Sunday, August 2, 2015

Occultation

Occultation, the short story anthology by Laird Barron, both broadens and deepens the author's approach towards horror fiction. In comparison to his work in The Imago Sequence, stories such as the title work and Broadsword examine similar themes, but through different voices. These stories are also longer, for the most part, than the stories in the first collection, allowing for a more nuanced exploration of worlds that always seem just on the verge of becoming something else.

Consumption plays a big role in Barron's stories, which is something commented on before. However, the carnivorous monsters of these stories are not simply interested in sustenance. Each story describes a destructive process where an old state is broken down and reassembled into something alien. This process might be supernatural in origin (The Forest) or vaguely extraterrestrial (The Broadsword) or it may even be the product of a depraved creativity (Strappado - probably my favorite story in the collection) but it always does more than simply kill or eat. In Barron's world, fate is something active, searching for its target and slowly drawing them into their destiny. The horror here is not the punishment for some hubristic search for knowledge but the inexorable compulsion to lower yourself into a coffin you discover perfectly matches your dimensions.
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