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Old 08-14-2015   #11
Robert Adam Gilmour
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Re: Favorite Campbell

Quote Originally Posted by James Sucellus View Post
Demons by Daylight was to me what punk rock must have been to musicians in the 70s. It threw away so many of the rules, and reassured me that the type of fiction I wanted to write didn't have to obey so many of the stuffy 'let's write like rich old socially elitist British people' tropes that had come to increasingly define the conservative style of atmospheric horror Campbell was building on to a negative degree.

Before I read Campbell there was a clear dichotomy in horror between the atmosphere-led horror of MR James, Lovecraft, Machen, Blackwood, Le Fanu, etc, and the more socially progressive, bold and experimental literature out there. British horror in particular was seen as a place for upper class characters to in upper class settings, and a domain where anything resembling social realism or politically charged themes were seen as inimical to the genre.
In one of Joshi's Weird Tale books I'm sure he complains that there's too many middle class families in Campbell's novels.

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Old 08-14-2015   #12
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Re: Favorite Campbell

Quote Originally Posted by Hell-Ghost View Post
I think all Mr. Campbell's work an immortal addition to the weird, and, next to Thomas Ligotti, the leading weird writer living. Like many, I prefer his short tales, where his demoniac magician's imagination is given full bloom; his novels are handicapped by the Stephen King-requirements of the modern horror novel, though I have accepted two to be polite.
Who could forget such impious nightmares that dwell in the derelict, decaying environs of his native Liverpool? These tales stand out for me -- so far, at the least.

The End of a Summer's Day
The Man in the Underpass
The Companion
In the Bag
The Chimney
The Brood
The Voice of the Beach
Mackintosh Willy
Midnight Hobo (whoever could forget the Thing that ''ran out of forms''?)
The Depths
The Hands
The Guide
Run Through
Hellghost. I would guess from that list you have only read his one short story collection Alone with the Horrors? Just trying to be helpful here.. there are so many great stories that weren't in that book. I would urge you to pick up Demons by Daylight and Cold Print.. Most of my favorite Campbell stories are not in Alone with the Horrors.
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Old 08-14-2015   #13
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Re: Favorite Campbell

- I've refrained from chiming in yet, partly because I have such great esteem for Campbell (I hold him and Ligotti to be the two living grandmasters of weird fiction), and also because I have read so much of his work and amassed so many favorites that it's difficult to remember them all. Although I will admit they are apt to display more of his weaknesses than his short fiction does, I personally have enjoyed many of his novels as well; just in the last decade I believe it has produced three of his all-time greatest - The Grin of the Dark, The Overnight, and The Darkest Part of the Woods; other favorites include Incarnate, The Hungry Moon, Nazareth Hill, and The Face that Must Die. Concerning his short stories, Alone With the Horrors is of course an amazing one-volume compilation of his prolific career and absolutely essential as such, but virtually all his collections are well worth reading; Dark Companions to me is probably his greatest one, but Ghosts and Grisly Things, Cold Print, Demons By Daylight, and The Height of the Scream are all superlative as well. Of the short stories themselves I have so many favorites I'm sure to overlook many, but these include 'Again', ''Down There', The Hands', 'The Other Side', 'The Interloper' 'The Voice of the Beach', 'The Companion', 'The Enchanted Fruit', 'Welcomeland', 'Missed Connection', 'Call First', 'The Tugging' and 'The Rounds'.

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Old 08-14-2015   #14
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Re: Favorite Campbell

Because a lot of people have brought it up so I will chime in. To me the Grandmasters of Weird Horror working today are Campbell, Ligotti, Kiernan, and Etchison.
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Old 08-15-2015   #15
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Re: Favorite Campbell

Quote Originally Posted by luciferfell View Post
Because a lot of people have brought it up so I will chime in. To me the Grandmasters of Weird Horror working today are Campbell, Ligotti, Kiernan, and Etchison.
Laird Barron maybe? He is not as prolific as the other's you stated, but his short fiction is better than most I've ever read.
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Old 08-15-2015   #16
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Re: Favorite Campbell

These are just stories from Alone with the Horrors. It is hard to pick one favourite.
Call first, In the bag, The Chimney, Stages, The voice of the beach, Mackintosh willy and Again.
TVOTB is probably my favourite out of that lot.
His novella Needing Ghosts, that was published in 1990 is reputed to be very disturbing.
I have not read it, but wish too.
I initially found his style of language difficult, (perhaps because I am from Australia, and he is from Britain) but I persevered again and was rewarded greatly.
I have said before he is obviously a master. You not need to talk him up, he let's his work speak for itself.
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Old 08-15-2015   #17
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Re: Favorite Campbell

