William Hope Hodgson: House on the Borderland, Night Land, "Voice in the Night," Carnacki, and more

Extollager

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It seems Chrons hasn't had a thread devoted to this classic author, which surprises me, but if it's there I didn't find it and it must have been inactive for a long time.

I just read The House on the Borderland for the 4th time all the way through. Unlike The Night Land, this book doesn't use a pseudo-old-fashioned diction, but the punctuation was idiosyncratic--lots of superfluous commas. But it reads well. It must surely be the most "Lovecraftian" novel to be published prior to Lovecraft's own writings.

It has a few main sections:

0.The finding of the manuscript in a very remote part of the west of Ireland. The finders are Englishmen looking to do some angling. This aspect may remind readers of some of John Buchan's writing.
1.First sequence related in the manuscript: The narrator (late middle age or older) tells of a strange cosmic experience he had, which brought him to a valley under a weird sun, in which he saw a host of effigies, some of them recognizable as the gods of Egypt and India, etc.
2.The siege of the swine-creatures: Emerging from a nearby pit, repulsive pig-men try to get into the House where the narrator and his elderly sister live. There's a little bit of the feeling of Neville trying to keep out the vampires in Matheson's I Am Legend or the Mel Gibson character barricading his house in Signs. If you liked that stuff you'll probably like this. The Hodgson narrator finds that though the monsters exert physical force against the house, leaving scratch marks and damaging a door, their bodies eventually disappear, as if vaporizing, when shot, though he doesn't see this happen. He clears his property of the creature and then investigates the pit, finding a lengthy tunny and a seemingly bottomless subterranean chasm. Lovecraft would have devoured this.
3.The narrator endures a journey through time to a cosmic revelation. This begins with a gradual speeding-up of the passage of day and night, with effects a la Wells's Time Machine, which must have been an inspiration. These are well done. When the earth's air freezes and becomes a deep layer of snow, the reader may wonder if this inspired Leiber's excellent "A Pail of Air." In general the cosmic journey is impressive. The changes in the aging sun reminded me of Vance's conception of the Dying Earth. There are a few paragraphs in which the narrator is reunited with the spirit of his lost love that may seem bathetic. Hodgson continues the story past this point, which some authors of the time might have used at the crowning moment before returning the hero to everyday life, for further weird and dreadful scenes.
4.The narrator returns to consciousness in the House. An even more horrifying version of the swine-creatures, phosphorescent and hypnotic, is trying to get in and mauls his dog, leaving a glowing hand- or claw-patch on its side. The narrator realizes too late that when his suffering dog licked him, he himself picked up the phosphorescence, which is spreading from his wrist to cover more and more of his body. There was something of the quality of Lovecraft's "Colour Out of Space" here. At this point the narrator is writing down notes of things as they occur, in the manner of some of Lovecraft's stories, and the point at which the story ends is extremely Lovecraftian.
00.A few concluding paragraphs that return us to the finders of the manuscript. They learn that the House apparently vanished when a great collpase of earth occurred and it fell into the pit.
The book is framed by a couple of poems not obviously relevant to the plot.

One often reads about Lovecraft's being influenced by Poe and Dunsany, but the Hodgsonian influence, on the basis of this short novel, must have been enormous. It's loaded with elements that Edmund Burke characterized, in the 18th century, as conducive to the sense of the Sublime: darkness, sudden noises, vastness of height and, moreso, of depth, "difficulty," etc. It strikes me as a classic that's very much alive.
 

hitmouse

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I read House on the Borderland around 1987. I remember being impressed. Not much detail remains now. I will have to dig it out.

Night Land is a strange doorstep of a book. The prose style is deeply irritating, and I would not have finished it if the story and atmosphere had not been so striking. Well worth it despite the author's attempt to make it nearly unreadable.
 

BAYLOR

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House on the Borderland , I read it years ago and loved it. Its one of my favorite books of all time


Ive read the Nightland . Impressive imagery and interesting concept . Unfortunately The Pseudo archaic dialog and writing style ruins the book. If he had written in the same style as House, this book would have been one greatest sci/fantsy novels ever written. Hodgson's decision to write it in this style was a very poor one to say the least.
 

Extollager

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I've read about half of The Night Land. I've read The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" and The Ghost Pirates. The former was a pretty weird short novel of the sea, but the latter has left almost no impression.

How about favorite short stories by WHH--or comments on duds, for that matter? "The Voice in the Night" seems to me outstanding, commanding pathos as well as literary horror, comparable to Lovecraft's best story, "The Colour Out of Space." Offhand none of the other WHH stories that I've read seem to have come all that close...
 

BAYLOR

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I've read about half of The Night Land. I've read The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" and The Ghost Pirates. The former was a pretty weird short novel of the sea, but the latter has left almost no impression.

How about favorite short stories by WHH--or comments on duds, for that matter? "The Voice in the Night" seems to me outstanding, commanding pathos as well as literary horror, comparable to Lovecraft's best story, "The Colour Out of Space." Offhand none of the other WHH stories that I've read seem to have come all that close...
A Voice un the Night was the Basis of the 1963 Japanese s film Mantago A K A Attack of the Mushroom people..
 

J Riff

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I've read them all, a few times, long ago, and only the Night Land was difficult to navigate. Didn't Hodgson die in the trenches of WW! or something like that? That's what I heard, back before the internet made everyone an expert. Tales of terror in the Sargasso Sea, weed-creatures... yes WHH was a great one. To me, the swine-things represent various roomates I've had, truly horrifying.
 
