The Writer on the Borderland 12: All Hallows Exhaustion

It’s All Hallow’s Eve, and we’re down to the dying embers of our conflagration, our month-long tribute to William Hope Hodgson. Just as the daoine sídhe can enter this world more easily at Samhain, so can the longdogs begin to lurch back into the world of greydogtales. The last week has been mainly about critical views and oddities, so we leave you with a melange of memorials and myth-enforcing minutiae. That’s writer-talk for the bits that couldn’t be fitted in before.

But before we place a few trivia on the fire, we must thank our ancestors and point out that our blogfest has been made wondrous, and indeed possible, by the contributions of the following authors, artists and enthusiasts, to whom we are indebted:

Sam Gafford, Willie Meikle, Tim Prasil, James Bojaciuk, Julia Morgan, Chico Kidd, David Langford, Sebastián Cabrol, Kate Coady, Georges Dodds, J Patrick Allen, John C Wright, Wayne June and Django the longdog (Chilli and Twiglet were asleep for most of it).

Of course, if you enjoyed the month, then I’ll take as much credit as I can get as well. I’m not proud.

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In this last Hodgson entry, I’ve picked a few unconnected critical quotes quite deliberately, to illustrate the way in which his reputation lived on (and I’ve thrown in a word or two of my own).

Our first quote comes from a friend of Hodgson’s, one who went to great lengths to continue publishing and promoting Hodgson after his death. Arthur St. John Adcock was a journalist, poet and later editor of The Bookman, a magazine of publication news and reviews. For those of a weird or ghostly bent, Gertrude Atherton, W B Yeats and M R James were among its contributors. In fact, James wrote his article ‘Some Remarks on Ghost Stories’ for the December 1929 edition of The Bookman.

by Walter Benington, for Elliott & Fry, chlorobromide print, 1920s
by Walter Benington, for Elliott & Fry, chlorobromide print, 1920s

Adcock was steadfast in his support for a number of years, support which might be summarised in this from The Bookman (1920):

“…In (his) three novels, in The Night Land, and in some of his short stories, he showed a mastery of the bizarre, the mysterious, the terrible that has not often been equalised outside the pages of Edgar Allan Poe.”

More on Adcock and Hodgson can be found in Sam Gafford‘s WHH site, through the link given yesterday.

For a more contemporary view, the author China Mieville, in his essay M R James and the Quantum Vampire (Collapse, 2008):

“A good case can be made, for example, that William Hope Hodgson, though considerably less influential than Lovecraft, is as, or even more, remarkable a Weird visionary; and that 1928 can be considered the Weird tentacle’s coming of age, Cthulhu (‘monster […] with an octopus-like head’) a twenty-first birthday iteration of the giant ‘devil-fish’ – octopus – first born to our sight squatting malevolently on a wreck in Hodgson’s The Boats of the ‘Glen Carrig’, in 1907.”

I was interested, re-reading Mieville’s essay, to be reminded of his take on M R James’s ghosts. I recently mentioned elsewhere that the Hodgson collection Carnacki the Ghostfinder has virtually no ghosts in it, and that the title is therefore somewhat misleading. Mieville points out that M R James’s own ‘ghosts’ are for the most part actually unnatural creatures, be they demons, poisonous spider-things, slinking remnants or whatever.

Ab-natural, as Hodgson might say, but not ghosts. It seems to me that although the writing is so temperamentally and stylistically different, many of the antiquary’s terrors and the psychic detective’s monsters have aspects in common.  And, of course, they are of a time. Hodgson’s The Whistling Room was published in 1910, James’s More Ghost Stories in 1911. Sadly, I fear that given James’s views on the “overtly occult” in ghost stories, M R would not greatly have appreciated Carnacki.

And for my third record, Sue, I wanted to include a comment by T E Grau, author of weird fiction and the recent collection The Nameless Dark. In his enjoyable Cosmicomicon blog essay on Hodgson (2011), Grau posed a question:

“Lovecraft is always cited as the Father of Cosmic Horror. So, would that make William Hope Hodgson the Grandfather of the same?”

His final answer is:

“Perhaps the weighty title “Grandfather of Cosmic Horror” is too generous, but certainly Grand Uncle isn’t too far off the mark. This inspired and talented innovator deserves a prominent spot, and his share of the cake, at the grown ups’ table.”

I’ll buy that. Grau’s piece can be found here:

Cosmicomicon

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We’re about done. There is so much that we haven’t covered, but it’s time to wrap it up. I did consider quoting some of Hodgson’s poetry, but much of it is long and frankly rather depressing. It dwells overly on death and insignificance. Had I known the old chap, I would have probably told him to get a dog, take long country walks and drink more pale ale with a few mates. So I’ll leave the poetry for the die-hards and the curious to explore.

Instead, another audio link, to three audiobooks published by Blackstone Audio. David Ian Davies narrates The Whistling Room, The Thing Invisible and The Haunted Jarvee, all jolly good Carnacki stories.

{B8BF5DC4-400D-4CC6-903F-70A31FB21735}Img400Carnacki audiobooks

And so I leave you, brave souls that you have been, with a thought from my notorious work, now banned on three continents, Sandra’s First Pony. In the words of Mr Bubbles, not long after the appalling and bloody events at the Knaresborough Gymkhana:

“You call that a Hog? I call it time to make sausages…”

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Oh, and my vignette Chicago was just picked as one of the top free horror stories this October by The Parlor of Horror blog. Which is nice.

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William Hope Hodgson 11: Critical Voices

We are in monstrous waters. This is the second penultimate post in our month-long tribute to William Hope Hodgson, which is patently impossible. As was the idea of celebrating Hodgson’s work in only one month. I am clearly an appalling editor, a slipshod writer and an idiot. Hurrah! Internet fame surely beckons…

So, my dear, dear listeners, please keep tuned to this wavelength a little longer. We have one post today, our feature interview with noted WHH critic and editor Sam Gafford, and another post tomorrow, packing in the last few oddities and trivia.

Speaking of trivia, something discovered whilst reading a commentary by  Sam Moscowitz (mentioned later below). One of Hodgson’s short sea stories, Ships that Go Missing, was first published in March 1920 in The Premier magazine, with a cover illustrating a ship foundering in heavy seas. The cover illo was signed ‘Marny’.

That caught my attention because Paul Marny was an Anglo-French artist who lived in Scarborough, on the coast where I was raised, until he died in 1914. He painted many harbour and seascapes, including The Loss of the Scarborough Lifeboat, a famous local incident, and a number of stormy sea pieces. Is it feasible that The Premier copied a Marny print to illustrate Hodgson? If so it would be very fitting.

Paul Marny
Paul Marny

It’s also fitting that our last feature interview of the WHH tribute should be with the talented Sam Gafford, who has done so much to enhance Hodgson’s reputation as a writer and to shine a clear, critical light on Hodgson’s work. In early September of this year I contacted him suggesting that we might link up “for a couple of key posts specifically on support for WHH’s work and legacy.” He was enthusiastic, and it grew from there.

It’s fair to say that without Sam’s involvement, I might never have devoted so much of my remaining lifespan to this terrifying endeavour. My longdogs would have had more walks, my spine would be in better shape and I might have written a number of astoundingly well-crafted short stories in that time (this is my eleventh Hodgson post this month, if you haven’t caught my sarcastic tone yet). But hey, no-one’s playing the blame game. So now we turn to the guilty party himself.

a possible sighting of the rare gafford
a possible sighting of the rare gafford

greydog: Welcome, Sam. We really ought to start by highlighting your own place in the Hodgson universe. Let’s face it, you are an authority on William Hope Hodgson. How the heck did that come about?

