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Laird Barron Has Emerged As One Of The Strongest Voices In Modern Horror And Dark Fantasy Fiction, Building On The Eldritch Tradition Pioneered By Writers Such As H P Lovecraft, Peter Straub, And Thomas Ligotti His Stories Have Garnered Critical Acclaim And 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 His Debut Collection, The Imago Sequence And Other Stories, Was The Inaugural Winner Of The Shirley Jackson AwardHe Returns With His Second Collection, Occultation Pitting Ordinary Men And Women Against A Carnivorous, Chaotic Cosmos, Occultation S Eight Tales Of Terror Two Never Before Published Include The Theodore Sturgeon And Shirley Jackson Award Nominated Story The Forest And Shirley Jackson Award Nominee The Lagerstatte Featuring An Introduction By Michael Shea, Occultation Brings Of The Spine Chillingly Sublime Cosmic Horror Laird Barron S Fans Have Come To ExpectSkyhorse Publishing, Under Our Night Shade And Talos Imprints, Is Proud To Publish A Broad Range Of Titles For Readers Interested In Science Fiction Space Opera, Time Travel, Hard SF, Alien Invasion, Near Future Dystopia , Fantasy Grimdark, Sword And Sorcery, Contemporary Urban Fantasy, Steampunk, Alternative History , And Horror Zombies, Vampires, And The Occult And Supernatural , And Much While Not Every Title We Publish Becomes A New York Times Bestseller, A National Bestseller, Or A Hugo Or Nebula Award Winner, We Are Committed To Publishing Quality Books From A Diverse Group Of Authors

10 thoughts on “Occultation and Other Stories

  1. says:

    Laird Barron is not just a horror writer, he is a writer, someone whose gifts extend beyond the customary limits of the genre As a consequence, he must be held to a higher standard, and, when he is, I believe he falls a little short of the mark Although Barron s style is filled with memorable images, the sonority and rhythms of his prose are severely limited surprising for a poet and particularly impoverished in their musical effects His characters, no matter how painstakingly fashioned, have little inner reality even his most lifelike creations the he man protagonists are difficult to distinguish from one another, and the rest the damaged women, the uneasy gay men, the affluent euro trash are little than masks, mere engines to propel his plots in motion He is much better at setting than he is at character, but even here he is limited, excellent at evoking the outdoors wilderness areas, small isolated forests, a half built hotel in the middle of a jungle but mediocre at interiors The Broadsword, featuring an aging apartment building, is a remarkable and impressive exception He is good at suspense, superb with visceral horror eyes turned to jelly, flesh ripped from flesh and excels at disconcerting the reader, particularly in those eternal seconds when the rift in reality occurs, when life as we know it begins to buckle, right before it completely implodes It seems to me, however, that the disorienting details Barron chooses in order to evoke such moments are often so fragmentary, so elliptical, that the resulting perturbation of the psyche does not lead to genuine metaphysical terror, but instead brings us immediately back to visceral horror, as flesh begins separating from agonized flesh once again.I may be too harsh, for Barron uses his defects as all true artists should in the service of a consistent vision Our world is a harsh, unmusical wilderness Barron seems to say and human personality is a mere fiction, a mask concealing a frail body and a frailer consciousness, both equally powerless over pain When pain becomes intense, however, it may suggest another reality beyond this sham and suffering, but it is a reality that is chaotic, merciless and malevolent, a reality that relishes and feeds upon our most visceral pain.Perhaps it is this vision that bothers me most about Barron One of the reasons I read fantasy and weird fiction is that they expand my metaphysical horizon, making my world richer and varied than before When I read Barron, however, my horizon contracts There is a lot of horror, and it is very well done, but it is a small enclosed space, and there is not much room for terror here.Still, all these stories are good, and a few of them are unforgettable I think the short piece Strappado is the finest, perhaps because it concentrates on absolute horror, not even aspiring to metaphysical terror, but the novella length Mysterium Tremendum and The Broadsword are both artfully sustained and extremely powerful.

