Laird Barron – “Lagerstatte”
The title of your story is apt. What made you decide to go with Lagerstatte? When did you first encounter the word?
Lagerstätte is a German word meaning “resting place.” Paleontologists use the term to describe areas that are particularly rich in intact fossil records, such as the Burgess Shale and the Le Brae Tar Pits. Lagerstatte is certainly a reference to dual aspects of the story, literal and metaphorical. And to some extent, it’s a nod to Darren Speegle’s work. European titles are one his trademarks.
What made you decide to go for psychological horror? What makes it effective in contrast to other horror tropes?
I’ve been working on a collection that features psychological horror in a major way. Even when submitting to various themed anthologies, I keep in mind how a piece will fit into a larger whole. The Lagerstatte represents what will be the core of the next book. Psychological horror is attractive to me because among other things, it introduces ambiguity. Where does reality end and the nightmare begin? If I want to unnerve a reader, I leave them to their own devices in a dark room. They’ll take that ambiguity and conjure mental images of terrors far beyond the scope of my ability.
Was the story originally intended to be horrifying or was that an element that evolved as you were writing a story for The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy?
I wrote The Lagerstätte in reaction to tragedies loved ones of mine have endured. Danni’s fugue and her survivor’s guilt are details that revealed themselves once I began researching grief and its manifold incarnations, the damage it inflicts. The horrific aspects seemed integral from the first draft, but I envisioned them to be more remote, more emotionally restrained. In the immortal words of Nathan Ballingrud, “you go where it takes you,” and this one took me to far darker places than I’d bargained for.