The Night Land blog - an extension of

Thursday, 30 July 2015

A Poem and a Story in Lady Churchull's Rosebud Wristlet

'Child Without Summer' a poem by Kelda and 'Medea' a flash story by Debs appear in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet #33, guest edited by Michael DeLuca a special edition exploring humanity's relationship to the Earth.

Is it greedy to have two pieces in the same issue? Hee hee.

Friday, 6 March 2015

A New Night Land Story

We have a new Night Land story! It's "Parting," by Nigel Price. It's set in the Days of Darkening.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The Night Land Lives (Our Website Has Moved)

The late Andy Robertson's web hosting account lapsed in January 2015. We've therefore been compelled to change hosts. We've also changed domain names -- apologies for the inconvenience and the lack of notice.

The Night Land is no longer at It's now at:

Wednesday, 6 August 2014


There is going to be a best of Weird fiction of the year. 
Maybe something for our writers? The Night Land stories are no doubt weird fiction.

Friday, 20 June 2014


If you have a long commute to work, this might interest you. has audiobooks of The Night Land and The House on the Borderland and many other works:

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

On the Hiatus

While Andy's estate is being settled, we are currently closed to submissions. 

However, this is not the end by any means!

We hope to be publishing online previously solicited work in the coming months and will be looking at new work once we have resources organised.

In the meantime, which is most exciting, major new works are close to publication, including a lavishly-illustrated novel.  This has of course already been mentioned, with preliminary sketches in earlier posts.  It's been a long road, and it's a great tragedy that Andy never made it to the end, but he saw it on the horizon and now it's close.  There will be announcements soon.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Memories of Andy

As Kate has said, we are determined to keep Andy's work going in one form or another, so keep alert and explore what is already here if you aren't familiar with it.

A lot of people are telling me what tremendous influence Andy had as an editor and advocate, which I can attest to myself.  As a writer himself he showed amazing inspiration and poetry tinged with melancholy.

Most budding writers wait months or years to receive their first rejection, but Andy accepted my first story in eight hours.  Of course he wanted changes - I didn't even have consistent tenses!  Nonetheless, there began his literary guidance, and our friendship.  I live in New Zealand, almost the antipodes of his home, but we managed to meet in person a couple of years later and hit it off immediately.  Since then, we worked together developing the vision of the Night Land while he guided and refined my own skills as a writer.  If I ever succeed in making a success as a writer (which is by no means guaranteed as many of the brilliantly impoverished can relate), I know who I can thank.

I am not the only one, however.  Andy inspired and guided many in his own life.  The fact was, he loved stories and storytellers.  He was also a loving father, brother and husband... and he was my friend.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Rest in Peace

To our sorrow, Andy Robertson, creator of this blog and of The Night Land website, has died. He will be greatly missed. Our condolences to his family.

We believe we'll be able to keep the site running, though right now we can't be sure whether it will remain at its current host, or whether we'll be shifting to the Night Land mirror site.

We've been informed that Brett Davidson, who has written many fine Night Land stories, will handle Andy's literary affairs.

Rest in peace, old friend.

Sunday, 13 April 2014


To all Night Land writers and artists

If you look at you'll see Sam Gafford is still looking for fiction for issue two of SARGASSO, the journal of William Hope Hodgson studies.

Anyone who has a short Night Land related story or poem might consider sending it to Sam. 

If he accepts it, you won't get paid owt in cash.  But you will get the kudos of appearing in a "real serious literary journal" to put on your CV, and you will help Sam out, and you will raise your profile among a rather select and influental group of  literarteurs.

And if you subsequently submit it to me I promise I will judge it  exactly as if it had never been published anywere, except to add the legal bit at the end.


Saturday, 12 April 2014



Sunday, 6 April 2014


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Friday, February 25, 2011 7:07 AM
I'd just like to say that I'm enjoying this immensely.  It is very much a process of finding out.  I thought I knew what the Landsuits looked like, vaguely (uh, let's see, kinda bulky, lumpy gadgety stuff... grey, probably, Pallin looks like an actor named Ian...), now I know what they really look like.  I can't wait to find out what everything else really looks like.  The best bits are the things that I never thought of, the surprises.
From:Brett Davidson
To: Andy Robertson;SMS

Yeah, what he said.Notes...

Diskos, to be a practical weapon, needs to have its full perimeter or as much of that as possible exposed.  I also imagined it having a subtly double-curved shaft, like a scythe (expediters as Grim Reapers - why not?) -
Now, that is a nice image!

Only occurred to me as I typed...  I'm enjoying this brainstorming process - It may well feed into future stories.

Again, I must point out, this is just a 'costume study'.

I assumed that of the other image.  The one I commented on, I assumed was aimed more at what the final composition would resemble.  Anyway, my point is that the images complement the text and details that aren't in the image will be there for the reader to imagine.  The worst kind of fanfic or sequel has to have absolutely everything namechecked, to the immediate detriment of drama and coherence.  I'm happy to see compositional choices that exclude a lot for the sake of intensity, hence my words along the lines of "it's only a menu, not a checklist".

Two of the reasons why I wanted your work are, first, your distinct aesthetic with its historical references - my favourite New Wave writers all referred to the late 19th, early 20th centuries, and the pre-Bauhaus (pre-Apple?) style suggests something sophisticated, but still old, not just off the supermarket shelf - and second, compositional coherence and focus.  I detect a circle/wheel/star theme, and with the larger ensemble sketches, a sweep/spiral tying them together.  So, I'm confident it'll work and I'm really looking forward to seeing the development.

This is, it's true, my fault 'coz I really want a headlight /sensor array in the helmet, a 'Tesla coil/plasma repulse' valvepunk ruff, a 'power pack' type backpack and a serious chest/shoulder arrangement.

Again, this is what I like.  I didn't think of the details of the suits much when writing about them and your contribution is both original and consistent with what they would be - I'm keen on the "ruff" and crest as USPs.  The top-heaviness is in the image I commented on concealed by the extreme perspective and patterning of the ground... well, I'll see what you do, but I'm glad that you're keen on those features, 'cos I am too.  I like the visual echoes - ruff/crest/diskos - punctuated by the smaller circular ports and lenses (fractal repetition?).

