Thursday, February 20, 2014


True Detective is currently the only must-watch show on commercial television for the paraculturally-inclined viewer, and this think piece by novelist Michael Hughes does a decent job of explaining why that is, exactly...
The King in Yellow is a fictional play within a collection of short stories - a metafictional dramatic work that brings despair, depravity, and insanity to anyone who reads it or sees it performed. Robert Chambers inserts only a few selected scenes from the play into his story collection, and all of them are from the first act. This act, we are told, is a bit of a honeypot, luring readers into the cursed text. If they read even the first few words of Act II they are driven insane by the revelation of horrible, decadent, incomprehensible truths about the universe. Anyone familiar with Lovecraft's "cosmic horrors" should see the thematic similarity. For his unfortunate protagonists, the ultimate truths of the universe are too much for their overloaded minds to handle. It should not be surprising that Lovecraft incorporated Chambers's The King in Yellow into his overarching Cthulhu mythos, embellishing the elements of the story and adding the fictitious play to his growing bookshelf of equally fictional mythos tomes.
Hughes' article was written after only two episodes of True Detective had aired. We are currently five episodes into the show's eight episode lifespan, and the Easter eggs for fans of dark fiction and apocalyptic nihilism just keep on coming. Everything from Se7en and Nine Inch Nails to Twin Peaks and Pink Floyd gets either name-checked or visually referenced, here, with yer old pal Jerky finding references to even more obscure cultural artifacts, such as dark fantasy author Thomas Ligotti's non-fiction philosophical treatise The Conspiracy Against the Human Race, and paracultural superstar Alan Moore's little-read black and white Lovecraftian police procedural comic The Courtyard, which features a detective not unlike True Detective's Cohle, played with remarkable morbidity by Matthew McConnaughey. And if the denouement of that particularly nasty piece of work has played any role in determining the ultimate outcome of events in True Detective... well, God help the American viewing public, because they ain't seen nothin' yet.

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