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Last Call · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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Le Roi en Jaune
With the books arranged just so on the dining table, I began the great work of piecing together the legacy of The King in Yellow, from the origins of Chambers’ masterwork in the tales of Bierce to the more recent works of Derleth, Lupoff, and Carter. But the further I dove into the dusty books, the more frustrated I became.

It didn’t make sense. Not in the expected ways, but in contradictory ways. Was Hastur the name of the King, the city, or the formless horror at the bottom of Lake Hali? And my annoyance lay as much with the authors as the stories they penned. The arrogance of Blish, that he would pen his own pale imitation of the play!

Cassilda's song wound through my head, unbidden. Was the sickly yellow haze of afternoon sunshine a manifestation of the King’s robes enfolding the world itself? Did the fault lie with me, too jaded by the modern age? Nay, nay–

“Neigh to you too, ya brony-ass motherfucker.”

I blinked, and swirling mists lapping at basaltic shores became humble paper and ink. I turned to see my roommate, Jace, eating an apple.

I rubbed at my eyes. “That was out loud, was it?”

He ambled closer with a smirk and flipped a book to see its cover. “‘The King in Yellow,’ huh? There’s something for you to do, write an MLP/Yellow King crossover.”

“It’s been done.”

Jace nearly choked. “Bullshit.”

“I shit thee not. Existential dread pairs well with the ponyverse, and far better hands than mine have penned the gamut from surrealist horror to surrealist comedy.” I gestured vaguely at my laptop. “Hells, half of those stories are better than half the trash I have in front of me.”

Jace frowned at me. “Then why–”

“Because there has to be something here!” I slammed my fist on the table.

There was a pause, then Jace said, “Is this you trying to find religion again?”

I sighed. “Probably.”

“Look,” said Jace, “Instead of working yourself into a tizz over nothing, why don’t you come out with us tonight? We’re making the usual rounds, it’ll be fun.”

Dulling my senses with cheap swill in the presence of strangers was hardly what I called fun. “Pass.”

“Rachelle will be there,” he wheedled.

I froze. Rachelle’s presence changed everything, though we were little more than strangers to each other. Hers was a timeless beauty, as though her features had been wrought from to purest marble, adorned with–

“Oi,” Jace said as he snapped his fingers in front of my nose, “quit doing that ‘staring into the middle distance’ thing. Girls hate that shit.”

I shook my head to clear it. “Right. Let me go put on some decent clothes.”

The evening progressed slowly, with me half-listening to the droning ambient music echoing through the tavern as though from within a deep well. I stared at the fireplace, nursing a stout, mind fogged.

Suddenly, Jace seized me by the shoulders, hauled me over to Rachelle, and said, “Have you met Tom?” Whereupon he promptly vanished back into the crowd, the bastard.

Rachelle favored me with a faint smile. “I believe we’ve met once before.” Her accent, though faint, was as unplaceable as it was intoxicating.

My innards turned to sludge. “Ha, yeah, at the, uh, the place.” A thousand curses whirled through my mind.

Her smile widened, but before she could respond, a voluptuous young woman appeared and tapped her on the shoulder. “Cassie, come here and help me pick a song.” She, too, vanished into the throng.

A chill ran through me as Rachelle turned to join her friend. My touch upon her arm gave her pause. “Wait. I thought your name was Rachelle?”

Her nose crinkled. “Rachelle’s my middle name. Sarae and I have been best friends since childhood, so she’s one of the few who know my first name. She knows how much I hate it, so she teases me by calling me Cassie.”

Cold dread clutched at my heart and began to squeeze. “So, Cassie is short for something?”

Her bashful shoegaze would have been adorable, had I not been terrified. “Promise you won’t laugh?”

“Oh, I doubt I will.”

Her eyes met mine, and her face was an impassive, pallid mask. “It’s short for Cassilda.”

I closed my eyes, for I did not need them to feel the King in Yellow draw wide his tattered mantle behind me.
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#1 · 2
· · >>Icenrose
First review! :)

First of all, despite the French title, this has not been written by me, and I bet Fenton didn’t write it either.

So this is plain red herring.

Thanks for acquainting me with The King in Yellow, a book I never heard about and that I’ll try locate as soon as possible.

That being said, the story has not much substance to it. The main character lacks a bit of characterisation. The story reads fine and the execution is quite acceptable, but:

1. The mention of FiM here sounds terribly gratuitous and is completely counterproductive. It definitely detracts from the story.

2. The girl beating that name is so unrealistic that it breaks immersion instantly. It’s really on the nose.

So yeah, at the end of the day, not much to take away.
#2 · 3
· · >>Baal Bunny >>Icenrose
I was all set to love this story. Not only have I read the works the author lists in the introduction, but I have written one of the crossovers mentioned.

Sadly, Author, with the space constraints, you have very little room for evoking and building horror, and you use most of that space just to establish the background. Your big reveal consists of having a woman named Cassilda, after which the King sort of “attacks.” Someone familiar with the Mythos can fill in the blanks a bit, but even with such knowledge you’ve built no real tension, and so your climax falls flat.

With more room to establish a plot and atmosphere, and explain things to readers who lack Mythos knowledge, you may have a viable story. As it stands, I must place this in the mid to lower tiers, where the vile, clinging, phlegm-colored rags of the King shall cover it in nameless horror beyond the end of days...
#3 · 2
· · >>Icenrose
I'll agree with:

>>GroaningGreyAgony though I only know "The King in Yellow" from Lovecraft's references. I'll add that I also can't quite tell which category this is aiming to be: horror or comedy. I'm leaning toward the second--"The Matchmaker in Yellow" sort of a thing--so I'd recommend amping that aspect up a bit. Have our narrator hear the Weddning March being wheezed on flutes made of human femurs or something at the end. Take it even further over the top in whichever direction you're wanting to go.

