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ATTENTION ALL SCHOLARS!!!!


scholarFor some time now, I’ve wondered if there might be little caches of Hodgson letters squirreled about in various libraries and universities and the like.  So, I am issuing the call to all those readers of this blog to help me find them!

Seriously, the cause of Hodgson research and criticism has long suffered from a lack of primary sources such as letters and the such.  We need to find out if there are any out there which are available for scholars and historians to use.  This is a project that will benefit everyone looking to do research on/about Hodgson and those who want to read it!  And we’re not just looking for letters that Hodgson may have written but those by his family, friends, etc.

Please use all your resources.  Check everywhere you can!  Post your findings here in the comments section.  I will take all of them (hopefully, there will be some) and create a new page here on the blog listing these resources and those scholars who brought it to my attention.

The only collection I am aware of is the letters that form part of a collection at the Harry Ransom center at the University of Texas at Austin.  Anything else is fair game.

So, as Carnacki would say at the end of a story, “out you go!”

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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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William Meikle’s CARNACKI


1 meikleFew authors have done as much to keep Carnacki alive as William Meikle.  In addition to publishing a fine collection of short stories (CARNACKI: HEAVEN AND HELL), Meikle has contributed several other stories about the ‘ghost-finder’ to various anthologies and magazines.  Here is a list of Meikle’s Carnacki stories in print to date:

Coming Soon

  • The Island of Dr. Monroe (Steampunk Cthulhu anthology / Chaosium)
  • The Beast of Glamis (Weird Detection anthology / Prime )

And Meikle has not stopped there!  Word has recently reached us here at the Last Redoubt that he has written a new Carnacki story teaming the ‘ghost-finder’ with Hodgson’s other serial character, none other than amoral smuggler Captain Gault!  We are trembling with anticipation at what spectral adventures these two could get into and hope that it is published very soon.

(The bulk of the information contained here has been copied, with permission, from William Meikle’s website: http://www.williammeikle.com/  Go check it out and see all the other excellent books available from this talented writer.)

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Lose Yourself in SARGASSO!


Ok, so I’m not the greatest when it comes to slogans!  I’m open to any suggestions!

I’ve just received the logos for the SARGASSO magazine and I couldn’t wait to share them with everyone.  They are amazing!  More excellent work from famed artist Jason Eckhardt, they will grace the cover and contents page of every issue.  I will also feature them in the SARGASSO webpage which I am currently working on and hope to get up and running by the end of the year.

Here is Jason’s cover logo:

Image

I love the color and the skull!  This will be featured prominently on every cover in color!

For the inside, contents page, Jason has done something more elaborate:

Image

Another excellent job by Mr. Eckhardt!

Regarding SARGASSO, I’d like to remind those that have promised material that time is moving ever forward.  While I have gotten many superb pieces of art and a few stories, I am still waiting on articles.  So, remember, the deadline is March 30th and that will be here sooner than you know it!  I want this magazine to be a repository of premiere scholarship about WHH but that won’t happen without your support!  Sorry, but I gotta crack the whip a bit here!  SARGASSO depends on your support not just as readers but contributors.  Let’s show all those upstarts out there that ol’ WHH is worthy of serious attention too!

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An Index to the Blog!


I love indexes!  They’re just such wonderfully marvelous things!  One of the very first things I usually do when I get a new book is to flip to the back and check out the index and bibliography.  If I like them, I know I’ll like the book!

Given that this blog has now had 65 posts (believe it or not!), there are probably a lot of people who are just now discovering it and want to read more but who wants to wade through 65 posts looking for something?  Well, fear not, true believer! (I grew up on Stan Lee comics obviously.)  What follows is a clickable index of all of the posts so that you can jump to any of them from here.

I’ve also organized them by subjects so you can easily find more of what you’re interested in.

HODGSON’S LIFE

“A Life on the Borderland”

“Smile for the Camera, William Hope Hodgson”

“The Man Who Saved Hodgson”

“Sail on One of Hodgson’s Ships!”

