The Yellow Mythos — also known, in subtly differing versions, as the Carcosa Mythos and the Hastur Mythos — is the continuity that has been established around a fictional universe created, fundamentally, in a small group of late 19th-century stories written by Robert W. Chambers, and to a lesser extent certain tales by Ambrose Bierce, HP Lovecraft and others. It is similar to, and often (though by no means always) associated with the Cthulhu Mythos derived from Lovecraft's work, which was influenced by Chambers' writing.
It primarily revolves around the mysterious fictional play known as The King In Yellow, the contents of which are largely unrecorded but are said to be in some manner supremely horrific, maddening and corrupting, and around — by extension — an ill-known, unearthly and hideously powerful entity of the same name, which is somehow intimately connected with this. Some of the fiction deals with the fates of those who are ensnared by reading the apocryphal play; yet only tiny fragments of the actual plot are glimpsed, together with a handful of other clues combed from Chambers' text. The few names that are stated cannot necessarily even be placed in clear relationships with each other, and furthermore the same names may seem to be applied variously to people, places, concepts, things or a combination thereof. The central aspects of the mythos are notable, in fact, for their nebulousness: concrete knowledge or sane description of happenings is most often elusive to the protagonist characters, and hence equally to the reader; Chambers suggests the nature of events so opaquely as to require the imagination to fill in almost every detail. The stories and poetry that form the canon rely instead on a shadowy horror and the threat of a barely-understood doom for much of their effect.
Common to the bulk of interpretations, however, is that the play is set amid the dying days of a corrupt and decadent dynasty of a distant world, where a masked ball at court sees the disastrous arrival of a Stranger who wears (or is) the 'Pallid Mask', probably an emissary or avatar of the King in Yellow. Other frequently occurring motifs include the peculiar, compelling Yellow Sign, the Hyades star cluster in the constellation of Taurus, and the ancient, other-worldly dread city of Carcosa under its "black stars", where "the shadows of men's thoughts lengthen" as its "twin suns sink into the lake of Hali". The nature of the setting varies, depending on story and writer, and upon whether a given fiction is concerned with the murky world inside the play or with a version of the 'real world' into which the malign influence of the King spreads its tendrils; even within a single piece the tone can shift through a genre-melting blend of horror, suspense, science-fiction and even romance. The fact that most of the core concepts are barely hinted at in the original narratives, though, allows for almost limitless bending of the base ideas into new shapes of an author's choosing.
The Yellow Mythos is a favourite of DJ Tyrer and many contributors to Atlantean Publishing, so it should come as no surprise that it is establishing a prominent place in their publications. Atlantean titles centred on the mythos so far include:
- An anthology, The King In Yellow
- A poetry/fiction booklet, The Phantom Of Truth
- A burgeoning series of short poetry collections, Yellow Leaves
Potential second anthologyEdit
Due to interest, Atlantean are considering a second volume dealing with the dread Carcosa Mythos. Depending upon feedback, this may possibly evolve into a more general Mythos (Hastur/Cthulhu etc.) volume, or may focus on some other eldritch entity or be given a more specific theme. Now is the time to influence these decisions! Submissions of content are requested, for a probable 2014 or 2015 release.
For much more on the Yellow Mythos, see the King In Yellow wiki, The Yellow Site.