Carcosa is a fictional city in Ambrose Bierce's short story "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" (1886). The ancient and mysterious city is barely described and is viewed only in hindsight (after its destruction) by a character who once lived there.

American writer Robert W. Chambers borrowed the name "Carcosa" for several of his short stories featured in the 1895 book The King in Yellow, inspiring generations of authors to similarly use Carcosa in their own works.

The King in Yellow Edit

The city was later used more extensively in Robert W. Chambers' book of short horror stories published in 1895, titled The King in Yellow. Chambers had read Bierce's work and borrowed a few additional names from his work, including Hali and Hastur.

In Chambers' stories, and within the apocryphal play titled The King in Yellow, which is mentioned several times within them, the city of Carcosa is a mysterious, ancient, and possibly cursed place. The most precise description of its location is the shores of Lake Hali, either on another planet, or in another universe.

For instance:

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.

—"Cassilda's Song" in The King in Yellow Act 1, Scene 2

Associated names Edit

Lake Hali is a misty lake found near the city of Hastur. In the fictional play The King in Yellow (obliquely described by author Robert W. Chambers in the collection of short stories of the same title), the mysterious cities of Alar[1] and Carcosa stand beside the lake. Like Carcosa, it is referenced in the Cthulhu Mythos stories of H.P. Lovecraft and the authors who followed him.

The name Hali originated in Ambrose Bierce's "An Inhabitant of Carcosa" (1886) in which Hali is the author of a quote which prefaces the story. The narrator of the story implies that the person named Hali is now dead (at least in the timeline of the story).

Several other nearly undescribed places are alluded to in Chambers' writing, among them Hastur, Yhtill, and Aldebaran. "Aldebaran" may refer to the star Aldebaran, likely as it is also associated with the mention of the Hyades star cluster, with which it shares space in the night sky. The Yellow Sign, described as a symbol, not of any human script, is supposed to originate from the same place as Carcosa.

One other name associated is "Demhe" and its "cloudy depths" − this has never been explained either by Chambers or any famous pastiche-writer and so we do not know what or who exactly "Demhe" is.

Marion Zimmer Bradley (and Diana L. Paxson since Bradley's death) also used the names "Hali" and "Lake of Hali" in her Darkover series.

Bierce may have been inspired by the then-contemporary genocide of the similarly named Circassian peoples.

Other appearances Edit

Written references Edit

Later writers, including H. P. Lovecraft and his many admirers, became great fans of Chambers' work and incorporated the name of Carcosa into their own stories, set in the Cthulhu Mythos. The King in Yellow and Carcosa have inspired many modern authors, including Karl Edward Wagner ("The River of Night's Dreaming"), Joseph S. Pulver ("Carl Lee & Cassilda"), Lin Carter, James Blish, Michael Cisco ("He Will Be There"), Ann K. Schwader, Robert M. Price, Galad Elflandsson, Simon Strantzas ("Beyond the Banks of the River Seine"), Charles Stross (in the Laundry Files series), Anders Fager and S. M. Stirling (in the Emberverse series).

Joseph S. Pulver has written nearly 30 tales and poems that are based on and/or include Carcosa, The King in Yellow, or other elements from Robert W. Chambers. Pulver also edited an anthology A Season in Carcosa of new tales based upon The King in Yellow, released by Miskatonic River Press in 2012.[2]

John Scott Tynes contributed to the mythology of Chambers' Carcosa in a series of novellas, "Broadalbin",[3] "Ambrose",[4] and "Sosostris",[5] and essays in issue #1 of The Unspeakable Oath[6] and in Delta Green.

In Paul Edwin Zimmer's Dark Border series, Carcosa is a city where humans mingle with their nearly immortal allies, the Hastur.

In Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus! Trilogy, Carcosa is connected with an ancient civilization in the Gobi Desert, destroyed when the Illuminati arrived on Earth via flying saucers from the planet Vulcan.