  2. says:

    Occultation and Other Stories is a collection of nine short stories by Laird Barron.My quest to devour all of Laird Barron s works by the end of 2017 continues with this book, Occulation As befits a Shirley Jacks award winner, this is something to behold.While I m reading Barron s works in the order I come across them, for the most part, I m beginning to recognize all the Barronoid themes isolation, loss, and helplessness Barron s Earth, all but overrun by the cosmic horrors that are the Children of Old Leech, is a very richly built world I normally hate the term world building but Barron constructs quite a place brick by brick with his short stories The dohlmen on Mystery Mountain, the Children of Old Leech, and even the Broadsword Hotel are touched upon in stories in other collections, as well as The Croning.Like all short story collections, I liked some stories than others but I wouldn t say any were duds The Broadsword and The Lagerstatte were great and Mysterium Tremendum was the best story I ve read so far in 2017.Barron s writing reminds me of Raymond Chandler s quite a bit, although there s some Jim Thompson and HP Lovecraft in there as well Barron s so at home with the noir style that I ve already pre ordered Blood Standard , his 2018 detective novel.I feel like I m repeating myself but time is a loop Laird Barron is not to be missed by horror fans 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  3. says:

    Quite a few people in the horror community have been encouraging me to read Barron for a while now He s greatly revered in the community, and that made me want to read his work even It s safe to say that Occultation is one of the best cosmic horror collections I ve ever read So I owe a big thank you to everyone who recommended his work Now I need everything he s written Every story in this collection is amazing As usual, some of them resonated with me than others, but the collection as a whole is fantastic There isn t a single weak story here However, I ll touch on a few of the stories that had the biggest impact on me The titular story Occultation is truly creepy I do most of my reading at night while my husband is asleep beside me, and on a few occasions I just want to wake him up to shake off the heebie jeebies I never do, but this one got to me a little bit It s so bizarre and realistic all at once This one will have you looking at odd stains and shadows in motel rooms with a sinister feeling in your gut Mysterium Tremendum is probably my favorite story in the collection All bibliophiles dream of finding a mysterious book in an odd shop, tucked away on a shelf where no one else could possibly see it Barron takes that idea and makes it a cautionary tale Beware of dusty old books with titles in Latin and weird symbols on the cover However, this book turns out to be a guidebook that lists secret attractions and hidden places of interest Willem buys the book from a general store after the proprietor admits to knowing nothing about it After learning that there is a hidden dolmen in a forest in Washington, Willem, his partner Glenn, and their friends Dane and Victor decide to try to find it Eventually, their search for the dolmen stops sounding like a choice, and like a compulsion The Broadsword builds the dread as you read, with an ending that truly chills the blood The residents of the Broadsword hotel are sweltering in triple digit heat because the shady superintendent refuses to fix it Pershing Dennard does his best to cope with the heat, but then odd things start happening at The Broadsword Pershing s girlfriends sees a strange woman leave his apartment that no one else in the building saw He then overhears a sinister conversation coming through a vent As the odd occurrences continue, Pershing flees The Broadsword, but ultimately he must return And that s when the situation escalates in an unfathomable way.Finally, I really enjoyed the story 30 That opening line is perfect, and immediately sets the tone for the entire tale The story is so insidious I couldn t put it down It s a bit of a slow burn that builds to a truly haunting conclusion This one is another favorite of mine.Cosmic horror lovers need this collection Strike that All horror lovers need this collection I can t wait to read from Barron I m officially a fan.

  4. says:

    This book contains some of the best writing I have had the pleasure of partaking in for quite some time.It amazes me as to Mr Barron s ability to keep me off guard.A story can begin at point A, and with the lush and vibrant story telling take you to point B and before you are cognitive of the event occurring you have been deposited into somewhere really really strange with no possible means of re orienting yourself And the stories stick with you long after you have finished them.The stories are all first rate with not a throw away in the bunch.With story number six Strappado Mr Barron has made me a life long fan This is the best story I have read in years I had to re read it twice after finishing it.First Rate Top of the class Amazing.

  5. says:

    Laird Barron clearly knows how to unsettle his readers If there was a universal theme of the various stories in this book, it would be that every single story was unsettling, albeit in different ways.Mr Barron evokes memories of reading Caitl n R Kiernan, HP Lovecraft, Arthur Machen, and even Algernon Blackwood in his tales in this volume He finds the fearsome in such diverse subjects as the entities from beyond, the power of guilt, the overwhelming and uncomprehensible enormity of the natural world, and lets not forget, the darkness of the human heart He even has shades of black magic and the diabolical in his stories I would hesitate to compare him to the comparatively gentle horror stylings of M.R James, other than the subtle nod to MR James in the antiquarian bookish leanings of some of his characters He s a bit overt in his horror methodology than Mr James For all that, he never steps over the line into gruesome and debauched Indeed, there are moments when sex and violence intertwine closely until they are hard to separate Fortunately, this is done adeptly and with a subtlety that one such as I who is admittedly quite squeamish of the combination of the two didn t feel that she d stepped into a no woman s land where she felt she could no longer keep her feet traversing on the path into the dark world of horror that he creates in his stories.This is a volume best not attempted at night Even in the cloudless, startlingly bright, azure skied and sun washed landscape in which I read, I still felt those stirrings of unease that a good horror work should birth in its reader This book is equally successful as weird fiction I had that feeling that I didn t quite get what was going on that there were questions unanswered, and the fearful unknown was hinted at, and maybe I didn t want to go through that door that Barron leaves barely cracked.Occultation and Other Stories exists in that gray area between modern styled horror and the old fashioned gothic horror that I prefer And this was successful I was not alienated in that I found the subject matter too extreme, too shocking, too overtly unpalatable for my tastes Instead, this caused that shuddery feeling that I can appreciate, although some of the stories made me feel like I needed a sponge bath to remove the miasma of the dark, unfriendly organic, and somewhat visceral arena I had ventured into But that is horror, my friends Admittedly, I prefer my horror with an emphasis on the atmosphere, the shivers, and less on the repellent But horror does have to take us out of our comfort zones, to make us feel unsafe, and Mr Barron knows how to do that.Recommended to readers who want to go to that dark, uncertain place for a few hours.

  6. says:

    Barron is a writers writer Believe me Writing is hard work, and one can clearly see the results of Barron s efforts It s a mean trick to be able to write so beautifully, and yet so brutally The universe of Occultation and Other Stories fits in a dark niche between Algernon Blackwood s The Willows, Brian Evenson s Dark Property, and Hemingway It s a rough and tumble corner on the interstitial edge between body horror and high literary tradition, with some elements of cosmic horror Though his work has been called Lovecraftian a term I am beginning to hate , Laird Barron s work is so much than that It is far from pastiche, and his writing chops are far better than old H.P s Take, for example, the first story in the collection How do you take a novel s worth of sweeping cosmic horror on an epoch scale and a deep reaching character relationship and cram it all into a 27 page story I have no idea But if you read The Forest, you can see the results Here, Barron out Lovecraft s Lovecraft, but without the treacle This is a horror short that is as fulfilling as any literary novel, if not fulfilling and with hardly any filler Five not everlasting, but very long lasting stars Enough time to see constellations reshape themselves.The title story shows a deft, deceptive hand, using anecdotal side stories and strange shadows to distract the reader long enough and convincingly enough to sneak up and smack the reader in the back of the head with the ending Four stars for Occultation The Lagerstatte is Barron at his subtley rotting, understated, insidious best Danni, the protagonist, may or may not be coming out of, or at least working her way through a fugue state brought on by the accidental deaths of her husband and son, compounded by a long history of family misfortune It s an excruciating tale, but wrapped up in familial softness Five stars Mysterium Tremendum is one of the best stories of cosmic horror I have read in a long time Take Blackwood s force of nature, Lovecraft s cosmic scale and alien ness, Ligotti s pessimism, add a layer of sheer terror and outright creepiness and you will start to get the idea But that s only the start Add depth of character and plausibility of setting and you ve hit the 2nd layer But there is so much Five stars.I wondered at the title Catch Hell, at first But I can t think of a appropriate title for this occult drenched folk horror story of oedipa electrall revenge Somehow, Barron has made every character in this story broken every character a perpetrator, and every character a victim Five stars.When avant garde performance art goes wrong and the observer becomes the subject, Strappado is the result Horrific for its understatement, this tale will work into your brain and leave all sorts of uncomfortable holes Five brutal stars that I d like to forget, but can t.What is The Broadsword A story, the name of a hotel, a weapon cutting through the veil around this world It is a ghost story, an alien invasion, a revelation of cosmic terror, and a deep dive into drunkenness and insanity It is all of these things, all at once, so sudden that the lines between them is indistinct, but slowly unfolding, like a cancer of thought and soul Five stars 30 is as visceral, brutal, as primal a story as I ve ever read I m still not sure if the narrator was insane or not, whether it was not all some grand hallucination And, whether it was hallucination or reality, was it all engineered by the government or not And how to Toshi and Beasley, from the first story in this collection, figure into all of this Are they only peripheral or is there something going on in the off stage shadows with these two With so many questions left unanswered, one must ask but did you like it with all these questions Yes, I liked it because of the questions Five stars Six, Six, Six blindsides you Who is the bad guy or gal What is evil Who, even, is the protagonist Tough questions, none of which are answered by the last, stunning line of the story This thing was crafted and crafted well You can feel the work that was poured into this story, but you can t see the cut marks on the marble, so to speak Brilliant story, brilliantly written Five stars.Yes, you can see the work that went into these stories, but they are so clean and smooth in their execution that you don t notice the chisel marks That is the beauty of Barron s craft and what sets his work above that of most of his contemporaries, especially those writing in the horror and dark fiction genres Few are his equal Precious few.I don t think there is such a thing as a good guy in Barron s stories At least not in this collection The vagaries are so well conceived, though, that the reader finds himself spinning in circles in the dark, waiting for a blow to the back that may or may not come It s a chilling sensation, and worth experiencing again

