Monthly Archives: January 2013

Collecting Hodgson


It’s not easy to be a Hodgson Collector these days.

Oh, sure, the bulk of his writing is available either through ebooks, online or print-on-demand but if you want to collect the old stuff, it can run you quite a bit of moolah.

First off, it is almost impossible to collect any letters or signatures of Hodgson.  Very, very few ever show up on the market and, when they do, generally sell for thousands of dollars.  Unlike Lovecraft, I don’t think that Hodgson was an especially prolific letter writer which certainly cuts down on the number available.  I’m sure that there are many examples currently being held in private collections but it’s unlikely any of those will show up soon.

So let’s take a look at the books and their current values.

hope-hodgson-set

A sample of the first editions.

First editions of Hodgson’s novels will likely run you in the mid to high four digits depending on condition.  For example, a typical first edition of THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND (1908) lists for $8,500 here.   The same bookseller has a copy of THE NIGHT LAND (1912) for only $4,250.  First editions might have been plentiful during Lovecraft’s time but not so much so today.

The other first editions are even harder to find.  A first printing of LUCK OF THE STRONG or MEN OF THE DEEP WATERS is likely to cost between $3,000-$5,000.  Perhaps being short story collections caused them to not be kept as much as the novels.

Holden & Hardingham edition, 1921.

Holden & Hardingham edition, 1921.

In 1921-22, publishers Holden & Hardingham reprinted all of Hodgson’s books in what were called ‘cheap’ editions.  Although they may have been considered ‘cheap’ in their time, they certainly are not now!  Current listings on ebay show some of these volumes going for between $1,100-$2,700 although they do have dustjackets which affect the price considerably.  I have seen rough copies of CARNACKI and CAPTAIN GAULT from the H&H reprints, without dustjackets, going for between $200-$300 at times.

The next major Hodgson publication is 1946’s THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND AND OTHER NOVELS from Arkham House.  This book is one of the major reasons people still know Hodgson today and this is shown by its value.  In recent years, this book has seen a steep climb in value and a copy today can run anywhere from $400-$800.  This book will likely never

Arkham House, 1946.

Arkham House, 1946.

decrease in value due both to it’s historical and literary importance.   If you ever want a copy of this, my advice is to buy as good a copy as you can afford now as it will surely cost you more in the future.  It is one of my favorite books in my collection and a joy to read and hold.

carnacki

The Mycroft & Moran edition.

The Arkham House imprint, Mycroft & Moran, produced their edition of CARNACKI in 1947.  This book is important for a number of reasons.  First, it is an early volume from a press specializing in mystery and detective fiction and, second, this was the first collection to feature all NINE of the Carnacki stories.  Previous editions held only the 6 which had appeared in the magazines at the time.  This edition included the 3 previously unpublished Carnacki stories discovered by H. C. Koenig.  Henceforth, EVERY edition would contain all nine stories.  So, this version was, in essence, the first appearance of those 3 stories.  This can be a costly book.  Prices range wildly on it depending on the book and dustjacket’s condition.  Only a few years ago, the average price would have been between $50-$75 but today the average begins at around $100.  I have seen dealers pricing this book at well over that, however, so beware.  If this is an edition that you must have, set yourself a price and be patient.  Eventually, you will be rewarded.

deep waters

Arkham House, 1967.

The last Arkham House collection of Hodgson came in 1967 with DEEP WATERS.  This is a bit of a hodge-podge of many stories published in LUCK OF THE STRONG and MEN OF THE DEEP WATERS along with a few others.  Oddly enough, it has seen a recent spike in value perhaps caused by AH collectors looking to complete their runs.  In any case, copies of this book will average between $100-$200.  As with the CARNACKI above, set your price and be a savvy collector.

The next book of note was OUT OF THE STORM, published by Donald M. Grant in 1975.  This was actually one of the first Hodgson collections I ever personally owned so it has a bit of a soft spot with me.  A paperback edition was published by Centaur Books in 1980 which omits the lengthy introduction by Sam Moskowitz.  You want that introduction, trust me.  out of the stormOne would expect that this book would be more highly prized but I have seen copies on ebay sell for as little as $30 even though some dealers ask $100 for it.   I would classify this book as one of the 5 most important Hodgson books ever published.

In 1977, Ferret Fantasy produced a slim volume called POEMS OF THE SEA.  This little hardcover reprinted the two volumes of poetry which Hodgson’s widow had published after his death in 1918.  It’s a nice little book but, unless you’re interested in Hodgson’s poetry, not essential.  Normally, prices for this book can waiver between $35-$75 when available as it doesn’t show up all that often.

1977 also saw Donald M. Grant publish THE DREAM OF X.  This had been an extreme abridgement that Hodgson had done of THE NIGHT LAND in order to secure American copyright.  It was discovered by Sam Moskowitz and presented here for the first time.  A nice book, it does not seem to be highly prized by collectors as copies can be easily found in the $30 range.

R. Alain Everts small press, The Strange Company, published a series of 15 booklets in 1988 reprinting a selection of Hodgson’s stories.  Some were unpublished while others hadn’t been seen since their original magazine appearances nearly 70 years earlier.  This set is very rare and can be costly.  The booklets themselves are very simple with no artwork or photos.  A full set of these today can run between $200-$300 when found!  All of those stories can be found in various other sources today so this is more of an item for the completist.

PamperoMoskowitz teamed with Donald M. Grant once again in 1991 for THE HAUNTED PAMPERO.  This was a collection of (then) unpublished works by Hodgson.  There is a regular edition as well as a signed, limited edition.  The signed edition should cost you no more than $100 with the regular edition around $65.

I edited two chapbooks of Hodgson material for Necronomicon Press.  They were DEMONS OF THE SEA (1992) and AT SEA (1993).  Both, sadly, are out of print.  They were collections of material that, at that time, had not been republished since their original magazine appearances.  I have seen copies of both of these on ebay for around $60 which I would not agree with.

Starting in 1993, I published four collections of Hodgson material through my Hobgoblin Press.  They were: THE EXPLOITS OF CAPTAIN GAULT (2 volumes–1993); THE UNCOLLECTED WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON (2 volumes–1995); BEYOND THE DAWNING: THE POEMS OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON (1995); and DOWN IN THE WEEDS (1997).  All of these are long out of print.  I have seen these on ebay and other places for about $50 a copy but would state that they are overpriced even at $25 a copy.  All of the material in these volumes has been included in the 5 volume Night Shade collection which is still available in ebook format or in the Jane Frank books.

