Yellow Book interview

Sometime earlier this year I posted the news that Spectral is going to publish a pamphlet of poetry in April 2016 (via Theatrum Mundi), reminiscent of the Yellow Book journals of the late 19th century and based around the King in Yellow mythos, edited by John Allen, called Songs of the Shattered World: The Broken Hymns of Hastur. Here’s an interview with the editor, originally posted to Thomas Ligotti Online, which gives an interesting insight into the interpretation of Robert W. Chambers’ creation. 

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A King in Yellow Q & A With John Thomas Allen

John Thomas Allen is a part of the online weird fiction community, maintaining Facebook pages devoted to surrealism and Richard Chambers’ King in Yellow. As a result of this devotion, he and a group of fellow-minded writers now have an anthology of poetry centered around the Yellow King and all things Carcosian appearing in the near future. Over the course of our discussions, I had the opportunity to ask Allen a number of questions about everyone’s favorite golden-hued otherworldly monarch, to explore some of the mysteries, and explain his own fascination with the Yellow King.

Q: How and when did you first encounter The King in Yellow, and what sort of effect did it have on you?

I borrowed an edition that was a dark yellow hardback, no cover illustration, from a University library and I don’t think I ever returned it. I was feeling especially forgetful at the time. That got to be a big thing. I got in trouble for not returning the book, serious financial trouble.
It wasn’t just that book, but they almost brought me to court on that one and a few others. Let me tell you something, when you have a guy at your door with a ticket for a prospective court date and on the summons is something for the King In Yellow, you’ll think about it a lot more.

Q: At the time Chambers was writing, the color yellow had become associated with corruption and decadence ( The Yellow Book , etc.); what sort of significance, if any, does ‘yellow’ possess for you?
Yellow is an inherently fascinating color, I think. I don’t why, specifically, but when I hear about the word “yellow” I think of madness, decay, death before I think about anything beautiful in nature. I grew up reading decadent poets like Ernest Dowson, Thomas Beddoes, etc.
Like probably every other quote on quote “literary” person, I’ve fantasized about drinking absinthe with Verlaine or snorting something with Sara Teasdale in the rain or whatever and dying some fanciful death you can never really die.

Q: Speaking of the Decadent movement itself, do you think it shares any special connections or connotations with the King in Yellow mythos?
I’m in love the idea of the King In Yellow; there’s something of a color coordinated majesty about Chambers’ idea that synthesizes the blood starved, ghastly iridescence of the so called “Decadent movement”. I like my idea of the Decadent movement probably more than what I would see if I went back and saw Maurice Rollinat bang away on his piano or, tangentially, watched the habits of Isidore Ducasse for a few days. To answer your question I absolutely do see a connection between Chambers’ stories and the collection of individuals who were later negatively termed “decadents”.

Q: The creations of some authors of weird fiction, such as Lovecraft’s ‘Great Old Ones’ and Machen’s ‘little people’ for example, can be read as expressions or embodiments of the personal beliefs of their creators; did Chambers intend the King in Yellow to retain a similar meaning? If so, how do you interpret him?


As a person who aspires to be an individual artist and write supernatural prose (Though I’m ordinary and boring enough to have started a surrealist group and stood with that group as one of them; ergo I’ll never be cool as Paul Valery and his disciples.), I don’t believe you can write anything with that kind of sustained genius and not attach a personal meaning to it. For all I know, the King In Yellow might exist in a non ironic and non symbolic and non reductionistic way.

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Q: While The King in Yellow is typically categorized as ‘supernatural fiction’, Chambers’ stories also contain such elements as Poesque psychological horror, near-­future alternate history, symbolist/proto-­surrealist phantasmagorias, and the conte cruel; it is fair then to classify Chambers amongst the authors of weird fiction, or does he deserve a different place in the literary canon?
Whatever play is being read by the characters in Chambers stories is not something one could reproduce. It drives people mad (it doesn’t give them a mental illness treatable by a psychotropic; it drives them mad, a word brought into question by the NIMH) and creates a venereal, polluted atmosphere.
I couldn’t go buy that at Barnes and Nobles and no amount of discouraging logical positivism is going to drive one mad either. Therefore, I personally conclude it is supernatural..which is to say a phenomenon outside the bounds of space, time, and any kind of limitation whatsoever by physics or human and natural laws.

