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Journal Community
Name: Mary's Handmaidens (official),
maryrenaultfics (LJ comm name),
MRF (abbrev.)
Date(s): June 8, 2004 - Jan 5, 2015
Moderator: trueriver, my_cnnr
Founder: baranduin, trianne
Fandom: Mary Renault
URL: maryrenaultfics
Header for the community LJ page (in July 2010).

Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

maryrenaultfics (official name, "Mary's Handmaidens") was a LiveJournal community "dedicated to sharing appreciation of Mary Renault’s work through fanfiction, fanart, discussion, and a variety of contextual resources"[1] The community was established 8 June 2004 by baranduin and trianne, the first moderators. They were succeeded as community moderators from 20 July 2006 by trueriver and my_cnnr[2]. From small beginnings the community grew, and by July 2010 it had 300 members with something new being posted to the community every few days.

From the start, the maryrenaultfics community attracted a mixed crowd: some members thought of it as an on-line book club, while others were more familiar with the traditions of media fandom. The community, therefore, not only produced an archive of fan fiction, but also discussed Renault's books and their historical background, mingling great depth and detail with effusions of fannish squee.

from "Interfictional Dimensions: the 'In Their Own Words' Project of Mary Renault LiveJournal Fandom", paper given by Greer Watson at ICFA 12, March 2012[3]

The community included a larger contingent of men than many other media fandom communities, though the majority of writers of Renault fan fiction are women. Various sexual orientations were represented among the membership. On the whole, since many user names are gender neutral and discussion focused on the books rather than matters personal, little of this was immediately apparent to the new or casual reader.

Until Autumn 2010 the majority of posts to the community were open to anyone to read. However changes made by LiveJournal (the host blogging site for the community) to permit automatic linking to Twitter and Facebook led community members to debate whether or not they should move the community (along with all back-posts and archive) to a different blogging site (e.g. Dreamwidth). In the end this proposed move did not materialise but all posts since September 2010 were friends-locked.[4] Initially, however, the community remained very active, with frequent posts of stories and discussions. It continued to accept new members; and periodically open posts were made to ensure potential new members were aware it remained active and they could request membership. It should also be noted that posts made prior to Autumn 2010 were left available to be read by anyone, so potential members interested in the community could see the kind of forum they would join before taking the plunge.

Over the next few years, though, the moderators became less active, accepted fewer new members (and those with restrictions), and the community dwindled. On Jan 5, 2015, the community was closed and members were encouraged to support a new community on Dreamwidth, ye olde renault, which focused on Renault's historical novels.[5] Earlier in 2014, RenaultX, a Renault fiction exchange community had been established on Dreamwidth with an emphasis on Renault's contemporary novels.[6] And finally, a "bridge" Renault community was set up on Dreamwidth (maryrenaultfics2) to enable members to finish writing and posting works in the ITOWverse as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations.[7]

A Few Notes About Links and the Focus of the Community:

Active links to maryrenaultics that are included on this page and related pages (e.g. ITOWverse) either lead to open posts made up to September 2010, prior to the community becoming f-locked, or else are marked as being members-locked.

The maryrenaultfics community was founded to discuss Renault’s work and promote Renault-based fic. In order to ensure that the community's focus remained clear, posts which focused on Oliver Stone's film about Alexander the Great were not considered appropriate. While it is true that Oliver Stone has claimed he was inspired by Renault’s novels, many fans of Mary Renault's books did not feel that Stone's movie was Renault canon. As a result, many members of maryrenaultfics did not want their community diverted from its central purpose and therefore such posts were not permitted.[8]


In the course of its existence, the maryrenaultfics community page has been headed by a variety of different banners. Special banners have also been created to head specific series of posts. These are created by my_cnnr, one of the moderators of the community, who would prefer that copies of the images not be posted here.

For more information (and examples), please see maryrenaultfics Banners.


The maryrenaultfics community had a Mary Renault Book Cover Gallery (previously compiled by baranduin and hulamoth). It was available to maryrenaultfics community members only via a link on the front page to the community.

A selection of userpics or icons based on Renault novels was available to members of the maryrenaulfics community.

