Xlibris Publishing embarks upon a series of blog entries, exploring obscure and near forgotten works of science-fiction, fantasy, and horror. The aim of this series is to raise awareness of past authors and forays into the above genres. In some cases the authors and works of the past have influenced the authors and works of the modern day. We hope to surprise readers with works of imagination far ahead of what would be expected. Forgotten Fiction begins with William Hope Hodgson.
Who is William Hope Hodgson?
An English author who lived between 1877 and 1918, William Hope Hodgson’s work includes essays, short fiction, and novels that often mixing the genres of horror, adventure, and science-fiction. Hodgson was noted for incorporating his past experiences as a sailor to enhance and enrich his stories, as seen in his Sargasso Sea Stories. Other notable work by Hodgson includes The House on the Borderland, The Night Land, The Ghost Pirates, and Carnacki: the Ghost Finder, some of which we will summarize below.
Carnacki: the Ghost Finder
If you are looking to be frightened and thrilled by ghost stories, then look no further than Carnacki: the Ghost Finder. Hodgson’s collection of occult mysteries follows the titular Ghost Finder on some of his cases, either to disprove a haunting or to lay a ghost to rest. While not all the ghosts turn out to be real, Hodgson balances detail with narrative to craft some of the most sinister haunting in literature.
The stories are framed in narrative recounting by dinner guests of Carnacki, as the Ghost Finder himself regales his guests with stories of his cases. Carnacki approaches his cases, and thus his recounting, with a scientific approach reminiscent of a gentleman scholar, skeptical of the supernatural yet willing to accept its involvement should evidence prove differently.
The Ghost Pirates
The Ghost Pirates is like something out of the Twilight Zone, the story of a voyage that starts slightly eerie and descends into eldritch horror. Horror and weird fiction writer, H.P. Lovecraft describes The Ghost Pirates as “a powerful account of a doomed and haunted ship,” haunted and stalked by strange buccaneers of an unknowable and inhuman nature.
The novel is framed as the personal accounting by the protagonist and narrator Jessop, the sole survivor of the ship Mortzestus. Over the course of the novel a supposedly routine voyage becomes increasingly dangerous and terrifying as Jessop takes note of strange occurrences and sightings of vaguely human shaped figures. Sightings become mishaps, mishaps become lethal accidents, until the ‘ghost pirates’ forgo subtlety and descend upon the ship’s crew in one last night of terror.