Making Lovecraft Look Quaint: Swift to Chase by Laird Barron

Thursday, February 16th, 2017 | Posted by James McGlothlin

Swift-to-Chase-Laird-Barron-smallerLaird Barron is, to my mind, head-and-shoulders above any other horror writer around today. Besides being terrifying, his stories exhibit a real gift for expressing the existential angst of classic cosmic horror, that genre that was perfected so well by the late H. P. Lovecraft. But Barron has so excelled in crafting this sort of tale that calling him Lovecraftian is seemingly rather quaint. For Barron knows how to uniquely weave together seemingly disparate strands in very original ways that bring the horror reader to that wonderful seesaw state of being overwhelmed by the horrific, while also finding aesthetic joy in it.

Swift to Chase is Barron’s fourth collection and is often called, by the author himself, his Alaska book. Barron originally hails from the 49th state, and many of his past stories take place in the American northwest, especially the state of Washington. Though this new book focuses upon Alaska, in many ways this real-life setting strongly echoes elements in Barron’s prior collections.

Many (if not all) of Barron’s stories appear to take place in the same sandbox, the same fictional universe. Barron, like the late Lovecraft, often includes recurring regions, locations, and characters in many of his stories. Those familiar with Barron’s previous stories will notice many familiar hints in Swift to Chase. But this is the first Barron collection where there is a definite theme throughout the stories (with perhaps one exception). What is this theme? Besides focusing upon Alaska as a setting, many of these stories hearken to the horror movie genre often called “slasher pics.”

I have to admit that I abhor and avoid most horror movies, especially slasher films. However, like many teens in the 1980s, I grew up on them and so I’m familiar with the overly used tropes and formula killings of those flicks. Anybody remember the rules of surviving a horror movie from Wes Craven’s 1996 movie Scream?

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New Treasures: Swift to Chase by Laird Barron

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

swift-to-chase-laird-barron-small swift-to-chase-laird-barron-back-small

In his review of the 2014 Laird Barron tribute volume The Children of Old Leech, James McGlothlin wrote:

If you’re not familiar with Laird Barron, you really should be. He’s a multiple Shirley Jackson Award winner and currently on the 2014 World Fantasy Award ballot. I’ve raved about him several times on Black Gate, including here and here and here. Barron’s writing is often called Lovecraftian; but not in a pastiche sort of way.  Rather, Barron is really good at capturing a cosmic-horror-feel in his stories that many believe Lovecraft perfected.

In addition, Barron is also like Lovecraft in that in his stories have recurring regions, locations, characters, and even a recurring evil book… [Barron is] one of the true masters of the weird that we currently have.

Barron is not resting on his laurels, however. In the last 12 months he’s released two novellas, Man With No Name and X’s For Eyes, and his highly anticipated fourth collection Swift to Chase arrived in hardcover, trade paperback and digital format earlier this month. Click on the images above to read the complete back cover copy.

Swift to Chase was published by JournalStone on October 7, 2016. It is 294 pages, priced at $29.95 in hardcover, $18.95 in trade paperback and $7.95 for the digital edition. See all our recent Laird Barron coverage here.


Future Treasures: Man With No Name by Laird Barron

Monday, March 14th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Man With No Name Laird Barron-small Man With No Name Laird Barron-back-small

Laird Barron is one of the modern masters of horror. James McGlothlin reviewed his latest collection for us, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, saying, “Barron is still one of the leading horror voices of today… I highly recommend it!”

Barron’s also been highly prolific, releasing a steady steam of books in the last few years — including first novel The Croning, the novella X’s For Eyes, and the first volume of the new Year’s Best Weird Fiction anthology series from Undertow Publications.

His latest is a promising-looking novella that looks closer to a modern thriller than anything else. Click the back cover above for the book description. The first of the Nanashi Novellas, Man With No Name was called “Bold, complex, and absolutely riveting” by Jonathan Maberry. It arrives this week from JournalStone.

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Future Treasures: X’s For Eyes by Laird Barron

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

X's For Eyes-back-small X's For Eyes-small

Laird Barron made quite a name for himself as a horror writer early in his career, but he’s really come into his own in the last few years. He was the guest editor of Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume One, and the subject of the highly acclaimed tribute anthology, The Children of Old Leech. James McGlothlin reviewed his recent work for us, calling his collection The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All “a great combination of cosmic horror… [and] gritty noir,” and The Light is the Darkness evidence that Barron has become “a superstar… in the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft.”

His latest book, a slender novella from JournalStone, will be published this Friday. It features brothers MacBeth and Drederick, ages 14 and 12, wealthy sons of the superich Tooms family. Their father may be a supervillain, and it looks like the company’s newest space probe just accidentally contacted a malevolent alien god, but that won’t stop the lads from having a great summer vacation. Stu Horvath at Unwinnable says, “They’re like some kind of midnight reflection of the Hardy Boys or Johnny Quest and Hadji. If you ever thought The Venture Brothers needed more horror and less Star Wars references, then this is the book for you.”

X’s For Eyes is 98 pages, priced at $9.95 in trade paperback and $2.99 for the digital edition. Click the covers above for bigger versions.


