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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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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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E. A. Edkins and some updates!


Since running the article on Hodgson’s poetry by E. A. Edkins from the June, 1944, issue of THE READER AND COLLECTOR, several of our readers have filled in some information about the enigmatic Mr. Edkins.  First, here we have this picture of Edkins from 1925, courtesy of Juha-Matti Majala:

Juha-Matti also added the following information:

“I recently happened to obtain a book which prints (reset) the complete three volume run of the amateur journal The Aonian which Edkins edited and Timothy Thrift published. (The book lacks identification other than “Lucky Dog Press”, but was evidently issued by Thrift near the end of the 1940s.) There’s a good 1920s photo of Edkins included as a frontispiece (as is one of Thrift — and the best photo of “Tryout” Smith that I have seen elsewhere
in the book).

“Interesting that Edkins commented on Hodgson’s poetry.  Apparently he had some interest in the weird, and in fact wrote (during the “halcyon days” of amateur journalism) a story which HPL praised — need to look up the title, it may be “Phantasm”. He writes not having read WHH’s fiction, though. It’s a great loss that Lovecraft’s letters to EAE evidently perished (at least for the most part, as far as I know not even the possible few surviving items have come to light so far). I’ll try to summarise what I know of Edkins together with the scan — as I mentioned in The Nonconformist, I’m currently researching information on the Lovecraft associates with Christopher  O’Brien, although we haven’t yet looked into EAE very carefully.”

In addition, the ever helpful Gene Biancheri contributed this:

ERNEST A. EDKINS [1867-1946] was born in England and migrated with his family to Canada in 1869. His father was an expert gunsmith who had joined the U.S. Navy during the Civil War, then returned to England. Ernest was self-educated and became an executive for Commonwealth Edison in Chicago. His literary talents as a poet, essayist, editorialist, writer of short stories and critic were enhanced by an interest in amateur journalism — he joined The Fossils in 1906. After his retirement in 1934, he renewed his efforts in trying to improve the literary standards of amateur journalism through the influence of H. P. Lovecraft. Edward H. Cole, in his obituary for fellow Fossil Edkins, called him “probably the most notable writer [in] amateur journalism.” [Source of this bio: THE FOSSIL, Vol. XLIV, No. 2, October 1946.]

Obviously, there is much more work that needs to be done regarding Edkins!  Lets hope we hear more soon.

***

The June, 1944, issue of THE READER AND COLLECTOR contained two small snippets of Hodgson poetry on pages that had extra space.  In the interest of completeness, I am reproducing them here so that all of the booklet is represented.  The first, “The Ghost Pirates”, comprised the bottom half of the page with August Derleth’s paragraph, “William Hope Hodgson”:

The Ghost Pirates

“Strange as the glimmer of

the ghostly light

That shines from some vast crest

of wave at night.”

The second bit of poetry appeared at the end of the Fritz Leiber, Jr., article, “William Hope Hodgson: Writer of Supernatural Horror”:

The Place of Storms

“While, in the sea, far down between Storm’s Knees,

I saw a bloated horror watching there–

A waiting shape, a shark; and deeper still,

A hideous, loathsome, writhing mass, that claimed

The Ocean’s silent bed–a foul affront

To Nature’s strange and wondrous handiwork,

Smirching the very deep with darker hue.”

***

I would like to express my extreme gratitude to everyone who has been reading this blog regularly.  It’s easy to get discouraged when you take on a project like this so I appreciate all your support.  I am often amazed by the varied countries that show that someone from there has read something on the blog.  The U.S. is the #1 country so far, followed by the U.K. (not surprisingly) but I have also had hits from such places as Finland, Serbia, Kahzistan and many other places that I never knew had any interest in Hodgson.  I’m thrilled to see such activity and hope that it will continue to grow in the future.

***

Q&A

I’d like to open up this opportunity for anyone to ask me any question you might have about Hodgson and his work.  I want to make this a regular feature of the blog so please, don’t be shy.  No question is stupid.  I will happily answer any and all questions to the best of my ability.  Just leave your question in the comment section for this post and I will compile them all into a future post.  When’s the last time you’ve had the opportunity to ask someone about Hodgson?