Q: Throughout its history, The King in Yellow has become a sort of collective creation; Chambers originally created the ‘Yellow King’ stories by dramatically expanding upon several short Ambrose Bierce pieces, HP Lovecraft in turn incorporated Chambers’ mythology into his own fictional universe, and numerous writers since have used these texts to build and flesh out further connections. What is it about The King in Yellow that lends itself to this sort of group effort?

To use a bit of hippy jargon, I think Chambers takes us for a moment into the forbidden zone philosopher Norman O. Brown wrote about and suggests what might happen if every degenerate, cackling impulse flew out of the ovulating giggles of our really strange, semiotically balanced psyches.
Mr. Castaigne, for instance, in “The Repairer of Reputations” is a hilarious caricature of a brain damaged nutcase. Ever met anyone with a brain injury who behaves quite like that? Probably not. But Chambers’ suggestion, that an event as simple and horrific as falling off a horse could bathe one in the fetid areas of the psyche permanently is so believable when you read the story.
He does what great horror writers do: he makes us fear ourselves, the world around us, and above all, the world within.
“In the Court of the Dragon” takes a bunch of young artists and makes their Sturm und Drang real. At first they have the average sort of ‘let’s paint something or do something but gave affairs first.’ Somehow, someone gets a copy of ‘The Yellow Book’ and boy, do things get real.

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Q: The King in Yellow is not just the title of a book; it is also the title of a play and the name of an otherworldly entity appearing within that book; what does this interplay of meaning and identities (potentially metatextual) suggest or conjure up for you?
I suspect that the color yellow is no more inherently disturbing than any other color, but I like to think it actually is because of my literary enthusiasms and the imaginative potency it now possesses. The King In Yellow could just as easily have been some obscure 60’s band, like The Crystal Chandelier or the Velvett Fog, or been a song lyric in one.
But Robert W. Chambers put this uncanny phrase into a series of powerful stories (as powerful, to my mind, as anything Lovecraft wrote) that Derleth later called mythos. Me? to me it suggests some sort of supernatural, immaterial, immanent antihero composed of spectral hues with an unfathomably disgusting book written in bitter calligraphy. I love it!

Q: Characters in The King in Yellow who read that titular play find afterwards find reality undergoing strange mutations; have you ever felt haunted by any of Chambers’ tales, and in what way?

Yes. Once, in college, I was watching a movie that every dystopic or antinatalistic or pessimistic would love called Pate by directorAgnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo.
It really should be on DVD, as it is a horrific and slow meditation on the nonsense of social mores and a sort of elegant, refined cannibalism–as elegant and refined as that can get.

A friend of mine who was slightly sinister offered me some Kava tea, claiming Kava was known to calm people down. I just had this thought: it’s kinda weird, us watching this beyond desolate movie and everyone being lulled to sleep with the herb which I hated. Then I noticed the 1989 Dedalus copy of The King In Yellow on his bookshelf. I got creeped, and I actually left after awhile…..with the copy of the book I’d given to him.

Q: Which of Chambers’ Yellow King stories and has had the greatest effect upon you, and why?
In the Court of the Dragon.”
Just how he rips away youth and innocence. It’s like someone threw acid on the immortal souls of everyone in the story.

