Sunday, November 4, 2012
Horror and fantasy before the Great War unleashed its own horror
Lovecraft was a voracious reader and one author that clearly had an influence on young Lovecraft was the works of William Hope Hodgson whose books all date to before WWI. Hodgson had a fascinating and varied career as a sailor, bodybuilder, personal coach, poet, author, and military member. In fact, he died in WWI in April 1918 at Ypres. Had he lived, who knows what other books he would have written. As it is, he was a great influence to readers and writers.
These works were always scarce, hard to find and not sought out much by the average reader. I first read The Boats of the Glen Carrig, and House on the Borderland when Ballentine published the Adult Fantasy Series, bringing back into print important and rare books of influence in the genres of Science Fiction, fantasy, and horror at an affordable price. I read The Night Land somewhat later. Long before Project Gutenberg, these editions were the only way an average person could read these scarce tomes. In fact, if you follow the link, there is a list of published works that are a primer of horror and fantasy. Now with the internet and on-line book finders such as Amazon.com, it is possible to turn up had to find books.
I posted this blog entry to interest new readers to Hodgson or Lovecraft and to provide a rudimentary introduction to some of Hodgson’s works. I am by no means a Lovecraft or Hodgson scholar and the advanced reader won’t find much here that he/she hasn’t already found out about this fascinating author. Really this has been a trip down memory lane for me and if nothing else, the blog reader will find a few links of interest and some free downloadable books. You just can’t beat free these days.
"In The Boats of the Glen Carrig (1907) we are shown a variety of malign marvels and accursed unknown lands as encountered by the survivors of a sunken ship. The brooding menace in the earlier parts of the book is impossible to surpass, though a letdown in the direction of ordinary romance and adventure occurs toward the end. An inaccurate and pseudo-romantic attempt to reproduce eighteenth-century prose detracts from the general effect, but the really profound nautical erudition everywhere displayed is a compensating factor."
The Night Land (1912) is a much longer and more ambitious book, that seems to presage Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. Lovecraft absorbed much in his reading and little escaped his eye, filing away information like a computer for later inquiry or incorporation. The House on the Borderland (1908) is perhaps the best known of Hodgson’s works to the modern reader, and one can see elements in Dreams in the Witch House. China Miéville traces the origin of "the tentacle" as an object of horror in H. P. Lovcraft in the book, The Boats of the Glen Carrig, about ships trapped Devil’s Triangle of the Sargasso Sea in his 2009 essay, The Tentacles.
Lovecraft’s early milieu is one that needs study to understand how genres of fantasy & horror evolved and then much later fused with elements of science fiction and reading the books that Lovecraft read can help our understanding of that time. The influences on the Cthulhu Mythos is varied and deserves study and our attention. Interest in Hodgson’s works are now at an all time high and editions are more plentiful and easier to find. However, you need not go out of pocket because Project Gutenberg has these Hodgson novels available for free download:
The House on the Borderland http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10002
The Boats of the Glen Carrig http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10542
The Night Land http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10662
As well as two other novels
The Ghost Pirates http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10966
Carnacki, The Ghost Finder http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10832
And a short story by Hodgson from another source The Fifth Message from the Tideless Sea http://www.amalgamatedspooks.com/tidelesssea.htm
Lovecraft’s Supernautal Horror in Literature download http://www.feedbooks.com/book/234/supernatural-horror-in-literature
A Hodgson Bibliography http://www.thenightland.co.uk/nightbiblio.html
Additional links of interest
Undoubtedly I have missed some obvious links and observations, but this little bit should be enough to entice and send an inquiring mind off into the aether of the internet for more information and stories. Happy hunting and happy reading.