November 28, 2012

The Blood on the Wall in the Fortress

New Tales of the Yellow Sign, my anthology of weird tales conjuring Robert W. Chambers’ classic King in Yellow mythos, is in print as of September from Atomic Overmind Press, and in ebook form from vendors including Amazon/Kindle, DriveThru, Nook, Smashwords, Apple iTunes, and Paizo.

This post is third in a series looking at the individual stories.

In true weird-tale tradition, the germinative image of “The Blood in the Wall in the Fortress” pressed itself on me in a dream, where I was a member of an artillery unit shelling a tower across a river, knowing there were innocent people inside. The story, of a soldier’s guilt and the madness of self-justifying war, sets itself in 1947. But it’s not our 1947, as Loyalists battle Alsatians, to the incessant clattering of a black box issuing incomprehensible orders. This is a world made, or unmade, by the destabilizing influence of the Yellow Sign.

From Kenneth Hite’s introduction: Although the war in “The Blood on the Wall in the Fortress” begins in 1947 in another history, the fortress sits in Alsace, target and symbol of the Franco-Prussian War that Chambers used in a more personal catastrophe in “The Street of the First Shell.” The plot echoes “The Yellow Sign” in its portents, its artistic protagonist, and its inevitable approach of death; the tone is post-Remarque, post-trenches, almost documentary realism approaching the unreal.