The Ramp Guard was a workman in a 'Power station' whereas this is a Soldier/explorer.

Yeah, got that.

Also, one notes there is no reason for all diskoses to be the same size, shape, etc.   In TNL it's a hand-and-a-half weapon - may be used two handed or at a pinch one handed - and so must be about 3 ft long or slightly longer.   In some of John C Wright's stories it's like a polearm, with a shaft at least six foot long.  And the heavy pommel/counterweight seen here is consistent with a one-handed weapon, but it's all good.  

So some people carry pizza slicers? :)  In the H2G2 film there was a mini-light sabre that slices and toasts bread in one go.  A bit more seriously, in a story about the aerial corps, I indicated that the aviators carried compact, lightweight diskoi, as a modern fighter pilot might carry a sidearm as part of their survival kit rather than a rifle - the blade could conceivably been more swastika-like than a solid disc.  One can assume that weapons are individually crafted to the capabilities, fighting style and role within a group of the individual.  There may well be different martial arts styles in the Last Redoubt, as Kung Fu and Judo differ, each with their own schools and disciplines.  Even nominally similar weapons differ a lot - the Roman gladius looks short for a "sword" but it's designed for stabbing thrusts by closely-ranked soldiers and you don't want them accidentally decapitating each other with great sweeping strokes, while the mediaeval knight's sword represents a class hierarchy with relatively few knights more widely spaced.  Then there's Severian's Terminus Est, a formal executioner's tool... blah blah blah

felt happiest with the present variation on the classic Athenian helm with those cool cheekguards.

Seems to work best with the horizontal crest/flange and headlights.

About armour:
Lames.  ...and so forth

Cool stuff.  Samurai armour, AFAIK, and I'm pretty vague on this, did not offer complete coverage and relied on huge overlaps of broad curved planes, suiting the sweeping rather than thrusting strokes of the katana.  Whatever, depends on which pathway of technological development one's culture follows.  Happy to see the gothic line taken.  The swelling of the joints, spikes and flanges at elbow, knee and ankle may serve to mitigate the top-heaviness?  Actually, the gothic styles makes far more sense in the Night Land than samurai style, because the denizens of that land are as likely to use the "naughty tentacles" strategy as they are the "Grrr!  Argh!  THUD!"

There are real powered exoskeletons that are in prototype form, designed not just for American soldiers, but elderly Japanese, but I'm glad that I didn't attach images of these - they're plainly at the beginning of their evolutionary development.  If the Landsuits have powered muscle augmentation, you wouldn't be able to tell immediately because the systems would have its mass distributed evenly around the wearer rather than to one side of each limb.  I thought they might, to some degree, have augmented strength, but the ethos of the Last Redoubt leads towards the testing of one's own physical prowess.  The "Olympic" sensibility then is signalled by the "Athenian" detail above?

Rest assured, there are lots of rough sketches like this, often too 'scribbly' to make any visual sense but just testing patterns...




Wednesday, 2 April 2014

AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND by John C Wright: a review

About thirteen years ago, I started a little website.

My wife was only a few years dead then, and she still visited me from time to time.  I would wake up in a bed full of her warmth and musk, and feel her sleeping just beside me.  I would turn over and  kiss her, and she would whisper love sleepily.  I would get up and go to wash my face, and go back to the bedroom to kiss her awake.  Then I would really wake up.

My daughters would come to the door-gates of their rooms,  holding up their arms and saying daddy, and I'd pick one up and snuggle her and take her downstairs to where their grandmother had breakfast ready, then go back upstairs for the other, then grab a bacon sandwich and a mug of coffee and walk down to the train station and go to work.  They waved from the windows till I was out of sight.  I'd come home late and just have time to kiss them goodnight.  

It was along hard day until they let me telecommute, and I suddenly had a lot of spare time. 


There was a man who had a beautiful young wife.

She died, and he dreamed of meeting her again, at the end of time, when the Sun was dead.

I had always been fascinated by the book.  The Final Arcology of mankind, Earth's Last Citadel, surrounded by an entire universe that had been taken over by Hell.  I wanted to read more stories set in that Land, and now I had the time to do something and a little bit of spare money, I took advice.  I was a subeditor for INTERZONE back then in its glory days, and I had Dave Pringle to explain the legal side of buying fiction to display online. 

I set rates and contacted and waited for stories to come in.  Meanwhile I started the trimmings. Essays.  A gallery of book covers.  Then a little step up: Stephen Fabian's terrific paintings of the Watchers, illustrations for the 1973 edition of THE DREAM OF X, the abbreviated version of THE NIGHT LAND Hodgson published in the US to keep the copyright.   I was careful to pay Fabian for his work, for these pictures are surely the first example of someone actually adding to the original NIGHT LAND, adding something that will always be connected to it from now on.                        .

Look at them. They do not so much illustrate the story as form a collateral theme. 

And quite quickly we got our first story, "An Exhalation of Butterflies" by Nigel Atkinson.  This was its basic idea.    Every so often, as a gesture of defiance, the Redoubt turns the production of its Underground Fields over to the creation of  butterflies.  They're kept on ice for a  few years to build up numbers and then they are all hatched  and sucked up by  the ventilation  system of the Redoubt and ejected Out into the Night.   No practical reason.  Just a gigantic  Fuck You to the forces in the Night and the horror and the darkness. 

I thought it was brilliant.  Dave took it for INTERZONE, and I put it online next month.

I tried my own hand and wrote "EATER".  It was the story of a female Seer, telepathically surveying the Land, who is taken over and used to invade the Redoubt.   The invasion fails and she dies burned body and soul by the  Redoubt defense systems.   It's a reasonably good tale, and Dave accepted it to run in INTERZONE, and Gardner Dozois gave it a tick mark in his year's best recommended.  There is nothing special about it, except it was the first time in my life I had ever tried to write a piece of fiction.     

The dark, looming, images of the Land had made such an impact on me.  When I started to write stories set in that world, it was as if I remembered a life I had lived in that society, with its prim manners overlaying iron values and its dauntless courage.   I didn't need to make anything up. I just watched it happen.