Gafford: Well, I first became aware of Hodgson probably back around 1980 or so when I first read Lovecraft’s essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, in the Arkham House edition of DAGON. As practically everyone knows, that essay is essentially a laundry list of great writers and Hodgson was one that really intrigued me. I’ve always had an interest in horror and in tales of the sea (which is ironic as I have a near pathological fear of the sea as well and will not go out on boats and almost never more than a foot or two in the ocean from the beach) so I decided to try and track down some of his work.

Now, back in 1980, this wasn’t particularly easy to do. There was no internet back then and Hodgson wasn’t an author that you could find in the bookstore either. Luckily, about this time, Sphere Books in England reprinted all four of Hodgson’s novels as well as the Carnacki stories so I snapped those up immediately. Once I started reading, I was hooked! (No pun intended.) Hodgson was unlike any writer I’d ever read before and I made it a mission to find as much of his work as I could which led me to doing research and writing about both the man and his works.

Unlike Lovecraft, there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of scholarly work done on Hodgson and I’ve tried to help change that. My goal has always been to get Hodgson’s work to as many readers as possible and, from there, to encourage and support Hodgsonian research. Through the years there have been some very talented individuals who have done work on Hodgson. Sam Moskowitz provided much of the early scholarship and edited three volumes of Hodgson’s then ‘lost’ works for Donald M. Grant who published them in very handsome editions. Moskowitz’s work, along with articles by Randy Everts, were the foundation upon which much later research was built.

Jane Frank made an outstanding contribution when she edited two volumes for PS Publishing/Tartarus Press which included a volume of poetry and another collection of ‘lost’ material. She also included a masterful critical and biographical essay in the latter. Other writers/editors like Douglas Anderson, Ian Bell, Mark Valentine and Mike Ashley have been hugely important in keeping Hodgson’s name and works alive.

Andy Robertson’s website devoted to Hodgson’s THE NIGHT LAND deserves especial mention. Andy helped bring Hodgson into the modern computer age and created a community of readers and fans who discussed Hodgson and his masterful novel. Much of the credit for Hodgson’s online identity is owed to Andy who, sadly, passed away not long ago. But what is amazing is that what Andy created with his website has refused to die! Through the determination of people like Kate Coady and Brett Davidson, THE NIGHT LAND website has been brought back online and continues to serve as a forum for study, criticism and new fiction. I cannot praise them all enough for continuing Andy’s legacy.

I’ve written numerous articles about Hodgson but the one thing of which I am most proud is the publication last year of WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON: VOICES FROM THE BORDERLAND—Seven Decades of Criticism on the Master of Cosmic Horror which I co-edited with S.T. Joshi and Massimo Berruti (Hippocampus Press). In this book, we worked to bring together many of the notable critical articles that have appeared over the decades (many hard to find now) along with new articles from many of the people I mentioned above. About a third of the book is the comprehensive bibliography that S.T. Joshi, Mike Ashley and I compiled (with the help of dozens of other scholars) which show the length and breadth of Hodgson’s many achievements. It is my sincere hope that this book will inspire others to both read and write about Hodgson in the years to come.

greydog: We have little doubt of that. You mention S T Joshi, who has of course written extensively on Lovecraft, and we know that H P Lovecraft was critically aware of Hodgson’s work. Do you detect any WHH influences in Lovecraft’s own fiction?

Gafford: That’s a tough question. We know that HPL didn’t read Hodgson’s novels until 1934 when his friend, H. C. Koenig, loaned him the books. Sadly, much of Lovecraft’s peak creative work was behind him at that time. Lovecraft, near as we can tell, never read Hodgson’s sea-horror short stories and certainly never read “The Hog” which was unpublished in Lovecraft’s lifetime. Despite the fact that both authors shared many similarities in their work (their sense of cosmic horror and man’s insignificance in the universe, for example), we can’t really say that Hodgson influenced Lovecraft to any great degree before 1934. But, because of their similarities, we can easily see why Lovecraft was so taken with Hodgson to the point where he revised his essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, to include his new discovery. (Ironically, Lovecraft had read CARNACKI, THE GHOST-FINDER a few years earlier and did not care for it which may explain why he came to Hodgson so late.)

After that point, Lovecraft only wrote two significant stories and those were “The Shadow Out of Time” and “The Haunter in the Dark”. I don’t think that we can see much of Hodgson in the latter story but John D. Haefele made a masterful case for Hodgson having influenced the former tale. After reading Haefele’s article, I am inclined to agree that Lovecraft revised some of his concepts for the story after reading Hodgson and, in particular, THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND.

LovecraftSupernatural

(Side note, Haefele’s article is included in WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON: VOICES FROM THE BORDERLAND—Seven Decades of Criticism on the Master of Cosmic Horror and is recommended reading for fans of both Lovecraft and Hodgson.)

greydog: Let’s poke a stick at Hodgson’s extraordinary book, The Night Land, which Lovecraft described as “one of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination every written”. The Night Land is an astonishingly original work, but marred by Hodgson’s deliberate use of archaic language. Why do you think he made such an odd choice?

Gafford: It’s hard to say. We don’t have very many primary sources from Hodgson and barely a handful of letters. I still believe that this lack of material is the single biggest handicap to doing scholarly work on Hodgson. Unless a pile of letters suddenly appear one day (which I doubt will happen by this point), we’ll likely never know what Hodgson thought or felt or why he made the writing decisions he did.

Despite this, I do have a few of my own ideas as to why he chose that style. In my article, “Writing Backwards: The Novels of William Hope Hodgson”, I used a small cache of then-recently discovered letters from Hodgson to prove that his novels were written in the reverse order in which they were published. This means that he wrote THE NIGHT LAND first and THE BOATS OF THE ‘GLEN CARRIG’ last. This is supremely important when we look at his development as a writer.

THE NIGHT LAND, for all its faults, is generally considered to be Hodgson’s masterpiece. Previously, we would have looked at that as the pinnacle of his career as a novelist and that his other novels led up to this mammoth saga. But that is not true. THE NIGHT LAND was written first and, when it failed to sell to a publisher, Hodgson felt the need to change his style and themes to the more pedestrian ‘adventure’ style of THE BOATS OF THE ‘GLEN CARRIG’. This inexperience could explain some of the odd choices Hodgson made with his first novel.

In Hodgson’s mind, THE NIGHT LAND is a romance. He even subtitles it “A Love Tale”. So it’s my contention that he tried to imitate what he thought was the right language which we see in works like ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS (known commonly as THE ARABIAN NIGHTS). We see much of the same language here but, sadly, Hodgson is not up to the task of recreating that style and it often works against him in his text. There has also been discussion of the possibility that Hodgson was attempting to duplicate the style of the Bible and specifically the King James Version. I think that this idea has some merit. We must remember that Hodgson’s father was a Priest in the Anglican Church and that both of his parents were deeply involved in missionary work. It is entirely conceivable that Hodgson could have had this in mind as well after a lifetime exposed to the Bible and its language.

