Frank Semyon, the criminal businessman from season 2 of True Detective, has a fantastic character arc.
And, like season 1 of True Detective, season 2 is also connected to a weird fiction story by Ambrose Bierce.
For season 1 it was An Inhabitant Of Carcosa (read my post on it HERE).
In season 2 it was An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge (we’ve done a podcast about this one).
So, do you remember the story that Frank (played by Vince Vaughn) tells his wife, Jordan, at the beginning of season 2’s second episode?
Here’s the scene:
Frank and Jordan are lying next to each other in bed.
FRANK: How’d a water stain get there?
Camera cuts up to two brown stains on the ceiling above Frank.
FRANK: It rained maybe twice this last year. It’s like everything’s papier-mache.
JORDAN: Stop thinking.
FRANK: I don’t like being on a ledge.
FRANK: My old man back in Chicago, when I was a kid… (laughs) he used to lock me in the basement when he’d go on a bender. Usually last the night. Let me out the next day. Thought he was keeping me safe, I guess. This one time, I was six – he puts me down there. I wake up and it’s locked. It had happened before. Anyways, so I guess he ended up arrested, I guess.
JORDAN: God, baby.
FRANK: Well, by the second morning I was out of food. The third day the light bulb burnt out. Pitch black in there. That’s when the rats started coming out. I dozed off and I felt a thing nibbling my finger. I woke up, it was, you know, chewing my finger.
JORDAN: What did you do?
FRANK: I grabbed it in the dark with my hands, I started smashing. And I just kept smashing it until it was nothing but goo in my hands. Two more days I was in there. In the dark. ‘Til my dad comes home.
JORDAN: Sometimes I wonder how many things you have like that. That I don’t know about.
FRANK: Ever since, I wondered: what if he never comes home? What if I’m still in that basement in the dark? What if I died there? That’s what that reminds me of.
FRANK: The water stain. Something’s trying to tell me that it’s all papier-mache. Something’s telling me to wake up, like… like I’m not real. Like I’m only dreaming.
Then in the final episode of season 2, episode 8, in his last scene, Frank hears Jordan’s voice, then sees her standing there, in that white dress – the one he had her promise she would wear – and him, standing before her, wearing a white shirt soaked in blood (like the “red rose” he had promised her that he would wear).
And the lines:
[FRANK IS BLEEDING, LIMPING THROUGH THE DESERT]
JORDAN: Hey there handsome.
FRANK: You made it! You okay?
JORDAN: Did. Fine. I’m safe.
FRANK: I’m coming, hold up.
JORDAN: Whats a guy like you doing in a place like this?
FRANK: [WALKING EASIER NOW] Just making my way baby. I told ya, Id make it.
FRANK: You did. You made it. You can rest now.
FRANK: No rest. Never stop moving.
JORDAN: Babe, oh babe – you stopped moving way back there.
Earlier in episode eight, do you remember where Frank said he’d meet Jordan?
Yeah. And though we never see them meet there Frank was very specific, saying they’d meet in a park called “Obelisco” in “Barquisimeto” (Venezuela).
Here’s what “Obelisco” in Barquisimeto looks like:
Frank’s story is the story of An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge!
Posted by Jesse Willis
A Night in Whitechapel, Was It a Dream?, Caterpillars, John Mortonson’s Funeral
‘Night in Whitechapel’ French short-story master Guy de Maupassant offers this chilling look into one of the world’s best known cities. When two young men make a trek to London on a cold December evening, they expect to take in the city and maybe a pub or two along the way. But a chance encounter with a mysterious woman soon has them questioning not only the proceedings of their evening but their sanity as well. ‘Was It a Dream?’ Guy de Maupassant once again delivers a spine-tingling narrative. A young man recounts the tragic death of his love, claimed by an unknown illness. In his grief, he wanders the cemetery where she is buried to find a dark secret that she, and many other corpses, share. ‘Caterpillars’ Stories of the supernatural from E.F. Benson have been terrifying audiences for decades—even making the transition to television adaptation. In “Caterpillars,” a man recalls his terrifying stay at a haunted Italian villa. You will never look at caterpillars in the same way. ‘John Mortonson’s Funeral’ Perhaps best known for The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce is a mainstay of nineteenth-century American literature. In “John Mortonson’s Funeral,” Bierce adds horror to his satirical lens. The mourners at this funeral will be forever changed.
