Foreword by Barry Humphries The Stains Just a Song at Twilight Laura Rosamund's Bower The Trains Mark Ingestre: The Customer's Tale
Published three years after Aickman's death, and the presence of the much older "The Trains" and "Twilight" would rather suggest that there wasn't quite enough uncollected material to make up a full volume. "Rosamund's Bower" is, quite frankly, appalling, and I can't really imagine "Twilight" or "Laura" exciting anyone overly. Having said that, the Sweeney Todd pastiche "Mark Ingestre" is a lot of fun, whilst "The Stains" is a fitting epitath to Aickman's career.
Glad to see some enthusiasm for Mark Ingestre: The Customer's Tale. I liked it when Aickman applied his strangeness to Victorian gems, bringing the erotic undertones centre-stage (Pages Of A Young Girl's Journal and the living death of a victim of Dracula in The Insufficient Answer). I found these relatively easy going compared to .... just about everything else he wrote.
It's odd with Aickman. By no stretch are either of them pulp authors, but over the two versions of this board he's had far more comment - sometimes bewildered but almost always appreciative - than Clive Barker who, I'd have thought, was absolutely nailed on for Vault.
From the first, I set myself against "literature"; the story was the thing, and no amount of style could persuade me to select a story that lacked genuine, unadulterated horror. For those who wanted something high-brow there was plenty. - Christine Campbell Thomson
Barker's stuff kind of withers with age, because it has no mystery to it. Even the cenobites are just weird perverts. Candyman is explained away, even though the explanation is odd.
But tales Aickman and Campbell and etc etc produce still have a mystery and a class to them. The majority of anthology tales are of a more violent, throwaway nature. But probably the statistics are skewed by the quantity of Pan books.
It probably is that Barry Humphries - he's also a noted fan and collector of Arthur Machen.
Bit of a fan of Aickman myself - though sometimes he just gets a bit too surreal. Even then he makes an impact, even if it's just "What the ...?" Favourite is probably "Pages from a Young Girls Journal" - always reminds me of "Carmilla", which is one of my all-time favourite stories.
I've had more than a few odd experiences in life. I wouldn't say a mistrust of reality - more a mistrust of our shared perception of reality.
I often find the more outre stuff just a bit too contrived. Sometimes I think an author goes for the "What the..." response as an easy way out - because they can't put an intelligible plot together. I feel the same way about surrealist art.
Well, I've gotten more out of weird stories than I have straightly plotted ones. But I enjoy both. As an amateur writer I know how hard it is to write a weird story. I could easily knock off dozens of straightly plotted ones, because it is basically repition of prexisting plots. I would suggest that we simply have different kinds of brain. You like to have it explained at the end, and get off on a linear sense of excitment. And I like the story to continue outside of the book, to suggest something about reality itself.
Some people enjoy eating liver, you know? LIVER!
I mean, if it was purely about confusion then Aickman and Campbell and others would always succeed in their fiction. But they don't. The art is not confusion, it is suggestion. Not everybody is open to suggestion. Which doesn't mean we Aickman fans are weak minded, I hope. Perhaps it means we are more perceptive rather than receptive. Not everyone will get a double entendre. If you are not filthy minded, you probably would think Carry On films were bad Ken Loach movies.
I think we establish our tastes in horror and it can be hard to change track. Luckily I found Aickman early. The likes of Stephen King and Herbert just seem parochial to me.
But it isn't that I want things to be explained. Things aren't explained in "Turn Of The Screw" - and that's why I like it so much. And "weird" isn't a problem either - though that's a rather broad term, and would seem to cover everything from, e.g., the "simple" MR James ghost story to the (for me) "difficult" Thomas Ligotti (and some of Ligotti's stuff reminds me a lot of Aickman).
A lot of Aickman's writing seems to me not just to not explain, but to suggest that there isn't an explanation - that Aickman himself couldn't "explain" what happens in the story. And that just leaves me cold - there's no explanation, no meaning, and ultimately no point. It's like Eddie Izzard said about writing for "Tales of the Unexpected"... just throw in some random thing at the end, totally unconnected with everything that's gone before, and you've got a story. But it's a cheap trick really.
And I have to say I don't see the link from Aickman to Campbell -what I have read of Campbell's work has seemed to me to be very much at the opposite end of the spectrum to Aickman, i.e. "straight" horror with an obvious (though supernatural) explanation. I agree with you about King and Herbert - but I would put Campbell in the same category.
Is that lamb's liver, pig's liver .... or human liver, Lobo? Only kidding - I love a bit of liver and onions myself in fact. *smacks lips*
Any will do . When we look upon the facts, cannibalsm in fact only is a taboo that is social, but if the means are nothing grossly criminal, like say murder, then it is not looked so down upon as killing to eat- as much as hiring someone to slit of your penis, cook it and eat it with you, before he eats you whole ( ) .
Seriously, though, if I met a native who only ate people who died non violently, I wouldnt feel contempt. Panic, maybe .
But on the subject of liver: of course, you need to hav a taste for it, you wouldnt necessarily want to eat it any day .
Sizzling Vietnameese duck or chicken pieces in bread coating with a bowl of picante rice and a bowl of sweetish sauce to dip it in on the other hand......
It is that Barry Humphries - presumably he was the only famous Aickman fan around at the time, what with the members of the League of Gentlemen still being in school.
From his foreword:
"The highest state that man can achieve is that of astonishment; and when a primary phenomenon astonishes him, he should be satisfied." Goethe's aphorism is quoted by the author of this volume in one of his earliest collections of strange stories.
I did not come upon Mr. Aickman's genius until some time in the mid-seventies, and immediately sought to read everything he had ever published, including two volumes on Britain's Inland Waterways. He is however, at his best as a writer of ghost stories, a genre in which he must surely be the greatest modern practitioner.
The best exponents of preternatural fiction, writing as most of them did, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pursued a subtle art more closely related to poetry than to sensational yarn-spinning. Their power to alarm and inspire disquiet in the reader was always the stronger for their skill and subtlety in describing landscape and architecture. The more tangibly evoked the genius loci the more plausible the spook...
...Robert Aickman's phantoms inhabit a rich variety of settings. In former collections he has described such heterogeneous milieux as a Bavarian lake, a palazzo in Ravenna, an island in Finland, a Midlands Hotel, a Swedish sanatorium for insomniacs and the Brussels mansion of a deceased symbolist painter. To all his uncanny tales he brings his peculiar erudition; his elegant elliptical style. Some of his most disturbing stories are not without flashes of humour and a sly, morbid eroticism. Above all, he can evoke in a few lines of concentrated prose, the tenebrous and oppressive atmosphere of a very bad and inescapable dream. A dream which may start, as such dreams do, beguilingly; until the dreamer (and reader) feels the first presentiment of encroaching nightmare - and cannot wake.