“Meet Mrs. Hodgson!”

“William Hope Hodgson, This is Your Life!”

“A Hodgson Mystery”

“The Kernahan Letters, Part One”

“The Kernahan Letters, Part Two”

“The Kernahan Letters, Part Three”

“The Kernahan Letters, Part Four”

“The Kernahan Letters, Part Five”

“Hodgson Memorial”

“HPL & WHH”

“Mr. Hodgson, Second Mate”

“A Medal for Hodgson”

HODGSON’S FICTION

“Hodgson’s First Story”

“From the Tideless Sea”

“More News from the Homebird”

“The Baumoff Explosive”

“The Voice in the Night”

HODGSON’S NON-FICTION, POETRY, ETC.

“Physical Culture: A Talk with an Expert”

“Why Am I Not At Sea?”

“The Calling of the Sea”

HODGSON CRITICISM

“Hodgson’s Publishing History”

“Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson”

“A Brief History of Hodgson Studies”

“The First Literary Copernicus”

“WHH: Master of the Weird and Fantastic by H.C. Koenig”

“The Weird Work of William Hope Hodgson by H. P. Lovecraft”

“In Appreciation of William Hope Hodgson by Clark Ashton Smith”

“William Hope Hodgson by August Derleth”

“The Poetry of William Hope Hodgson by E. A. Edkins”

“William Hope Hodgson and the Detective Story by Ellery Queen”

“WHH: Writer of Supernatural Horror by Fritz Leiber, Jr.”

“An Appreciation”

“A NIGHT LAND Review”

“A Biographical Item”

HODGSON TEXTS AND MEDIA

“Free Hodgson”

“What’s That I Hear?”

“William Hope Hodgson and Arkham House”

“MATANGO!!!!”

“Canacki on the TV!”

“Hodgson on the Web!”

MISC.

“The Dreamer in the Night Land”

“My First Hodgson”

“Updates”

“A Borderland Gallery”

“Why Carnacki?”

“E. A. Edkins and some Updates!”

“New Sargasso Sea Story”

“The REAL Sargasso Sea”

“A Carnacki Gallery”

“The Derelict of Death by Ford and Clark”

“The House on the Borderland by Corben and Revelstroke”

“Why I’m doing this…”

“Sign Here, Please”

“Announcing SARGASSO!!!”

“Updates and New Poll”

“A Curious Matter of Books”

“A Hodgson Parody”

“Odds and Ends”

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Index


We’re coming up on the two month mark since I began this blog!  I’m thrilled at all the great response it’s received but also the amount of new information and items we’ve been able to bring to a wider public.  Because many might only now be discovering this blog, I present the following index to the previous posts for your convenience.  It will keep people from having to search through all of the entries.

