Partridge India| Forgotten Fiction: Robert W. Chambers
In this entry of Forgotten Fiction, Partridge India explores Robert W. Chambers, a writer with a wide and varied career. Born in Brooklyn, USA in 1865, Chambers rose to writing prominence in the 1890s, up until his death in the 1930s. His genres include weird fiction, horror, romance, wartime adventure (written during World War I), and art nouveau, often blending genres within one story. In addition to a prolific writing career in his time, Robert W. Chambers is credited as a major influence on many future writers, such as H.P. Lovecraft, Karl Edward Wagner, and Lin Carter, to name a few. Chambers’ protagonists tend to be young gentlemen, often scholars or artists, and often hopeless romantics.
In Search of the Unknown
This anthology of short stories follows the adventures of Professor Gilland, erstwhile zoologist of the Bronx Park Society, in discovering or rediscovering hidden or extinct creatures. Sometimes these adventures lead him to dark and dangerous places. Whether encountering deep sea terrors or invisible swamp creatures, the stories contain a romantic era fascination with wildlife, nature, and adventure as narrated through the perspective of a flawed, skeptical, old-fashioned, yet enthusiastic gentleman scholar. The protagonist’s encounters with the strange or otherworldly are often depicted as eerie, awe-inspiring, or both. The writing is minimalist yet effective in conveying the aforementioned eeriness and awe. And in between the strange and the disturbing lies humor.
The Maker of Moons and Other Stories
The titular story of this anthology bears all the marks of a dark fairy-tale. It contains an adventurous young man, a mysterious maiden, and a powerful sorcerer god-king whose presence looms over both. In addition are multiple ghost stories, each blending romance, loss, and the supernatural in ways that prove haunting. Robert Chambers emphasizes bliss coupled with tragedy and sudden loss in this collection.
The King in Yellow
Considered Chambers’ most famous work, The King in Yellow has left an undeniable mark upon literature. This anthology of loosely connected short stories heavily influenced the writings of H.P. Lovecraft in his own weird fiction. We say the collected short stories are ‘loosely’ connected as the events and characters of each story have little to nothing to do with each other. Each short story is self-enclosed, sharing the presence or reference to a mysterious and infamous play, the titular The King in Yellow. In many of the stories exposure to the manuscript accompanies a descent into madness and terror for the main character of a story. Part of the horror lies in the ambiguity of whether what the protagonists see, feel, and experience are the results of a failing sanity or strange, supernatural forces.
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