Quote Originally Posted by Masonwire View Post
I think I've written it somewhere else on this site but I think that his novels Thieving Fear, to a certain extent Ancient Images and especially Grin of the Dark really creep me out, i.e. they are incredibly effective spine-chillers - even though Campbell overuses some means of evoking dread. It seems that his protagonists constantly reassure themselves that that what they have seen/heard etc. cannot be - sometimes on every other page (it's a phenomenon that one can find in slightly different form in late(r) Ballard). Yet the above-mentioned novels work whereas I found "The Last Revelation..." in which he employed similar methods really repetetive and (thus) tiresome.
Interesting points. I've also had a problem with the constant denials that his characters make and Joel Lane commented on this in an essay on Campbell - "There is a risk of becoming mannered, of failing to let the story speak for itself. This is probably most true of The Nameless, with its obsessive rhetorical denials ("Surely nothing with a long whitish head could have scuttled down to drag the old woman into the bushes") and repetition of the word "nothing"... When a sense of description is not ambiguous, the use of an ambiguous-sounding construction only creates a sense of coyness or innuendo."

I can't lay my hand on the relevant interview at the moment but I think Campbell defended this on the grounds that it is what a real person would tell themselves if they found themselves in such situations. But I'm not so sure. The fact that many people still claim to have paranormal experiences shows that many people don't make such denials when they see something they can't fit into a realistic context. Also, there's a difference between being plausible and being convincing to a reader. The reader knows that he's reading a horror story and therefore we know damn well that it's not a pile of sticks and red paint but a re-animated bloodstained skeleton!

I'm intrigued by your comment about Ballard. Though he has many familiar stylistic characteristics (I lost count of the number of times he used the verb "drum" in his later novels!) I can't say I've noticed this sort of denialism. Can you give an example?
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Old 08-15-2015   #18
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Re: Favorite Campbell

I like Campbell's 'denials', particularly during the sparse prose of Demons by Daylight in which little creepy clues will jump out at you, whilst escaping the character of the story.

I think all the great weird fiction writers have their individual quirks that are fun to parody or mock. It's one of the inevitable outcomes of having an individual idiom. They all tend to re-use the same elements, including Ligotti.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 08-15-2015   #19
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Re: Favorite Campbell

To me one thing that makes his novels difficult to get through isn't his writing style or his reliance on certain stylistic tricks... it's that so often he populates them with extremely unlikeable characters. I'm not talking about the main characters, I'm talking about some of the minor characters they usually are forced to deal with, be it bosses or co-workers at work, or irrational/needy/emotionally manipulative mothers at home, and so on. No wonder that so many of his protagonists are such harried sad sacks! I'm finding this is really the case with Hungry Moon in that with this book we have a whole town of characters like this: and to make matters worse they're fundamentalist Christians to boot. I'm only 60 pages in and I'm starting to pray myself that a monster starts wiping these horrible, horrible people out!

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Old 09-11-2015   #20
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Re: Favorite Campbell

I have an on-going love-hate relationship with Campbell's work, which goes way back to the late Eighties when I started reading him for the first time. Stories such as 'The Fit', 'The Pattern, 'The Guide', 'Mackintosh Willy' are excellent pieces of fiction, where outright dread and social commentary are mixed perfectly together and I can't rate them and certain others highly enough. However, the problem I personally have with his work on occasion is his very dense style of storytelling and a need to describe events in certain scenes down to almost microscopic detail. An example of this would be the chapter called 'Besides those invited' from his novel 'The House on Nazareth Hill where several characters sit down for what is essentially a residents meeting. Now whilst there is a very real attempt to add realism to this particular part of the book through specific dialogue and countless descriptions of people behaving as you'd likely expect them to at such a boring event, the end result feels cluttered and somewhat removed from the need for narrative drive. Its all very well trying to be realistic but at some level the process reminds me of taking medicine; take the right amount, the results are spot-on, take too much though and the results, rather than getting better still, are in fact reversed and made worse. At some point there has to be a trade-off between actual behaviour and fictional behaviour otherwise all we end up with is a written piece that feels more like a transcript of real events than a piece of entertainment if that is the right word.
There can be no doubt that Ramsey Campbell is a very good writer, sometimes brilliant, and that there is possibly no other writer working in the genre today who puts so much thought and effort into words and work. Its just that sometimes I feel he can be too descriptive for his own good and that this over-descriptiveness, rather than strengthening the dramatic pace, merely slows it down and makes it feel repetitive. Just my two-penneth for what its worth!
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