Robert Aickman’s Introduction to The 5th Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories (1969)

Aickman’s fifth introduction is brief. He summarises his previous views: that ghost stories are separate from both horror and SF and that its “true affinity” is with poetry as it is “a projection and symbolisation of thoughts and feelings” that are excluded from usual written discourse.

Ghost stories, he believes, began as tales of the dead returned but have widened to include Romantic notions involving the Imagination. Aickman asserts that “Ghost stories are exercises of the imagination.”

Ghost stories are works of art and “the good ghost story offers the freedom of a lyric poem.”

Aickman goes on to discuss Freudian psychoanalysis of ghost stories, pointing out that Freud himself opposed the analysis of weird tales.

He once again expresses his belief in the paranormal but sees ghost stories as something separate.

In the final part of the introduction, Aickman explains his decisions about selecting a story expressing a “strongly spectral atmosphere” rather than outright ghost tale in each collection and his reasons for including his own stories.

Aickman concludes by insisting that “We badly need more living writers of ghost stories with the right kind of imagination and a respect for the power and poetry of the quest”.