What is clear is that this was a poor decision. Made, I believe, through his inexperience and probable lack of his own personal voice. He had the imagery, he knew the landscape, but he could not describe it yet and so tried to emulate something that, to his mind, was appropriate to the story. I leave it to the readers to decide if that was the correct choice.

greydog: We haven’t really done justice to all of Hodgson’s output this month. Tell us something about Captain Gault, skipper for hire, for those who have only read WHH’s horror stories.

Gafford: Ah, I am so happy you asked about Gault! So few seem to know this character or have read his exploits. There are times when I enjoy Gault stories even more than Canacki!

Hodgson knew that the key to repeated sales to magazines depended upon the use of serial characters like Sherlock Holmes. They created an audience and could be counted on for regular paychecks. However, Hodgson’s characters never really caught on that well. After Carnacki, Hodgson had his biggest success with his Captain Gault stories and they are radically different.

gault2
courtesy of Sam’s website

Captain Gault, unusual for Hodgson’s characters, is contemporary for the times in which he was written. The first Gault story appeared in 1914 and there is evidence that Hodgson was still writing them up until 1917 or so. Gault is the unscrupulous captain of a steamship and his primary goal is smuggling contraband and outsmarting customs officials. The way in which he does this is in the stories is often quite ingenious and gives the stories much of their ‘cat and mouse’ flavor.

However, it is the character of Gault himself that is the most interesting. Hodgson is often criticized for not creating the best characters and this is mostly true. In many of his early stories, the characters are either one dimensional or stereotypical. But, in Gault, we have a fully formed individual who lies, cheats, steals, trusts and is inevitably betrayed. Gault has a moral code all of his own. He will not smuggle certain items and actively works to thwart German spies in the early days of World War I. A true romantic, Gault does not trust women because, whenever he does, they prove themselves to be worthy of his low opinion. (This is, in itself, a remarkable change from women characters in early Hodgson works who are invariably virtuous, chaste and worthy of rescue.)

gaultold

There is no horror in the Gault stories which, I fear, have caused many to ignore them and that is a shame. They are filled with action and adventure with spies, duplicitous women and corrupt government officials. They are, quite frankly, excellent examples of the sea adventure stories of their day and terrific pulp reading. Mark Valentine wrote a splendid article on the Gault stories which appeared in the second issue of Sargasso: The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies. Hodgson wrote more Gault stories than he did featuring Carnacki. There are at least thirteen Gault stories compared to Carnacki’s nine (or eight considering that Carnacki was shoe-horned into a revised version of an earlier story to neither’s benefit). Perhaps someday I will reprint all of the Gault stories in one volume so that everyone can read these marvelous tales.

(Side-note, I have no idea if they are Hodgson fans but the creators/writers of the show LOST once had a smuggler character named Captain Gault!)

greydog: Hodgson stays with many people from their youth because of his stunning imagery. Provide us with a piece of WHH imagery that really gets to you.

Gafford: There’s so many that it’s really hard to choose. Do I pick the narrator’s futuristic vision in THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND? The haunted trees and the Sargasso Sea in THE BOATS OF THE ‘GLEN CARRIG’? The ghost ship coming into view in THE GHOST PIRATES? Or the narrator’s trek over the midnight landscape of THE NIGHT LAND? So much of Hodgson is built on strong imagery.

I’d have to say that one that has really stayed with me over the years is the image of the malevolent ocean in “Out of the Storm”. In it, a scientist is receiving messages via telegraph from a friend who is on a boat that is in the middle of a cataclysmic ocean storm and is sinking. The images of that vast, uncaring sea are horrifying and are written by a man who knew of what he wrote. How many storms like this must Hodgson have seen during his time at sea? That gives this story a terror and verisimilitude that few others can ever match. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“Such a sight is difficult to describe to the living; though the Dead of the Sea know of it without words of mine. It is such a sight that none is allowed to see and live. It is a picture for the doomed and the dead; one of the sea’s hell-orgies—one of the Thing’s monstrous gloatings over the living—say the alive-in-death, those upon the brink. I have no right to tell of it to you; to speak of it to one of the living is to initiate innocence into one of the infernal mysteries—to talk of foul things to a child. Yet I care not! I will expose, in all its hideous nakedness, the death-side of the sea. The undoomed living shall know some of the things that death has hitherto so well guarded. Death knows not of this little instrument beneath my hands that connects me still with the quick, else would he hast to quiet me.”

It’s an incredible story and I can’t recommend it enough. There’s even an audio version here:

OutOfTheStormByWilliamHopeHodgson565

Out of the Storm

greydog: And we should point out that you write weird fiction yourself. Does Hodgson influence your own work in any way?

Gafford: Well, not consciously. With few exceptions, I don’t set out to write a ‘Hodgson’ story. I think it would be for others to say how much or how little Hodgson has influenced me in my own writing. I would venture to say that, if anything, his sense of cosmic horror (shared by Lovecraft) has been a big influence. The concept that humanity is meaningless and unimportant in the universe is one that I both share and expound in much of my own fiction. We’re all pawns in one sense or another. I did write a story based on Hodgson’s final days in WWI called “The Land of Lonesomeness” where I attempted to put much of Hodgson’s life and work in perspective before that mortar shell fell on him. I think it’s one of my better stories and I tried to equate the landscape of THE NIGHT LAND with that of WWI Ypres. (This story was published in Weird Fiction Review and will be included in my upcoming collection of weird stories, THE DREAMER IN FIRE AND OTHER STORIES due out from Hippocampus Press in 2016.)

awhh

greydog: It’s nearly a century since Hodgson was killed in the Great War, and yet we’re doing this tribute to him. To what would you ascribe the continued and growing interest in his work?

Gafford: I think that, in many ways, Hodgson still resonates with us even a century later. His themes and plots are still very much ‘man vs. universe’ and that is a struggle that continues to this day. And then, of course, there’s his great imaginative and visual power. Some of the images in his work are so stunning that one cannot equate them with anything else. THE NIGHT LAND is like one long, continuous fever dream with images that shock, amaze and terrorize. There are few people whom, after I convince them to read some Hodgson, do not come away with something to admire. His words may be clumsy at times but his stories often have the impact of a brick to the face. I doubt that Hodgson will ever have the impact of a Lovecraft or even a Machen but it is my dearest hope that, 100 years from now, there will still be acolytes spreading the word.

greydog:  And finally, for fun, which Hodgson story or novel does Sam Gafford like the most as a reader?

Gafford: It may be sacrilegious for me to say this but THE GHOST PIRATES has always been my favorite Hodgson novel. As I said before, I love the literature of the sea and this is a high point in that genre for me. The amount of detail is so amazing that you feel you’re actually on board that doomed ship and I especially love the eeriness of the whole story. That point in the novel when they actually see the ghost ship is entrancing and the scientific rationale for the whole thing appeals to me as well. It’s a novel that I don’t feel gets enough love from the readers and critics. I would rather read that novel than THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND.

greydog: Thank you! Sam’s excellent website devoted to WHH can be found through this link:

William Hope Hodgson

And that’s it for today. Back tomorrow for the real, genuine, I-mean-it-this-time-honest final post of our tribute to WHH!

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William Hope Hodgson 10: He’s Alive, Jim

It’s mid-week madness with the all-singing, all-dancing William Hope Hodgson tribute, officially the best single author blog-fest since “The Toenail in 19th Century Bavarian Literature: Wilhelm Klemper – a Retrospective.” Scroll and run, dear listeners, as we enjoy more WHH curios, hear Sam Gafford unravel Hodgson’s publishing history, and feel rather confused after another speculative essay by James Bojiacuk. Is what he says possible, or has he taken one cold remedy too many?