To help fans better understand Renault's characters, various community members posted information about the historical background to some of her novels. Also posted have been pictures of places, real personages, and flora or fauna mentioned in the books. For example:

Fan Fiction

Writing fanfiction based on one or more of Mary Renault's novels was frequent among community members. Many stories were posted directly to maryrenaultfics. In other cases, members provided links to stories which they posted elsewhere. The community maintained an archive of Mary Renault fan fiction.[9] This was organized according to the source text.


The following are the indexes to fan fiction based on Mary Renault's historical novels.


The following are the indexes to fan fiction based on Mary Renault's modern novels.

Fan Community Activities

Besides posting their own fan fiction, members participated in a wide range of community activities.

Book Discussions

Since the inception of maryrenaultfics, a significant community activity was the discussion of Mary Renault's novels. Incidental questions and comments often spurred lengthy responses, usually focusing on specific books: for more detail, see the articles on the individual titles.

The following general discussion is noteworthy:

In 2005, some members briefly discussed Return to Night in a handful of posts in August and September,[14] and there has been a similar small handful of posts discussing North Face.[15] In 2005 there was one brief spontaneous discussion about The Friendly Young Ladies [16] and one similarly brief discussion of Kind Are Her Answers took place in 2008. [17]

The community also engaged in scheduled, detailed analysis of certain texts on a chapter-by-chapter (CBC) basis.

On CBC Discussion Format

The discussions generally followed the format where a new chapter (or a group of chapters, in case of short chapters) was opened for discussion each week. In the first discussion, the 2005 discussion of The Charioteer, the moderators initially opened the discussion for each chapter, but insisted members did not have to wait for them to do so. Over time members started opening discussions unprompted. The Last of the Wine discussion in 2005 was increasingly member-led, which may have contributed to it petering out mid-book. The community moderators made the starter posts for the first The Persian Boy discussion in 2007, which obviously put certain amount of pressure on them to be able to post and comment at certain times. When the discussion was attempted again in 2008, asking members to claim chapters to start the discussion again was to lessen that pressure but also keep the discussion schedule clear and predictable for all participating members. This model, combining moderator-opened and member-opened chapters, was used in all subsequent CBCs.

The Charioteer

Between May and August 2005, the community hosted a chapter-by-chapter discussion of The Charioteer in which the community members participated eagerly.[18]

Another The Charioteer chapter-by-chapter discussion was carried out between February and May 2007,[19] this time focusing on the differences between the 1953 Longman edition and the 1959 American edition (on the text of which subsequent editions are based).

A third (members-locked) chapter-by-chapter discussion of The Charioteer ran from January to May in 2011. To distinguish this from previous CBCs, the theme was "The Unwritten Charioteer" (TUC), focusing on the background to the book, in particular, the assumptions Renault may have made when writing and editing.

The Last of the Wine

A chapter-by-chapter discussion of The Last of the Wine was started in September 2005 to follow in the footsteps of the successful discussion of The Charioteer but suffered from lack of sustained interest, fizzling out in November half way through the book.[20].

The community returned to The Last of the Wine with another chapter-by-chapter discussion between September 2009 and March 2010 (with a break for the holiday season), with somewhat better success in terms of getting through the entire novel and getting various members of the community to make the discussion starter posts for chapters[21].

Fire from Heaven

A chapter-by-chapter discussion of Fire from Heaven was started on 18 April 2010[22], to coincide with the novel's shortlisting for the Lost Man Booker Prize[23] to be awarded to one of the novels published in 1970 that due to rule changes missed their chance of being considered for the Booker Prize at the time. The discussion was completed in the week of 11 July 2010.

The Persian Boy

A chapter-by-chapter discussion on The Persian Boy was started in the community in August 2007[24] but withered away after 10 chapters. The discussion was restarted from Chapter 11 in September 2008[25]. To encourage involvement in the discussion and take some pressure off the mods, community members were encouraged to offer to make the discussion starter posts for a chapter or two, which some members did[26].

Character Glossaries

In 2008, maryrenaultfics undertook a project to develop glossaries of all the major characters in all of Renault's novels[27]. The stated intention was to assist members to keep track of characters when books were being discussed. The glossaries have also proven helpful for fanfic writers. All books now have glossaries bar one (The Persian Boy). The compilation of the character glossaries on PDF could only be accessed by members of the maryrenaultfics community; but the glossaries were also individually posted to the community and open to outside readers.[28] Although a community project that all members were encouraged to contribute to, in the end, the glossaries were developed by my_cnnr (community moderator), trueriver (community moderator), queen_ypolita, greerwatson, and fawatson.