***

Thank you all again for your continued support.  After the intensive articles of the last few weeks, we’ll be taking a break next week with some ‘lighter’ subjects.  Hope to see you all 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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“WHH: Writer of Supernatural Horror” by Fritz Leiber, Jr.


This essay, the seventh to appear in the June, 1944, issue of THE READER AND COLLECTOR is an insightful (although brief) examination of Hodgson’s supernatural novels by a celebrated author: Fritz Leiber, Jr.

Along with Robert E. Howard, Leiber is considered to be one of the founding fathers of ‘sword & sorcery’ fantasy.  Like many writers of the period, Leiber also wrote extensively in other genres and won the Hugo Award for his novel, THE WANDERER, in 1964.  He also earned several more Hugos and other awards for his short stories.  A contemporary and correspondent of H. P. Lovecraft, Leiber also wrote several early scholarly articles on Lovecraft.

For those wishing to learn more about Fritz Leiber, Jr., check out these websites:

Fritz Leiber (Wikipedia entry)
SF Hall of Fame (Leiber’s entry)
Bibliography (ISFDB entry)

As before, the introductory paragraph to the essay was written by H. C. Koenig.  I have retained the formatting used by Koenig.–Sam Gafford

Fritz Leiber, Jr. (1910-1992)

William Hope Hodgson: Writer of Supernatural Horror

By Fritz Leiber, Jr.

Creator of those loveable rogues Fafhrd and The Grey Mouser whose adventures with wizards and sorcerers in the lands of black magic and necromancy make a welcome addition to the bibliography of the weird tale.  Contributor to numerous magazines devoted to fantasy.  A recent motion picture, Weird Woman, was adapted from one of his stories.

William Hope Hodgson achieved his greatest success in a literary form which most masters of supernatural horror have avoided because of its exceptional difficulty—the weird story of book length.  He did this without recourse to the stereotyped plot-elements of the Gothic novel (except for the love story which mars rather than embellishes “The Night Land”) or to the adventure or detective settings that modern authors have used to provide sufficient action to space out an eerie concept over some 75,000 words.

Undoubtedly the chief reason for his success in this field is the extreme, even naïve, seriousness with which he went to work.  He never succumbed to, perhaps never felt, the temptation to add facetious or whimsical touches in order to assure adult readers that he “did not really believe this stuff”.  Nor did he, for similar reasons, provide alternate scientific explanations or sophisticated psychological analyses of the spectral events he narrated.  His novels are presented in the guise of actual documents, “found by so-and-so” or “as told by so-and-so”, and are written, at a white heat of inspiration, in the directest possible way.  Note, for example, the abrupt opening of “The Boats of the Glen Carrig”—“Now we had been five days in the boats, and in all this time made no discovery of land.”—or of “The Ghost Pirates”—“He began without any circumlocution.  ‘I joined the Mortzestus in ‘Frisco.’”  This outstanding ability of Hodgson, to plunge into a dream world and stay there for a book-length sojourne, fits with his seriousness and lends to his tales a straightforward, desperate convincingness.  He is never apologetic, never inclined to provide cushioning explanations, no matter how bizarre the concepts he introduces.  (Such as those magnificent black landscapes looming with mountain-beast-idols—the “Watchers” of “The Night Land” and “The House on the Borderland”.  It would be interesting to know the imaginative antecedents of those landscapes—perhaps an early interest in Egyptian and Babylonian, or Mayan, or Indian, architecture.)

Hodgson shows as much freedom from traditional patterns and editorial demands in his choice of subject-matter as in his plot-structure.  He wrote before science-fiction had become a separate and widely-explored field, and, for example, did not hesitate to introduce into “The House on the Borderland” that chilling vision of Earth’s future, made possible by time-acceleration, which anticipates the impressive vistas of Olaf Stapledon.  To achieve the effects he desired, he combined supernatural terror, mystical speculation, and science-fiction, in a way peculiarly his own.

These various abilities enabled Hodgson to write such a novel as “The Ghost Pirates”, which to my mind fulfills at book length all the canons of the spectral tale laid down by Lovecraft, James, and others.  It is painstakingly realistic—consider the earthy, pungent conversations of the sailors—except when touching on the central supernatural phenomenon.  That phenomenon is unified and handled with adequate impressiveness.  There is no “scientific” explanation to let you down.  Nor is the story itself marred by romantic concessions—there is a steady progress toward doom, in which the suspense builds with an almost unparalleled uninterruptedness.  (Incidently, Sime’s frontispiece for the book is magnificent and—oh, rare virtue!—magnificently faithful.)

