Oct 29, 2012


In Marion Zimmer Bradley's  Star of Danger (1965), which I first read in 1978, a sixteen year old Terran named Larry visits Darkover, a melange of feudal kingdoms where telepathy is common.   with his father.  Although cautioned not to leave the Terran sector, he does anyway, and meets the native boy Kennard. They quickly develop a Jonny Quest-Hadji sort of friendship, but their parents are suspicious and hostile, and forbid them from seeing each other.

The two are as disconsolate as any star-crossed lovers.  “I don’t like to say goodbye, Larry,” Kennard stammers. “I like you. . .I wish. . .” He takes Larry’s hand between both of his, and Bradley informs us that “Larry didn’t know for years how rare the gesture was.”

In spite of Dad’s admonition, Larry sneaks out again, and he and Kennard reunite, only to be captured by evil mercenaries.  They escape, but must cross the dangerous planet together,  facing more mercenaries, monsters, brigands, savages, and other dangers, dangers, always risking their lives for each other.  At one point they realize that they have a psychic link, and share a moment of intimacy rare in science fiction: “Kennard reached silently for Larry’s hand. . .the clasp slid up Larry’s elbow until their arms were enlaced as well as their hands.  It was a sign not alone of friendship but of affection and tenderness.”

Nevertheless, at the end of the novel Larry goes back to Earth for high school, and Kennard remains on Darkover.  Alone.

Hungry for more same-sex romance, I read all of the Marion Zimmer Bradley novels I could find.  And I found Heritage of Hastur (1975), in which Regis Hastur, attending private school on Darkover, desires his roommate, Dani: “he literally ached to slip across the brief space between their beds, slip into bed beside him, share with him this incredible dual experience of grief and tremendous joy.”   But Dani is a cristoforo, or Darkoverian Christian, so “of course” he condemns same-sex relations as evil, and Regis must keep his passion to himself.

As  Regis and Dani cross Darkover, rescuing each other from various evil fates, including the noisome pederast who seems to simper about in many science fiction novels, they recognize that they are in love.  Dani admits that he was always been in love with Regis, but was cowered by his internalized homophobia: “I was so ashamed. . .I wanted to die for  you, it would have been easier."

But when I first read the novel, I did not even realize that Regis and Dani were lovers , so squeamishly does Bradley tiptoe through the subsequent climax and denouement. The social forces of the 1970’s conspired to keep her inarticulate, me inobservant, and Regis and Danilo trapped by a heteronormativity that made their relationship trivial, expendable, and in the end shameful.  Nevertheless, there is none of the homophobia one finds in Ursula K. Leguin, and The Heritage of Hastur is the first novel I ever read in which men identify themselves, however tentatively, as “lovers of men.”