“Night in Whitechapel” – Guy de Maupassant
When two young men make a trek to London on a cold December evening, they expect to take in the city and maybe a pub or two along the way. But a chance encounter with a mysterious woman soon has them questioning not only the proceedings of their evening but their sanity as well.
“Was It a Dream?” – Guy de Maupassant
A young man recounts the tragic death of his love, claimed by an unknown illness. In his grief, he wanders the cemetery where she is buried to find a dark secret that she, and many other corpses, share.
“Caterpillars” – E.F. Benson
A man recalls his terrifying stay at a haunted Italian villa. You will never look at caterpillars in the same way.
“John Mortonson’s Funeral” – Ambrose Bierce
The mourners at this funeral will be forever changed.This collection is well named. All of these tales have a certain creepiness factor that will leave your skin crawling if you think about them too much. They also have the virtue of not being the usual “classic” horror tales included in most anthologies, although they are by authors acknowledged as master storytellers.
What enhances the subtlety and creeping horror is Victor Garber’s soft spoken narration. As any good actor would, he reads each tale differently to reflect its own character, but never with obvious technique that draws the listener away from the story itself. My favorite was “Was It a Dream?” in which the protagonist’s lovelorn state gradually gives way to shuddering fear in the graveyard. The transition was so seamless that I couldn’t tell you when it happened and by the end of the tale I myself was horror stricken.
The collection is short, clocking in at slightly more than an hour, but it is choice. Definitely recommended.
Posted by Julie D.
The SFFaudio Podcast #255 – The Repairer Of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers; read by Mark Turetsky. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (1 hour 25 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Mark Turetsky!
Talked about on today’s show:
The King Of Yellow, 1895, novelette, the connections between the stories, Cynthia, the coda, The Mask, Paris, the lethal chamber (a suicide booth), the Fates, revision of judgement, questioning the reader’s sanity, The Yellow Sign, Hildred Castaigne, the future setting (or lack thereof), the statue of Garibaldi (at Washington Square Park), the Carcosa Mythos, weird tales, weird romances, New York City, Mr. Wilde, Hawberk, Dr. Archer, the geography of Washington Square, the elevated train, a subway entrance (as a death chamber), the Wikipedia entry, Futurama (and New New York), a bohemian place, NYU, why is everything militarized?, what’s with the jingle of metal?, the expansion of the American Empire, “citation needed”, dragoons, hussars, lancers, the Prussian style, New Jersey, the texture of the fantasy future, a courtly atmosphere, colouring psychosis, a Napoleonic fascist sate, the meta-fictional nature of The King In Yellow, the Cthulhu Mythos vs. the Yellow Mythos, a surrealist existential nightmare, a fall from a horse, “he’s in the biscuit box”, it’s not horror, weird fiction, Ambrose Bierce, Science Fiction, science, the pinnacle of technology is a dreadnaught, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn, Copernicus, Ptolemy, Galileo, the Moons of Jupiter, we’re living in a paradigm, a time of scientific flux, modern atomic theory (and The Mask), H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism, Steve Job and the “reality distortion field“, a social reality, Mr. Wilde’s career is the ability to distort social reality, “Napoleon, Napoleon, Napoleon”, Charlemagne, George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.