WHH Short Fiction: “The ‘Prentices’ Mutiny”

Review: “The ‘Prentices’ Mutiny”, William Hope Hodgson, 1912.

Cover by Jason Van Hollander

This is something of the quintessential non-fantastic Hodgson sea story. It’s got his siege plot, and it touches on Hodgson’s unhappy days as apprentice seaman in the Mercantile Navy.

First published in 1912 as a serial in Wide World Magazine and sometimes known as “Mutiny”. Jeremy Lassen says in his introduction to The Ghost Pirates and Other Revenants of the Sea: Being the Third Volume of the Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson that the promotional copy and framing of the story on its first publication strongly suggested it was a true story. It was published in three installments.

Two apprentices, Harold Jones and Mercer Kinniks aged 15 and 16 respectively, are brutalized by Captain William Beston, Second Mate Jan Henricksen, and Bo’sun Carl Schieffs. The First Mate, Robert Jenkins, is decent enough, but he’s not in charge and not around the boys all the time. The boys are abused in various ways. (No, there is, of course, no mention or hint of sexual abuse.) The able-bodied seamen are of divided about how well the apprentices are treated: maybe they’re uppity or need to be “handled” a bit, or they are maltreated.

In San Francisco, six more apprentices are taken aboard. They hear about the bad life on the ship from the first two apprentices. (It’s noteworthy that Wyckliffe, aka Jumbo, is described as an “exceptionally powerful young man” and is perhaps Hodgson’s alter ego.) The apprentices form a compact. If any of them is mistreated, they will stand up for their rights. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “The ‘Prentices’ Mutiny””

Sargasso #2

Review: Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies #2, ed. Sam Gafford, 2014.

Cover by Robert H. Knox

The first issue of this journal had lots of material. This one is thinner – whether from a lack of contributors or due to production costs, I don’t know.

Andy Robertson R.I.P. (1955-2014)” remembers the man who sparked a mini-Hodgson revival with his creation of The Night Land website devoted to Hodgson’s eponymous novel, and Robertson also published and wrote stories set in the world of that work.

Under the Skin: A Profile of William Hope Hodgson” by Jane Frank offers a brief look at Hodgson’s personality. By the age of five, three of Hodgson’s brothers had died. Hodgson’s unusual middle name – usually a female name – may have had theological implications for his clerical father and his wife. (They wanted a daughter.) Frank sees Hodgson as, from an early age, energetic, imaginative, and always wanting more. Part of the behavior that some saw as egotistical and self-centered (Frank quotes from editors who met him and letters Hodgson wrote) may have been the result of his desire for attention.

She sees Hodgson’s personality as shaped by the two ages he lived in: the “repressive” Victorian world of his youth where mores were important and the energetic Edwardian age of fortune-seeking and technology. Hence we see Hodgson as an early adopter of the typewriter and photography and his entrepreneurial streak and attempts to support himself after leaving the Mercantile Navy. Hodgson was in boarding school by age eight, and his family had moved five times by the time he was 13. He was a temperamental lad and, around his father, unruly and disobedient. Continue reading “Sargasso #2”

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.

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”

Hodgson: A Collection of Essays

I will be reviewing more of William Hope Hodgson’s short fiction, but I’m now back to the usual posting procedure of taking things in the order I read them.

Ther’s a bit of morbid air about my posts on Hodgson.

Hodgson, of course, was dead more than a 100 years when I read most of him. But Andy W. Robertson, editor of The Night Land tribute anthologies, had been dead only a few years when I discovered him. Gafford was dead only a few weeks before I read this book.

Review: Hodgson: A Collection of Essays, Sam Gafford, 2013.Hodgson

There are two significant essays here that justify the Hodgson fan – or even those just curious about the man and his work – buying this 71 page book: “Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson” and “Houdini v Hodgson: The Blackburn Challenge” Both were first printed elsewhere in, respectively, Studies in Weird Fiction No. 11 and Weird Fiction Review No. 3.

