22 May 2013

All of Aickman

photo via Tartarus Press
Once Tartarus Press publishes their new edition of Robert Aickman's Night Voices at the end of the month, they will have brought all of Aickman's short stories back into print. (The new Night Voices will also include Aickman's "An Essay", written when he won the World Fantasy Award; his various prefaces to the volumes of The Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories that he edited; and Ramsey Campbell's remembrance of Aickman.)

I just wanted to take this moment to publicly say thank you to Tartarus for doing this. I can't imagine that they're getting rich off of it. The books are pricey, but so beautifully designed, bound, and printed that I expect the profit margin is really not all that high. Over the years, I've bought most of the collections that contained multiple stories I didn't already own, and they're among the most beautiful books on my shelves. I seldom resist walking past them without touching them. Despite not having a whole lot of discretionary income these days, I've never regretted buying these volumes. Tartarus makes elegant books.

But ultimately it's the content that matters, and it is the content that causes me to write this post. Aickman classified his writings as "strange stories", and that is truly the best description of them. Sometimes they are supernatural stories, but not always (at least not unambiguously). Some of them fit somewhat comfortably into the realm of "horror stories" or "ghost stories", but also not. They are unique and marvelous and unsettling and beguiling, and they richly reward rereading, which is really my only criterion for whether a piece of writing is great.

Night Voices contains my single favorite Aickman story, "The Stains", and, according to the website at least, will also have Aickman's short novel The Model added. If you've never read Aickman, or never picked up one of Tartarus's reissues of his collections, then this is an excellent one to start with. (If you're looking for another to start with, you can't go wrong with Cold Hand in Mine. But really, you can't go wrong with any of them. Aickman rarely wrote a story that was mediocre, and never, to my knowledge, wrote one that was ordinary.)

Thank you to all the folks at Tartarus for bringing Aickman back to us in such excellent form.

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