The Night Land blog - an extension of

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



Friday, 21 February 2014

The Underground Fields by Tais Teng

Another Night Land picture manifested itself, with endless fields of nourishing fungi. I don't know who the girl is yet or what her story is , but she'll no doubt tell me
Tais Teng

As is usual, click on the pic for the full-size glory. We'll have more of Tais' latest story soon.

Monday, 17 February 2014


I've said it before, and will carry on saying it until the stars go out: this is the greatest Night Land story ever written.

By John C Wright.



We are lost in endless and titanic halls of windowless metal. Some of the things pursuing us are so large that, to them, even these halls are cramped, and the miters of the crawling sphinxes scrape flakes of debris from unseen expanse of black plate so high above.

I say we are aboard a ship. The other men resurrected from the Archive disagree. Some think we are in hell, or in a fairy-mound, or suffering the hallucinations imposed by the thinking-machines of futuristic science.

Of all of us, the man from the latest period of humanity hails from AD 29,000,000; some twenty-nine million years after my death. He came from an age long after the sun had died, a terror-haunted world of eternal darkness. His home was a titanic fortress called the Last Redoubt, a structure armored against the infinite cold of a sunless sky, nursing its life on the last few embers of dying geothermal and geomagnetic heat. His name is Ydmos of Utter-Tower. Ydmos thinks this vessel is a redoubt like his, one long ago captured by the enemy, and that we are all buried far underground.

Even his era is uncountable years lost, compare to this present one. Earth was murdered more than fifteen billion years ago; the Milky Way, star by star, was consumed by darkness five billion years ago, and the Greater and Lesser Magellanic Clouds as well. The great galaxy in Andromeda, her satellite galaxies M32 and M110, and Triagulum Galaxy in M33, are also gone: the spiral galaxies in Ursa Minor, Sculptor, Draco, Carina, Fornax: over the slow millennia, all are destroyed and vanished.

All the stars known to the astronomers of history are gone: the galaxies have tumbled together into a vast and central fire, the Last Of All Suns. At the core of this sun is one infinitely heavy point of nothingness where nine-tenths of the mass and energy of the universe are compressed.

Of the remaining tenth part of the substance of the universe, some lingers yet in the form of matter, including a remnant of red-dwarf galaxies, their cores absorbed into black holes, their arms choked with exhausted nebulae that will never collapse against to form fresh stars. The dying galaxies are streaming toward the central fire, and, from our position in time and space, seem, to us, not yet to have been consumed. Perhaps that event has happened: the light from it has not reached us. Some of the remaining universal mass is in the form of energy: the residue of the universe has dropped to a uniform background radiation just above absolute zero.

And one infinitely small residuum of the dying cosmos is matter and energy lingering yet in the form of living creatures and their works: there is one ship left, with us aboard.

There is something else aboard as well, something horribly alien to our continuum, to life, to time and space and order. The ship is theirs: we are as rats in the hold.




It was dark. A few fitful lanterns, perhaps a quarter mile up off the deck, perhaps fifteen billion years old, emitted sickly glints of greenish-yellow light. The pounding of numberless claws on the metal deck-plates was like drumming rain.

The looming creature Ydmos called a Night Hound came running ahead of a galloping pack of malformed hobgoblins. This breed of Night Hound is a hard-skinned albino monster larger than a dray-horse, with a face like a hairless wolf and teeth like an alligator.

Ydmos raised his odd-looking weapon: it was a poleaxe tipped with a sharpened disk. The disk spun like a buzz saw, and a flare like lightning came from it, and a low roar like a lion’s roar. The weapon was dazzling bright in his hands, and his fluttering shadow pivoted about his wide-placed feet as he swung. The creature saved itself from a mortal blow to its thick neck by raising its forepaw into the blazing path of the weapon. The stroke chopped through scale and hide and muscle to part the monster's flesh from wrist to elbow. A fan of black and stinking blood flew up from the wound, and the creature screamed even more loudly than the lightning-roaring weapon.

The Night-Hound reared up on his hindquarters, one huge fore-limb hanging limply, and slashed down with its other. Its palm was wide as a dinner-plate, its nails longer than dirks. Ydmos fell.

