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August 4th, 2021

Vanyel’s Promise

Great scary wonderful news! This has been ricocheting around my newsfeeds today…

Fantasy’s First Openly Queer Hero Is Getting the TV Adaptation He Deserves

I have been waiting all my life—or at least since sixth grade—for an adaptation of bestselling author Mercedes Lackey’s wildly popular Valdemar fantasy novels. Now comes the news that Radar Pictures has secured the rights to the Valdemar literary universe, and they are developing an ongoing TV series.

The initial season is set to adapt Lackey’s Lambda Award-winning “Last Herald-Mage” trilogy, which features a young man named Vanyel Ashkevron who eventually becomes one of the most powerful magic-users in history. Radar’s press release describes Van as “the first openly gay heroic protagonist in the fantasy genre.”

I’m probably a bit older than the typical fan of this series…in 1989 I was in my late 30s, but just as hungry as the others for gay positive representation in fiction. Previously there was only Mary Renault’s historical fiction, and a few random one off novels I found at Deacon Maccubbin’s Lambda Rising bookstore. Here was a gay protagonist, center stage, in an already fully developed fantasy universe and I devoured each book as it came out, and then bought signed prints of the Jody Lee cover art.

I think it was around this time I began to insist on finding fiction to read with fully realized gay characters as central to the story, passing over a lot of popular favorites that I felt, just didn’t speak to me, getting irritated, and then vocal, about authors that played gay vague at us, but couldn’t actually make us visible in their works.

I got into an online argument with Richard Pini, co-author of the Elfquest series of comics, about his insistence to the readership that their elves were sexually liberated on the one hand, and on the other that same sex couplings (soulmates/lifemates were the terms used in the stories for the pair bonds) were just not possible. It had to be an opposite sex coupling because only those could produce children. (Where have I heard that before?) A shape-shifting alien “old one” turning into and mating with a wolf in order to insure the viability of her people on the planet they’d crash landed on…yeah that’s do-able. But not same sex pair bonds. Years later when we crossed paths online again he remembered and curtly said he would not discuss it anymore with Me. About then I was noticing that their spin-off series would suddenly find themselves cancelled if they strayed too closely toward affirming same sex relationships. I still check in every now and then and they’re Still doing it.

But let it be said they weren’t/aren’t the only ones. That’s how it went back in those days, and to a large degree that is how it Still Goes in pop culture media, though it is getting better. Slowly. I was tired of being invisible before I picked up books about Vanyel in the late 1980s. Now I knew I didn’t have to accept it.

God almighty I hope they do this right. It’s a good sign they went for a TV series and not a one-off movie where they’d have to compress/delete a lot of the story to make it fit.

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