Sargasso #3

This is the newest and, with the death of Gafford, last issue of this magazine. While thinner than its predecessors, it’s still a worthwhile mix of fiction, criticism, poetry and illustrations.

Review: Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies #3, ed. Sam Gafford, 2016.

Sargasso 3
Cover by Ronald H. Knox

Josh Reynolds “Corpse-Light” is dedicated to “H. P. Lovecraft and W. H. Hodgson and all the shunned houses and derelicts quietly rotting.” It’s an entertaining story, and part of Reynolds series detailing the adventures of Randolph Carter and Harley Warren before the latter meets his end in Lovecraft’s “The Statement of Randolph Carter”. There is indeed a “shunned house” here. It’s on Wacalaw Island off the Carolina coast, deserted because of the Spanish Flu, and about to be turned into a golf course. Warren, reckless adventurer that he is, is looking for evidence of a particular fungus normally found in the pyramids of Egypt. It’s kind of a combination of Hodgson’s “The Derelict” and Lovecraft’s “The Shunned House”.

What’s a journal on Hodgsonian without a Carnacki tale? And James Gracey gives us one with “A Hideous Communion”. Moderately interesting, it has the occult detective going to Ireland and investigate sightings of his friend’s dead wife. The solution to the mystery is a novel one.

Since it combines Hodgson and geology, I, of course, was delighted with Joseph Hinton’s “The House on the Burren: The Physical and Psychological Foundations of The House on the Borderland”. It looks at Hodgson’s time in Ardrahan, Ireland where he lived from age nine to twelve. Ardrahan is 20 miles away from the Burren, an area of karst topography in Ireland which, with its sinkholes and caves, may have influenced the setting of Hodgson’s novel. R. Alain Everts’ biography of Hodgson, Some Facts in the Case of William Hope Hodgson, Master of Phantasy, claims that the local Catholics, who Samuel Hodgson was sent to convert, were hostile to him. Supposedly, there were threats to kidnap his children (though William Hope Hodgson spent a lot of that time in England at boarding school). Accounts from the 19th century quoted by Hinton paint the locals as few and poor and enslaved to the papacy. Some interpretations of The House on the Borderland have seen the swine-creatures as metaphors for the fear of the Irish peasant. Continue reading

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

Walking the Night Land: Nightmares of the Fall

Essay: William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands, Volume II: Nightmares of the Fall, ed. Andy W. Robertson, 2007.51fUi7mkKFL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

There is love and reincarnation and existential metaphors for life in the second volume of this skillful and largely seamless extension of Hodgson’s The Night Land. But time is running out for humanity, and this group of stories starts out overlapping with some of the later stories in the first volume and takes us to the fall of the Last Redoubt and beyond. John C. Wright’s tour-de-force, “The Last of All Suns” does the honors for the last bit. His “The Cry of the Night Hound” opens the anthology. I’ve looked at both in depth before.

There were actually three anthologies planned for the series. But one, “The Days of Darkening”, was never done due to Robertson’s death in 2014.

Robertson and Brett Davidson furnish most of the stories, their style synching well in tracing the large currents of technology and culture in the Last Redoubt through the ages. Continue reading

Walking the Night Land: Eternal Love

Our walk through the Night Land looks at the anthology that kicked off a modern resurgence of fiction related to Hodgson’s novel.

Essay: William Hope Hodgson’s Night Lands, Volume 1: Eternal Love, ed. Andy W. Robertson, 2003.

Cover by Stephen Fabian

The Night Land website started by the late Andy Robertson in 2001 was responsible for a resurgence of interest, homages, and extensions of William Hope Hodgson’s eponymous novel.

Originally, Robertson just intended the website to collect “pictures, documents, and essays” about that work. But, starting with Nigel Atkinson’s “An Exhalation of Butterflies”, people began to contribute their own stories set in Hodgson’s world. They extended his story or interpolated stories alluded to in it.

Eventually this anthology and a second came out of those contributions as did the James Stoppard and Hodgson collaboration The Night Land: A Story Retold and most of the contents of John C. Wright’s Awake in the Night.

You can read many of the stories in the two anthologies on the website as well as stories that weren’t included. (I won’t be covering those in this series.) I get the impression that a third anthology was planned about “The Days of Darkening”, when the sun was going dim and man was not yet huddled in the Last Redoubt. However, Robertson’s death in 2014 seems to have ended that project. Continue reading