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A Season in Carcosa by Joseph S. Pulver Sr.

A Season in Carcosa

by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. (Editor)

Other authors: Laird Barron (Contributor), Allyson Bird (Contributor), Gemma Files (Contributor), Cate Gardner (Contributor), Richard Gavin (Contributor)16 more, Cody Goodfellow (Contributor), Pearce Hansen (Contributor), Michael Kelly (Contributor), Joel Lane (Contributor), John Langan (Contributor), Richard A. Lupoff (Contributor), Gary McMahon (Contributor), Daniel Mills (Contributor), Edward Morris (Contributor), Kristin Prevallet (Contributor), Ann K. Schwader (Contributor), Daniele Serra (Contributor), Robin Spriggs (Contributor), Simon Strantzas (Contributor), Anna Tambour (Contributor), Don Webb (Contributor)

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A collection of tributes to Robert W. Chambers "King in Yellow" stories. If you haven't read those, rectify that promptly and then come back to this review!

In a multi-author collection it's practically a given one likes some contributions more and some less, but in this case the range was fairly small; nothing struck me as a complete dud, and neither did anything strike me as outstanding. Most succeed in capturing something of the spirit of the original tales, and references to Chambers' characters and to the fictional play The King in Yellow are of course legio. A non-Chambersian reference I was pleased to note was the passing mention of Vergama, a deity from Clark Ashton Smith's "The Last Hieroglyph", in John Langan's "Sweetums". Few of the stories copy Chambers' 1890s settings; almost all follow the originals in hinting at far more than they explain. Sometimes this results in frustrating vagueness; more often in a dreamlike or nightmarish tone where reality and rationality have a weak hold at best.

Perhaps the best are Daniel Mills' "MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room", Kristin Prevallet's "Whose Hearts Are Pure Gold", and Allyson Bird's "The Beat Hotel". The one I liked the least is probably Anna Tambour's "King Wolf".
4 vote AndreasJ | Jan 20, 2018 |
This book is one of a tiny number (probably in the single digits) to focus on the elaboration of the jauniste weird, a literary tradition with its seminal irruption in The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers. Far more enjoyable than the sort of pastiches and retreads that are common to the Lovecraftian "mythos," these stories take motives and inspiration from the source material, but they are invariably discrete and original approaches to madness and terror. The dread play itself mutates into opera, film, radio, children's television, tribal folklore, and other media. The metafictional qualities of the original Chambers stories (and the cousin-kisses they received from later Yog-Sothothery) have led many contributors to bring in other literary allusions ranging from Antonin Artaud to C.S. Lewis.

Materially, the book is no great shakes. The cover art is attractive enough, but the paper and binding are print-on-demand quality, and it could have used much more thorough proofing to attend to the ubiquitous typos. It almost avoids the nonsense "Yellow Sign" that originated in game graphics, but the damned thing still appears in the midst of the letter o in "Carcosa" on the spine! The book's greatest unmet desideratum is some information on the contributors, most of whom were new to me.

Stand-out pieces included the hallucinatory Victorian American period piece "MS Found in a Chicago Hotel Room" by Daniel Mills, the erudite surrealist "Theater and Its Double" by Edward Morris, and the psychotic crescendo of "Whose Hearts Are Pure Gold" by Kristin Prevallet. The sardonic present-day story by Cody Goodfellow, "Wishing Well," reminded me a great deal of the work of Chuck Palahniuk, and was certainly one of the volume's best.

All of these stories are suitably eerie and perverse. Perhaps as many as a third of them culminate with the incoherent collapse of the narrating perspective, which doesn't seem excessive given the importance of madness and destruction to the Carcosan mytheme. There's no special value to reading all of these stories in a continuous effort. I took one significant pause in the course of reading them, and the experience might have benefited from a couple more hiatuses. I strongly recommend the collection to those who are "into this sort of thing."
8 vote paradoxosalpha | Nov 3, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sr., Joseph S. PulverEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barron, LairdContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bird, AllysonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Files, GemmaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gardner, CateContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gavin, RichardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Goodfellow, CodyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hansen, PearceContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kelly, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lane, JoelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Langan, JohnContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lupoff, Richard A.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McMahon, GaryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Mills, DanielContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Morris, EdwardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Prevallet, KristinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schwader, Ann K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Serra, DanieleContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Spriggs, RobinContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Strantzas, SimonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tambour, AnnaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Webb, DonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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These are seasons of madness and delusion, experiences stained and tainted by The king of Yellow, Carcosa, the Yellow sign and the mysterious Play itself... From Paris to New York, in lonely hearts and broken minds, the river of Night's dreaming flows and when the Yellow Sign appears, sane departs for the dim shores where the cloud-waves break. Come join the puppets who discover there's no refuge or exit from dark desire and dangerous visions.… (more)

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