The Night Land blog - an extension of

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)