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November 19th, 2023

Now For A Little Food For The Soul…

I’m digging back into The Sun And The Star to get the foul taste of Dick Hafer’s comic book out of my mind. I’d put the book down at a crisis point in the story because I wasn’t up to crisis points just then, but I’m back on it now because it’s the story I need after researching all the old homophobic articles and op-ed pieces for this “last” episode of A Coming Out Story.

The one on the left is Will Solace, the demigod son of Apollo, and the one on the right is Nico Di Angelo, the demigod son of Hades. You’d think they were horribly mismatched but in Rick Riordan and Mak Oshiro’s The Sun And The Star they’re a couple on a quest to rescue a friend from the deepest, darkest region of the Underworld. This piece of fan art is probably picturing a scene from the end of the novel The Blood Of Olympus, after defending Camp Half Blood from the attack of giants led by Octavian. It’s a good one…how I picture the two of them. Seems like nearly all the fan art I see of these two picture them like this.

Will has inherited his father’s healing powers, he’s the sweetness and sunshine of the two, and little goth Nico..well…there’s a gruesome scene in that novel where he angrily and literally ghosts a villain and banishes him to Hades while the others look on horrified…

“You took an oath to the legion.” Nico’s breath steamed in the cold. “You broke its rules. You inflicted pain. You killed your own centurion.”

“I-I didn’t! I–“

“You should have died for your crimes,” Nico continued. “That was the punishment. Instead you got exile. You should have stayed away. Your father Orcus may not approve of broken oaths. But my father Hades really doesn’t approve of those who escape punishment.”


The word didn’t make sense to Nico. The Underworld had no mercy. It only had justice.

That sword he wears (they all fight with swords in the novels) is forged from Stygian Iron and he dipped it in the river Styx; it has the power to suck away its victim’s essence. You don’t want to make the little dickens angry. He’s sullen enough all the time anyway. But at the end of that novel he and Will are beginning to click. In the later novels their relationship develops and Will starts coaxing Nico out of his dark shell. Nico has had a very hard life before joining up with the others.

Here’s what draws me to The Sun And The Star: It’s an adventure novel, but its center is a love story about a same-sex couple bravely facing the nightmares of the Underworld together. Because it’s about a teenage couple, and aimed at a largely younger audience, and because it’s a Disney print book (part of the Percy Jackson & the Olympians series), they have to keep sex out of it…which is good because it makes them focus on the romance, and it’s those sorts of stories I’ve been missing and aching for ever since I came out to myself in my own teen years. At every crisis point in the story their love is tested, and it gets really scary at times (I put the book down some weeks ago when the two of them were captured by the demon of nightmares who begins forcing Nico to relive some really Really Bad memories…), and their love becomes stronger.

This is the story I want told to me again and again…the story of how love wins. And so terribly often…it doesn’t. And it’s like we’re use to that ending. I’m thinking now of Call Me By Your Name which so many people thought was a Wonderful same sex romance…that ends with Elio staring into a fireplace crying his eyes out.

Books about same-sex love and romance have been my refuge ever since I was a teenager. Movies and television, not so much. But even books were never a sure thing. I loved Mercedes Lackey’s Last Herald-Mage series, which had a terrific love story, interrupted by death, then rebirth, then death again, because that’s how our stories always had to end I suppose.

Certainly that’s what Dick Hafer and all the bigots like him want us to believe. Thankfully I’ve lived to see a time when enough writers and filmmakers don’t believe that anymore, that I can finally get more of the stories I’ve always wanted.

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