The Dreamer in the Night Land (Intro to the blog)
A Life on the Borderland (A short bio of WHH)
Free Hodgson! (A listing of where to find WHH writings free online)
Hodgson’s First Story (A look at the first story WHH had professionally published)
My First Hodgson (Hints on what Hodgson new readers should start with)
Smile for the Camera, William Hope Hodgson!  (A gallery of WHH photos)
The Man Who Saved Hodgson! (A look at H. C. Koenig, WHH’s early champion)
Hodgson’s Publishing History (A Chronological listing of WHH’s publishing)
Sail on One of Hodgson’s Ships! (A look at a ship Hodgson sailed on that still exists today!)
Writing Backwards: The Novels of WHH (Important article on the order in which WHH wrote his novels)
A Brief History of Hodgson Studies (An overview of critical work on WHH)
Meet Mrs. Hodgson! (Article about WHH’s wife and the only known photo of her)
William Hope Hodgson, This is Your Life! (Chronology of WHH’s life)
What’s that I Hear? (List of audio adaptations)
“The First Literary Copernicus” (Reprint of important article about WHH’s cosmicism)
A Borderland Gallery (Gallery of covers of HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND)
Why Carnacki?  (Author William Meikle explains why he writes new Carnacki stories)
“WHH: Master of the Weird and Fantastic” (Important article by H.C. Koenig)
“The Weird Work of Willam Hope Hodgson” by H. P. Lovecraft (essay on Hodgson’s works by HPL)
“In Appreciation of William Hope Hodgson” by Clark Ashton Smith (essay by CAS)
“William Hope Hodgson” by August Derleth (Brief essay by co-founder of Arkham House)
“The Poetry of William Hope Hodgson” by E. A. Edkins (essay on WHH’s poetry)
“William Hope Hodgson and the Detective Story” by Ellery Queen (essay about Carnacki)
“WHH: Writer of Supernatural Horror” by Fritz Leiber (essay about WHH’s horror stories)
“An Appreciation” (portion of one of WHH’s obituaries)
E.A. Edkins and Some Updates!  (updating some previous items)
William Hope Hodgson and Arkham House (essay about the importance of AH in Hodgson’s career)
MATANGO!!!  (A look at the only film length adaptation of a WHH story)
New Sargasso Sea Story (presenting a new sea-horror tale by John B. Ford)

And that brings us up to date! Hard to believe how much we’ve covered and how much is left to do!  Next week, we’ll be looking at WHH’s Sargasso Sea stories as well as presenting the history behind that unique area.  Hope to “sea” you then!–Sam Gafford

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“An Appreciation”


This marks the final item to appear in the June, 1944, issue of THE READER AND COLLECTOR.  It is unsigned and, although I know that it marked half of an obituary of Hodgson, I have not been able to identify in which paper it was originally printed.  The author of the piece appears to have been a close friend of Hodgson but not part of the family.  One of the most powerful passages quotes a letter which WHH wrote during WWI.  Sadly, few letters like this exist although it is always possible that more may be held in private collections.

I would like to express my extreme admiration and gratitude to Mr. Gene Biancheri, the son-in-law of the late H. C. Koenig.  Gene generously sent me a photocopy of this very rare issue of THE READER AND COLLECTOR and has been unceasingly supportive of both this blog and my efforts regarding Hodgson scholarship.  Gene has constantly been both open and willing to share any information I asked for and I hope that all other Hodgson scholars will adapt his example.

I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading these essays as much as I have.  They show that Hodgson had already garnered a wide variety of supporters which included many prominent writers of the day.–Sam Gafford

An Appreciation*

William Hope Hodgson

“It is written of some men that to know them is to love them”.  It is frequently written without sincerity, but it cannot be so written with regard to one who has just passed over.  It was in September last that he wrote to me expressing the hope that at some future date we might meet and “find in each other kindred spirits”.  It was just like  him to assume that an obscure person whose name he did not even know and who followed the same road, but far behind him, should be worth of his friendship.  He wrote: “Eight years at sea, three times around the world, ten years an author, and now nearly two and a half years a soldier—for I left my little chalet on the French Riviera to join up—brings me to 1917, and if good fortune attends me I shall be in France this week-end”.  It was characteristic of his large hearted personality the he should have enclosed his photograph—and it is curious that never since that letter was received has it left my pocket.  There are some letters like that—but how few from the hundreds are worthy keeping and carrying for seven months.  What he was as an author one is not competent to judge.  His critics were all of one mind, and each new work as it appeared brought from the leading literary weeklies some new word of praise.  On the only occasion we ever met he asked me, “Do you like imaginative stuff,” and the next day’s post brought me his wonderful romance, “The Nightland”.  What he was pleased to call pot-boilers were eagerly sought after by the leading London magazines but his heart lay in the bigger tasks.  What it must have meant to a temperament like his to leave his quiet home and work for the big guns can be imagined.  He did it cheerfully, as many others have done.  To some it is worse than to others.  To the sensitive, to the poet, to the writer, it is something different from what it can be to the ordinary person.  They see further and they feel more acutely.  No man “left all” in a more literal sense than did Hope Hodgson, and what it meant to him will never be known.  He laughingly said once that it was “good for local colour”.  He joined from a great sense of duty, and now his duty done he is free from earthly things.  In one of his last letters he wrote “Shells bursting all around us, and yet one did not seem to care, hardly even noticed them.  The moment was too intense, tremendous—looked forward to through weary months with hope and expectation and some wonder and perhaps dread lest one should fall short—and then in a moment the event was upon us…and that with gun-firing with two of us loading it, firing a round every three seconds, and even faster, I should say.  The whole road where the Germans were coming round the end of a wood was simply one roar of dust and smoke where our shells were striking.”  “A dread lest one should fall short”—there was no need for dread on his part.  His work remains.  A life work crowned not with fullness of years and praise of men, but with the sublimest heroism.  The praise of men he had for all the work he did; not that he wanted it, but it was his due.  In his wife he had a collaborator of like talent and sympathy.  To her remain the best memories; to us an odd letter or two and his writings.  “There is no one who can fill his place in his home nor in his sphere of work.”

