Sunday, November 27, 2011
The Sorceror's Ship
In the not long ago I read The Sorceror's Ship by Hannes Bok (1914-64), a gift. I was previously familiar with Bok as an artist and illustrator, known for his fantastic and grotesque horror, science fiction, and fantasy drawings and paintings (here's one good selection of the many online: http://monsterbrains.blogspot.com/2011/08/hannes-bok.html) . Such images as his iconically expressive stippled illustration for a reprint of H.P. Lovecraft's story Pickman's Model come readily to mind when thinking of Bok. In fact, until quite recently I was unaware that "Hannes Bok" (which is a shortened, alternate spelling of "Johannes Bach") was merely the nom de plume for one Wayne Francis Woodard, a fact which can be rapidly gathered when looking up Bok on the internets. Anyhoo, Bok is worthy of attention for his writing as well as his art.
The foreword by Lin Carter contains some charming reminiscences of Bok, describing him holding forth in his apartment in New York City (although he sounds as if he might have been a bit irritating to have been around). Curiously Carter describes a plot element of the novel as involving "a demigod as a passenger and a weird magic jewel for cargo." The back of the edition I have (Ballantine Books: 1969 -- I guess the one and only edition) contains the following quote from John W. Campbell: "....with a demigod as a passenger, and an enchanted jewel as cargo!" A basic rule for plagiarists: Don't borrow from another author whose words are printed on the same volume as yours. I'm assuming Campbell wrote his description first. The fantasy was first published in Campbell's magazine Unknown in December, 1942, according to Wikipedia.
The Sorceror's Ship is a nice, ethereal story with a classic "cold open" with a disoriented main character trying to figure out where the hell he is and what is happening. Bok's prose has hints of Dunsany's and Clark Ashton Smith's (and others') styles. The necromantic horrors toward the end are particularly reminiscent of Klarkash-ton's work. No doubt the plot, involving, among other things, a conflict between two rival islands, Athens-like Nanich and Spartan Koph, has some echoes of the geopolitical situation of the early 1940s.
The copy of Ship I have has a lacuna, missing pages 147-178, and has a double printing of the last pages, 179-205. It's not impossible to deduce what happens in the absent section, though.
Hannes Bok name generator: "Wolfgang Amadaeus Mozart" = "Wolfam Moz"
"Johannes Brahms" = "Hannes Bram"
"Ludwig Van Beethoven" = "Wigvan Bat"
Cover art by Ray Cruz.
Posted by Jonathan at 11:31 PM