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Ziwxbeheld (Ziwxbeheld)
Username: Ziwxbeheld

Registered: 08-2011
Posted From: 93.97.196.239
Posted on Sunday, November 27, 2011 - 12:20 am:   

I'm a bit new here, so apologies if this isn't appropriate. Please do let me know - I like to toe the line!

In 'The Scar' we get to the final part and:


The body glistened. Trembling, his mouth gaping at the stench which thickened the air, Rice descended, and the torch's circle shrank. The man in the corner was dressed in red. Rice moved nearer. With a shock he realised that the man was naked, shining with red paint which also marked the tins and strip of metal. Suddenly he wrenched away and retched.

Isn't it obvious that it's not paint at this point? After the line 'In the hall tin rasped', which expertly shows he's being followed, do we need to keep up the pretence of normality?

I wonder if perhaps we're seeing things from Rice's mind now, but most of the story is in a kind of omniscient narrator form, so the insistence that it's paint seems out of place.

I have to say, this is an excellent story and I wouldn't dream of maligning it; it's just the idea that Rice would still think it was paint rather than blood seems odd, and the simple omission of the word 'paint' would somehow mollify me.

Sorry to be too picky. Ramsey's stories are a great delight to me, and I wouldn't want to pick fault in them.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.22.137
Posted on Sunday, November 27, 2011 - 12:16 pm:   

Don't worry! It's a loooooooooooooong time since I wrote it, but I think I was trying to convey the sense that he was still doing his utmost to deny the situation.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.25.0.77
Posted on Sunday, November 27, 2011 - 12:21 pm:   

That's how I read it. And the next line - "Suddenly he wrenched away and retched" - surely conveys the sudden realisation.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.1.161
Posted on Monday, November 28, 2011 - 12:15 am:   

Character denial of weird or violent situations is a complex issue. Darrell Schweitzer wrote a splendid article in the 1980s called 'Character Gullibility in Weird Fiction'. He pointed out that whereas the reader has the expectation of a weird or horrific outcome, the character doesn't and people in real life don't. But what can seem realistic characterisation to one reader can seem 'idiot plotting' to another. Some writers cheat by having characters who are well versed in horror story plots and quickly realise they are in one. But if one accepts the Scully Principle of denial being the norm, there's still an issue of how that denial is put across without looking like an author intrusion, and examples like the one you quote illustrate the difficulty of striking the right note. It's probably easier in the first person.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.144.179.182
Posted on Monday, November 28, 2011 - 11:06 am:   

The MR Jamesian technique - one shared by Ramsey - thrives on complicity between author and reader, commonly at the expense of the poor character. That bedraggled Xmas tree left loitering in a shop doorway is nothing more than that for Dorothy in the landlord's 'Calling Card', but we know better: Ramsey tells us so with a nudge and wink. Actually, however, in Ramsey's stuff I find an additional uncertainty, in the sense that the characters are constantly rationalising ambiguous experiences in a way that grows increasingly desperate as the tales unfold. Take 'Welcomeland', for instance: the guy in that story entertains a string of rationalisations, (half-)reassuring to himself in a realm of inexorable prompts to his past, but these self-serving narratives can only last so long before he is forced to admit what every part of him is screaming not to admit. Phenomena have bulldozed their way into his unconscious; simple human exhaustion, after holding all these things back, finally lets it all in. Horror is a terrible realisation one can no longer defend oneself against. Many of Ramsey's tales are therefore implicitly about the demolition of rationality.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, November 28, 2011 - 11:25 am:   

As were Lovecraft's... and the greatest example in fiction of that demolition process is his 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth', imho.

Ramsey's genius was to combine the M.R. Jamesian effect with Lovecraftian otherworldliness and inject his own psychologically astute urban angst to create something completely new and uniquely unsettling.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.144.179.182
Posted on Monday, November 28, 2011 - 11:55 am:   

I guess Ramsey would argue that Leiber got there first, in this regard.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, November 28, 2011 - 12:09 pm:   

Leiber & Bradbury were more steeped in the fantasy and sci-fi traditions with horror being something they dabbled in to brilliant effect. For me Ramsey is the greatest pure - go for the jugular - horror writer since the glory days of Lovecraft & James, et al. There have been subtler and arguably greater writers who wrote weird fiction - de la Mare & Aickman, for example - but as for horror, at its most primally terrifying, there's only been one man worth crowing about in recent decades.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Monday, November 28, 2011 - 01:38 pm:   

"Leiber & Bradbury were more steeped in the fantasy and sci-fi traditions with horror being something they dabbled in to brilliant effect."

Bradbury started life as a horror (and noir) writer and only moved on to SF years later. With Leiber the picture was more mixed, but for both writers horror was a profound early influence. I wouldn't say that Leiber and Bradbury 'dabbled' in horror: they are both among the genre's most important and influential writers. M.R. James wrote far less supernatural horror fiction than either of them, but of course he didn't write much of any other kind of fiction.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Monday, November 28, 2011 - 01:46 pm:   

I wouldn't say that Leiber and Bradbury 'dabbled' in horror: they are both among the genre's most important and influential writers.

Hear, hear...both are essential writers in the field. The horror genre as we know it just wouldn't be the same without their contribution.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Monday, November 28, 2011 - 01:48 pm:   

but as for horror, at its most primally terrifying, there's only been one man worth crowing about in recent decades

I completely disagree with that, too. Although I personally think Ramsey is the best horror writer of them all (hope I'm not embarrasing you, Ramsey), there have been many other writers worth crowing about over the past few decades. Reading widely in the field will demonstrate this.
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 203.171.197.200
Posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 03:43 am:   

Possibly a really silly question - why does the double have a scar?
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.21.141
Posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 11:43 am:   

Presumably from some past violence.
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Richard_gavin (Richard_gavin)
Username: Richard_gavin

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 65.110.174.68
Posted on Tuesday, December 13, 2011 - 01:55 pm:   

I adore this story.

And ye gods, I've been absent from this board for far too long!

Richard
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Lincoln (Lincoln_brown)
Username: Lincoln_brown

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 202.124.89.181
Posted on Wednesday, December 14, 2011 - 02:18 am:   

Thanks Ramsey. I assumed a scar would dissapear with the next form the doppleganger took - but, a scar is permanent. Awesome story, certainly in my top 10. Dare I say it? - a 'masterpiece'
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Ziwxbeheld (Ziwxbeheld)
Username: Ziwxbeheld

Registered: 08-2011
Posted From: 94.194.28.235
Posted on Monday, December 19, 2011 - 10:24 pm:   

Wow - thanks everyone for discussing this so wonderfully. I've been trying to find a way to get back in the conversation and I'm afraid I feel a bit inadequate. Regardless - it's great to see so many other points of view. I re-read the story again after reading your posts, and really enjoyed it. It's nice to hear other people's views on it, and especially great to hear the author chime in!

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