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As much as I’m dismayed that Robert W. Chamber’s genius for weird fiction went largely underutilized, one could easily make the argument he did the world of horror a tremendous service by creating and essentially abandoning such a magnificent construction as The King in Yellow. The King, according to Chambers, is defined in the faintest of terms: the sane have only the dimmest understanding of what he represents (namely, something that should be avoided by all costs). Those who have been exposed to his influence are not only insane, but obsessed with the practical power associated with this knowledge: it’s never quite clear how, or why, but Hildred’s association with the mysterious play will lead to his ascendancy as The Last King of the Imperial Dynasty of America, but this fact is treated as completely irrelevant. He knows the King, he has found the Yellow Sign, and once everything falls into place he will claim the power that is rightfully his.  His obsession renders him completely non-concerned by the questions that might intrigue us about the King.  As such, Chambers has provided weird fiction writers with tremendously fertile ground to develop.

So, it’s actually a big surprise to me that I haven’t seen nearly as much King in Yellow mythos fiction as, for example, fiction revolving around Deep Ones or ghouls. But I have encountered a handful of stories that definitely bear reading:

The more I think about this story, the more I love it, because the crappy, badly-dubbed film both modernizes and perfectly mirrors the nature of the original play: there’s nothing outwardly wrong with it, it’s maybe a little weird, hard to exactly pinpoint why…but it changes you. Irrevocably.

But, to be honest, I’ve gone through all of my anthologies and these are the only stories I’ve found featuring the storied King. Have you encountered any? Recommendations are always appreciated!

The Cultist

 

*Lovecraftian tidbit for you: This story was apparently Lovecraft’s response to “The Shambler from the Stars”, a short story by Robert Bloch. The doomed protagonist is a college student, an academic type who wishes to write weird fiction but his work is continually (and consistently) rejected by the editors of the leading pulp magazines. Sound like a familiar character? Well, in order to avenge the death of his literary doppelganger, Lovecraft wrote “The Haunter of the Dark”, in which a foolish young man finds an artifact capable of summoning a dread creature across time and space. Which, of course, leads to said young man’s—named, of course, Robert Blake—untimely and hideous demise due to a three-lobed burning eye.

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