Dyan Ardais

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Name: Dyan Ardais (Dyan-Gabriel Ardais)
Fandom: Darkover
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Dyan Ardais is a character in several of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover books.

Ardais is a main character in Bradley's "Heritage of Hastur." The book was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1975. The storyline explores sexual themes; one of them is that homosexuality is a normal variant of human sexuality. In that book, he is described as "a pale, tall, hawk-faced man" with a "harsh, musical voice" and "almost colorless" eyes.

According to Bradley, the character was created for a book rewrite: "I decided it had too many characters and combined three villains into one, calling the resultant triple-dyed villain by the name Dyan Ardais." [1]

While Bradley's Free Amazons was the most popular topic, Diana Paxson wrote that "Dyan of HERITAGE has turned out to be the most popular single character for amateur writers." [2]

A fan in 2012 commented: "Dyan Ardais, [is a character] whom I loathe, and for whom MZB has an inexplicable sympathy. (Or explicable by facts of her second husband's biography which I wish I didn't know.)" [3]

Plot Popularity and Character Popularity

In 1980, Diana Paxson wrote:

I've said before, we receive more Free Amazon stories than all other stories put together (... MZB, who has to read them all, says [that most of them have the same plot]) — MZB recently quoted the following from a letter she wrote to Don Wollheim:

[Bradley]: Only one plot even comes near, in popularity, to the Standard Free Amazon Plot, which Diana and I have begun to call Subject A: Free Amazon meets a Man She Can Trust, and thus is enabled to give up a little of her cherished freedom.
[Bradley]: Second most popular as a theme for amateur stories is "How did Dyan Ardais manage to father a first son?" I got five of them. One was unprintable. All were gloomy and tragic.


... Bitter Honeymoon and Other Stories contains four variations on the Dyan Ardais theme (the printable ones mentioned).

[Bradley]: I ought to add in my version of the theme. It is neither gloomy, tragic, nor obscene... but then I have known a great many homosexual men, and while they may not have as many children as the other kind, they do have children... and oddly enough, many of them make reasonably good fathers. [4]

Ardais: Controversy Regarding His Sexuality, Behavior, and Crimes

A 2010 Conversation

In March 2010, Jo Walton wrote a review of "The Heritage of Hastur."

One excerpt:

It does, however, leads me to the most problematic aspect of this book—Dyan Ardais. Dyan is Regent of Ardais for his mad father, Kyril who is old but still alive. He has unquestioned power, and he abuses it. He’s also cadetmaster in ther Guards, a post we’re told he’s sought and can’t be denied for political reasons. Lew hates him, but isn’t under his control. Regis and Danilo are. He’s very nice to Regis, who is a social equal, but Danilo is the son of an old family fallen on hard times, and Dyan can safely abuse him. He tries to seduce Danilo, and when Danilo rejects him he uses his laran to persecute him until Danilo loses control and attacks him, whereupon he’s cast out of the cadets. Dyan is a sexual predator on young boys—Danilo is fourteen. That Danilo is attracted to Regis (fifteen) and has a relationship with him later makes absolutely no difference to Dyan’s repulsive behaviour, any more than it would if a woman teacher in her forties did this to a boy of fourteen, or a man to a girl. Dyan’ is in a position of authority and he abuses it.

Most books would unquestionably treat Dyan as a villain. And Dyan is a villain here, but he’s far from a one dimensional villain. He has a deep level of psychological realism—not only his terrible upbringing, and the same weight of expectation that causes Lew to trash Caer Donn and Regis to want to flee the planet. He’s an incredible snob, more so than anyone in any of the books he believes in Comyn privilege and power. But he’s not only complex, he’s sympathetic and attractive.. He has the virtues of his flaws, he’s brave and honourable in what he considers to be honour—which of course doesn’t include being respectful of the physical or psychological integrity of his social inferiors. He behaves well in the end, making amends to Danilo and adopting him as his heir. Danilo, Regis and Danilo’s father forgive him for the earlier telepathic rape I mentioned how unusual it was to see a positive gay teen coming out. How much more unusual to have an even semi-positive portrayal of a gay sexual predator. I don’t have any problems with seeing Dyan as realistic—I have problems with wanting to see him punished. Adopting Danilo seems to me like the end of "Measure for Measure."
A comment to this from a fan:
Ah, Regis Hastur, the very first gay character I ever read about. I am still kind of afraid to reread Heritage in case it isn’t as good as I remember it being when I was twelve. [5]
Another fan wrote:
Wow, I never read this – but now I really want to. Especially because of the teen gay character in a sci fi book – wow – I had no idea this was out there! Shame about the sexual predator character… [6]
Another fan wrote:

“How much more unusual to have an even semi-positive portrayal of a gay sexual predator.”

The author was married to a gay sexual predator.

Assuming the book was written around the time of publication — 1976? — they’d been married for well over a decade at that point, and were still several years away from their eventual separation.

Walter Breen seems to have had a wide range of relationships with underage boys, ranging from “looks like consensual from the outside, albeit with great imbalance of maturity and power” through “psychological intimidation and manipulation of someone much too young to resist” to “pretty much rape, plain and simple”.

There’s considerable disagreement about Bradley’s level of awareness of, and consent to, her huband’s activities. But there’s no question she knew what he was. So I think we can reasonably assume that she drew on her experiences with him in developing the character of Dyan. [7]

Ardais: Center of Another Controversy

Dyan Ardais was also mentioned in the Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy. Bradley stated in one 1992 statement that he was to feature in the planned novel Contraband.


Fan Fiction


Ardais stories at Archive of Our Own are very, very few. This may be due to the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust.

There are a few stories on Wattpad and at Fanfiction.net.

Print Zines

The majority of fiction about Ardais is in print zines.


Fan Art


  1. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #23
  2. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #23
  3. ^ comments by Mely at Goodreads (October 24, 2012)
  4. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #23
  5. ^ from the comments at Jo Walton's essay No weapon that leaves the hand: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Heritage of Hastur
  6. ^ from the comments at Jo Walton's essay No weapon that leaves the hand: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Heritage of Hastur
  7. ^ from the comments at Jo Walton's essay No weapon that leaves the hand: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Heritage of Hastur

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