Our critical comment for the day is taken from Clark Ashton Smith in 1944:

“In all literature, there are few works so sheerly remarkable, so purely creative, as The Night Land. Only a great poet could have conceived and written this story.”

The covers gallery has been updated yet again, and as we do so love weird art here at greydogtales, we have to include Philippe Druillet‘s work for Editions Opta in 1971. I loved Moebius and Druillet when I was a teenager, so these WHH illos are perfect:

Hodgson1Hodgson3 Hodgson2Our first essay for today is from writer, editor and Hodgson critic Sam Gafford, whose only failing seems to be that he prefers cats to longdogs. It’s a crazy world…

The Strange Case of the Books in the Night

Really, it’s a miracle that anyone can read William Hope Hodgson at all these days. Not because of his style or language (as in his masterpiece, THE NIGHT LAND) but because he came perilously close to being completely forgotten.

As many know, Hodgson died during the final months of WWI back in 1918. By that time, he had written and published his four novels as well as a collection of his Carnacki stories and two other collections of his short stories (MEN OF THE DEEP WATERS and THE LUCK OF THE STRONG) as well as the collection of stories around his other popular character, Captain Gault. Despite many strong reviews, Hodgson’s books did not sell very well and soon began to fade into obscurity.

Indeed, with the exception of THE EXPLOITS OF CAPTAIN GAULT, none of Hodgson’s books were even published in America during his lifetime. After his death, his widow arranged for publication of two volumes of Hodgson’s poetry. Then, in 1920, London publisher Holden & Hardingham reprinted ALL of Hodgson’s books in what was then called ‘cheap editions’.  After that, Hodgson faded away.
For over twenty-five years, there were no new editions of Hodgson published.

Anywhere.

Zip. Nada. Zilch.

It would have stayed that way except for the efforts of one man: H. C. Koenig.

I’ve written before of Koenig’s importance in keeping Hodgson’s name alive and it is a story that bears repeating. Koenig was a collector and fan of weird fiction who discovered Hodgson’s short story “The Voice in the Night” in the landmark collection, THEY WALK AGAIN, edited by Colin de la Mare in 1931. After that, Koenig made it his mission to learn more about Hodgson and collect everything he could that Hodgson had written.

Even still, the story might have ended there as well if it weren’t for the fact that Koenig was also a close friend of H. P. Lovecraft. In a gesture of largesse that is almost inconceivable these days, Koenig eagerly lent many of his books to his friends and he sent Hodgson’s four novels to Lovecraft for his perusal. Lovecraft was not kindly deposed to Hodgson at this time, having read the collection of Carnacki stories and not being particularly impressed. As such, Lovecraft put off reading the novels until 1934 when he became stunned by Hodgson’s imagination if not by his writing style. Eagerly, Lovecraft passed those four books along through his circle of literary friends which included Clark Ashton Smith and August Derleth.whh

Lovecraft had become so impressed with Hodgson that he actually revised his groundbreaking essay, “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, to include his new discovery. Unfortunately, the essay had been appearing in chapters in a fanzine which folded before it could print the part that included Hodgson but the essay remained and would later have a greater impact when reprinted by Arkham House. That single essay probably did more to create Hodgson readers than anything else, as now every Lovecraft fan would read it and want to read those books as well.

After Lovecraft’s death in 1938, his friends Donald Wandrei and August Derleth (remember him?) partnered together and founded Arkham House in an effort to keep Lovecraft’s name and works alive. Beyond Lovecraft, they accomplished much of the same for writers like Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard and even Hodgson. Finally breaking the dry spell, Arkham House published an omnibus volume of Hodgson in 1946 which included all four novels! The publication of this volume owed much, once again, to H.C. Koenig who had been working behind the scenes to place Hodgson’s stories in various pulps and to convince Derleth to be the first American publisher to release these novels.

AugustDerleth
August Derleth

Arkham House published a volume of Carnacki stories under their imprint Mycroft & Moran in 1947 which included three previously unpublished stories. And where did those stories come from? H. C. Koenig. Koenig was, at that time, in contact with Hodgson’s surviving sister who sent him many of Hodgson’s papers and manuscripts to further his efforts to place the work in American publications.

A third Arkham House volume of Hodgson stories, Deep Waters, would not appear until 1967. Much of the contents for this book had been arranged by Koenig as well but twenty years earlier. Arkham House had suffered through tight finances in the past two decades and it is possible that Derleth might have needed extra coaxing before finally releasing the third book.

Although Ace Books had released a paperback version of THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND in 1962, it wouldn’t be until the 1970s that Hodgson’s publishing history really picks up steam. Slowly, Hodgson began to appear more and more in paperback editions as well as some select hardcovers.

In 1975, Sam Moskowitz published OUT OF THE STORM: UNCOLLECTED FANTASIES (Donald M. Grant Publishers) which includes, for the first time, many forgotten Hodgson stories as well as Moskowitz’s massive essay on Hodgson and his work. It was a landmark in Hodgson criticism and study.

By the early 1980s, Hodgson is in full bloom with all of his novels, and the Carnacki collection, available from various publishers including Sphere in the UK, which spearheads the revival. Small publishers, like Ian Bell, begin to release important volumes which spread Hodgson’s influence and popularity.

Since then, Hodgson’s major works have never been out of print. The novels and major short stories are also available online. Small and genre publishers have taken up the standard and reprinted original editions as well as finding ‘forgotten’ and unpublished material. Hodgson is virtually ignored by major critics so these books have provided much scholarly criticism and study of Hodgson and his work.

If you want to read Hodgson today, you can do so very easily. You can go online or find POD volumes available through Amazon or second hand copies through places like eBay. This was not the case back in 1940 or 1960, or even as recently as 1980. That twenty four year period between the Holden & Hardingham editions and Arkham House’s THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND AND OTHER NOVELS were critical. Hodgson could have been completely forgotten and fallen into the type of obscurity that is the fate of many writers whether they deserve it or not. But he didn’t. So next time you read that Hodgson book or short story, give a minute of thanks to H. C. Koenig because, if not for him, you probably wouldn’t be able to.

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Time for an intermission. Coil were an English industrial music group formed in the 1980s by Balance and Christopherson. The group was described as cross-genre and experimental, and produced this unusual reading of Hodgson’s poem Grief.

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Feel better now? Right. The late Lin Carter was well known to many weird fiction enthusiasts for his editorial work on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. He also wrote a large number of fantasy novels, ranging from the derivative to the dubious. When you’re fourteen they can be fun, is the most I dare say here. For the purpose of greydogtales, however, we revisit his occult detective Anton Zarnack, courtesy of James Bojiacuk, who is clearly on a mission to connect everyone with everyone…

The House of Zarnak

To Rick Lai and Matthew Baugh

Parents are the baggage of biography. You cannot find a biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Winston Churchill which are not as much the story of their parents’ lives as their own. Even the medievals – who were, on the whole, much more focused on the germane – couldn’t resist telling us all kinds of stories about St. Augustine’s mother and King Arthur’s father. Yet when one turns up any word of Thomas Carnacki in the press, or finds his suspiciously slim entry in older editions of Oxford’s Dictionary of National Biography, there is no mention of his parents. But then, what are we to expect when so many books cannot find common ground about his birth year?