#4 · 1
· · >>Icenrose
Late reviews are late, time to get it done.

This one... I didn't get it. I'm completely unfamiliar with The King in Yellow, so I don't understand the real meaning of that last sentence. The only thing that remains as a conclusion is the revelation of the girl's real name, which is quite anticlimatic

"Hello John!"
"My name's not John, it's Mike"
*Dum Dum Dum*

Aside from that, why mentionnoning MLP? Which purpose does it serve in your story? Maybe it serves one since I don't get the whole story. So as you can guess, I'll abstain on this one.
#5 · 1
· · >>Icenrose
I know Bierce, but none of the other authors ring a bell. I wonder if this "king in yellow" thing is real, then? Not that it matters to the story, but it's a point of interest. I'm quickly getting lost, though. The more author names I see that I don't recognize... well, they're kind of outlandish names as well, for the most part. On the one hand, that does lend an air of realism, as not everyone is named Smith, but it also makes me wonder if I'm missing some sort of code. Interesting that you mention Bierce, then, because the many sources cited in The Devil's Dictionary are also made up and sometimes contain little jokes. Perhaps you're doing that and it's just sailing over my head? Minor issue, but as it's apparently a book title, underline or italicize The King in Yellow. I see a few other small editing things, like the capitalization of "instead."

Bit of metafiction going on here, but if the point is "everything's been done before," that's nothing new, and this doesn't make a point of it. I get that our narrator is supposed to be literary, but there's a limit to how much that would creep into casual speech. He's sounding more like he's reading some prepared remarks than having an off-the-cuff discussion.

Now, I can identify with this protagonist, at least. I saw a webcomic once that explained the difference: extroverts thrive on social interaction and activity, so being in a situation like this adds to their energy, whereas introverts get drained by the same thing and have to choose their moments to expend their energy. This can be an exhausting situation. So to see him sitting quietly by himself, probably because he's getting drained by the whole thing, rings true, and it's not necessarily due to shyness.

It's hard to get into Rachelle's accent when we have nothing to go on. If he can't place what kind, fair enough, but describe it a bit, since getting me in Tom's mindset is the whole point of the story.

Pressing her on a name she's admitted to not liking is probably not a good move. I don't understand his motive.

Ultimately, this story leaves me feeling like I'm missing out on a ton. I get the impression I'm supposed to already know what The King in Yellow is and what the significance of Cassilda is coming into the story. Now, there are stories where readers won't know things coming in, and that's fine, depending on how they're played. If a classical musician rattles off a bit of jargon, but understanding that jargon isn't necessary to getting the story's conflict, then fine. But here, it's central. There's obvious significance to the title and the name, yet I don't know what that is. As such, the meaning is lost on me.

And a bit of my usual rant. Why did you title the story in French? I know it's a nice edgy thing to use foreign-language titles, but unless that means something, what's the point? You're just making it harder to understand. What does French have to do with any of this? I can only guess the information I'm apparently supposed to know prior to the story might answer that. And I agree with Monokeras that the tangential MLP nod accomplishes nothing. Baal Bunny mentions that the king appears in some Lovecraft work? I've read a fair amount of him, yet this doesn't ring a bell for me.

The writing's fine, though. Seems like a lower-middle slate entry, but it's the first one I've read.

I guessed horizon for this, just because I could see him knowing all those literary references, and I don't know anyone else well enough to decide they would. But it also doesn't seem like horizon to hinge his story's success on having viewers familiar with a somewhat obscure reference going in. But I gambled and lost.
#6 · 2
Congrats to Baal Bunny, Miller Minus, and horizon for their well-deserved medals!

>>Baal Bunny

I realized the moment I fell into the fissure at about 11:30 at night (deadline t-minus 5.5 hours) that this story was never going to fly as a mini-fic, and I had a choice between scrapping it and writing something else, or trying to hack it into some sort of passable form. After dithering for an hour, I chose the lazy option, and spent the next few hours cutting down a 1200+ word story to 750.

Needless to say, I’m not terribly surprised by how this piece performed. I appreciate the feedback it's received, and the fact that it's nearly unanimous in theme (no room to breath, root conflict is forced, relying on outside knowledge can make the story impenetrable) makes the story's failings abundantly clear. I love >>Baal Bunny's idea of leaning harder into the comedic opportunities here, which would have been a more novel twist on the Yellow King formula I did a very poor job of lampooning. As for why the title is in French, each of the original Chambers short stories is either set in Paris or makes multiple references to Paris, and I never got around to thinking of a better title than the placeholder of Le Roi en Jaune. A consequence of calling it quits at 3am, yet again. One day I’ll learn. ^^

Of all the stories I’ve written for the Writeoff, I think this is the one I’ve disappointed myself the most by its execution. This could have been really neat, and the subject material is close to my heart. I wish I’d had the presence of mind to save this idea for a short story competition, at the very least.

Still, this was a learning experience, as is every competition. See you guys next time around.

Oh, and for those of you who would like to learn more about Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow, here’s a serendipitously timed Extra Credits video that gives you a brief overview, along with a few other early sci-fi works. The Forgotten Foundations Part 1 - The History of Sci Fi