Brett Davidson sent me a story from New Zealand with a background that complemented  and extended my own, and I found the person who would be my principle creative partner.   For years we've batted ideas back and forth by email late at night.   Other writers joined us and mostly took their lead from Brett and I.   We were building a shared world but one so rich and vivid felt as if we were were discovering something that already existed.  I don't think I've ever had such fun ((while vertical)) in my life.  

And then I got a new submission, from John C Wright, which was quite apart from all the other Night Land tales.

I'd written a fusion of  Hodgson's vision with cutting-edge science, and tried to evoke a credible Redoubt culture, a culture that might really last ten million years.   Therefore my Redoubt was a society of strict moral codes, an actual functional and enforced marriage contract, strong kinship bonds, and sharply differentiated complementary behavior of men and women. ((It strikes me only now that this is mistaken by some readers for archaism. But of course  it isn't.  It's futurism.  Or just realism. No society without these values or something like them can survive more than a couple of generations.))  And I'd written of a society rich in technical and scientific knowledge, including as unremarked givens such familiar SF tropes as nanotechnology, cyborgisation, and Artificial Intelligence.   I had some fun integrating these into Hodgson's "scientific" formulation of reincarnation and psychic predation.

I had done my best to reinterpret the  Night Land as science fiction, and other writers had followed me.   But  John's story followed his own dreams.

His character names were derived from classical Greek, not generic IndoEuropean sememes. The manners of the society were likewise closely modeled on the ancient pagans. Dozois has called this an air of distanced antiquity, and it works well, but I repeat it's distinctly different from my own, which is not antique at all. His was not a technically sophisticated society and seemed not to have a scientific attitude to the alien Land that surrounded it. It ran off rote technology and was ignorant of the workings of much of the machinery it depended on. It was doomed and dwindling and dark and candle-lit, a tumbledown place with a hint of Ghormenghast to it. (I know John will hate that comparison, and I apologize). The story was one of childhood friendship, rivalry, disaster and rescue. The writing style was, incidentally, brilliant.

I bought it and published it in our first hardcopy anthology, ENDLESS LOVE. It got into Dozois' BEST SF and several other yearly anthologies and created a minor sensation. There are still places where the first taste of Hodgson's work a casual reader will get is the translation of "Awake in the Night" in that year's Dozois, and the story is an entry drug not only for THE NIGHT LAND but for Hodgson himself and all his work. This was a story which Hodgson might have written if he had been a more gifted weaver of words. John remarked to me at one point that he was surprised at the story's popularity. I think we both understood that despite its author's talent, the real power resided in the way it had stayed faithful to Hodgson's own visions, without elaborating them too much. The whole world could now see and share Hodgson's original Night Land. They were seeing it through John's eyes, not mine, but that didn't matter to me.   This was what I had set the NightLand website up for.

I expected a whole series of tales from John set in his version of The Night Land, but his next story was a radical departure from anything that he or any of the rest of us had ever done. It surpassed not only Hodgson's talents but, damn it, Lovecraft's. When I read "Awake in the Night" I felt some envy, but when the ms for "The Last of All Suns" crossed my inbox I felt something like awe.

It's almost impossible to describe this story without employing spoilers, because there is nothing else like it to compare it to or to hint that it is like. Baldly, then: the universe is in its final contraction, falling back on itself into a massive black hole, the last of all suns. In one sliver of it, life remains: a gigantic starship, millions of years old . On board this Starship,ruling it, are the great powers and forces of the Night, who have been victorious not only in the Night Land they turned Earth into but throughout the cosmos.

To oppose them on the ship there are a scattering of human escapees, their bodies artificially regrown from some ancient recording, their souls compelled to one final reincarnation for unknown reasons. The oldest is a Neanderthal, or something similar. The youngest is an inhabitant of the Last Redoubt. Yet it is now so very much later than even the Last Age of the Redoubt that the entire time span from the earliest to the latest lives of these reincarnated ones is like the blink of an eye at the start of a long, dark, night.

And now what can I say? How can I possibly describe what happens next?  Even if I could, I would probably have to go beyond what is allowable in a review.  As I said, this story is unique.  I can't describe its plot as "like" anything else.  I'd have to go through it section by section, practically retell it. 

Yet certain things can be said.  For example, I can tell you that when these resurrectees talk to each other, their language automatically translated  by some mental trick, their concepts of the universe are so diverse that only method they have to communicate with each other is to employ the metalanguage of myth.  And yet this works, and Wright's genius effortlessly makes it credible to the reader that it would work.  By selectively recounting the foundational myths of their diverse societies, they are able to discuss their situation, plan their actions, and the plot is rapidly and convincingly advanced. 

One recalls the marvelous passage in Lovecraft's "The Shadow Out Of Time" which lists the enormous range of human societies the Great Race of Yith has plucked its time-swapped prisoners' minds from.  The dialogue in this story is the sort of language those time-stolen scribes would have had to employ to talk to each other.  And Wright drops a few hints that let us know that "The Shadow Out Of Time" is exactly the ur-SF story he is drawing from here.   Wright excels Lovecraft - Lovecraft  - by this enormous margin; he does not merely list the societies his characters have been plucked from; he gives us their dialog, word for word, and effortlessly makes it believable.

And this is only one tiny facet of a story that integrates THE NIGHT LAND with THE HOUSE ON THE BORDERLAND and goes on to swallow the modern mythos of Lovecraft and Stapledon and most of the GraecoRoman foundational myths of Western society.  And modern physics, as easy as an after-dinner mint.

Finally it comes down to this. In place of a soulless mathematical Episode of Inflation or the mindless flutings of Azathoth, Wright gives us  cosmos that is founded on the pattern of eternal love between man and woman.  And he does it convincingly.  He does it without breaking a sweat or drawing an extra breath.

There was a man who had a beautiful young wife.

She died, and he dreamed of meeting her again, at the end of time, when the Sun was dead.

I am not that man. That man was a fiction. I know death is merely the end, there is no reincarnation, that her presence in my bed was merely dream, and we shall never meet again in any age or realm or dimension,  not hand in hand looking out from the battlements of the Last Redoubt of Man nor anywhere else.

