In the Court of the Yellow King

I’m a huge fan of the mythos that has developed from Robert W Chambers’ 1895 decadent collection The King in Yellow, more so even than I am a fan of Lovecraft’s mythos. Lovecraft’s mythos seems, to me at least, to be more codified. He produced, and inspired, a far larger body of work than Chambers’ four stories and so there is a much larger canon for new tales to fit into. The Yellow Mythos, or Carcosa Mythos, of Chambers’ creation however has very few things that are required in order for a tale to become a part of the mythos. There is the titular play and its locations and characters (Carcosa, Lake Hali, the black stars, the Tattered King, the Stranger, and so on) and the themes of madness and suicide as well as the prose style of the late 19th Century Decadent Movement. A story can incorporate some or all of these elements and still fit within the canon of the King in Yellow. This openness really appeals to me and so I am always keen to pick up any new collections of stories inspired by Chambers and his maddening play.

In the Court of the Yellow King was released recently by Celaeno Press in Japan, edited by Glynn Owen Barrass, and features some absolutely amazing authors including Wilum Pugmire, Robert M. Price, the late C.J. Henderson (to whom the book is dedicated), William Meikle and Pete Rawlik amongst others. It has a beautiful cover by Danielle Sera and a couple of internal plates by Eric York.

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I’m going to be reading this collection, and the others that I was given for Christmas, over the next few weeks. I’ll post micro-reviews of the stories here as I go.

Before I start though I should note that I find it really odd to see a King in Yellow collection without a story by Joe Pulver. Not that all Yellow books need to feature Joe but it just seems odd that one wouldn’t. That said they do have an extremely fine selection of very talented authors here.

Table of Contents(Titles link to the reviews below)

These Harpies of Carcosa – W.H. Pugmire

The Viking in Yellow – Christine Morgan

Who Killed the King of Rock and Roll? – Edward Morris

Masque of the Queen – Stephen Mark Rainey

Grand Theft Hovercar – Jeffrey Thomas

The Girl with the Star-Stained Soul – Lucy A. Snyder

The Penumbra of Exquisite Foulness – Tim Curran

Yield – C.J. Henderson

Homeopathy – Greg Stolze

Bedlam in Yellow – William Meikle

A Jaundiced Light at the End – Brian M. Sammons

The Yellow Film – Gary McMahon

Lights Fade – Laurel Halbany

Future Imperfect – Glynn Owen Barrass

The Mask of Yellow Death – Robert M. Price

The Sepia Prints – Pete Rawlik

Nigredo – Cody Goodfellow

MonoChrome – T.E. Grau

 

These Harpies of Carcosa by W.H. Pugmire

Wilum Hopfrog Pugmire raises the curtain on this latest round of Carcosan tales with this brief tale that sets the stage for what is to follow. Through the medium of the dream inspired, and starving, artist we are introduced deftly to the trappings of the Yellow Mythos of R.W. Chambers. The twin moons and the dim lost city, black stars and the king and his daughters, madness, suicide and the Yellow Sign.

Pugmire’s prose is as Lovecraftian as ever which works wonderfully to evoke the world of the artist and his narrating patron.

The Viking in Yellow by Christine Morgan

 I really quite liked this story, it places the origins of the tale related in the play in the 9th Century Viking expansion into the North of England(judging by the names of the human characters) and the sacking of various monasteries.

Who Killed the King of Rock n Roll? by Edward Morris

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I’m afraid this story, which is set in the 1950s at the birth of rock’n’roll and conflates one King with another, didn’t really do it for me. Which isn’t to say that it’s a bad story, it certainly isn’t, I just found the 1950s American lingo a bit off putting at times.

Masque of the Queen by Stephen Mark Rainey

I loved this story. The tale of a young actress seeming to get the big break that she’s been waiting for and the calamity that ensues when she truly becomes one with the character she is portraying. This was brilliantly executed and really gave me a shiver when the protagonist’s fate became horribly clear.

Grand Theft Hovercar by Jeffrey Thomas

Imagine. Punktown is a horrible place to live; a far future dystopia on the planet Oasis. A melting pot of alien races the city is notorious for being riddled with crime. Now imagine that in Punktown there was a VR game, similar to our Grand Theft Auto, set in a replica of Punktown and that that game became infected by a yellow virus. That’s this story and it is so good that I’m going to go and buy Jeffrey Thomas’ Punktown books at the first chance I get.

The Girls With the Star Stained Soul by Lucy A. Snyder

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True Dick – The King in Yellow

True Detective isn’t the first time that Chamber’s tattered king appeared in conjunction with hard boiled detectives like Rust and Marty. In 1938 Raymond Chandler wrote a Philip Marlowe short story entitled The King in Yellow. In 1983 this story was turned into an episode of  Philip Marlowe, Private Eye.

Cassilda’s Song

I just came across this fantastic version of Cassilda’s Song by The Society of the Yellow Sign.

From Act I Scene 2 of The King in Yellow.

Along the shore the cloud waves break,

The twin suns sink behind the lake,

The shadows lengthen

In Carcosa.
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is

Lost Carcosa.
Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in

Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,

Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed

Shall dry and die in

Lost Carcosa.