Turning to Dodgson and all his writings, we seem to stand on much the same ground. Carnacki’s mother plays a pivotal role in “The Searcher of the End House.” But it’s not seen fit to give us her name, her appearance, or the slightest scrap of her person. She is held back when we end up learning any amount about the two constables, the landlord, and the “ghost.” Strange indeed.

But in looking at what’s there, we miss what isn’t. Like Sherlock Holmes’ dog which did not bark in the night-time, the unsaid is more pertinent than the said.

There is no mention of his father.

The first conclusion is that Carnacki is illegitimate. However…
We should expect, in class-conscious times, that any suspicion of an illegitimate birth would be swept away. Even if it were not true, Carnacki should be expected to do away with his father in a pat sentence. He died of war, he died of consumption, he died of old age; if a cautionary tale is necessary, London is rich with vices just fatal enough to kill a figment. But Carnacki did not only fail to add such a sentence, he let this story run to print in The Idler and from thence into book form.

Therefore, Carnacki felt he had nothing in the world to hide. Therefore, Carnacki’s father was not only alive, but present enough that the man could be produced in case “The Searcher of the End House” gave rise to scandal. This leaves us with two possible conclusions:

A) Carnacki’s mother was separated, though not divorced, from his father.
B) Carnacki’s father’s work demanded his presence away from the UK for long periods of time.

In either case, we could assume the father would have the same surname. Considering the way work traditions were passed down from father to son, we could expect Carnacki Sr. and Jr. to work in the same field.

In most situations, this is where the line of reasoning would end. The father and mother would remain a mystery. There are neither facts to review nor theories to air—were it not for one piece of circumstantial evidence.

This piece of circumstantial evidence? There was a “Thomas Carnacki” active in the 1890s, an era that would’ve found Dodgson’s Carnacki too young for either reputation or work. At best, he’d be in his twenties, and quite possibly younger. This other Thomas Carnacki resides in two manuscripts supposed to have come from Dr. John Watson’s pen. One is generally accepted as genuine, the other is universally rejected.

Most researchers accept “The Antiquarian’s Niece” (edited by Barbara Hambly). Indeed, at the time of writing, most researchers accept her Carnacki as the same man Dodgson wrote about. However, the Carnacki present in this story is not Dodgson’s stout young man—he’s older, library-bound, and without any of his physical presence. He also invents a primitive proton pack—it’s strange to imagine a man possessing an offensive weapon would flee to the fort-like walls of a defensive pentacle.

“The Breath of God” (edited by Guy Adams) is not a reliable document. Many researchers outright reject it (I am specifically thinking of Sean Lee Levin, though he’s only one voice among the chorus). It’s impossible not to. The style is certainly not Watson’s, and the chronology of Holmes’ life is confused; John Silence is not only revealed to be a villain, but a villain who died before his canonical cases ever occurred; Carnacki is in his late thirties when he should still be in his twenties, and, even then, he acts nothing like the Thomas Carnacki we know so well; Alistair Crowley commits mass-murder, yet Sherlock Holmes allows him to live out his natural life. If ever a text could be rejected in a moment’s glance, it would be this. And yet—it’s tempting to believe there is some breath of truth in it. A slight, wheezy breath of the truth. We find a “Carnacki,” who could not possibly be Thomas Carnacki, in the right place at the right time to be the “Thomas Carnacki” found in “The Antiquarian’s Niece”; like the Carnacki found in Hamby’s manuscript, he possesses offensive weapons. Any forgery worth its salt would keep a well-known occultist confined to his proper decade, if nothing else. We can rest assured that the author was not Watson, and John Silence was not evil, and Holmes did not allow Crowley to get away with mass-murder. The author may only have pulled famous personalities from the papers, and strung them up for his or her own marionette show—but it proves a “fake” Thomas Carnacki was indeed operating in 1890s London.

Between the two accounts, we can fairly conclusively prove there was A) a “Carnacki” active in 1890s London and B) that this “Carnacki” is not the Thomas Carnacki Dodgson wrote of. We may tentatively assume this man was the Sr. to Dodgson’s Carnacki Jr. If we were to look for this man, then, we’re looking for a man who is 1) of the same profession as his son, 2) is a scholar, 3) possesses offensive spiritual weapons, 4) shares the name Carnacki (or, at the very least, some variant thereof), and 5) has a son in the same period that Dodgson’s Carnacki himself would be a child.

Only one man fits the above criteria: Anton Zarnak, supernatural sleuth.zarnakpic

1) That they work the same fields needs no further explanation.

2) Not only is Anton Zarnak’s library rich with rare and one of a kind works (cf. “Curse of the Black Pharaoh”), but, much more conclusively, he holds a certain office in the courts of the elder gods. He is their royal scholar (as seen in “Dope War of the Black Tong”).

3) Zarnak possesses a host of offensive weapons, including a wand that rarely leaves his side. (The wands and their various uses, additionally, have a certain resemblance to the “proton pack” he developed in “The Antiquarian’s Niece.”)

4) If we allow for the butchering that comes with immigration and English pronunciation, Zarnak and Carnacki share their surname. The flow from the Z to the C requires little work; many people coming west let the harder consonants, so common in their tongue, run to the softer sounds of English. Zs often weaken to Cs. The I further softens the name, sanding the hard AK into an A-KEY. It’s a calculated softening, one could say, from something hard and unfamiliar to something soft and as mysterious as lost Egypt (which was, at the time, a colonial holding and a sort of safe foreign mystery).  But if this is true, why preserve the name? In Price’s “Dope War of the Black Tong,” we learn that that Zarnak once reigned over the Tcho-Tcho. Indeed, his name is more properly rendered as Zhar-Nak, “the mouthpiece of Zhar.” Zarnak was a scholar working with the less antagonistic factions of the Elder Gods (Rick Lai’s “Fu Manchu vs. Cthulhu” is invaluable for piecing together this period of his life). In letting young Thomas retain the name, Zarnak is ensuring that A) any treaties of protection carry onto his son and B) that even after he’s gone, someone will be there to continue in his office (we see this acknowledged in Henderson’s “The Door,” though that occurred long after we may suppose Carnacki passed).

5) In “Curse of the Black Pharaoh,” we learn that Zarnak once had a wife and a son—but they were murdered by a werewolf. There is uncertainty about this. In his definitive “Anton Zarnak Chronology,” Matthew Baugh can only offer a scholarly shrug. If this happened, he supposes it happened c. 1896. It is suspicious that Zarnak once had a wife and child, in the late Victorian era, but both of whom disappeared; and yet, in pursuing Carnacki’s past, we find a mother and child, with the very same surname, travelling alone in that same era. It is too convenient to suppose these are unrelated, or that the mother and son found in Carnacki’s account are not the “lost” mother and son from Zarnak’s. Considering Zarnak’s dangerous history, and his host of enemies, it may have suited him to fake their deaths and have them live in secret peace, while he raised Carnacki up in his traditions.

Taking Occam’s razor in hand (while taking all our facts in mind), we can suppose that: A) Thomas Carnacki is the son of Anton Zarnak; B) Carnacki was blessed to carry on Zarnak’s work, which he did; C) for whatever reason, Zarnak faked the deaths of his wife and son and took up the act of widower. This is all safe. This can all be supported and argued.