The final Hodgson collection from Moskowitz and Donald M. Grant, TERRORS OF THE SEA, appeared in 1996.  Again,1 terror the book’s introduction is the best part and worth the price for that alone.  This was also issued in a regular edition and a signed, limited edition.  Prices for the signed edition hover around $75 while the regular edition rests around $50.

Starting in 2003, Night Shade Books began an ambitious project by printing all of Hodgson’s fiction in five volumes.  It would take five years for all five volumes to appear.  Although the hardcovers are now all out of print, they can be purchased rather cheaply through Amazon for the kindle.  In the resale market, prices fluctuate for these books.  Some dealers price them at $40 per volume while others can ask as much as $100 per volume so beware.

1 frankIn 2005, Jane Frank published two collections culled from the Sam Moskowitz Hodgson files which she purchased at auction after Moskowitz’s death in 1997.  These were THE WANDERING SOUL: GLIMPSES OF A LIFE: A COMPENDIUM OF RARE AND UNPUBLISHED WORKS BY WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON and THE LOST POETRY OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON and were published in a joint effort by PS Publishing and Tartarus Press.  Both collections are worthy especially the WANDERING SOUL as this reprints many of Hodgson’s non-fiction essays and lectures.  This is another case where the prices can vary wildly.  I’ve seen each book sell for about $35 apiece but also listed for as much as $200 for the set.  As always, set the price you’re willing to pay and be patient.

One of the most recent Hodgson books is the paperback collection, ADRIFT ON THE HAUNTED SEAS: THE BEST adriftSHORT STORIES OF WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON.  Edited by Douglas Anderson and published by Cold Spring Press, this book is oddly difficult to find today and can command high prices on the resale market.  This book was distributed by Simon and Schuster, Inc. and retailed for a mere $11.  Today, it can cost at least $30 or up to $100!  This is shown by recent listings on the rare book website, abebooks.com.  I honestly do not understand the logic behind this.  Anderson’s introduction is a short 5 pages and the contents are available in other editions.  My advice would be to take the $100 a dealer wants for this book and spend it on the two Jane Frank volumes!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction to collecting Hodgson books.  I haven’t covered the many paperback versions as they are, by and large, fairly easy to find and generally not too expensive.  If you have any questions about the value of a particular title or edition, leave a message on this post and I’ll be happy to answer it!

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Why Hodgson?


(Today’s guest post comes from Dennis Price.   Dennis runs a really excellent site, http://www.eternalidol.com/, which is primarily about Stonehenge but he talks about a lot of other things too including classic horror.  In this essay, Dennis talks about how he discovered Carnacki and the impact it made on his life.)
13557_241026369224_2025534_nI first read Carnacki the Ghost Finder in the summer of 1980, shortly after I’d moved from my native Wales to north London. I can vividly remember reading it on a sunny Saturday afternoon while my flatmate Richard was watching a football game on television, but despite the less than atmospheric surroundings, I was absolutely enthralled by what I found on the pages before me.
 

At the time, I was around 20 years old and I’d already read a great many ghost stories and books on hauntings. I had happily devoured fictional tales, such as those written by M.R. James, while I’d also bought just about any books on real-life or historical hauntings that I could find. Over 30 years later, I find myself sat in my study surrounded by non-fiction books on just about everything from Alchemy to Zombies, alongside the works of Dennis Wheatley, Poe, Lovecraft, Machen and others, but I had never read anything quite like Carnacki the Ghost Finder and the memory of my first time very much lives with me to this day.

 

I suppose it was the perfect book at the perfect time for me. I’d studied Latin, Greek and Ancient History at school, so I’d been introduced to some fascinating material concerning the Underworld and the monsters that inhabited these shady realms. My schooling in the classics had imbued me with some discipline, while I’d earlier read a book entitled Gods, Graves and Scholars that contained the fantastic accounts of Champollion’s ingenious decipherment of the Egyptian hieroglyphs and Schliemann’s equally ingenious discovery of the fabled city of Troy. I was aware of Sherlock Holmes and I’d seen the Hammer version of the Hound of the Baskervilles, which is of course a brilliant investigation into an apparently lethal haunting, but Carnacki’s meticulous investigations were the first of their kind that I can remember reading.

 

On top of all that, I’d developed an interest in real-life, inimical hauntings, because by this time, I’d learned about the deadly phantoms in the Tower of London and in Berkeley Square. I then came to discover others, such as the haunting of a road in Devon that resulted in human fatalities a century or so ago and in recent years, I’ve learned of many more, but back in 1980, I was still coming to terms with the disturbing notion that supernatural entities could inflict physical harm. At the time, I was living in East Finchley, which is just a mile or so up the road from Highgate Cemetery, a place that was reputed to be the lair of a vampire, or so I was convincingly assured back in those pre-internet days.

So, while I was aware that Carnacki was a work of fiction, I wondered more and more about where William Hope Hodgson drew his inspiration from as far as the lethal hauntings he described were concerned. My curiosity led me to discover the remarkable manifestations produced by the medium Franek Kluski, as well as many other tantalising accounts of supernatural entities in the séance room, ruined castles and prehistoric monuments. Carnacki had enabled me to tap into a cornucopia of nightmare worlds, both in fiction and in historical accounts, something that continues to give me enormous pleasure.

 

In brief, I loved absolutely everything about the book and the compelling stories they contained. I even liked Carnacki’s habit of entertaining guests for the purpose of telling them about his exploits, because at around this time, I had joined the Dracula Society and I’d been warmly welcomed into its ranks. I attended a few dinners and I met some very pleasant and engaging people, and while I had greatly enjoyed chewing the fat with them, I soon decided that I was less interested in Gothic literature than in investigating some of “Hell’s mysteries”, as the great man described these matters in The Whistling Room. However, my application to join A Leading Paranormal Investigation Club of the time was tersely refused by the club’s president, so I decided “if you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em”.

 

I don’t live my life by literary proxy, but like everyone else, I’m subject to outside influences to a greater or lesser degree and there’s no question that Carnacki’s investigations captured my imagination. I was particularly impressed by his attention to detail and his open mind, while I also liked his admissions that he could be mistaken and sometimes fooled. Of all the aspects of Thomas Carnacki’s character, I suppose I was most drawn to his ready confessions to feeling terror and loneliness when he was engaged in his nocturnal investigations.

