Before and Afterlives

Winner of the Shirley Jackson Award for Best Collection

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“Christopher Barzak’s stories do not take the shapes we anticipate; they continuously mutate, changing as our eyes move down the page, as language doubles back to catch its breath, as a comma pauses to hook its tail into a sentence. And dense as they are — “Dead Boy Found” spins from a domestic argument to the mother’s paralysis in an auto accident, to discovery of the murdered child, to the haunting of the girl who found the body, to Adam’s own unsettling encounter with dead Jamie, then flashes forward to what his life will be — the stories unfold easily, nary a bump in the road. Determined that something undeniable and nontrivial will happen to the reader.” –James Sallis, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

“Barzak’s fantastic work is often concerned with the strangeness that lies just outside of everyday life. In Before and Afterlives, as the title implies, there are many sorts of hauntings, not merely of houses and not all of them unpleasant. There is a resonance to these pieces about death and lingering, or about leaving and loss, or all of the above, that makes them quite memorable—just as much as the generic experimentation and the investment in telling different-but-familiar stories with rich characters and settings.” —full review at

“The 17 stories collected here bring readers into worlds where mermaids beckon to the sea, where a boy wrapped in barbed wire becomes wrapped up in love, where the end of the world is just another way to find yourself, and where ordinary characters meet extraordinary circumstances. Barzak takes what readers know (or think they do) and skews the view, exposing a new side of reality. Fans of speculative fiction especially will enjoy this ride through the fantastic worlds Barzak conjures.” full review at Kirkus Reviews

“Throughout this collection, Barzak effectively writes people contending with their fears and doubts but most especially he writes about loneliness, and it is this writerly radar for alienation that perhaps makes him so perceptive when it comes to his teen characters. …Barzak makes it all seem so easy, these gentle glimpses into his characters’ lives, and even though these lives might include mermaids or ghostly parents or talking fireflies,the extraordinary aspects are not what make his tales so magical. It’s the way he sees plain ordinary people that gives his stories such power; the way he sees us and yet loves us anyway. Bravo.” Bookslut

“Masterfully crafted…each one packs a punch.”  Publishers Weekly

“[Barzak] treads a delicate line between the paranormal ghost romance and the more nuanced literary tradition that includes Shirley Jackson, Peter S. Beagle, and Robert Nathan… Before and Afterlives is a fine introduction to the short fiction of an author who, in a fairly short career, has established himself as one of the most distinctive voices and lyrically effective prose stylists in recent fantasy.” Gary K. Wolfe for Locus Magazine

“This is a truly masterful retrospective collection of short stories, seventeen shivery delights that surprise, astound and unfailingly satisfy the reader. The theme of the collection is ghosts, but these are no ordinary ghost stories; you’ll find no sheet-draped revenants or moaning specters within these pages. The hauntings you will encounter here are regrets and lost moments, desires and imaginings where we each haunt our own lives.” –Creature Feature

“Although Christopher Barzak is now better known as a novelist, I’ve always been an admirer of his short stories. His new collection, Before and Afterlives, will make you one too. This generous offering of his best work displays impressive range, depth of feeling, a sharp sense of humor, and a fantastic imagination both lyrical and dark.”  –Jeffrey Ford, author of Crackpot Palace

“How to conjure souls? Resurrect the past? Speak to the dead? Christopher Barzak has a talent for ghosts. In a world composed of more than its material aspects, Barzak seems to know that the things unsaid are what haunt us most. He offers his considerable gift of story as a talisman. Before and Afterlives is a generous contribution to the art of being human.” –M. Rickert, author of Map of Dreams

Discover the haunting stories of Crawford Award-winning author Christopher Barzak in his new collection Before and Afterlives. These are tales of relationships with unearthly domesticity and eeriness: a woman falls in love with a haunted house; a beached mermaid is substituted for a lost missing daughter; the imaginary friend of a murdered young woman stalks the streets of her small town; a teenage boy is afflicted with a disease that causes him to vanish; a father exploits his daughter’s talent for calling ghosts to her; and a wife leaves her husband and children to fulfill her obligations to a world from which she escaped.

Stories in this collection have won or been finalists for the Nebula Award, the James Tiptree Jr. Award, the Spectrum Award, and have been reprinted in a variety of Year’s Best anthologies.

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