But a less-cautious researcher has enough bricks to build a castle out of clouds. What’s to say that Zarnak did not leave Burma with a Tcho-Tcho bride? What’s to say that the reason Carnacki did not describe his mother in his reminiscence, nor even name her, was because doing so would reveal her race and put them in danger? What’s to say that the reason Carnacki is never described in any of Dodgson’s writings is, simply, because he could not be revealed as half Tcho-Tcho? There’s nothing to say otherwise. But, then again, there’s nothing to confirm the least jot of this paragraph.

Let the reader decide.

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There you are, reader – you decide. Should James be admitted to High Helmsley Asylum, or should he be allowed to roam free?

lastborderland

Coming at the end of this week, the very last William Hope Hodgson tribute article ever ever ever. Probably. You might as well tune in, dear listener…

 

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The Writer on the Borderland 9: An Editor Calls

Well, Land o’ Goshen and spit in my grits – greydogtales is almost scholarly today. We have H P Lovecraft on Hodgson, editor James Bojaciuk analysing the entity ‘The Hog’ (and involving Lewis Carroll at the same time), and our usual oddities. Throughout this concluding  week we’ll look at William Hope Hodgson themes, commentaries and legacies.

An oddity first. We offer you the only US film version of Hodgson’s story The Voice in the Night. This was aired as part of the mystery series, Suspicion (1957-1958). The executive producer of the series was a guy called Hitchcock. Never heard of him. The actors included Barbara Rush of It Came from Outer Space, James Coburn and Patrick McNee! It’s a bit dark, by the way. Literally.

We did say we’d have some more critical commentary on Hodgson, so it’s only proper to start with H P Lovecraft, from his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature (revised until 1927). As Carnacki and The Night Land have been well covered here, it seemed only fair to concentrate on some of Hodgson’s other fiction:

“Of rather uneven stylistic quality, but vast occasional power in its suggestion of lurking worlds and beings behind the ordinary surface of life, is the work of William Hope Hodgson, known today far less than it deserves to be. Despite a tendency toward conventionally sentimental conceptions of the universe, and of man’s relation to it and to his fellows, Mr. Hodgson is perhaps second only to Algernon Blackwood in his serious treatment of unreality. Few can equal him in adumbrating the nearness of nameless forces and monstrous besieging entities through casual hints and insignificant details, or in conveying feelings of the spectral and the abnormal in connection with regions or buildings.

“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 House on the Borderland (1908) — perhaps the greatest of all Mr. Hodgson’s works — tells of a lonely and evilly regarded house in Ireland which forms a focus for hideous otherworld forces and sustains a siege by blasphemous hybrid anomalies from a hidden abyss below. The wanderings of the Narrator’s spirit through limitless light-years of cosmic space and Kalpas of eternity, and its witnessing of the solar system’s final destruction, constitute something almost unique in standard literature. And everywhere there is manifest the author’s power to suggest vague, ambushed horrors in natural scenery. But for a few touches of commonplace sentimentality this book would be a classic of the first water.

“The Ghost Pirates (1909), regarded by Mr. Hodgson as rounding out a trilogy with the two previously mentioned works, is a powerful account of a doomed and haunted ship on its last voyage, and of the terrible sea-devils (of quasi-human aspect, and perhaps the spirits of bygone buccaneers) that besiege it and finally drag it down to an unknown fate. With its command of maritime knowledge, and its clever selection of hints and incidents suggestive of latent horrors in nature, this book at times reaches enviable peaks of power.”

And if you want to get seriously critical, then we recommend the book Voices from the Borderland, edited by Massimo Berruti, S T Joshi and Sam Gafford, one of the collaborators in this tribute:

voicescriticVoices from the Borderland

With refence to last week’s Night Land feature, I recently came across an interesting comment by E F Blieler, an editor who introduced Dover’s collections of ghost stories and who wrote A Guide to Supernatural Fiction (1983).

“As for The Night Land: It’s a mess. In my Hodgson paper in Supernatural Fiction Writers I said, “It is hard to think of another situation in which a reasonably competent author has so mangled a good idea.” Despite this, I would keep it in print for its visionary and emotional qualities. It’s what Orwell would call a good bad book.”

Actually, I’d have said that Hodgson was a good author who misjudged his approach to a quite astonishing idea, but let’s not argue, girls.

lastborderland

Now, for a somewhat different look at Hodgson’s ideas, we have James Bojaciuk on the nature of WHH’s Hog, in A Concluding Oink. This was first heard, give or take a word, in Sam Gafford’s excellent Sargasso (The Journal of William Hope Hodgson Studies), Issue 2.

A Concluding Oink

There is nothing more precious than what has been lost.

We will always long for John Watson’s tin dispatch box, for we will never discover the particulars of the lighthouse, politician, and the trained cormorant, nor we will ever uncover the truth behind the Giant Rat of Sumatra (for which, even now, the world is unprepared to learn). Carnacki, the infamous Ghost-Finder, leaves us in a similar bind. Dodgson, the biographer, and Hodgson, the literary agent, never saw fit to tell us the “horrible Black Veil business,” where young Aster died and Carnacki was only saved by the water circle. Nor could they bring themselves to certify the Yellow Finger Experiments. Carnacki’s history is at a loss.

There is one such case we can track and, in fact, track past Carnacki’s conclusion to its blasphemous source. In “The Whistling Room,” Carnacki tells his dinner party that this case was “no mere Aeiirii development; but one of the worst forms, as the Saiitii; like that ‘Grunting Man’ case—you know.” We may imagine that Dodgson and all nodded in perfect understanding. We, however, are left befuddled. We are only honorary dinner guests, and such tales are not for us.

Yet, Carnacki would tell his guests of another—or, perhaps, the same—grunting man. In “The Hog” we receive a shower of details: a man, Bains, arrives on Carnacki’s doorstep. He believes himself mad. Every night he dreams he is separated from his body and hounded through an incomprehensible maze. Pig-men give chase; they squeal, loudly, speaking to each other in grunts and ineffable oinks. Suddenly, Bains finds himself oinking in their choir. Carnacki attempts a sleep experiment but, as so often happens in occult detection, everything goes terribly wrong.

“As the rolling chaos of swine melody beat itself away on every side, there came booming through it a single grunt, the single recurring grunt of the HOG; for I knew now that I was actually and without doubt hearing the beat of monstrosity, the HOG.” The Sigsand Manuscript, that anchor of strength and sanity which whispers the seductive whisper that yes, men can hold back the dark, recoils from the Hog. It is something that terrifies his scarred old soul. The Hog is an Outer Monstrosity, Sigsand knows, and “in ye earlier life upon the world did the Hogge have power, and shall again in ye end. And in that ye Hogge had once a power upon ye earth, so doeth he crave sore to come again.”

We shall not go mightly in depth into Carnacki’s technology. That is a topic deserving an essay all its own. But some words must be spared to explain the following: Carnacki had devised an ingenious “color defense.” A number of circular light bulbs primed in different colors: combinations could bring about protection (green or blue “God’s color in the heavens”) or summon all Hell’s children (“…reds and purple… are fairly dangerous… [and]’focus’ outside forces”). To the spirit world, these circles of light project a dome against—or encouraging—influence.