Playing in Laird Barron’s Sandbox: The Children of Old Leech

Friday, August 1st, 2014 | Posted by James McGlothlin

The Children of Old Leech-smallA lot of writers have written stories in H. P. Lovecraft’s “sandbox” or have borrowed heavily from it. In fact, during his lifetime, Lovecraft encouraged this shared-world approach to his “Yog-Sothery.” Given his open attitude and the power of Lovecraft’s works, it now almost seems inevitable that a group of Lovecraftian disciples would emerge, helping to spread the fame of  his stories.

It is with great excitement that one begins to see something similar emerge with contemporary weird author Laird Barron and the publication of The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron. This anthology contains a panoplied collection of weird tales and horror stories that borrow sometimes heavily and sometimes lightly from the sandbox of Barron’s continued literary output.

Ross E. Lockhart — long time Barron editor and owner of the new startup small press Word Horde that is bringing us Children of the Leech — co-edits this brand new volume along with newcomer book editor Justin Steele, who also edits the online Arkham Digest. Lockhart and Steele have assembled not only an amazing cast of contributing authors for this anthology, but they’ve put together some very excellent stories. With great personal bias for Barron, I take this to be one of the best horror anthologies I’ve ever read. I predict this book to be on some major award ballots next year.

If you’re not familiar with Laird Barron, you really should be. He’s a multiple Shirley Jackson Award winner and currently on the 2014 World Fantasy Award ballot. I’ve raved about him several times on Black Gate, including here and here and here. Barron’s writing is often called Lovecraftian; but not in a pastiche sort of way.  Rather, Barron is really good at capturing a cosmic-horror-feel in his stories that many believe Lovecraft perfected.

In addition, Barron is also like Lovecraft in that in his stories have recurring regions, locations, characters, and even a recurring evil book. (Fans of Barron will immediately recognize the cover of The Children of Old Leech as looking oddly similar to said book — great cover design by Matthew Revert!)

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Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume One, edited by Laird Barron

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014 | Posted by John R. Fultz

Year's Best Weird Fiction Volume One-smallYEAR’S BEST WEIRD FICTION, Vol. 1, edited by the great Laird Barron for Undertow Press, is scheduled for an August release. You can pre-order it right here. This will be a brilliant inauguration for the series. Each volume will be edited by a different “guest editor” and Undertow could not have made a better choice for their first book: Barron is one of the best weird/horror writers in the field. Here is the complete Table of Contents:

“Success” by Michael Blumlein, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov./Dec.
“Like Feather, Like Bone” by Kristi DeMeester, Shimmer #17
“A Terror” by Jeffrey Ford, Tor.com, July.
“The Key to Your Heart Is Made of Brass” by John R. Fultz, Fungi #21
“A Cavern of Redbrick” by Richard Gavin, Shadows & Tall Trees #5
“The Krakatoan” by Maria Dahvana Headley, Nightmare Magazine/The Lowest Heaven, July.
“Bor Urus” by John Langan, Shadow’s Edge
“Furnace” by Livia Llewellyn, The Grimscribe’s Puppets
“Eyes Exchange Bank” by Scott Nicolay, The Grimscribe’s Puppets
“A Quest of Dream” by W.H. Pugmire, Bohemians of Sesqua Valley
“(he) Dreams of Lovecraftian Horror” by Joseph S. Pulver Sr., Lovecraft eZine #28
“Dr. Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron” by A.C. Wise, Ideomancer Vol. 12 #2
“The Year of the Rat” by Chen Quifan, The Mag. of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August.
“Fox into Lady” by Anne-Sylvie Salzman, Darkscapes
“Olimpia’s Ghost” by Sofia Samatar, Phantom Drift #3
“The Nineteenth Step” by Simon Strantzas, Shadows Edge
“The Girl in the Blue Coat” by Anna Taborska, Exotic Gothic 5 Vol. 1
“In Limbo” by Jeffrey Thomas, Worship the Night
“Moonstruck” by Karin Tidbeck, Shadows & Tall Trees #5
“Swim Wants to Know If It’s as Bad as Swim Thinks” by Paul Tremblay, Bourbon Penn #8
“No Breather in the World But Thee” by Jeff VanderMeer, Nightmare Magazine, March.
“Shall I Whisper to You of Moonlight, of Sorrow, of Pieces of Us?” by Damien Angelica Walters, Shock Totem #7.


Future Treasures: Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume One, edited by Laird Barron

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Year's Best Weird Fiction Volume One-smallThere’s lots of great news in this post. So grab some coffee, find a seat, and pay attention.

A few months back, the folks at Undertow Publications, an imprint of the fabulous ChiZine, launched an Indiegogo funding campaign for a brand new anthology of weird fiction: Year’s Best Weird Fiction. The campaign wrapped up in September and was a rousing success. (Good news!)

In fact, it was successful enough that the anthology is planned to be an annual affair. (Good news!) And as the editor of the first volume, the publishers have selected none other than the talented Laird Barron, author of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us AllThe Croning, and The Light is the Darkness. (Great news!) Here’s the book description:

Each volume of the Year’s Best Weird Fiction will feature a different guest editor. Along with 125,000 words of the finest strange fiction from the previous year, each volume will include an introduction from the editor, a year in review column, and a short list of other notable stories.

