What’s Your Author Horoscope?
Forget the goats and scorpions—we’ve reassigned the zodiac to writers. Find your new sign!
Astrology is having a moment. From astrology-inspired lingerie to astrology-themed bars, it seems like it’s being applied to literally everything, to the point of being a gimmick.
“But I don’t believe in astrology,” you might say. The thing is, astrology isn’t necessarily something to “believe” in. It’s not a religion. It’s a system — a tool — for understanding the world around us. There are many tools we can use to understand this incredible world, many stories we can tell ourselves about why it works the way it does. Astrology is one of these, and it might even be a tool that resonates with you.
Part of the learning curve with astrology is that there is a lot to keep track of, and in the saturated “Instagram witch” market we are in right now, complex ideas can get boiled down to stereotypes (like “Geminis are untrustworthy”) that are often incorrect and easy to dismiss.
But what if the signs were associated with your favorite authors? Maybe you can’t identify a Sagittarius, but can you identify a Joan Didion type? Probably.
I’ve put together a list of 12 authors that correlate to the 12 sun signs— the core of a person’s identity, what they are centrally concerned with as well as how they are concerned with and interact with the world. (There are other kinds of signs, but being, say, a Maya Angelou with Oscar Wilde rising is more complicated and we won’t get into that today.)
Perhaps if you never really “felt” like a Scorpio, or just couldn’t remember what that would mean, you’ll be more comfortable as an Atwood.
ARIES: Maya Angelou
March 21–April 19
Aries understand the world through understanding themselves. The leader of the fire signs (or “cardinal” fire), Aries springs forth with the spring equinox, the start of the zodiac year. People born under Aries have a fierce devotion to self. Often misinterpreted as selfish, Aries are in fact self-possessed: in knowing themselves and creating roads others never dreamed, they pave the way for others.
Maya Angelou was a quintessential Aries. Angelou first worked as a dancer and pursued numerous creative outlets — Aries are performers, after all. But Angelou is best remembered as a memoirist and essayist, for her autobiographical work. For the articulation of the “I,” for understanding herself through her writing. “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you,” Angelou wrote in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Angelou redefined how black women could write about themselves and be perceived by a wide reading public. “Phenomenal woman, that’s me.”
Aries is ruled by Mars, and, like their ruling planet, people born under Aries are warriors: the kind of folks you find on the front lines, all fired up. Aries are battering rams you do not want to mess with. But there is a tenderness to that fire, a desire to just be seen, to be understood. There is wisdom, there, that you find when an Aries settles into themselves: they become the eye of the storm. Think of Angelou later in life: it was as if, if she so chose, she could speak fire into existence. Her words made the air crackle and spark. That’s the power of Aries.
TAURUS: Angela Carter
April 20–May 20
“I desire, therefore, I exist,” Angela Carter wrote in her 1972 novel The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman. A more perfect motto for Taurus you’d be hard pressed to find.
Taurus digs into the earth, gets its hands dirty. Taurus grows the seeds that Aries plants. Taurus plows, slow and steady. Taurus knows that the body is the work and the play and the reward.
Taurus is fixed earth: the stubborn bull, the earth mother, the sensual lover, the person whose emotions show up in their body. Taurus is ruled by Venus, the planet of pleasure. Taurus wants a good meal, a good fuck, and a good nap.
From novels like The Magic Toyshop to short story collections like The Bloody Chamber to her nonfiction like The Sadeian Woman, Carter’s work centers on the body, on sexuality: on the carnal, and how the individual is shaped by the carnal. By desire, but also by environment: places like the titular bloody chamber, or the cold white of the snow in “The Snow Child.”
And this is Taurus: ruled by Venus, Taurus revels in the sensual, in the body, in the earth, in the five senses, in understanding the self through the experience of the physical environment. Carter brought the theory of BDSM and the mystical of fairy tales into the body, into the deeply physical realms of desire. She made the unimaginable imaginable.
When the body is aligned with the spirit — or, when the spirit comes into the body — Venus shows up. There is magic to be found — magic that Taurus is particularly adept at summoning.
GEMINI: Gwendolyn Brooks
May 21–June 20
Of all the air signs, Gemini moves the fastest — there is a Peter Pan quality to Gemini folk. Ruled by Mercury, Gemini is mutable air, whipping up the solidity of Taurus earth. The world is alive with spring, Gemini says. Have you heard? In the tarot, Gemini is represented by The Lovers: a world come alive with ideas, with romance.