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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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“The First Literary Copernicus”


Today, we humbly present the following article about cosmicism in the work of William Hope Hodgson.  This important article by Lee Weinstein first appeared in NYCTALOPS #15 (January, 1980) and has not been reprinted since.  We are thankful for the opportunity to share this piece of early Hodgson scholarship with everyone.  As always, comments are welcome!  (This article appears through the permission of Lee Weinstein.)

THE FIRST LITERARY COPERNICUS

By Lee Weinstein

It is generally conceded that H.P. Lovecraft’s major contribution to the genre of horror fiction was his replacement of the supernatural rationale in such stories with a scientific one. Fritz Leiber called Lovecraft “a literary Copernicus” in his essay of that title* because he created supernatural dread using “the terrifyingly vast and mysterious universe revealed by the swiftly developing sciences.” Leiber adds that “W.H. Hodgson, Poe, Fitz-James O’Brien, and Wells had glimpses of that possibility and used it in a few of their tales. But the main and systematic achieve­ment was Lovecraft’s.”

In so saying, Leiber lightly casts aside the work of William Hope Hodgson, who, in his brief 13 year writing career, consistently and systematically used the mechanistic universe as a basis for the elements of terror in his fiction. He even went so far as to create a loosely constructed mythos, complete with a volume of ancient lore called the Sigsand Manuscript.

His second published story, “A Tropical Horror” (1905) is an early indication of the direction his fiction was to take. It consists largely of a first person account of the sole survivor of a ship attacked by a sea serpent. But it is not an adventure story of man against monster. Hodg­son slowly builds up a mood of horror of the unknown. The creature is seen first a night. The narrator barricades himself in a steel-built halfdeck and listens in the darkness to the sounds of the creature and the screams of the men as they are eaten. As time drags on he gets occasional glimpses of the thing through a porthole. Finally, he is attacked through the porthole by a clawed tentacle, and a vast white tongue beset with teeth. The mood and structure of this story are appropriate to a story of super­natural horror, although the use of a non-existant sea creature makes it a legitimate science fiction story.

“From the Tideless Sea” (1906) and its sequel “More News from the Homebird” (1907) follow closely in the tradition of “A Tropical Horror,” creating an even greater atmosphere of supernatural horror, although the science fictional elements are considerably downplayed, appearing in the form of new species of existing creatures. This was a common theme of Hodgson’s and appeared in such stories as “The Mystery of the Derelict” (1907), “The Terror of the Water Tank” (1907), “The Voice in the Night” (1907), and “The Stone Ship” (1914) among others.

On occasion, Hodgson needed no science fictional element at all. In “The Shamraken Homeward-Bounder” (1908), a ship of aged sailors, returning from its final voyage, encounters a strange pink mist. A sense of awe is built up as the ship is enshrouded in “great rosy wreaths (which) soften and beautify every spar.” The men believe they are about to enter heaven as the mist assumes an unearthly red brilliance and they see “a vast arch, formed of blazing red clouds.” A “prodigious umbel” appears, burning red and with a black crest, at which the men exclaim, “The Throne of God!” What the men have actually seen is “the Fiery Tempest,” a rare electrical phenomenon preceding certain types of cyclone. The umbel was the beginning of the water spout. As the story closes, “the breath of the cyclone was in their throats, and the Shamraken . . . passed in through the everlasting portals.” Using the theme of Man against the mysterious forces of Nature, Hodgson has created a vision of awe and supernatural dread.

