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Ivanka Trump’s endorsement of The King in Yellow play violates ethic rules

Ivanka Trump, used her position as senior advisor to the president to endorse an unproduced play called The King in Yellow on Twitter, a play whose contents are said to have made Marquis de Sade advocates blush. She captioned the photo, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

What is The King in Yellow?

Originating in France in the mid 1800s, The King in Yellow was condemned not just for its content but for the effect it had on its audience. It was seized by the French government, but translated veersions found their way to London and ultimately across the pond.

The last copy of the play was thought to have been burned by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice in the 1910s. Anthony Comstock, head of the Society deemed, the play “a threat to the very fabric that holds society together. It isn’t merely titillating or seditious. It is funnel by which madness passes into the mind. It is a grimoire dictated straight from Lucifer’s lips. Every poor soul who dared to gaze upon it is either invalid or dead.”

How Ivanka Trump acquire this cursed work?

Last Monday a stranger knocked on the North Portico of the White House. There was no breach in the fence along the Pennsylvania Avenue. No sensors tripped on the North Lawn. No signs of a high altitude aircraft or a parachute. The stranger was simply there, waiting patiently, in tattered yellow robes with ribbons swaying against the breeze.

“You, sir, should unmask.” A Secret Service agent shouted.

White House staffers say the stranger appeared to be wearing a blank porcelain mask and that he was unfazed when the Secret Service shined their laser sights into his eyes.

“Lay your disguise aside.” The agent repeated.

“I wear no mask.” The stranger said.

White House staffers claim the frayed hem of the Stranger’s robes unfurled and outstretched like tentacles. It wrapped itself around the Service members pistols and plucked the weapons from their grasp. The stranger stepped over the threshold and requested an audience with President Trump. He said he was an emissary for “Hastur the unspeakable, the King in Yellow, conqueror of Carcosa where twin suns sink into Lake Hali, where many moons circle the sky, and black stars rise.”

White House staffers say throughout the entire encounter the stranger held a copy of the play, a gift for the President from those dwelling in a neighboring plane of existence.

Ivanka is behaving strangely  

Of course President Trump didn’t read the play, but his daughter did and she’s been tweeting about it ever since.

“I just finished The King in Yellow and the shadows of my thoughts are stretching across the Rose Garden, crawling up the hedges and stepping onto lawn #mindfulness”

“I have seen the place where the Hyades cluster points, the skeleton of the civilization, and the one who calls the ashes his home. #meditation”

“They call this the Blue Room, but I’m seeing the Yellow Sign everywhere I look. On the carpet. The curtains. Even the chairs. #wellness”

Ivanka’s social media activity illustrates how The King in Yellow is already affecting her mental state.

Can anything be done for Ivanka?

Seeking some kind of treatment White House staffers scoured the Library of Congress for information on The King in Yellow.

In 1895, author Robert W. Chambers collected stories from those with the misfortune of having read the play. One such victim was Hildred Castaigne who said, “I pray God will curse the writer, as the writer has cursed the world with this beautiful, stupendous creation, terrible in its simplicity, irresistible in its truth—a world which now trembles before the King in Yellow.”

While White House staffers combed through accounts from survivors Ivanka shared craft projects on Instagram. Tissue collages, macaroni art, and glitter. All made to look like the Yellow Sign, an angular glyph like a triskelion or something out of The Lesser Key of Solomon.

Ivanka’s tweets culminated with a link to a pdf of the play itself. That’s when the hashtags

#CourtOfTheDragon, #CarcosanKraken, and #YellowSign, started trending.

Now there’s a mass contagion of madness, despite social media platforms attempts to suppress the document. The CDC has joined in the effort to trace the origins of the play to try to understand what they’re dealing with without exposing themselves to it.

What is The King in Yellow about?

Little is known about the play itself since so few readers live long enough to recount it. The details psychiatric experts compiled say its similar to Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death.

In it, Prince Prospero lords over a kingdom in the grip of a pandemic called the “red death.” So named because it makes its victims bleed from their pores until there’s nothing left. While the people cry out for leadership, Prospero bunkers in his stronghold with a 1,000 nobles, leaving everyone beyond his walls to fend for themselves.

The extended quarantine gives Prospero a case of cabin fever. Loathing this disruption to his lifestyle, he wants his kingdom to get back to business as usual. He decides to rally the nobles by throwing a masquerade ball. The nobles are all too happy to feed Prospero’s ego, by embracing the opulence for which they’ve grown accustomed.

