Walking the Night Land: “A New Pilgrim’s Progress”

James Doig over at Wormwoodiana dug out a contemporary review from an Australian newspaper about William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, that “singularly prolix and perplexing book.” It’s actually an amusing imitation of the style Hodgson used in the novel.

WHH Short Fiction: “Bullion”

Essay: “Bullion”, William Hope Hodgson, 1911.

NSB Vol 2
Cover by Jason Van Hollander

Like some Carnacki tales, this story starts out with what seems to be a supernatural event and ends with an entirely natural crime being exposed.

The narrator of this story is a second mate on a ship whose captain died on the voyage to Melbourne.

The new captain thinks his cabin is haunted since he hears whispering at night, and he switches cabins with the second mate.

The ship is carrying gold, and the whispering is the work of a gang of thieves who are slowly replacing the cases of gold bullion with dummy cases filled with lead.

The first captain probably died of long term exposure to the narcotic fumes the thieves put in the hold with the gold so the narrator and the captain, sleeping there to guard the gold because they suspect something is up, won’t wake up during the substitutions.

Naturally the plot is foiled.

WHH Short Fiction: “The Mystery of the Water-Logged Ship”

Essay: “The Mystery of the Water-Logged Ship”, William Hope Hodgson, 1911.

NSB Vol 2
Cover by Jason Van Hollander

This story has the classic Hodgson sea story opening: a derelict is spotted in the night.

The White Hart spots a derelict and decides to tow it out of shipping lanes and also claim the salvage rights. They think maybe the recently lost liner Lavinia may have collided with the ship.

On two different times, men are put aboard the derelict to watch it while it’s being towed. On both occasions, they disappear.

The captain, determined to investigate, leads an armed party aboard, and they build a shelter on deck to stay the night since all the disappearances were nocturnal.

They hear strange noises and men appear on the masts of the ship.

A fight ensues, and the mystery is solved.

The ship is not awash below decks. It has a concealed hold, water-tight, below a compartment flooded with water, and it holds gold bullion taken from the Lavinia and other ships. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “The Mystery of the Water-Logged Ship””

WHH Short Fiction: “Jack Grey, Second Mate”

Essay: “Jack Grey, Second Mate”, William Hope Hodgson, 1917.

This is another one of Hodgson’s siege plots with a romantic story added.

Jack Grey is one of Hodgson’s strong, fit, and brave heroes.

Miss Eversley is a passenger on his ship and a friend of the captain’s wife. She is trying to evade the attentions of Mr. Pathan, another passenger. At first, Eversley doesn’t care for Grey’s pipe smoking, but when Grey stops Pathan from groping her, she begins to take an interest in him.

The first mate of the vessel is useless in keeping the crew in line since they aren’t “an orderly crew of respectable Scandinavians” but mostly “dagoes and mixed breeds”. It turns out they are confederates of Pathan and mutiny and take over the vessel, the captain dying of illness.

Grey and Eversley are under siege in the steel deck-house. They grow fond of each other, conduct a marriage ceremony of sorts. Grey even says the last bullet for Eversley, but she refuses.

They do overcome the mutineers – there is some exciting action in the story, and Grey beats Pathan to death.

The story ends with a very traditional scene of the masculine, violent, strong defender protecting his woman:

He caught her up in his great arms, with the one word, ‘Come!’ and stepped through the open doorway into the moonlight, the fallen door ringing under his tread. Then, master of his ship, he carried her aft to the cabin.

 

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War of the God Queen

David Hambling kindly informed me of his latest book, so I went out and bought it. I even read it. (I met an author once who told me, when I said I didn’t know when I’d have time to read his new book, “I don’t care if you read it. Just buy it.”)

Review: War of the God Queen, David Hambling, 2020.War of the God Queen

David Hambling’s newest Cthulhu Mythos story is a radical departure for him. His previous Mythos stories have been in contemporary settings or in the London of the 1920s.

This one takes place in the Bronze Age in an area approximating Iran.

Jessica Morton, whom we last saw falling through the floor in Hambling’s “The Dulwich Horror of 1927”, ends up there.

The story opens with two old school chums of William Blake, the narrator of that story, showing up at Blake’s home. They’ve got a remarkable set of photographs: a carved-in-stone account by Jessica about her life in the past.

