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 . . .

Briefing, Scolding, Questioning

Cheap Science Fiction Reference Books

More than a few of the bloggers I read and regular visitors to this site (sometimes the same crowd) like old science fiction and might find old reference books on science fiction interesting. I’m talking about books from publishers like Greenwood Press — expensive and really only intended for libraries.

Well, enough time has passed that libraries are starting to get rid of them. Their loss might be your gain.

In the past year, I’ve picked up all but one of John J. Pierce’s critical works. (He’s still working on the subject and posts infrequently on his blog.)

And, when I was in the bookstore selling off a seven volume history of the Prussian Empire, I came across another: Science Fiction Writers: Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early Nineteenth Century to the Present Day, ed. E. F. Bleiler from Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982. It was all of $10.

There are articles on various authors from a variety of scholars. Some are expected: John Clute, Peter Nichols, Brian W. Aldiss, Malcolm Edwards, and Bleiler himself. Brian M. Stableford has several, but I have many of his lit-crit collections from Wildside Press, so many of these are not new to me.

Other names I either didn’t expect in this context or are new to me: John Scarborough, James L. Campbell, Sr, John R. Pfeiffer, Willis E. McNelly, Robert E. Myers, Charles L. Elkins, Ronald D. Tweet, L. David Allen, Chris Morgan, Gardner Dozois, John B. Ower, Richard Finholt, John Carr, L. David Allen, Marilyn J. Holt, and Susan Wood. Colin Wilson shows up not only with the expected essay on H. P. Lovecraft but also A. E. van Vogt.

As for subjects, all are defensible and familiar except for the name Luis Philip Senarens covered by Bleiler. Favorites of mine omitted are James Gunn and Charles Harness, but I think that’s defensible.

Fritz Leiber

Speaking of Bleiler, the modern incarnation of his old employer, Dover Books, has started a series called “Doomsday Classics“. One of the reprints is Fritz Leiber’s The Night of the Long Knives.

And There Arose a Generation Which Did Not Know …

Over at the Coode Street Podcast awhile back, Kristine Kathryn Rusch talked about an upcoming anthology, Women in Futures Past. Motivated by bizarre claims she would hear from writing students about women (or the lack thereof) in science fiction history, she has undertaken an educational mission.

But why does she have to? Why does this kind of ignorance exist among the most connected people in the world?

Back in the 1970s, when I started reading science fiction as a poor student in a backwater town in South Dakota, I knew about these authors — even if I couldn’t get my hands on their books. My high school library had The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. In the post Star Wars years, I managed to pick up a cheap, but new, copy of Encyclopedia of Science Fiction edited by Robert Holdstock. It also mentioned women science fiction writers besides Ursula K. Le Guin. So did Baird Searles’ paperback A Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction. So did James Gunn’s The Road to Science Fiction series.

I seldom, if ever mention, “diversity” issues. But even I bought, in the 1990s, three landmark anthologies on women in science fiction: Jean Stine and Janrae Frank’s New Eves: Science Fiction About the Extraordinary Women of Today and Tomorrow and Pamela Sargent’s two-volume Women of Wonder anthology.

Bought them and read them.

So why does the generation that grew up with huge amounts of data available with the twitch of fingers on the keyboard as opposed to a drive to the library or weeks long wait for loaned or purchased books know so little about this subject? Is the internet age or modern education destroying their curiosity?

The ignorance Rusch cites is among self-professed fans, neigh would-be writers.

I wish Rusch well on her project. If she has enough new material I don’t already have, I’ll probably buy the book.

I’m genuinely puzzled why it’s needed though. The digital age reducing the mental habitat of Arthur Koestler’s “library angels“? Overbooked schedules allowing less time for casual curiosity? Shortened attention spans? Still, we are talking about the age of the hyperlink.

I guess, as Merlin remarked in John Boorman’s Excalibur, “For it is the doom of man that they forget.”