In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words was a community project in the maryrenaultfics community in 2008[29] in which members were invited to pose questions to any character in Renault's novels, and then answer questions "in character". As the In Their Own Words project progressed, not only did the interviews became more free-form, but the introductions (written by the moderators) became longer, the character of the Interviewer was developed, and the setting evolved into a Community clubhouse where the various characters were entertained at a barbecue. This became known as the ITOWverse.

The ITOWverse has continued to inspire activity. In the spring and summer of 2009, a second project, Five Years On (5YO), celebrated the fifth anniversary of the maryrenaultfics community. Shortly before Christmas 2009, sisters greerwatson/Greer Watson and fawatson/Florence A. Watson wrote a series of ITOWverse posts as a Christmas gift to the community. In 2010, considerable excitement was generated amongst fans when Fire from Heaven was nominated for the Lost Man Booker Prize. The book did not win; but this event also generated fanfic set in the ITOWverse. Additional short series in summer and autumn 2010 focused on the activitities of the characters within the meta universe. There have also been a number of individual stories.

For more detail, please see the ITOWverse article.

Widening Fan Participation

In an effort to encourage wider participation in fanfic, the moderators of maryrenaultfics posted various challenges and prompts. In 2010, fans were asked to write a group story, with each person contributing three words. "Guess the picture" games have also been played. In addition, in the Mary & Me section of the site, members were encouraged to post accounts of how they first encountered Renault novels or share funny anecdotes associated with fan activities.

Index to Fic

The moderators posted an index to the community's fic. The development of this index was itself a community project since, by the time it was developed in 2009, fanfiction already numbered in the hundreds. The idea for the index grew from members' frustration at the difficulty they had in finding stories in the community archive—in which the stories they were seeking had indeed been placed, but not in any easily recognisable order (until the index was developed). This index was only accessible to members of the community.

Fic Challenges

Fic-writing challenges on maryrenaultfics have shifted over time. In the early days of the community, occasional challenges were posted with the intention of, at least potentially, involving the entire community. These were sometimes posted by individual members with the permission of the moderators. Response varied: not all of the challenges were equally productive.

In 2005-7, a small inner group of members began to have chats among themselves on Sundays, as part of which they often posed themselves a timed challenge, posting the resultant ficlets to the community afterwards. Then, on 26 August 2007, the current challenge ("the dog days of summer") was thrown open to the community, to great response. Since then, there have been a number of challenges aimed at the entire maryrenaultfics community in the hope of encouraging broader involvement, particularly by lurkers. Some of these are inspired by currently popular memes, or events external to fandom. However, there has emerged a tradition of seasonal challenges—specifically the Summer Challenge and the Spooky Challenge (at Halloween).

A list of fic challenges on maryrenaultfics includes:

  • Wedding Night Challenge[1] (posted 12 July 2004): write a “wedding night” fic, focusing on characters impacted by the wedding, which could be the couple just married, or not, any appropriate MR book. (In the event, all stories posted related to The Charioteer.)
  • Hephaistion's Diary (posted 27 August 2004): insight into Hephaistion's character through entries in his diary.
  • Fic or Fanart Challenge (posted 7 December 2004): open-ended challenge to write a fic or draw a pic based on a sentence taken from one of MR's books, any MR book. (NOTE: the sentences were assigned individually when a member posted a comment requesting one.)
  • Sunday chat fic challenge: time limit twenty minutes, prompt "beaches": ficlets posted 16 July 2006.
  • Summer 2007: "The Dog Days of Summer Challenge":[2] a timed challenge (one hour) for short fic to the prompt, "the dog days of summer", any MR book. Sunday tea chat extended to the comm in a post 26 August 2007, ficlets then added to the post. This began the custom of having a summer challenge.
  • Spooky Challenge (Halloween) 2007:[3]: a timed challenge (one hour) for short fic to the prompt, "Ghosts don't always have the best timing", any MR book.
  • Summer 2008: "Summer Nights": untimed challenge to the prompt, "Long hot summer evenings and battles hard fought and won" (which the moderators admitted was itself inspired by the record-breaking Nadal/Federer Wimbledon fnal), any MR book.
  • The Six Word Novel Challenge: Inspired by the 2007 Guardian newspaper Six-Word Novel Challenge[30], the moderators challenged the community on 9 February 2009 to similarly render down Mary Renault's novels[31], and then revealed the resultant collection of six-word novels on 19th February 2009.
  • Five Years On (5YO): "Write something five-ish." [32] To celebrate maryrenaultics's fifth anniversary, members were asked to write something with a five theme. The results were posted to the 5YO thread. (See ITOWverse.)
  • Flash - Five Minute Fics: timed challenge (five minutes). The rules of the game were to write to the prompt anything you like—prose, poetry, a naughty limerick—or else draw an image, post your contribution, and supply the next prompt.
  • Sunday Tea Challenge (30 May 2010)]:[4] timed challenge (one hour), any MR novel, to the prompt, "Respite". Stories posted separately to the community.
  • Summer 2010: "Swim": untimed challenge to the prompt 'swim' (fic posted separately to the community).
  • October 2010: "Spooky Challenge" for Halloween 2010: untimed challenge to the prompt 'lurking'. (Produced eight fic posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • Summer 2011: untimed challenge (posted 30 July 2011) to the prompts (a) "spangled loincloth", for people writing Alexander-themed stories, or (b) "summer clothes", for everyone else, with the aside, "Well – I think I’d pay good money to read a fic in which Ralph Lanyon uses the words “spangled loincloth” in context"[33] (Produced three stories, all taking on the additional challenge; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • Back to School: untimed challenge (posted 24 August 2011) to write a ficlet on the theme of returning to school, or some equivalent "period of rethinking, reworking, revising"; loosely described as the Early-Autumn-Stretch-Your-MR-Muscles-In-Anticipation-Of-The-Spooky-Story-Challenge Quadrabble Challenge. (Produced two fic posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • October 2011: "Spooky Challenge" for Halloween 2011: untimed challenge to the prompt "the unquiet dark". (Produced nine fic posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • February 2012: MRF Valentine's Day Prompt: untimed challenge to the prompt "Our Secret World". (Produced four fic posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • Sunday Tea Challenge (posted 31 March 2012): untimed challenge to the prompt "sap rising". (Produced two stories posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • June 2012: “Spring Jumble Sale": untimed challenge to write stories based on unused "plot bunnies" submitted by members. (Produced three stories posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • September 2012: "An Apple for Teacher Challenge": untimed challenge to the prompt "apple"; posted by member greerwatson. (Produced four stories, two of which were multi-parters, posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • October 2012: "Spooky Challenge" for Halloween 2012: untimed challenge to the prompt "I'll haunt you". (Produced four stories posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • February 2013: Valentine's Day Challenge: untimed challenge to the prompt "the consequences of love". (Produced six stories posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • Summer 2013: untimed challenge (posted 03 July 2013) to the prompt "Heat". (Produced four stories posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • October 2013: "Spooky Challenge" for Halloween 2013: untimed challenge to the prompt "Scare Me". (Produced five stories posted separately to the community; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)
  • February 2014: Valentine's Day Challenge: untimed challenge to a prompt to include a lyric from a popular love song within the fic. (Produced four ficlets posted separately to the community, all based on The Charioteer; NB: 'friends-locked' and only visible to community members.)

Poetry Challenges

  • World Poetry Day, 2009: The poems written by community members were revealed on 21 March 2009.

Art Challenges

  • Fire from Heaven: the MRF Edition: in honour of Fire from Heaven being nominated for the Lost Man Booker prize, fans were asked to design their own book covers. The challenge was issued on 4 April 2010, and the results were revealed 18 May 2010.
  • Jack-o-Lantern Challenge (members-locked): in 2011, fans were asked to carve Renault-themed jack-o-lanterns; posted images were revealed 31 October 2011. Because of the success of this challenge, it was repeated in subsequent years.
  • Every Book Needs a Cover....The Charioteer Book Covers: in honour of the reissue of The Charioteer, fans were asked to design their own book covers. The challenge was issued on 4 August 2013, and the results were revealed on 6 October 2013

World Poetry Day

In honour of Simonides (protagonist of The Praise Singer), maryrenaultfics has hosted two World Poetry Day events. This has involved members writing:


The community has held a number of polls of its members. Some of these relate to the choice of novel for the next chapter-by-chapter discussion. Among others were:

Usually the comments—wherein people explain, expand, or reverse their poll choices—were considered by many members to be the best part of the post.

