A Season in Carcosa (2012)

Carcosa

ISBN-10: 1937408078
ISBN-13: 978-1937408077
Publisher: Miskatonic River Press

Cover by Daniele Serra

In A Season In Carcosa readers will find the strange and mysterious places of heart and mind that spring from madness, and those minds and the places touched by it are the realms that are mined. Chambers’ legacy of the worms and soft decay that spring from reading the King In Yellow play stir both new and established talents in the world of weird fiction and horror to contribute all new tales that pay homage to these eerie nightmares. In Carcosa twilight comes and minds lost in the mirrors of lust and fear, are awash in legacies of shadows, not mercy. . .

Haunting the pages of this tome are the following voices:

Joel Lane: “My Voice is Dead”
Simon Strantzas: “Beyond the Banks of the River Seine”
Don Webb: “Movie Night at Phil’s”
Daniel Mills: “MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room”
Gary McMahon: “it sees me when I’m not looking”
Ann K. Schwader: “Finale, Act Two”
Cate Gardner: “Yellow Bird Strings”
Edward Morris: “The Teatre & Its Double”
Richard Gavin: “The Hymn of the Hyades”
Gemma Files: “Slick Black Bones and Soft Black Stars”
Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.: “Not Enough Hope”
Kristin Prevallet: “Whose Hearts are Pure Gold”
Richard A. Lupoff: “April Dawn”
Anna Tambour: “King Wolf”
Michael Kelly: “The White-Face at Dawn”
Cody Goodfellow: “Wishing Well”
John Langan: “Sweetums”
Pearce Hansen: “The King is Yellow”
Laird Barron: “D T”
Robin Spriggs: “Salvation in Yellow”
Allyson Bird: “The Beat Hotel”

Reviews

“A Season in Carcosa (Miskatonic River Press, 2012), edited by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. (something of a `new’ weird fiction savant and auteur himself), is a themed anthology inspired by Rovert W. Chambers’ celebrated work, The King in Yellow. After an interesting introduction by Pulver detailing the backstory behind the long road to the completion of this project, the grim festivities are kicked off by Joel Lane with “My Voice is Dead,” the very contemporary story of a dying man named Stephen who will do anything to live, including grasping at the last straws of electronic hope via the Internet, leading him to a representation of the mysterious Carcosa and a chilling encounter with the King in Yellow. Lane’s story is macabre and spell-binding, beautiful in its darkness and bitter religious undertones. It is also a wise choice by Pulver to lead with this one, since the story provides a broad stroke synopsis of KIY for those unfamiliar with it. Allyson Bird closes the collection by checking us into “The Beat Hotel,” a clever and wonderfully resonant tale that introduces the reader to latter-day (late 1960’s) French Decadents Juliette, Michel, Henry and Charles–oh, and once again, that Dread Fellow in Yellow.”
– Walt Hicks (Hellbound Times)

“The late 1800’s were host to a few pieces of literature that would forever alter the way readers see the color yellow. The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, saw publication in 1892, and focused on a wife who obsesses with yellow wallpaper, driving herself mad. As creepy as this story is, it is mostly known today as an important work of feminist literature. It was three years later, in 1895, when Robert Chambers’ collection The King in Yellow would see publication, taking the connection between yellow and madness one step further, into the realm of the supernatural.

The first four stories in Chamber’s collection are connected by common plot devices and themes: a play titled The King In Yellow, a mysterious and evil being also referred to as The King In Yellow, a symbol called The Yellow Sign, decadence, decay, and madness. Over the years these stories, along with others by various authors, have become something of their own Mythos, similar to what many people have dubbed the Cthulhu Mythos or Lovecraft Mythos. Despite the similarities and sometimes overlaps between stories from either Mythos, the “Yellow Mythos” is proving more and more that it can stand independently .

One of the authors who championed Chambers for years is Joseph Pulver Sr. He has written several stories and poems dealing with the King in Yellow, along with promoting other writers that do the same. One of the fruits of his labor is the recently published A Season In Carcosa. This small press anthology, published by Miskatonic River Press, contains twenty short stories and one poem, all dealing with the mythology of Chambers’ stories.

Anthologies are usually a mixed bag, and a perfect anthology is a rare thing indeed. While this anthology is not perfect, the good manages to far outweigh the bad. Pulver has managed to gather a nice variety of stories, from a very talented group of authors. Madness, decadence, and the King himself are explored in several ways. Some tales are modern and others take place in the past. The one common thread that connects all of them is the link between madness and the color yellow.”
– Justin Steele via Arkham Digest (full review)

“In the 1938 Memorial Edition of Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, Rupert Hughes suggests that if we remove Chambers from the literary landscape, “a great and brilliant life would be left without presentation; a swarm of men and women as typical of our time as any other groups, and living our life to the full, would be entirely omitted from the literary parade.” Hughes assures us that the work of Robert Chambers will survive, “unless posterity shall be too deeply involved in its own problems to care for ours.”

