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Laird Barron

(1970- )
Laird Barron was born in Alaska, where he raised and trained huskies for many years. He moved to the Pacific Northwest in the mid 90s and began to concentrate on writing poetry and fiction. His award-nominated work has appeared in Sci Fiction, the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and has been reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Year’s Best Fantasy 6 and Best New Fantasy: 2005. Mr. Barron currently resides in Olympia, Washington and is hard at work on many projects, including a novel. Learn more at LairdBarron’s website.

Occultation and Other Stories: A horror collection

Occultation and Other Stories by Laird Barron

According to Webster’s, “occultation” means “the state of being hidden from view or lost to notice” or “the shutting off of the light of one celestial body by the intervention of another; esp: an eclipse of a star or planet by the moon.”  Both definitions seem appropriate to Laird Barron’s collection, Occultation and Other Stories, the latter as metaphor, because Barron can scare you as much with what remains hidden in his stories as with what he drags from the shadows and exposes to your horrified view. This second collection by this relatively new horror writer builds on the promise of The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, and makes it clear why no “year’s best” gets issued these days without at least one piece by Barron in it.

“Strappado,” for instance, is one of the most frightening stories I’ve ever r... Read More

Magazine Monday: Phantasmagorium #2

It took an act of faith for me to read the new issue of Phantasmagorium – the second in its run. The first quarterly issue, published in October 2011, was disappointing despite its lovely cover photograph, which suggests an angel taking flesh from a stone sculpture. A few stories were well-written, but not particularly original or frightening:  Scott Nicolay’s “Alligators,” Simon Strantzas’s “Strong as a Rock” and Stephen Graham Jones’s “No Takebacks.” They were overwhelmed by the inexplicable “Cardoons!” by Anna Tambour, a humorous fantasy story about dragons made soft by modern living, and the incoherent “And this is where I go down into the darkness,” a lengthy, stream-of-consciousness tribute to Thomas Ligotti by Joseph Pulver. Genevieve Valentine’s “Bufonidae,” good as it is, was not sufficient to save t... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nightmare, Inaugural Issue

The magazine isn't horrible; it's in the horror genre.  Perhaps reading about a great magazine -- and then reading the magazine itself -- will make your Monday more bearable!

John Joseph Adams, editor of the well-regarded science fiction and fantasy e-journal, Lightspeed, as well as numerous excellent anthologies, has launched a new horror e-zine, Nightmare. It will feature two reprint stories along with two original stories each month, along with in-depth interviews, short interviews with each author whose story is featured in the issue, and non-fiction discussions about writing and reading horror.

The first issue is out today, and it is terrific. I’m an early subscriber and a Kickstarter supporter of the project, so this is good news for me, but I’m... Read More

Magazine Monday: Nightmare, June 2013

Issue 9 of Nightmare opens with “The House on Cobb Street” by Lynda E. Rucker. There is a long italicized quotation from a purported learned treatise about the house at the top of the story, reciting the history of so-called Cobb Street Horror, but noting that the witnesses have refused to speak to the author. Another italicized segment comes from the blog of Perry “Pear Tree” Parry, referring to a video of Felicia Barrow, speaking of Vivian Crane, who has disappeared. The entire story has the aura of a scholarly piece, even when, the reader’s curiosity piqued, the story proper finally begins with the ominous words, “Vivian wakes.” Vivian can hear the house around her as if it is a living entity, and she believes it is preparing itself, as a cat stalking its prey readies its muscles for the pounce. Vivian is a college professor, teaching Faulkner while living in a haunted house, one she knew was haunted from the moment she entere... Read More

Magazine Monday: Primeval: A Journal of the Uncanny, Issue One

The first issue of Primeval: A Journal of the Uncanny, wasn’t what I expected. I thought I was getting a magazine featuring horror stories and essays about horror. Primeval’s self-description on its website didn’t lead me to expect anything different, poetically explaining that it is a publication that examines “the convergence of contemporary anxiety and ancient impulse.” Sounds very Lovecraftian, doesn’t it? The website also promises that each issue will feature “fiction and essays exploring horror, the macabre, and that which should not be — yet is.” And yet, as much as I enjoy fiction that falls into that vast category known as “the Weird,” I found that Primeval offered more incomprehensibility than horror, work that was more odd than Weird.

One exception is a reprint of Harlan Ellison’s “Basi... Read More

Supernatural Noir: A Datlow anthology

Supernatural Noir edited by Ellen Datlow

Ellen Datlow suggests in her introduction to Supernatural Noir that noir fiction and supernatural fiction, with its roots in the gothic, have a lot in common. The main character in each tends to be a hard-living guy, usually down to his last flask of scotch, haunted by a sexy dame whose middle name is trouble. So it seemed natural to her to combine the two genres for an original anthology.

Despite my general rule that any anthology edited by Ellen Datlow is one I want to read, I resisted this one for a long time. Detectives looking for ghosts? Eh. Not my thing. But when Supernatural Noir was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award, and... Read More

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories

The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

I haven’t actually read every page of The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, yet I’m giving it my highest recommendation. Edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Master and Mistress of Weird, The Weird is 1126 pages long and should really be considered a textbook of weird fiction. It contains 110 carefully chosen stories spanning more than 100 years of weird fiction. Here’s what you can expect to find in this massive volume:

A “Forweird” by Michael Moorcock gives us a brief history of the weird tale, discusses how it has defied publishers’ attempts to categorize it into neatly-bordered genres, and gives examples of writers who are revered by modern readers but whose weird fiction caused them to be ma... Read More