Geminis are the poets of the zodiac: obsessed with language, sharp, incisive, and playful as hell. In this, Gwendolyn Brooks was the consummate Gemini. Brooks was the first African-American to win a Pulitzer, ever, and of course, she won for her poems. Even Brooks’ only novel, Maud Martha, is told in short vignettes; every word counts. Geminis are magicians, speaking ideas into existence with their words.
Communication is what Geminis are known for, but undergirding this is their true defining trait: curiosity. Children of Hermes, Geminis are the winged messengers among us who bridge the gap between friend groups, between generations, saying what others can’t or won’t, pollinating numerous areas of society. They have a gift for duality, for seeing all of life’s shades of grey, a gift which can get them in trouble. Unlike their opposing sign, Sagittarius, they are not devoted to the pursuit of Truth; they just want to express their truth as honestly as possible. And Geminis, perhaps better than most, know that their interior truth can change — which is part of why they’re so hell-bent on being good at communicating. Communicating, mind you, not necessarily talking: “I am a writer perhaps because I am not a talker,” Brooks once said.
Brooks’ oeuvre speaks to this commitment to curiosity and communication: she was extraordinarily prolific, working into old age, publishing numerous collections and working in schools to the end of her life, largely through her work as a Poetry Consultant for the Library of Congress — the first ever black woman appointed to the position.
CANCER: Octavia Butler
June 21–July 22
Summer solstice brings with it Cancer season: the heart of summer, the longest days, the shortest nights. Cancer is cardinal water: the leader of the water signs, the fertile rains which nurture and grow. Traditionally associated with the moon, the home, and motherhood, Cancer rules the private realm. But it would be a mistake to underestimate Cancers: the depth of their loyalty, and the ferocity with which they guard their domain. Don’t mess with a Cancer — but especially do not mess with a Cancer’s people.
Above all, Cancers are charged with tending to life. With extraordinary empathy and a gift for boundaries, they are well equipped to do so. Octavia Butler, one of the most renowned science fiction writers of the twentieth century, continually pressed on the question of the value of human life in her work: what does it mean to be human? “I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining,” Butler once said. Butler, the first science fiction writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, is often celebrated as one of the vanguards of Afrofuturism, one of the few voices bringing characters from marginalized backgrounds to the forefront of genre fiction.
Like its opposite sign Capricorn, Cancer is concerned with history and legacy, and Butler’s work bends time back and forward to comment on racism, sexism, and the deeply entrenched hierarchies that folks must struggle to survive against. In Butler’s 1979 novel Kindred, Dana, an African-American woman, travels back in time from 1970s LA to 19th century Maryland, where she meets her ancestors: a white slaveholder and a black freewoman forced into slavery. Butler’s work continually finds ways to hold the past and the future simultaneously. This is a central challenge Cancer faces: the integration of the family with the finding of the self. As Butler once wrote in the Parable of the Talents,
Self is body and bodily
perception. Self is thought, memory,
belief. Self creates. Self destroys.
Self learns, discovers, becomes.
Self shapes. Self adapts. Self
invents its own reasons for being.
To shape God, shape Self.”
LEO: James Baldwin
July 23–August 22
You know when a Leo walks into a room. It might be their hair, it might be their clothes, it might be that they always know how to make an entrance. But mostly, it’s their presence. Leos crave a stage, but they aren’t just performers — they are the consummate actor who also writes, produces, and directs the show. Shakespeare wrote that all the world’s a stage, but for Leo, all the world’s an audience.
This isn’t a bad thing. Leos get a bad rap for being selfish, but Leos teach us how to value ourselves. Not the boastful braggart, not the loudest person in the room. The most centered person in the room. The person who is really, truly assured of their worth and value. That is why Leos radiate confidence: because when you know and love yourself, you shine. Have you ever met an apologetic Leo sun or Leo rising, a Leo person who was anything less than the fullness of what they were? No, of course you haven’t. Leos are fully themselves, and this makes folks who are operating at a bandwidth or frequency that is less than themselves uncomfortable.