 

Perhaps I’d have looked into them all anyway without ever having read the book in question, but Carnacki always came to mind whenever I had the opportunity to visit allegedly haunted locations in Britain and abroad, something I’ve been doing for decades. The most famous such places I’ve been to in direct connection with hauntings are Edgehill, Littlecote House, Borley, Clapham Woods and Silbury Hill, all of which were exhilarating, baffling and sometimes terrifying. The most satisfying investigation that I’ve ever undertaken was that of an apparently haunted church in southern Greece, on account of the feelings of sheer dread, puzzlement and disbelief I experienced when I was trying to fathom the true nature of the manifestations that were causing so much alarm to so many people, but I was also very gratified by the relief and sense of general well-being that followed when I was finally able to point out the agency behind the fearsome “Voice in the Night”.

 

What else? As this site’s devoted to an appreciation of William Hope Hodgson and his works, I’ll just mention that I wrote some adaptations of the Carnacki stories for a production company some years ago, but the less said about that unfortunate episode, the better. Very briefly, the people with whom I was dealing wanted a ‘love interest’ for Thomas Carnacki, along with other refinements to Hodgson’s writing that they felt would attract a large audience, whereas I felt the stories were just about perfect as they were.

It wasn’t until I looked through this site that I realised that Donald Pleasance had played Thomas Carnacki. I was lucky enough to meet this man a little while before his death in 1995 and I was in awe of him anyway on account of what I knew of his career, although if I’d known at the time that he’d once portrayed Carnacki, I would certainly have asked him about it at some length. Sadly, it was not to be.

I could continue like this for a long while, but perhaps it’s time to call a halt. I’ll conclude by saying that if Carnacki the Ghost Finder had been the only book that William Hope Hodgson had ever written, then it would have had pride of place in my book collection as a unique and engrossing literary marvel. However, we all know of Hodgson’s other works, so I’m looking forward to downing tools and indulging myself by reading every last thing on Sam’s site, while it’s obviously a place I’ll return to, because I know of few other more engrossing subjects than Carnacki the Ghost Finder and the brave, visionary and exceptional man who wrote it.

Dennis Price

Author, The Missing Years of Jesus

http://www.deadofnightproductions.com/

http://www.eternalidol.com/

(Many thanks to Dennis for sharing his thoughts with us.  I enjoy hearing how people discover Hodgson or what his writings mean to you so if you have a story to share, please contact me at: lordshazam@yahoo.com with the words “Guest Post” in the subject line.–Sam Gafford)

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100!!!!!!


100posts11This marks the 100th posting on the William Hope Hodgson Blog!

Back when I started this blog, several people questioned if there would be enough material to keep it going.  It wasn’t an entirely unjustified question.  After all, Hodgson doesn’t have as much devoted to him as, say, Lovecraft does.  But I felt that, whatever material I did have was important enough to present.

WHHHodgson is kind of the underdog in weird literature.  Doesn’t get a lot of press.  Guillermo del Toro isn’t lining up to direct a move based on THE NIGHT LAND.  There isn’t a convention devoted to Hodgson taking place in Blackburn.  There aren’t even any comic books doing “Hodgsonian” tales.

When I was a small press publisher back in the 1990s, I had a table at a local convention/show where I was selling my Hodgson reprints as well as a couple of Machen books and others.  The convention’s GOH was Neil Gaiman who was kind enough to stop by the table and talk a bit.  We chatted about Machen for a few minutes and gave him complimentary copies of my Machen books but, when I tried to interest him in the Hodgson, he wasn’t biting.  He just wasn’t all that keen on WHH…even when I was trying to give him FREE copies.  I’ve gotten that reaction a lot.

I guess that kind of stuck with me over the years as an example of Hodgson being the “Rodney Dangerfield” of weird fiction.  “He don’t get no respect!”

Through the years, that has always been one of the driving forces behind my efforts.  I want Hodgson to get more respect both from the readers and the literary circles.  WHH will never reach the stature of a Poe or Lovecraft (nor would even I say he deserves to be elevated so far) but there is much in WHH to enjoy and study.

This staged photo of WHH at a ship's wheel was used in his lectures about life at sea.

This staged photo of WHH at a ship’s wheel was used in his lectures about life at sea.

That was one of the reasons why I started this blog because there was no place on the internet to get a lot of this information.  You might get a bit here and there but it wasn’t centralized.  I wanted there to be a place where everyone could come to get old and new material and find out what’s going on in the world of Hodgson.

I hope that I have succeeded in that endeavor.

As we enter 2013, there are already new things in store for Hodgson and his fans.  Some new books are scheduled to come out and WHH is finally getting some of that critical attention that has been denied him for so long.

Hopefully, this year will see the publication of a new collection of Hodgson criticism and studies edited by Massimo Berruti and published by Hippocampus Press called VOICES FROM THE BORDERLAND.  It is an anthology of some old pieces and a lot of new ones as well.  I am happy to say that I will be represented in this volume by several articles and am honored to be included.

One of the most important items in VOICES FROM THE BORDERLAND will hopefully be the long-awaited Hodgson Bibliography which S. T. Joshi, Mike Ashley and I have been working on for well over 10 years now.  It is already over 100 pages long and covers international appearances as well as English.  It has been an invaluable resource in my own work and I look forward to sharing it with others.

A early photo of WHH.  I am not sure of the year but probably roughly around 1903 or so.

A early photo of WHH. I am not sure of the year but probably roughly around 1903 or so.

Already this year we have seen a new paperback of Hodgson stories from Night Shade Books called THE GHOST PIRATES AND OTHERS edited by Jeremy Lassen.  This has marked the first appearance by WHH in an inexpensive, mass produced paperback in several years.  Hodgson also was mentioned in S.T. Joshi’s two volume history of weird literature; UNUTTERABLE HORROR.

Later this year, Centipede Press will be releasing a collection of Hodgson stories compiled by S. T. Joshi.  I do not know the full contents of this book yet but I do know that it will contain the text of the original edition of THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND.  Unfortunately, given the tendency of Centipede Press to produce expensive items, I fear it will not be cheap but I am sure that it will be a very attractively pro1 sargassoduced book.

In addition, 2013 will see the first issue of SARGASSO: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies.  This will be a yearly publication highlighting new articles about Hodgson as well as Hodgson inspired art and stories.  I’ve already gotten a number of submissions and am expecting new articles by some of the biggest names in Hodgson criticism.

carnackiAnother project which I’m putting together is a special, 100th anniversary edition of CARNACKI.  This will be a deluxe edition, reprinting the original texts along with annotations.  With luck, I hope to have it available by November.  Going along with that, I would like to announce a collection of all-new Carnacki tales!  I’m opening this up to submissions today, with this post, in the hopes that everyone will spread the word!  I am looking for new tales of Carnacki in the Hodgson tradition so I encourage all of our writers out there to submit a story.  Details are still being negotiated so keep watching the blog for more announcements.

