New York Review Books has announced Compulsory Games, a new collection of Robert Aickman stories scheduled for May 8, 2018. The publisher has separately leaked its table of contents, and its a revelation of hard to obtain material. I’ve updated my table of Aickman’s published works to include Compulsory Games (as well as a very limited 2015 Tartarus anthology).
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Robert Aickman (1914-1981) was the most significant horror writer since H. P. Lovecraft. I can say that with certainty. As an epithet, he was the Last Symbolist (though Fritz Leiber’s “Weatherman of the Subconscious” is also fitting). Beyond that, I can’t tell you much, despite having spent the last two years reading and rereading as much of his work as practical. Leiber admired him, but didn’t understand him. Peter Straub admires him, but doesn’t understand him. Neil Gaiman admires him, but doesn’t understand him. This is not criticism, but praise. Perhaps a ghost is that which you can’t understand.
I’ve compiled a grid of all of Robert Aickman’s works, published both living and posthumously, and in which volumes they may be found.
View the PDF (144k) (Updated November 2017)
Rapidly falling out of memory, Robert Aickman (1914-1981) was a World Fantasy Award-winning writer representing a distinct third branch of horror–neither the Poe-descended grotesque nor Lovecraft’s cosmic horror, but a more psychological, inward version of the weird. Peter Straub wrote: “From the first I understood that he was a deeply original artist. This in no way implies that I understood Aickman immediately, because I didn’t. Sometimes I would look up at the end of a story, feeling that the whole thing had just twisted itself inside out and turned into smoke–I had blinked, and missed it all.”
Based on the above survey, I’ve ordered for myself good-condition used copies of The Unsettled Dust, Cold Hand in Mine and The Wine Dark Sea for about $50 total. These seem to represent a strong sampling of his work, with little overlap, and their print runs are recent enough to be available. Most of Aickman’s older collections have long since fallen out of print, and been culled from libraries. The Boston Public Library’s Copley Square branch offers only a single copy of Night Voices for circulation, available at the delivery desk. His stories have been anthologized in numerous collections, mostly out of print. CBC radio did a respectable half-hour dramatisation of “Ringing the Changes,” which is available on YouTube. Ideal would of course be to obtain the two volume Collected Strange Stories, but with only a 500-copy limited run in 1999, one would need to be somewhat more obsessive and far wealthier than me–to the tune of $500 plus–to secure one.