So how can I write about Eternal Love? Is love a laughable delusion, or is it the only real thing? I'm quite an old man now, suddenly and cripplingly ill, but it seems only yesterday that she was in my arms and our lips and hands were always reuniting.  I understand human sociobiology, I took the red pill decades ago, without the help of the Internet.    I understand what they call Game nowadays. I've read and admired its accurate application, I respect people who truly are using this to strengthen marriage, but the bloggers with their bedpost  scores and their flag counts are children fighting for bottles of fizzy drink. Love is another dimension. Love is the only thing stronger than death. And I'm writing this as a man who has lost his loved one and might meet death quite soon.

I don't "believe" in love.  I know.


It's odd that the one flaw in this, John's best story, is the portrayal of the Mirdath-figure, the multi-souled narrator's eternal mate. The story rings like fine bronze when the men from different aeons resurrected in the death starship speak to each other: but it klunks juat a tiny bit whenever she pops up her eager-sex-partner-and-ideal-mother head. Surely the eternal female would in most of her incarnations be an ordinary unexceptional woman only made special by love? But I'm not going to fuss about this.

There is nothing like this story, nothing like it, anywhere else. It is incomparable.

John sent us two more stories. They are both good stories, but I'm going to end this review with only brief mentions of them. 

"The Cry of the Night hound" concerns a doomed attempt to domesticate these monsters, and were it not for Wright's ever-beautiful prose and his moving portrayal of his Redoubt society in  (temporary) decay, it might be judged rather improbable. 

"Silence of the Night" is a mad,fractured episode that must come from a time close to the Fall.   I think it does not work too well, though the beautiful writing and imagery carries it through.

I don't know if Wright has written himself out, and said all he has to say about the Night Land. Maybe he has. Maybe not.  (But if you have, I have a theme for you, John, that I think you'll like, that might rekindle your interest, that might produce something as good as "The Last Of All Suns". I really do. But I gave it to another writer who has first dibs on it, and he's doing nothing. If he gives it up, you'll hear from me.)

Anyhow. I messed up the marketing of "The Last Of All Suns", and the story fell into an obscurity from which I hope this new edition will rescue it. Now it's been republished by professionals, along with Wright's other three Night Land tales, I hope it sells a million copies.

A final word.

Did the stuff about my wife with which I stared this review strikes you as forced, unreal?   Probably.  But it was in fact the simple literal truth.  I really did experience that, many times, though I have no doubt it was merely a dream. 

Perhaps I could have made this review more plausible by leaving it out, even though it was the truth?  Indeed I could have.   And perhaps in the same way I could have made this review more effective, more believable, by being less effusive, by toning down my praise a bit.  Perhaps I could have.  But I'm not going to do that.   If you doubt my word, doubt away.  But truth is truth, and I don't see why I should dodge it just to convince you. Buy this book, read the stories, read especially "the Last of all Suns", and whatever you think about me after reading this review, when you have read the book you will know that every word of praise I give it here is the truth.

     - Andy Robertson


A collection of four stories set in William Hope Hodgson's Night Land
by John C Wright
Castilla house 2014
ISBN XXXXXXXXXX (to be announced)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014


To: Andy Robertson; Brett Davidson

Bearing in mind the comments, I thought I'd send you a couple of more recent sketches.
Much the same design, but slightly more 'Baroque'.
I think I'm getting the hang of it...

From:Brett Davidson
To: Andy Robertson; SMS

Image "Landsuit_Above_Patterns30%" is terrific - and shows why I wanted the SMS touch.

Quibbles/praise follow:

"Scream" of the mask may be interpreted too literally.  Perhaps needs to be altered?  Horizontal louvres are too obvious...?

Diskos, to be a practical weapon, needs to have its full perimeter or as much of that as possible exposed.  I also imagined it having a subtly double-curved shaft, like a scythe (expediters as Grim Reapers - why not?) - however, the dimensions and shape, I appreciate are subordinate to composition.  The implication that it is a double-ended weapon, the heavy powerpack or whatever it is at the end opposite the blade is interesting - never thought of it, but the martial arts taught to expediters would no doubt involve the use of a diskos as an impact as well as cutting weapon, so a substantial mass opposite the blade could be handy.  In some short story or other, I described training/use of the thing and noted that there would be a lot of inertia tied up in a rapidly spinning blade, and so combat would appear to be a rather formalised dance... rather like Kendo...

Love the composition!

Ruff and helmet crest work for me.  Love the "explosive" shape of the ground.

This image doesn't need to be more complicated, as far as I'm concerned - I leave this to your judgement, but depicting a specific incident with all present, accounted for and in their appropriate poses is not an issue for me.  This says enough - as the drawings are a suite, we'll see the faces of Meyr and Pallin elsewhere.



From:Andy Robertson
To: Brett Davidson; SMS
Yeah, what he said.
Also, one notes there is no reason for all diskoses to be the same size, shape, etc.   In TNL it's a hand-and-a-half weapon - may be used two handed or at a pinch one handed - and so must be about 3 ft long or slightly longer.   In some of John C Wright's stories it's like a polearm, with a shaft at least six foot long.  And the heavy pommel/counterweight seen here is consistent with a one-handed weapon, but it's all good.  
However I agree with Brett about having the whole arc of the blade exposed.
Additionally, the "below shoulder angle" sketch is really fine.   Lots of dynamic motion trapped in the metal.
About armour:
Lames.  Armour is essentially composed of overlapping lames, which are ring-shaped, cylindrical, or slice-of-cone-ical pieces of metal assembled to cover a limb or body; lames overlap downward, that is, where two lames overlap, the larger lame goes on the outside; lames may be partially cut away where the limb intersects the body or another limb, in which case the segments of lame remaining are held together by pin-and-slot constructions to stop them gaping. 
Where does the arm attach to the body?  NOT THE SHOULDER, BUT THE INNER END OF THE COLLAR BONE.   The construction of the arm armour and especially the pauldrons (big stuff covering the shoulder) reflects this.  Practicable pauldrons are split up into multiple lames and can fold up like a concertina so you can raise your arm.   SEE GOTHIC SUIT.  Armour that does not follow this rule is usually ultra-heavy tournament stuff not designed for much mobility, overrepresented in surviving suits.
The "neutral" position for the knee or elbow is half bent.  Not straight.  The swollen-on-one-side-cut-away-on-the-other  lame covering the knee or elbow (called a COP) reflects this fact.  The pauldron is also a sort of cop.
Lames look ok in these pix.
Looking very good.

