Archive for While the Black Stars Burn

Sailing the Seas in Lost Carcosa


While the Black Stars Burn by Lucy A. Snyder

Y’all know by now that I’m a fan of Lucy Snyder’s books, and she’s got this new collection of short stories that just came out. As expected for a horror specialist like Snyder, there’s plenty of scary stuff. There’s also a number of stories from other genres, particularly science fiction and medieval fantasy, and there’s even a story about a time-traveling alien doctor who runs around in a police call box…

Some of the stories we find inside are:

  • “Spinwebs” – a weird little fantasy tale about a family encountering prejudice because of the giant telepathic spiders that live in their home.
  • “The Still-Life Drama of Passing Cars” – a quiet tale of a woman and her children driving in the car — but something isn’t right about any of them…
  • “Through Thy Bounty” – an old favorite — the aliens invade, and a captive is ordered to cook for the invaders. Their favorite dishes? Let’s just say they prefer all kinds of human meals.
  • “Cthylla” – the untalented daughter of a computer genius and a celebrated actress befriends an artist marked for death by a doomsday cult.
  • “While the Black Stars Burn” – a talented but tortured violinist is used to open the way for the terrible King in Yellow.
  • “Jessie Shimmer Goes to Hell” – in which the lead character of Snyder’s Jessie Shimmer novels goes to Hell, faces a monstrous demon, and must claw her way back home.
  • “Fable Fusion” – a story originally written for a Doctor Who fiction anthology, this features the Seventh Doctor and his companion Ace investigating creatures of myth running around Prague.

Verdict: Thumbs up. If this collection has a theme, it’s the disintegration of families — and Lovecraftian monsters.

Lovecraftian horror tends toward the nihilistic — but in this case, what really carries that nihilism banner is the rampant destruction of family units. Sometimes, the ends of these families are deeply sad — the families, no matter how small or poor, were loving and caring, and the survivors will be left without their loved ones and the people who they turned to for support. And in other cases, the destructing families should’ve been put to the torch years ago. Sadistic fathers, cultist parents, two-faced spouses, and more. And the end of those families still leave the survivors in bad places — and the non-survivors in much, much worse places, too.

But there are plenty of great monsters in here, too. And while not all of them are Lovecraftian, quite a few are. And actually, more than you’d expect have deep connections to Robert W. Chambers’s “King in Yellow” mythology. Chambers’s turn-of-the-century surreal horror has been a big thing for the last few years, and it’s great to see that Snyder is able to make lost Carcosa’s favored son work so well. I’ve been a huge fan of Chambers for years, and it’s always a thrill to see well-done stories about the King in Yellow, the Yellow Sign, and all the associated figures.

On top of all that, I’d just like to say that, as a non-Doctor Who fan, I really enjoyed the Whovian “Fable Fusion” story.

So you like grim nihilist horror? You like the King in Yellow? You like Jessie Shimmer and Doctor Who? Go pick this up.

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