|Name:|| Mary Renault (pen name)|
|Also Known As:||Eileen Mary Challans|
|Works:||Purposes of Love (aka: Promises of Love); Kind Are Her Answers; Return to Night; The Friendly Young Ladies (aka: The Middle Mist); North Face; The Charioteer; The Last of the Wine; The King Must Die; The Bull from the Sea; The Mask of Apollo; Fire from Heaven; The Persian Boy; Funeral Games; The Praise Singer|
|Official Website(s):||(deceased pre-internet)|
|On Fanlore:||Related pages|
Mary Renault (1905-1983) was a British-born mid-twentieth century author of contemporary and historical novels. Her early works, which had a contemporary setting, were only moderately successful. It was her historical novels set in Ancient Greece—the first of which was published in 1956—which led to her wide popularity.
Recurring themes within Renault's work include honour and morality, life and death, parent-child relationships, friendship and loyalty, and the nature of love. At a time when romantic (as opposed to clinical) tales about men in love with other men were very unusual, she was a rare author who wrote such stories—carefully, in the case of Fire from Heaven (about Alexander the Great and his relationship with his friend Hephaistion) and The Charioteer (set early in World War II), and in slightly more detail in The Persian Boy (about Alexander in the fullness of his power, and his eunuch servant/lover Bagoas).
Renault's novels, written between the late 1930s and late 1970s, do not go into explicit detail about sex. However, this was her decision rather than a reflection of the perceived permissiveness of the times. As she put it, "I have always been as explicit as I wanted to be, and have not been much more so in recent books. [...] Inch-by-inch physical descriptions are the ketchup of the literary cuisine." Her honest but subtle narrative allowed her books to be regarded as literature rather than relegated to the adults-only section, or deemed pornographic as, for instance, some of Gore Vidal's works had been. (Blogger Alexis Hall reports finding The Persian Boy in a children's library.)
Some fans have found this reticence frustrating; but then Renault's opinions on the matter have never stopped fans from filling in the blanks.
Until (approximately) the 1980s, reading Renault's books was considered a 'must' within gay communities. Her importance to the gay community, especially to teens and young adults as they realized their orientation. cannot be overstated. A number of readers found their way to fandom via this recommendation. Like Patricia Nell Warren, who wrote slightly more explicit modern novels about male lovers, Renault was a must-read author for early slash fans. Here was a woman (a Lesbian, as it turned out) who clearly found male/male relationships fascinating and worth writing about. Her books appear on nearly every list of "Slashy Pro Novels" that slash fans draw up. The Renault fandom is not, however, predominantly focused on slash, despite its presence within the fan fiction Renault's works have inspired.
- (For more detail, please see Timeline of Mary Renault Fandom.)
LiveJournal and Dreamwidth Communities
- maryrenaultfics ("Mary's Handmaidens") is a Livejournal community that was started in June 2004 for discussion and fanfic. It was active until January 2015, when the mods announced it was going on (probably permanent) hiatus.
- maryrenault ("Mary Renault readers and fic writers' Journal") is a Livejournal community that was started in September 2005, primarily for discussion. It was active until early 2009, with only sporadic posts since.
- RenaultX is a Dreamwidth community that was established in 2014.
Fanfiction in different Renault universes
By far the overwhelming majority of Renault-based fanfiction has been written using characters from either The Alexander Trilogy (historical), or The Charioteer (contemporary). There are a number of stories written about Alexander, Hephaistion and Bagoas (in all possible combinations), who are the main characters of Fire from Heaven and The Persian Boy, and Laurie Odell, Ralph Lanyon, and Andrew Raynes, who are the main characters from The Charioteer. Recently, Return to Night has become popular within the fandom. Mary Renault's world of bulldancers (presented primarily in The King Must Die, but mentioned in other books as well) has also been used as a setting for fandom AUs, notably LOTRPS. Several of Renault's books are listed as fandoms in the Yuletide rare fandom exchange. Every year there have been some stories; but in 2010 there was a 'bumper crop' of 11 Yuletide stories and 2 Yuletide Madness stories (which nonetheless were of sufficient length they could have been included in the main collection had they been completed in time). The maryrenaultfics community has been known to attract some of its new members through Yuletide.
For detailed discussion about fanfiction based on these novels please refer to the article about The Alexander Trilogy.
The Praise Singer
For detailed discussion about fanfiction based on this novel please refer to the article about The Praise Singer.
The Last of the Wine
Fanfiction based on The Last of the Wine:
For detailed discussion about fanfiction based on this novel please refer to the article about The Last of the Wine.
The Mask of Apollo
For detailed discussion about fanfiction based on this novel please refer to the article about The Mask of Apollo.
Fanfiction set in the world of The King Must Die and its sequel, The Bull from the Sea.
For detailed discussion about fanfiction based on this novel please refer to the article about the Theseus Novels.
For detailed discussion about fanfiction based on this novel please refer to the article about The Charioteer.
Other Contemporary Novels
- Contemporary novels fics on the MaryRenaultFics LJ community
- Purposes of Love fic on AO3
- The Friendly Young Ladies fic on AO3
- Return to Night fic on AO3
For detailed discussion about fanfiction based on Renault's earlier contemporary novels (i.e., other than The Charioteer) please refer to the article about Mary Renault's Early Contemporary Novels.
Crossovers between Renault novels
See Mary Renault's Early Contemporary Novels for crossovers involving The Charioteer, Purposes of Love, Kind Are Her Answers, and The Friendly Young Ladies.
Crossovers with Other Fandoms
Unlike some fandoms, relatively few fanfiction authors have chosen to develop stories within crossover universes. Nonetheless, some exist. See The Charioteer article for The Charioteer crossovers. See The Last of the Wine article for The Last of the Wine crossovers. See The Alexander Trilogy article for The Persian Boy crossovers.
Fan community activities
Besides fanfiction, the Mary Renault communities on LiveJournal, maryrenaultfics and maryrenault, have provided fans an opportunity to discuss the novels in detail, both in stand-alone posts and, in the case of maryrenaultfics, in scheduled chapter-by-chapter discussions. In addition, maryrenaultfics has undertaken group projects such as creating character glossaries, and offered challenges and other community activities to inspire active participation by a broader section of the membership.
For more detailed information on the activities of the maryrenaultfics community, please see the maryrenaultfics article.
For more information on the discussions of specific books, please see the appropriate article: Mary Renault's Early Contemporary Novels, The Charioteer, The Theseus Novels, The Last of the Wine, The Mask of Apollo, The Alexander Trilogy, The Praise Singer.
In 2014, the Renault Exchange was established for fan fiction based on Renault's contemporary novels.
- Mary Renault at Wikipedia
- Mary Renault at Goodreads
- The Mary Renault Society A personal information source for gay men, based in Chapel Hill, SC and named for the author.
- Daniel Mendelsohn, "The American Boy". The New Yorker, January 7, 2013. Personal account of the writer’s discovery of Mary when he was fifteen and first realized he was gay, and of his correspondence with her throughout her lifetime.
- Renault, Mary (1984) Afterword to The Friendly Young Ladies, London: Virago.
- Alexis Hall, A Persian Boy and a Quiet Gentleman, October 10, 2013. "I think, perhaps, someone had mistaken it for worthy, stodgy children’s history, which was why it nestled there in its dull brown cover between Rosemary Sutcliff and Roger Lancelyn Green."
- For example, Ellen Fremedon's post on The Persian Boy, POV, and smut in her Livejournal, 4 June 2003. Accessed 2 August 2010.
- Katy's list of Slashy Pro Novels
- See multi-fandom author rubynye, for instance.