An invaluable gift — especially when society wants you to bow to its norms. James Baldwin was a Leo who refused to bend, a lionhearted man who knew his gifts and who used the spotlight to his advantage — personally, professionally, socially, turning it back on society to reflects its ills and prejudices. Baldwin wrote fiercely, unapologetically. His 1956 novel Giovanni’s Room contained significant homoerotic themes; facing criticism, he published it anyway. Baldwin gave speaking tours; was close friends with people in all circles, stretching back from the Harlem Renaissance (his teacher was Countee Cullen) all the way to Maya Angelou; appeared next to his longtime friend Marlon Brando at the March on Washington. Baldwin was a media darling, because he knew how to use the press to his advantage. In death, he has become almost mythic. Leos know how to spin a legend out of a life.
“You write in order to change the world… if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way people look at reality, then you can change it,” Baldwin once said.
VIRGO: Mary Oliver
August 23–September 22
Virgos get lost in the details — but really, they just have a passion for the project. They want to see it through, and they want it to be the best. If their fellow earth signs Capricorns are concerned with the long-range view, and Tauruses are concerned with the pleasure of the moment, Virgos are the taskmasters, the organizers. Virgos have a reputation for being critical, but they are less often seen for what they really are, underneath all those other things: the analyst. Ruled by Mercury, like Gemini, Virgos are also deeply curious, but their curiosity manifests in wanting to see how everything works — they are scientists, if you will, even when their profession couldn’t be further from science if they tried.
Mary Oliver, for example. A lesbian poet living in relative seclusion on Cape Cod, Oliver has, for the most part, elided personal subject matter in favor of the natural world. For decades, she has published poetry considering roses and grasshoppers and water and ripples. Her poetry reveals the analyst, the critic, the organizer and, yes, even the taskmaster in Virgo: the person who wanders the woods and takes note of the smallest bits and bobs, who notices how it all clicks into place, how it moves as one organism, how it fits together — often illuminating something about the human experience in the process. Oliver writes, “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
This attention to detail reveals another superpower in Virgo that is not often considered, which can be found by considering Virgo’s opposing sign, Pisces. In its attentiveness, Virgo heals: Virgo brings insight that serves the greater good. Virgo notices the details that others miss — Virgo is the nurse who finds the missing piece, the parent who notices the misstep in their child’s pattern, and, yes, the poet who brings us to stillness in nature.
Virgo finds healing and beauty in the smallest detail. Virgo finds beauty and worth in the work, whatever that work is.
As Oliver also writes, “Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.”
LIBRA: Oscar Wilde
September 23–October 22
The autumnal equinox ushers in Libra season, and with it, the official beginning of fall: a crisp cooldown, sweater season. Libras are cardinal air (leader of the air signs, if you will) ruled by Venus. Whereas Venus manifests as pleasure in earthy Taurus, in Libra it is more high-minded: art, culture, elegance — the expression of beauty. “A Libra is just an Aries who has been to charm school,” said astrologer Jayj Jacobs.
Autumn is also cuffing season, and Libras are known for being romantics. This is a bit of a misconception; Libras are more invested in harmony in relationships than romance, per se (although they’re quite good at performing the trappings of romance). Represented by the Justice card in the tarot, Libras bring a sense of order to their surroundings, imbuing beauty and harmony into their environments. Whether that’s a put-together room, a well-styled outfit, or a great book club with the right mix of people, Libras understand how to find that internal rhythm to make something hum. Libra suns and risings understand who to introduce to who at a party. They are often consummate hosts. And they have a keen sense of timing.
Look at Oscar Wilde, who brought his own sharp wit and social observation to his work — The Importance of Being Earnest, An Ideal Husband. His plays feature that special sort of cutting humor that goes down easier with a gloss of society finery: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Wilde’s humor is rarely concerned with hurting feelings, also a Libra trait — air signs are adept at detaching emotionally, and Libras especially can enjoy banter and flirting for their own sake.
Even so, in his personal life, Wilde had fierce convictions and refused to be anything less than himself; he was a flamboyant gay man living a very out life in a time when to do so was criminal. Wilde defended the “love that has no name” when he was put on trial for homosexuality in 1895. Ultimately, in order to be in harmony with others, Libras must first be in harmony with themselves.
