Schweitzer and Lovecraft on Hodgson

There still are a lot of William Hope Hodgson stories I’ll be looking at as well as Hodgson criticism. However, I’m mostly taking stuff in the way I read it.

These are both in The William Hope Hodgson Megapack.51GClMcTj+L._SY346_

The first, “A Note About Hodgson”, is from author and critic Darrell Schweitzer.

He justifiably says going to sea gave

Hodgson the formative experience of his life, and surely contributed to the sense of vastness, solitude, and cosmic strangeness found in his best work.

Schweitzer argues that Hodgson still has no peer “or even serious challenger” for writing the creepiest sea horror stories. Schweitzer talks briefly about Hodgson’s novels, the Carnacki stories, and regards “The Derelict” and “The Voice in the Night” as two of his most notable stories. He thinks that, given that Hodgson was turning to short stories, many of them not supernatural, when he died that, if he hadn’t have been killed in World War I, he would have become a “pulp generalist”. He concludes by stating that Hodgson is like Arthur Machen or David Lindsay – writers whose works are not particularly popular but “because of their utter uniqueness” refuse to die.

H. P. Lovecraft’s “Notes on Hodgson” is taken from his Supernatural Horror in Literature. He calls Hodgson’s style uneven but sometimes powerful. While he thinks Hodgson had a tendency “toward conventionally sentimental conceptions of the universe, and of man’s relation to it”, only Algernon Blackwood matches him in describing “unreality”. Continue reading “Schweitzer and Lovecraft on Hodgson”

“The Harbor-Master”

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

Review: “The Harbor-Master”, Robert W. Chambers, 1904.untitled

The narrator of this is engaging story is a 24 year old general supervisor of the waterfowl section of the Zoological Gardens in Brooklyn, New York. We never do get his name.

Among his many jobs is answering the various letters from people offering to sell or donate exhibits of alive and stuffed animals. (The zoo does not hire people to collect samples.) The letters and answers are reviewed by the narrator’s supervisor Professor Farrago.

One day he’s surprised that Farrago actually wants him to respond to a letter from Burton Halyard, a man who claims he has some living great auks to sell for the princely sum of $10,000. Great auks are thought to have gone extinct around 1870 when the last ones were seen in Labrador. Halyard’s letter cryptically says that he may have an even more remarkable specimen for them – an amphibious biped – which seems even more ludicrous. However, he says that, when the narrator arrives, he’ll meet people who have seen it and are believable.

So the narrator is off to Black Harbor. We’re never told where on the Atlantic coast or even the state or Canadian province that Black Harbor is in. I’d guess, given that we hear of mica mining, that it’s New Hampshire. Continue reading ““The Harbor-Master””

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””

“MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room”

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

Review: “Ms Found in a Chicago Hotel Room”, Daniel Mills, 2012.Lord Came at Twilight

There is a sort of reader of fiction – not exclusive to fantastic fiction – who enjoys the cloth of a created world so much they like to see multiple writers sew their own pieces onto it, thread new and allusive patterns into it, and quilt in secret connections and new characters. It’s literature as a quilting project across the decades or even centuries.

You can all provide of this, writers and works that compel successors to works of literary embroidery. For this piece, that would be Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow and H. P. Lovecraft.

But creating new chronologies for characters, new associations between them, giving us veiled allusions to pre-existing work is not weird of and by itself. It may be, to one degree or another, an entertaining fictional game and fan service, but it’s also decadent in the sense that the main effort goes to elaboration, reference, and explication and not creating something new.

This story kind of straddles the line between giving us a truly weird story and just playing with The King in Yellow and Lovecraft. Continue reading ““MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room””

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 Saliva Tree”, Or, Adventures in Reviewer Parallax.

Since James Harris over at Classics of Science Fiction reviewed this story recently and since I’m not close to putting up any new posts, I thought I’d throw in my two cents about Aldiss’ work.

Raw Feed (1989, 2001): “The Saliva Tree”, Brian W. Aldiss, 1965.

TORDOB03A This is a fun pastiche of H. G. Wells and H. P. Lovecraft. Aldiss isn’t as terrifying as Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space“, his obvious model — though he does produce some scary moments in making his malevolent aliens tourists and giving us an image of space travel being the product of vicious, ruthless races, but he gives us gentle humor in his references to Wells (including all sorts of references to H. G. Wells titles and his inspiration for The War of the Worlds, The Invisible Man, The Food of the Gods, and The Shape of Things to Come. Aldiss clearly reveres Wells. Aldiss gives a pleasantly Victorian love story with a rivalry between men. (He also gives us rather muted emotion, but I suspect that is part of the air he wishes to achieve.). Aldiss shows his skill in using literary symbols. The misshapen stuffed animals of Mr. Grendon are a reflection of the aliens altering Earth’s flaura and fauna. The Grendon farm uses lower animals the way the Aurigans use us. The destruction of the electrical systems — and the Grendon farm itself (symbol of socialism’s hope in the value and betterment of the common man) — symbolizes the destruction of the naïve belief in inevitable progress and the linkage of higher morality with higher technology.

Upon reading this story the second time around, I noticed a lot more allusions to the work of H.G. Wells than just (as I did the first time) some references to the titles The Time Machine or The War of the Worlds or the presence of H.G. Wells at story’s end. The first time I read it, I characterized it as a cross between H.G. Wells and H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space”.MNNHSTMBST1989

To be sure the basic plot follows the Lovecraft story: an alien lands on a farm, produces changes in humans and plants and animals that causes them to grow large, feeds on the altered organisms, literally maddens some people, kills even more, and returns to space. Aldiss compresses his story timeline relative to Lovecraft’s, has his protagonist intimately involved with the events rather than hearing about them second-hand as the narrator does in the Lovecraft story, has the aliens’ presence explained as a holiday outing, and has his protagonist drive the aliens off. (Of course, in the Lovecraft tale, as typical with a Lovecraft story, humanity is powerless in front of the cosmic menace and not all of it leaves at story’s end.)

This time I noticed the phrases that alluded to (at least, I don’t remember noticing them the first time around) H.G. Wells’ titles: “men like gods”, “food of the gods” (particularly apt for the enlarging effects suffered by the people, animals, and plants on the farm), and “the shape of things to come”. Of course, we’re to assume that Wells’ (this story seems to take place shortly after the publication of The War of the Worlds) gets some future titles from protagonist Gregory Rolles. The socialism — and lack of good socialist comradery on the part of the invisible aliens — of Rolles I caught the first time around. Continue reading ““The Saliva Tree”, Or, Adventures in Reviewer Parallax.”

“The Undying Thing”

This week’s bit of weird fiction was one of H. P. Lovecraft’s favorites.

Review: “The Undying Thing”, Barry Pain, 1901.

I’m not sure why Lovecraft liked this story (and he didn’t mention it in his Supernatural Horror in Literature).

It’s an odd story in its combination of reticence and predictability. No, the word “werewolf” is never mentioned though you will find the story in theme anthologies devoted to that creature. There is no gore. Yet, it doesn’t take all that long to figure out what the strange offspring of Sir Edric, five generations back, was. Continue reading ““The Undying Thing””