Criticisms of the Community

From time to time, members of the community expressed frustration with the direction and focus of the community along with its management. Many of those issues were discussed in individual journals[34] and anon memes over the years.[35]

Predictably, some of the issues resurfaced with the closing of the community in January 2015.[36]


  1. ^ maryrenaultfics - Profile, Archived version
  2. ^ Mod announcement on maryrenaultfics on 20 July 2006. Accessed 18 July 2010., Archived version
  3. ^ The text of the paper was posted to maryrenaultfics on 29 March 2012 in a locked post. It was later crossposted to RenaultX in an open post, "Paper at ICFA 33, March 2012 - 'Interfictional Dimensions'", on 11 May 2021.
  4. ^ Mary's Handmaidens - Going forward...Members Only, Archived version
  5. ^ Mary's Handmaidens - Ye_Olde_Renault, Maryrenaultfics and Moving Forward in 2015, Archived version
  6. ^ Renault Exchange 2014: Rules, archivedate = 2015-01-13 Archived version
  7. ^ maryrenaultfics2, Archived version
  8. ^ Mary's Handmaidens - Admin: Membership and Moderation, Archived version
  9. ^ Index to Mary Renault fan fiction on maryrenaultfics
  10. ^ Religion in Renault's books post made by innervoice_chan in the maryrenaultfics community, 13 February 2005. Accessed 4 August 2010.
  11. ^ Favourites post by cyberducks in the maryrenaultfics community, 24 March 2005. Accessed 4 August 2010.
  12. ^ Sharing definitive quotations post started by my_cnnr on maryrenaultfics, 10 June 2007. Accessed 14 August 2010.
  13. ^ Ketchup post started by cmiran in the maryrenaultfics community, 26 May 2007. Accessed 28 August 2010.
  14. ^ Return to Night discussion on maryrenaultfics
  15. ^ North Face discussion on maryrenaultfics
  16. ^ The Friendly Young Ladies discussion on maryrenaultfics
  17. ^ Kind Are Her Answers discussion on mary renaultfics
  18. ^ The Charioteer chapter-by-chapter discussion on maryrenaultfics in 2005
  19. ^ Discussion about The Charioteer editions in maryrenaultfics
  20. ^ The Last of the Wine chapter-by-chapter discussion on maryrenaultfics in 2005
  21. ^ The Last of the Wine 2009-2010 discussion schedule and admin
  22. ^ Fire from Heaven 2010 discussion of Chapter One
  23. ^ The Lost Man Booker Prize shortlist announcement, visited 16 April 2010
  24. ^ The Persian Boy chapter-by-chapter discussion in the maryrenaultfics community in 2007
  25. ^ Continuing The Persian Boy chapter-by-chapter discussion in 2008
  26. ^ The Persian Boy 2008-2009 discussion schedule and admin
  27. ^ Character glossary admin and formatting post on maryrenaultfics on 4 April 2008. Accessed 18 July 2010.
  28. ^ The character glossaries for the individual books are accessible on the community through the "character glossary" tag.
  29. ^ In Their Own Words project in maryrenaultfics
  30. ^
  31. ^ Six Word Novel Challenge posted by my_cnnr to maryrenaultfics on 9th February 2009
  32. ^ Five Years On Anniversary Fic Event: Write Something Five-ish Challenge posted by my_cnnr to maryrenaultfics on 15th May 2009
  33. ^ The comment, "Well – I think I’d pay good money to read a fic in which Ralph Lanyon uses the words “spangled loincloth” in context," was made by my_cnnr in the original post, "At the Clubhouse, Part Two - The Summer Prompt" (members-locked), made 30 July 2011 on maryrenaultfics (accessed 1 November 2011).
  34. ^ naraht - maryrenaultfics and me, Archived version
  35. ^ fail_fandomanon: Maryrenaultfics dated Oct 7, 20`12, Archived version. See also fail_fandomanon FFA DW Post #106 - comments in the Have you ever been part of a fannish group with a bad reputation? thread dated Nov 21, 2014, Archived version
  36. ^ greerwatson - Maryrenaultfics, Archived version; See also naraht - maryrenaultfics: ave atque vale, Archived version