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Four edited by Ellen Datlow

Anything Ellen Datlow edits automatically finds a place on my list of books to read. For many years, this included the excellent anthology series The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, which Datlow coedited with Terri Windling. When that series disappeared, much to the dismay of fans of short fiction everywhere, Datlow undertook to publish The Year’s Best Horror, which has been published by the terrific smaller press, Night Shade Books, for the past four years. This year’s volume, the fourth, is chock full of memorable stories certain to keep you up at night.
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The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: For a dose of crazy genius

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination edited by John Joseph Adams

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination is the latest themed anthology edited by John Joseph Adams — and it’s another good one. This time, Adams has collected a set of short stories featuring the hero’s (or often superhero’s) traditional antagonist: the mad genius, the super-villain, the brilliant sociopath who wants to remold the world in his own image — or occasionally, maybe, just be left alone in his secret lair to conduct spine-tingling experiments that, as an unfortunate side-effect, may cause drastically rearranged geography, rampant mutation, or major extinction events.

Under the editorial direction of John Joseph Adams, this anthology offers an impressively varied view on this archetypical character. Some stories refer back to mad geniuses you’ll be familiar with (Frankenstein, Lex Luthor). Some of them feature ... Read More

Cthuthlu Fhtagn!: Variety is the spice of the Elder Gods

Cthuthlu Fhtagn! edited by Ross Lockhart

Usually, I shy away from reviewing books whose name I can’t pronounce. Since this title is in the language of the Elder Gods, though, it’s probably better that I can’t pronounce it. Aklo, H.P. Lovecraft’s mystical language, was never meant for human voices to speak anyway, as editor Ross Lockhart explains in his introduction. Lockhart also informs us that the meaning of “Fhtagn” was given to him in a dream (presumably by the Old Ones) and it means “house.” Anyway, Cthuhlu Fhtagn! is the third Cthulhu-themed anthology Word Horde has done, and Lockhart is now getting mystical information while he sleeps… I’d keep an eye on him, if I were you.

Cthulhu Fhtagn!
has 19 stories. Many, but not all, do involve buildings; al... Read More

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror edited by Ellen Datlow

This anthology comes after a similarly titled anthology, also edited by Ellen Datlow, called Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror which came out in March 2010. Datlow also edits an annual anthology of horror fiction (collaborating with other editors on those). It seems then that Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror (which came out in October 2016) is informed by a great deal of knowledge in the field of speculative horror literature. I am not generally a horror reader, but I still thoroughly enjoyed many tales in this anthology for their engaging storytelling and terrifying themes. What follows is a brief review of each of the 25 tales, in the order which they appear.

“Shallaballah” by Mark Samuels is a story about th... Read More

More horror by Laird Barron

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Imago Sequence and Other Stories — (2007) To the long tradition of eldritch horror pioneered and refined by writers such as H.P. Lovecraft, Peter Straub, and Thomas Ligotti, comes Laird Barron, an author whose literary voice invokes the grotesque, the devilish, and the perverse with rare intensity and astonishing craftsmanship. Collected here for the first time are nine terrifying tales of cosmic horror, including the World Fantasy Award-nominated novella “The Imago Sequence,” the International Horror Guild Award-nominated “Proboscis,” and the never-before published “Procession of the Black Sloth.” Together, these stories, each a masterstroke of craft and imaginative irony, form a shocking cycle of distorted evolution, encroaching chaos, and ravenous insectoid hive-minds hidden just beneath the seemingly benign surface of the Earth.

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Croning — (2012) Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us. Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly eighty years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret… of The Croning. From Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Imago Sequence and Occultation, comes The Croning, a debut novel of cosmic horror.

fantasy and science fiction book reviews

The Light Is The Darkness — (2012) Conrad Navarro is a champion of the Pageant, a gruesome modern day gladiatorial exhibition held in secret arenas across the globe. Indentured by a cabal of ultra-rich patrons, his world is one of blood and mayhem, an existence where savagery reigns supreme while mercy leads to annihilation. Conrad’s sister has vanished while traveling in Mexico. Imogene, a decorated special agent for the FBI, was hot on the trail of a legendary scientist whose vile eugenics experiments landed him on an international most-wanted list. Imogene left behind a sequence of bizarre clues that indicate she uncovered evidence of a Byzantine occult conspiracy against civilization itself — a threat so vast and terrible, its ultimate fruition would herald an event more inimical to all terrestrial life than mere extinction. Now, Conrad is on the hunt, searching for his missing sister while malign forces seek to manipulate and destroy him by turns. It is an odyssey that will send this man of war from the lush jungles of South America, to the debauched court of an Aegean Prince, to the blasted moonscape of the American desert as he becomes inexorably enmeshed within a web of primordial evil that stretches back unto prehistory. All the while struggling to maintain a vestige of humanity; for Conrad has gazed into an abyss where the light is the darkness, and he has begun the metamorphosis into something more than human

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All — (2013) Publisher: Over the course of two award-winning collections and a critically acclaimed novel, The Croning, Laird Barron has arisen as one of the strongest and most original literary voices in modern horror and the dark fantastic. Melding supernatural horror with hardboiled noir, espionage, and a scientific backbone, Barron’s stories have garnered critical acclaim and have been reprinted in numerous year’s best anthologies and nominated for multiple awards, including the Crawford, International Horror Guild, Shirley Jackson, Theodore Sturgeon, and World Fantasy awards. Barron returns with his third collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All. Collecting interlinking tales of sublime cosmic horror, including “Blackwood’s Baby,” “The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven,” and “The Men from Porlock,” The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All delivers enough spine-chilling horror to satisfy even the most jaded reader.