Already I am looking forward to the future.  Within the last 20 years, Hodgson has made great strides in critical and reader popularity.  Virtually all of his major fiction is now available either through e-books, print-on-demand or free online sites.  The next steps are to increase availability of his poetry and non-fiction so that, for new readers, everything is available.  This is a major difference from just a few years ago when it was difficult to easily find even Hodgson’s novels.  Today, we can state that Hodgson is better known and read than ever before.

William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918)

William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918)

And there is still so much more to learn!  Genealogy research has barely been touched and there is a great need for more study about Hodgson’s own life, opinions and beliefs.  Plus Hodgson has suffered from one major disadvantage: there has yet to be a full, book-length critical study of his works.  I hope to change this in the future.

It’s been a great 100 posts and I hope everyone will still around for the next 100!!

(I’d like to thank everyone who has helped with this blog over the last 100 posts.  I could not have done it without your overwhelming support and I humbly thank you all.  Whether you have contributed materials, shared knowledge, spread the word or just read the blog regularly, you are why I keep going and posting week after week.  I may be the person behind the blog but it is really for all of you.)

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A Guide to Hodgson Criticism


Sometimes I am asked what is the ‘best’ scholarly work on Hodgson to read?  Usually this comes from people who have read Hodgson’s writings and want to learn more about the man and his work.  Happily (or unhappily), unlike Lovecraft, there has not been so much work done on Hodgson as to be overwhelming.  Indeed, there is much yet to be done but, like everything, there is a beginning.  This list contains comments regarding the items which are purely my own opinion.

We must first divide this list into two parts: Biographical and Critical.  Although some contain elements of both, most fall firmly into one camp or the other.

Biographical

There have been several significant biographical pieces on Hodgson.  It is due to them that we have what little information that we do today.

evertsThe earliest came from R. Alain Everts 1974’s, William Hope Hodgson: THE NIGHT PIRATE, Volume 2 .  This was the result of much individual research by Everts and interviews with Hodgson’s then surviving siblings.

Sam Moskowitz provided the longest and most detailed analysis with his essay which first appeared in three issues of Weird Tales in 1973 when he was that magazine’s editor.  These installments were combined into one article which served as the introduction to the important collection, Out of the Storm (Grant, 1975).

Both Everts and Moskowitz deserve reading.  However, they often disagree on various points.  Moskowitz, for example, claims that WHH had a good relationship with his parents while Everts refutes this.  Because much of this information is apocryphal, it cannot be independently verified at this point.  My belief is that much of the information both scholars quoted was gained from interviews they conducted with WHH family.  As such, we must adjust for faulty memories or the more typical tendency to ‘revise’ history to make it appear more palpable.  Read with an open mind.

PamperoMoskowitz would go on to pen two more forewords to the other two WHH collections from Grant that he edited.  Much useful information is contained in both.  In The Haunted Pampero (1991), Moskowitz describes the efforts of Hodgson’s widow to keep his work alive until her death in 1943.  In Terrors of the Sea (1996), Moskowitz’s introduction picks up after the death of Hodgson’s widow when the literary estate reverted to Hodgson’s sister, Lissie.  This essay is particularly interesting in that it describes how Lissie often did more harm than good albeit unintentionally as she did not understand publishing and contracts.

The next major biographical step would come with Jane Frank’s The Wandering Soul.  After Moskowitz’s death in 1997, Frank and her husband purchased Moskowitz’s Hodgson collection which Jane Frank used to put together this anthology of WHH’s non-fiction and essays.

In addition to an excellent essay covering Hodgson’s life and career, Frank presents several unpublished WHH items that have significant impact on our knowledge of Hodgson’s life.  These include the lectures “A Sailor and His Camera” and “Ship’s Log”.  Recently, Frank has mentioned that she still has some unpublished items from Moskowitz’s files and is searching for a publisher for them.

Criticism

One of the earliest examples of Hodgson Criticism is H. P. Lovecraft’s essay, “The Weird Work of William Hope Hodgson”.  This was originally published in The Phantagraph in 1937 and then later in H. C. Koenig’s amateur magazine, The Reader and Collector (1944).  This essay was reprinted in full on this blog here.  Lovecraft had taken the portions on Hodgson that he had included in his revised essay, Supernatural Horror in Literature, and expanded them in this article.

That issue of The Reader and Collector marked the first time that serious critical attention had been focused on Hodgson.  Through the kind generosity of Koenig’s son-in-law, Gene Biancheri, we have reprinted that issue in it’s entirety on this blog.  The issue included essays by Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth, Koenig, E. A. Edkins and Ellery Queen.

Arkham House, 1946.

Arkham House, 1946.

In 1947, Koenig provided the introduction to Arkham House’s edition of House on the Borderland which was the first time many readers had read anything about Hodgson.

For the next several decades, the bulk of Hodgson Criticism would primarily be contained in introductions to various reprints of his work.  Many library encyclopedias and indexes would appear in the 1970s and 80s which would include sections on Hodgson but would be priced beyond the means of most readers.

In 1987, Hodgson enthusiast Ian Bell would self publish William Hope Hodgson: Voyages and Visions which would collect many significant essays on Hodgson.  It was the most significant gathering of scholarly articles on Hodgson since 1944’s Reader and Collector.

Recently, academic scholars have taken up the Hodgson banner.  Writers such as Emily Alder and Kelly Hurley have placed articles in volumes published by Cambridge University Press and others.

I would be remiss if I did not at least mention my own article, Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson”, which was first published in 1992.  In it, I provided evidence that Hodgson’s novels were published in the reverse order of publication which changes many conceptions about Hodgson and his work.  I reprinted the essay on this blog here.

These are, to my mind, the primary sources that one should read for a basic understanding of Hodgson Criticism.  In an earlier post, I provided a more detailed listing of what was published and when which can be read here.

There is a great deal more work left to be done on Hodgson.  To date, he has not even received a book length analysis of his life and work.  In many ways, the field of Hodgson Criticism is as unexplored as many of the locales in his stories.  This needs to be corrected.–Sam Gafford

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The Nonfiction Hodgson


Although William Hope Hodgson is mostly known for his fiction and novels, he wrote a number of non-fiction articles over his lifetime.  According to the latest version of the bibliography (compiled by S.T. Joshi, Mike Ashley and myself with the assistance of several other researchers), 40 different are listed.  They range from physical culture to writings issues to essays about the sea.