The King in Yellow was published in 1895. As Hughes suggests, “the central idea is magnificent.” The first four stories in the collection reference The King in Yellow, a forbidden play which inspires madness in those who read it. This same leit-motif appears in A Season in Carcosa, a collection of tales inspired by Chambers and lovingly assembled by one of his greatest champions, Joseph S. Pulver Sr. In the introduction to A Season in Carcosa, Pulver suggests that, with The King in Yellow Chambers created a mythology of sorts, “some even term it a mythos, linked by a king in pallid, tattered robes, the madness-inducing `The King in Yellow’ play, and the Yellow Sign.”

The authors involved in Pulver’s collection have collectively embraced, built upon, and perhaps defined the Chambers mythology. In “My Voice is Dead”, author Joel Lane capably brings Carcosa into the 21st century without sacrificing the haunted beauty of the 19th. The fact that Lane is able to do this is a compliment to his skills as a writer, and to the timelessness of Chambers’ original ideal. With “Beyond the Banks of the River Seine”, Simon Strantzas offers a more traditional `Chambers-esque’ tale. With his usual brilliance, Strantzas captures the madness evoked by `The King in Yellow’ and the very real and all-too-human poison known as envy. He captures the subtle vagueness of Chambers perfectly, making “Beyond the Banks of the River Seine” one of the (many) true gems of this collection. Where Strantzas and Lane build upon the Chambers style, Daniel Mills brilliantly embodies the mythos in “MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room”. Mills is an extremely gifted writer. His often breathtaking prose brings to life the Chambers pantheon, from Camilla to the King himself, leaving little doubt that, as Hughes so hoped, Chambers has survived.

Stories occasionally transcend genre. In 1895 The King in Yellow did this very thing. In 2012 Edward Morris has done much the same with his flawless contribution to A Season in Carcosa. “The Theatre and It’s Double” is superb. Edward Morris captures the essence of Chambers’ original work while employing his own delightfully exquisite style. As with Pulver’s contribution, “Not Enough Hope”, and “Salvation in Yellow” by Robin Spriggs, Morris toys with form and style. What makes these three authors stand out within this collection and the Chambers mythology as a whole is their willingness to challenge convention. Rupert Hughes praised Chambers for his “sense of form, of progress, suspense, and climax.” Indeed, Hughes appeared infatuated by the form and structure Morris, Spriggs, and Pulver rebel against in this collection. While Hughes was correct in thinking that form and structure serve a purpose in literature, that purpose should not stifle creative brilliance, nor can it contain the monstrous talent exhibited here by these three authors.

Allyson Bird’s “The Beat Hotel” rounds out the collection. Like Strantzas, her contribution is a subtle tribute to Robert W. Chambers. Like Strantzas, Bird is brilliant. Few authors are as consistently good as Allyson Bird. In anthologies and collections, the first and last stories often leave the longest lasting impression on the book as a whole. Whether by design or not, Joel Lane and Allyson Bird deliver. “My Voice is Dead” and “The Beat Hotel” linger, ensuring that A Season in Carcosa, like The King in Yellow will survive the passage of time.”
– Jason Rolfe

“Every anthology includes pieces that don’t work for all readers. All too often, the reader must be satisfied with just a few strong stories in the mix. In this case, the intelligent and provocative bullseyes greatly outnumber the few misses. Some of the highlights come from reliable writers such as Laird Barron and John Langan, who lately seem never to miss the mark. Both use the “King in Yellow” theme as an excuse to try something a little different, to veer off the path of their usual focuses and themes. Barron does something that feels much like veiled biography, in which a Carcosan entity visits an author who seems clearly inspired by Karl Edward Wagner. Langan’s tale has the feel of nightmare, and follows an actress as she stumbles through an extraordinary soundstage during the filming of a project seemingly attuned to a world other than our own.

The greatest anthologies are important because they do more than just parade one famous author after another; they bring to the reader’s attention work by less familiar names. I’d never read anything by Gary McMahon before, but his Bukowski-inflected noir, “it sees me when I’m not looking,” was a wonderful surprise. Edward Morris comes up with a surreal and disturbing tour de force, “The Theater and its Double.” This complex and ambitious piece blends poetry, screenplay, and stream of consciousness.”
– Michael Griffin (full review)

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