Similarly, in “Out of the Storm,” an intense aura of fear and horror permeates the narrative of the last survivor aboard a wrecked and sinking ship. The sea itself, referred to by the man as “the Thing,” seems to take on an evil sentience as it closes in. The horror of destruction by im­mense, impersonal forces was later to become a major theme of Lovecraft’s.
More typically, however, Hodgson’s fiction includes a bizarre fantastic element. In his first published novel, The Boats of the Glen Carrig” (1907), the survivors of a shipwreck come upon a strange barren land populated by grotesque plant life and a creature having the appearance of “a many-flapped thing shaped as it might be, out of raw beef but … alive,” among other horrors. Later in the novel, after leaving this place, the men encounter a weed-choked expanse of sea and are attacked by quasi-human “weed men.” These creatures have short stumpy limbs, the ends of which are divided into “wrig­gling masses of small tentacles.” They have great eyes, “so big as crown pieces,” and bills like an inverted parrot’s bill.

These creatures are somewhat reminiscent of such Lovecraftian creations as Dagon and Cthulhu, both of which com­bined humanoid and aquatic features. It is cer­tain, however, that Lovecraft wrote the stories in question before he became aware of Hodgson’s fiction. He indepen­dently created a similar literary device, a decade later, to evoke a similar mood of horror.

Hodgson’s second published novel, The House on the Borderland (1908), is a great leap forward. Where Boats merely deals with strange and unexplored regions of Earth, House transcends time and space.

The House on the Borderland tells of an old man living in a strange and isolated old house in Ireland and of the dis­locations in time and space he is subjected to. On one oc­casion, after seeing a vision of a vast reddish plain while seated in his study, he finds himself floating upward through the night into limitless space. He eventually descends to the plain of his vision, and finds a replica of his house, although it is larger and colored green, at the center of a huge natural amphitheatre. Peering down at the house from the en­circling mountains are great likenesses of the Egyptian god Seth, the Destroyer of Souls; Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, and other “Beast-gods, and Horrors” in vast num­bers. At first he assumes them to be sculptures, but soon realizes “. . . there was about them an indescribable sort of dumb vitality that suggested . . .a state of life-in-death . . . an inhuman form of existence that well might be likened to a deathless trance — a condition in which it was possible to imagine their continuing, eternally.” (p. 25, Ace edition). Again, this is remarkably reminiscent of Lovecraft, particu­larly the couplet in “Call of Cthulhu” which goes “That is not dead which can eternal lie, / And with strange eons even death may die,” referring to the Great Old Ones in their stone houses in R’lyeh.

Returning to Hodgson’s novel, the narrator is again transported through space, and returns to Earth, to his study, and notes that 24 hours have passed. In later sequen­ces, he is transported to an eerie gray world where he meets a beautiful woman by the shore of an “immense and silent sea,” and travels through time to witness the end of the solar system. In the latter, time speeds up as the narrator sits in his study. The hands of his clock begin to race around, and night and day alternate in more and more rapid suc­cession. His dog dies and disintegrates as he watches, but he continues as a wraith-like presence to observe the sun die and travel to a huge double sun at the center of the uni­verse. This central sun is composed of a green star, which the narrator feels houses some sort of intelligence, and a dead black star. The green one is surrounded by shimmering globules, one of which he enters, only to find himself again in the gray world with his love by the shore. When the green sun is eclipsed by the black one, he finds himself sur­rounded by ruddy spheres. He enters one and is transported back to the amphitheatre on the red plain. When he goes into the enlarged green replica of his house, there is a loud screaming noise, a “blurred vista of visions,” and he is sud­denly back in the present. Nothing has changed, except for the crumbled remains of his dog lying at his feet.

Another bizarre touch in the novel is the presence of quasi-human swine creatures, which exist both on the red plain, and in a pit beneath the house on Earth. They are possessed of a malign intelligence, and after battling the narrator throughout the book, eventually destroy him.

Despite the diversity of the plot elements, and their somewhat episodic nature, they all seem to tie together with a strange sort of logic. More importantly, although Hodg­son’s universe is somewhat more orderly than Lovecraft’s, this novel succeeds admirably in attaching the emotion of fear to the vastness of the cosmos. It is possible it may have been influential on some of Lovecraft’s later works.