*This letter of appreciation originally appeared in a British newspaper.

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“William Hope Hodgson and the Detective Story” by Ellery Queen


This is the sixth item to appear in the June, 1944, issue of THE READER AND COLLECTOR, published by H.C. Koenig.  This is an interesting article by the celebrated Ellery Queen about Hodgson’s detective stories, primarily the Carnacki tales.  HCK’s son-in-law, Gene Biancheri, contributed this information about Queen:

H.C. Koenig had extensive correspondence with Frederic Dannay [1905-1982], who, with his cousin Manfred Lee, wrote under the pen name “Ellery Queen.”  Dannay wrote that he was going to publish Hodgson’s Carnacki story, “The House Among the Laurels” in ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE, but it never happened.  However, a Captain Gault story by WHH, “The Red Herring,” was included in an Ellery Queen hardcover, ROGUE’S GALLERY: THE GREAT CRIMINALS OF MODERN FICTION (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1945).

Ellery Queen, as Gene notes, was really two people.  Dannay and Lee wrote an astounding number of detective novels starting with THE ROMAN HAT MYSTERY (1929) which had the unique quality of being a mystery written by one of the main characters.  What followed would be a series of many novels starring the character Ellery Queen and even more novels ‘written’ by Ellery Queen.

In 1941, the ELLERY QUEEN MYSTERY MAGAZINE was founded and it continues to this day.  I confess that I am something of an ‘Ellery Queen Fan’ so finding this article was a particular thrill to me.  For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Ellery Queen, check out these sites:

Ellery Queen (Wikipedia article)

Ellery Queen Website (A website devoted to Ellery Queen and includes info on the radio shows and movies)

This essay was, as noted in the footnote which was also included in the original publication, was apparently meant to accompany the reprinting of a Carnacki story in ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE.  I wonder if this essay was ever printed anywhere else considering the Carnacki story was never used in EQMM?

As always, spelling and formatting are reproduced as originally printed and the intro paragraph was written by HCK.–Sam Gafford

William Hope Hodgson and the Detective Story

By Ellery Queen

Dannay & Lee–“Ellery Queen”

Creator of one of the best known detectives in the history of fiction.  Writer of a couple of dozen detective novels, editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and compiler of four fine detective anthologies, the latest of which is “The Misadventure of Sherlock Holmes.”

Too few people in America are familiar with the work of William Hope Hodgson; and even this fortunate minority, who know Mr. Hodgson as a writer of weird and supernatural stories, have to be reminded that he also wrote two books in the detective-crime field.

One is “Captain Gault”—ten short stories about a modern smuggler.  The other is “Carnacki the Ghost Finder”—six short stories about a ghost-breaker; a unique detective who investigates haunted houses and similar phenomena.

