“Date 1965: Modern Warfare”

Review: “Date 1965: Modern Warfare”, William Hope Hodgson, 1908.

NSB V5
Cover by Jason Van Hollander

This is a speculative essay, a form that Brian Stableford says in Scientific Romance in Britain 1890-1950 thrived between the world wars in Britain. However, it existed before World War One going back to at least H. G. Wells’ “The Extinction of Man” from 1894. (Hodgson was an acquaintance of Wells.)

This is a strange piece from 1908. I’ve seen it called Swiftian, presumably because it involves cannibalism like Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”.

It’s interesting for its commentary on modern war given Hodgson’s obvious patriotism in volunteering for the British Army in 1914, rejoining it after he was discharged for medical reasons, and his death in the war.

The story is framed as a Member of Parliament, John Russell, delivering a speech on the “new war machine”. The story is prescient about “gigantic butcheries which follow in the wake of certain ‘talkee-talkees’”. War, the fictitious Russell says, is no longer a glorious and patriotic pursuit but a “profession of human butcher”.

This is seen as a good development because it is “the best means of developing all that is highest and most heroic in man”. This seems to be evidence that the notion war was needed to prevent social degeneration was prevalent before the war. Modern man is becoming “soft of fibre and heart”. It will get used to horrible war just as it got used to the speed of modern transportation. War, Russell says, should be a matter of intellectual sanity and not “unreasoning, foolish slaughter”. Continue reading ““Date 1965: Modern Warfare””

Velocities

Yes, I  do sometimes review books before they’re released.

Review: Velocities: Stories, Kathe Koja, 2020.

velocities
Cover by Rick Lieder

The stories in Kathe Koja’s second collection move from “At Home” to “Downtown” to “On the Way” to “Over There”, and, finally, “Inside”. Where many of them don’t end up at is in the land of complete and satisfying endings. Instead, they get stranded in the “Is that it?” place.

By no means are all the stories fantastic, but “Velocity” is, or, at least, it’s origin in Ellen Datlow’s The Dark: New Ghost Stories would hint it is. But it’s unclear if the “artist” is really haunted by the ghost of his dead father, a famous architect, or just memories of his father. Likewise, it’s not clear if the father’s Red House, where the artist lives, is really haunted. Koja’s stories are full of artists and would-be artists, sometimes producing “art” of very questionable value. Here the art is all the bicycles crashed into trees by the artist, a recreation of the fatal accident (or suicide) of his father. There is frequently an ambiguity, intended or not, about artists in Koja’s work. Is the obsessive, even self-destructive, pursuit of artistic creation (here the stupidity of riding bikes into trees) to be applauded, mitigated by moderation, or foolish – especially when it involves crashing into trees?

The collection’s sole foray into science fiction is “Urb Civ”, a rather standard issue future dystopia of rich and isolated elites and artistic dissidents. Here the latter work on disabling government surveillance drones. The only thing of interest here is how a government agent’s attempt to infiltrate such a group works out. It has, at least, a conclusive ending. Continue reading “Velocities”

“Taken for a Ride”

Since I mentioned in the previous post, I thought I’d put up a review on this story.

Raw Feed (1994): “Taken For a Ride”, Brian Stableford, Science Fiction Age, March 1994.

Taken for a Ride
Cover by John Berkey

An ambiguous, clever tale that owes much to Stableford’s academic knowledge of biology and extensive knowledge of sf because this is a story which plays with time paradoxes including the notion of going back in time to assassinate someone who is (or, at least in this story, may be) responsible for great evil.

The biological speculation uses the notion of the brain’s pons being short-circuited so dream memories are retained like regular memories. Motor signals are generated by dreams, and here the sf notion is that such a brain defect allows residents of the future to communicate with a person in the past.

Here, however, Stableford puts an intriguing spin on the notion by using the viewpoint of the intended target, one Jon Rutherford.

