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’:
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>