ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease is not known for having a high survival rate beyond a certain number of years after the diagnosis, so when word spread that Rocky had been diagnosed, we knew that one day we would have to face the reality that he would be taken from us unexpectedly and shockingly. Just because we knew the day was coming, that did nothing to prepare us for its arrival.
In spite of his numerous daily challenges, Rocky put up a hell of a fight against ALS, and although he sadly succumbed to its complications, the way that he conducted himself was a testament to the enduring power of the human spirit. Not a single person would have blamed him if he chose to lead a quieter life.
But he soldiered on day after day and under his HWA administration he made some of the biggest, most positive changes that the HWA had seen in years. The HWA and the horror genre in general have always had a bad rap. Let’s just say you don’t have to do dig too deep to find online posts from embittered and disenfranchised horror authors bashing the HWA.
He did more to change perceptions about the horror genre and horror authors than anyone I know, and it was both an honour and a privilege to work with Rocky and to say hello to him at past World Horror conventions.
Under his leadership, the HWA instituted several programs including a scholarship, YA and library promotions, an annual Halloween Haunts series of blog posts from HWA authors, and many more efforts that brought in many more members to the organization.
I can’t count the number of intelligent, well-argued interviews he gave that highlighted the ghettoization of the horror genre and what the HWA was doing to change that.
I worked alongside Rocky and HWA vice-president Lisa Morton as the HWA’s social media coordinator, which included two World Horror conventions spreading the word and generating interest before the events.
Note: I am not saying the following to brag, boast, or otherwise promote myself, but rather to highlight how gracious and generous Rocky was: I was honoured when Rocky let me know my work impressed him. He was such an absolute pleasure and joy to work with, and his strong work ethic never wavered even in the face of his challenges.
In New Orleans at the 2013 World Horror Convention, I was on a panel moderating a discussion on social media promotions for authors. Rocky attended this, and although that made me a touch nervous, it also filled me with a sense of honour that he chose to be present–not because it was an ego boost. That’s not what it was about at all.
It filled me with honour because he was so generous with his support. He didn’t have to be there. He could have gone to any of the other panels and activities going on at that time. He could have used that time to rest in his hotel room. He could have been anywhere else for that panel’s time slot, but it meant the world to me that he was there. I can only hope that he enjoyed the panel.
For what it’s worth I cannot begin to imagine how difficult his circumstances were day in and day out. One of the best ways you can help Rocky’s family is by buying his books. He was one of the most foremost, if not the foremost experts on Stephen King in the world.
To say that Rocky Wood will be sorely missed doesn’t do justice to the great man that he was. Anyone involved in the horror genre owes him a great debt of gratitude, and those to come in the horror genre will owe him the same debt. His work and all its effects will continue to be felt for years to come in the horror community.