((but Vertical "scream" face not quite right somehow.))

Tuesday, 25 March 2014


To: Andy Robertson; Brett Davidson

Hi chaps.

The first pic I've been messing about with layouts for is the 'Outside on the land, Meyr ravished by Eater whilst the others weild Diskos'.

Thus, befgore I decide exactly whom goes where, I've been doodling a lot of 'Space Armour' in an attempt to get something different from the Usual Look and to discover how these chaps occupy space.

These are the present 'Shape' I'm playing with.
I'm assuming we have 'Stuff' to disperse/repulse in the Night land which gives me an excuse for Valvepunk-looking metallic  nozzles. The helmet arrangement has a 'crest' but it's horizontal rather than the standard vertical. This is actually an armoured array for a bank of lights that sit either side of the head (Headlights, if you will).
The 'Helm' consists of the goggles (Themselves, fitted with lots of lenses and do-hickeys) and 'Empty scream'-shaped mouthpiece under a small peak, all iof which swing back onto the helmet itself, to expose the face behind the 'cheekguards'.
The shoulders are, you'll note, topped with a ruddy great 'Plasma dispersal' (Whatever) array' which slightly echo an Elizabethan ruff, slightly echo some gothic yoke and generally look 'spikey'. This is attatched to a similarly 'spikey' backpack, giving it a Gothick sort'v look.
The chest is very prominent, akin to the Conquistadors, but this time we have the excuse of it being filled, not with rags but with 'Life Support Tek'
The boots were either going to be small and dainty or big and clompy. With all that weight on the upper torso, I've opted for the great clumpy boots and legs.
Kurosowa-style 'banners' complete the 'look'. Probably something more baroqe than the ones shown. It also occurs to me that there's absolutely no reason we can't have fabric streamers to this outfit if needed.
The whole thing should, finally, have a slightly 'Insectile' texture in the plateletts, decorated with scrollwork. I suspect Andy will interpolate the word ;'Fractal' here.
I've been presuming the 'Quints' have different armour, but now I find myself thinking 'Why?'.
What's the verdict here?
Comments welcome.

From:Andy Robertson
To: SMS; Brett Davidson

Some reactions
- the idea of the Helm being especially festooned with sensors and filters is one which fits very well with other NL stories.   The developing idea is that in this era the Helms have to filter the Night Land into a sort of virtual reality in order for the wearers to endure it.  cf for example the story "Slope"  (by me, but Brett and I have used each others' ideas extensively
Their nightsuits are not the heavy amplified coverings used by the Watchmen for patrols or close exploration work.  They are as thin as cloth and as light as paper, unamplified and uninstrumented.  Their only augmentation is in the complex filters in the Helms, which make up thirty percent of the suits' weight and consume all their power.  Long ago, men could survive in the Land by relying only on their own senses.  Now they must wear the Helms, which mount shields and sensory enhancements on a pattern two million years old.  The Helms capture and amplify sound, and scavenge what little light there is in the Night Land.   They map the paths through the dark, and they pass messages to other men in ways that hopefully are not obvious to the entities of the Land, where even telepathy is too risky to be used.   They enhance and they communicate and they also protect, for they shield the eyes as well as the Soul from that which can destroy merely by being sensed. 
 but these are the heavy amplified suits used for close in work,
- the one thing I don't like are the heavy lower limbs and boots.  Very bad mechanically - the last place you want energy-soaking mass is at the end of your limbs.  reminds me of mecha, not in a good way. mecha are not the product of real world evolutionary selection
- is there a risk of the "ruff" looking foppish?, - maybe more like radio telescope dishes / bat ears / antennae?
- another gothic suit

good stuff :-0


To: Andy Robertson; Brett Davidson

And the results are now in...
Actually, for the third section there is really only one real contender:
P's 222 - 223:
Inside the tunnels, Mira removes her helm and some plates of armour (I wonder if we;'d be surprised it it was a breastplate?) in true 'Maryr' fashion in front of Maansonyagger with the 'Butterfly' flayed body hanging in the background.
Just thought you'd like to know.
Now, it's beginning the long series of sketches in between the comic strip...
Input on either of you chaps vision of both the armour and the Mansonyagger, welcome.
(Yes, I know it's 'beetle-like' and has an array of probes, arms and sensory devices and, yes, I'm assuming the 'Armour' is somewhere between C16 armour and plated spacesuits with straps, lens-like eyepieces and a hint of the 'Cyber' about 'em. Further 'impressions' welcome)
And the Watcher?
As Andy says, it's background scenery.
Drawing the noumena might take more time and money than any of us have.

Fun. Fun. Fun.

From:Brett Davidson
To: Andy Robertson; SMS

The "Eater" illustrations are to me a benchmark and this:

shows the bulk one would associate with a suit packed with various complex systems and gadgets giving a unique, contingent aesthetic.  I like the fact that it suggests a recognisable human form, but certain parts, such as the helm, make no concessions to anthropomorphism.

Samurai armour.  A cliche, perhaps, but at least a beautiful one.

If you google "negroli" and select "images", you will find fine examples of baroque parade armour.  See the attached image of a shield, for example.  This inspired the gorget (a crescent-shaped neck piece) as much as Giger's "Li 1" that Pallin wears.  However, parade armour is not fighting armour, and the kit worn out in the Night Land is more functional.

I was very impressed by the Cylon centurions in the new Battlestar Galactica.  See attachment.  They're inspired by Epstein's The Rock Drill, as were the phantoms in the Final Fantasy film, FWIW.   Now of course you can't fit anything human into that wasp-waisted shape!  However, the broad planes of the centurion's armour are i.suggestive of what a human would look like if we had exoskeletons, and would suggest a culture that is both dependent upon technology and determined to treat it as art.  People go out, or Go Out, into the Night Land as demonstrations and tests of their essential nature, and so there is a certain ceremonial aspect to their expeditions and it would be logical that aesthetics would play a part in the design of their armour.  There may well be ornamentation as the individual adventurers carry with them the pride of their clans, so various family motifs and suchlike would probably be included, either worked in if the armour was made by an artist, or painted on in the manner of the art that was applied to aircraft in the First and Second World Wars.


