The Ramsey Campbell Archive

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive contains chiefly the manuscripts, typescripts and correspondence relating to Ramsey Campbell's literary career. There is also a large body of material sent to Campbell relating to articles and publications about him as well as a large collection of typescripts and proofs of other writers' work, such as Clive Barker and Johnathon Carroll, sent for his opinion. There is a small amount general correspondence relating to his career and works, correspondence and newsletters from societies, clubs and conferences with which he has been involved and some miscellaneous personal items that have been deposited.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ramsey Campbell is a respected British writer of horror and supernatural fiction. Born John Ramsey Campbell in Liverpool in 1946, he became a full time writer in 1973 after working in the Civil Service, public libraries. As well as writing he has reviewed films for BBC Radio Merseyside, and has been President of the British Fantasy Society.

The most noticeable influence in Campbell's fiction is H. P. Lovecraft. August Derleth, Campbell's mentor in his formative years, encouraged him to establish his own milieu for his Lovecraftian stories. This led to Campbell's first professional published story, The Church in High Street (1962) and his first published book, The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants (1964). Highly imaginative, these stories, most fitting loosely into the Cthulhu Mythos, are glutinous with atmosphere but weak on character. By the time the book appeared Campbell was already moving away from Lovecraft towards deeper roots. His juvenilia, which he has no qualms over sharing with his readers, show the much stronger influence of writers like M. R. James and Algernon Blackwood, plus imagery from comics and horror movies, particularly the film noir and the work of the early German directors. Movie imagery is evident in many of Campbell's stories and is the basis of Ancient Images (1989). He also novelised three 1930's movies, The Bride of Frankenstein (1977), The Wolfman (1977) and Dracula's Daughter (1977) under the US pseudonym of Carl Dreadstone and in England as E. K. Leyton. He has also published short stories under the name of Jay Ramsey and Montgomery Comfort.

Campbell's earliest stories, dating from 1958-63, were collected in two special editions of The Crypt of the Cthulhu Tales: The Tomb Herd and Others (1986) and Ghostly Tales (1987); he later compiled a retrospective of all his Lovecraftian fiction, Cold Print (1985). But the mid- to late 1960's saw his work markedly metamorphosing as he came to terms with the Lovecraftian elements and began to control his influences, placing greater emphasis on character, particularly the psychology of his protagonists. Campbell's next collections, Daemons by Daylight (1973) and The Heights of Summer (1976), trace this catharsis. His stories now focused on the evil in humankind, an evil that may arise from supernatural origins but is likely to be inherent. This new Ramsey Campbell emerged with shocking violence in his first novel, The Doll Who Ate His Mother (1976), where dabbling in Satanism result in the birth of an evil child. The events themselves are only by implication supernatural, underlying the dichotomy Campbell has liked to explore in his later work between whether evil is of a supernatural or human origin. This malevolence is more profound in his second novel, The Face That Must Die (1979), a thriller of mental decline. Campbell also utilized the latent malevolence of the cityscape to heighten this sense of alienation. Many of his subsequent novels follow this development, deploying concepts of the supernatural, especially satanic cults, as only a possible explanation (or excuse) for human failings and degradation. These novels are thus stories of possession, whether by human, supernatural or psychological intervention, often triggered by a dominant precursive figure, which rules through the spirit. All are interpretations of madness. The One Safe Place (1995) utilizes this development to produce a strongly anticensorship nonfantastic novel that explores how social deprivation is the root cause of most corruption.

Campbell's shorter stories remain more firmly in the realms of supernatural fiction an include some of the best ghost stories of the 1970's and 80's -- he received the World Fantasy Award for The Chimney (1977) and Mackintosh Willy (1979). The best of these are collected in Dark Companions (1982) and Dark Feasts (1987); the two volumes overlap extensively. Campbell also produced some sword and sorcery stories while struggling to establish himself as a freelance writer; these include the four Ryre the Warrior" tales, starting with The Sustenance of Hoak (1977), which appeared in the Swords Against Darkness series edited by Andrew J. Offutt: non have been included in Campbell's story collections. He also completed some of Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane stories, included in Solomon Kane 2: The Hills of the Dead (1979) by Howard. At this time Campbell produced a series of erotic horror stories, mostly for anthologies editor Michael Parry (1947- , and these have been collected as Scared Stiff: Tales of Sex and Death (1986).

Campbell's later short stories show a stronger affinity with his novels, placing greater emphasis on psychological degradation, alienation and distortions or reality. This emerges most potently in his novella Needing Ghosts (1990), a story of lost identity. Collections of later material are Waking Nightmares (1991) and Strange Things and Stranger Places (1993), plus a comprehensive retrospective Alone with the Horrors: The Great Short Fiction of Ramsey Campbell 1961-1991 (1993).

The later novels have shifted slightly from the emphasis on the evil of humanity to the possession of place, exploring the implications of residual influences caused either by humanity's spiritual or artistic passions -- as in The Hungry Moon (1986) -- or by spirit of place as in Midnight Sun (1990) and The Long Lost (1993). The last two, in particular, are rare among the late-20th-century supernatural fiction, in the complexity of their exploration of humanity's relationship with its surroundings.

Based upon Mike Ashley's entry, Campbell, Ramsey (1946- ) in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy , edited by John Clute and John Grant (Orbit, 1997).

Arrangement

The material is arranged into 6 sections:

  • RC/1 : The Works of Ramsey Campbell
  • RC/2 : Articles, books etc. about Ramsey Campbell
  • RC/3 : Typescripts and proofs of other peoples works received by Ramsey Campbell
  • RC/4 : Correspondence received by Ramsey Campbell
  • RC/5 : Clubs, Societies and Conferences
  • RC/6 : Miscellaneous

Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to bone fide researchers

Acquisition Information

The material is on loan to the Science Fiction Foundation Collection in the University of Liverpool, Special Collections and Archives

Archivist's Note

The finding aid has been edited by Roy Lumb for inclusion on the Archives Hub in July 2004 . Further editing was done by Elinor Robinson in August 2005.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and Licensing Rules available upon request

Accruals

It is anticipated that Ramsey Campbell will continue to deposit material.

Related Material

The Science Fiction Foundation Collection at the University of Liverpool Library contains an extensive amount of Ramsey Campbell's fiction, as well as related critical material. The catalogue is searchable online via the SF Hub. The offprints Collection in the Science Fiction archival collections at the University of Liverpool Library contains a small amount of Ramsey Campbell material (see the SF Hub for further details).

The Ramsey Campbell Official Web site also contains much useful information.