Tuesday, May 31, 2011

William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918)

Sailor, Author, Bodybuilder, and Photographer
Born November 15, 1877, Blackmore End, Essex, England
Died April 1918, On the Battlefield at Ypres, Belgium

In observance of Memorial Day, here is a posting on one of the great early writers of science fantasy, William Hope Hodgson, who was killed on the battlefield during World War I. Much has been written on his life and work. H.P. Lovecraft himself knew of Hodgson and commented on his works in Lovecraft's "Supernatural Horror in Literature." You can read an excerpt on an interesting website devoted to Hodgson, called "The Night Land," here.

Hodgson died before Weird Tales came into existence, but the magazine printed one of his stories, "The Hog," in its January 1947 issue. "The Hog" is the longest in a series of stories featuring Hodgson's supernatural detective, Carnacki the Ghost Finder. Perhaps because of its length, it was not printed as the others were in the British magazines The Idler and The New Magazine between 1910 and 1912. Hodgson's powers and limitations as a writer are on full display in the Carnacki stories. He had a great imagination--an imagination ahead of its time really--and was capable of describing dreadful wonders. On the other hand, his stories and novels are often overlong, repetitive, mawkish, and formulaic. Hodgson's needless framing devices alone are enough to drive you crazy. In any other writer, those flaws might prove fatal. Hodgson, though, is always worth reading because when he is good, he is unmatched.

William Hope Hodgson's Stories in Weird Tales
"The Hog" (Jan. 1947)
"A Tropical Horror" (Summer 1973)
"Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani" (Fall 1973)
"The Terror of the Water Tank" (Winter 1973)
"The Finding of the Graiken" (Summer 1974)

Further Reading
William Hope Hodgson's work has been reprinted repeatedly during the last century. If you can find Ballantine's paperback reprints from the early 1970s, that might be a good place to start. In any case, his works include:
  • The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" (1907)
  • The House on the Borderland (1908)
  • The Ghost Pirates (1909)
  • The Night Land (1912)
  • Carnacki the Ghost-Finder (1913)
And many, many short stories. In addition, Sam Moskowitz was a particular fan of Hodgson and published one of his stories in each of Moskowitz's four issues of the revived Weird Tales in the early 1970s. Moskowitz also wrote and published a three-part critical, biographical, and bibliographical study of Hodgson in the Summer 1973 issue through the Winter 1973 issue, the first of its kind.

William Hope Hodgson (1877-1918), one of the casualties in the unspeakable slaughter and waste that was the First World War.  
It's hard to beat Ace for great science fiction and fantasy covers. Here is the cover of Hodgson's novel The House on the Borderland. I don't know the name of the artist, but it could be Richard M. Powers.
Finally, the cover of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder in a British edition from Panther (1973). The illustration is for "The Hog," the longest story in the book and the only one to be reprinted in Weird Tales. Again, I don't know the name of the artist.
Text and captions copyright 2011 Terence E. Hanley

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