Readers, writers, and students of supernatural fiction deplore the fact that at the end of five of the Carnacki stories, Carnacki produces a tangible, real-life explanation for the ghostly manifestations.  For example, H. P. Lovecraft, one of the great modern masters of weird fiction, once expressed the opinion that the Carnacki stories were “weakened” by the realistic solutions.  Well, one man’s meat is truly another man’s poison.  To your Editor the sane, of-this-world explanations strengthen rather than weaken the stories.  These natural elucidations, frowned on by devotees of the weird, must be applauded by devotees of the detective story; they transform Carnacki from a mere dabbler into the unknown to a legitimate and authentic detective.

But let’s not quarrel over Carnacki.  He’s a 24-carat “find” both for lovers of the “invisible” and addicts of the “visible”.  Let’s rejoice that EQMM can bring you one of Carnacki’s strange and fascinating adventures which, to the best of your Editor’s knowledge, is here printed for the first time in the United States.

*In the near future, “The House Among the Laurels”, a short story taken from “Carnacki, The Ghost-Finder” will be published in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.  The above article will appear as a preface to this story.

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WHH: Master of the Weird and Fantastic by H.C. Koenig


In June, 1944, the very first publication that collected articles about William Hope Hodgson appeared.  It was THE READER AND COLLECTOR, Vol. 3, No. 3, and was produced by legendary collector H.C. Koenig.  A member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association and the National Amateur Press Associate, THE READER AND COLLECTOR was Koenig’s contribution and was published occasionally.

In this particular issue, Koenig collected a series of essays about Hodgson and introduced many readers to this then ‘unknown’ writer.  These seven articles (by a variety of writers including H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Ellery Queen and Fritz Leiber) have rarely been seen since 1944.  Through the generosity of Gene Biancheri (son-in-law of the late HCK) I have obtained a photocopy of this rare publication.  Over the next few weeks, I will be reprinting these essays which, for many of them, will be their first reprinting in over 60 years.

The first article in this publication is an introduction by H. C. Koenig himself.  In it, he explains how he came to discover Hodgson and why he became such a champion of WHH’s work.  Informative and entertaining, Koenig’s love for the material shines through.  In transcribing this article, I have retained Koenig’s original typing style (which is why there are so many italics throughout) so that the essay is presented the same way that Koenig presented it in 1944.  Incidentally, the footnotes shown here were actually indicated with astericks in the original publication.  Because of the formatting difficulties with blogs, I have changed them to footnotes instead.

Enjoy!–Sam Gafford

William Hope Hodgson:
Master of the Weird and Fantastic

By H. C. Koenig

In 1931 Faber and Faber published an anthology of ghost stories under the title, “They Walk Again.”  The tales were selected by Colin de la Mare.  Most of the stories included in this splendid anthology were by well-known writers such as Blackwood, Dunsany and Bierce.  Many of them were familiar to the inveterate reader of ghost stories – “The Monkey’s Paw”, “Green Tea”, and “The Ghost Ship.”  However, one new story was included in the book; one comparatively new name was included in the list of authors.  The story was “The Voice in the Night”, a horrifying and yet pathetic tale of human beings turned into fungoid growths; the author was William Hope Hodgson.

Who was William Hope Hodgson?  I had a vague recollection of some short stories in old pulp magazines.  I dimly remembered a book of short stories about a ghost detective.  That was all.  But, it was sufficient to start me on the trail of one on the great masters of the weird story.  Letters to various readers and collectors of fantasy in this country produced negligible results.  Except for one or two of the older readers of weird stories, the name of Hodgson meant nothing.

