Brian Stableford on William Hope Hodgson

Review: “William Hope Hodgson”, Brian Stableford, 1985.

Voices from the Borderland
Cover by Daniele Serra

This is what Stableford had to say about Hodgson in his Scientific Romance in Britain 1890-1950 which I’ll be reviewing up the line.

Stableford says of Hodgson that none of his work is “authentically supernatural”, his metaphysics are as disenchanted as H. G. Wells and baroque as M. P. Shiel’s (all discussed in the aforementioned book).

Stableford, as usual, does a very clear and insightful presentation when discussing Hodgson’s novels, particularly The House on the Borderland, when he goes into the allegorical and metaphysical ideas behind its visions of Black and Green Suns (entropy and decay vs. life).

Of The Night Land, he acknowledges its flaws but says it is imaginatively intense, extremely personal, and highly enigmatic and presented without “even a token gesture of explanation”.

Stableford speculates, given Hodgson’s interest in bodybuilding, that he was probably very concerned with hygiene and that explains the emphasis on slimy things and bad smells in his horror fiction.

Stableford notes that Hodgson did more than anyone else to establish the myth of the Sargasso Sea.

Of Hodgson’s “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani”, he says that it is Hodgson, son of a clergyman, justifying his apostasy.

He says that Hodgson, unlike his contemporaries in the scientific romance, did not believe in the evolution of the species. He believed the history of the human species capitulated the life-history of an individual. (I think this is overstated a bit.)

Hodgson, in his education, may not have been aware of entropy. (I’m not sure that is certain, but I haven’t investigated what publications about it existed in the British Empire and America.) Stableford contends, and I definitely agree with this, Hodgson thought the individual needed to fight against decay though the victory was only temporary and partial.

3 thoughts on “Brian Stableford on William Hope Hodgson

  1. George Kelley April 24, 2020 / 10:52 am

    I’ve read a number of Brian Stableford’s SF novels. And, I’ve read a fair number of his essays. I’ve been considering buying Scientific Romance in Britain 1890-1950. A friend of mine who is a bookseller says sales are way up. Online orders are flooding in. I know I’ve ordered more books than normal, partly to help the Economy and keep small businesses alive.

    • marzaat April 24, 2020 / 11:13 am

      It’s worth reading, but I think you might as well get Stableford’s four volume New Atlantis series from Wildside Press. It seems like an expansion, starting with Francis Bacon, of Scientific Romance. I haven’t bought my copies yet, but it looks like, all together, they would be about $64. No available ebook versions. No used versions last time I checked. I just finished Stableford’s companion volume, The Plurality of Imaginary Worlds, which is the history of the French Roman Scientifique. You remind me there’s a Moskowitz Hodgson volume I need to get from my local bookseller.

  2. George Kelley April 25, 2020 / 8:30 pm

    Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll use part of my Economic Stimulus money on those four volumes.

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