While the Black Stars Burn by Lucy A. Snyder
(Published by Raw Dog Screaming Press)
The collection begins with a story that only hints at the supernatural tales to come, keeping things fairly mundane. By the second piece, you are pulled into a beautifully created fantasy world. While the Black Stars Burn is a mix of Lovecraftian horror, fantasy, and science fiction and author Snyder handles each genre perfectly.
Personal highlights from the collection are:
“Spinwebs” – a story set in a medieval culture where humans and spider-like beings live in mutually beneficial relationship. The world of this story is very well developed in its few pages. You understand why the protagonist has such a love for her weaver and the way the world operates. The end of this story had me ready to read Chapter 2.
“The Strange Architecture of the Heart” – a science fiction story that hits the same buttons as “Spinwebs”. We learn all the details of the world that we need to know and it feels fleshed out. The piece is focused on a lonely housewife and her only friend, the family android. Dark and sadly tender. I wanted a second chapter on this one as well.
“Through Thy Bounty” – This might be my favorite story in the whole collection. A science fiction story set after a nightmarish alien species has conquered the Earth, we hear it from the point of view of a human enslaved to work as the alien’s cook. These creatures’ appetites are for the cook’s fellow humans so she was forced to butcher and prepare everything from infants to children to the elderly. I was genuinely surprised by the places the story goes and it has a very satisfying conclusion. Could imagine the movie version of this one.
“The Abomination of Fensmere” & “The Girl With the Star-Stained Soul” – This duo of stories is connected through a continuing plot. Penny is a teenage girl whose mother has just died in a car accident. A mysterious man appears on her doorstep and claims to be from the girl’s estranged aunt who wants her to live with the old woman. The girl ends up in a small town in the American South straight out of a Lovecraft story. There are familiar tropes but where the story goes is with these elements is very entertaining. The second part takes a very interesting divergence to a landscape most Lovecraft fans would know and provides some beautiful imagery.
While the Black Stars Burn is a collection well worth your time, I can’t say you will enjoy every single story, as with collections there is always one or two that just don’t click. The overwhelming majority of stories here are wonderful, though. Very confident prose with a strong sense of world building.