Posts tagged robert aickman
For the two weeks leading up to Halloween, I’ll try to highlight some under-appreciated writers of ghost stories/horror/weird fiction. As a preteen I would read a book per day by big names like King, Straub, Barker, and Campbell. After a couple decades away from the stuff—except for a Machen phase in my early twenties—I dug a little deeper and found the true masters of the form (M.R.James, Blackwood, Ligotti) and actually read Lovecraft for the first time (we all have blind spots!), in the process encountering hundreds of forgotten writers.
Robert Aickman (1914–1981) may be my favorite out of the bunch. While he’s read more than most of the writers on this tumblr, Aickman should be a household name. His wikipedia page contains two quotes that sum up his appeal:
His literary gifts were of an extremely high order. His prose style – supple, urbane, sophisticated, restrained, yet capable of surprisingly powerful emotive effects – never falters from the beginning to the end of his work. There are few writers who are as purely pleasurable to read, regardless of their subject matter or the success or failure of their actual work, as Robert Aickman. His major literary influences (it might be better to say analogues) appear to be M. R. James and Walter de la Mare, yet he excels the former in richness and variety of texture and the latter in the sustained intensity of all his literary work.—S. T. Joshi,The Modern Weird Tale
I think that Aickman is one of those authors that you respond to on a very primal level. If you’re a writer, it’s a bit like being a stage magician. A stage magician produces coin, takes coin, demonstrates coin vanished… That tends to be what you do as a fiction writer, reading fiction. You’ll go, “Oh look. He’s setting that up.”…Reading Robert Aickman is like watching a magician work, and very often I’m not even sure what the trick was. All I know is that he did it beautifully. Yes, the key vanished, but I don’t know if he was holding a key in the hand to begin with. I find myself admiring everything he does from an auctorial standpoint. And I love it as a reader. He will bring on atmosphere. He will construct these perfect, dark, doomed little stories, what he called “strange stories”.—Neil Gaiman
Tartarus Press has published limited hardcovers of many of the collections, while Faber is doing print-on-demand paperbacks. Here’s a link to an Amazon search for “Robert Aickman.” Really you can’t go wrong; start anywhere.