Thursday 30 September 2010

Susan Hill Says No One Writes Ghost Stories Set In Modern Times???

Saw this on the Ramsey Campbell Message Board about Susan Hill talking about her latest ghost story novel on Radio 4. I really, really wonder about the vanity of some people. For someone who sets great store on her ghost story novels, you would think she would at least do a little research, or does she really believe she is unique?

Even if she doesn't have much of an opinion for some God damned reason for writers like Ramsey Campbell, to take just one example (though she should have!), what about Kingsley Amis's The Green Man?

Vanity, vanity, vanity.

Or just a load of pretentious old bollocks.


  1. The Green Man? That's not set in modern times, it's set in the 1960s! ;-)

  2. Are you trying to tell me that the 1960s aren't modern times???
    Oh, dear, I'm showing my age here, aren't I?
    Ha ha.

  3. Cut the lady some slack, Des. She moves in different circles, writes in many genres, and like many dreamy writers, sees the world through eccentric and subjective eyes.

    Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light,
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half-light,
    I would spread the cloths under your feet,
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams,
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

    W B Yeats

  4. Des?

    Don't we all see the world through eccentric and subjective eyes?

    I like to think I do.

  5. I would add that the late Kingsley Amis (one of my favourite writers) also had a great, if unfashionable love for SF and wrote a book about it. Before pontificating about the genre he actually read it and had a broad knowledge of it. He did not act as if, when he chose to dabble in the genre himself, he was its sole practioner and that his only forerunners were H. G. Wells and Jules Verne.

    I can understand Ms Hill not being aware of many of the names we currently regard as significant in the genre who have not had any books brought out by mainstream publishers, but that can't be said about people like Robert Aickman or Ramsey Campbell, however much you may like or dislike their books. There are many others too. And it is a bit shocking when someone can speak authoritatively about a subject without really having any broad, never mind deep knowledge of it.

  6. David:

    Sorry, keep mixing you up Des Lewis; it's a Floydian Trip. I mean, Freudian Kip.

    I still think you are being too harsh on the lady. She studied English Literature at City College and had her first novel published during her first year at uni. She's won three awards inc the prestigious Somerset Maugham Book award. Her first two supernatural novels 'The Woman In Black' and 'The Mist In The Mirror' are excellent evocations of a bygone age, following M R James' recommendation that ghost stories should always be set somewhere in the past. 'The Woman In Black' has enjoyed and extremely long, record-breaking run in the West End, and is about to be adapted into a major film starring Daniel Radcliffe. She is also asked to judge The Times annual ghost story competition.

    To then call her "an arrogant cow" (as the moderator of the RCMB did) for failing to dedicate her life to familiarising herself with the lower sub-culture of contemporary urban horror is not only unjust but also unprofessional. It also causes embarrassment to RC himself as well as Leeds University, where the moderator is a research fellow.


  7. I hope I really am not being too hard on her. I'm not criticising her stories/novels, merely her assumption that she knows more about ghost stories than she apparently does.

    I remember going to watch "The Woman In Black" in London several years ago, prior to my daughter starting at Mountview Academy for Theatre Arts. I was very impressed with the play. I have several of Susan Hill's novels too.

    The name calling on the RCBM was attrocious, I agree, especially when some of the same people rushed to another writer's defence some time ago when her works - not her person, I might add - were attacked by a couple of people. I think you know who I mean and the circumstances. A bit of hypocrisy involved there, I think. You can't criticism someone's writing, but you can call someone else a "cow" or a "bint". God help the one's who criticised that person's stories if they had had the effrontery to call her names like that as well! Not, I think, that they would.

    Anyway, pleased to see your comments though, even if you did confuse me with Des.

  8. Not sure who this other woman was. Pray enlighten me?

    On second thoughts, don't bother. The horror genre has more barbs than a fish-hook.

    I resigned from my post as a parish councillor a few years ago for very similar reasons. All people want to do is sit about moaning and bickering rather channel a collective positive energy into improving things.

  9. I wouldn't want to mention names. The people involved know them, though.

    I only brought it up because of the contrast in reactions. i.e. someone who was regarded as a friend has their story collection criticised by two people, who immediately came under attack for doing so. Yet those who regarded this literary criticism as wrong are only too keejn to attack Susan Hill with personal name calling.

    Okay, we're all human, and we all fall prey to overreacting at times, especially when something annoys us, but I do object to the idea that negatively criticising someone's published books can be wrong. Then, going on, to call someone else names you wouldn't use face to face merely because they showed a lack of knowledge of a particular genre expected of them.

    Anyway, I think I've said just about enough on this subject. Probably too much already.

    Yes, indeed, the horror genre does have its fair share of barbs. In that respect, though, it's no different than most other aspects of life. I would bet there are as many within the inner working of the CofE or the Papacy.

  10. Ah, I think I know what you mean.

    I understand that one of the two gents concerned has issued a very gracious apology (which was accepted) and that a FaceBook friending is on the cards, so the hatchet is well and truly buried on that one.

    Also on a positive note, I understand that RC has apologised for what happened (when though it wasn't his fault), and that he'll be meeting up with SH at a writers' gathering of some description, so that's also a buried hatchet situation.

    They are the key issues for my money, and they appear to have been resolved professionally and amicably.

    Now, I really must get to transferring the Boosh onto my phone, and the nightly struggle that is bathtime (my boys have developed hydrophobia....but then again, what 8 year old *likes* having to have a bath?)

    Have you seen this:

  11. Yes, I saw this about the Mark Gatiss programme. I'm looking forward to seeing it with interest.

    Good luck with the baths. I don't envy you there. Fortunately, those days are over with for me.