The ball is success until a figure in a red funeral shroud parts the dancefloor. The figure wears a mask of blood slathered flesh, a visage made to resemble the plague riddled corpses lining the castle walls. Prospero is so incensed by this reminder of his failures that he calls the guards to hang the party crasher.

When the party crasher is unmasked its revealed there’s nothing underneath. He is the red death incarnate and in that moment all the revelers drop dead.

What is Carcosa?

Another aspect of the play psychiatric experts are trying to understand is its location. Carcosa is a scorched hellscape first documented by Ambrose Bierce in his story An Inhabitant of Carcosa. Bierce would later admit he got the location from a nightmare he had as a child.

Bierce dreamt he stood before a alien citadel with monolithic battlements, skyscraping spires, and a crocked keep, a structure so tall and wide it stretched beyond his field of vision.

When he entered young Bierce found the remains of a cafeteria. The kitchen stunk of rotten meat, moldy cheese, and ammonia. The steam trays were teaming with maggots. The stovetops were teaming with pans, each filled with the grey hollowed out husks of human organs. Deflated entrails spiraled into donut swirls. Strips of skin were laid like bacon. Boney fingers were arranged like sausages. Kidneys were covered in shredded cheese and garnished with minced parsley.

The faded sign above the buffet read OMELETTE BAR.

There was a long dining table, the length of a redwood. Swarms of flies hovered over the spread. Beyond that was the exit. It lead to a hilly plain where the grass had been baked golden brown. The remains of ashen pyres dotted the landscape. There were craterous remains of dries ponds, flags marked with the Yellow sign, and sand traps.

Bierce recalled thinking he was standing in the remains of a golf course and then he woke up.

Psychiatric experts are debating whether Bierce’s dream was a vision of something that happened on some distant world or if it was a premonition of something destined to happen here.

Did Ivanka Break the law?

The King in Yellow is spreading across social media thanks to Ivanka Trump who may have violated an ethics rule by sharing it. The United States Office of Government Ethics is responsible for preventing conflicts of interest with the executive branch. West Wing employees, like Ivanka, are forbidden from endorsing an organization (be it a corporation, a non-profit, or an alien order.

A spokesperson for Ivanka defended her passion for the play. “Ivanka was showing personal support for a work once condemned now revered as a timeless treasure.”

“Timeless treasure” is one way to describe a play that causes readers to gouge their eyes out with ice cream scoopers. “Literary contagion” is how the CDC is describing it and right now they are failing to manage the spread.

Readers are acting out scenes in the middle of flaming buildings, four lane highways, and shark infested waters. Experts fear the carnage is going to get worse.

On Wednesday, the President stacked printed copies of the play (he has yet to read it) on the Resolute Desk, giving the accursed work his personal thumbs up. Because of course he did.

Continue reading Ivanka Trump’s endorsement of The King in Yellow play violates ethic rules

Grieving in Reverse:  A Horror Noir

1.Blowing In

In 1895, Robert W. Chambers wrote a horror collection called The King in Yellow. Each entry was about a person who had the misfortune of reading a play called The King in Yellow, a play that had the power to drive each of them insane.

H.P. Lovecraft was so inspired by The King in Yellow that he fabricated his own tome of forbidden knowledge called the Necronomicon. The King in Yellow went on to inspire John Carpenter’s films In the Mouth of Madness and Cigarette Burns. Its influence can be felt in The Ring and most recently True Detective, which references the king, the yellow sign, and Carcosa by name.

While True Detective referenced Chambers’s symbolism, the show left his premise alone. I wanted to tell a detective story where the cursed text took center stage. Enjoy. Continue reading Grieving in Reverse:  A Horror Noir

The Difference Between a Ripoff and an Homage

“Who the hell is this?”

Everything has been done before. Accept it. Everything has been said before too, you can check Google for the transcript. Odds are your fresh blockbuster pitch is already on Netflix, and The Twilight Zone beat you to your fresh story by more than half a century.

A writer can only make so many variances to the same old tale. There are thirty-six dramatic situations, fitting into seven basic plots, told in three acts, following the same hero with a thousand faces. Do the math, show your work, or go ahead and copy off your neighbor because it really doesn’t matter.

My early efforts tried to break the formula by adding variables to the equation. I’d mix genres, combine my favorite characters, and play with dated one-liners. I thought it all added up to something unique, until my friends easily pegged the sources of my inspiration. My creativity was less than the sum of my influences. All of my additions amounted to a zero sum.

So I got abstract, bogging my screenplays down with themes I’d taken from dreams. My professor called them Lynchian, another apt comparison, pointing out that David Lynch was already on the road I was going down.