“, Emperor Norton, California, Ambrose Bierce, “A sure sign of a genius is that all of the dunces are in a confederacy against him.”, the Hawberk (aka the Duke of Avonshire), the Metropolitan Museum, why does Louis visit Hildred?, the lethal chamber is central to the action, under the thrall of the Yellow Sign, Who Knows? by Guy de Maupassant, insanity and isolation, how is Hildred employed?, how Schizophrenia works, going along with the delusion, what is the significance of the cat?, the crisis comes when the cousin has to move, the crush on Constance, the anti-story nature of the work, the unreliable narrator (not Mark!), “suspension of disbelief”, Samuel Taylor Coleridge (and the old romantic poets), a reaction against science, are the ships real?, aren’t the ships and cavalry set up as a Chekov’s Gun that will go off?, internal inconsistencies, how old are the characters?, Hildred vs. Louis, the statue of General Sheridan, Académie Julian, artists and prostitutes and models, The Mask by Robert W. Chambers, what photography did to painting, impressionism, disruptive ideas, the homunculus, the missing fingers, the damaged ears, Mr. Wilde’s manuscript is the story we’re reading!, is the Chamber is a reference to Chambers himself?, The Street Of The First Shell by Robert W. Chambers, the siege of Paris (during the Franco-Prussian War), Two Fishers by Guy de Maupassant, the Benedict (80 Washington Square East), HBO’s True Detective and the connections to The King In Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, detecting reality (and identity), the purple ears vs. pink ears, how does repairing reputations work?, Hildred’s reputation, a Strangers On A Train-esque clearing house for murder, Scandal (we haven’t seen it), Osgood Oswald Vance, crouching, who killed Mr. Wilde?, the cat did it!, the cat must be symbolic, Oscar Wilde and The Yellow Book, a web of fantasies, “folie à deux”, ‘don’t make fun of crazy people because their folly lasts longer than our own’, we don’t have perfect access to reality, WWI, a social reality vs. a harsh physical reality of artillery, madman vs. a fool, craziness vs. folly, Omar Khayyám, Act 1, Act 2 will make you insane, densely packed with world and incidence, revolutionary science, speculation, no Shyamalan twists please, Cohle and Hart, precedents for a twelve year gap, Battlestar Galactica, Vikings, Rome, Lost, it won’t be a happy ending, suicide is hugely important in both stories, ‘death is not the end’, back to the cat, The Street Of The Four Winds by Robert W. Chambers, cats, dark magic, evil omens, The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe, No mask?, Stefan Rudnicki talking about The King In Yellow, the “pallid mask”, is it a skull?, Boris, the face in the fates, the bird on the statue, a jigsaw puzzle, “the long arm of The King In Yellow reaches forward and backward in time and space”, David Lynch’s Lost Highway, is Mr. Wilde real at all?, a very readable book, stylistically it’s surprising modern, the artisty milieu, a freshness, “beware of The King In Yellow“.
Posted by Jesse Willis
A couple lines from episode 2 of HBO’s new show, True Detective, made made me gasp in shock and pleasure. The stylish debut episode, though beautifully filmed, didn’t quite explicitly state the weird undercurrent that may be behind the mystery of this novel for television.
Det. Rustin Cohle (reading the diary) “I closed my eyes and saw the King in Yellow moving through the forest.”
And then “The Yellow King … Carcosa”
I really began to get excited when, near the end of episode 2, birds flock into a recognizable shape, a tattoo found on the victim in episode 1.
Here are two short stories, listed chronologically, for those lines:
An Inhabitant Of Carcosa
By Ambrose Bierce; Read by rasputin
1 |MP3| – Approx. [UNABRIDGED]
First published in the San Francisco News Letter and California Advertiser, Dec 25, 1886.
And here’s a |PDF| version.
The Yellow Sign
By Robert W. Chambers; Read by CrowGirl
1 |MP3| – Approx. 39 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: November 30, 2011
The King In Yellow is a monstrous and suppressed book whose perusal brings, fright, madness, and spectral tragedy. Have you seen the Yellow Sign? First published in 1895.
And here’s a |PDF| version.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #246 – Hypnos by H.P. Lovecraft; read by Mr. Jim Moon. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the short story (23 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, Julie Hoverson, and Melvin Cartegena.
