by Marrion Zimmer Bradley & Deborah J. Ross
I first started reading Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB) probably in high school or even earlier: she was one of a generation of science fiction and fantasy writers who published during my early years, and whom I loved. They helped me to form my understandings of right and wrong, honour and faith, that have continued to be shifted… though never destroyed… through all the adventures of my lifetime. My last two decades have been marked by a profound shift in this regard: the loss of Ms. Zimmer Bradley, Madeleine, L’Engle and Anne McCaffrey have affected me deeply. They were three whose books I followed quite closely, but who are no more. And I have to admit I’ve not really found replacements. I don’t know if it was because of the time of my life during which I discovered these authors, or whether the quality of writing has truly declined: but I have not found books that move me as these did when I first found them. During the time since their deaths most of my reading has shifted from science-fiction and fantasy to more work-related, religious, environmental or otherwise non-fiction. The creative side of my life, without me really realizing, has been quietly closed off in sadness and gathering dust.
One of my resolutions this year was to open that door again and to coax out those elements of fantasy and fiction that had once been my staple. This was the first instalment:I believe it was originally published in 1996 (before MZB’s death) and then republished in 2010 with alterations. I have to admit I was a bit wary at first; I was unsure of how the world of the bloody sun would be depicted with the help of another author. But I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was the book well written (since I don’t know how much was MZB and how much was changed) but the new storyline was engaging. I found my emotions wrapped around the adventures of the main characters, surprised and angry and relieved as they were. And, most particularly for this time in my life and our world, this is the first fantasy novel I’ve read in which the main was gay. Or at least… bisexual. I don’t remember the Darkovan term, but Regis had multiple long-term relationships (polyamory), and one of the most significant was with another man. It was an interesting and colourful exploration, and it has inspired me to become more familiar with the Darkovan books that spanned so many decades: and which continue to appear.