I consulted Edith Birkhead’s excellent study of the growth of supernatural fiction in English literature, “The Tale of Terror” (1921) in an effort to get some information about Hodgson and his writings.  I found references to Pain, Jacobs, Le Fanu, Stoker, Marsh, Rohmer and a host of other writers of weird tales—but no mention of Hodgson.  I searched through H. P. Lovecraft’s informative essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” (in its original form)1 without success.  Hundreds of titles were covered.  Among them I found “Seaton’s Aunt”, “The Smoking Leg”, “The Dark Chamber”, “A Visitor from Down Under” and many other tales—unfamiliar and unfamiliar.  But not a single one of Hodgson’s stories was discussed—or even mentioned.  I paged through numerous anthologies—by Bohyn Lynch, Dashiell Hammett, Dorothy Sayers, Montague Summers, T. Everett Harre and Harrison Dale—but the name of Hodgson was conspicuous in its absence.  Then followed a period of time during which I traced him through innumerable bookstores in EnglandPercy Muir of Elkin Matthews, London, took an interest in my search and obtained several of Hodgson’s first editions for me.  He also put me in touch with Dennis Wheatley, the writer of English thrillers and an admirer and collector of Hodgson.  As a result of these contacts, I learned the Hodgson had written a number of stories which compared very favorably with any of our modern weird stories; tales which ranked high in the fantasy field and which deserved far more popularity and publicity than they had ever received.

Hodgson was the son of an Essex clergyman.  He left home as a youngster and spent eight years at sea.  During that time he voyaged around the world three times, visiting all sorts of places.  Incidentally, he received the Royal Humane Society’s medal for saving a life at sea.  For some time before the World War he and his wife lived in the south of France.  When war broke out he returned to England (at the age of 40) and was granted a commission in the 171st Brigade of Royal Field Artillery.  Two years later, in 1917, he went to France with his battery and was soon in the thick of the fight; his Brigade doing splendid work at Ypres.  At the time the Germans made their great attack, in April, 1918, he with a few other brother officers and non-commissioned officers successfully stemmed the rush of an overwhelming number of the enemy.  Shortly thereafter, Hodgson volunteered for the dangerous duty of observation office of the Brigade.  On his first missions, he was killed by a shell.  And thus, a most promising literary career came to an abrupt ending.

I never could understand why his work was so little known to the general public.  It was curious and unfortunate that he had become so engulfed in oblivion.  And so, I started my campaign to obtain recognition for Hodgson in this country.  For over ten years I have preached the gospel of William Hope Hodgson; by word of mouth, by letters and in articles.  For years I have circulated my little collection of Hodgson’s first editions all over the country.  California to Rhode Island, Oregon to Florida,Wisconsin to South Carolina.  To readers and writers and editors.  Year after year I have kept up the campaign.  Slowly but surely I began to get results.  Hodgson’s name began to appear in the amateur fantasy magazines.  Requests for Hodgson’s stories began to creep into the readers columns of the professional magazines.  And, requests for a loan of Hodgson books began to multiply.  Then came the break for which I was waiting patiently.  An appeal for Hodgson’s stories came from Miss Gnaedinger of Famous Fantastic Mysteries.  A copy of “The Ghost Pirates” and several short stories were soon in her hands.  Then followed months of anxious waiting.  Copyrights had to be settled.  Mrs. Hodgson had to be located, a far from easy matter.  A splendid cover, illustrating one of Hodgson’s novels, and painted by Lawrence was being held, pending the settlement of copyrights.  Unfortunately, due to the long period of delay, this illustration was never used in Famous Fantastic Mysteries.2  I had just about given up hope when Mrs. Hodgson was located and the copyright obstacles were removed.  Then, in the December, 1943 issue of Famous Fantastic Mysteries, Miss Gnaedinger published Hodgson’s short story “The Derelict”.  This was followed by the novel “The Ghost Pirates” (cut by 10,000 words) in the March, 1944 number.

I am extremely grateful to Miss Gnaedinger and her associates for taking the lead in reprinting some of Hodgson’s stories.  But, I am not so easily satisfied.  I will not rest content until I have seen every one of his books reprinted in some book or magazine in this country.  Until that time comes, however, we will have to be content with those of his books which we are able to locate in the second-hand book shops.  (It is not an easy matter.)  A complete list of Hodgson’s books may be of some assistance to the weird fan.  For the benefit of the collector I am also giving the name of the publisher and the date of publications.