When I started writing horror, I trekked into obscene depths, searching for a story so grotesque no writer would dare tell it. I’ve mined the pit of human depravity only to find others had been there before me. The moment I thought I’d come up with an original concept, I’d find it’d happened in the real world and there was already a made for TV movie.

Like Chuck Palahniuk says, “You can’t invent a new sin.”

Turns out I’d read so many books and watched so many movies that I could never be sure if an idea was truly my own. Of course I could have gone out into the world in search of inspiration, but I grew up in Minnesota, it’s cold and it’s not good to leave your video games on ‘pause’ for too long.

I was down to a few options: plagiarize an obscure story and pass it off as my own, like a bad musician sampling without giving attribution, or show up to the party in the same dress as Stephen King and just tell everyone how I’m wearing it different (yup, that’s the analogy I’m going with, now it’s up to you to try to visualize it).

I decided if anyone pointed out that Mr. King was donning the same sparkling skirt I was vamping around in, then I would just say, “I know, my outfit is an homage to his.”

"It's not me you fool. That's the evil one!"
“It’s not me you fool. That’s the evil one!”

The Difference Between Fan Fiction and a Proper Homage

The biggest difference between fan fiction and homages is that fan fiction brings established characters into new situations, while homages bring original heroes into familiar ones. With an homage, it’s not uncommon for the setup to be the same as a classic, while the payoff might be completely different.

If you’re writing modern day characters the audience will assume they’re familiar with pop culture. You can’t introduce a vampire and pretend your characters have never heard of Bram Stoker. Dracula is the most filmed literary figure of all time. If your characters see someone sucking blood from a neck they better not say, “What the hell was that thing?”

If they do, we’ll be wondering if they live in an alternative reality where Nosferatu never happened. That kind of convenient naivety breaks the suspension of disbelief. It’s better to have one of them hang a lantern on your influence, draw attention to the similarities to let your audience know that your interpretation is going to be different.

Right now I’m working on an homage to Robert W. Chambers’s classic supernatural horror story The King in Yellow. In Chambers’ 1895 book, copies of a mysterious play have caused such widespread madness that the government has installed Suicide Chambers on every street corner. The banned text The King in Yellow resonates so powerfully with anyone who dares read it that they go mad from the revelation.

My story is about a modern private detective, investigating the death of a script reader who read an adaptation of Chambers’s fabled play right before setting himself aflame. The detective has to trace the cursed screenplay’s origins before it can claim another victim.

Now I know, Chambers isn’t that obscure of an influence to borrow from.

The King in Yellow inspired H.P. Lovecraft’s tome of forbidden knowledge The Necronomicon. Lovecraft also put a copy of the play itself in the Arkham Library appearing in many of his stories. He found Chamber’s story so inspiring that he included the titular character in his pantheon of cosmic beings under the name Hastur.

Director Sam Raimi borrowed the Necronomicon for his Evil Dead series, while John Carpenter used the concept of the deadly book in his film In the Mouth of Madness, ensuring that the universe shared by Chambers and Lovecraft expanded into other mediums.

The King in Yellow made the jump to TV when True Detective’s show runner, Nic Pizzolatto, incorporated names, symbols, and themes from Chambers’s book into the show.

Chambers himself borrowed the names Carcousa, Hali, and Hastur from Ambrose Bierce’s short stories An Inhabitant of Carcosa and Haïta the Shepherd. In his story, Chambers offered a mere glimpse of The King in Yellow play, but the setup bears a striking resemblance to Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death.

If a piece had a profound impact on your work, why not slip in a mention of it? Stephen King’s short story N, has a character slyly compare his situation to the plot of Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan (which inspired me to quote it at the beginning of my own novella).

The take away point here isn’t stealing is fine because everybody does it, it’s that influences are for everyone.

My evil clones never do any chores. They just taking over the couch and claim all the video game controllers
My evil clones never do any chores. They just taking over the couch and claim all the video game controllers

If Everything has been Written Before, Why Bother Writing Anything?

If after reading all this you find yourself having an existential crisis, then good. My work here is done. Until next week. I mean, wait.

So what if everything has been done before? It hasn’t been done by you yet. Those stories haven’t been told with your voice, using your life experiences. Your take is going to have some variances. An awareness of what came before will allow you to play with your audience’s expectations, a slight deviation will feel like a full on twist.

So what if your idea shares a setup with something else? Movies are pitched like that all the time. Under Siege is just Die Hard on a boat, Passenger 57 is just Die Hard on a plane, and Home Alone is just Die Hard with a kid. Isn’t it time you stopped worrying about being so fiercely original and wrote a Die Hard of your own?