Hodgson’s third published novel, The Ghost Pirates (1909), ex­plores yet another direction, that of the parallel universe. It concerns a haunted ship plagued by one unexplained oc­currence after another in an ever-increasing atmosphere of fear and horror. But the haunting is not caused by ghosts in the conventional sense. The narrator explains: “I’m not going to say they are flesh and blood; though at the same time, I’m not going to say they’re ghosts… this ship is open … exposed, unprotected [due, perhaps, to “magnetic stress” ] … the things of the material world are barred, as it were, from the immaterial; but … in some cases the barrier may be broken down. [The shipl may be naked to the attacks of beings belonging to some other state of existence. Sup­pose the earth were inhabited by two kinds of life. We’re one and they’re the other. They may be just as real and material to them as we are to us.”**

This idea of a barrier, protecting us from malign entities from Outside, is central to the mythos which ties together many of his later stories, and is reminiscent of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, particularly in such stories as “The Dunwich Horror.”

In later sequences of The Ghost Pirates, passing ships seem to appear and disappear as the haunted ship, and its crew, hover between the two planes of existence. The third mate on another passing ship notes at the end of the novel that the haunted ship was totally silent; he could see the captain shout, but no sound came from his lips. Later, he and his fellow crewmen hear sounds begin to come from the ship,”…very queer at first and rather like a phonograph makes when it’s getting up speed. Then the sounds came properly from her and we heard them shouting and yelling.” In all, it is an extremely effective portrayal of horror lurking just beyond our plane of reality.

Hodgson’s mythos achieves its fullest development in Carnacki the Ghost-Finder (1910), a collection of stories about one of the earliest psychic detectives. Carnacki often refers to, in the course of his investigations, a volume called the Sigsand MS. This book, or manuscript, is supposed to have been written about the 14th century. Quotations from it, scattered throughout the stories, indicate that it is concerned with “Monsters of the Outer World,” and defenses against them. In other words, it is very much like the Necronomicon.

Using information from the Sigsand MS., Carnacki develops a defensive circle containing a pentacle and certain “signs of the Saaamaaa Ritual.” Within this chalk circle he places an electric pentacle, suggested by another fictitious book, Prof. Garder’s Experiments With a Medium. While standing within these defensive barriers, a person is pro­tected from various “powers of the Unknown World,” such as the “Outer Monstrosities” and the “Aeiirii forms of semi-materialization.” The defense is not good against “Saiitii phenomena,” however, since these can “reproduce (themselves) in or take to (their) purposes the very protective material you may use.” They involve “the very structure of the aether-fibre itself,” we are told in the story “The Whistling Room.” In the same story we learn that he Unknown Last Line of the Saaamaaa Ritual,” used by the “Ab-human priests in the Incantation of the Raaaee,” may be uttered by the inscrutable Protective forces which “govern the spin­ning of the outer circle and intervene between the human and the Outer Monstrosities.”

In the story “The Searcher of the End House” we are told that certain of the Monstrosities of the Outer Circle are known as “The Haggs,” and, according to the Sigsand MS., they cause children to be still-born by snatching back their ego or spirit.

Possibly, the most important story in the group is “The Hog,” which, for some reason, was never published during Hodgson’s lifetime, and did not see print until the 1940’s. It concerns a man whose natural insulation against the Outer Monstrosities breaks down. His soul is attacked by one of the Monstrosities known as the “Hog.” A quotation from the Sigsand MS. tells us “…in ye earlier life upon the world did the Hogge have power, and shall again in ye end. And in that ye Hogge had once a power upon ye earth, so doth he crave sore to come again” (Panther edition, p. 188). Un­less the manuscript of this story was tampered with by Au­gust Derleth, who released it for publication, this passage is one of the most remarkable literary coincidences of all time, since it is a paraphrasing of the quotation from the Necronomicon in “The Dunwich Horror” which runs “…the Old Ones broke through of old and… They shall break through again… Man now rules where They ruled once; They shall soon rule where man rules now.”
At the end of “The Hog” is a lengthy explanation of the Outer Monstrosities. The Earth is surrounded by an Outer Circle 100 thousand miles up and 5-10 million miles in thickness, which spins opposite to Earth’s rotation, and consists of extremely rarefied matter. Out of it breed the Outer Monstrosities, which are million mile clouds of force, in the same way that sharks are bred out of the ocean. These monsters chiefly desire the psychic entity of man.

In short, the Carnacki stories are based on scientifically rationalized beings from beyond, causing apparently super­natural phenomena. The Hog from the above story may be a retroactive attempt to include the swine creatures from The House on the Borderland in the developing mythos; the descriptions are similar. Another Carnacki story unpub­lished during Hodgson’s lifetime, “The Haunted Jarvee,” contains much of the theory presented in The Ghost Pirates and appears to be a reworking of the same material in a shorter form.