Q: Many other notable weird writers, including the likes of Karl Edward Wagner and Joe Pulver, have also fallen under the spell of Carcosa; what is your favorite contribution to the King in Yellow canon not written by Chambers?
Hands down, Don Webb’s short “Movie Night At Phil’s.” That story explored this world where a fictional movie with Vincent Price entitled “The King In Yellow” drives a fairly normal household insane. It was perfect.
Don is going to be in our anthology Songs of the Shattered World: The Broken Hymns of Hastur, which has a stated release date of April 1st, 2016 from Spectral Press. Simon Marshall Jones is a warrior, one of the finest publishers I’ve ever worked with. He took this project on very short notice and displayed a generosity one rarely sees.
Yeah, Joe Pulver put that collection together, A Season In Carcossa, I just remembered. I enjoy fiction and poetry that’s more about suggestion and less about an outgoing, look at the violence here, that kind of thing, though of course that has a place.
And Karl Edward Wagner, definitely! I love what he did for Howard, who I think had a beatifically manic case of the crazies. He’s still not appreciated enough (though of course some of that is his own fault.) Wagner was like the Roky Erikson of the KIY “mythos”.

Q: What is the significance of the actual King in Yellow himself to you? What does he mean, and why is he frightening?
To me, he represents that which has absolutely no context. An embodied obscenity that embosses SIN across everything, like Mucha. He’s like Keyzer Soze in a less corny, postmod movie. Also I associate him more with poetry than macabre fiction, and I’m primarily a poet.

Q: A year after the whole True Detective affair, what do you feel about the show in connection to The King in Yellow ; has the effect it has had on the Carcosa mythos been negative, positive, or somewhere in between?
I certainly would not have seen a Barnes and Nobles edition of The King In Yellow without True Detective. That made my day, just seeing it there like that. The thing about True Detective I loved was that it brought that Ligottian feel in a way I hadn’t seen before anywhere.
The thing is when a philosophy–and I’m mostly friends with antinatalists, though I happen to be a Roman Catholic–tries to attach itself to everything, some of the pure magic of horror is lost. And while I loved a lot of True Detective, I don’t think everything always has to point to the perceived worthlessness of existence. It gets old. When we insist that this is what that writer meant by this story, etc etc, and everyone falls in lockstep, that dangerous magic get sealed up. Funny, one might think, or God forbid a Catholic talk like that. We are old enough!
But, like my friend Mark Samuels (also in the anthology), I feel mysticism has a place that can never be annihilated. One might say nihilism needs mysticism, and the reverse. Plus, Machen, Blackwood and James, you know, weren’t atheists or antinatalists or anything like that.
I personally wouldn’t want St. Thomas Aquinas to be the philosophical lynchpin of everything I read in terms of theology, you know? But Thomas Ligotti wrote such a great book with the Conspiracy. Every word weighed, everything taken into the most minute consideration.

People posting antinatalist videos doesn’t bother me a bit, even on my YouTube channel.

Q: Conceivably, what is the impact you would like to have this anthology to have, both as poetry and as a contribution to the Yellow King canon?

I hope this will be a fallback to Aubrey Beardsley’s Yellow Book; that’s the goal. An authentic Yellow Book filled with some of the most talented Yellow poets you could imagine, decadent as Mario Praz would have had it.
Thinking about this even makes a Coldplay song sound good. I want it to be an ultra-refined treat for fans of poetry AND fans of the macabre, as I think Chambers was thinking more of poetry than prose when he wrote his stories—or the spirit of poetry.
Speaking of music, I’m surprised none of the champions of the KIY have discovered an acoustic/ambient group entitled “Thus Sayeth The King”; you can download their first album on Bandcamp for 10 bucks.

crocKIY

Reviews – 11:03:2015

Today we have even more reviews of Spectral/Theatrum Mundi titles plus an interview, so let’s get straight on with it.

"Ricochet" by Tim Dry ©2015 Tim Dry/Theatrum Mundi. Artwork ©2015 John Oakey

“Ricochet” by Tim Dry ©2015 Tim Dry/Theatrum Mundi. Artwork ©2015 John Oakey

From the illustrious Ginger Nuts of Horror we have out first review of Ricochet by Tim Dry, written by Paul M. Feeney which you can find HERE. As soon as you’ve finished that you should go on and read the interview of ‘Renaissance Man’ Tim Dry, also conducted by Mr. Feeney – that one is right HERE.

PRICES INCLUDE POST AND PACKING

UK £10

EU £15

US & RoW $30

Dr. V's Hammer has landed!

