“Fungus Isle” by Phillip Fisher


ffm1940-10Unlike Lovecraft, there haven’t been a lot of writers following in Hodgson’s footsteps.  Outside of Carnacki stories, few authors (other than John M. Ford) produce Hodgsonian fiction.

One of the most significant deviations from this was “Fungus Isle” by Phillip Fisher.

Fisher (1891-1873) was an author who wrote primarily for pulps.  His stories are a mix of science fiction, sea adventure and some horror.  I have not read any other samples of his writing so I cannot speak about their quality, originality or influence.  However, in the October 27, 1923, issue of Argosy All-Story Weekly, appeared his story, “Fungus Isle”, which clearly owes so much to Hodgson as to come close to intellectual property theft.

The story concerns the survivors of a shipwreck who wash up on a strange island where they have to defend themselves from a group of hideous Weed-Men.  The parallels to Hodgson are obvious.  We see a mash-up of “The Voice in the Night” and The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” here to a degree that is virtually impossible to ignore.

The fact that the story was first published in 1923 (only 5 years after Hodgson’s death and only a few short years after the reprinting of WHH’s entire line of books in 1920-21), shows almost definitely that Fisher had read Hodgson.  The similarities are too close.  Given that Hodgson was fiercely territorial about his works and ideas, it is likely that he would have taken legal action against Fisher.  That is purely speculation on my part, of course, nor do I have any idea if he would have had a case for copyright violation in the courts of 1923.

However, consider this, were someone to have written “Fungus Isle” in, say, 1980, it would have been considered a Hodgsonian pastiche and given little thought.  Should we then consider this story, despite it’s having been written so soon after WHH’s death, a pastiche as well?

“Fungus Isle” was reprinted in Famous Fantastic Mysteries in their October, 1940, issue.  This is significant because this is the same magazine that published “The Derelict” in 1943, The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” (abridged) in 1945 and The Ghost Pirates (abridged) in 1944.  “Fungus Isle” predates those WHH appearances and doubtlessly paved the way for the Hodgson stories.  I wonder if any readers accused Hodgson of ripping off Fisher?

If you’d like to read “Fungus Isle”, there is a free link here.  There is also a listing to other samples of Fisher’s writing’s here. If any readers have more information on Fisher, and the obvious influence Hodgson played on his work, please send in your comments!

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2 Comments

Filed under Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson

2 responses to ““Fungus Isle” by Phillip Fisher

  1. I remember reading this story when I was putting FUNGI together, and I definitely read it as an homage to Hodgson, though I think it narrowly escaped the status of pastiche (at least for me) with its more gruesome, pulpier tone.

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