Walking the Night Land: Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of Eternity

I’ve been reading Brian Stableford recently – the “fruits” of which you won’t see in for a while. However, when prowling around on The Brian Stableford Website, I actually looked at the description for this luridly titled book with a cover not up to Black Coat Press’ usual standards. (I often prefer to buy paper editions of Black Coat Press works because of the covers.)

Since William Hope Hodgson plays a part in the story, I immediately ordered it and read it.

And, when I found out that Stableford also puts The Night Land to use in the book, I put it at the head of the review queue as another installment in the series.

Sallystartup, over at her Reviews of Brian Stableford, which, as you would expect reviews only Stableford, provides reviewer parallax on this one. I didn’t indicate that in the title because of space and because nobody should have two colons in the title of a blog post.

Essay: Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of Eternity, Brian Stableford, 2009.

Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of Eternity
Cover by Danielle Serra

‘I had not expected to travel 12 million years,’ I said, before the android could ask another question, ‘but I suppose that I have come as far before, and even further. I have seen the final act of the story of mankind played out against the backcloth of the Night Land, and the death of the Earth itself as it spiraled into the dying Sun.’

‘Yes’, said the metal man, after another brief hesitation. ‘We know something of your previous visions.’

It is Hodgson’s story that begins (after a brief prologue) the novel and ends it. His “Soldier’s Story” is interspersed with accounts of four other men: Count Lugard (reputed to be a vampire) who gives us, of course, the “Count’s Story; the “Explorer’s Story”; the “Writer’s Story”; and the “Detective’s Story”. Hodgson is summoned to a secret mission, leaving his identification disks behind, just before his Forward Observation Post is blown up and, so our history says, he is killed on April 17, 1918.

This is not only a masterful science fiction novel but a conte philosophique that combines many of Stableford’s interests and characteristic themes: an interest in literary decadence; a future history (seen in his emortal series and Tales from the Biotech Revolution series) that includes severe environmental degradation and nuclear and biological warfare in the early 21st century followed by a massive die off and then a heavy use of genetic engineering to create an near utopia on Earth; vampires; sympathy with the Devil’s Party and literary Satanism; art for art’s sake, the value of artifice, and the related ideas of personal myth and the power of the imagination; the stance to take when facing an uncertain future (also seen in his “Taken for a Ride” which also deals with questions of destiny, predestination, and free will), and an interest in early British and French science fiction. Continue reading “Walking the Night Land: Sherlock Holmes and the Vampires of Eternity”

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”

Walking the Night Land: “A Question of Meaning”

We return to the Walking the Night Land series already.

I completely forgot about this story when I was reading William Hope Hodgson a few months ago. It’s not surprising, given its appearance in the first issue Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson, that it would tie into Hodgson’s The Night Land. (I’ll be reviewing all three issues of the journal as well as more of Hodgson’s short fiction.)

Essay: “A Question of Meaning”, Pierre V. Comtois, 2013.

Sargasso
Cover by Robert H. Knox

This story combines many things. It uses the background of H. P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” and is partly set in Dunwich, the god Nodens, Lovecraft’s Dreamlands, and the far future setting of The Night Land. Taking place in 1999, it also benefits from Comtois’ personal and historical knowledge of New England.

Given its length, it works better than you would expect. Divided into six parts, each titled with a character’s name (though the last two parts really center on the same character), the story has a farmer finding a strange stone in his field near Dunwich. A local historian takes it to the local “crackpot” Corwin who tells him it’s from the cult of Nodens and there will be other stones in the field. Night-gaunts show up farmer Fritch’s field. A local archaeology professor is notified, and a dig is done uncovering the rest of the stones.

Then Montrose is introduced. He’s a priest in the Nodens cult (Nodens sent the night-gaunts.) He is instructed to get the stones back by Nodens. Continue reading “Walking the Night Land: “A Question of Meaning””

Walking the Night Land: Awake in the Night Land

The series on William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land continues.

Essay: Awake in the Night Land, John C. Wright, 2014.

awake_256
Cover by JartStar

After reading William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, I looked up some reviews and criticisms of the work. I was surprised to learn that a devoted group of writers still pay homage to the novel over a hundred years later and have extended Hodgson’s story.

The most extensive and highly regarded such work is this collection.

In his introduction, “On the Lure of the Night Land”, Wright describes himself, post-college, as a somewhat jaded lover of fantastic fiction who was pointed to this novel by a friend. Wright had been working on a piece called “Nigh-Forgotten Sun” which his friend thought was a takeoff on Hodgson’s novel. Wright, however, had not read the novel yet.

In those days, Hodgson’s novel was only available in two volumes from Ballantine Books. He was immediately captivated by the first volume. It was years, though, before he got to read the second volume. Still, Wright’s sense of wonder was rekindled with the heroic tale of Naani’s rescue, the eerie menaces and features of the Night Land that were full of awe and impenetrable mysteries. He loved Hodgson’s archaic “formal and gravid” language which captured the “dark, heavy, grim and gothic majesty” of the Night Land. Continue reading “Walking the Night Land: Awake in the Night Land”

“The Feaster from Afar”

This week’s piece of weird fiction was first published The Disciples of Cthulhu from 1976, a time long before “Cthulhu” and “Lovecraft” got slapped on so many book covers.

Review: “The Feaster From Afar”, Joseph Payne Brennan, 1976.

Disciples of Cthulhu
Cover by Karel Thole

Our protagonist is Sydney Mellor Madison, a writer of historical novels. He works in two year cycles: six months of research, a year of writing, and then six months of copy editing and promotion.