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Extollager

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I checked out Douglas Anderson's collection of Hodgson's best stories, Adrift on the Haunted Seas, and read (again, after who knows how many years!), "The Derelict." As in "Voice," we have the horror of a fungoid mass that spreads across an old ship, but here the plot is yoked to an introduction in which a skipper muses about how, if the material substances and the conditions are right, maybe a third something, perhaps "Life" as a force like magnetism and electricity, will connect and something alive will result. The skipper and some crewmen had, years ago, investigated a ship that was covered by a mass of dough-like stuff. A sound like a beating heart emerges from the ship's depths. I don't think this story is as compelling as "Voice." In "Voice" you have a truly poignant human story as the core, and the narration establishes an eerie mood right off. The threat posed by the "fungus" in "Voice" is ghastly, while in "Derelict" it's more thrillerish.
 
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BAYLOR

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I've read them all, a few times, long ago, and only the Night Land was difficult to navigate. Didn't Hodgson die in the trenches of WW! or something like that? That's what I heard, back before the internet made everyone an expert. Tales of terror in the Sargasso Sea, weed-creatures... yes WHH was a great one. To me, the swine-things represent various roomates I've had, truly horrifying.
He died in in WW I in 1916.
 
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Extollager

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Yes, WHH was killed by a German artillery shell, according to the Anderson collection. He was 40, which was interesting--thanks to the photos one usually sees of him, and thinking of the young age of so many men killed in World War I, one thinks of him as having died when he was younger.

Btw Lovecraft died at 46 in 1937 when the life expectancy of males was 58.0.

Life expectancy in the USA, 1900-98
 

BAYLOR

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Yes, WHH was killed by a German artillery shell, according to the Anderson collection. He was 40, which was interesting--thanks to the photos one usually sees of him, and thinking of the young age of so many men killed in World War I, one thinks of him as having died when he was younger.

Btw Lovecraft died at 46 in 1937 when the life expectancy of males was 58.0.

Life expectancy in the USA, 1900-98
Imagine what Hodgson might have written had he lives another 40 years.:(
 

Extollager

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"The Haunted Jarvee" seems to be the only Carnacki story that Douglas Anderson selected for the "best of" collection mentioned in #7 above. It could be described as a steampunk psychic investigator kind of thing. Carnacki attempts to use an elaborate electrical apparatus that isn't described in detail to hold at bay phantom-like forces that have been causing eerie phenomena and loss of life on board a sailing ship. The story seemed to me mostly a curiosity. It wouldn't have made a Hodgson fan of me. The ship goes to the bottom, but Carnacki figures the problem was due to an unspecifiable combination of factors coming together (rather than to a more conventional scenario involving a tyrannical captain murdered by his crew or something of the sort).
 

BAYLOR

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"The Haunted Jarvee" seems to be the only Carnacki story that Douglas Anderson selected for the "best of" collection mentioned in #7 above. It could be described as a steampunk psychic investigator kind of thing. Carnacki attempts to use an elaborate electrical apparatus that isn't described in detail to hold at bay phantom-like forces that have been causing eerie phenomena and loss of life on board a sailing ship. The story seemed to me mostly a curiosity. It wouldn't have made a Hodgson fan of me. The ship goes to the bottom, but Carnacki figures the problem was due to an unspecifiable combination of factors coming together (rather than to a more conventional scenario involving a tyrannical captain murdered by his crew or something of the sort).
It could be an X Files episode.;)
 

BigBadBob141

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I read the Carnacki stories quite a while back, really enjoyed "Gateway Of The Monster".
I think a couple of books were published recently with more stories written by modern authors.
 

Randy M.

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From his writing I get the sense Hodgson's who wrote and completed his work quickly, his imagination and invention far out-running his craft; some of his stories read to me ill-defined, a bit fuzzy around the edges. Perhaps if he'd lived there would have been an evening off, but then again maybe the more balanced stories wouldn't have been as stimulating. What you get from what he wrote is premise mostly filled in, but some of the finer points -- setting, character -- sketchier.

Randy M.
 

Mythopoet

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I cheated and read "The Night Land, a Story Retold" by James Stoddard because I had trouble getting through the original. Though it really wasn't so much a "retelling" as a "rephrasing", to my understanding. Stoddard did fill in some blanks, like giving the MC a name to make the prose flow better, but tried to stay as close to the original as possible. I enjoyed the book immensely and am so very grateful for this retelling which allowed me to enjoy such a masterpiece of imagination. I believe I could get through the original if I had sufficient time and mental energy to devote to it, but alas, I am a mother of 5 children and most of my time and mental energy is devoted to them. It's so easy to get completely lost in the prose of the original when you might have to put the book down at a moment's notice several times throughout the day.

However, reading the retold Night Land prompted me to pick up The House on the Borderland which I did not have trouble with and also found supremely enjoyable. I had read all of Lovecraft's works before discovering Hodgson, so it was very easy to see how Hodgson must have been a huge influence there, an influence that often seems to be overlooked. In particular I felt strong similarities between Borderland and The Whisperer in Darkness.

After coming upon this thread the other day I downloaded a free copy of Carnacki: The Ghost Finder. Let me just say that I am enjoying it far more than any recently written epic fantasy novel I have picked up of late. Carnacki reminds me a bit of an occult Sherlock Holmes.
 

KGeo777

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I just finished reading House on the Borderland. Trippy!
I knew of Hodgson since the 80s through Penguin's Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural. They talked a lot about House and the Night Land, but I only could take a stab at the latter some years ago. But decided to read House finally-as I have a list of Baylor recommendations I am slowly but surely checking off.
 
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