William Hope Hodgson
November 15, 2013
“In all literature, there are few works so sheerly remarkable, so purely creative, as The Night Land,” enthused Clark Ashton Smith in 1944. “Only a great poet could have conceived and written this story.” The author to whom Smith refers is WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON (1877–1918), an English sailor, bodybuilder, photographer, and — yes — poet, who’d achieved modest renown (before he was killed at Ypres during WWI) as a pioneer of what is now called “weird” fantasy and science fiction. Carnacki, protagonist of many Hodgson stories, is one of literature’s first serialized occult detectives, forerunner of Kolchak and Hellboy; The House on the Borderland (1908) is supernatural fantasy with cosmic sci-fi moments; and China Miéville has suggested that the “weird tentacle” meme later popularized by H.P. Lovecraft begins with Hodgson’s 1907 novel The Boats of the “Glen-Carrig”. Hodgson’s (flawed) masterpiece is 1912’s The Night Land, a knightly quest set in the far future, when what remains of the human population dwells below the Earth’s frozen surface surrounded by “ab-humans,” enormous slugs and spiders, and malevolent Watching Things from an alien dimension. Brrr! Let us pray, along with Clark Ashton Smith, that “work of such unusual power will eventually win the attention and fame to which it is entitled.”
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