Today on the FFG Live stream, the designers for Arkham Horror 3rd Edition revealed a new investigator to the Mythos. Now absolutely any investigator being added to the Mythos is big news for the entire Arkham Files franchise and a reason for excitement. In modern Arkham Files, we’ve had our fair share of new investigator releases in Mateo, Agatha, Preston, Carson, Daniela, Sefina, and Calvin (although he had existed before in a slightly different iteration, I still count him for this). The warm reception to these releases shows the community has been more than ready to welcome new investigators to the fold for some time. There is no question that we treat them as equals to the original crew, which includes Mandy Thompson and Jenny Barnes who have been around since day 1 of Arkham Horror back in 1987. That being said, with the addition of Daniela and Calvin in the final expansion for Eldritch Horror, all 55 investigators were neatly tied together with some cards for campaign play. With such a pretty bow on “the 55”, the community wasn’t seriously expecting a new investigator to come along, at least not for some time. Sure, we knew that it was always possible a new investigator could come. There was nothing stopping the designers from doing so. However, there was a sense of completion and wholeness with the cast as it was – the group that had been canonized with Eldritch Horror’s last hurrah just felt so right.
Then, March 10, 2020, we heard the announcement. Investigator #56 was on the way, with only about 2 years’ time passed since our last new investigators. Upon her reveal, the community was abuzz with excitement. I’ve checked out her card for Arkham Horror 3rd Edition, revealed on the stream. Does she deserve a space among the roster? Yes. Is this an important moment for the series? Very much so. Here are 3 things that I think are very important about Stella Clark.
(First though, if you haven’t watched the stream in question, it’s on Youtube here.)
1. Stella Clark heralds more investigators are coming.
First, we thought they wouldn’t release any more investigators when FFG published a big book entitled “The Investigators of Arkham Horror”. Surely, they wouldn’t put out more investigators who weren’t already listed in such a huge book, full of stories and artwork. Surely, this was the final list of investigators. Then, of course, Daniela, Sefina, and Calvin came down the pipeline, ruining that theory.
Afterwards, Masks of Nyarlathotep came out for Eldritch Horror and it seems not much was learned because again, with the 55 in place, we thought, this could be it, this could be the end of the investigators. Well, the apparent seal of the 55 has been broken wide open, my friends, and hopefully this time we learn our lesson once and for all. We all had heard from Matt Newman that more investigators could come, but I don’t think we were expecting it to happen right now. All the current releases in the Arkham Files product line have plenty of investigators within the current canon to go through, without new investigators needing to be created in order to fill product releases. This was certainly a big surprise!
I certainly do not believe Stella is the only investigator who is going to be new this year. Why do I think this? Because, thinking of Arkham Files’ history, new investigators aren’t really added to the Mythos one at a time. Even though Sefina was new, she was released in the same approximate timeline as both Daniela and Calvin. Only a few months separated Sefina’s first release from Daniela’s first release. I absolutely think FFG could do this again, and release Stella here first and then other investigators elsewhere as sort of a “Class of 2020” batch, similar to how Preston, Mateo, Agatha, and Carson were sort of a “Class of 2016” and Sefina, Daniela, and Calvin were a “Class of 2017-2018”. So, I would be ready for more new investigators to come, and soon.
2. Stella Clark adds a new splash of diversity to the roster.
Let me start this section by saying that this investigator could have been a heterosexual white dude, and I would still be absolutely psyched for a new investigator to be here. I don’t require these characters to be any sort of particular identity for me to be excited for them. If I required a character to be as similar as me as possible for me to gravitate towards them, then it would make the most sense for me, as a gay person of colour, to be most drawn to the character of Calvin Wright. However, that is not the case. My favourite character in the Mythos is actually Tommy Muldoon (an apparently heterosexual white dude). This is because Tommy’s story of wanting to be hero, of longing to achieve that moment of greatness, of wanting to protect other people – these are all elements that resonate with me personality-wise (and his wack-a-doodle relationship with his gun is honestly hilarious so that makes me love him even more). I love characters for who they are on a personal level, not whether or not their skin tone, sexual orientation or gender identity happen to line up with mine.
That out of the way, I love that Stella Clark exists. To put it as simply as possible, representation matters. Even if you, the individual reading this article, don’t care one way or the other about a black trans female character, this will be an exciting moment for someone out there. Their joy for this moment is fantastic and shouldn’t be taken away from them. And, let me say further, if Stella’s release is not an exciting moment for you, I don’t mind that either. That is also a totally fair and valid reaction. Again, speaking as a gay person of colour, I was not overly drawn to either Calvin Wright or Daniela Reyes. Neither of them are high on my list of favourite investigators. Still, I do recognize that their existence is important, because their existence means that, yes, gay and lesbian people exist in the universe of Arkham Files. People who are like me exist, for sure, it’s canonical, in this universe. Isn’t that what we want for anybody who approaches this game? To know deep down that they too could be consumed by Azathoth, regardless of their race, sexual orientation, or gender identity? I know that sounds like a joke, but I mean it very seriously. Just this sense of recognition and being seen through a character’s existence, even if it’s not necessarily resonating deeply with the particular character, can be really meaningful to players who spend so much time and mental energy immersing themselves into this fictional universe. If you can make players feel that way simply by having diverse characters, why not put as broad representation as you could?