In fact, the first piece of writing which Hodgson ever had published was nonfiction.  This was his article, “Dr. Thomas’s Vibration Method versus Sandow’s” which appeared in the August, 1901, issue of Sandow’s Magazine.  This was the beginning of Hodgson’s professional writing career and, although he would sell several articles on physical culture, they all appeared by 1904 (“Chair Exercises” in Penny Pictorial Weekly, June 25, 1904).  It appears that Hodgson wrote nothing more on this subject after this point.

About this time, Hodgson’s attention turned more to ‘authorial’ matters.  He wrote several articles for the Author magazine regarding concerns facing writers.  Hodgson appeared in this magazine several times:

“Regarding Similar Names.” (Author, January 1906)

“Totems for Authors.” (Author, February 1906)

“The Poet v. the Stonemason; or, Why Not a New Market for Poetry?” (Author, March 1906)

“A Review of the Totem Question.” (Author, April 1906)

These are rather odd little articles as they are obsessed with the problems of authors having similar names and proposes the use of different icons (or “Totems”) to differentiate between authors.  The poetry article argues that there is a market for poetry but only as written by genuine poets which is ironic considering Hodgson’s lifelong attempts to publish his own poetry.

Of course, Hodgson wrote several articles about life on the sea and a few of these were transcriptions of lectures he had given.  Of these, the best examples are “Through the Vortex of a Cyclone” (Cornhill Magazine, November 1907), “Ten Months at Sea” and “A Sailor and his Camera”.  The last two were unpublished during Hodgson’s lifetime but were collected in Jane Frank’s The Wandering Soul.  Other notable items are “Is the Mercantile Navy Worth Joining?” (Grand Magazine, September 1905), “The ‘Emergency Door’ of the Sea: ‘Out Boats'” (Westminster Gazette, April 1914), and “The ‘Prentices Mutiny” (Wide World Magazine, 1912).  The second article was likely written in response to the Titanic tragedy which had happened two years earlier while the third is an account of an actual mutiny written in the manner of a short story.

Less easy to classify are such items as “Date 1965: Modern Warfare” (New Age, December 1908), “The Peril of the Mine” (Ideas, April 1910), “The Psychology of Species”, and “Writers of Ghost Stories”.  The last two were unpublished but also included in Frank’s collection.

The last nonfiction pieces to appear during Hodgson’s lifetime are three short pieces obviously written during the early days of the war:

“How the French Soldier Deals with Spies”

“An Old French Woman and Her Chickens”

“A Pen Picture of How Frenchmen Fight”

All three appeared in the October, 1914, issue of Westminster Gazette.  The French aspect is interesting and must relate to the time Hodgson and his wife spent in France between their marriage in 1913 and their return to England in 1914.

Although Hodgson would publish more new fiction between 1914 and his death in 1918, this was the end of his nonfiction input.  Although ranging across several different subjects, the spirit of Hodgson comes across strongest in the Physical Culture and Sea articles.  In these, we see his devotion to the disciple of the body as well as his true feelings about the sea he spent so much time on in his young years.

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CARNACKI #7–“The Haunted Jarvee”


carnacki 1(Spoiler Alert!  This posts discusses plot details from the story, “The Haunted Jarvee”.  If you have not read this story, you can do so online here.)

“The Haunted Jarvee” is the seventh Carnacki story from William Hope Hodgson.  It is also the last Carnacki story to appear before the 1947 Arkham House Collection.  The tale appeared in Premier Magazine in March, 1929, which was eleven years after Hodgson’s death in WWI in 1918.  This shows that Hodgson’s widow had not been lax in attempting to keep Hodgson’s writing and legacy alive.  It remains a curious instance that she did not take advantage of the pulp boom of the 1920s and place some of Hodgson’s stories there.

The story begins as typical with the narrator and Carnacki’s other friends invited for a dinner and a story.  Carnacki reveals that he has been away for a trip on “one of the real old-time sailing ships” named the Jessop.  The captain, an old friend of Carnacki’s, has long talked about the ‘haunted’ nature of his vessel but gives few details:

‘“Can’t keep men in her no-how,” he often told me. “They get frightened and they see things and they feel things. An’ I’ve lost a power o’ men out of her. Fallen from aloft, you know. She’s getting a bad name.” And then he’d shake his head very solemnly.'”

The Captain goes so far as to have an entire cabin outfitted for Carnacki so he can bring all of his equipment and apparatus.  For two weeks, Carnacki performs his usual tests but finds nothing amiss.  All he notices is that there is an “abnormal calm” about the ship.

On the eighteenth day, as the Captain and Carnacki are taking their evening walk about the deck, the wind dies down and the Captain predicts that “there’ll be trouble tonight.”

The Captain focuses Carnacki’s gaze to a spot just under the setting sun:

“After a minute I saw it — a vague shadow upon the still surface of the sea that seemed to move towards us as I stared. For a moment I gazed fascinated, yet ready every moment to swear that I saw nothing and in the same instant to be assured that there was truly something out there upon the water, apparently coming towards the ship.”

The Captain turns Carnacki around and the Ghost-Finder sees that there are shadows advancing on the ship from three directions.

“’I’ve seen ’em before and thought sometimes I must be going mad. Sometimes they’re plain an’ sometimes they’re scarce to be seen, an’ sometimes they’re like livin’ things, an’ sometimes they’re like nought at all but silly fancies. D’ you wonder I couldn’t name ’em proper to you?’”

Staring south, Carnacki sees the final, fourth shadow appear as it heads towards the ship.  The Captain orders the men to come off the masts as he’ll have no one up in the rigging that night.

‘“Gettin’ thin an’ disappearin’ as they come near,” he said presently. “I know, I’ve seen ’em do that oft an’ plenty before. They’ll be close round the ship soon but you nor me won’t see them, nor no one else, but they’ll be there. I wish ’twas mornin’. I do that!’”

It is dark by the time the men come off the masts and the Captain and Carnacki take a nervous walk along the poopdeck. Although pressed, the Captain cannot provide any more details about the shadows on the water.  There is no one else for Carnacki to question as the Captain is the only old hand on the ship.  All of the others are new to the vessel which speaks much about it’s reputation.

All is quiet until about eleven o’clock when a strong squall breaks overhead.  The Captain orders the three t’gallants lowered and the sails shaken but the storm does not ease.  The Captain is prepared to let the storm rip the sails to shreds rather then send men aloft.  But, by eight bells, the situation is so dire that the Captain fears that the masts themselves will be ripped off the deck so he has no choice but to send men to make the sails fast.

