Marion Zimmer Bradley

When I was in college, I was introduced to the works of Marion Zimmer Bradley; one of my favorite professors recommended Mists of Avalon with “I stayed up the whole night reading it!!”…and given that she was the most intelligent woman I’d ever met, I went out that day and got Mists…and also stayed up the whole night reading it.  And from there, leap-frogged into her Darkover series (especially the Free Amazons), the Sword & Sorceress anthologies, “Firebrand” (the Trojan War from Cassandra’s viewpoint).  MZB was a revelation, that women could have strong, heroic tales of their own, and be just as interesting, intelligent, and fascinating as the men.

It became my goal as a budding writer in the ’90s to get published by MZB, either in her fantasy magazine, or in one of the Sword & Sorceress anthologies.   And that’s when my hero-worship got profoundly shattered.

Most SF/F fen are familiar with why MZB wouldn’t read fan works — a fan took her to court over an unpublished Darkover novel, claiming that MZB had stolen the idea from the fan’s own story, and the fan won.  Most roll their eyes at the fan, but…

I’ll say right now: I am NOT that fan.  But back in the mid-90s, I submitted a tale to Sword & Sorceress, “Quenching”, a very short story in which a captured witch turns her tormenter into water and drinks him.  MZB rejected it…and to my shock & dismay, in the next S&S anthology (#13, if my memory’s correct), there was a short story by one of MZB’s stable that not only used the exact same idea…but used a lot of my dialogue, the exact same situation (right down to two near-identical characters, same setting), much of the same descriptions…and after showing it (without comment) to my husband and a couple other friends, I got the same reaction from all: “I thought you wrote this tale?? Isn’t that yours?”

On that, (and not knowing about the Darkover-fan situation), I also went to a lawyer, and got told that, despite copyright law, I had no recourse.  The short tale wasn’t worth much, I wouldn’t have been paid much for it, so it wasn’t worth pursuing.

Imagine being a young writer and being told that.  Imagine having something you’ve worked on with heart & soul and sent to one of your heroes then stolen by that hero, without even so much as an acknowledgement.

I still have the story in question, along with the rejection letter.  It made me leary of ever sending anything out again, even to the point of not posting any of my off-the-cuff fanfic tales on my website, for fear of someone taking them & claiming them as theirs.

Luckily, George Scithers helped to boost my faith back up, by buying one of my tales for Weird Tales (“Death Comes In The Window”), and giving me encouraging, complimentary rejection letters on other tales I sent, that he couldn’t use, or that didn’t quite fit.  But it’s still been a long time before I trusted anyone with my stories again.

And now…I find out this.

Rape, Abuse, & Marion Zimmer Bradley

Marion Zimmer Bradley, complicit and participating in her husband’s sexual abuse of children (including arranging for the fostering of a boy specifically so her husband could abuse him) — and it’s now come to light that her daughter, Moira, has had the courage to admit that MZB sexually abused her, too.  (the court testimony)  (Breen was MZB’s husband at the time)

I’m angry.  I’m horrified.  I’m ENRAGED.  Folks who’ve read my rough drafts of the Karma tales & my fanfic in the Hardy Boys fandom know that child abuse & recovery is a big theme in my tales; it’s a hot-button issue with me.  While my childhood was more or less normal, I’ve heard enough through the family grapevine to know that my parents’ was not, and what has gotten to me makes me want to dig up certain people and HURT them.  Knowing that someone who championed the feminist movement, who was so instrumental in opening up the SF/F field to women authors & heroic women characters — knowing that person did THAT…

I applaud Moira for coming forward.  I wish she was here, so I could hug her and give her the support & encouragement & shoulder that she undoubtedly needs.  Confronting the truth, speaking publicly about one’s abuse — especially at the hands of a famous figure — is never easy.  Scratch that, it’s damn torture.  One only has to look at what happened with Michael Jackson’s young victims to see that…or the continued championship of Woody Allen & Roman Polanski by the Hollywood community, despite their crimes.

It’s far past time for the SF/F community to stand up and stand against people who commit such deeds, and judging from the amount of talk I’ve been seeing on this in various fan groups & writing groups, we are.  But now I also have to wonder: that long-ago fan that claimed MZB stole her work…whoever it was has taken an awful amount of flak & derision. What if they were right?  I’ve already found out for myself that MZB’s stable apparently had no qualms about doing that — believe me, I’m not talking about just a “similar idea”.  If you would’ve seen the tales, you would’ve thought one of us had plagiarized the other, as well.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.