The Hog, which Sigsand knew to be terrified off, enters Carnacki’s light defense through Bains, calling out to him as a mother to her sow.hogge

I must take umbrage with a fellow scholar. Neal Alan Spurlock’s article “Ab-Reality: The Metaphysical Vision of William Hope Hodgson” (Sargasso #1) states the Hog “is not really a single entity, per se; instead, it seems to embody all the pig/swine-related beings, a sort of totem for their species, and the species itself seems merely to be a product of a momentary mixture of human and ab-human, only possible in the borderland space of the House and its surrounding area. The swine-things only exist in a particular moment in time…” (133-4). This is very good scholarship when it comes to digging deep into Hodgson’s themes and, I may admit, made my third rereading of The House on the Borderland all the more enjoyable. Yet, if we were to look at The House on the Borderland and “The Hog” as two pieces of a Hodgsonian universe, this piece of Mr. Spurlock’s theory falls away. The Hog becomes elevated from a momentary manifestation snorting through our history into something abnormal and indefatigable: something which the Recluse could only watch in horror, barely protected by a psychic bubble; something that terrified Sigsand; something Carnacki, for all his technology and knowledge, was unable to counter.

In this view, the ab-natural is not merely momentary: it is eternal.
But let us touch on Spurlock again: though one of his theories has been pushed away, he makes a thrust which pins the Hog’s nature: “The threat is entropy itself, the rule of time, the tendency of all things, matter and energy, to decay into less and less structured forms. The threat comes into our universe not spatially, but temporally, from the future. For it is the breakdown of matter and energy that allows for this alien force to invade at all. The future—the far future—is not where the enemy wins the war and occupies our territory, but where the enemy begins their existence and thrives, just as our form of life thrived at our end of time. They are at their most powerful in the highly entropic universe near the end and we, as highly complex… entities, are proportionately weakened. This process… forces… our Human-Current to fall, and the Hog-Current to arise” (132-3). From only the data available in The House on the Borderland, this is an admirable survey of the state of Hodgson’s universe. Man can only live in a small, shrinking hospitable zone (or, for clarity, a space of time) with entropic forces closing in.

What this analysis misses is a key quote from the Sigsand Manuscript: “in ye earlier life upon the world did the Hogge have power, and shall again in ye end.” From dust to dust, from entropy to entropy; what thou wert, thou shall be. The universe began in a state which promoted Hog-kind. The universe ends in a state hospitable to Hog-kind. We exist in a small temperate zone where the “Hog-Current” cannot exist and we thrive. The Hog can only appear briefly under ideal conditions. It seems the Hog can recruit members of humanity into its entropic race. It had nearly absorbed Bains. We are left to wonder if the rest of the Hog’s swine things—which pursued Bains nightly—are other men it has stolen. We do not know the scope of its activities.

Entropy acts as an infection: it latches onto men. The stable routine of existence (our superficial complexities) are attacked first: Bains can no longer sleep. This allows the Hog—and its ilk—to step in and begin to claim his mind. In this way, the Hog collects followers in every age and place: agents of entropy ready to be deployed (much like the attacking army of swine-things in The House on the Borderland). Dreams are the only thing sufficiently entropic to allow the Hog entry: thus it was with Bains (and, perhaps, thus it was for Lady Mirdath and the Narrator from The Night Land). If, as Spurlock suggests, time is no barrier for the Hog, then perhaps Bains was intended to be one of the attacking force.

When Carnacki encountered the Hog it was, in fact, stopped. But not by Carnacki. He and all his colors were useless. An outside agent appeared and blasted the Hog back to its home. Perhaps this agent was God, perhaps a god, perhaps an angel, perhaps something other: Carnacki gives us the clearest view of his universe’s spectral-epistemology, but he never gives us a clear look at the “positive” (i.e. non-entropic) forces.

Carnacki ends his adventure as confounded as we are. He has no answer. He is merely relieved the ordeal is over. Yet, we can track the Hog’s trail further. In 1908, Hodgson edited a small volume which two campers discovered in the Irish woods. They were Tonnison and Berreggnog, two stout men who ran back to civilization after finding a river—and by that river the wreck of the house—and inside that wreck of a house, a tattered, water-washed book. The writer of the book is unknown: he came to that wreck of a house when it still stood whole. He brought provisions, he brought money, he brought his sister, he brought his dog, he brought all of his advancing years and aging bones.

017

He bought the house to die in it; he succeeded, but he had to watch the house die first. We shall call him, as Hodgson did, the Recluse.

The swine-things re-emerge: they swarm his house, seeking entry. We shall deal with his description of them further in this article. Unfortunately, Carnacki left us no note of the swine-things’ appearance. We can only compare the pig-men Bains encountered and the swine-things the Recluse encountered in one area: sound.
The Recluse described the swine-things’ sound as: “Out in the gardens rose a continuous sound. It might have been mistaken… for the grunting and squealing of a herd of pigs. But, as I stood there, it came to me that there was sense and meaning to all these swinish noises. Gradually, I seemed to be able to trace a semblance in it to human speech… it was no mere medley of sounds; but a rapid interchange of ideas.”

Bains described the grunts as “It’s just like pigs grunting… only much more awful. All the grunts, squeals and howls blend into one brutal chaos of sound—only it isn’t a chaos. It all blends in a queer horrible way. I’ve heard it. A sort of swinish clamouring melody that grunts and roars and shrieks in chunks of grunting sounds, all tied together with squealing’s and shot through with pig howls. I’ve sometimes thought there was a definite beat in it…”

These descriptions are virtually identical: A continual sound; grunts as if from a herd of pigs; the sense that the grunts are not random, but part of a pattern. This weighs strongly in favor of the proposition that the unseen pig-men encountered by Carnacki and the swine-things encountered by the Recluse are in fact the same species.
Let us consider their god.

The Recluse was subject to a series of visions: vast, apocalyptic visions which left him witness to the death of the universe, or to a not-quite-existent-plane. In one of these visions he found himself in another world. The House sat on that plane. Up around it rose great, bestial “statues.” These “statues” were not things of stone and steel, but living beings locked into an immortal “life-in-death.” Some readers may be reminded of the Necronomicon’s infamous couplet: “That is not dead which can eternal lie, / and with strange aeons even death may die.”

The Recluse recognized two of these gods: “I knew that I was looking at a monstrous representation of Kali, the Hindu goddess of death… My glance fell back upon the huge beast-headed Thing. Simultaneously, I recognized it for the ancient Egyptian god Set, or Seth, the Destroyer of Souls…‘The old gods of mythology!’” (see also greydog note at end) What is the researcher to do with this?

Perhaps…

First, many—if not all—of the world’s myths are accounts of the Outer Monstrosities at work in the world of man: scribes rationalized them, sanitized them. They rewrote their gods and made them safe. Homer took them, took them softly, and bound the gods up from what may have been the Outer Monstrosities infesting men and creating a war full of blood sacrifices into a tale of honor, heroism, and the waste of war; Akhenaten discovered that his peoples’ mythology was built on worshipping the monsters that sought to kill them and absorb their world into chaos. He came in contact with the all-powerful, holy God who protected Carnacki in “The Hog” and sought to change his nation’s worship to righteousness.

Perhaps…

The statues were merely what the Recluse’s mind perceived them as: the closest equivalent to what he could understand were the old gods. Therefore his mind substituted the myth for blasphemes.

Perhaps…

The statues’ purpose is so far beyond us that we, wretched mortals that we are, could ever comprehend.

We must pause our theorization as he did. The Recluse was not alone on that plane. Among these “statues” lurked the Hog. Let us compare the Recluse’s description with Carnacki’s. The Recluse described the Hog as “a gigantic thing, and moved with a curious lope, going almost upright, after the manner of a man. It was quite unclothed, and had a remarkable luminous appearance. Yet it was the face that attracted and frightened me the most. It was the face of a swine.”