If you’re still not sold, think about it this way. There are 27 white male investigators. That’s very nearly 50% of the cast, being just white men. And yet, we do not question all of these characters being different and unique. In fact, we can talk at length about the difference between Silas Marsh versus Norman Withers versus Roland Banks. I know you can because these characters all have released novellas, and I can assure you they are different novellas. We love many of these characters. I, specifically, love many of these characters. I wouldn’t remove a single one of them from the roster! However, the story of white men in Arkham has kind of been told nearly 30 times. The story of a black trans woman in Arkham has been told 0 times. So, from a narrative standpoint, why not put in one black trans woman? We never questioned them putting in literally 27 straight white men. Diverse characters are a necessity to flesh out the universe further, and to show that yes, gay people are investigators, black people are investigators, women are investigators, seniors are investigators, too. We are all in this fight against the Mythos together.
3. Stella Clark’s lore crafts positive representation while simultaneously setting her apart from the other investigators.
So, it’s one thing to simply have a trans character represented. It’s another thing for that character to be a positive representation who is interesting, well-executed, and feels organic to the universe. Bad representation can be worse than no representation, particularly if it feeds harmful stereotypes or turns the audience against the character. That being said, I think Stella’s lore succeeds at being both unique and positive in a few really critical ways.
First of all, her trans identity is explicitly accepted and not questioned. There is a negative stereotype of trans people where they are seen as confused or perhaps insane. Keep in mind that this franchise deals with mental illness a lot. There is no connection with Stella’s trans identity and mental illness, a theme that permeates the entire game. They are entirely separated. Stella’s actually unique among the cast for how sure of things that she is just in general. Think about how many characters in the cast are afraid of something happening (Daniela), unsure of something happening (Preston), spending their life figuring out what is happening (Norman), and so on. Stella doesn’t experience this. She just knows things are the way they are. Her sense of sureness affirms her trans identity and provides her a personality trait – true disbelief towards the Mythos – that is unique among the cast.
Secondly, her chosen name is respected in every element of the story. “Deadnaming”, or continuing to use a trans’ person’s given name instead of their chosen name, is a major way that trans people experience disrespect in our society. This doesn’t happen to Stella. The story mentions that Stella had a given name, but it’s never brought up what it is. We don’t get to know that, which, honestly, is a positive thing as it further cements in our mind that Stella is absolutely Stella and not her given name. What’s more is that her chosen name is an important plot point to the story, as she gets the mysterious letters addressed to her, with her chosen name – not her given name – being what is printed on the inside. This is a creative way of tying her trans identity into the mystery, by continuing to emphasize the importance of her given name. (Honestly, it is wild to me that a spooky house can manage to not deadname someone but actual people in 2020 somehow can’t even get it right, but anyway, that’s spooky houses setting apparently unrealistic expectations for you. Yes, I managed to fit a joke in here, it is still a Rite of Seeking article, after all.)
Thirdly, Stella’s occupation integrates her into society. This is an easy point to miss, because it’s so understated, but Stella is just quietly a part of what makes Arkham a nice, quaint town by happily delivering people’s mail. Compare this to other characters, especially other Black characters. Jim hangs out in a graveyard and plays a trumpet, and is a magical Black person. Akachi is a mystic who traveled to Arkham from a faraway African tribe, and is a magical Black person. Rita is apparently being pursued by the KKK, a Black person being attacked. Marie’s a singer, which seems maybe normal, except that she also has the power of witchcraft in her blood and hears otherworldly music in her dreams. A magical Black person. We don’t even know if Calvin has a job. Our entire experience of Calvin is that he is someone who was beaten up on the side of the road and had a horrifying vision. A second Black person being attacked. Consider that up until now, that’s basically our Black characters in this game.
Now, we have Stella. Stella delivers the mail. She brings the community together. She doesn’t seem to believe in magic. Honestly, Stella is just delightful and loves her job, which she performs dutifully no matter the weather. Even though the whole thing with the house and the letters addressed to her is creepy, she’s not being beat up on the side of the road or hunted by the KKK. Even if Stella did nothing about the letters, ever, we have no reason based on the text to assume that she suddenly would be the victim of violence for doing so. She’s an accepted fixture of Arkham society, the letter carrier. This sort of social positioning for an investigator is rare in the first place, but it’s nonexistant for all other Black investigators. Her occupation is well chosen to set her apart from most of the roster, while also presenting a new kind narrative for a Black investigator’s experience in the Arkham Files universe.
As you can see, I’m very excited for Stella Clark. Will I be fair and write an article like this for every new investigator, even if they’re not black, trans, or a woman? Maybe I ought to. But Stella is really important to me for even more reasons. I actually know someone who was kicked out of their house for being trans. Seeing a trans character be a confident and headstrong hero in a story, particularly in a franchise I am so passionate about, just makes me happy. It gives me hope that my friend too will be accepted, just as Stella is accepted as the letter carrier in Arkham.
I know that for many people, Stella is just a new coating for some cool new mechanics and theme to be added to an Arkham Files game, and we should all just focus on the gameplay side and not think too much about so-called identity politics, because at the end of the day none of these things matter anyway because there’s only one race and it’s the human race and so on and so forth. However, I would encourage everyone to take a second and remember that we play games in the real world. In the real world, diversity matters. It mattered to my trans friend who disowned and kicked out of the house. It mattered to me when my parents attempted to exorcise me when I came out to them as gay. It mattered to my female coworkers when they were being stalked while at work by older men and we had to hide them out of sight until these men left the premises. So, even if absolutely nothing else comes from it, to simply see the media we consume most to say, hey, you matter to me and I accept who you are, too, certainly puts a smile inside my heart.