Talked about on today’s show:
An early Lovecraft story, a favourite Lovecraft, getting tangled in the mythos, similar elements, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep, chronology, artists vs. scientists, Polaris, alternative dream realities, a mystic connection to a star, The Dreams In The Witch House, the funniness, a man falls in love with a statue, statuesque features, Greek mythology, He, sudden and instant friends, recurrent themes, a smarter friend, is this the original Fight Club?, The Hound, The Murders In The Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe, not enough drugs in Kent, London, the Fu Manchu Limehouse connection, caffeine and amphetamines, aging, astral projection, ‘a man with Oriental eyes’, Sigmund Freud, Albert Einstein, Abdul Alhazred (was a Lovecraft persona), The Nameless City, Einsteinian theory, S.L. = Samuel Loveman, “all the cosmos is a jest”, wordless understanding, The Picture of Dorian Gray, an Olympian brow, Hypnos is the god of sleep the son of night and the brother of death, Charles Baudelaire, The Statement Of Randolph Carter, Harley Warren = Samuel Loveman, Ambrose Bierce, together but ahead, a column of gold, a red light, breaching the chambers of Hypnos, ambiguity, a symbolic or allegorical Tyler Durden, a way to avoid writing dialogue, “control the universe and everything under it”, in dreams you do control the universe, Lucid dreaming, “it’s not like Inception“, certain techniques, dream logic, Seattle, Tetris before bed, documenting dreams, Lucid dreaming is ultimately pointless, Julie’s dreams, NREM vs. REM dreaming, the function of dreams, sorting and practicing, incubating a dream at the temple of Hypnos, Phantasy (one of Hypnos’ sons), plungings and soarings, scary dreams, aether, The Police, Wrapped Around Your Finger, someplace beyond time, drifting, Ovid’s family tree for the family of Hypnos, Death and Sleep look like each other, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, Phobotor, Phanatos, Hypnos lived in a cave without a door, at the entrance of the cave were poppies and other flowering drugs, mandragora, old guys at young gay parties, screaming starts happening, if it were written today, who is this story being told to, a confession from an asylum or hospital, a cosmic joke, a schizoid break, his brow was white as of marble, volumes exchanged in a look, Freddy Krueger, dream mythology, Dreamscape, Inception, The Dream Master by Roger Zelazny, Uncle Scrooge in The Dream Of A Lifetime, Sleepwalkers, Naomi Watts and Ray Wise, Guy de Maupassant, a sequel, Masters Of Horror: Cigarette Burns, John Carpenter, many remakes, There’s A Family Of Gnomes Behind My Walls And I Swear I Won’t Disappoint Them Any Longer by J.R. Hamantaschen, weird dubiousness, Masters Of Horror: The Dreams In The Witch House, Wake up Julie!
Posted by Jesse Willis
Virtually all of Bierce’s tales are tales of horror; and whilst many of them treat only of the physical and psychological horrors within Nature, a substantial proportion admit the malignly supernatural and form a leading element in America’s fund of weird literature.”
-H.P. Lovecraft, from Supernatural Horror In Literature
A 1,500 word horror tale by Ambrose Bierce, typically bundled as the final of seven short horror stories, under the collective “Some Haunted Houses”, The Thing At Nolan was first published on its own. And that’s why I’ve edited up a special The Thing At Nolan from a larger LibriVox version.
The Thing At Nolan
By Ambrose Bierce; Read by Peter Yearsley
1 |MP3| – Approx. 10 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
First published in San Francisco Observer, August 2, 1891.
And here’s a |PDF|.
There’s also a CBS Radio Mystery Theater adaptation, adapted by actor Arnold Moss! It fills in a lot of the details from the very sketchy sketch of Bierce’s original story. Moss also takes a role!
CBSRMT #0920 – The Thing At Nolan
Adapted from the story by Ambrose Bierce; Adapted by Arnold Moss; Performed by a full cast
1 |MP3| – Approx. 44 Minutes [RADIO DRAMA]
Broadcaster: CBS Radio
Broadcast: November 20, 1978
When a father vanishes while digging a ditch in frontier Missouri, suspicions fall on the rebellious son who recently threatened him with bodily harm. His mother believes his claims of innocence, but the rest of the townsfolk do not.
Posted by Jesse Willis