Just after the sails are tightened, there is the sound of two sickening thuds on the deck.  Two men have fallen to their deaths out of the rigging.  The crew gathers around the fallen men but Carnacki senses something else:

“And all the time I was conscious of a most extraordinary sense of oppression and frightened distress and fearful expectation, for it seemed to me, standing there near the dead in that unnatural wind that a power of evil filled all the night about the ship and that some fresh horror was imminent.”

The men are buried at sea the following morning after which Carnacki has an idea which he discusses with the Captain.  Gaining his approval, Carnacki spends much of the day setting up his electrical equipment.

“I believed the origin of the happenings to lie in a strange but perfectly understandable cause, i.e., in that phenomenon known technically as “attractive vibrations.” Harzam, in his monograph on ‘Induced Hauntings,’ points out that such are invariably produced by ‘induced vibrations,’ that is, by temporary vibrations set up by some outside cause.”

Carnacki believes that he can set up opposing vibrations that would counter the dangerous vibrations and is a technique which he had tried before with only partial success because of the quality of the equipment he had used.  That night they keep watch for the four shadows which soon appear and head towards the ship.

The Captain, earlier in the day, had ordered the sails secured as he would not risk any man aloft that night.  Carnacki switches on his equipment and sends the opposing vibrations out into the dark.  When another squall hits later in the night and Carnacki rushes upstairs to find the wind and rain battering the ship mercilessly.

“At the time when it came I was lying down on a locker in the saloon, but I ran up on to the poop as the vessel canted under the enormous force of the wind. Here I found the air pressure tremendous and the noise of the squall stunning. And over it all and through it all I was conscious of something abnormal and threatening that set my nerves uncomfortably acute. The thing was not natural.”

The storm breaks about two a.m. and the clouds break suddenly.  As Carnacki watches, he sees a shadow lying just above the deck but it quickly disappears.  The Captain replies that he had only seen that happen once before and that instance had resulted in the deaths of half of the crew.

“‘Just that,’ he agreed. ‘I said, mister, you’d see if you’d wait. And this ain’t the half. You wait till you sees ’em looking like little black clouds all over the sea round the ship and movin’ steady with the ship. All the same, I ain’t seen ’em aboard but the once. Guess we’re in for it.”

The Captain resumes pacing on the deck while Carnacki keeps a watch for the shadows.  Although Carnacki thinks he sees them several times, they dissipate too quickly for him to see clearly. Towards the end of the watch, the Captain sees something on the deck:

“In the place he had indicated there was a faint, dull shadowy spot seeming suspended about a foot above the deck. This grew more visible and there was movement in it and a constant, oily-seeming whirling from the centre outwards. The thing expanded to several feet across, with the lighted planks of the deck showing vaguely through. The movement from the centre outwards was now becoming very distinct, till the whole strange shape blackened and grew more dense, so that the deck below was hidden.”

The shadow eventually dissipates leaving the two men to stare at the wooden deck.

The pattern continues for a week.  The calm sea and the thunderous squall repeat every night.  Carnacki continues his “counter vibrations” during this time and, although at first they do not appear successful, he eventually concludes that it is ‘attracting’ something rather than repelling it because, every night, a grey cloud appears in all directions immediately after Carnacki powers up his machine.

After a week of this, Carnacki proposes to the Captain that he power up his machine at dusk and let it run all night, taking note of the effects.  The men are ordered into the fo’c’sle and told not to leave it under any circumstance.  Carnacki seals them in with the SaaaMaaa Ritual.  The men are safe and, although Carnacki suggests that the Captain and the three mates go below decks, they insist on staying.

Carnacki constructs his electric pentacle and then turns on the machine.  The vibrations go out into the night.  A shadow appears on the horizon, encircling the boat as it moves closer.

Silence falls until, a little while later, lightning fills the sky but without any thunder.  Carnacki finds himself feeling that it is not ‘real’ lightning at all but “a representation of lightning rather than the physical electricity itself”.  A strange quivering runs through the ship:

“I can give you no better illustration of the strangeness of the movement on that glass-like sea than to say that it was just such a movement as might have been given her had an invisible giant hand lifted her and toyed with her, canting her this way and that with a certain curious and rather sickening rhythm of movement.”

This subsides and there are several hours of silence. The lightning continues and increases in intensity.  Each flash shows the haze closing in upon the ship.  Their breathing becomes labored.

Suddenly, Carnacki notices that there are “grey things floating in the air”.  They are insubstantial but they are there all the same.  They begin to circle around the ship, vibrating as they float.  Carnacki feels the ship beginning to vibrate in the same way.  The bow lifts, then the starboard side before slowing to a stop.  A deathly silence comes over them until the ship is suddenly pushed upward from the starboard side.  It continues in a form of rocking as they realize that something is trying to capsize the ship.

The Captain cries out to Carnacki to shut off his equipment. The deck rises up, almost like a wall, as the men struggle to hang on before Carnacki switches off the machine and the vibrations end.  The ship rights itself just in time to be hit by a massive surge of wind.  “It was as if all the night on that side were a vast cliff, sending down high and monstrous echoes upon us.”

The wind gets stronger and it is as if the sea itself were screaming at them:

“Then the wind rushed out at us and stunned us wit its sound and force and fury. We were smothered and half-stunned. The vessel went over on to her port side merely from pressure of the wind on her naked spars and side. The whole night seemed one yell and the foam roared and snowed over us in countless tons. I have never known anything like it. We were all splayed about the poop, holding on to anything we could, while the pentacle was smashed to atoms so that we were in complete darkness. The storm-burst had come down on us.”

The storm calms by the morning and, by evening, they are traveling under a brisk wind.  However, the ship has sprung serious leaks and sinks several days later.  When pressed by his friends for an explanation for why the ship had become like this, Carnacki has a ready theory:

‘Well,’ replied Carnacki, ‘in my opinion she was a focus. That is a technical term which I can best explain by saying that she possessed the “attractive vibration” that is the power to draw to her any psychic waves in the vicinity, much in the way of a medium. The way in which the “vibration” is acquired — to use a technical term again — is, of course, purely a matter for supposition. She may have developed it during the years, owing to a suitability of conditions or it may have been in her (“of her” is a better term) from the very day her keel was laid. I mean the direction in which she lay the condition of the atmosphere, the state of the “electric tensions,” the very blows of the hammers and the accidental combining of materials suited to such an end — all might tend to such a thing. And this is only to speak of the known. The vast unknown it is vain to speculate upon in a brief chatter like this.

‘I would like to remind you here of that idea of mine that certain forms of so-called “hauntings” may have their cause in the “attractive vibrations.” A building or a ship — just as I have indicated — may develop “vibrations,” even as certain materials in combination under the proper conditions will certainly develop an electric current.”

