THE NIGHT LAND
August 15, 2023
Under the direction of HILOBROW’s Josh Glenn, the MIT Press’s RADIUM AGE series is reissuing notable proto-sf stories from the underappreciated era between 1900–1935.
In these forgotten classics, sf readers will discover the origins of enduring tropes like robots (berserk or benevolent), tyrannical supermen, dystopias and apocalypses, sinister telepaths, and eco-catastrophes.
With new contributions by historians, science journalists, and sf authors, the Radium Age book series will recontextualize the breakthroughs and biases of these proto-sf pioneers, and chart the emergence of a burgeoning literary genre.
Today marks the publication of the following Radium Age series title…
WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON
Introduction by ERIK DAVIS
(August 15, 2023)
In the far future, humankind’s survivors huddle below the Earth’s frozen surface in a pyramidal fortress-city that, for centuries now, has been under siege by loathsome “ab-humans,” enormous slugs and spiders, and malevolent “watching things” from another dimension. When our unnamed protagonist receives a telepathic distress signal from a woman whom (in a previous incarnation) he’d once loved, he sallies forth on an ill-advised rescue mission — into the fiend-haunted Night Land!
“One of the most potent pieces of macabre imagination ever written.” — H.P. Lovecraft, “Supernatural Horror in Literature” (1927).
“The author’s […] descriptions of the outer darkness of the eternal night and the horrors abounding therein produce a weird and fantastic impression.” — The Athenaeum (May 4, 1912)
“The most touching, exquisite spirit romance that has ever been written.” — The Bookman (July 1912)
“In all literature, there are few works so sheerly remarkable, so purely creative, as The Night Land… Only a great poet could have conceived and written this story; and it is perhaps not illegitimate to wonder how much of actual prophecy may have been mingled with the poesy… It is to be hoped that work of such unusual power will eventually win the attention and fame to which it is entitled.” — Clark Ashton Smith, “In Appreciation of William Hope Hodgson” (1944)
“[Good science fiction stories] give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience… W.H. Hodgson’s The Night Land [makes the grade] in eminence from the unforgettable sombre splendour of the images it presents…” — C.S. Lewis, “On Science Fiction” (1955)
“For all its flaws and idiosyncracies, The Night Land is utterly unsurpassed, unique, astounding. A mutant vision like nothing else there has ever been.” — China Miéville
Press for MITP’s edition of The Night Land includes the following…
“The most extreme inquiry into human dependence on technology in the face of a nature perpetually degenerating into monstrosity and entropic heat death.” And: “Hodgson was clearly an inspiration for generations of writers such as H. P. Lovecraft, who learned a thing or two about hideous monsters from texts like this one.” — Michael D. Gordin, Los Angeles Review of Books
ERIK DAVIS is an author, teacher, and award-winning journalist based in San Francisco. His publications include High Weirdness: Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies, Nomad Codes, and the cult classic Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information. Davis earned his PhD in religious studies from Rice University, and currently teaches at Pacifica Graduate Institute. He writes the Substack publication Burning Shore, and has completed a history of LSD blotter art for MIT Press.
WILLIAM HOPE HODGSON (1877–1918) was an English poet, sailor, bodybuilder, and weird fiction pioneer whose horror, fantastic, and proto-sf novels — in addition to The Night Land — include The Boats of the “Glen Carrig” (1907), The House on the Borderland (1908), and The Ghost Pirates (1909). He also wrote stories in the Sargasso Sea series, the Captain Gault series, and a series about the occult detective Carnacki.
Originally published in 1912. Cover designed by Seth. See this book at The MIT Press.
RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF FROM THE MIT PRESS: VOICES FROM THE RADIUM AGE, ed. Joshua Glenn | J.D. Beresford’s A WORLD OF WOMEN | E.V. Odle’s THE CLOCKWORK MAN | H.G Wells’s THE WORLD SET FREE | Pauline Hopkins’s OF ONE BLOOD | J.J. Connington’s NORDENHOLT’S MILLION | Rose Macaulay’s WHAT NOT | Cicely Hamilton’s THEODORE SAVAGE | Arthur Conan Doyle’s THE LOST WORLD & THE POISON BELT | G.K. Chesterton’s THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL | MORE VOICES FROM THE RADIUM AGE, ed. Joshua Glenn | William Hope Hodgson’s THE NIGHT LAND | Hemendrakumar Roy’s THE INHUMANS | Charlotte Haldane’s MAN’S WORLD | Francis Stevens’s THE HEADS OF CERBERUS & OTHER STORIES | Edward Shanks’s THE PEOPLE OF THE RUINS | J.D. Beresford’s THE HAMPDENSHIRE WONDER | John Taine’s THE GREATEST ADVENTURE.
RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF: “Radium Age” is Josh Glenn’s name for the nascent sf genre’s c. 1900–1935 era, a period which saw the discovery of radioactivity, i.e., the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. More info here.