The wheel of lightning shed by the weapon was quenched, and the little pocket of light surrounding Ydmos winked out. In sudden gloom and silence, small noise of his pole-arm clashing to the deck was audible.

I lifted my trusty Holland & Holland elephant gun to my shoulder -or the dream thing, whatever it was, that pretended to be my fine old beauty of the gunsmith’s craft-and squeezed the trigger. The trigger had pull; the heft of the weapon was right. It felt heavy in my hands, trusted and familiar.

The rifle was solid. I could feel the grain of the wood against my cheek as I brought it to my shoulder, I could see the tiny scratches and irregularities in the polished barrel. The sites cast a very tiny shadow on the curved surface of the barrel. It was real. I had faith in it.

I fire a 900-grain slug at nearly four tons of muzzle-energy. The slug is thicker than my thumb, and you can knock over a tree with it, at short ranges. The familiar smell of cordite, cotton soaked in nitro, rose to my nostrils.

(For a moment, a terrible moment, I was convinced this was all a dream, and that I would wake up again in the Veldt, the hot sun throwing a zebra-striped pattern of shadows from the long grass against my tent walls, and Lisa outside, looking pretty in her jodhpurs and pith helmet, calling me a slow-poke and telling me the game was getting away. For a moment.)

Fortunately, the matter-wizard Abraxander-the-Threshold (from Tau Ceti, circa AD 30,000) had also been able to materialize a heavy jacket with a padded shoulder. Even with this padding, the kick jarred my shoulder painfully. Either my imagination had over-charged the shells with powder, or I was weaker now than I had been when I was alive.

The Night Hound went down as if felled by a hammer, half-severed at its horny collarbones, its chest blown open. I could see ribs, sliding chest-muscles, pumping lung tissue. Black blood streamed from its shattered neck and chest, and flooded across the deck. The stench was terrible. Even dead, its jaws continued to snap, and its legs continued to kick, and the barbs in its tail went in and out like the stringer in a dead wasp does.

You would think the creatures from hell, or from outer-space, would be used to loud noises. It seemed not. All the monsters quailed at the report, shocked. A terrible silence hung in the corridor for a long, strange moment. The echoes of the shot reverberated through the ship, farther and farther, echo answering echo.

The monsters ran away.




Uj, the shaggy man, gripped the bone he used as a truncheon in his teeth, dropped to all fours, and scampered doglike across the deck toward Ydmos, and his wolfskin pelt flapped on his hairy back as he ran. If I am right, Uj is a Neanderthal, or some other pre-human homonid, the earliest of us, even as Ydmos was the latest. The method the Blue Man uses to discover our dates returns no reading from the Neanderthal, or so he says. (The Blue Man claims he is measuring of the regular decay of certain particles in our bodies-but how can these be our original bodies?) Uj may be from the future, after an age of degeneration, rather than from the past.

"It is too late!" I called, "Leave him!"

But I was wrong. The Neanderthal saw or sensed something I did not. The fingers of the gauntlet of Ydmos flexed slightly. His pole-arm was laying a foot or so to his right, its heavy disk-shaped ax-blade dark, not spinning. But when his hand trembled, the weapon slid across the deck, as if pulled by an invisible thread, into his grasp, and the blade lit up with terrible energy again.

Even as the main body of the monsters fled from us, there came a sound like a laugh both very near at hand, and from very many miles away, perhaps on another deck. It was one sound, coming from two different points in space. It was a large laugh, larger than an elephant’s lungs could have made. It was as if a hillside laughed, or a world, and we felt it in our bones.

The light from the weapon of Ydmos was snuffed out. Perhaps Ydmos had merely doused his weapon as a precaution, when The Thing That Laughs uttered its hideous noise: but at that moment, it looked more to me as if that laugh had blown it like a candle.

That laugh made us flee in panic, despite our temporary victory. We ran from the monsters who were running from us, both sides fleeing the other. This is more common in irregular skirmishes than you might imagine: officers rarely report it when it happens, for no one can explain, later, why you run from someone who you’ve routed. Panic happens in war.

