Friday, September 30, 2016


Man, do I love me some King in Yellow, Robert W. Chambers' most famous contribution to the Weird Fiction milieu of the early 20th century. "The Repairer of Reputations" is one of my favorite short stories of all time, with its bizarre blend of off-the-wall "predictions" (it was written in the late 19th century, and set in the "future" of 1920 and not a breath of any such thing as a World War, with or without a Roman numeral, appears, for instance), familial/"dynastic" intrigues, unreliable narration, cosmic horror mythology and the titular character himself -- man, that stuff never fails to delight me.

So yeah, I'm one of those people who lost her freaking mind when I realized the first season of True Detective was totally throwing around bits of Yellowiana like "lost Carcosa" and the Yellow King. Wish there'd been more of that. I'd be totally down for TD having continued to explore a world in which, say, some idiot Hollywood producer greenlights a lavish feature film adaptation of "The King in Yellow"* and mass insanity sweeps the globe, and whatnot. Alas.

But I'm not alone, obviously, because here we have it! New Tales of the Yellow Sign brings the Yellow King/Carcosa mythos into the 21st century, kind of like Amanda Downum's Dreams of Shreds and Tatters did last year. Except more so. So much more so.

The stories herein draw a great deal on the alternate history outlined in "The Repairer of Reputations", using it as a jumping off point for re-imagining the 20th century the way Harry Turtledove might if he wanted to write Weird Fiction. Thus, while the World Wars we remember don't happen, variations on them do, but result, not in the rise of the modern secular/democratic nation-state, but in a tightening of the grip of hereditary monarchy, or of totalitarian dictatorship. Or both. The dystopian feel of a Police State is an undercurrent in every page of these tales, giving them an extra helping of dark glamor they didn't really need, being Yellow Sign stories and thus plenty darkly glamorous already, but do just fine with.

There's probably a little something for everyone here. Usually at this point, when I'm writing about a short fiction collection, I highlight a few of my favorites for special praise, but it's been more than a week since I finished this for the first (but I guarantee not the only) time, and I still can't sort out what my favorites were. Which is to say that I liked them all. Laws pulled off a tour de force of expanding and updating Chambers strange little throwaway alter-verse, and I hope to Hastur he's not done doing so.**

*To clarify, the short story collection of Chambers' that inspired all this is called The King in Yellow. One of the matters the KiY mythos, which figures in just three of the stories, covers, is the existence of a play called "The King in Yellow" which basically evokes cosmic otherworldly supernatural forces by its very text or performance and drives everybody who reads it, let alone sees it, insane forevermore.

**And yeah, I know he's busy inventing amazing award-winning games and writing modules for other games and hosting and appearing as a guest on podcasts and whatnot but, hey, he started it. Nyah.

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