15 September 2006

Expanding the Wikipedia Entries

I received a copy of Out of the Storm, but the paperback edition I purchased does not have the Moskovitz introduction! So I've ordered another copy, this time of the original hardcover edition. When I receive it, perhaps I can expand the biographical information on Hodgson contained in the Wikipedia entry.

Meanwhile, I have been gradually adding more material about Hodgson's works, in particular his miscellaneous short stories (those not featuring a recurring character). I wrote entries for "Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani" and also for "The Derelict." I was working my way through the Carnacki stories from 427 Cheye Walk, but Isaac said they were giving him nightmares, so we set aside that series. Instead I'm working on the miscellaneous stories in volume 2 of the Collected Fiction. I have read these once, but some did not stick in my mind very much (in fact, not all of them are terribly good). So far, these are "The Goddess of Death," "Terror of the Water Tank," and "Bullion."

As I go, I'm compiling a list of motifs that seem to commonly pop up in Hodgson's stories. Here are a few of the motifs I've catalogued: a secret passage; strangulation; knockout gas; events that appear to be supernatural but really aren't; an ancient idol; a faint sound of mysterious origin; a tendency for things to happen in threes. There are some less savory motifs such as Anglocentrism and outright racism as well. I'm naming these motifs and eventually will probably compile some kind of concordance of them. What is the point? Well, it provides a bit of insight into Hodgson's process. In his novel The Night Land he went whole-hog into his own vision and style, but when he started writing short stories for magazine publication he seemed, at least initially, to write in very formulaic ways, although his later stories became much more fluid and daring.

The process has gone approximately like this: first, read one of the stories aloud as a bedtime story to my family. We discuss it, and talk about vocabulary, structure, and motifs, and what is good or bad about the story. I may take some quick notes. The next day, if I get time, or maybe the day after that, I write the summary, then perhaps revise it later. It's a slow process, but I'm in no great hurry.

It has occurred to me that I could just record the bedtime story readings and then add Creative Commons music. This might work if it were just Grace and Isaac listening, but unfortunately Veronica tends to talk over a lot of the story, and if I had a microphone set up she would want to play with it. But I will figure out another way to bring some of these stories alive as podcasts in the near future.

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!