In â€œRinging the Changes,â€� one of the great Robert Aickmanâ€™s best-known â€œstrange stories,â€� a woman asks her husband why a place in their inn is called â€œThe Coffee Roomâ€� when no coffee is served there. He chalks it up to the lucus a non lucendo explanation, which he explains as the â€œprinciple of calling white black.â€� Out of the darkness comes the authoritative voice of the innâ€™s only other guest: â€œOn the contrary. The word â€˜blackâ€™ comes from an ancient root which means â€˜to bleach.â€™â€� This etymological lesson gets to the core of Aickmanâ€™s particular brand of horror writing: strangeness is everywhere, even in the simplest of words. Like the best horror writers, Aickman is a consummate realist. The â€œrealâ€� and â€œsupernaturalâ€� worlds are not distinct realms but rather as intertwined as the etymologies of black and white.
Aickmanâ€™s stories slip in and out
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