In maps of the world of George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, a city named Carcosa is labeled on the easternmost edge of the map along the coast of a large lake, near other magical cities such as Asshai. In The World of Ice and Fire, it is mentioned that a sorcerer lord lives there who claims to be the sixty-ninth Yellow Emperor, from a dynasty fallen for a thousand years.[7]

In the satirical novel Kamus of Kadizhar: The Black Hole of Carcosa by John Shirley (St. Martin's Press, 1988), Carcosa is the name of a planet whose weird black hole physics figures in the story.[8]

Swedish writer Anders Fager's "Miss Witt's Great Work of Art" features a Stockholm-based coterie known as "The Carcosa Foundation" that worships Hastur.

In David Drake's Lord of the Isles series, Carcosa is the name of the ancient capital of the old kingdom, which collapsed a thousand years before the events of the series.[9]

In S.M. Stirling's Emberverse series, Carcosa is the name of a South Pacific city inhabited by evil people led by the Yellow Raja and the Pallid Mask.

In Lawrence Watt-Evans' The Lords of Dûs series, a character known as the Forgotten King, who dresses in yellow rags, reveals that he was exiled from Carcosa.[10]

In writer Alan Moore's Neonomicon, drawn by artist Jacen Burrowes, the character Johnny Carcosa is the key to a mystical Lovecraftian universe.

Television Edit

In the HBO original series True Detective, 'Carcosa' is presented as a man-made temple. Located in the backwoods of Louisiana, the temple serves as a place of ritualistic sexual abuse of children and child murder organized by a group of wealthy Louisiana politicians and church leaders. The main characters, Rust Cohle and Marty Hart, storm the temple in the final episode of the season, where they confront a serial killer, who is the most active member of the cult. It is understood that the cult worships the "Yellow King", to whom an effigy is dedicated in the main chamber of 'Carcosa'. The series hints at a larger conspiracy that continues beyond the show, which is in line with Lovecraftian horror, as is a vision experienced by one character that underscores Lovecraftian themes like cosmic indifference.[11]

In Part 3 of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, the barker of the traveling amusement park and carnival is named Carcosa, and the carnival in turn named, presumably, after him. Throughout the season of the show, it becomes apparent that the workers at the carnival are all mythological beings of old, with Carcosa himself being the god Pan, his true form being that of a satyr, in the show understood to be the god of madness. The arc of the season revolves partially around the attempts of the carnival workers to resurrect an older deity identified as The Green Man. Themes of madness, death, and resurrection parallel the works of Robert W. Chambers et al.

Other references Edit

In the 1991 EP Passage to Arcturo by Rotting Christ, the song "Inside The Eye of Algond" nominates the Mystical Carcosa as part of the singer's journey.

The second song of the 2015 album Luminiferous by the American metal band High on Fire is named Carcosa.

Swedish rapper Yung Lean's third album Stranger features the closing track "Yellowman". Carcosa is mentioned in the song.

In 2016, DigiTech released a fuzz pedal called the Carcosa. The pedal featured two modes, named "Hali" and "Demhe".[12]

In the Mass Effect 3 video game, there is a planet named Carcosa.

In the Elite Dangerous video game, there is an inhabited star system named Carcosa.[13]

In 2001, the Belgian black metal band Ancient Rites released the album Dim Carcosa. The title track's lyrics consist of excerpts from "Cassilda's Song".

In the early 2000s, a Mysterious Package Company experience called The King in Yellow was introduced, heavily inspired by story and title. Later, a sequel experience entitled Carcosa: Rise of the Cult was created, obviously connected to this shared universe and connected to the original The King in Yellow.

In 2017, Fantasy Flight Games released an expansion for Arkham Horror: The Card Game titled "The Path to Carcosa" in which players investigate occurrences based on The King in Yellow.

Carcosa is mentioned in the song "Strange and Eternal" of the 2022 album Netherheaven by the American technical death metal band Revocation.

Publishers using the name Carcosa Edit

Two different publishers have used the name Carcosa.