Dr. V’s Hammer has landed!

And HERE’S another review from Chris Hall of DLS Reviews, talking about John Llewellyn Probert’s The Hammer of Dr. Valentine. Get your copy of the limited hardback or the unlimited paperback today!

The Hammer of Dr. Valentine: LIMITED SIGNED HARDBACK (100 only). 

UK £21

EU £24

USA & Everywhere Else $45

PAPERBACK EDITION

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News 07:10:2014

Spectral Book of Horror Stories, edited by Mark Morris - ©2014 respective individual authors/Spectral Press. Artwork ©2014 Vincent Chong

Spectral Book of Horror Stories, edited by Mark Morris – ©2014 respective individual authors/Spectral Press. Artwork ©2014 Vincent Chong

First off, let’s start with an interview with Mark Morris, editor of The Spetral Book of Horror Stories: this one’s been conducted by Teodor Reljic and posted to Schlock Magazine – you can find that one HERE. On the same website you’ll also find a Spectral Press publisher spotlight, written by yours truly – that one’s right HERE.

THE SPECTRAL BOOK OF HORROR STORIES – PRICES INCLUDE POSTAGE!

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£15 EU

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BLACK MOUNTAIN 10: THE WATCHER by Simon Bestwick

"Black Mountain: The Watcher" ©2014 Simon Bestwick/Spectral Press. Artwork ©2014 Neil Williams.

“Black Mountain: The Watcher” ©2014 Simon Bestwick/Spectral Press. Artwork ©2014 Neil Williams.

Next up is the news that the penultimate episode of Simon Bestwick’s Black Mountain eBook serial, The Watcher, is now available at Amazon – the cover has once again been created by Neil Williams and the book formatted by Graeme Reynolds. The UK edition is HERE and the US one is HERE.

For centuries the Bala Triangle has kept its secrets. But now Rob Markland, having investigated it from afar for so long, was determined to make it give them up at last.

Into the woods of Coed Capel and Coed Dinas, the ruins of Maes Carnedd and Blas Gwynedd, four people ventured. Only one would return, driven mad by what he’d witnessed.

By the presence that still haunted the empty farmhouse at Ty Mynwent.

That waited by the lake of Llyn Daioni, in the long-abandoned pod houses of Hafan Deg.

By the Watcher.

New Mark Morris interview

Spectral Book of Horror Stories, edited by Mark Morris - ©2014 respective individual authors/Spectral Press. Artwork ©2014 Vincent Chong

Spectral Book of Horror Stories, edited by Mark Morris – ©2014 respective individual authors/Spectral Press. Artwork ©2014 Vincent Chong

Hot on the heels of Paul Simpson’s Sci-Fi Bulletin piece yesterday comes another in-depth interview with the editor of The Spectral Book of Horror Stories, Mark Morris – this one’s by Gef Fox and has been posted on the Wag the Fox website. You can read it by going HERE.

BUY YOUR COPY TODAY – PUBLICATION DATE 6TH SEPTEMBER!!

This is going to be a very special anthology, so we really do encourage you to pre-order your copy today of this first volume in a projected annual series – ordering buttons below (if you want to pay by any other means, please contact us at spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com and we’ll happily send you details). All prices are INCLUSIVE of postage and packing:

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FOR THOSE ATTENDING FANTASYCON 2014 YOU CAN ORDER AT THE SPECIAL PRICE BELOW AND PICK IT UP AT THE CONVENTION VENUE.

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For those who prefer eBooks, this edition of The Spectral Book of Horror Stories will appear from pre-order on Amazon this week.

Spectral Book of Horror Stories: Full Cover

SPECTRALBOOKOFHORRORlo-res all cover

Just a very quick blog this morning, in order to show you the full cover to the very first volume in what is hoped to become an annual series. The cover artwork is by Vincent Chong, and the layout created by John Oakey. We are enormously excited about this one – pre-order your copy TODAY!