“The Haunted Jarvee” is an odd mix of Hodgson’s interest in the supernatural, science and the ocean.  Although the haunting is never completely explained, the scenes of the shadows creeping upon the ship are especially effective and echo his novel, THE GHOST PIRATES.  Carnacki’s recklessness is in full view here as he puts the entire ship at danger to prove his theory about ‘counter vibrations’.

No other ‘lost’ cases are mentioned in the story and only the Saaamaaa Ritual is used.  It truly is a standalone case with little to connect it to Carnacki’s others cases.  It remained the last new Carnacki story to see print for nearly 20 years.

 

 

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“The Voice of the Ocean” and Hodgson’s Novels: Is There a Link? by Phillip A. Ellis


Today, I’d like to present a guest blog from our good friend and poet, Phillip A. Ellis.  This is an especially interesting article and I feel that Ellis presents many good points here that should be considered.  When it comes to poetry, I have very little critical experience (well, none, really), so I am happy to defer to Ellis in these matters.  As little critical work as has been done on Hodgson’s fiction, even less attention has been given to his poetry.  Thankfully, we’re able to start correcting that error with this intriguing essay.

“The Voice of the Ocean” and Hodgson’s Novels: Is there a Link?

by Phillip A. Ellis

William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land and The House on the Borderland are his most sustained explorations of cosmicism.  This same cosmicism is absent from the vast majority of his short stories, the best of which share an emphasis upon the ocean as a locus of horror with his other two novels. Question is, is any of this shared with his poetry?

While a certain amount of Hodgson’s poetry does deal with the ocean, most of it does not do so in respect to the weird. The chief exception, the most notable exception, is “The Voice of the Ocean”, and this poem ties together both the cosmicism and the sea motif. And it has a strong bearing on the cosmicism of both the two novels already named.

Briefly, in “The Voice of the Ocean” the poet records a dialogue between the ocean and a number of sleeping souls. The cosmic element enters the poem early on, where the ocean describes the state of the world prior to the emergence of humanity. This is the passage that begins “Listen, and ye shall learn!–” and that ends with the
following lines:

“Thus was creation now achieved, and so,

In his right time, man was evolved, and grew

Into his present shape, with underneath

His heavier flesh, a soul such as was born

In that supremely distant time, when man,

As ye now know him, was undreamt of earth!”

The rest of the poem deals with the dialogue, first with the sleepingsouls, and finally with the poet. The motif and theme that dominates this dialogue concerns the fate of the soul, whether it is damned, and for what, and its final disposition.

Throughout the poem, there are variations on the following:

”Poor child! Hast thou e’er thought upon thy death

As a cessation from the joys of earth?

Then know that every death thou diest leads on

To a much fuller life, including all

That thou hast thought and lived in those before.

And as a fuller life implies more power

To live, to understand, to suffer pain,

So may’st thou comprehend that on each life

Shall stand thy cause to suffer pain or joy

When the Last Life be reached, and thou shalt live

In culmination of all joy and grief

That thou hast ever known in all thy lives.

This passage reminds me of the central conceit of The Night Land: there, the narrator is vouchsafed a vision of the future, where he and his beloved are united through the quest of the hero, so that what he narrates is a story of one such “Last Life.”

This means that “The Voice of the Ocean” unites both bodies of novels, as well as the shorter, sea-based fiction, and it leads further support to a reading of what seems to be a central tenet of Hodgson’s worldview. And it shows that there is that unity, which has been hardly remarked upon.

I will now argue that, if we are to look at Hodgson’s worldview, we can no longer ignore the poetry. Especially since so much of it has not been written in order to make a living, so that it serves as a means to self-expression precisely amenable to conveying aspects of that worldview.

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Say What?


It’s one of the most perplexing statements Hodgson ever made about his writing and, 100 years later, we’re still not sure exactly what he meant.

In the preface to his novel, THE GHOST PIRATES, Hodgson writes:

This book forms the last of three.  The first published was “The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig'”; the second “The House on the Borderland”; this, the third, completes what, perhaps may be termed a trilogy; for, though very different in scope, each of the three books deals with certain conceptions that have an elemental kinship.  With this book, the author believes that he closes the door, so far as he is concerned, on a particular phase of constructive thought.

Just what does Hodgson mean by this?

It’s difficult to think of these three novels as being a connected trilogy of anything, certainly not in the sense that we have come to consider the definition of a ‘trilogy’ today.  There are no recurring characters.  The plots are all vastly different as was Hodgson’s writing styles.

“Boats” is definitely closer to an adventure story than the other two.  The shipwrecked crew of the ‘Glen Carrig’ face terror after terror before becoming stranded in the Sargasso Sea and finally escaping.  “The Ghost Pirates” is superficially a tale about a haunted ship but nudges into science fiction with Hodgson writing that the boat was an area between worlds that had become ‘thin’.  While “The House on the Borderland” is a science fiction blend that is best defined as a series of interconnected nightmares.

Where, then, is the common thread?

This is one of the few statements about his writing that we have from Hodgson.  Given that it references the other two novels as being ‘previously published’, we can assume that it was written for the first edition of THE GHOST PIRATES in 1909.  So Hodgson is specifically excluding THE NIGHT LAND from this grouping despite, as we have seen previously, THE NIGHT LAND was likely the very first novel Hodgson wrote.

Hodgson states that these three share an “elemental kinship”.  What could this mean?

Webster’s Dictionary provides the following definition of ‘elemental’:

1
a : of, relating to, or being an element; specifically : existing as an uncombined chemical element

b (1) : of, relating to, or being the basic or essential constituent of something : fundamental <elemental biological needs> (2) : simple, uncomplicated <elemental food>

c : of, relating to, or dealing with the rudiments of something : elementary <taught elemental crafts to the children>

d : forming an integral part : inherent <an elemental sense of rhythm>

2
: of, relating to, or resembling a great force of nature <the rains come with elemental violence> <elemental passions>
Of these, I think that 1d is the closest to what Hodgson meant: “forming an integral part”.  Meaning that there is an integral part in all three of these novels that is similar.   But what is it about these three books that is ‘similar’ considering that their plots are so diverse?
I believe that the kinship that Hodgson is speaking of relates to the existence of other realities that are infringing upon ours or which we unknowingly cross into.  It is this unknown that the shipwrecked crew of the ‘Glen Carrig’ unwittingly sail into while, in THE GHOST PIRATES, another type of reality is seeping through the boat into what we believe to be ‘reality’.  In THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND, the barriers between realities break down as shown by the narrator’s trip into the future and the attack by the swine creatures from below.  When considered from this viewpoint, the novels share much with the Carnacki stories that are often concerned with attacks from ‘outside forces’.
Is this what Hodgson was referring to in his preface?  Perhaps… but, as with so much about Hodgson’s life and thoughts, we will never know for sure.

