content by

Emma Leff

Tamsyn Muir Understood the Assignment: The Locked Tomb Series’ Expansive Exploration of Death and Grieving

I first read Gideon the Ninth in the summer of 2020, maybe a month after my dad had died suddenly and also, of course, in the middle of a deadly global pandemic. In that moment, I wasn’t actively seeking out material that reflected that part of my lived experience. Mostly, I saw “lesbians” “swords” and “memes” and thought “yes please!” Quickly, the books captured my heart and imagination. But not until later, reading, “As Yet Unsent: Cohort Intelligence Files” the bonus chapter released with the paperback edition of sequel, Harrow the Ninth, that I began to think of the series as an evolving inquiry into the nature of death and dying, what it means to be left behind. And speaking from experience, one thing is absolutely clear: Tamsyn Muir understood the fucking assignment.

Since then, I’ve bought and shelved and sworn to read so many books about death. Critically acclaimed books! Books with great reviews! Not a one has actually made it to the top of the stack. I’m not avoiding them because I worry that I won’t be able to handle reading about death. I just worry none of these books will do it justice. Losing someone, especially when you’re young and it seems like everyone else is carrying on happily with all their loved ones, or maybe just down a grandparent or two, will make you feel like a tragic hero. I felt (feel?) so special in the worst kind of way. What could Joan Didion have to say that I don’t already know?

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Is There a Queer Future Without Queerphobia?

We live in a world still blighted by homophobia and transphobia, regardless of the advances of recent years. I could point to the growing number of anti-trans laws, the fact that 59% of queer and trans students report feeling unsafe at school, the gob-smacking rates of violence against Black and Latinx trans women, but, by now, we should all be aware of the realities.

On the flip side, science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction allow us to explore and explode the limits of what’s possible, and not just when it comes to time travel, space, and magic. Why, when we can imagine any world, would we choose to create one where queer and trans people are still oppressed? Many recent works of science fiction and fantasy ask this question, imagining futures or alternate universes where queerness and gender nonconformity are presented as the norm within the world of the book.

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