SCORPIO: Margaret Atwood
October 23–November 21
Scorpios see the underbelly of this world. Born at Samhain, when the leaves are falling and molting, Scorpios enter this world when the veil is thin, when the dead walk the earth. Of all the water signs, Scorpios are the most stubborn — they are fixed water, a deep deep well. Le petit mort — the little death — is a euphemism for orgasm; it’s also a good description for Scorpios. Scorpios have a reputation for being sex-obsessed, but they’re more interested in transcendent experiences that bring them to the brink, that allow them to experience other planes of life. Scorpios understand that we all hold light and dark, and there is no convincing them otherwise. Death, rebirth, transformation. The phoenix bird is one of the symbols that represents Scorpio.
More than any other sign, Scorpios are interested in the other side of the story — in the the untold, the maligned, the abject, the obscure. That’s a pretty good summary of Margaret Atwood’s body of work, which takes us to the transformative, to the unimaginable. She takes on myth (The Odyssey, Bluebeard) and imagines the other side of the story; in today’s day and age, her dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985, feels downright prophetic.
Pisces, one of Scorpio’s sister water signs, understands cosmic oneness and disintegration, spiritual transcendence; Scorpio understands the cyclical nature of the corporeal body, of the many deaths experienced in a lifetime, and consequently, of how precious life can be. In this, Scorpio finds a ferocity to fight for its convictions. Atwood is involved in season two of Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale; you’d have to be a fool to not see how strongly the show reflects both reality and imminent possibility.
Like Aries, Scorpios are ruled by Mars. But whereas Aries are the warriors you find on the front lines, Scorpios are stealth: they are the spies, the water churning and roiling beneath the surface. Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.
SAGITTARIUS: Joan Didion
November 22–December 21
Sagittarians are ruled by Jupiter, the planet that expands everything it touches. Like their ruling planet, Sags want more: they’re the kid who looks at the sky, wondering when they can move out of their parents’ home, wanting to just sell everything (or put it all out on the sidewalk) and move to another country. Sags love their freedom. Even if Sags return to a beloved home or city, they have to travel first: first and foremost, Sags understand themselves through experiencing the world and all it has to offer. They love learning about other cultures (but not in an appropriative way), food, dance, art, music: through understanding others, they better understand themselves and where they come from.
You could say that Sagittarius, the philosopher of the zodiac, is obsessed with place and home. Joan Didion, for example. Didion currently lives in New York, but she penned perhaps the most famous kiss-off (or rather, love letter in the guise of a kiss-off) to the city, “Goodbye to All That,” in her 1987 essay collection Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The city had stopped working for her, and she needed to leave in order to be free again.
But Didion maps other landscapes, too — not just place. Sagittarius takes us to places we didn’t know we could go, and this includes interior realms. The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights map grief in stark prose, laying track for her readers who would grieve after to follow. Didion writes into the most uncomfortable corners of the human psyche.
That’s the thing about Sagittarius: they aren’t poets, like their opposing sign, Gemini. This isn’t to say they can’t be poets, but their mutable fire wants to get to the heart of the issue as fast as possible. Gemini is sharp and precise; Sagittarius is big and expansive and searching, always searching. Sagittarius looks for capital-T Truth. Unattainable, almost. Except when they find it in themselves.
CAPRICORN: Lin-Manuel Miranda
December 22–January 19
Capricorn season starts on the winter solstice — the longest night of the year. Saviors come to us in solstice season; so do empire builders, CEOs, folks at the top of their fields. Capricorns are cardinal earth, the leaders of the earth signs, and unlike so many of the other cardinal signs, they understand how to follow through on what they start. They are mountain goats whose problem is not climbing a mountain, but merely choosing which mountain they want to climb (and then, which mountain after that). The Capricorn work ethic is legendary.
“Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” is a question oft repeated in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Hamilton. Miranda is a Capricorn; unsurprisingly, so was Alexander Hamilton, the titular immigrant Founding Father who Miranda so identified with. But it’s not just hard work that defines Capricorns, or — more stereotypically — an obsession with money or status, although Capricorns can get wrapped up in money (the energy essential to continue the work) and status (recognition for the work).
