOT use formatting programs for indents. Please use Tabs. One space after periods.

Emails should have Hell’s Empire/Your Name/Story Title in the subject line. The story should be an attached document, not embedded in your email. Please include in your email the briefest covering details:

  • The name under which you write
  • Full title of your story and final word count
  • No more than a couple of lines about you or your writing credits.

We don’t read anything longer, as your story is what you’ll be judged on. Send completed submissions (and pitches) to:

[email protected]

General updates will be posted in the Imperial Weird Facebook Group and here. We will acknowledge receipt, and will do some reading during the submission period, but do not expect final responses until February 2018.


Payment will be 1 cent/word, to a maximum of $50, made upon publication.


It was perfectly possible in 1890s Britain to be active and respected whilst being a feminist, being black, being gay or being restricted in physical ability (as just a few examples). Don’t limit the scope of your characters’ personal nature, situation or views. Whilst limited discrimination may occasionally be relevant in context of the period in order to reflect character experiences, casual sexism and racism etc. will not be accepted.

John Linwood Grant, with Charles R Rutledge & Matt Willis, on behalf of Ulthar Press

Via: Grey Dog Tales.


February 1, 2018