Probably matt black.

What comes to mind immediately, something like a stag beetle crossed with a wolf spider as drawn by Ian Miller.  I like Miller's work, but his style is a bit stiff and angular considering the fluidity of movement (and Hannibal Lecter personality) I'd associate with a Manshonyagger.  What intrigues be about stage beetles is that we assume that jaws are part of the head, but in fact the "upper jaw" of a stag beetle is a protrusion of the thorax and not part of the head at all.  Now, there's no need to be literal in imitating its form, but I do like the uncanny aspect there.  As stated above, it's not a bulldozer or an M-1 tank or any version of current technology as popularly represented.  In a continuum, it could at one end resemble a real insect, coconut crab or whatever, and at the other, some pice of beefed-up NASA probe, mixing features that we try to categorise as "bug-like" with a casual asymmetry - yes, it has something we'd call a head, but it's off-centre, and there's this boxy thing and... etc.  However, a NASA probe, while elegant in its own way, would be far too frail for something that is a dedicated fighting machine, designed to withstand serious defences...

No huge bug eyes, please.  I imagine a selection of sensory devices, each highly specialised and placed according to functional requirements/contingencies of well-it'll-fit-in-here.

The sentinels in the Matrix films?

The Manshonyaggers are all very, very old.  Their scars would have scars, which would have settled down and raised families long ago. They may have simple, rounded beetle-like carapaces, but in all of the ages that they have lived/functioned, they would have sustained damage and repaired themselves many times, creating a dense pattern of marks... and possibly, being intelligent, they would have ornamented themselves, so they may well have a kind of baroque texturing as well.

As a precedent, I suggest the new Battlestar Galactica again - the Galactica itself is zoomorphic, suggesting an alligator in this case, but I read somewhere that the designers were also thinking of human muscles in the design, hence the curves.  The ribs are supposedly some sort of energy-dissipation feature, like the spaced or gridded armour now applied to modern armoured fighting vehicles in Iraq and Afganistan.  I've attached an image of the Big G showing how it looks after it has sustained cumulative battle damage (also, have a look at how it appears in the very last scenes of the final episode, "Daybreak", with buckled and warped plating).  Now, as I mentioned, the Manshonyaggers can self-repair, but they also self-design, so symmetry might not be retained over the ages.  Going back to the stag beetles, there might be some strange distortion of the body form that coincidentally resembles something else.

On the other hand, just to throw a spanner in the works, and to mix metaphors, the look of stealth bombers is cool - very simple shapes, smooth, matt, flowing surfaces, everything that has to be deployed, extruded, is under oddly serrated hatches and flaps.

Again, treat the preceding as a menu, not a checklist.  Personally I like the Galactica look, with a baroque or samurai twist, but I'll be happy with a surprise.



From: Andy Robertson
To: Brett Davidson; SMS

A few points 

** the most beautiful machines human beings make are war machines.   This is comprehensible because war machines, like living things, are undergoing intense real-world selection and the unfunctional unbeautiful gets flensed away according to criteria which are absolute and objective.

The most beautiful war machines approach the grace of a living thing.  

** the most beautiful of an evolving line of machines are the last ones built before the machine type becomes obsolete under the impact of a quantum leap of new technology.  Battleships like the Scharnhorst or the New Jersey were built just before big-gun warship was pushed aside by the aircraft carrier, for example. Contemporary fighting arcraft are about to be pushed aside by drones, but they have achieved real beauty too.

** this applies to armour.  (Armour is a machine for the purposes of this discussion).  Perhaps the most beautiful ((and therefore most functional, if the equation I'm drawing is correct)  form it took was the Gothic, which unsurprisingly looks not unlike a Centurion. A little after this peak it was rendered pointless by gunnery and became ceremonial - and it's at this time that the parade armour becomes popular.  ((Which rather undercuts Brett's referent to Negroli, because he was working in an era of armour's decadence, while in the Night Land the armour is still vitally functional and undergoing cutting-edge evolutionary selection by the forces of the Land.   This is not to say that the point of armour as decorated, or as an expression of clan and personal status, is wrong, because it isn't, but there is a difference here which must be appreciated.  The Negroli forms are over-ornate to a nonfunctional degree.   But decoration and badges of status and affiliation were used on armour at all times.  They tended however to be separate from the armour - surcoats, crests, etc.   Well, Brett has actually said all this already, hasn't he???))

** however we are now at the end of time looking backward to the past and there are no more leaps in tech.   Armour has become perfected to a level never seen in our history, and looks as graceful as a living thing.   How to draw this?  Well, in the absence of any other option I'd draw on the coolest Gothic suits I could find on the web and make them a little smoother and at once more organic and more high-tech - chaos-death-spikybits seem intrinsic to the Gothic forms but are probably counterindicated in the Night Land.  

This last advice is very detailed, probably going beyond useful levels, because too exact & particular, and I emphasise please,treat it as just my feelings at this time, definitely not prescriptive

MANSHONYAGGER.  The same grace-beauty-deadliness equation applies.
And a little voice at the back of my head says "fractals."   Fractal forms seem intrinsic to entities that self-repair and self-construct as opposed to being manufactured.   The manshonyagger's scars, repaired, might bloom into a life-like clustering of units and sub-units much as a tree's scars put forth branches and the branches twigs. 
But there will be a functional tension between this working and tis exploding into self-repair-cancer (future societies will have a short instantly-understood word for the cancerous proliferation that results from control failure in self-healing autonymous systems).   OTOH it's the m. that have the capacity to self-mutate who will have become autonymous survivors and "players", therefore they will come from the grotesque end of this spectrum.
In haste, more may follow
   -Andy R

From:Brett Davidson
To: Andy Robertson; SMS

 I don't want to spoil the broth with more variations and details, but I am intrigued by the implications of the Manshonyagger's self-repair systems.  The analogy with a tree is very.... hmm, what's the word?  Provocative? Fascinating?  They would have a gnarled, twisted appearance, the friction of the ages would have smoothed their rough planes.  In addition to simple self-design and self-modification, they would have practiced a form of self-topiary...

Wikipedia has some images of bristlecone pines that would suggest the resulting look perhaps.

Geekery: Aldiss' Helliconia trilogy has animal-plant creatures called stungebags...

