“The Dark Mythos of the Sea”

Coincidentally, David Haden over at Tentaclii had a post yesterday about a whole book by Adler on weird fiction including Hodgson. Unfortunately, the publisher is charging a ridiculous price for it.

Review: “The Dark Mythos of the Sea: William Hope Hodgson’s Transformation of Maritime Legends”, Emily Adler, 2014.

Voices from the Borderland
Cover by Daniele Serra

This is a very good critical article on how Hodgson used and often inverted a perspective of the early 20th century that was as infused with the ideas of spiritualism and the belief that the “supernatural” could be explained in terms of yet unknown laws of physics. There were also traditional myths and legends of the sea extant then.

The essay’s only flaw is that, while Adler mentions several books and studies of sea legends, it doesn’t prove Hodgson knew those legends and was consciously or subconsciously using them. I think Adler is on pretty safe ground in assuming Hodgson read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and knew the Flying Dutchman legend, and, of course, it’s entirely possible the sailors he sailed with told him those legends.

Adler says the advantage of the sea as a setting is that a ship is a microcosm of society, fantastic beasts can show up, and there is an uneasy division between chaos and order. (Adler takes all this from Patricia Ann Carlson’s Literature and Folklore of the Sea.) Continue reading