Enjoy this guest post from THE TURQUOISE BONES author, Steven R. Brandt.
I was asked why the most fearsome monsters in my story, “The Turquoise Bones,” are named quasars. While it is part of a general pattern that the book follows, of naming everything after stars or things astronomical, there is a specific reason why quasar was given to that one beast. But before looking at that, let’s consider the reason for the star-related naming in general.
First, a bit of background. Note that there are some minor spoilers involved in this answer.
“The Turquoise Bones” is set in a bronze age culture on another world. Our protagonists, their families, and friends are a group of star-worshiping nomads who call themselves “Astronomers.” So part of the reason for the astronomical terminology comes from their beliefs.
But why should they see stars as holy? In part, it is because so few of them can see the stars anymore. The few who had eyes sensitive enough to do so were systematically put to death by a competing race in the distant past. The result of this persecution was, inevitably, that the survivors became more fixated on that which was taken from them. The fact that many of these people have atavistic or race-memories of a time when they could see the stars only serves to bolster their feelings of mystery toward the unseen lights.
Another part of the answer comes from their more ancient history. The Astronomers know they are from the stars, and that beings known as the “Starfarers” were responsible for bringing them to the world of Antikythera, but little else about what world they came from or how the journey took place.
The answer lies in the collection of scrolls which form their holy writings, copied laboriously over the centuries, and guarded by the religious leaders known as “Royal Astronomers,” or “Royals” for short. While we don’t get to peek inside the sacred tent where these documents are kept in the course of my first book, I will tell you the name of the ancient tome from which all the scrolls of sacred writing come from, a single volume which once contained all the wisdom of all the tribes of Astronomers. It is called, “University Astronomy.” That one book, of which they only have fragments, is the only link they have to the planet of their origins, the only ancient truth which they’ve managed to hold on to. Since the things it describes, nuclear reactions, telescopes, etc. are beyond the Astronomers’ comprehension, they interpret everything spiritually.
Therefore, most of the names in the book are the names of stars, e.g. Tarazed, Tseen-Ke, Heka, Sol, etc. The title “Royal Astronomer” is a reference to the Royal Astronomical Society; the name of the planet, Antikythera, is an ancient and mysterious astronomical device; and the character name, Apjay, comes from an abbreviation of the name of the Astrophysical Journal, commonly written as Ap.J.
But what about the name quasar? What more terrifying name could there be for a star worshiper than the name given to a supermassive black hole, a thing that eats stars. Since the worm-like predators of Antikythera are gigantic and ravenous, the name seemed natural.
This post was written by Steven R. Brandt. I reviewed THE TURQUOISE BONES earlier this month. If you’d like to read more, click through here.