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About Rosiee Thor
Rosiee Thor began her career as a storyteller by demanding to tell her mother bedtime stories instead of the other way around. She lives in Oregon with a dog, two cats, and four complete sets of Harry Potter, which she loves so much, she once moved her mattress into the closet and slept there until she came out as queer. Rosiee is represented by Saba Sulaiman of Talcott Notch Literary Services.
They’re just words. Gay. Bisexual. Queer. Just words. Asexual. Aromantic. Just plain, simple words. They’re not even all that long. But I’m a writer. I should know better. Nothing – spoken or heard, written or read – is really just words.
I was queer before I had a word for it – and I’ve had a lot of words for it. Some of them were more apt than others. Some of them still come around every so often when I find the words I have aren’t enough, when the moment calls for another word to add to my laundry list of identifiers. I say it’s a laundry list because that’s how it feels when I say it out loud for others to hear – like I’m rattling off a list of words they’re going to have to listen to me explain. I can see it cross over their face right around the second identifier. I don’t even get past the word aromantic before I see the dread in their eyes. If I’m feeling very brave, I might interrupt myself and say, “You know what, it’s too complicated. ‘Queer’ is fine.” If I’m not feeling brave, I’ll just sink back into the awkward silence I’ve created and cover my shame with a drink of water I’ll swallow along with my identity.
I shouldn’t have to be brave to be myself, but I live in a world where it’s more dangerous to explain who I am than to be someone I’m not. There’s a lie I wear like a second skin when I’m in public with people I don’t know, people I don’t like. It’s a smile I don’t mean, a laugh I hold as a shield against flirtation. I am reminded every day that this world I live in wants to change me, and it is brave to walk outside whether I claim my identity or not.
As a science fiction writer, I don’t have to write my world. I don’t have to write the violence and hate and microaggressions I feel every day. I can write a world where queerness isn’t the exception, a world without allonormativity, a world where the language of identity opens to understanding, rather than ending in shame. My genre does not require realism of me. It allows me to imagine a future different from our present. I can write myself a world that accepts me for who I am.
I know I can… and yet, it is almost a foreign concept, too far fetched, too distant for me to reach. Conventional wisdom among the queer community is that vocabulary gives us strength. Our identifiers allow us to communicate feeling, to express a shared experience with one another, and find ourselves in the media we consume. Labels can be powerful–not for everyone, not all the time, but the more we grow in our language and understanding of identities, the more nuance we can apply and the better we are at expressing and understanding ourselves. Identifying labels in fiction are vital to creating representation that not only resonates, but empowers and unites.
In SFF subgenres, we have the opportunity to use labels like bisexual, demisexual, aromantic etc. without dancing around the word for the sake of “historical accuracy” or “realism.” Others have said smarter things about it than I ever will. When I set out to include my own identity in Tarnished Are The Stars, I did so knowing I didn’t want to obfuscate my vocabulary with implications. I challenged myself to use the words on the page, and I’m happy to say I met that challenge – not without difficulty, but still, a small triumph. I put myself on the page, both in spirit and in words.
Still, as I look at the world around me and the world that I created, I see the places where I could have pushed my imagination harder. I couldn’t visualize a world–even eight hundred years in the future–where a boy who doesn’t want to get married, who doesn’t feel attraction, and who doesn’t enjoy physical contact would already know the words to identify himself. I didn’t know the words until I was 24, and I know others have waited longer to finally discover the language they need. Perhaps it comes from living in a world where we don’t even exist in the freaking dictionary, or perhaps it comes from my own selfish need to write what I know, but on some level I wonder if that boy I wrote didn’t deserve a better world.
I changed the date, I changed the fashion, I changed the conflicts, and the technology, and the whole entire planet. But I didn’t change the world. And for that fictional boy, and for any readers who don’t know the vocabulary for their sexuality yet, I wish on some level I could.
They say we’re making progress every day, that even today it isn’t as bad as it was ten years ago, so why shouldn’t I be able to look ten years into the future, and ten years after that, and ten after that and so on until I can see a world where the words aromantic and asexual are known by every living soul? Where they are as common as the word gay or straight or even book or chair? There will come a day when my identity is validated and cherished, not just by me and those that share my labels, but by those who don’t–by those who don’t even have a mother or a sister or an uncle or a son who do. It’s there, a dim light waiting at the end of a tunnel. Someday, I hope I can see it and write it. But until then, I have words that were shared so generously with me.
The power of words, and the power of queer community saved me – knowing there are others like me who understand who I am, and that there are others not like me who still understand. Before I found my labels, I felt alone. I worried every day that I might be too broken to fix. But now I know I am too strong to break, and too loved to be alone. Two words showed me that, and I hope I can share them – proudly on the page – with readers who need them most.
Title Tarnished Are The Stars
Author Rosiee Thor
Pages 384 Pages
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Science Fiction
Publication Date October 15th 2019 by Scholastic Press
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon.com ● Chapters ● The Book Depository
A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: An illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.
Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.
Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.
When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.