We’re back, and we’re in sounder health that the title of this episode may suggest! Although after hearing us sing again (yes, we have a new Patreon backer!) you may disagree. This time we’re looking at another short story, again with a view as to what it can add to our gaming. We’re taking a little break from Lovecraft, however. It’s nothing personal, Howie! You’ll always have a special place in our hearts.


Aw, why the long face?

The story we’re discussing is The Hospice, by Robert Aickman. In case you are unfamiliar with him, Aickman was a twentieth-century English writer of what he referred to as “strange stories”. His work is characterised by maddeningly dreamlike events, the meanings of which slip through your brain like greased eels, all communicated through precise prose. It’s debatable whether Aickman’s work should be classified as horror, but it’s generally more unnerving than most stories that are. The Hospice is one of Aickman’s finest tales, and can be found in the recent Faber reissue of his collection, Cold Hand in Mine (also available as an eBook from a variety of sources).

cold hand

Probably the finest collection of Aickman’s work, and highly recommended.

We make mention of a television adaptation of The Hospice from the 1980s, but sadly none of us have been able to track it down. If you want a taste of Aickman, you can always enjoy this 2002 short film, adapted from his story The Cicerones by Jeremy Dyson, writer of The League of Gentlemen and long-time Aickman fan. As good as the adaptation is, it cannot hope to capture the full strangeness of the original story, but is still well worth watching.

The next episode will be our fiftieth, and we have big things planned! Well, we have a special episode topic at least. And fireworks! OK, maybe not fireworks. Paul’s office has too many flammable things in it, including us.

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15 comments on “Robert Aickman’s The Hospice

  1. Ben Wenham Mar 24, 2015

    I go really excited when you mentioned scenarios which can’t be neatly explained.It is a thing I have been trying to work into my material for a while. in the Bosworth House(see arkham gazette issue one), i set it up so that the information that one PC is getting differs from what all of the other PCs are getting, to leave a sense of “is this guy sensative to the problem or is he just loosing his mind.”

  2. That sounds like very much my kind of thing! I shall have to take a look.

  3. darren t. Mar 25, 2015

    Very fun to find a new weird fiction author I’ve not read yet or forgotten after reading some non-thrilling piece (betting it’s never read with Aickman) & glad to hear your list on the rest of them. For the Lovecraft connection that comes to my mind is the Music of Erich Zahn which fits the description of a story that feels scrapped & told from another perspective instead, maybe a new approach to some scenario writing ideas.

    Agreed about Ramsey Campbell, hooked on his work after getting my hands on Cold Print.

  4. That’s an interesting perspective on Erich Zahn. It’s been 30 odd years since I last read it, and I really should reacquaint myself. In fact, it may be a good pick for an upcoming episode.

  5. Drop me a line if you don’t have a copy of that issue; it is out of circulation until we revamp them for public release.

    As for other scenarios that leave things unexplained, I heartily recommend “The God of the Mountain” from Pagan’s scenario collection “Mortal Coils”.

  6. Thanks, Bret! I backed your Kickstarter, so I have the original version of the issue. I’ve downloaded it now and will take a look through Ben’s scenario when I have a break later today.

  7. I love players trying to figure things out. I hate telling them afterwards what it was about. But to a certain extent players want to know because they don’t feel happy about taking the game home with them. I certainly don’t want an explanation.

  8. On the helpfulness, or lack of, of NPCs, my players have noticed that generally my NPCs won’t do something for nothing. That call this unhelpful. I think it’s giving them a motivation.

    Jonathan Caroll is good but doesn’t have the dreamlike quality that you get in Aickman. Campbell’s story in the New Gothic is very Aickman-esque, although Campbell is more cruel than Aickman who had a 50s sensibility.

  9. Solomon Mintzer Jan 8, 2016

    Getting back to Mr. Aickman’s talent let me say; “What I find particularly unnerving about Mr. Aickman’s stories is their innate simplicity. He astounds calmly, quietly. He needs no “monster” to be completely and or fully described. It’s the unnatural normalcy that creeps up on you. A true master of his own style of the written word.” Put quotes since this basic analysis was posted on other “scholarly” forum groups of the genre. I am finding that, like HPL, Aickman’s stories get so autopsied that their fundamental queer and quiet nature is overlooked. Anyone wish to debate?

    • I’d certainly agreed with that. Some of his stories are certainly a bit more lurid than others, such as The Swords, and some most definitely have monsters, like The Fetch, but they are on the whole deceptively gentle. Their effect tends to be more insidious than arresting, and I often find myself disquieted for some time after reading one of his stories. The closest thing I can liken it to is trying to make sense of a troubling dream that made perfect sense while you were sleeping, but upon waking becomes even more disturbing because the pieces won’t fit together in any way that will give your mind release.

      • Anonymous Jan 12, 2016

        This is why you are in the podcast business. As well as writing natch’. You perfectly described what I was attempting to illustrate about Aickman’s work. Thanks to The Good Friends once again for opening our eyes…

        • Anonymous Jan 12, 2016

          Had to sign in with Gravatar so you couldn’t see it was me, old friend. Funny, made account but how does it leave my stamp on my replies so you know it’s me asks Sol Mintzer nervously?

          • That’s odd. Maybe you need to reply to a confirmation email before it will log you in properly. I seem to remember having to do something like that.

  10. Barbara Steele Jun 15, 2020

    The episode of Night Voices called “The Hospice” can currently be found on YouTube here:


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