I just finished William Hope Hodgson‘s The Boats of Glen Carrig, a bizarre novella about the ill-fated adventures of a group of sailors stuck in a boat after their ship sinks. They come across a huge portion of ocean covered in seaweed, and eventually, to their relief, they discover a small island. But there are hideous things among the seaweed–including giant crabs and colossal octopuses–and worse things on the island itself.
I read Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland earlier this year. Hodgson was one of H.P. Lovecraft’s influences, but I have to say, when it comes to inventing disturbing creatures and a genuinely creepy, “weird” atmosphere, I think that, for me, Hodgson actually beats HPL. There are no cosmic explanations for Hodgson’s blasphemies, no ruminations on man’s insignificance in the universe; his heroes are not overthinking intellectuals who end up being driven mad by the implications of what they witness, but normal men and women who, though horrified by what they encounter, simply deal with it and do their best to forget about it later–like most people would do.
And the creatures…! Pasty white swine-things (in The House on the Borderland) and the “Weed-men” of Glen Carrig…I found the narrator’s impressions of the Weed-men to be even more disturbing than Lovecraft’s famous description of the dying Wilbur Whateley in “The Dunwich Horror.”
Hodgson also writes in a far less mannered style than Lovecraft. In his essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature,” Lovecraft says of Glen Carrig, “[Hodgson’s] inaccurate and pseudo-romantic attempt to reproduce eighteenth-century prose detracts from the general effect.” I find this comment amusing, since one could very easily say the same of Lovecraft’s own work (though in his case, it’s nineteenth-century prose); and I find his style to be more difficult to get through than Hodgson’s.
Hodgson has also been accused of adding too much of a “romantic” atmosphere to his tales. Being moi, I appreciate this aspect of his writing; God forbid a weird tale from this era acknowledge the existence of women (as anything other than a witch, that is).
I like this William Hope Hodgson. The House on the Borderland is just as weird as Glen Carrig, if not more so, and includes some genuinely stunning (and disturbing) descriptions of horrific and cosmic events. Hodgson isn’t as weighed down by the eccentricities, idiosyncracies, or obsessions that mark–and sometimes mar–Lovecraft’s work. I recommend Glen Carrig–or any of Hodgson’s work–to Lovecraft fans.