Counterfeit Hodgson

Douglas A. Anderson’s The Dream of X and Other Fantastic Visions: Being the Fifth Volume of the Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson concludes with a “Counterfeits” section.

This puzzles me.

First, why were these even included? Ross E. Lockhart’s introductory essay, “That Delicious Shiver”, gives no explanation.

Now, if you didn’t know anything about Hodgson apart from reading his fiction, I can see why you could think these stories are Hodgson’s. “The Raft” is about a shipwrecked group on a raft that is attacked, in the Sargasso Sea, by a giant octopus. “R.M.S. ‘Empress of Australia’” follows a ship from Sept. 1, 1923 through Sept. 7, 1923 in rescue operations after the Great Kanto Earthquake. Both have a style similar to Hodgson’s. Both are about the sea. The latter story reminds one of those “The Real Thing” stories Hodgson did.

However, “The Raft” is attributed to a C. L. in the book’s concluding “A Note on the Texts”. It just says it was supplied by editor Anderson. It evidently appears in no work attributed to Hodgson, and Hodgson was not a man to use a pen name. Indeed, he took efforts to promote himself in all his money-making endeavors.

“R.M.S. ‘Empress of Australia’” is even more puzzling. It was included in a Hodgson collection, Terrors of the Sea edited by Sam Moskowitz.

Now Moskowitz had to know Hodgson died in 1918. Did he think Hodgson was some kind of psychic? If so, why didn’t he make that claim? After all, we’re still hearing about how Morgan Robertson’s The Wreck of the Titan: Or, Futility from 1912 was oddly prescient about the Titanic disaster. This story is a superb example of a prophetic vision – if it was written by Hodgson.

To compound the mystery, Jane Frank, in The Wandering Soul, describes the story as a

science fictional account of the catastrophic earthquake that destroyed the city of Yokohama in 1923.

Again, why is a “science fictional account” being attributed to an actual event unless you think Hodgson was a precog?

Now Terrors of the Sea is from 1996. There was no internet to easily research stuff like this. Still, it’s not an obscure event of history. The story of the R.M.S. Empress of Australia was covered in newspapers. Moskowitz would have had to go to the library though. Now I am lucky in that, even without the internet, I only have to walk a few steps to do research. The other reader in the house happens to have a collection of books on Japan and disasters. Pulling Jay Robert Nash’s Darkest Hours (1976) off the shelf, I found, right there, on pages 285 and 286, in the “Japan: Earthquake-Fire, September 1-3, 1923” entry, an account that mentions the ship.

I will try to keep the words of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction in mind:

Moskowitz’s scholarship and criticism were not to everybody’s taste, and these works have at times been criticized within the genre and by academics for inaccuracies and a not always fluent style. But the fact remains that, though some of his data and conclusions have been argued, Moskowitz did more original research in this field than any other scholar of his period and few since . . .

WHH Short Fiction: “The Room of Fear”

Review: “The Room of Fear”, William Hope Hodgson, 1996.

Cover by Jason Van Hollander

Douglas A. Anderson suspects this was one of the first stories Hodgson wrote, and it was not published in his own time.

In some ways this is, with its giant spectral hands haunting a room, reminiscent of certain Carnacki tales (particularly “The Gateway of the Monster” and “The Whistling Room”) though this is not an occult detective story.

The protagonist, Willie Johnson, is eight and terrified to sleep in the night nursery alone. His mother says, and she seems to mean it, she would rather have a dead child than a cowardly one.

About a third of the way through the story, Hodgson switches from past to present tense.

Even after seeing the spectral hands in the nursery, Willie resolves to be brave, to lie terrified in the bed at night. But, when they seem to touch his face, he screams and goes catatonic.

The story concludes three years later. Willie is about to be let out of a mental asylum. He has recovered. His mother is now more sympathetic to being affected by fear, and no one uses the nursery any more.

Walking the Night Land: Radon Daughters

And, with this, our walk through Hodgson’s Night Land ends.

Essay: Radon Daughters, Iain Sinclair, 1994.Radon Daughters

I hadn’t even heard of this novel much less that it had a connection to William Hope Hodgson until I came across the same blog post by Douglas A. Anderson’s that mentioned Avalon Brantley’s The House of Silence. So I decided to check it out.

I do not recommend that you do so.

Oh, if you want a mystically themed book of urban psychogeography with references to Emmanuel Swedenborg and plenty of obscure prose, I suppose you could check it out. Likewise if you’re hunting down re-uses of Hodgson’s work. Otherwise stay away.

What’s the book about? I’m not completely sure I know. And I’m not the only one. Continue reading

Walking the Night Land: The House of Silence

My series on William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land and its literary children continues.

Essay: The House of Silence, Avalon Brantley, 2017.House of Silence

I was completely unaware of this novel until I read a piece about it by Douglas A. Anderson at Wormwoodiana.

If I’ve convinced you that Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland and The Night Land are worth reading, go do so and then read this novel. (And, yes, Zagava is the only place you can get it.) I will certainly be spoiling Brantley’s tapestry in my following disentanglements.

It is a beautiful and moving novel full of the emotions of grief and ungrasped love, of erotic menace, and the beauty of Ireland. Continue reading