Dark Entries

Dark Entries
Robert Aickman

The writers of genre fiction may be the truest antennae of the race. The “strange stories” of Robert Aickman (of which this is the first volume, published in 1964) are set in an asocial and drastically depopulated world. Houses and even whole towns are empty and abandoned, and when we do see people about they are singularly unhelpful. Even those employed in the service industry — administrators, concierges, porters — are falling down on the job. Good help is impossible to find. The social fabric has come undone. We are reminded by one of the people we meet that hell is other people. When concerned about the health and safety of an old chum, the best advice that the endangered narrator of the first story, “The School Friend,” receives comes from her father is stop worrying about what’s none of her business. The only community left is a community of the dead, like the orgy of witches (or whatever they are) in “Bind Your Hair,” or the crowd of zombies, a “communal phantasmagoria” climbing out of the sea in “Ringing the Changes.” You don’t want to join up with that lot, do you? Over twenty years later Margaret Thatcher would famously announce that “there is no such thing as society.” Aickman had already sensed as much.