08 September 2006

Hodgson on Wikipedia, Hodgson on My Shelf

I have been expanding the Hodgson-related entries on Wikipedia. I've written the entries for Captain Gault, Captain Jat, and D.C.O. Cargunka, and added story summaries for most of the Carnacki stories.

I've recently purchased a couple of books of Hodgson fan fiction:

427 Cheyne Walk: Carnacki: The Untold Stories contains a dozen more stories about Carnacki. I've read the first two stories to my family as bedtime stories, and added information about the book and summaries of the first two stories to the Carnacki page on Wikipedia as well. So far, I'm moderately impressed; the first two stories are variations on themes explored by Hodgson, but they are very well-done, fleshing out the "Moving Fur" (or "Noving Fur") and "Black Veil" cases that Hodgson alludes to. The stories have not really blown me away yet, but there are ten more to go. If the collection is organized as it should be, things ought to get much more interesting very soon.

William Hope Hodgson's Night Lands: Eternal Love is a collection of stories set in the Night Land universe. I have not started reading this collection properly yet, but just picked at it. I am especially looking forward to John C. Wright's story "Awake in the Night." I am a fan of Wright's work after reading The Golden Age trilogy; I am actually re-reading it this month.

Now is a good time to be a Hodgson fan. If you tried to track down all of Hodgson's fiction a few years ago, before the publication of The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson from Night Shade Books, you probably had a very hard time: much of it had not been reprinted for decades, some was uncollected since its original magazine publication, and you would have had to purchase a lot of rare and expensive editions to find everything.

The situation with Hodgson's poetry is not so good, though. There is a new book, The Lost Poetry of William Hope Hodgson, edited by Jane Frank, which brings together three books of poetry as Hodgson originally arranged them, but although it includes 43 previously unpublished poems, it is not complete; it contains some, but not all, of the poems that were printed in the two collections published by Hodgson's widow, long out of print and now scarce. I'm wondering if I'm going to have to buy a copy of The Calling of the Sea, which collects those two collections, from 1977. That book is also out of print and expensive, although almost an order of magnitude less so than the original collections. It isn't quite clear to me whether the combination of those two books will actually net me all of Hodgson's poems, although I think I can figure that out very soon when I sift through some more bibliographies.

Hodgson's poetry does not have a great reputation. I agree with the general consensus that much of it is not very good, and especially, not very original. It's hard to write a good poem, and easy to write something which reads just like a bad version of something you just read by another writer. However, last night I read aloud three poems, all from "Spume," the third collection Hodgson organized, and all printed in The Lost Poetry. I was favorably impressed, and I'd like to promote more interest in Hodgson's poetry.

I'm bummed by the idea that works written a hundred years ago may still be under copyright, which means I may not be able to freely use them in my podcast. I have "contact Jane Frank" on my list of things to do, to see if I might be able to secure her permission to record some of the poems from The Lost Poetry.

I also bought a copy of The Wandering Soul: Glimpses of Life, which is a collection of papers from the Sam Moskowitz collection edited by Jane Frank. It is great stuff: photographs, a ship's log, non-fiction articles, Hodgson's promotional materials for his body-building business, etc. I am hoping to use it to flesh out the Wikipedia biography a bit. Biographical material by Hodgson is a bit hard to come by. I have ordered a copy of the collection Out of the Storm, edited by Moskowitz, because it contains a 100-page biographical essay about Hodgson. Apparently there are two more, written for the collections The Haunted "Pampero" and Terrors of the Sea. I may have to buy those, too.

It sounds like there is a need for two more books to accompany The Collected Fiction of William Hope Hodgson. One is a collection of all his poems, and one is a collection of all the biographical materials that can be found, written by Moskovitz and others, perhaps along with some criticism. Is there a market for such a thing? The permissions would probably be much harder to manage than the actual editing!


balkaster said...

And nice work it is. I despaired that no one would flesh it out, and as a neophyte I could not do so myself. I've corrected a few typos, but mostly I was amazed that there are now also subsidiary articles, such as "Electric Pentacle". You say that the stories have been out of print for years, but they've been available in various places on the web (notably Blackmask and Project Gutenberg) in plain text form for years. There was also a UK role playing game, Forgotten Futures, which included the entire "Carnacki" series in plain text as source material (complete with line art scans of the original Idler illustrations). That game was only available online as a zipped archive, but it recently has gone into new development and may now include additional material. I am the one who added the brief paragraph about the Rivals of Sherlock Holmes adaptation; I only wish I remembered enough to start an article on that programme, as it is not available anywhere in any form and is nearly forgotten today.

Paul R. Potts said...

Thank you for the comment... I have written some of those subsidiary articles including the one on the electric pentacle. I would like to flesh out the Carnacki page just a bit more; in particular, "The Hog" is one of his most interesting stories and includes several additional Carnacki inventions. I am continuing to work on the stories as I get time.

I will try to clarify the situation with respect to availability of the different stories in electronic form. I know the Carnacki material is available from various sources, and I've found some stories such as "The Derelict" and "Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani" in the Gaslight archive, but it seems like the bulk of Hodgson's short stories are not available online yet. If there isn't one already please feel free to put in a section with links to the Forgotten Futures material as a Carnacki-derived work.