Counterfeit Hodgson

Douglas A. Anderson’s The Dream of X and Other Fantastic Visions: Being the Fifth Volume of the Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson concludes with a “Counterfeits” section.

This puzzles me.

First, why were these even included? Ross E. Lockhart’s introductory essay, “That Delicious Shiver”, gives no explanation.

Now, if you didn’t know anything about Hodgson apart from reading his fiction, I can see why you could think these stories are Hodgson’s. “The Raft” is about a shipwrecked group on a raft that is attacked, in the Sargasso Sea, by a giant octopus. “R.M.S. ‘Empress of Australia’” follows a ship from Sept. 1, 1923 through Sept. 7, 1923 in rescue operations after the Great Kanto Earthquake. Both have a style similar to Hodgson’s. Both are about the sea. The latter story reminds one of those “The Real Thing” stories Hodgson did.

However, “The Raft” is attributed to a C. L. in the book’s concluding “A Note on the Texts”. It just says it was supplied by editor Anderson. It evidently appears in no work attributed to Hodgson, and Hodgson was not a man to use a pen name. Indeed, he took efforts to promote himself in all his money-making endeavors.

“R.M.S. ‘Empress of Australia’” is even more puzzling. It was included in a Hodgson collection, Terrors of the Sea edited by Sam Moskowitz.

Now Moskowitz had to know Hodgson died in 1918. Did he think Hodgson was some kind of psychic? If so, why didn’t he make that claim? After all, we’re still hearing about how Morgan Robertson’s The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility from 1912 was oddly prescient about the Titanic disaster. This story is a superb example of a prophetic vision – if it was written by Hodgson.

To compound the mystery, Jane Frank, in The Wandering Soul, describes the story as a

science fictional account of the catastrophic earthquake that destroyed the city of Yokohama in 1923.

Again, why is a “science fictional account” being attributed to an actual event unless you think Hodson was a precog?

Now Terrors of the Sea is from 1996. There was no internet to easily research stuff like this. Still, it’s not an obscure event of history. The story of the R.M.S. Empress of Australia was covered in newspapers. Moskowitz would have had to go to the library though. Now I am lucky in that, even without the internet, I only have to walk a few steps to do research. The other reader in the house happens to have a collection of books on Japan and disasters. Pulling Jay Robert Nash’s Darkest Hours (1976) off the shelf, I found, right there, on pages 285 and 286, in the “Japan: Earthquake-Fire, September 1-3, 1923” entry, an account that mentions the ship.

I will try to keep the words of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction in mind:

Moskowitz’s scholarship and criticism were not to everybody’s taste, and these works have at times been criticized within the genre and by academics for inaccuracies and a not always fluent style. But the fact remains that, though some of his data and conclusions have been argued, Moskowitz did more original research in this field than any other scholar of his period and few since . . .

One thought on “Counterfeit Hodgson

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.