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Under Twin Suns: Alternate Histories of the Yellow Sign

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In this anthology of weird fiction, twenty-two authors who found the Yellow Sign share their harrowing visions of worlds shaped by its influence in stories and poems inspired by Robert W. Chambers’s foundational works of weird horror. From the personal to the historic, from the macabre to the fantastic, the stories and poems gathered here illuminate new, unexpected realiti In this anthology of weird fiction, twenty-two authors who found the Yellow Sign share their harrowing visions of worlds shaped by its influence in stories and poems inspired by Robert W. Chambers’s foundational works of weird horror. From the personal to the historic, from the macabre to the fantastic, the stories and poems gathered here illuminate new, unexpected realities shaped by the King in Yellow, under the sway of the Yellow Sign, or in the grip of madnesses inspired by their power. Robert W. Chambers’s classic work of weird fiction, The King in Yellow (1895), contained two stories that have exercised wide influence in the genre. “The Repairer of Reputations” introduced the world to The King in Yellow, a play in two acts, banned for its reputed power to drive mad anyone who reads its complete text. Another story, “The Yellow Sign,” used the experiences of an artist and his model to elaborate on the mythos of the Yellow King, the Yellow Sign, and their danger to all who encounter them. In those tales Chambers crafted fascinating glimpses of a cosmos populated by conspiracies, government-sanctioned suicide chambers, haunted artists, premonitions of death, unreliable narrators—and dark, enigmatic occurrences tainted by the alien world of Carcosa, where the King rules in his tattered yellow mantle. In Carcosa, black stars rise and Cassilda and Camilla speak and sing. In Carcosa, eyes peer from within pallid masks to gaze across Lake Hali at the setting of twin suns.


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In this anthology of weird fiction, twenty-two authors who found the Yellow Sign share their harrowing visions of worlds shaped by its influence in stories and poems inspired by Robert W. Chambers’s foundational works of weird horror. From the personal to the historic, from the macabre to the fantastic, the stories and poems gathered here illuminate new, unexpected realiti In this anthology of weird fiction, twenty-two authors who found the Yellow Sign share their harrowing visions of worlds shaped by its influence in stories and poems inspired by Robert W. Chambers’s foundational works of weird horror. From the personal to the historic, from the macabre to the fantastic, the stories and poems gathered here illuminate new, unexpected realities shaped by the King in Yellow, under the sway of the Yellow Sign, or in the grip of madnesses inspired by their power. Robert W. Chambers’s classic work of weird fiction, The King in Yellow (1895), contained two stories that have exercised wide influence in the genre. “The Repairer of Reputations” introduced the world to The King in Yellow, a play in two acts, banned for its reputed power to drive mad anyone who reads its complete text. Another story, “The Yellow Sign,” used the experiences of an artist and his model to elaborate on the mythos of the Yellow King, the Yellow Sign, and their danger to all who encounter them. In those tales Chambers crafted fascinating glimpses of a cosmos populated by conspiracies, government-sanctioned suicide chambers, haunted artists, premonitions of death, unreliable narrators—and dark, enigmatic occurrences tainted by the alien world of Carcosa, where the King rules in his tattered yellow mantle. In Carcosa, black stars rise and Cassilda and Camilla speak and sing. In Carcosa, eyes peer from within pallid masks to gaze across Lake Hali at the setting of twin suns.

42 review for Under Twin Suns: Alternate Histories of the Yellow Sign

  1. 4 out of 5

    Myles

    An amazing King In Yellow anthology. So many of these stories are stand outs and they are all very well written. What I appreciate about this book is that each story is varied in their prose and their interpretation of the KiY, as well as the direction that their story takes. 4.5/5