Carcosa House Edit

Carcosa House was a science fiction specialty publishing firm formed in 1947 by Frederick B. Shroyer, a boyhood friend of T. E. Dikty, and two Los Angeles science fiction fans, Russell Hodgkins and Paul Skeeters. Shroyer had secured a copy of the original newspaper appearance of the novel Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett P. Serviss which he wished to publish. Shroyer talked Hodgkins and Skeeters into going in on shares to form the publisher which issued the Serviss book in 1947. Dikty offered advice, and William L. Crawford of F.P.C.I. helped with production and distribution. Carcosa House announced one other book, Enter Ghost: A Study in Weird Fiction, by Sam Russell, but due to slow sales of the Serviss book, it was never published.[citation needed]

Works published by Carcosa House Edit

Carcosa Edit

Colophon for the Carcosa publishing company

Carcosa was a specialty publishing firm formed by David Drake, Karl Edward Wagner, and Jim Groce, who were concerned that Arkham House would cease publication after the death of its founder, August Derleth. Carcosa was founded in North Carolina in 1973 and put out four collections of pulp horror stories, all edited by Wagner. Their first book was a huge omnibus volume of the best non-series weird fiction by Manly Wade Wellman. It was enhanced by a group of chilling illustrations by noted fantasy artists Lee Brown Coye. Their other three volumes were also giant omnibus collections (of work by Hugh B. Cave, E. Hoffman Price, and again by Manly Wade Wellman). A fifth collection was planned, Death Stalks the Night, by Hugh B. Cave; Lee Brown Coye was working on illustrating it when he suffered a crippling stroke in 1977 and eventually died, causing Carcosa to abandon the project. The book was eventually published by Fedogan & Bremer. Carcosa also had plans to issue volumes by Leigh Brackett, H. Warner Munn, and Jack Williamson; however, none of the projected volumes appeared. The Carcosa colophon depicts the silhouette of a towered city in front of three moons.

Awards Edit

Works published by Carcosa Edit

Places called Carcosa Edit

In 1896–7, the Carcosa mansion was built as the official residence of the Resident-General of the Federated Malay States for the first holder of that office, Sir Frank Swettenham. It was in use as a luxury hotel, the Carcosa Seri Negara, from 1989 to 2015 and has been abandoned since then.[15] Swettenham took the name from The King in Yellow.[16]

In the Quebec-based geopolitical/live-action role-play game Bicolline, Carcosa is a kingdom in the west. It was established upon principles of freedom and is populated by pirates, nomads, escaped slaves, and religious exiles.

Notes Edit

  1. ^ "Yhtill" is the name of the city where The King in Yellow is set. In post-Chambers writings, the word means "stranger" in the language of Alar (a city in the play) and is the name used by the character wearing the "Pallid Mask". (Harms, "Yhtill", The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, p. 341; cf. "The Repairer of Reputations", Chambers)
  2. ^ Joseph S. Pulver Sr., A Season in Carcosa Archived 2014-08-16 at the Wayback Machine, Miskatonic River Press, 2012 (accessed 27 June 2014). ISBN 978-1937408008
  3. ^ Tynes, John (1995). Broadalbin. Armitage House.
  4. ^ Tynes, John (1996). Ambrose. Armitage House.
  5. ^ Tynes, John (2000). Sosostris. Armitage House.
  6. ^ Tynes, John (December 1990). "The Road to Hali". The Unspeakable Oath. Pagan Publishing. Archived from the original on 2007-10-16. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
  7. ^ George R.R. Martin, Elio M. García Jr., Linda Antonsson, The World of Ice and Fire, Bantam, 2014.
  8. ^ "John Shirley: Kamus of Kadizhar: The Black Hole of Carcosa". Archived from the original on 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2015-08-04.
  9. ^ "Map of the Isles – David Drake".
  10. ^ Watt-Evans, Lawrence (November 2001). The Lure of the Basilisk. Wildside Press LLC. ISBN 9781587155871.
  11. ^ "Oh, The Sin Of Writing Such Words: The Infinite Horror Labyrinth Of The Carcosa Mythos", Shudder Magazine, by Derek Fisher, August 25, 2020
  12. ^ "DigiTech Carcosa Fuzz". DigiTech Guitar Effects. Archived from the original on 2016-07-06. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  13. ^ "Carcosa System Summary". Elite Dangerous Star Map. Retrieved 2023-05-30.
  14. ^ "1976 World Fantasy Award Winners and Nominees". World Fantasy Convention. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
  15. ^ "Carcosa Seri Nagara official web site". Retrieved 2020-11-28.
  16. ^ Barlow, Henry S. (1995). Swettenham. Kuala Lumpur: Southdene. p. 479.

References Edit

Further reading Edit

External links Edit