This is going to be THE anthology of the year, so we really do encourage you to pre-order your copy today of this first in an annual series – ordering buttons below (if you want to pay by any other means, please contact us at spectralpress[AT]gmail[DOT]com and we’ll happily send you details). All prices INCLUDE postage and packing:

£12.50 UK

FOR THOSE ATTENDING FANTASYCON 2014 YOU CAN ORDER AT THE SPECIAL PRICE BELOW AND PICK IT UP AT THE CONVENTION VENUE.

FCon 2014 Special £10

£15 EU

$30 US & RoW

Also, over at TeleRead, there’s a short interview with Simon Marshall-Jones, Mr. Spectral himself, which can be found HERE.

16:07:2014 – Michael Marshall Smith mini-interview

Spectral Press logoHere’s the second in the series of mini-interviews of Spectral Book of Horror Stories contributors by Angela Slatter, and this time the subject is Michael Marshall Smith. You can read it HERE – enjoy!

The book, in paperback, is available to pre-order NOW – Paypal buttons below:

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FOR THOSE ATTENDING FCON 2014 YOU CAN ORDER AT THE SPECIAL PRICE BELOW AND PICK IT UP FROM THE CONVENTION VENUE.

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News 14:07:2014

Spectral Press logoFirst up, notice of a series of interviews with contributors to The Spectral Book of Horror Stories being conducted by award-winning writer and naturally fabulous Australian Angela Slatter, and posted to her blog. The first one, of course, hones in on Mark Morris, the editor of this esteemed volume and is essential reading (as will all the interviews) – you can read it here plus you can pre-order the book on the Paypal buttons below:

£12.50 UK

FOR THOSE ATTENDING FCON 2014 YOU CAN ORDER AT THE SPECIAL PRICE BELOW AND PICK IT UP FROM THE CONVENTION VENUE.

FCon 2014 Special £10

£15 EU

$30 US & RoW

LEYTONSTONE by Stephen Volk

We have just seen the cover artwork by amazing artist Ben Baldwin for this ‘sequel-but-not-sequel’ to Mr. Volk’s Whitstable from last year… and we shall be teasing the whole thing out over the course of the coming months (we’re good like that). It is scheduled for publication in March/April 2015.

THE HAMMER OF DR. VALENTINE by John Llewellyn Probert

Some of you may be wondering what’s happening to this previously announced novella – well, we have decided to shift publication to Hallowe’en, which we think is far more appropriate for the good doctor’s next appearance than in the middle of summer. John and his lovely wife Kate are in the process of creating a video promo for it, and the cover is being produced by Nick Gucker. Look out for more details soon!

Black Mountain 7: The Master of the House now available

Black Mountian 7 Cover

Episode 7 of Simon Bestwick’s Spectral serial Black MountainThe Master of the House, is now available on Amazon,with artwork supplied once more by Neil Williams.

1988: The farmhouse called Blas Gwynedd, standing in the very shadow of Mynydd Du, is the last human habitation within the ‘Bala Triangle’, home to a teenage boy, his downtrodden mother and his fanatical, tyrannical father.

Now, at last, the story of the farm’s desertion can be told: a tale of strangeness, insanity, violence and death. The tale of one man’s doomed attempt to prove himself the master of the house.

It can be purchased on the following links:

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

NEWS

Yesterday, the Washington Post published an interview with Lee Harris, ex-Angry Robot Books and now Senior Editor at a new Tor imprint called Imprint, wherein he talked about novellas. One of the novellas he cited as being a great example of the format was Whitstable by Stephen Volk, which really thrilled us here at Chateau Spectrale. You can read the entire interview here.

 

News, reviews and stuff – 13:02:2014

Quite a packed little blog entry we have for you today, so without any more faffing let’s get on with the show:

The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine cover image

First we have a review of the British Fantasy Award-winning novella The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine by John Llewellyn , from Paul Feeney on his Sound and Fury blog. That one can be accessed right HERE.