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kyla Ward

    In any theme anthology, the reader may expect to encounter works that satisfy them and works that do not. When that theme derives from two short stories originally published in 1895, you may expect this to go double or even triple, given the dizzying ambiguity of Robert W. Chambers’ “The Repairer of Reputations” and “The Yellow Sign”. Chambers’ weird oeuvre includes more tales than this, but these two contain most of what is known about The King in Yellow – the legendary play that drives all who In any theme anthology, the reader may expect to encounter works that satisfy them and works that do not. When that theme derives from two short stories originally published in 1895, you may expect this to go double or even triple, given the dizzying ambiguity of Robert W. Chambers’ “The Repairer of Reputations” and “The Yellow Sign”. Chambers’ weird oeuvre includes more tales than this, but these two contain most of what is known about The King in Yellow – the legendary play that drives all who read the second act mad in one way or another. By concentrating on these, the anthology avoids subsequent attempts to square the tales with the “Cthulhu mythos”, a project with shaky foundations at best. What does it provide in its stead? First, there is poetry. Pieces by Ann K. Schwader and Linda D. Addison serve as a welcome echo of Chambers’ own poetic inclusions. Schwader’s sonnet “The Dawning” conjures a haunting vision that is all-too familiar to New Yorkers today. “…Barely brave enough to rise, I find a pallid mask awaiting me.” John Langan’s “Helioforge” and Sarah Read’s “The Inn of the Fates” are for me, the standouts among the prose. Each utterly different, they complement the originals without touching on them more than tangentially. “Helioforge” is a journey, in the great tradition of discovering oneself by discovering, in this case, a vastly different America that yet feels like home – the sheer craft of this piece is amazing. “The Inn of the Fates” is urgent and persuasive, its vision exquisite. Remembering that the sculpture above the door of the first government Lethal Chamber is called The Fates, opens up the narrative - it truly feels like a link in the chain. “Suanee” by Steve Van Patten also succeeds magnificently. Based upon another passing, if crucial, reference in “Repairer”, it reveals the view from the underside, of those forced to live with the madness of a racially defined overclass. Kaaron Warren’s “The King in Yella” and “Wasp Honey” by Kathleen Schieiner do their own, excellent jobs of transporting the beats of “Sign” out of its privileged setting into poverty, marginality, and contemporaneity. Schieiner’s particularly holds a peculiar sense of innocence and joy. J. Daniel Stone’s “Filthy Yellow Hope” goes one step further, positing an apocalypse that has razed New York and all freedom with it. In a powerful cascade of words, the tales become a focus of hope and rebellion in a world that desperately needs to go mad. There are clever ideas to be found throughout. In “Found and Lost”, Meghan Arcuri creates a plausible set of events leading from “Repairer” to “Sign”. Carol Gyzander’s “The Yellow Crown” flips the power dynamics implied therein, slyly pointing out that in 1895, the idea of rule by women was madness. Tim Waggoner’s “The Exchange” makes good use of the Lethal Chamber, providing a credible glimpse of such things as may be worse than death. Then, there are the stories which I found to be solid enough takes on obsession and violence, but to which the Yellow Sign was a shaky graft. As said, the reader will find their own path. The most substantial and challenging piece is “…less…light” by Joseph S. Pulver Snr. The title inverts James Blish’s “More Light” (1970), which charts a writer’s failure to complete reading the play. Here, an alcoholic photographer attempts to reconnect with his art, only to find his pictures reveal a bizarre new world. Here, the ambiguity is once again complete – in no small part due to his lavish prose style, advancing at times into concrete poetry and eventually into an actual script. Has Daniel Serra indeed found the means to enter Carcosa and seize the throne, or has he succumbed to a madness as thorough yet unique as Hildred Castaigne’s? The King in Yellow holds an enduring fascination. Entire novels have been based on the mythology and scripts have been written, plays have been staged based upon Chambers’ hints. This anthology, edited by James Chambers, amply demonstrates the reason, or possibly its glorious disintegration. I am assured he is no relation, but all know the succession depends upon the will of the Tattered King.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    Good collection of stories with a strong central theme; not just The King in Yellow but the historical context suggested at in Chambers's works. Good collection of stories with a strong central theme; not just The King in Yellow but the historical context suggested at in Chambers's works.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tomasz

    Major disappointment, actually. Very poorly edited, both in selecting the stories and cleaning up the copy (the Joe Pulver novelette is almost unreadable, in parts). Not much invention on show, either. Oh well.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Holley

    Review coming soon.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Garrett Boatman

  7. 5 out of 5

    Katrin Pulver

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Patzsch

  9. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Scorpion

  10. 5 out of 5

    Erinn Crider

  11. 4 out of 5

    Moon

  12. 4 out of 5

    Book lover

  13. 5 out of 5

    Literary Lion

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dcschelt

  16. 5 out of 5

    Curtis

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ann Schwader

  18. 5 out of 5

    Suzanne

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ken Wilson

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nick Melton

  21. 5 out of 5

    Ally

  22. 5 out of 5

    Renee Mulhare

  23. 5 out of 5

    R.C. Mulhare

  24. 4 out of 5

    Horrorlover86

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sylri

  26. 5 out of 5

    Derek

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carol Vaughan

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shawn

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mark Catalfano

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kendra

  31. 5 out of 5

    Andreas

  32. 5 out of 5

    Dries

  33. 4 out of 5

    Mere Rain

  34. 4 out of 5

    Miranda

  35. 5 out of 5

    Otter

  36. 5 out of 5

    Martin

  37. 5 out of 5

    Todd

  38. 5 out of 5

    Gennady Gorin

  39. 5 out of 5

    Louie Adams

  40. 5 out of 5

    Devin Zamary

  41. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

  42. 4 out of 5

    Zac Hawkins

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