I wrote “While the Black Stars Burn” while I was attending a winter MFA residency at Goddard College in Vermont. I knew I wanted to write a story evocative of both the Robert Chambers story “In the Court of the Dragon” and Lovecraft’s story “The Music of Erich Zann” but which was not a copycat pastiche of either one. The heat wasn’t working well in my dorm room, and my being profoundly cold and under-slept definitely influenced my writing!
While the Black Stars Burn
by Lucy A. Snyder
Caroline tucked an unruly strand of coarse brown hair up under her pink knit cap, shrugged the strap of her black violin case back into place over her shoulder, and hurried up the music building stairs. Her skin felt both uncomfortably greasy and itched dryly under her heavy winter clothes; it had been seven days since the water heater broke in her tiny efficiency and the landlord wasn’t answering his phone. Quick, chilly rag-baths were all she could stand, and she felt so self-conscious about the state of her hair that she kept it hidden under a hat whenever possible. She hoped that her violin professor Dr. Harroe wouldn’t make her take her cap off.
Her foot slipped on a spot of dried salt on the stairs and she grabbed the chilly brass banister with her left hand to keep from pitching forward. The sharp, cold jolt made the puckered scar in her palm sharply ache, and the old memory returned fast and unbidden:
“Why aren’t you practicing as I told you to?”