It is interesting to compare the Carnacki stories to their immediate predecessor, John Silence —Physician Extra­ordinaire (1908) by Algernon Blackwood. John Silence is also a psychic detective, but in the five stories in the book, he deals with such stock occult menaces as a fire elemental, a werewolf, and persistant spirits of witches who turn them­selves into cats. Most of the stories deal with the persistence of evil thoughts after the death of their perpetrators.

Silence combats them with the power of his own mind, rather than the “scientific” methods of Carnacki.
Hodgson’s final novel to be published and his most ambitious  appeared in 1912. The Night Land is a minor classic, both of horror and of science fiction. The setting, this time, is Earth in the far, far future. Not only has the sun burned out, but millions of years have passed since. Mankind’s last refuge is an eight mile high metal pyramid built in a deep chasm, 100 miles below the Earth’s frozen surface. Surrounding the pyramid are strange monstrous creatures, which lie in wait through the ages, until power for the pyramid’s defenses runs out. The monsters are explained in this passage: “… olden sci­ences … disturbing the unmeasurable Outward Powers, had allowed to pass the Barrier of this Life some of those Mon­sters and Ab-human creatures, which are so wondrously cushioned from us at this normal present. And thus there materialized, and in other cases developed, grotesque and horrible creatures… And where there was no power to take on material form, there had been allowed to certain dreadful forces to have power to affect the life of the human spirit.” (Ballantine edition, Vol I, p. 32). This is obviously a con­tinuation of the mythos in the Carnacki stories. Further, the pyramid is protected from these creatures by a “great circle of light” which “burned within a transparent tube,” and is called the “Electric Circle.” In other words, an en­larged version of Carnacki’s electric pentacle. It should be noted that despite the supernatural overtones of the passage, particularly at the end, it is scientific meddling which has resulted in the presence of the creatures.

In “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani” (1912), the mythos reappears. In this story, Hodgson attempts to rationalize scientifically an occurrence described in the Bible: the darkness that appeared during the crucifixion of Christ. The result is an extremely effective horror story. A scientist synthesizes a substance which, when oxidized, disturbs the ether, interfering with the transmission of light. He ingests the substance, and drives nails through his palms to simulate the agony of Christ. Darkness forms around him. But some­thing goes wrong. The scientist goes deeper and deeper into a trance-like state, losing awareness of his surroundings. Sud­denly, he yells out the words, “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani!” (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me), first in ter­ror, then in a voice not his own, but “sneering in an incred­ible, bestial, monstrous fashion.” A moment later he is dead. The narrator, who has been observing the scientist, suggests, “in his extraordinary, self-hypnotized, defenseless condition, he was ‘entered’ by some Christ-apeing Monster of the Void.”

Hodgson’s best short story was perhaps “The Derelict,” also written in 1912. A ship comes across a derelict at sea, and the crew row out to investigate. They find it to be sur­rounded by a thick scum and covered with a thick gray-white mold that is streaked with purplish veins. There is a persistent thudding sound aboard, and when the Captain kicks a hole in one of the white mounds of mold on deck, a purple fluid spurts out in time to the thudding. Terror mounts as the men realize that the entire ship is covered by a single living organism, and they barely escape being sucked into the thing and digested. But as in the previous story, this goes beyond a mere science fiction horror story. It is set in a framework in which a doctor, who was one of the crew, tells the story as an example of his theory that Life force will manifest itself if given the proper material and conditions. He goes on to say that Life, like Fire and Electricity is of the “Outer Forces – Monsters of the Void.”

As I hope I have demonstrated here, Hodgson was a real pioneer. He used the emerging scientific picture of our uni­verse in a consistent manner to create a new type of horror story, a type which Lovecraft later, and independently, developed more fully.

He was the first literary Copernicus.

*August Derleth, ed.. Something About Cats (Arkham House, 1949) Darrcll Schweitzer, ed., Essays Lovecraftian (T-K Graphics, 1976), p.6

**Sam Moskowitz, ed., Horrors Unseen (Berkley ’74), pp. 51-2

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