Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Hodgson, William Hope

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(1877-1918) UK writer who spent nine years (1891-1899) as a merchant seaman. He turned to writing fiction with "The Goddess of Death" (1904 Royal Magazine), a rather weak mystery story, but soon began to draw on his maritime experiences. Not all his sea stories are supernatural, but all atmospherically evoke both the remoteness of a ship at sea and the strangeness of what lies beneath the waves. His most effective sea stories are about Transmutation, as in "The Voice in the Night" (1907 Blue Book), where castaways are overcome by a fungus, and "The Derelict" (1912 Red Magazine), where an ancient ship mutates into a living organism. Some of WHH's best sea stories were collected as Men of the Deep Waters (coll 1914; exp vt Deep Waters ed August Derleth coll 1967).

In The Boats of the "Glen Carrig" (1907) survivors of a shipwreck encounter strange lifeforms in a seaweed-engulfed environment – this novel inspired Dennis Wheatley's Uncharted Seas (1938) – and in The Ghost Pirates (1909), WHH's most successful example of sustained Horror, a fated ship becomes haunted by an infradimensional craft.

All of WHH's fiction seeks a natural, often scientific explanation, which makes his work closer to sf than fantasy, though the explanation is not always a solution, so that the supernatural is left as an option (see Perception; Rationalized Fantasy). This was most evident in his Occult-Detective series about Carnacki, collected as Carnacki the Ghost-Finder (coll 1913). Although commissioned by the publisher to cash in on the success of Algernon Blackwood's John Silence (1908), WHH produced an investigator more scientist than psychic, though Carnacki relies on ancient manuscripts as much as modern equipment.

WHH's wrote two great works. The House on the Borderland (1908), inspired by H G Wells's The Time Machine (1895), involves a house on a transdimensional Threshold, whose occupant is first haunted by strange hog-like creatures and then drawn into a vision of the far future. Iain Sinclair's Radon Daughters: A Voyage, Between Art and Terror, from the Mound of Whitechapel to the Limestone Pavements of the Burren (1994) began life as an intended sequel to WHH's novel; many echoes and reflections of that project are retained in the texture of this Urban Fantasy about London. WHH's The Night Land: A Love Tale (1912) is a highly individualistic and idiosyncratic novel of the Dying Earth: the world is in perpetual darkness and the land has been overcome by monstrosities. Although written as a love story, it is essentially a Quest.

In his last decade WHH turned to writing full-time, producing much hackwork in order to make a living. Novels gave way to short stories, and fewer of these were supernatural. Later works were collected as The Luck of the Strong (coll 1916) and the nonfantastic Captain Gault (coll 1917). WHH was also adept at protecting his copyright in the USA, and issued abridged, very limited editions of some of his books; these volumes are scarce. They include The Ghost Pirates, A Chaunty and Another Story (1909 US chap), Carnacki the Ghost-Finder and a Poem (1910 chap), The Captain of the Onion Boat (1910 Nash's Magazine; 1911 chap US), Poems and the Dream of X (1912 US chap) – the latter part being an abridgement of The Night Land, later reissued in its own right as The Dream of X (1977 US) – Impressionistic Sketches (1913 chap US) and Cargunka and Poems and Anecdotes (1914 US chap), being an abridgement of the Captain Gault stories.

Several stories appeared posthumously, as did two volumes of poetry, The Calling of the Sea (1920) and The Voice of the Ocean (1921). Although cheap editions of his books remained in print in the UK for some years, his work was gradually forgotten until the inclusion of stories by him in two AnthologiesThey Walk Again (anth 1931) ed Colin de la Mare and A Century of Horror Stories (anth 1935) ed Dennis Wheatley – led to his rediscovery, especially in the USA. After August W Derleth established Arkham House he issued an impressive omnibus of WHH's novels, The House on the Borderland and Other Novels (omni 1946 US), and an expanded version of Carnacki the Ghost Finder (coll 1947 US). Sam Moskowitz (1920-1997) has produced two collections, each with an extensive biographical introduction: Out of the Storm (coll 1975 US) and The Haunted "Pampero" (coll 1991 US), with a third planned Terrors of the Sea (coll 1996 US). R Alain Everts (?   -    ) has produced a short biography, Some Facts in the Case of William Hope Hodgson: Master of Phantasy (1973 Shadow UK; as vol 2 of William Hope Hodgson: Night Pirate 1987 chap Canada) and has issued 15 chapbooks of individual stories (listed below) which were also collected as The Room of Fear (coll 1988 US). Other retrospective volumes are: Masters of Terror, Volume 1: William Hope Hodgson (coll 1977) and William Hope Hodgson: A Centenary Tribute (coll 1977 chap), both ed Peter Tremayne; Poems of the Sea (coll 1977); The Haunted "Pampero" (1918 Short Stories; 1980 chap) and the nonfantasy Tales of Land and Sea (coll 1984), all three ed George Locke (1936-2019); Spectral Manifestations (1984 chap) ed Ian Bell (1959-    ); and Demons of the Sea (coll 1992 US chap) and William Hope Hodgson At Sea (coll 1993 US chap), both ed Sam Gafford, who is also compiling a WHH bibliography.

WHH's work bridges the gap between the supernatural horrors of the 19th century and the scientific wonders of the 20th, and demonstrates that both can produce horrors of equal bewilderment. [MA]

other works: A series of single-story chapbooks, issued in envelopes, based on the original manuscripts by WHH: The Baumoff Explosive (1919 Nash's Weekly; 1988 US chap), also known as "Eloi, Eloi Lama Sabachthani"; Fifty Dead Chinamen All in a Row (1988 US chap); From the Tideless Sea (1906 Monthly Story Magazine; 1988 US chap); The Goddess of Death (1904 Royal; 1988 US chap), The Heaving of the Log (1988 US chap), Homeward Bound (1908 Putnam's as "The 'Shamraken' Homeward-Bounder"; 1988 US chap); The Mystery of the Ship in the Night (1914 Red Magazine as "The Stone Ship"; 1988 US chap); Old Golly (1919 Short Stories; 1988 US chap); The Phantom Ship (1973 Shadow; vt "The Silent Ship"; 1988 US chap), a variant epilogue to The Ghost Pirates; "The Riven Night" (1973 Shadow; 1988 US chap); The Room of Fear (1983 Etchings & Odysseys; 1988 US chap); Sea-Horses (1913 London Magazine; 1988 US chap); The Terrible Derelict (1907 The Story-Teller as "The Mystery of the Derelict"; 1988 US chap); The Valley of Lost Children (1906 Cornhill Magazine; 1988 US chap); The Ways of the Heathens (1988 US chap).

further reading: William Hope Hodgson: Night Pirate, Volume One: An Annotated Bibliography of Published Works 1902-1987 (1987 chap Canada) by Joseph Bell; William Hope Hodgson: Voyages and Visions (1988 chap) by Ian Bell.

William Hope Hodgson


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.