Capricorns’ real concern is legacy. They understand, better than anyone else, that their life is limited: that they are, in fact, running out of time. It’s said that Capricorns age backwards: they are old souls as children who only understand how to truly relax and have fun in adulthood. They are ruled by Saturn, sometimes called Father Time, or the planet of karma, so this makes sense — Capricorns have a perhaps undue sense of responsibility. They are obsessed with tradition, history, family, place, lineage.
To understand this, you don’t need to look further than Miranda’s work. Consider In the Heights, Hamilton, Moana. Consider the behemoth empires he works with in the entertainment industry: Broadway, Disney. All of this work is obsessed with family, with legacy, with tradition — and with the mutation, with change, with how time works. And, of course, Miranda himself often speaks of his Puerto Rican immigrant parents: of his upbringing in Washington Heights, of his connection to lineage, of his sense of roots and of the past. Capricorns use the past to create a more rooted present and future.
“Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see,” Miranda writes.
AQUARIUS: Toni Morrison
January 20–February 18
The perpetual outsiders even when they’re part of the in circle, Aquarians have a special gift for being able to detach and look at things from everyone’s point of view. The Google Earth view, you could say. There’s a contradiction with Aquarius: they want to be seen, deeply seen, while stubbornly holding folks at arm’s length, the distance characteristic of air signs.
Aquarians are ruled by the revolutionary Uranus, but their classical ruler (before the outer planets were discovered) was Saturn — Father Time, the planet of responsibility. This speaks to a central tension in the Aquarian artist’s life: the Uranian push to break new ground alongside the Saturnian convictions about the right way to do things. It’s not that Aquarians are rigid or rule followers, but they do have a code that they stick to, and deeply held beliefs about how the revolution should be accomplished.
Unsurprisingly, many writers associated with changing tides are Aquarians, but none embody the phrase “living legend” quite as fully as Toni Morrison. Initially an editor at Random House, Morrison was immediately focused on nurturing young black writers (like her fellow Aquarian Alice Walker), committed to a new vision for black writers in the late 20th century. Morrison herself did not publish her first novel, The Bluest Eye, until she was 39. Her second novel, Sula, was nominated for a National Book Award; Beloved, her fifth, won the Pulitzer. And while Morrison eventually stopped editing, she did keep teaching the next generation even as her work became the standard for 20th and 21st century American literature: over and over, Morrison has demonstrated a deeply Aquarian commitment to furthering the community most important to her — which, since her time as an editor, has been other black writers. Lifting up black voices.
It’s common to hear words like “humanitarian” or “group-oriented” associated with Aquarius; those are easy words for the hard work of being the individual advocating on behalf of a community, or tasked (consensually or otherwise) with representing a community. Aquarius is the person imagining the next stage, the next change. When others ask, where do we go from here, Aquarians like Toni Morrison answer.
PISCES: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
February 19–March 20
Pisces is the last sign of the zodiac. Fittingly, Pisces is mutable water, the most fluid and flexible of all the water signs, dissolving us all into one collective subconscious. Pisceans excel at taking us out with the tide, out to sea. We are one, Pisces says. Haven’t you figured that out yet?
Pisces folk have a reputation for being spiritual and interested in spirituality. This is another way of saying that Pisces are more attuned to connection and connectedness than the rest of us, and sometimes, they sense it on multiple planes of existence. The zodiac begins with Aries, the “I”; it ends with Pisces, which goes beyond the “we.” There is magic in Pisces, represented by two fish in the ocean, who can tap into the collective subconscious, who is comfortable with mystery and unknowing, unlearning.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, is perhaps best known as one of the founding literary parents of magical realism. Often associated with Latin American literature, magical realism features stories set mostly in an identifiably contemporary or historical setting, but with magical or fantastical elements which are accepted as commonplace. For example, in One Hundred Years of Solitude, a girl ascends into heaven as she does the laundry. This is not fantasy; it is not speculative sci-fi. It is, simply, the imagining of a world that blurs the boundary between the supernatural and the natural.
Sensitive to others’ emotions and to the energy in their environments, Pisces finds it easy to pick up on everything (including things others would rather they didn’t), to know the unknowable, to blur the boundaries. Ruled by Neptune, it is easy for them to freefall into the emotional depths and come up swinging; learning to come up swinging is their life’s work, and what they are here to teach others. When Pisces learns to guard their inner sanctum, they are unstoppable. As Garcia Marquez once wrote, “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”