It’s all about the characters…with a little bit of craziness thrown in.
Author’s Note: This is a converted blog post. It originally was published on 04.22.14 @ 4:48pm, US Pacific
This post is laced with a fond remembrance on my part. There was an author whose books I’ve collected and cherished for sometime. Her name is Mercedes Lackey. As I build my own spin on the Viking Feigr myths and lore, I am reminded of another beloved series that is now coloring how I invent my own world. A world dominated by men. Well, men of a different sort (again, that would be just too human to see it solely in that light). But Mercedes Lackey’s hero (the one most beloved by me) Vanyel and his lover, Tylendel and how their love, though brief and intense, is strong enough to imprint itself upon the reader for the entire trilogy – when Vanyel is finally reunited with his one true love.
I had read several of her books (the woman writes like a fiend) and enjoyed them all. The reason I picked up her books were for the Magic Series which had a real bonafide GAY hero. And this was back in the early 90’s when it was fairly uncommon to find author’s investing in gay anything.
It centered on Mage-Herald named Vanyel (a sort of magical peacekeeper if you will) of an imaginary world. I loved this series. In my early twenties (I know that dates me just saying that) it was my go-to set of books. I’ve reread them more times than I care to count. Vanyel was my ultimate hero. Alas, his story was a rough one – Mercedes isn’t known for being kind to her characters – with a very bittersweet ending. But he left his mark upon that world by the time he takes his leave of it – with his and his one true love’s laughter ringing in your ears upon the wind.
Those books gave me hope. Not only as a reader/writer, but also that not to compromise on the vision you set forth. And that gay men can be heroes too. The lovely thing about Mercedes work is that her world was peppered with gay and lesbian characters long before the current M/M genre really took root. It is these books, more than any other, which guide my hand now.
True enough, Mercedes only hinted at the sexual liaisons between the men in her series. Like a made for TV movie, the camera sweeps away when the lovers have a tryst. Though oddly enough, now that I recall it, not when Vanyel is brutally raped by a very rough man in the third book. How odd that that one point was clearly and deftly put before the reader to illicit not any point of salaciousness, but rather anger and sorrow for what the hero endured before he was able to set things right – though ultimately through a very personal and final sacrifice.
I have several copies of these books. Some highlighted to hell and gone. Some torn from their bindings so I could put them in a larger paper where I could make lengthy notations of my own regarding elements I liked or things I would have liked to have seen. A real analysis of the work so I could understand it in both construction and tone.
While I certainly have thoughts about my world and how it will no doubt differ greatly from the tone of her series. The hero will be a homage of sorts to Vanyel. A character tucked safely within my heart. I friend that I find I want to revisit even now as I write this. Might just pick up the books again.
If you’ve not read them, I highly recommend that you do. Brilliant in scope and audacious for its reach during a time when gay characters didn’t drive the drama but at best were relegated to minor roles in another hero’s story – less than a sidekick, really.
I remember you fondly my literary friend. I can only hope Sebastian Alexander Collins (for whom I’ve taken as a nom de plume to honor him), the main character Feigr in my upcoming Fae Wars story, will live up to that high bar you’ve set as a gay hero quite a while ago. Baz is my Vanyel. He is my go-to now. I know him best because of all my characters he is the first one I nurtured from a wisp of a thought. Tending to him off and on until, like Athena, he sprang forth from my head fully formed and very, very complex.
…and I wouldn’t have him any other way.