I haven’t watched the show yet (no cable), but it’s been a topic of conversation here. Alyssa Rosenberg, at ThinkProgress, has a theory:
The first five episodes of True Detective have mostly been concerned with the contrasting styles of masculinity that meat-and-potatoes Marty Hart and cracked philosopher king Rust Cohle represent. But lurking around in the background is something stranger than even Rust Cohle’s meditations on the state of the universe: references to Carcosa, and a King in Yellow, and in Sunday’s episode, a meth cook babbling about “black stars” and “twin suns.” These details might seem in keeping with True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto’s literary dialogue. But they actually come from someplace else. And that someplace else suggests something interesting about where True Detective could be going.
True Detective, on the surface, seems to be a noir story. But a deeper dive into the references that keep popping up in the show suggest it’s from another place entirely: it’s a horror story dressed up in noir clothing. All these details come from a mythology that writers have been contributing to for more than 120 years: an interlocking set of stories, poems, and even a play about a fictional city called Carcosa, that can never quite be seen directly…
I did read a certain amount of the King-in-Yellow lit back when I was a teenager. My opinion at the time was that Bierce (who I greatly admire, as a philosopher) was punking the more suggestible of his literary fellows — deliberately baiting their imaginations to see how far up their own epistemiologies they could cram their heads. But I’ve always been a bit of a Sancho Panza, and how would our tribe entertain ourselves without Don Quixotes?