The attached image is of a typical pine, which I could imagine as an old m'yagger, like a dragon having slept for a millennium underground emerging once more to survey its domain.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Awake in the Night Land

From Vox Populi

Castalia had already announced that we would be publishing John C. Wright's collection of essays, TRANSHUMAN AND SUBHUMAN: Essays on Science Fiction and Awful Truth, which will be published in April. Today we are absolutely delighted to be able to say that we will also be publishing AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND, a collection of four novellas set in the Night Land of William Hope Hodgson.

AWAKE IN THE NIGHT LAND is the first of five novels and novellas written by Mr. Wright to be published by Castalia House. It clocks in at 116,500 words and will be priced at $4.99. We will release the English ebook later this month; the German translation is already underway with an anticipated July release. We also expect to publish a hardcover version this summer.

Apologies to those waiting for THE ALTAR OF HATE, but we are delaying it until April in favor of Mr. Wright's book. It will be sent to the pre-release reviewers in a few weeks.

Speaking as a reader and as a fan, I can say that the Night Land novellas are spectacular. They combine the intelligence and gigantic scale of Iain M. Banks with the eldritch forboding of H.P. Lovecraft, but with a humane soul that is alien to either of the two late authors

Congratulations to John on this resale, which wlll give his stories a far greater eposure than our obscure website has been able to.

Receiving a preprint copy, I am moved to see that he has dedicated the book to me. Certainly there are few things I am prouder of than having enabled, in a small way, the production of these magnificent stories.

Unfortunately this means the copies of these stories on the Night Land site will be removed: our contract only purchases the right to keep story online for five years, and they have all remained online here for far longer than that. But don't despair: the whole set will be available from Castilia House cheaply, and if you won't spend $5 for this ebook, you are a hopeless case.

And John may be able to get something else for his kitchen at last . .

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Ex Machinae by Brett Davidson (the first story in the Founder sequence)


The sky itself was dying. There was one less star to be counted, and thus the call came to strive ever harder against our opponents. Our legion, Abiding, ranked facing the eternal wind and before the unmoving Sun. We cast our shadows before like spears.

And before us, the end of the latest tide of organised opposition to our dominion. The enemy called themselves “the people”, or at least that is what the word they used for themselves meant to them. To us, it was as it always was: outsider, threat, enemy, not-yet-vanquished.

They had established a peculiar symbiosis with their chattel animals, I had heard, and now I saw them mounted on these beasts first hand for the last time. They were odd creatures, strangely distorted and yet also strangely elegant variations of the human prototype. Like true people, they had four limbs arranged in pairs at either ends of compact torsos, heads bearing ears and eyes of intelligent intensity atop streaming-maned necks. Strangely, they ran not on feet, but four sturdy-nailed fingers. The name they gave them, I believe, was “horse.”

I must admit that individually, a horse was a beautiful thing, and with a rider upon its back, the pairing was in no way grotesque. It was, indeed, bold, and in action their synthesis was both powerful and elegant.

Militarily, however, they could be no match to our own powered frames that had no mediating intelligence to guess and mistake our intentions. I raised my arm in a preparatory signal, and reading directly the impulses of my nerves, my frame amplified the gesture as naturally as my own flesh.

In instants such as this, the greater the tension, the longer time is attenuated, but it ended and we charged and they charged and we came to the clash. There was no time for contemplation, but now, after, I have time and so I do insert a moment that traverses many years.
You do not know my name; one way or the other it has been erased – by time or more deliberate censorship. Allow me then to introduce myself: as you see, in that artificially stalled moment with my arm raised, I am at the head of a great legion; my rank is Agetor; my clan, Indikos; my city is no city but the one Great House of the Twilit Land – and my name, that is Chryseo Drakonhaema Phylindikos.

Perhaps you have heard of me; as recollections of the aged under the Lights, in curses or whispers in the halls of the Great House. Perhaps there has been another Adjustment in that place and I am rehabilitated, my deeper loyalty seen for what it is or was.

Returning to the field under the halted Sun, we are outside that moment of anticipation and well into the act. The nails of the horses pound the earth as if it were a drum and raise a cloud of dust that rises above the army like an array of banners. We hear the riders howl.
We ourselves are silent, disciplined, sharpened and buffered by synthetic hormones and enzymes in our blood. My earpieces relay a theme designed to manage my heartbeat at the optimal tempo and a melody to keep my moves in step with the order of our tactics. Every step is efficient and accurate and I feel something akin to rapture as I perform my bloody dance. Looking from above, as indeed our recording instruments do, you might see something like a reaction between two volatile fluids. Theirs is effervescent, unstable, surging like a wave, thick foam of anger breaking at its lead. Now look at us: something like oil in our smooth density, something like smoke the way we coil and eddy. A red mist rises from the reaction.

There is of course something artificial about this battle. We have at our disposal flying machines of many kinds, a mere few of which could butcher our opponents safely from heights they could never reach. Likewise one Kastchei-class manshonyagger could wade through them and quickly dispatch the lot with dispassionate precision. That though would not serve our longer purpose; if we stood too far above them, then they could convince themselves that they fought demons and that rightly then they should continue as the struggles against demons is proper to being-in-action. That could not be permitted. They had to see our faces and know that they were defeated by true men and thus we showed our faces and our hands to them, even enframed in metal.

And of course we saw their faces and refused to notice that we could not see any difference from ourselves in them.

The horses, though… They were different, and aroused in me peculiar emotions. Their long, bony and soft-lipped faces could not be read as naturally as a person’s, but I saw in their wide eyes, in the specks of foam flying from the bits of their bridles real rage and real terror. The reactions of lesser beasts and mechanical devices are only reactions, no more, but an intelligent creature could and must have such emotions, for they are engendered by knowledge of pain and mortality and love and loyalty.

It was not right to erase from this already famished world such beauty, but sentiment was cast as a weakness in the Great House and there could therefore be no riders, no horses ever again. If we admired them, then it was because they were powerful, and if they were powerful they were a threat. I knew a little of their diet and requirements; they were creatures of open plains and the Great House could not contain them. They could only remain outside and that was intolerable to our masters. I think perhaps that jealousy was hidden in their motives.