“Writing Backwards” concludes, by looking at some letters of Hodgson’s, with the following composition dates of Hodgson’s novels: The Night Land (1903?), The House on the Borderland (1904), The Ghost Pirates, (1905), and The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” (1905). This contradicts Gafford’s statement in “Hodgson’s First Story”, another essay in the book, that, by 1904, Hodgson had already written all his novels. Gafford speculates that Hodgson’s novels became less strange and imaginative as Hodgson worked towards a style he thought more commercial.

“Houdini v Hodgson: The Blackburn Challenge” deals with the legendary meeting on October 24, 1902 between Harry Houdini and William Hope Hodgson and documented by several newspapers. Houdini, as was his usual practice, publicized a challenge to the locals that he would pay a £25 reward if he couldn’t escape from “regulation restraints used by the police of Europe and America”. Hodgson offered a counter challenge. He would bring his own restraints to Houdini’s performance and bind the escape artist himself. If no escape was performed, the reward would be paid to a local Blackburn charity. Hodgson hoped his challenge would publicize his flagging gym, and Houdini complacently responded to another local challenge to his ability as an escapologist. Continue reading “Hodgson: A Collection of Essays”

WHH Short Fiction: “The Heathen’s Revenge”

Essay: “The Heathen’s Revenge”, William Hope Hodgson, 1988.

NSB Vol 2
Cover by Jason Van Hollander

I can hear the gnashing of contemporary teeth with the opening.

There are still many people who refuse to recognize that in spite of evolution, education, progress – call it what you like – there remains a tremendous difference between the East and the West.

Not being a universalist about human nature and believing in biological differences in “ancestral populations”, I am nonplussed.

The narrator is a member of the Police Secret Service in some unnamed British colony.

Missionary Hallett invites his fiancé Mary Kingston to join him there and marry him.

Hallett has run afoul of Jurwash, a native priest, by insulting him some way. Jurwash kidnaps Mary and a chase ensues. (There’s also a lot of references to the members of the Police Secret Service beating information out of the natives.)

The story concludes with a pulp cliché. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “The Heathen’s Revenge””

WHH Short Fiction: “Merciful Plunder”

Essay: “Merciful Plunder”, William Hope Hodgson, 1925.

NSB Vol 2
Cover by Jason Van Hollander

This story was not published until 1925, so I’m not sure when Hodgson wrote it or if his wife touched it up for sale then. It has a vaguely World War One feeling to it though there is no mention of the war. I would suspect it was written during one of the Balkans Wars which started in 1912. That is supported by the first line:

Captain Mellor, trading along the Adriatic coast, had put in at one of those small seaports which found themselves involved in the wars so common in the Balkans.

The Captain is staying in a chalet belonging to a French friend of his.

The sounds of gunfire can be heard coming from the center of town,

the punishment . . . being carried out for twenty of the band of forty youths of the enemy who had been caught the day before fighting out of uniform—a youthful band of ‘death or glory’ irregulars.

An hour later, the French friend returns to the house and relates what he saw at the execution and says the other 20 men will be executed tomorrow. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “Merciful Plunder””

WHH Short Fiction: “The Home-Coming of Captain Dan”

Essay: “The Home-Coming of Captain Dan”, William Hope Hodgson, 1918.

NSB Vol 2
Cover by Jason Van Hollander

Like “Mr. Jock Danplank”, this is another treasure hunt story for an inheritance.

Captain Dan returns to his home after being gone 20 years. He’s rich with plunder because he’s been a pirate. He makes a great show of displaying his wealth publically, most of it in some chests, and he vigorously and humorously defends it against the inevitable thieves.

He asks after one Nancy Drigg, a girl he knew before he left and who he asked to marry after he returns from the sea. She’s now a widow, Nancy Garbitt. She has seven daughters.

She agrees to put him up in her house if he behaves and leaves her daughters alone. He gives her money weekly and eventually dies which starts the last third of the story.

While living at Nancy’s house, Captain Dan had a treasure house built at a distance away with imported architects and craftsman (to maintain secrecy) and shaped like a ship. Captain Dan’s will says his treasure is in that house. However, it can only be searched for one day out of the year, from sunrise to sunset, and, if it is not found within seven years, a hidden codicil to his will will reveal who gets the money.

The day for the authorized searches is September 27th, the date that Dan left Nancy for the sea. Continue reading “WHH Short Fiction: “The Home-Coming of Captain Dan””