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.

Frank dismisses claims that Hodgson, as a short man, had a Napoleon complex though his constant calling attention to himself may have been a way of competing for scarce resources of money and women. (The ladies seemed to have liked him and he was once engaged before meeting his wife.) Frank, unlike Sam Gafford, does not see Hodgson as having a bad regard for women. But she does suspect that Hodgson married his wife more out of convenience, since she could write and had worked for a magazine, than love. She was not a good-looking woman by the standards of the day though her photo certainly does not show a hideous woman. Frank suspects that Hodgson married so late because he couldn’t afford to marry earlier.

Frank does relate how the daughter of a friend, Wilhelmina “Scraps” Bird, was close to Hodgson. He personally inscribed several books to her, and he seems to have first told her some of his stories, including The Night Land, before committing them to paper. Frank, a linguist by training, suggests computerized sentiment analysis could be used to come up with a personality profile for Hodgson.

Carnacki Pastiche: A Bibliography” from James Bojaciuk” is exactly what it says: a bibliography of Carnacki pastiches from 1965 to 2014.

I’ve discussed Deborah Walker’s “Low the Ascomycotan Sky” elsewhere.

Contemporary Views: Pieces on William Hope Hodgson from the Idler and the Bookman” from Phillip A. Ellis looks at contemporary reviews of Hodgson. Robert Barr in the Idler favorably reviewed The Ghost Pirates and even thought the characters were well-differentiated. He had not read The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” and The House on the Borderland. Francis Bickley in the Bookman reviewed Hodgson’s poetry collection The Voice of the Ocean and favorably compared it to Tennyson and John Davidson since all three of poets seriously addressed philosophical issues. Ellis speculates that the Modernist school of poetry that came to prominence after the Great War doomed Hodgson’s poetry to be largely neglected since it was of an older variety.

Mark Valentine’s “A Home on the Borderland: William Hope Hodgson and Borth” looks at the closest thing Hodgson ever had to a home: Borth, Wales. Valentine outlines Hodgson’s and his family’s relationship to the town and includes many photos of the relevant houses and the shoreline.

While John B. Ford’s “The Flames of the Drakkar”, is not a sequel to any Hodgson story, it does have elements similar to Hodgson’s The Ghost Pirates and “Demons of the Sea”. A ship fatally encounters a ship in the mist that turns out to have sort of demonic Vikings aboard which can burn with their touch.

A Concluding Oink: An Abnormal Flight of Fancy” is James Bojaciuk’s whimsical but useful look at the image of the hog and what it symbolizes in Hodgson’s “The Hog” and The House on the Borderland and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Bojaciuk follows Neal Alan Spurlock’s suggestion that the hog is Hodgson’s symbol for entropy. They are born at the beginning of time as per “The Hog”’s mention of the Hogge in the Sigsand Manuscript and, as evidenced by the giant figure of the hog in The House on the Borderland, exist at the end of time. However, as also evidenced by “The Hog”, they can enter our world, an entropic infection which uses dreams as a vector. Bojaciuk whimsically notes the Duchess’s Baby is a hog in Carroll’s story and draws some whimsical connections to Hodgson’s work.

After ‘The Voice in the Night’” is Laurie Needell take on Hodgson’s “The Voice in the Night”. This one takes place off the east coast of contemporary America. The ship is a sailing boat with a man and woman in it.

Foreshadowing Carnacki: Algernon Blackwood’s ‘Smith: An Episode in a Lodging House’” has Joseph Hinton looking at the many similarities in plot and motifs between Algernon Blackwood’s 1906 “Smith: An Episode in a Lodging House” and Hodgson’s “The Hog”. This is not a John Silence story, the Blackwood character that many claim was Hodgson’s inspiration for Carnacki. Hinton argues that, given the composition date and the publication date of Blackwood’s collection of John Silence tales, such an inspiration is unlikely given the short time between Hodgson seeing Blackwood’s story and conceiving of Carnacki. If Hodgson scholar R. Alain Everts is to be believed, Hodgson wrote most of his horror short stories before 1904 so he may not have been inspired at all by Blackwood’s story. Everts also claims that, in the early 1900s, Hodgson read everything he could get his hands on regarding “contemporary phantasy”, the occult, spiritualism, and the supernatural. Hinton does think that “The Hog” is, essentially, a Hodgson story and was not extensively rewritten by August Derleth for its first publication. In the Carnacki story “The Whistling Room”, there is a reference to the adventure of the “grunting man” which indicates Hodgson probably had, by the time that story was written, conceived “The Hog”.

The Shop on the Borderland” by Robb Borders is sort of an amusing version of Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland played out in a mall. The narrator owns a fine art store in a mall. We get a description of the lurid Candy World (the narrator’s store is Vanitas) store that is closed and replaced by BacoNation, owned by the sinister Eliot and Nero. They are porcine men who want the narrator’s statue of Danaë. It’s sort of a comic, semi-realistic, contemporary version of Hodgson’s novel.

Dust and Atoms: The Influence of William Hope Hodgson on Clark Ashton Smith” by Smith scholar Scott Connors searches for links between WHH and CAS. While Smith was a great admirer of Hodgson’s The Night Land, he did not read it until 1934. By that time, Smith’s fiction production was rapidly slowing. He read Hodgson’s novel in the late summer of 1934. He would write no more stories after that in 1934 and only three in 1935. Connors does make a convincing case for Smith’s “The Treader of the Dust” being inspired by Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland. Both feature psychic voyages by their protagonist into the future and use the motifs of accelerated aging and dust.

As with Sargasso #1, this issue has lots of black and white artwork illustrating Hodgson or inspired by him. There is also poetry from Phillip A. Ellis and Charles Lovecraft.


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