Ahead of us was a place where a lantern had fallen, making a 100-yard wide crater in the deckplates. Even panicked, we were wise enough to give the thing wide berth as we circled the crater: radiations leaking from the damaged glass were deadly. But the light was brighter here because of it, giving us a glimpse of what lay ahead: before us, we saw the whole tremendous width of the corridor was filled with an encroaching black mist, and the lanterns overhead were winking out, one by one. In the depth of the mist could be glimpsed pale and quivering mounds of flesh, the bodies of enormous slugs, large as freight-trains, crawling blindly toward us, quite without noise.

To my left, I saw a wide hatch swing quietly open. This section of bulkhead was between two buttresses, half-hidden in the dim light. I saw, through the open hatch, a set of metal stairs, going down and down.

The Neanderthal pointed toward the valve with his bone truncheon, beckoning us, and he gave a soft hoot. He did not wait to see if we followed, but, with Ydmos still across his back, the shaggy man was away, scooting on all fours down the stairs.

I hissed softly, afraid to raise my voice, but Uj did not answer. Gloom swallowed him.

Two more of our small band, Mneseus, the sorcerer-king from Atlantis, and Enoch the antediluvian, both sprinted toward the stairs. A third, the Blue Man, who was calling himself Crystals-of-Incandescent-Bliss today, never does anything in a hurry, and so he strolled in a leisurely saunter after them. The Cave-Man or Redskin or whatever he was named He-Sings-Death, came and stood near me, his spear in its spear-thrower held lightly at his shoulder, his eyes turned intently toward the approaching wall of mist, the silent masses of blind slug-flesh. He bounced on his toes in an agony of impatience: he obviously wanted to flee down the stair, and escape this wide expanse of open corridor, but did not want to abandon gray-haired Abraxander, the fifth of our group, or me.

I mistrusted the stairs: I felt we were being herded. But in a small company of eight men, leaderless, whoever is the most rash will lead, and the rest must follow or allow the company to be scattered.

I trudged down the stairs into the gloom, rifle ready, Abraxander-the-Threshold on slippered feet, coming in a silken rustle of robes behind me. He-Sings-Death, silent as a cat, came after, watching backwards for signs of pursuit, his spear-hand at his shoulder, elbow high, tense and ready to cast.

We all flinched when the valve came quietly shut behind us, cutting off the lamplight from the corridor.



I must explain how I held a weapon from a world, and a solar system, and a galaxy, long ago dissolved.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

How Does Hodgson Fit In?

Hi Andy,

Thanks for the invitation. Here's something that I thought would make for a (hopefully) lively topic.

In regards to debating the "consensus future history" as you put it in your earlier post, I think it's worth asking ourselves and each other whether Hodgson's other works should be considered part of the Night Land canon. Right now, it seems a given that "The House on the Borderland" is, but what about "The Ghost Pirates" or "The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig'" or "Voice in the Night" or any of his other stories?

Is it a good idea to consider them part of our "official" history of the Night Land, or would it be better to leave them aside as stand-alone, unrelated (but by no means unimaginative) works?

Also, if any of them do fit within the history, we then open ourselves up to this question: how do the creatures and phenomena in those other works tie into our Night Land mythos? What specific parts should each play in it?

I'm relatively new to the Night Land site, so maybe this issue has been addressed already, but if not, I'm really curious about what other people's thoughts are on this and would love to read what everybody has to say about it.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Disciples of Solid Sound music inspired by The Nightland!

Hi Andy
Hope all's well. Christy from Disciples of Solid Sound here.
The new blog looks great, really nice companion to the website. 

Can I ask you a favour? Could you delete the reference to Myspace from the Disciples of Solid Sound section on Nightsongs, please?
We are on Facebook, and will be posting new material on my Youtube channel soon.

So if you want to add those links instead, that would be great.

Thanks again!
All the best

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

"The Dream of X" by Ian Miller

I once gave Ian Miller's graphic novelisation of M John Harrison's THE LUCK IN THE HEAD a rather poor review in INTERZONE.

Technically, purely in terms of how you compose panel narrative,I was correct: but I forgot to mention that Ian is a genius, whose talent transcends genre.

Mike too, I guess.

Twenty years late, profound apologies.