Once the purview of esoteric readers, Weird fiction is enjoying wider popularity. Throughout its storied history there has not been a dedicated volume of the year’s best weird writing. There are a host of authors penning weird and strange tales that defy easy categorization. Tales that slip through genre cracks. A yearly anthology of the best of these writings is long overdue. So . . . welcome to the Year’s Best Weird Fiction.

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, Volume One will be published August 19, 2014 by Undertow Publications. I don’t have a projected page count, but it will cost $17.95 in trade paperback. The cover art is by Santiago Caruso, with design by Vince Haig. Learn more at ChiZine.


Amazon Discounts Laird Barron’s The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All to $1.99 for October

Friday, October 4th, 2013 | Posted by John ONeill

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All-smallSweet! Amazon.com has made Laird Barron’s new collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All, a Kindle special, pricing it at just $1.99 for the month of October.

In his September 4th review for us, James McGlothlin wrote:

This highly anticipated book marks Barron’s third collection of short stories (and fourth book), following both of his Shirley Jackson Award-winning collections The Imago Sequence and Occultation, as well as his 2012 debut novel, The Croning. As with his prior volumes, this one continues to meet, and exceed, the bar of contemporary horror stories, showing that Barron is still one of the leading horror voices of today.

Let me emphasize that this collection is in keeping with what I, and many others, have come to love and expect from Barron: a great combination of cosmic horror feel — which many associate with the early pulp writer H. P. Lovecraft — as well as Barron’s own gritty noir-like style…

Laird Barron’s The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All continues to provide us with his gritty cosmic horror as well as other enjoyments. I highly recommend it!

On his blog, Laird notes “This collection marks the end of the cosmic horror arc that includes The Imago Sequence and Occultation.” Cosmic horror comes in arcs now? Man, I am so out of it. Good thing I have James and Laird to keep me hip (and it’s a full-time job, let me tell you.)

What more do you need to know? Drop by Amazon today and get some gritty cosmic horror for just $1.99!


Cosmic Horror and Gritty Noir: A Review of The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All by Laird Barron

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013 | Posted by James McGlothlin

The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All-smallThe Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All
By Laird Barron
Night Shade Books (280 pages, $26.99, September 3, 2013)

After having its delivery date pushed back multiple times, Laird Barron’s The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All has finally arrived.

This highly anticipated book marks Barron’s third collection of short stories (and fourth book), following both of his Shirley Jackson Award-winning collections The Imago Sequence and Occultation, as well as his 2012 debut novel, The Croning. As with his prior volumes, this one continues to meet, and exceed, the bar of contemporary horror stories, showing that Barron is still one of the leading horror voices of today.

Let me emphasize that this collection is in keeping with what I, and many others, have come to love and expect from Barron: a great combination of cosmic horror feel — which many associate with the early pulp writer H. P. Lovecraft — as well as Barron’s own gritty noir-like style. I’ll not retread this well-known ground. Rather, in this review I want to emphasize some other merits of this book, which I believe are represented in Barron’s other works as well.

First, I don’t know if this is new, or perhaps I just missed it in his earlier stories, but I noticed some great humor, especially in character dialogue.

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Riddles, Intrigue, Occult and Super-Science: A Review of Laird Barron’s The Light is the Darkness

Sunday, July 21st, 2013 | Posted by James McGlothlin

The Light is the DarknessIn just a few short years, Laird Barron has become something of a superstar in horror fiction, especially horror in the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft.

In my last post, I reviewed The Croning, Barron’s keenly awaited debut novel after the success of his award winning short story collections The Imago Sequence and Occultation. And many horror fans are waiting (still!) for the release of his new collection, The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All — an unfortunate victim set back by the fallout from Nightshade Books.

But one of Barron’s works that I’m not sure many know about is his 2011 novella, The Light is the Darkness, from Infernal House.

The background premise of The Light is the Darkness might be a bit hard to swallow as part of our own world, at least to the extent portrayed by Barron; but we are presented with a contemporary world where an underground, and presumably illegal, sport of modern and bloody gladiatorial games takes place. These games seemingly extend worldwide and are only attended by the super-wealthy elite.

Conrad, the main character, is an up-and-coming star in these games. But, apart from one “unsanctioned match,” we actually see very little of the gladiatorial violence until the very end. The games seem to mainly operate as backdrop to explain how Conrad has the leisure time and funds to undertake an investigation of his missing sister Imogene. In addition, the gladiatorial games seem to attract all manner of seedy and questionable characters, explaining why Conrad must deal with them.

In summary, The Light is the Darkness focuses upon Conrad’s search for Imogene, which unravels not only riddles concerning what his sister was up to before her disappearance, but also various secrets related to the rest of their eccentric but deceased family. There are various levels of intrigue and mystery involved throughout. However, in good Lovecraftian fashion, Conrad’s discoveries mount with menace laced with macabre.

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