Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Secret Life (and Death) and New Life of Laird Barron

I am not a man who has casual interests. I am a man of obsessions. One of these obsessions involves writers whose work I admire. It is never enough for me to simply enjoy their most notable publications, I have to read everything. I follow their anthology appearances, read any interviews I might come across, reflect upon their work; its own merits and how it fits in the Horror canon.

Sometimes I even write to them. Such was the case with so-called Laird Barron.

It started out so innocently. I was a fan, you see. I bought "Laird"'s first collection, swapped a few emails with him. We hit it off. He was one of those writers who seemed interested in what other writers were up to, even small potatoes writers like me. In 2009 I bashfully asked "Laird" if he would be good enough to read the ms. for my next collection, perhaps write a blurb. "Laird" accepted and graciously penned a Foreword that brought my book great attention.

'What a swell guy!' thought I. And so I kept collecting, kept digging. And my compulsion unearthed something very disturbing...

In a rare 1993 issue of Fear Inc. I discovered a story called "The Shiva Effect" by...Laird Barron! Not so shocking, you might say. An early draft of "Shiva, Open Your Eye" perhaps. And upon reading the piece I found that it was certainly similar. But the real surprise came when I read a short interview with this Laird Barron.

This Laird Barron lived in Seattle. But he was born there. And his smudged author photo shows Laird Barron to be one of those Tai Chi/Chai Tea fellows; spindly, spiritual, kinda frail. You know the type.

This Laird Barron also mentions that he was working on a collection called Imago Tales.

But the real shocker came when I read Mr. Barron admit that:

"[my] stories have limited appeal, it seems that those who like them, really like them. I've gotten some nice letters recently from an Alaskan fellow who, funnily enough, says he plans to move to Seattle soon. He's actually a strength trainer with writing aspirations. So we're making a deal: he's going to whip me into shape and I'm going to give him writing lessons."

Whip into shape indeed. I did more digging of my own. I made some phone calls to longtime residents of the neighbourhood, who recall a rather imposing looking "Viking type" skulking about the neighbourhood. Sometimes this odd man would be with the real Laird Barron, other times alone.

Laird Barron (the spindly one) vanished in 2001. Conveniently, the same year that "Shiva, Open Your Eye" appeared in F&SF with a "Laird Barron" byline.

But it doesn't stop there.

Fact: a concerned neighbour(who had been less than pleased when the new "Laird" came stumbling out of the house, nude and drunk as a poet on payday at nine a.m., tossing all the previous occupant's teas, yoga mats, and medicine balls into the neighbour's yard, and screaming that the only gods he worshipped were his own two fists) sent Seattle Police to the home of Laird Barron in 2002.

The burly Alaskan, who by then had taken up residence in the house, told the authorities that he was actually Laird Barron's SON, also named Laird Barron. When asked, this grizzly bear of a man told police "I'm not Laird Barron II, 'cause I'm NUMBER ONE! You hear me? ONE!" When one officer suggested that if this story was true, perhaps he could simply add "Jr." to his name to avoid confusion, this officer wound up in traction.

Fact: "Laird Barron" released The Imago Sequence in 2007. My investigations also revealed that the delay of several years was solely due to "Laird's" penchant for drunken strongman contests and bare knuckle boxing with the local Shriner's....none of whom actually *wanted* to box this man, but that's another story.

So, now here we are. "Laird" is on the scene. But now we're on to "Laird."

What did you do with him? Where is the body? Do you really expect us to believe that you just emerged from the wilds of Alaska with such a surplus of talent, mister? Please.

There is a bigger problem here: This new "Laird" has ingratiated himself into the genre. Ellen Datlow loves his work. This towering fraud has won awards. And, worst of all, he is starting to champion other writers. Now that you've stripped the creative mine of the original Laird Barron clean (two acclaimed collections and a new novella is not a bad haul) I ask you, who is next? Whose life will you infiltrate now?

Look how many Forewords this man has penned, people! Do you think it's out of generosity? No one is safe, I tell you! I myself have taken measures with Canadian authorities so that if/when Laird decides to "relocate" to Ontario, my wife will not wake up to find me gone and a large unclothed man rummaging through our cupboards in search of raw meat and porno.

The cat's out of the bag now, Mr. "Barron." The circle is closing. The spec. fic. world will not be victim to your predatory kindness anymore!