What would you define as weird fiction? Supernatural creatures? Occult happenings in the dead of night? In the realm of weird fiction nothing is off limits. The genre has been popularised by writing greats such as H.P Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen. A name that deserves to be mentioned alongside them is William Hope Hodgson, an author who blended the bizarre with the banal.
The Weird Tales of William Hope Hodgson feature ten short stories that delve into the horror of the unknown. I was given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Readers with weak constitutions take heed. Here be monsters.
Tales of suspense
The collection begins with a helpful introduction from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes on Hodgson’s life. The British author died at the Battle of Ypres during the First World War, which may have been a contributing factor to why his work was lost to history for so long. Hodgson was a sailor for many years and his connection to the sea is felt throughout the anthology.
‘A Tropical Horror’ kicks of the nautical theme with a bang. An unsuspecting crew are set upon by an otherworldly creature, which made me think of Lovecraft’s ‘Call of Cthulhu.’ The second story, ‘The Voice in The Night,’ deals with the madness of strange sounds, while ‘Out of the Storm’ focuses on the destructiveness of the ocean. Hodgson deserves praise for his monstrous inventiveness. His characters are frequently cast adrift and forced to face horrors like a man-eating ship and parasitic fungus.
Hodgson also explores the occult with his detective character, Carnacki. Stories like ‘The Whistling Room’ and ‘The Hog’ deal with themes of paranoia, suspense and hysteria. Carnacki is an intriguing character in that he investigates hoaxes and genuine supernatural phenomenon. His approach is built around scientific explanation, yet he employs occult tactics like drawing pentagrams in the floor. In my opinion, the strongest Carnacki tale is ‘The Horse of the Invisible,’ which blurs the line between magic and reality.
A feeling of dread
Creating a feeling of dread is Hodgson’s greatest strength. His language conjures an impending sense of doom and the reader is left pondering as to whether there really are things that go bump in the night.
However, Hodgson’s style is one of his shortcomings. In a lot of his stories it felt like he was repeating himself and some sentences felt like a slog to get through. Nevertheless, the author’s status as one of the founding fathers of weird fiction is undisputed.
The Weird Tales of William Hope Hodgson is an entertaining collection that is sure to grab the attention of speculative fiction fans. Buy it now online.