As pluck and luck would have it, Jessica plummets down some kind of dimensional wormhole and into a compound where Cthulhu spawn (known to the locals as Tulu) are keeping a bunch of slave women to breed with, but she falls in with a band of semi-nomads. Fortunately, the leader of that band is Amir, a relatively gentle warrior who mostly wants revenge on Tulu monsters. Amir regards Jessica as a goddess sent to help him in his revenge. Continue reading “War of the God Queen”

“The Horror-Horn”

This week’s piece of weird fiction being discussed at LibraryThing.

Essay: “The Horror-Horn”, E. F. Benson, 1922.E F Benson Megapack

The story opens with the narrator on winter holiday at Swiss mountain resort near Mt. Alhubel. (This may or may not be a real place – I definitely see a Mt. Alphhubel in Switzerland but no Alhubel in a web search). He is there with his cousin Professor Ingram, an expert in physiology and a mountain climber.

In an English newspaper, Ingram reads a report about the yeti (though that name is not used). This story was first published in September 1922, and I’m pretty sure it was inspired by journalist Henry Newman reporting, in 1921, that British mountain climbers on an Everest expedition had seen mysterious footprints.

Ingram points out that the climbers were operating at a high altitude and their brains as well as hearts and lungs may have been affected. They could have misinterpreted marks in the snow as footprints. Continue reading ““The Horror-Horn””

WHH Short Fiction: “Demons of the Sea”

Essay: “Demons of the Sea”, William Hope Hodgson, 1923.

Like Hodgson’s “The Stone Ship”, this story features a “submarine earthquake”.

The sea is very misty and hot, at 99 degrees, with gas bubbles popping all around it.

On watch, the narrator sees a “monstrous black face” arise from the depths.

He goes off to inform the Captain, but, by the time the latter arrives on deck, the face is gone. The Captain ridicules the narrator, but he also questions him closely and tells some other men to look about in the sea.

Nobody sees anything but then, during the night watch, “a muffled screaming arose” then

a clamor as of hoarse braying, like an ass but considerably deeper, and with a horribly suggestive human note

is heard.

The captain again sends people on deck to look, but they see nothing. The sounds get closer and then a ship is sighted in the mist. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “Demons of the Sea””

WHH Short Fiction: “The Weed Men”

Review: “The Weed Men”, William Hope Hodgson, 1997.51GClMcTj+L._SY346_

This will be short. This simply seems to be an excerpt from Hodgson’s The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”, chapter 13 to be specific. I don’t know if Hodgson created this excerpt himself, but it was first published in the Sam Gafford edited collection Down in the Weeds.

 

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WHH Short Fiction: “The Haunting of the Lady Shannon”

Essay: “The Haunting of the Lady Shannon”, William Hope Hodgson, 1975.

One of Hodgson’s tales about a brutal sea captain. Maybe it’s a weird story, and maybe it’s not. If the former, it’s a rare case of Hodgson combining brutal ship life with a weird menace.

Here there are three apprentice seamen. The young seamen aren’t able to do much against the brutal treatment they get, worse than they would get in any prison (certainly this seems Hodgson’s opinion of life as a merchant seamen). Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “The Haunting of the Lady Shannon””

Tales of the Al-Azif; or, Adventures in Reviewer Parallax

Right now I’m reading David Hambling’s new novel, War of the God Queen, which gave me a good reason to read this book which I bought a few months ago when I was in the midst of reading William Hope Hodgson and various Scottish writers.

Reviewer parallax on this one is provided by The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviewer. I would have completely missed this title if he hadn’t mentioned it.

Review: Tales of the Al-Azif, eds. Matthew Davenport & C.T. Phipps, 2019.Tales of the Al Azif

Editors Davenport and Phipps have called up something impressively different here. They ensorcelled their contributors to give over their worlds and characters to serve a larger narrative, the story of something that is feebly and inadequately called a book.

If the language of their spells is a bit obscure at times or crafted to combine that which was separate and hide discontinuities, their vision and direction is to be applauded. They have created worlds from a throwaway title in a monograph from the Great God Lovecraft.

In six stories (one being broken into the opening and closing framing sections), we get the history of the Al-Azif, sometimes known as The Book of the Insect. Maybe the Mad Arab Abdul Al-Hazred used it as the source for the Necronomicon. And, maybe, he was torn apart by invisible demons in a day-lit market square. One thing is certain, though: Al-Azif is not just a static text. It shifts in meaning, is a power unto itself, a power often affiliated with those strange members of the Class Insecta we share Earth with. And the Al-Azif seduces with promises of wishes fulfilled. Continue reading “Tales of the Al-Azif; or, Adventures in Reviewer Parallax”