Friday, May 2, 2014

Introduction to the Hastur Mythos

Introduction to the Hastur Mythos
Bobby Derie

"Along the shore the cloud waves break
The twin suns sink behind the lake
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa."
~ From Cassilda's Song, The King in Yellow

In certain ages, bold commercialism can spur genuine academic interest; so it is with True Detective. This book, planned to hit shelves in time with the release of the first season on DVD, owes its existence to the sudden renewal of interest in a very obscure and little-understood but fascinating part of the American literary landscape, a mythos which began with Ambrose Bierce and Robert W. Chambers, which intertwines with but lies distinct from the works of the much more famous H. P. Lovecraft and Marion Zimmer Bradley, light from alien suns that shines down to illuminate many different worlds.

The scholarship in this body of work trace the origins, influence, and evolution of these infamous names - Carcosa and Hali, Hastur and the King in Yellow - which have taken on many meanings under different authors, been interpreted and reinterpreted, categorized and re-categorized - the "Mythology of Hastur" as Lovecraft had it, the Yellow Mythos, the Carcosa Mythos. It is a worthy subject to study at any time, but with the advent of True Detective the popular curiosity has been piqued, and so now seems a proper time to assemble the scanty scholarship from where it has languished in fanzines, introductions, and obscure journals into a single volume, complete with new scholarship that sheds new light on the enigma at the center of it all.

The work begins with "On 'An Inhabitant of Carcosa'" by S. T. Joshi, one of the few noted scholars on Ambrose Bierce; Joshi is uniquely well-suited to comment on the influence of this tale, and its influence on later weird fiction writers such as H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth.

"A Twenty-Second Letter of Ambrose Bierce" by Ambrose Bierce and Samuel Loveman; a heretofore unpublished addendum to Loveman's collection Twenty-One Letters of Ambrose Bierce (1922) discussing the story, and somewhat disputed by scholars because the original letter has disappeared—and, of course, Loveman developed something of a reputation for literary forgery. Annotated by S. T. Joshi.

"Infratextual Stuctures in Poe, Bierce, and Lovecraft" by Adam Wheeler looks at the development of these shared references between different writers, borrowing the names and concepts of other writers and incorporating them in their own fiction.

"The Mythology of Hastur" by Robert M. Price traces the origin and development of the use of Hastur, from its Robert W. Chamber's The King in Yellow (1895) to its eventual inclusion in the Cthulhu Mythos, from which point the concept and use of Hastur and Carcosa mutated into something very different.

"The Derleth Mythos" by Richard L. Tierney, newly revised and expanded with quotations from Lovecraft and Derleth's letters, traces the divergence of Derleth's interpretation of the Cthulhu Mythos from its original conception.

"Hastur—Whose Side Is He On?" by Robert M. Price looks at the position of Hastur in the expanded Cthulhu Mythos, and how authors have portrayed him in opposition against Cthulhu and other powers.

"The (bastard) Children of Hastur" by Marion Zimmer Bradley examines the use and influence of the Hastur Mythos on her own Darkover series of science-fiction novels.

"The Road to Hali" by Johnathan Tyne is one of the most fundamental and important re-imaginings of the Hastur Mythos in contemporary fiction, recasting Hastur from the simple air elemental and brother-opponent of Cthulhu that he had been boxed into by August Derleth into a much more cosmic force of entropy and decay.

"Yellow Dawn" by David J. Rodger follows the development of the Hastur Mythos in the various Lovecraft-influenced roleplaying games such as Call of Cthulhu, Trail of Cthulhu, and his own Yellow Dawn setting, tracing the literary influence of the Hastur debate on the games and fiction.

"Haiyore! Hasuta-san" by Ken Asamatsu looks at the development of Hastur in Japanese interpretations, focusing primarily on the bisexual love-triangle that develops in the light novel/OVA series Haiyore! Nyaruku-san between the characters of Nyaruko (Nyarlathotep), Mahiro, and Hasuta (Hastur). Illustrated with sample pages from the shota doujinshi starring those characters.

"Bearers of the Yellow Sign" by Joseph S. Pulver, Jr. is an examination of modern uses of the Hastur Mythos, including interviews with True Detective's Nic Pizzolatto, William Pugmire, Johnathan Tyne, archival interview with Karl Edward Wagner and Marion Zimmer Bradley, and others.

Taken as a whole, these essays cover the scope of modern scholarship on the Hastur Mythos, from the humble first appearance of the names and places from Ambrose Bierce and Robert W. Chambers, through the odd parallel mythologies of Marion Zimmer Bradley, H. P. Lovecraft, and August Derleth, and on into its modern conception in True Detective. I hope they will be as enlightening to you as they are to me.

"Night fell and hours dragged on, but still we murmured to each other of the King and the Pallid Mask, and midngiht sounded from the misty spires in the fog-wrapped city. We spoke of Hastur and Cassilda, while outside the fog rolled against the blank window-panes as the could waves roll and break on the shores of Hali."
- "The Yellow Sign" by Robert W. Chambers


  1. This is an awesome reading list. Thank you very much! While I'll never read anything by Marion Zimmer Bradley again, almost everything is something I'd love to check out.

    1. Well, two things here:

      1) Everything on this blog is a work of fiction, which means some of these articles are real, and some are not. Caveat lector.

      2) While I can understand being disgusted with Marion Zimmer Bradley, the woman has been dead for a while now. It's not like she's going to get money off of it.