  7. says:

    More Laird Barron I am currently on a short story roll, as I don t want to start a new big juicy book right before leaving on vacation, so I make do with small juicy stories instead And my, is Barron a juicy writer Not in the buckets of blood and gore sense his way is much subtle, oozing and surreal.The prose has a strange and almost hypnotic rhythm Sometimes it s hard to keep track of which character is talking and where they are, but when it comes together, it paints a wonderfully creepy picture His characters are lonely in an almost oppressive way their isolation makes them utterly helpless The world they live in is so much bigger than them and they becomes quickly disoriented when everything they thought was real ends up fading away There does seem to be a pattern of Big City people ending up around hillbilly types or dilapidated rural places and their minds and sometimes bodies getting destroyed, which I am not sure how to interpret Barron himself has lived a long time in isolated places, and those certainly have a way of getting creepy and he knows just how to capture that on the page.I love the Lovecraftian bend of Barron s world, with its ancient occult societies, strange creatures and stranger cosmos I especially enjoyed The Lagerst tte , an exploration of grief that couldn t have come out of anyone else s brain Mysterium Tremendum , a perfect, spooky novella that totally deserved the Shirley Jackson award Catching Hell , about bad BBs, Strappado gives macabre art a new meaning and The Broadsword , an apartment building that makes the Bramford look quaint.Despite the unfortunate cover art, I enjoyed this collection even than The Imago Sequence it seems to hold itself together a bit tightly, and gives the reader a definite introduction to the Children of Old Leech that get explored fully in The Croning 4 and a half stars.

  8. says:

    If you want the longer version, it s here otherwise, read on.Laird Barron is probably the only recent author I ve read who can put together a compilation of his stories and keep me totally involved, off balance and maximally creeped out through the entire book without any exceptions He s also one of the few horror writers in my experience who writes his stories with prose to equal pretty much any literary author, and he does not rely on cheap thrills, hack em slash em gratuitous gore or gross shockers to strike a genuine chord of fear that continues to resonate long after the last page has been read The dark atmosphere that envelops the book as a whole hits you the minute you open to the first story and then never lets up Obviously I really liked Occultation there s absolutely nothing like a few excellently terrifying stories to get the adrenaline pumping I just wonder where this guy gets his inspiration oh, strike thatI don t think I want to know As in Barron s The Imago Sequence, there is a focus here on the cracks in our earthly architecture allowing the unearthly inhabitants of the cosmos who lurk there to peek in or wander on into our landscape importantly, they also allow for the earthbound to catch an unwanted glimpse of what s out there waiting in the shadows Occultation also continues Imago s themes of absorption and transformation, although this time there is a bit focus on the occult and the workings of madness than in the previous work, with than a hint of our own mortal insignificance as aligned with the greater powers that lurk Here s a quick rundown of these frightening little tales 1 The Forest, a brief tale that in hindsight serves as a thematic preview to the following stories A cinematographer, Richard Partridge, is invited to what will become both a reunion and a goodbye in the New England woods His host is a world famous filmmaker fascinated with untangling the enigmas of evolutionary origins and ultimate destination, whose newest work offers Partridge a glimpse into Earth s future, along with the present means of communication with those who are destined to inherit the earth Elements of The Forest will reappear later 2 Occultation, a story that takes place in a run down old motel along the desert highway While a sleep deprived couple boozes it up in their room, playing Something Scary, getting high on X and stopping to have sex every now and then, a strange stain on the wall captures their attention The light in the room doesn t work and the shadow continues to grow in the meantime, while they partying and the shadow attract their attention, outside the room, the world had descended into a primeval well 3 The Lagerst tte, which details a woman s decline into madness from her grief at losing her husband and son simultaneously in a plane crash Or does it Related in a manner that leaps around time in a nonlinear sort of way, the story has several jarring, discordant reflected directly from her mind, a place where the line is blurred and often shattered between hauntings, hallucinations, and reality.4 Mysterium Tremendum, an offering about two couples who take a brief camping vacation into the woods of the Pacific Northwest guided by a strange antiquarian book called the Moderor de Caliginis found quite by chance The story starts out slowly, but builds into one of the creepiest stories in this volume, as the group slowly realizes the truth of an earlier warning that The Crack that runs through everything stares into you Definitely one of the best stories in the book The descriptions of the woods in this part of Washington are not only spot on, but downright chilling, as is the creepy ending.5 Catch Hell, which has much of an occultish type touch than Barron s normal fare, although it is one of the stories that definitely embodies his themes of transformation and the dread of aloneness A couple who ve recently and mysteriously lost a baby come to the Black Ram Lodge, a former trading post in the 19th century which became a mansion before becoming a tourist spot Just 40 miles east of Seattle in the hill country, it s a whole different world, as they will soon discover 6 Strappado Now we ve come to my favorite story of the entire collection, one which absolutely necessitated a reread Moving out of the woods, even out of the country, Strappado takes place in India, where two former lovers are reunited and eventually find their way to an exhibition of the work of an outlaw artist To say would kill it, but I came away from this story both times absolutely stunned at the sheer portrayal of the insignificance of human lives Much like The Procession of the Black Sloth, my favorite story in Barron s The Imago Sequence, Strappado is highly reminiscent of an Asian horror film If they ever did make this story into a movie, leaving nothing to the imagination, I d probably have to pass It s that creepy, and the final few lines of this story really did a number on me in terms of its ramifications The title is sort of a double entendre you just have to think about it for a while to figure out why 7 The Broadsword features a retired field surveyor who has a secret that will ultimately return to bite him A long term resident of the old, arte deco apartment building known as The Broadsword, Pershing Dennard lives alone His story starts with voices heard through a vent and an acknowledgement that someone knows he s listening Once again, Barron starts the action very slowly and builds it to a horrifying climax that s still resonating in my head, and once again, there is a crossing of the axis of time and space by means of technologies that were old when your kind oozed in brine, and a hapless human being caught in the black forest of cosmic night 8 30 After just a minute of time on Wikipedia, I learned that 30 is a way journalists signal the end of a story And indeed, an finish is captured in the beginning of this tale with the lines You know how this is going to end Two biologists who have past history but haven t been together for a long time are stationed together in a module within a hemisphere out in the desert of Washington state Their work is scheduled to last for six months the only relief is the occasional helicopter re supply They are situated in the former base of cult like group called The Family whose killing exploits are legendary, much like the group under Charlie Manson in the 1960s The Family is gone now, but there may be something lurking out there still Or not.9 Six Six Six This is another story I had to reread A young man and his wife inherit a big house in the forest, where events of the past continue to reverberate in the present and evil lurks within the very walls Along with Catch Hell, Six Six Six takes on of a pure occult style of the two, this one has much of a haunted, claustrophobic atmosphere that oozes through the pages I always wonder about the people in stories or in movies who come across a door bolted shut by every possible means and decide they absolutely must open it Never a good idea I thought that after Imago the act would be so difficult to follow that it couldn t possibly be as good Well, I was wrong There are so many elements at work here human isolation, trauma, a new look at old ruins, the insignificance of humanity in a grander cosmic scheme, and The backdrop of the forest is absolutely perfect with its covering mists and darkness where anything is bound to jump out or worsewhere things lurk just waiting to be stumbled upon Highly recommended darkness is definitely not needed for the hair on the back of your neck to stand on end.

  9. says:

    I ve never forgotten my first encounters with certain horror collections, at different times in my life, that resonated with me Lovecraft, Machen, Blackwood, Barker, T.E.D Klein, Ramsey Campbell , M John Harrison, Ligotti, Robert Aickman, among others But they were books that transported me and made me want to write I ve come to Laird Barron relatively late, but I m adding him to my pantheon of greats and I don t use that word lightly Just finished his first two single author works THE IMAGO SEQUENCE OCCULTATION and they transfixed me as did his other three books I often read a few short stories in the evening before I crash, but on two occasions I only managed to read one story PROCESSION OF THE BLACK SLOTH and HALLUCIGENIA My God they re hellacious I had to take time afterwards to mull over all I had just read and imagined, because the stories deserved an evening all to themselves I m marking these collection as essential For those yet to read them while stocks last, folks

  10. says:

    I don t know what it is about Laird Barron s work that I enjoy so much Yes, the dude can write Yes, his characterizations are really good in short formats and his monsters are crazy cool He also uses a lot of big old timey words and that would usually turn me off, but LB makes it work and gives his stories their own voice and flavor Dark, brooding and bleak I realize he may not be for everyone, but I have enjoyed everything that I have ever read by him This guy is fuckin good, man Real fuckin good.