Carnacki described it as “I seemed to be staring down into miles of black Aether at something that hung there—a pallid face floating far down and remote—a great swine face. And as I gazed I saw it grow bigger. A seemingly motionless, pallid swine-face rising upward out of the depth. And suddenly I realized I was actually looking at the Hog… It stuck me that it glowed very slightly—just a vague luminosity.”

As with the swine-things, the two descriptions of the Hog itself. are virtually identical: gigantic, swine-faced, luminous. The safe, sane conclusion is that the Hog which Carnacki met and the Hog which the Recluse met are, in fact, the same creature.

Thus we seem to have come to the end of the rope: we know the Hog’s goal (to expand the time of its own possible existence by introducing entropy into our own era); we know the Hog’s methods (forming an army of swine-things; swine-things are produced by invading the dreams [i.e. personal reality] of common men); we know the Hog has been encountered by both Carnacki and the Recluse; we know that the Hog is ultimately victorious. The House on the Borderland is destroyed; it seems the house is—or is one of—the linchpins holding reality together. The Recluse, in a vision, watches the final destruction. We know all—and shudder.

But If I may be forgiven a whimsy, we may yet follow the hog tracks deeper into Hell. Consider what Berreggnog and Tonnison found near the ruins of the House: “And then, without any warning whatsoever, the river we had followed so confidently, came to an abrupt end—vanishing into the earth.” And then, a touch later, the men came across “a great open space, where, not six paces in front of us, yawned the mouth of a tremendous chasm… The abyss was, as Tonnison put it, like nothing so much as a gigantic well or pit going sheer down into the bowels of the earth.” Upon their exit from the ruins, Tonnison and Berreggnog were pursued by the man-like things which inhabited the forest.

Thus we can begin to build a profile for the hog-entrances to this world: near a river (good, good), a forest filled with man-like animals (fascinating), and a pit which drops to the bowels of the earth (very good). It should be expected that whoever descends will come face-to-face with the swine-things.

These are exactly the conditions met with by the most famous of subterranean explorers. I am not speaking of Arne Saknussemm, nor Otto Lidenbrock, nor David Innes. Instead, I am speaking of someone far more honored and far more eminent than they: Alice Liddell.

That Alice Liddell. The one who began “to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the [river] bank.” The one who looked into the thick bushes and saw “a rabbit. . .with a waistcoat-pocket, [and] a watch to take out of it.” The one who fell down a tunnel which “dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well… down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end?”

The Alice Liddell, in short, whose first journey to Wonderland conforms to every one of the items we should expect from a portal into the Hog’s world.  If Spurlock is correct that the Hog is a being of pure entropy, then we have found its home. This may seem insane, yet, consider: Wonderland is a place where entropy is consuming the physical world.Alice_and_pig_baby

Space is wrong. One must run—run as fast as one can, faster than a train—in order to stay in the same place; however, standing still will move you across the countryside at impossible speeds. At other times, as Achilles and the Tortoise discovered, movement is literally impossible. There is an infinite gulf of space between the merest footstep (for example, suppose you wanted to move an inch: that inch can be divided to one-half, one-fourth, one-eighth, one-sixteenth, one-thirty-second, one-sixty-fourth, and so on, forever. In our place and time, it’s a mathematical trick. In Wonderland, on occasion, it’s an unalterable law. Movement is impossible).

Time is wrong. As the Red Queen said to Alice, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.” With entropic memories that work in all directions—I am not so limited to confine entropic minds to two directions—Wonderlandians punish criminals, then hold a trial, then allow the crime to be committed. “…there’s the King’s Messenger. He’s in prison now, being punished: and the trial doesn’t even begin till next Wednesday: and of course the crime comes last of all.” Time has so far broken down that cause and effect no longer operate. Wonderland is a society on the edge of entropic dissolution.

The reader may already be asking: what about the swine-things?
Swing-things are born here. It is as Spurlock suggested. The Hog and its children come from the end of entropy’s rule. The Hog, for convenience, may create swine-things in any age (consider the unfortunate Bains) but the bulk of its army comes from this dissolute age.

In her first adventure in Wonderland, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, Alice stumbles into a peppery kitchen. A Duchess and a Cook and a Baby, screamingly madly, sneezing madly, singing madly, in a cacophony of spice. The Duchess gives Alice the Baby; Alice takes it, without complaint, feeling it would be murder to leave it behind.

Consider the description of the baby.

“Alice caught the baby with some difficulty, as it was a queer-shaped little creature, and held out its arms and legs in all directions, ‘just like a star-fish,’ thought Alice… The baby grunted again, and Alice looked very anxiously into its face to see what was the matter with it. There could be no doubt that it had a very turned-up nose, much more like a snout than a real nose; also its eyes were getting extremely small for a baby: altogether Alice did not like the look of the thing at all. ‘But perhaps it was only sobbing,’ she thought, and looked into its eyes again, to see if there were any tears. No, there were no tears.”

Thus is Alice’s description of the baby-pig. Let us compare it to the Recluse’s description of the swine-things. “The nose was prolonged into a snout… I think it was the eyes that attracted me the most; they seemed to glow, at times, with a horribly human intelligence, and kept flickering away from my face… [the swine-thing’s claws] bore an indistinct resemblance to human hands, in that they had four fingers and a thumb; though these were webbed up to the first joint, much as are a duck’s… I may explain my feeling better by saying that it was more a sensation of abhorrence; such as one my expect to feel, if brought in contact with something superhumanly foul.”

Can there be any doubt that what Alice described as “tears” that weren’t tears is the Recluse’s horrible “glow”? Can there be any doubt that what Alice described as a “very turned-up nose” was the Recluse’s “nose… prolonged into a snout”? Can there be any doubt that the appendages Alice described as “like a star-fish” are not the same nubby, webbed appendages the Recluse described? Can there be any doubt that what Alice described as “not [liking] the look of the thing at all” is the Recluse’s “sensation of abhorrence”?

There cannot.

What of the Duchess? We are provided with two distinct possibilities. First, she was exactly what she seems: an entropically-insane noblewoman whose baby was chosen by the Hog. Second, she was far more than she seems: an aspect or manifestation of the Hog itself. Alice does not describe her. The illustration amended to her account shows a huge, swinish head.

What we know is this: Alice encountered the swine-things at their birth. We do not know how they form, save that they reshape a human body to a hoggish mien. We do not know the intimate details of their biology, save that which Alice and the Recluse witnessed in passing. We know nothing. Only three facts are evident: First, the Hog is eternal; Second, the Hog is encroaching on our existence, making agents in every time and place; Third, as Carnacki and the Recluse attest, the Hog will win.

Back in Wonderland, the infant swine-thing slipped out of Alice’s arms and ran away, squealing, leaving us with a concluding oink.

greydog adds: Listeners might also note that the Egyptian god Set was connected with the Hog quite directly. Set was, amongst other things, the Black Boar who swallowed the moon each month, obscuring its light, and was associated with the pig in its role as an ‘unclean’ animal. This suggests that the pharaonic Egyptians were already well acquainted with the danger posed by the Hog.

Yet to come this week: Short essays, an interview with Sam Gafford, the last few links and a general dissolution into exhausted protoplasm…

 

 

 

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