Review: 'While the Black Stars Burn' by Lucy Snyder

whileblackstarsburnWhile the Black Stars Burn by Lucy Snyder
Raw Dog Screaming Press (November 2015)
166 pages; $13.95 paperback; ebook $4.99
Reviewed by Anton Cancre

I’ve been a huge fan of Lucy Snyder’s work for years. Her yarns are fun, gutsy and weird as all get out. While the Black Stars Burn, though, has caused me to realize how important it is in the pantheon of full out capital-L Literature.

“Mostly Monsters” makes this indisputably clear from the first page. On the surface, we have the destructive relationship between a father and his daughter and the damage it causes. A sharp, heartbreakingly personal tale of familial horror that kicked me right in the teeth. At the same time, it screams its manifesto to refuse to look away from the small terrors that shape us daily. The sense of causation here, the implications of what went wrong, where and what could be done to keep it from happening in the future are woven through every word without ever stopping the story itself or robbing it of emotional impact.

Given the recent kerfuffle over the World Fantasy Awards, the four Lovecraftian stories, “Cthyllia,” “While the Black Stars Burn,” “The Abomination of Fensmere” and “The Girl with the Star-Stained Soul” seem particularly timely. I’ve been known to grumble that Cthulhu has become the new zombie, but I really dug these. Largely, this is because she uses the ideas beneath the mythos, poking and prodding at them. The sexism and the racism that were so inextricable from H.P. Lovecraft’s work is not stepped around but directly addressed in these stories, as well as a refutation of the empty nihilism at the heart of his worldview. Instead of simply burning the house down here, she is building a new one from the structure of its cinders. That makes me happier that I can accurately convey.

These works are tied to very real and concrete needs and desires of our time, obsessed as they are with the impact of the actions of the past upon the present and how they shape us as well as with how we choose to shape the world in response. All of this is accomplished without sacrificing story or character for the sake of the message.

Leave a Reply