‘Where Black Stars Rise’ turns Eldritch horror on its head
Eldritch horror is a genre of fiction that features otherworldly, unimaginable, uncanny monsters and celestial beings.
“There's a pantheon of elder things: Some live here on Earth, and some live in the stars,” said St. Louis creator and illustrator Marie Enger. “It's helpful to think of the things that live on Earth as the elemental terrors. It's nature, and we're all really afraid of nature because nature doesn't care about us and can kill us at any time. The cosmic stuff is the forces that we can't control — madness, a higher power that is uncaring, and unfeeling.”
These stories are often referred to as Lovecraftian horror, inspired by the writings of author H.P. Lovecraft, among others, in the early 20th century.
Unlike the genre’s forefathers, however, today’s Eldritch authors shed underlying themes of bigotry, xenophobia and racism for modern stories that are inclusive. People from marginalized groups can now see and write themselves in modern tales as the protagonists of the story, rather than as the metaphorical inspiration for the monster.
“A lot of Eldritch creators now are queer, BIPOC, mentally ill or disabled in some way, and we see ourselves in Eldritch horror because a lot of the characters in Eldritch horror experience a lot of the same scenarios that we do and are told, ‘No, no, no, you don't actually experience these things.’”
Enger’s latest graphic novel, “Where Black Stars Rise,” is one such story. The book, published in October, explores themes of mental illness and isolation through the story of two women living in modern day Brooklyn: Amal Robardin, a Lebanese immigrant and therapist in training, and her very first client, Yasmin, who is diagnosed with schizophrenia.
At one point in the novel, Robardin stands up against a shapeshifter that assumes the appearance of three horror creators: Ambrose Bierce, H.P. Lovecraft and Robert Chambers.
“Part of the glee that comes with being a new Eldridge creator is getting to take little cheap shots at these guys — make them into the monsters that they truly are and overtake their legacy,” Enger said. “When you want to reclaim something, and you want to reclaim it completely as your own, sometimes it just feels really cathartic to stomp on them.”
Eldritch fiction is having a moment now, Enger said, which is exciting for creators of horror.
“Eldritch fiction is a big gamble for a publisher to take. Now that we've got a resurgence, someone like me may have a better chance to pitch a story and have it be better received than even five years ago,” they told St. Louis on the Air.
“I hope that it leads to a lot of people being inspired to create their own Eldritch fiction,” Enger added. “I can't wait until 20 years down the line, [when] someone is talking to an interviewer and saying, ‘Oh my god, ‘Where Black Stars Rise’ — sure, it was cool for its time, but now we got this and it's way better.’ I want to get to that point. I hope that this passion for Eldritch horror continues that way and the youth take it to new and terrifying levels.”
For more on “Where Black Stars Rise” and eldritch horror, listen to Marie Enger’s conversation on St. Louis on the Air on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, or by clicking the play button below.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.