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A Review of CARNACKI: THE NEW ADVENTURES


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00067]S.T. Joshi has kindly sent me a copy of his review of CARNACKI: THE NEW ADVENTURES which will be appearing in an upcoming issue of DEAD RECKONINGS from Hippocampus Press.  It is a very favorable review and S.T. says many nice things about the various contributions in the book.  Coming from S.T. Joshi, it is great praise indeed!

Here is a brief excerpt from the review:

Carnacki, the Ghost-Finder (1913) is far from being William Hope Hodgson’s best book, but it has emerged as one of his most popular. Perhaps this is not surprising. Although the short novel The House on the Borderland (1908) is perhaps Hodgson’s signature work, with its unforgettable central section depicting the narrator’s drifting through spectacular cosmic vistas of space and time, Carnacki has the appeal of a charismatic recurring character and exemplifies the provocative fusion of two seemingly disparate genres—the supernatural tale and the detective story. It may be true that Hodgson deliberately catered to popular taste in his creation of the occult detective Thomas Carnacki—he published the first Carnacki tales in the Idler in 1910, only two years after Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence—Physician Extraordinary reached the bestseller lists—and it may also be true that some of Carnacki’s bag of occult contrivances (such as the Electric Pentacle and the Saaamaaa Ritual) are almost self-parodically comical; but it is equally true that no one, to my knowledge, has written John Silence pastiches, whereas the book under review is only the latest contribution to a growing body of new Thomas Carnacki adventures.

I will advise when the review is published.  By that time, the 2nd edition of the book will be available so this seems as good a time as any to remind everyone that the 1st edition will be removed from Amazon tomorrow (4/15/14) so if you haven’t gotten a copy and want one of the soon to be scarce first edition, you have about 24 hours to order one!

 

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Foreign Hodgson


S. T. Joshi and I began to compile a bibliography for William Hope Hodgson quite a few years ago.  I can’t testify as to exactly how long ago but I am sure we started before the current Millennium.  At first, our main goal was to see if we could find any stories or articles that might have been forgotten over time.  We did find a lot of material (most of which has been published in one form or another since) but one of the things that surprised me the most was how widely Hodgson had been translated into foreign languages.  I really had no idea that his work had spread so widely over the world.

Those translations have continued to grow to the point where the bibliography now lists 17 different languages.  Some are quite surprising so I thought I’d share the results of that research (to this point) with the readers of this blog.

  1. Czech–1 Book
  2. Danish–1 Book
  3. Dutch–2 Books, 3 Shorter Works
  4. Estonian–1 Book
  5. Finnish–1 Book, 4 Shorter Works
  6. French–11 Books, 9 Shorter Works
  7. Galician–1 Book
  8. German–7 Books, 16 Shorter Works
  9. Greek–2 Books
  10. Italian–9 Books, 32 Shorter Works
  11. Japanese–6 Books, 1 Shorter Works
  12. Norwegian–1 Shorter Works
  13. Polish–2 Books
  14. Romanian–2 Books
  15. Russian–1 Shorter Works
  16. Spanish–20 Books, 4 Shorter Works
  17. Swedish–3 Books, 18 Shorter Works

Several things become evident when we consider this list.  First, the Spanish lead the Book translations with “20” followed by Italian in a distant second with “9”.  Second, Italian leads the Shorter Works translations with “32” with the Swedish translations in second with only “18”.  It is interesting to note that the Italian translations are so strong in the Shorter Works but not as much in Book translations.

Several languages have only “1” Book translation and no translations of Shorter Works including Czech, Danish, Estonian and Galician.  Clearly some work needs to be done in this area.  And, yet, some languages (Finnish, German, Norwegian and Russian) and have more Shorter Work translations than Book translations.

If anyone has more examples of Hodgson’s translated appearances, please feel free to share them with us!

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S. T. Joshi on Hodgson


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Works Cited

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

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New Hodgson Article Available!


wfr3frontI’m happy to announce that my article “Hodgson v. Houdini: The Blackburn Challenge” has just been published by Centipede Press.  It appears in WEIRD FICTION REVIEW #3 which has just been released.

WEIRD FICTION REVIEW is an excellent magazine (edited by the amazingly prolific S. T. Joshi) which contains the best in articles, poetry and new weird fiction.  I would highly recommend it even if my article did not appear here!

Here is the publisher’s write up for the issue:

The Weird Fiction Review is an annual periodical devoted to the study of weird and supernatural fiction. It is edited by S.T. Joshi. This second issue contains fiction, poetry, and reviews from leading writers and promising newcomers. It features original stories and essays by Michael Cisco, Wilum Pugmire and Maryanne K. Snyder, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Stuart Galbraith IV, Danel Olson, John Pelan, and many others; a lengthy, previously-unpublished interview with Karl Edward Wagner; a 16-page gallery of art by artist Jason Zerrillo; and much more.

My article is my attempt to provide the final word on the infamous encounter between Houdini and Hodgson which occurred at the Palace Theatre in Blackburn, England, in 1902.  The confrontation would leave Houdini permanently scarred (physically and emotionally) and is mentioned in virtually every Houdini biography.

I encourage all of the readers of this blog to get a copy of this wonderful magazine and not just because it contains my article.  Another great reason to pick up a copy is that it includes a new story by one of the best modern Lovecraftian writers, Wilum H. Pugmire.   WFR is an enterprise well worthy of our support.

On another note, much of my vision for the forthcoming Hodgson literary magazine, SARGASSO, has been inspired by WEIRD FICTION REVIEW.  I can only hope to attain such a high standard of excellence.

The issue cost $20 and can be ordered via Centipede Press at this link.

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