A seminal author of several collections of “strange stories,” Robert Aickman is a cult writer worshipped by countless admirers (myself included) all over the world.
It was high time, therefore, to welcome the publication of an anthology of new stories inspired by the weird, inimitable atmospheres of Aickman’s body of work. Mind you, however, as editor Simon Strantzas aptly observes, the scope of the volume was definitely NOT to assemble mere Aickmanesque pastiches but to show how his offbeat fiction has been able to influence and kindle the literary output of a new generation of writers.
In this respect the book is already a success, but the result, in terms of quality of the included material, is exceptionally good.
Among the fifteen stories featured in this anthology (all of which are accomplished and quite interesting), I will focus on those that I consider superlative (actually the majority).
Brian Evensong’s “Seaside Town” is a truly Aickmanesque story depicting the odd vacation in a French seaside village (where nothing appears to be as it should) of a strangely matched couple, while Richard Gavin’s “Neithornor” is a subtly disturbing piece probing the secrets hidden behind bizarre, disquieting objects of arts, and DP Watt’s “A Delicate Craft” is an unsettling, cautionary tale about witchcraft.
Lynda E. Rucker contributes the deeply atmospheric “The Dying Season,” again featuring the crisis of a couple staying at a resort place, unfortunately off-season, when everything is empty, sad and a bit weird.
In the cruel, disquieting and puzzling “Underground Economy” by John Langan, a lap dancer’s life gets changed forever by unexpected, unfathomable events and in the fascinating “The Book That Finds You,” Lisa Tuttle admirably describes the efforts of a book lover pursuing the scarce (and somehow dangerous) work of an elusive writer.
Helen Marshall displays once again her great talent as a storyteller in “A Vault of Heaven,” a splendid story portraying a man who, during a staying in Greece, learns the real meaning of beauty.
Daniel Mills provides “The Lake,” a beautiful, insightful tale about the subtle melancholy of life and of childhood turning into adulthood, and about the terrors buried in the depth of the human soul.
Finally, Nina Allan, in her outstanding , bewildering novelette “A Change of Scene,” describes the ambiguous friendship between two widows taking a vacation together in a village by the sea where some unpleasant truths lay hidden.
Other contributors to this superb, highly recommended anthology are John Howard, David Nickle, Nadia Bulkin, Michael Cisco,Michael Wehunt and Malcolm Devlin.