In the decades following his death, British writer Robert Aickman (1914-1981) has emerged as one of the pioneering authors of weird fiction in the later twentieth century. During his lifetime, he published eight collections of tales, beginning with We Are for the Dark (1951) and concluding with Intrusions (1980).
In his fiction, Aickman evolved a distinctive idiom emphasizing subtlety and the slow, gradual accumulation of weird atmosphere. He was a master of English prose, writing with effortless fluency and never requiring violence of diction or incident to create powerful horrific effects. He himself referred to his narratives as “strange tales,” signifying his scorn of the standard motifs of conventional supernatural fiction.
While some stories utilize such well-worn themes as the resurrection of the dead (“Ringing the Changes”) or vampirism (“Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal”), others create the sense of weirdness from the sheer oddity of the scenario: the harrowingly bland office worker in “Meeting Mr. Millar,” or the inscrutable residents of a home for the elderly in “The Hospice.” Many of his tales — including “The Swords” and “Letters to the Postman” — feature covert or overt sexuality, as Aickman continually expressed his fascination with “the eternal feminine.”
This selection of eighteen of Aickman’s best weird tales demonstrates why he has become such an influential voice in contemporary weird fiction: his supple, oblique prose, the strangeness of his weird conceptions, and his sure grasp of narrative pacing have made him far more popular than he was in his own day.
The volume has been edited by S. T. Joshi, a leading authority on weird fiction. Joshi is the author of The Weird Tale (1990), The Modern Weird Tale (2001), and Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction (2012).
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