And talking of the good Doctor, fans of John’s mas monstrously malicious medic will be pleased to know that the second chronicle in the trilogy of medical misdeeds, The Hammer of Dr. Valentine, will be available in late April/early May. It won’t take a brain surgeon to figure out which studios’ films are being referenced this time, but we can guarantee that the same level of darkly delicious black humour that entertained readers of the first installment will be present. Once again, JD Busch will be providing the cover image, which he is working on right now. And, just to entice you, we are offering you a chance to get the limited signed hardback of the book at a special price before it reverts to the normal pre-order price next month – see below for details.

THE HAMMER OF DR. VALENTINE

£18 UK

£21 EU

$38 US & RoW

NEWS

"The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark", Cover image ©  1971 - 2013 Graham Morris. Design by John Oakey.

“The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark”, Cover image © 1971 – 2013 Graham Morris. Design by John Oakey.

An interview with Lawrence Gordon Clark, the originator of the BBC TV drama series A Ghost Story for Christmas and the subject of the Spectral Screen book The Christmas Ghost Stories of Lawrence Gordon Clark, has just been published at the Smug Film website, which you will find right HERE. If what Lawrence has to say whets your appetite, you can order the book, available in three editions, below.

CONTENTS:

DELUXE EDITION (50 only- 20 left(available late February):

Foreword by MARK GATISS

Introduction by TONY EARNSHAW

Seven short stories by M. R. JAMESThe Stalls of Barchester CathedralThe Treasure of Abbot ThomasA Warning to the CuriousThe Ash TreeLost HeartsCasting the RunesCount Magnus

Exclusive new introductions to each story by LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK

Count Magnus teleplay by BASIL COPPER

Lost Hearts short stage play by LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK

Q&A with LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK by TONY EARNSHAW

Filmography, awards, of LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK by TONY EARNSHAW

Illustrated with unseen behind the scenes photographs, chapter heading vignettes by Nick Gucker,  as well as examples of storyboards by Lawrence Gordon Clark.

SIGNED, SLIPCASED DELUXE EDITION:

£85 UK

£87 EU

$145 US

UNSIGNED HARDBACK (100 only) (available late January/early February):

Foreword by MARK GATISS

Introduction by TONY EARNSHAW

Seven short stories by M. R. JAMESThe Stalls of Barchester CathedralThe Treasure of Abbot ThomasA Warning to the CuriousThe Ash TreeLost HeartsCasting the RunesCount Magnus

Exclusive new introductions to each story by LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK

Q&A with LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK by TONY EARNSHAW

Illustrated with photographs as well as chapter heading vignettes (by Nick Gucker)

UNSIGNED HARDBACK EDITION

£45 UK

£47 EU

$80 US

PAPERBACK (Unlimited) (available now):

Foreword by MARK GATISS

Introduction by TONY EARNSHAW

Seven short stories by M. R. JAMESThe Stalls of Barchester CathedralThe Treasure of Abbot ThomasA Warning to the CuriousThe Ash TreeLost HeartsCasting the RunesCount Magnus

Exclusive new introductions to each story by LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK

Filmography, awards, of LAWRENCE GORDON CLARK by TONY EARNSHAW

Basic edition – text only plus chapter heading vignettes by Nick Gucker.

PAPERBACK EDITION:

£17.50 UK

£19.50 EU

$30 US

More soon!!

Whitstable: New interview and review – 10:06:2013

Whitstable cover image

Monday morning, and it’s a grey June day here at Spectral Towers. BUT, let us brighten up everyone’s day by telling you all about an interview with Whitstable author Stephen Volk which was conducted by Hereward LM Proops of Booksquawk, which can be found here, in which Stephen talks about the novella amongst various other subjects. And, in the same blog, Hereward offers us his assessment of the novella itself, which you can find here.

We are happy to report that Whitstable has become Spectral’s most critically-acclaimed as well as best selling publication – why not find out why all the critics loved the novella by buying a copy today. Available in both paperback and Kindle editions – purchasing links below.

All prices include postage and packing.

PAPERBACK EDITION:

£15 UK

£17.50 EU

$29 USA

$29 RoW

KINDLE EDITION:

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US