He’s become successful and decides he’d like to write his next book in someplace isolated away from the duties that distract him when he tries to work in his apartment.

He’s offered a lease on an unused hunting lodge in “northern New England”. So, he goes to check it out before signing.

He gets to the village of Granbury and meets the local storekeeper the lodge is twelve miles up a very bad road. It’s a road through a “bleak, uninhabited, and altogether inhospitable” land.

The first night there, Madison doesn’t sleep well. But he gets up, eats breakfasts, and sits down to write. The hunting lodge decorations and furniture may not be to his taste. But he’s a pro. He doesn’t wait until he’s in the mood to write. Do that, and you’ll end up a book reviewer.

But, after three hours, he stops, decides to check the mail, finds there is no mailbox, so drives back to Granbury. There he talks to Saines, the storekeeper, who tells him he has to pick up his mail at the store. Saines asks Madison if he’s a hunter. When the reply is in the negative, Saines is a bit taken aback as to why he would stay at the lodge then. A local character, sitting in the corner, ominously says, “Mebbe yew don’t hunt, mister, but just be sure yew ain’t the hunted.”

Annoyed at this “cracker-barrel” philosophy, Maidson leaves and decides he’s only going to pick up his mail once a week. Royalty checks can wait.

Back at the lodge, he has a few drinks to wash away his annoyance.

The next morning he’s still not in the best of moods – more bad dreams — so grabs one of the many shotguns in the lodge and takes a walk. The area around the lodge is remarkably silent and free of any sign of animals. It’s “barren and bleak” and feels wrong.

It’s more bad dreams that night. The place is getting on his nerves, so he goes back to Granbury and talks to Saines.

“Did anything – ever happen – up there? I mean, anything real bad?” he asks Saines.

Well, there was that hunter found dead up there awhile back. He had a bunch of holes in his head and no brain.

Madison is incredulous about this. Why wasn’t it in the papers?

Not everythin’ gits in the papers, Mr. Madison. And sometimes investigations that turns — complercated – gits hushed up!

Madison should just leave the lodge. Something bad is up there.

“Anyway, the Whateleys drew suthin’ down out of the sky there – and it ain’t niver left…”, says Saines.

Besides, Madison being a writin’ fellow he’s surprised he’s never heard of the “Cthulhu Mythos”

That does not impress Madison. He’s heard of some “pulp-magazine scribbler” – “Lovelock or Lovecrop – or something like that.”

Back to the lodge, Madison is still on edge and distracts himself by looking through the lodge’s library.

Out of one book falls a note that Hastur, the Feaster from Afar, has put his mark on the area. The reader of the note should just leave.

Madison thinks he’s the victim of a practical joke. The note could be forged – though how would a prankster know which book he would pick up? None of the other books have such notes.

And then the story reaches it’s expected conclusion.

We then hear about that dream Madison has had every night, a dream of pursuit in the country under moonlight pursued by a flying figure with talons. It’s no dream this time, though.

And Hastur, the Feaster from Afar sucks Madison’s brains out.

So, a predictable if enjoyable story with the main points of interest being the disparagement of H. P. Lovecraft and his story “The Dunwich Horror“.

 

More fantastic fiction is indexed by title and author/editor.

Dark Melodies

Review: Dark Melodies, William Meikle, 2012.

darkmelodies
Cover by Wayne Miller

Dance and music and chants show up in a lot of Meikle’s stories, and he’s built an entertaining collection around the theme. There’s a Derek Adams story here, a bit of the Cthulhu Mythos and a bit of the Meikle mythos, some coal mining, and some folk singing.

Six of the eight stories are original. One of the reprints, “The Tenants of Ladywell Manor”, is a highlight of the book, but I reviewed that in Meikle’s Home from the Sea. The other reprint is “The Unfinished Basement” which, as a title alone, is enough to send chills down the spine of some of us homeowners. Dave Collins, house flipper, buys a house unseen with an unfinished basement and a piano. The piano is nice, nice enough that Thorpe, a re-seller of pianos, starts playing it on first sight. The basement is not so nice what with its stinking pool of water and plant roots hanging off the ceiling. Thorpe ultimately sees a connection between basement and piano and tells Collins he’s not going to being making his money back on this deal. It ends memorably.

There is a nested story in “The Unfinished Basement” that is quite similar to one in Meikle’s “The Larkhill Barrow” and another story in the collection, the Derek Adams story “Rhythm and Booze” which I’ve already reviewed. I’ll just repeat that it’s a satisfying Adams story. Continue reading “Dark Melodies”

Island Life

Review: Island Life, William Meikle, 2013.islandlife

A Meikle tale about an ancient horror stalking a Scottish island, its inhabitants fending off cannibals with the few weapons at hand … didn’t I just review that?

Yes, I did. But while Ramskull from 2017 has a similar set up, a similar structure (contemporary chapters alternating with historical ones), and, if you squint your eyes just right and ignore a lot of detail, a similar theme and end, Island Life is not the same story. Like Ramskull, it’s not boring or predictable. Originally published in 2001 (though this edition has a copyright of 2013), this is Meikle’s first novel and not inferior to his latest work.

Meikle is fairly casual about introducing his many viewpoint characters. There’s Duncan McKenzie, a biologist doing research on declining fishing in the area. There’s Anne and Jim McTaggart, a couple of hippies who came to the island decades ago and who live with their daughter Meg. There’s Dick, a young assistant lighthouse keeper. There’s the obstreperous and abusive John Jefferies, local sheep rancher. Even his dog Sam gets some chapters. Continue reading “Island Life”