Friday, July 22, 2016

While The Black Stars Burn

While The Black Stars Burn
By Lucy A. Snyder
$4.99 on Amazon
166 pages

One of the things I enjoy about short stories, is I can fit them in when I'm waiting for someone, riding the busy, or just looking to kill a few minutes.

Not too long ago, Amazon had While The Black Stars Burn on sale for 99 cents. As I am a book hoarder, I picked it up. I'd never heard of Lucy A. Snyder previously and was eager to see how I'd like her writing style.

The book includes several short stories that fit straight into the 'horror' genre. A few of them fall into the Lovecraft vein. One of them is a Doctor Who short story.

I found that the original works tended to be a little more telling for me. Her writing chops are fantastic. If anything, the thing that annoyed me most about While The Black Stars Burn, is that a lot of the stories end just when their getting "good", when my interest in them was at its peak.

If you're a Call of Cthulhu "Keeper", you should pick this up. There are several bits that fit right into a horror story right away.

The Strange Architecture of the Heart: In a war ridden society, the bonds between people may be fragile but that between mistress and robotic sex slave? Priceless! I'm not even kidding. The strain of living in a foreign land and having to work puts a woman more at home with a robot that does all it can to please the woman and her desire for a family. Solid social opinion.

Approaching Lavender: Here's a great "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" using a different medium instead of plants. Imagine you marry someone but they turn out to not be who you thought? Imagine that you sadly find out you were right as your own life is taken over by a painting.

The set up and slow build in Approaching Lavender are fantastic and it would make for a great one off, where the characters notice after a large art show opening that people have changed, or as part of an ongoing campaign where one of the character's friends exhibits vast differences in outlook and opinion.

Dura Mater: If you've ever watched the horror-science fiction movie, Event Horizon, this one shares some themes. Isolation, horror, the unknown. It goes with a more traditional "alien/outer alien" then the whole "Warp/Hell" bit of Event Horizon, but again, if you run one off's, this would be a great story to structure around.

Cthylla: Of the directly inspired Cthulhu stories, this one is the best. A young woman, the daughter of a computer scientist and a model, finds herself like neither of them and in being an outside, gets caught up with another outsider. The layers of conspiracy that get pulled back and the descriptive prose make the "switch" ending worth while and provide a great "cult" enemy for Keepers looking to add something to their campaigns. 

In terms of fantasy, there's one story that stands out, Spinwebs. A family owns spiders but the mob mentality against their ownership is  turning hostile. A young girl and a newly hatched egg are going to fight against that tide. But just when that determination is made, the story ends. Still, in the span of a few pages, the world building that happens is great. 

If you're looking for inspiration for horror one shots or direct stealing for a Call of Cthulhu RPG, While The Black Stars Burn is a well written book.