Rutherford is a clever, arrogant, unlikeable doctorate student in chemistry who likes drugs and computer virtual reality games and views the world itself as a game. He’s “taken for a ride” by a man who convincingly claims that Rutherford is going to commit great evil and must be killed. The man claims to be in telepathic contact with members of the future who make this claim based on the disquieting allegation that they’re not receiving messages from any future so something awful, caused by Rutherford, must have happened. Continue reading ““Taken for a Ride””

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”

“Baby Is Three”

Between traveling and a birthday, I’m a bit behind covering the weird fiction being discussed over at LibraryThing.

This week’s story is a famous piece of science fiction but not generally known as a piece of weird fiction. But the voting over at the Deep Ones discussion group occasionally selects these borderline cases, and I did vote for this one.

Baby Is Three

Review: “Baby Is Three”, Theodore Sturgeon, 1952.

This is an acclaimed novella, and, stylistically, it’s pretty clever.

It all takes place in a therapy session imposed by the 15-year old Gerard (with some tough guy talk) on psychotherapist Stern. It’s almost all dialogue except some therapeutic flashbacks which, of course, solve the central mystery: what Gerard is and why he killed one Miss Kew. Continue reading ““Baby Is Three””

Sargasso #1

Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies was an unfortunately short lived, project by Hodgson scholar Sam Gafford. Only three issues were produced.

Sam Gafford’s “Introduction” lays out his intention that this journal address the lack of a specific outlet for exploration, in nonfiction and fiction, of the themes and concepts in Hodgson’s work.

Review: Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies #1, ed. Sam Gafford, 2013.

Sargasso
Cover by Robert H. Knox

Shadow Out of Hodgson” by John D. Haefele lays out a case, even though S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz do not mention in Hodgson in their annotated version of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Shadow Out of Time, for the influence of Hodgson’s The Night Land on that work. First, Lovecraft mentioned Hodgson’s novel in several letters when the story was being written between November 10, 1934 and February 22, 1935. Second, there are several similarities in the narratives. First, like humanity in the Last Redoubt, the Great Race is under siege. Second, the consciousness of both narrators is projected into the future. Both stories feature libraries of metal bound books that the narrators access. Less convincing is Haefele seeing similarities between X descending the gorge on his way to the Lesser Redoubt and the narrator of The Shadow Out of Time, in contemporary times, descending into the uncovered structures of the Great Race.

Phillip A. Ellis’ “A Reassessment of William Hope Hodgson’s Poetry”, Phillip A. Ellis looks at almost all of Hodgson’s poetry and finds Hodgson’s poetry full of vivid physical tales as well as a preoccupation with, as Hodgson scholar Jane Frank noted, “strange visions, supernatural phenomena, hallucinatory events”. Poetry seems to have been a lifelong literary outlet for Hodgson. He took it up earlier than fiction writing and wrote most of his poems between 1899 and 1906. He even wrote poetry when he was in the army and Ellis thinks that, if would have had the chance to develop his facility more, he might have been a noted war poet. Ellis thinks most of the weaknesses in Hodgson’s poetry came from him being a self-educated poet lacking the necessary technical training. I’ve read a lot, but by no means all, of Hodgson’s poetry. Frankly, little stuck in my brain (but, then, most poetry doesn’t) apart from the prose poem “Grey Seas Are Dreaming of My Death”. I do agree with Ellis that Hodgson is best when he takes inspiration and metaphors from the sea. Continue reading “Sargasso #1”

Demon Lights

This one came to me through NetGalley review a while back – a long while back.

The review mills of MarzAat grind slow but usually grind fine.

Review: Demon Lights, Michael M. Hughes, 2017.Demon Lights

As the novel opens, the world is falling apart under war, terrorism, and assassinations. It’s all the work of the Black Brotherhood who has been suborning and corrupting the world’s governing elite through magic, blackmail, drugs, sex, and bribery. Under its leader, Lily, it’s looking to crack open the ancient black spheres found in different parts of the world and apocalyptically transform Earth.

Both sides are in contact with extraterrestrial forces – call them gods, space aliens, or beings from another plane.

Deceit and delusion are some of the main themes here, and that was an element I especially liked. The White Brotherhood that rescued series hero Ray, his wife Ellen, and stepson William from Lily’s clutches in the first novel, Blackwater Lights, is corrupted and almost destroyed in an attack on their hidden base at the beginning of this novel. Continue reading “Demon Lights”