Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tarma and Kethry as Role Models

It ain't easy being different. At a time in my life when the being different was really starting to hurt, I discovered Tarma and Kethry, the swordswoman and sorceress characters from Mercedes Lackey's Vows and Honor series.

This series is set in Velgarth, the same fantasy world which houses the land of Valdemar, home of the Heralds and Companions, but in kingdoms other than Valdemar.

Tarma is from the Shin'a'in people--- nomads from the Dhorisha Plains. She is the sole survivor of a massacre that killed the rest of her clan. In order to seek blood vengeance against the killers of her clan, she has no other choice, under the traditions of her people, than to become one of the Sword-Sworn.

Kethry was born into an impoverished but noble house. When in her early teens, her brother sold her into an arranged marriage with a brute. When she escaped, it was discovered that she had mage-talents, and she trained in the White Winds school of sorcery. When she left the school, she was given a magical sword, Need, which was bespelled to aid women. It enables her to fight like a trained swordswoman.

Kethry and Tarma met while Tarma was seeking her revenge against the killers of her clan. They were bound by a blood-oath, accepted by the Goddess of Tarma's people, and are thereafter Oath-sisters, bound with a magical bond.

What appealed to me (and many others I assume) was that Tarma and Kethry were, in a sense, a couple. They loved one another dearly. Each was the 'significant other' in the other's life. Yet they were a chaste couple, since Tarma as a Sword-Sworn was not only vowed to chastity but had been rendered essentially sexless by her Goddess.

As Time Marched On, a lot of folks I think came to believe that Mercedes Lackey was a bit cowardly for not making Tarma and Kethry an 'out' Gay couple--- assuming, I  guess, that ML had intended her characters to be Gay but had backed off fearing that the controversy would hurt book sales. (It could be that she meant to have her characters be saying something about friendship between women, rather than about Gay pride.)

I think, though, that for a lot of us that adopted Tarma and Kethry as an ersatz Gay couple, the fact that they were not officially Gay was actually a good thing. Many of us weren't quite ready to be identifying with Gay characters quite that strongly! And straight readers often needed to be eased into things--- at the time Gay main characters were not as common in fiction as they are today.

Tarma and Kethry helped me (and a lot of others) cope with discovering same-sex attraction/Gay identity in ourselves. The bit about them being chaste helped way more than I was ready to admit at the time. Let's face it--- if you are Gay, you are going to be spending a lot of time being attracted to people who turn out to be straight.

It's not so much that I needed characters like Tarma and Kethry (or Vanyel in the Last Herald Mage series) to preach me a cheery Gay-is-OK message. It's more like just getting a drop of hope when dealing with the 'can-I-be-as-weird-as-THIS-and-still-have-a-life' question.

And now, I'm a Christian. Who knew THAT was going to happen? I'm committed to chastity for the sake of the Kingdom. Where can you find fictional characters that speak to THAT? There aren't, really, (until I create some), but Tarma and Kethry are a place to start.


  1. Awesome post. I've been thinking about chaste characters and characters not interested in romance. You don't see that a lot.

    Whether same sex attracted or straight, some people want to remain single. But so much of literature is concerned with romance (or just smut). So, you're right- we have to write the characters we want to read and the characters who will support and inspire young readers.
    Chaste characters- especially ones with same sex attraction, could be great heroes/heroines in a world where every other message is telling us to give in to our appetites.

  2. I've heard about Gay people who say that during their teen years their lives were literally saved from suicide by reading Mercedes Lackey's Vanyel series (hero is Gay). I was past the teen years when I started reading Lackey but I felt pretty much the same way. Only of course in secular writers the Gay characters all have to have lovers and can't even be allowed to consider chastity or opposite-sex marriage to a friend.

    But of course writing Christian fantasy with SSA characters is even more of a Lost Genre than Christian Fantasy. And would probably hurt my chances of getting published by a secular OR Christian publisher. Hence the pseudonym. It's probably weird to adopt a Korean pseudonym when I'm not Asian (but if you haven't figured out yet that I'm weird you are not paying attention), but I WAS going to use the Irish surname Kehoe, my grandmother's maiden name, but the only first name I liked was Inae, from a character on a Korean drama. 'Wildmage' has a sort-of Korean setting and the main character has a Korean name (Hana). So I looked for a Korean surname similar sounding to Kehoe and found Kyo, which is also the name of my favorite character in the anime Fruits Basket (I started watching that because I wondered what the 'fruits' in Fruits Basket were.)

  3. Wow, amazing series! There should be more books like this.

    Yeah, I guess SSA Christian is a small niche. SSA Christian Fantasy even smaller! But I'd read it. I'm not your average Christian, though. I've had people close to me struggling with SSA- My oldest daughter's dad, actually. He had severe depression which led to substance abuse and general self destructive behavior.

    But back to writing. Saving lives is worthy (well, duh! of course it is) so if you write works in that genre and pray a lot, I can't help but think you will find a way to publish and market.

    And weird can be a GOOD thing. ;)

  4. I'm planning on self-publishing with, hence my need for a facebook page for my new pen name/alternate personality (I've always wanted to have Multiple Personality Disorder) to connect with a potential reader base.

    And this book (hopefully, series) is set in a 'lite' version of the fantasy world I've had since forever that I use for my 'real' identity's writing, that might get a 'real' publisher someday. Kind of underground and sneaky, neh?

  5. I love it!
    I'm eager to host Inae Kyo on my blogs when she's ready to promote her book! :)


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