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S. T. Joshi on Hodgson


William Hope Hodgson doesn’t always fare well when it comes to histories of weird literature.  He’s either forgotten about completely or only gets a brief mention if at all.  That’s why it’s so rewarding to see noted critic S. T. Joshi give WHH plenty of attention in his new, two volume history of weird literature; UNUTTERABLE HORROR.

unutterable-horror-a-history-of-supernatural-fiction-vol-2-s_t_-joshi-1593-p[ekm]257x300[ekm]This new history is nothing short of amazing.  Spanning the entirety of weird literature from Gilgamesh to modern day, Joshi provides an awe-inspiring overview of the field.  The amount of work that this book represents is truly mind-boggling.  Not just the sheer number of texts which Joshi had to read in order to be so comprehensive but the ability to analyze and evaluate all of this information is a herculean task.

And, in volume two, Joshi turns his critical eye towards Hodgson.

The eleventh chapter, titled “Novelists, Satirists, and Poets”, begins with a section devoted entirely to Hodgson: “William Hope Hodgson: Things in the Weeds”.  In seven pages, Joshi succinctly recaps the major points of Hodgson’s  writings.  “One of the most distinctive voices in early-twentieth-century supernatural fiction was the British writer William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918), whose promising career was cut short on a battlefield in Belgium toward the end of the Great War.”  (UT, p 445)

Joshi’s attitude towards Hodgson’s short stories is a bit harsh:  “Hodgson appears to have had a relatively small body of distinctive short story ideas, and he often wrote several tales on the same basic premise with only slight variations in tone, setting, and execution.” (UT, p 445)  However, he devotes much space to Hodgson’s Sargasso Sea stories and “The Voice in the Night”.  It is regarding the latter story that Joshi has an interesting theory to expound claiming that it possesses “an element of religious criticism that is rare in Hodgson’s work”.  (UT, p 448)  The unintentional parallel to Lovecraft’s later story, “The Colour Out of Space”, is also noted.

Later, Joshi discusses Hodgson’s use of the sea as a setting:

“That the great proportion of Hodgson’s tales, of whatever type, take place in a maritime setting suggests that Hodgson, himself a former seaman, saw in such a setting a convenient means for effecting that ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ so critical to the success of a supernatural tale.  Because the sea–especially in its more remote stretches, as in the immensities of the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean–is a relatively unknown quantity to most readers, and because of the known existence of unusual creatures lurking in the depths of the ocean, a sea setting can be the locus of horrors that, on land, might appear too incredible for belief.  This technique is no different in kind from other weird writers’ use of remote locales, and Hodgson incorporates within his zone of mystery not only the inaccessible reaches of the sea but those hapless islands of humanity–ships–that dare to venture upon it.”  (UT, p 446)

Of Hodgson’s novels, Joshi retains the most praise for The House on the Borderland calling it “Hodgson’s most substantial work” but claiming that is is also “marred by defects”.  The crux of his argument being that the ‘super dimensional’ visions of the narrator as veering off from the main narrative and critizing Hodgson’s use of the manuscript structure as fragmentary and detracting from the novel as a whole.  “Overall, The House on the Borderland succeeds as a series of horrific interludes but not as a unified novel.”  (UT, 451)

Despite his admiration for The Night Land (“…this novel is Hodgson’s most sustained venture into pure imagination”), Joshi concludes that it is not within the scope of this study as it is “fantasy or perhaps even…proto-science fiction” but is “well worth the herculean effort of reading it.”

Summing up, Joshi declares that The Night Land, “as with Hodgson’s [work] as a whole, represents a substantial contribution to the literature of the weird, and no devotee can afford to overlook it.”  (UT, 451)

On a personal level, I know that S. T. Joshi has a great fondness and respect for Hodgson’s work which, dispite some criticisms, comes through in this short essay.  Hopefully, Joshi will write more about Hodgson in the future.

UNUTTERABLE HORROR: A HISTORY OF SUPERNATURAL FICTION is now available in a 2 volume, hardcover edition from PS Publishing.  It can be ordered here.

PS Publishing is located in the UK so shipping can be expensive.  Although Joshi mentions in his latest blog entry that copies will be available for US readers either through Mark Zeising or Subterrean Press, neither website currently lists it as available.

These two volumes are must reading for any fan or weird fiction with even a limited interest in the history of the field.  Despite the higher price, it is worth every penny.

Works Cited

Joshi, S. T. UNUTTERABLE HORROR: A HISTORY OF SUPERNATURAL FICTION.  PS Publishing: Hornsea, England.  2012.  (Denoted in text as “UT”)

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Review: MILTON’S CHILDREN


milton_cover_200-02It’s difficult to write anything new in horror.  Many readers have grown jaded from a lifetime of reading and television and movies.  They’re seen it all and read it all.  It’s the smart writer that understands that and, instead of ignoring it, embraces such a history.  Jason V. Brock is one such writer.

In his new novella, MILTON’S CHILDREN, Brock evokes echoes of many that have come before.  There is Poe here, some Lovecraft, winks and nods to films like KING KONG and even a taste of William Hope Hodgson.  When you hear about an Arctic expedition, you can’t help but think of AT THE MOUNTAIN OF MADNESS and even THE THING.  Normally, such a comparison would come up lacking for the new material but Brock manages to capitalize on that shared expectation and expand it.  Unlike other authors who might downplay such echoes, Brock not only accepts them but points them out as well.

The best weird fiction isn’t just about something ‘horrific’.  It has several layers that enhance the reading experience and invite multiple re-readings.  MILTON’S CHILDREN is such a work.  While, at its heart, it is an adventure story about men facing unbelievable terrors, it is also an allegory about man and his place, not just in the universe, but on this planet he claims to own.

MILTON’S CHILDREN is an energetic story that keeps the reader moving quickly, giving them just enough time to let an idea sink in before launching into the next one.  It is a tale not to be missed by true lovers of weird literature and one that will stay with you long after the last sentence is read.  And in the end, that is the best and truest test.

The basic scenario is one that would be familiar to most fans of Hodgson’s work: expedition/ship comes across island with strange creatures.  What Brock does with that concept makes MILTON’S CHILDREN truly unique and sure to be enjoyed by fans of WHH.

MILTON’S CHILDREN is available from Bad Moon Books and can be ordered here.  I highly recommend it and Brock’s many other works as well.

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