  1. “The Boats of the Glen Carrig”, a novel published by Chapman & Hall, 1907.
  2. “The House on the Borderland”, a novel published by Chapman & Hall, 1908.
  3. “The Ghost Pirates”, a novel published by Stanley Paul, 1909.
  4. “The Nightland”, a novel published by Everley Nash, 1912.
  5. “Carnacki, the Ghost Finder”, short stories, published by Everley Nash, 1913.
  6. “Men of the Deep Waters”, short stories, copyrighted in U.S.A., 1906, first English edition published by Everley Nash, 1914.
  7. “The Luck of the Strong”, short stories, copyrighted in the U.S.A., 1912, first published by Everley Nash in England, 1916.
  8. “Captain Gault”, short stories, copyrighted in the U.S.A., 1914, first English edition published by Everley Nash, 1917.
  9. “The Voice of the Ocean”, poems, published by Selwyn Blount, 1921.
  10. “The Calling of the Sea”, poems, published by Selwyn Blount, no date

As indicated earlier in this article, one of his short stories, “A Voice in the Night” will be found in Colin de la Mare’s collection of ghost stories “They Walk Again” published by Faber and Faber in 1931.  And, Dennis Wheatley included three of Hodgson’s short stories in his splendid collection of horror tales, “A Century of Horror Stories” published by Hutchinson & Co.  The titles were “The Island of the Ud” from “The Luck of the Strong”; “The Whistling Room” from “Carnacki, the Ghost Finder”; and “The Derelict” from “Men of Deep Waters”.

The first three books listed above in the short bibliography form (in Hodgson’s words), “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.”  A few chapter headings will give some idea of the treat in store for fantasy fans fortunate enough to locate these three books—“The Thing that Made Search”, “The Island in the Weed”, “The Noise in the Valley”, “The Weed Men”, “The Thing in the Pit”, “The Swine Things”, etc.

“The Night Land” is one of the longest fantastic romances ever written, running close to six hundred pages.  It is a story of the world in the future when the sun has died and the “Last Millions” are living in a large redoubt, a huge pyramid of gray metal nearly eight miles high and five miles around the base.  Beyond the pyramid were mighty races of terrible creatures, half-beast and half-man, night hounds, monstrous slugs and other horrible monsters.  As a protection against all these evils a great electric circle was put about the pyramid and lit from the Earth Current.  It bounded the pyramid for a mile on each side and none of the monsters were able to cross it due to a subtle vibration which affected their brains.

“Carnacki, the Ghost Finder” is a series of six short ghost stories in which Carnacki investigates ghostly phenomena in various homes.  One or two of the tales are somewhat weakened by a natural explanation of the ghosts, but each of the stories is well worth reading.

Hodgson’s tales may well have served as source books for many of the stories now being read in our present day pulp magazines.  The whole range of weird and fantastic plots appears to have been covered in his books—pig-men, elementals, human trees, ghosts, sea of weeds, thought-transference, intelligent slugs, and in “The Night Land” the men are equipped with a hand weapon called a Diskos.  This consists of a disk of gray metal which spins in the end of a metal rod, is charged from earth currents and capable of cutting people in two.

To me, Hodgson will always be remembered as one of the great masters of the weird and fantastic.  And I, for one, will always be grateful for the slim list of books he left behind him.

Notes

  1. First appeared in W. P. Cook’s magazine The Recluse (1927).  After having Hodgson’s novels called to his attention, Lovecraft revised the essay.  The article, in its final form may be found in the Arkham House book “The Outsider”.
  2. The Illustration by Lawrence eventually appeared on the cover of the April 1943 issue of 10-Story Mystery Magazine.

Acknowledgements

The above article was based to some extent on two shorter articles which appeared in “The Fantasy Fan” (December 1934) and “The Phantagraph” (January, 1937).

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