WHH Short Fiction: “A Tropical Horror”

Essay: “A Tropical Horror”, William Hope Hodgson, 1905.

This was the second story Hodgson had published, and there’s no rationalized mystery like in his first, “The Goddess of Death”. That story was set in a small English town. Hodgson realized pretty quickly that his nautical experience was his strength.

Hodgson introduces his characteristic tentacle horrors here right in the third paragraph when a sailor is grabbed off the deck. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “A Tropical Horror””

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”

WHH Short Fiction: “The Stone Ship”

Essay: “The Stone Ship”, William Hope Hodgson, 1914.

This, behind his “The Voice in the Night”, is probably Hodgson’s most famous weird nautical short story.

Essentially, it’s a sea gothic with a haunted ship full of strange and monstrous beings. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “The Stone Ship””

“The Bad Lands”

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

John Metcalfe was a writer whose name was completely unknown to me, but that’s one of the advantages of the Deep Ones discussion group – we cast our net wide.

Review: “The Bad Lands”, John Metcalfe, 1925.1dfdd4403ad9232636d2f557477434b41716b42

As one character says, towards the end, “Bad Lands” “usually means that bit in the States”. Not here, though.

I liked this story up until the end which was confusing and weakened the effect. Protagonist Brent Ormond goes to Todd in northern England to recover from his neurosis. It seems to be about the year 1910 since the actual narrator says this all happened about 15 years ago.

Ormond exercises and walks around a lot and sends letters to his sister Joan from the hotel he’s staying at. He becomes fascinated with a nearby tower built, seemingly, for no good reason and the road that leads off from it. He senses an increased interest in the tower and, especially, the land to the southwest of the tower, is not healthy. That land seems sinister to him. Still, he visits the tower multiple times a day.

One night Ormond strikes up a conversation with Stanton-Boyle, another guest at the hotel. The latter says the land beyond the tower, the land that the road goes into, seems abominable to him. It merely seemed depressing last year to Stanton-Boyle, and he didn’t take much notice of it. Now it seems abominable to him. Continue reading ““The Bad Lands””

WHH Short Fiction: “The Island of the Ud”

Essay: “The Island of the Ud”, William Hope Hodgson, 1914

Besides Carnacki and Captain Gault, Hodgson created two other series characters, neither of which appeared more than twice.

As Hodgson scholar Mark Valentine has pointed out in regards to Captain Gault, sea stories were a popular genre when Hodgson wrote them. It was natural, given the rates they fetched and his own talent for nautical settings, he’d write them.

The story introduces us to the much put upon Cabin-boy Pibby Tawles and the brutal Captain Jat. Tawles is continually kicked, clouted, and smacked by Jat – sometimes even when they are both running for their lives. Apprentices and cabin boys being abused and bullied is a frequent element of Hodgson’s sea fiction and drawn from is own unpleasant days as a boy at sea.

But Tawles keeps his eyes open and manages to best (at least in terms of getting the treasure they seek) the stingy Jat who never shares their finds.

Jat, in his own way, is fond of Tawles. He confides things to Tawles he doesn’t to the rest of his crew – mostly because he doesn’t want to share any loot he finds. Tawles not only keeps his mouth shut, but he’s rather handy with pistols, a skill Jat helped hone with their shooting matches. (At one point, Tawles is quite prepared to shoot Captain Jat when the latter goes into one of his fits of rage.)

The plot is classic pulp: the rescue of a girl tied to a post on a strange island and waiting to be served up to the natives’ strange god. Jat knew her once when he was on the island before. (Jat’s two great interest are women and treasure.) He also knows the islanders, a savage bunch of mostly naked and masked women, collect pearls to give to their god, a giant crab.

Jat doesn’t get the girl – she throws herself off their boat after they free her and try to take her back to Jat’s ship. But he does get a lot of pearls and “graciously” gives Tawles one – and a chipped one at that.

That’s ok. In the struggle to free the girl from the stake, a lot of pearls fell into the boat and Tawles picked them up when Jat wasn’t looking.

There is an element of weirdness in the story with one of Hodgson’s fusions of human-alien forms (the hog-men of The House on the Borderland, the fungal-human hybrids in “The Voice in the Night”, and, in a way, the weed men of The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”). Some of the women on the island seem to be human and just wearing giant crab pincers on their arms. Others seem to actually be some kind of hybrid of crab and human.

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More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

“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””

WHH Short Fiction: “The Shamraken Homeward-Bounder”

Essay: “The Shamraken Homeward-Bounder”, William Hope Hodgson, 1908.

This is a peculiar story.

The Shamraken is on its last voyage, a sailing ship superannuated by steam packets.

Its crewed by old men whose efficiency and long experience make up for lack of youthful vigor. They have all sailed together on the ship for forty years. The “boy” (and that’s what he’s still called) of the ship is 55 and first came aboard when he was 15.

The crew talk about what they are going to do with themselves when they leave sailing. Talk is also made of the pain and regrets of their lives. One sailor speaks of his dead wife. Another laments that he never married. They are like a family that has long experience together and affection for one another. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “The Shamraken Homeward-Bounder””