And as for myself, perhaps I could not bear to see such a thing corrupted either by enslavement by the abhumans I knew would master the Valley in the end and neither could I bear to see them constrained in the black metal halls of the House.

I did not think too long on that last point. Sentiment, I said, is a weakness, and worse than that, it is hypocrisy. I would not permit myself to weep as they died, as I killed them.

Continue at THE NIGHT LAND

Monday, 3 March 2014

cover art for Kevin Bryce's THE NIGHT LANDS

Interesting new cover art for Kevin Bryce's THE NIGHT LANDS
@copy; hal hefner
click for fullsize

What is interesting is that there's nothing like this in the original book by Hodgson: but it could very well illustrate a story from the Darkening. If this is intentional, it shows rather more attention to the source materiel than is usual in such things. If mere neglect, it is sadly typical.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Art by Maureen Shockey


 The Maid Of Olden days

Two pages meant to look as if from an illustrated "Night Land" (Which does not exist beyond these samples and a few more sample pages, alas)


© Maureen Shocky

view more pages . . .
visit the artist's site at

Monday, 24 February 2014

And The Sky Is Filled With Eyes

by tais teng
part 1

I saw a white star all ablaze
and gladly would have lingered
but I have promises to keep
and light-years to go
before I sleep.

    :attributed to Great-Captain Frost, discoverer of Starholm
    20,693 AFR (After the Foundation of the Redoubt)

Gossil, age 9

"Name the six worlds of Starholm," the teacher said and Gossil was the first to raise his hand.
"There is Yal-bin-Armanth, ser. Out among the comets. Its is all oceans and icebergs. The people live on rafts of seaweed and ride improved sharks. Next to the sun lies Ferno, with lakes of lead and sulfur. The cities are underground and the Fernos look ever so pale and white, like mushrooms. The..."
"I see you did your homework. Good." The teacher pointed. "Now Yaleena will tell us about their capital world."
Yaleena sat bold upright. 'Sorry, ser. My aunt had a baby. I had to help my mother with the birth-muffins." She smiled. "It was human, ser! Its DNA came up as green as grass!"
"Congratulations. Yes, a new baby is more important. Starholm will still be there tomorrow. Gunnar? The capital world?"
"Nue Fusang has a thousand islands and..."
Gossil sat fuming. "I see you did your homework." I could name all Starholm worlds before I was five. He balled his fists. When the Ship launches I will be standing at the helm. Great-Captain Gossil. I'll see the Perfect Worlds with my own eyes.
"Great-Captain Frost said in the poem: And gladly would have lingered. Now, why didn't he?"
"I know that, ser!" Yaleena cried. "There was that other scout-ship, with his wife. It was falling in the black hole that Starholm orbits."
"He didn't save her, but he tried. The black hole took them both. They are still falling because time stops at the edge. They will be falling forever."
She smiled like it was something beautiful, Gossil saw. Stupid girl. Real heroes don't fail. When Frost went down, he sent that poem, not the coordinates of Starholm. It took another five thousand years to find Starholm again, and all because of a woman.
I will do what is right, he decided. I won't get all squishy when a girl hands me a fruit of the darling-vine or puts a flower in her hair. He glanced at Yaleena. Her curls were a glowing verdigris, with the red yellow of copper at the roots. She was of pilot stock: made to live in space. The moment she became weightless her hair would knit itself in a space-helmet, shielding her brain from radiation. She would be the perfect wife for a star-ship captain, but not if she kept cooing about babies.
He must have spieked too loud because he suddenly heard Yaleena night-whispering in his brain.
  "You are so stupid! I'd rather kiss a plow-ape or give my fruit to a..." Her thought sputtered out: she was clearly unable to think of something worse than Gossil.

When Gossil came home his aunt Fayima was sitting under the hearth-lamp with his mother, nipping a pale green liquor. Gossil had tasted it himself once in the kitchen: Asperol was horrible, bitter and sour at the same time.
Now aunt Fayima was all a woman should be: as Niketria she commanded a hundred companies and even those brand-new Censors deferred to her. As the old saying goes: it takes a man to fight a battle, but a woman to win a war.
"Hai, Gossil. How is life?" She turned back to his mother without waiting for an answer . ..,  .


Sunday, 23 February 2014

Is there a Chomskyan linguist in the house?

Chomsky theorized that real languages have a meta-grammer that can be detected.

languages are formed by the application of meta-rules that are genetically programed in.

meta-rules = rules about rules. The rules that make up a language's grammar are not genetically programmed into us. But the meta-rules, the rules abut the rules ,are. The goto book is Pinker THE LANGUAGE INSTINCT


A Pidgin is a trade language that is used when two very disparate language groups meet. It is a patchwork that does not follow the human meta-grammar and therefore is a crippled code with limited ability to describe the real world.

But if children are born whose parents speak pidgin to each other, the children create a Creole to communicate with each other in.

A Creole is a language that follows the human grammar meta-rules but but whose vocabulary is drawn from its two parent languages. IT IS A FULLY EXPRESSIVE, FLEXIBLE, HUMAN LANGUAGE.







How might this have come about?

Well, we know that TNL started as a story told to a child. In THE WANDERING SOUL, Jane Frank quotes this dedication

The following passage was inscribed by hand on the endpaper of a copy of THE NIGHT LAND which Hodgson gave to a girl he called "Scraps" in 1912.

To Scraps,

That impudent maiden to whom

I first told the ever shaping tale

of The Night Land



March 22nd


Do you 'member how you used

to shiver when the Night Hounds

bayed; and how quietly it was

needful to go past the House of Silence - eh?

"Scraps" was one Wilhelmina Bird, the very young daughter of a friend.

Hodgson apparently struck up a friendship with the Bird family some time before 1905, one close enough for him to stay with them for a month at the start of that year.

He sent their young daughter several first editions of his works between 1907 and 1916.

She was eighteen years his junior and to what degree she was an inspiration for Naani must remain conjecture.


So she was about ten when he first started to tell her stories about TNL

Early enough for her childish lisping to have injected just enough real grammar into the deliberately alien future-language Hodgson used??

Sounds dumb,funny. But If anyone knows a Chomskyan linguist, we could find out.

Think what a coup it could be!!!

Just the thing for SARGASSO