Mists_of_Avalon-1st_edEvery so often, the question of a writer’s life versus their work comes up – specifically, whether the value of the work mitigates, or even has any legitimate connection with, the wrongs they committed, endorsed, or sympathized with in their life. For instance, does Pablo Neruda‘s position as a poet of the people excuse his apologetics for Stalinism? Does The Faerie Queene excuse Edmund Spenser‘s plans to exterminate the Irish? Should William Burroughs have been jailed for shooting his wife? Conversely, should Ezra Pound‘s contribution to world literature have spared him incarceration for his collaborationist antics during World War 2? And there are dozens of examples, from every shade of the ideological spectrum, or every kind of crime. Knowing what they did, can you still read unswayed what they wrote? Will your judgment of the words on the page or screen be influenced by what you know about them?

Well, for those who argue that the biography or rap sheet doesn’t matter, and that literature is indifferent to the actions and morality of the creator, here’s a test for you. Marion Zimmer Bradley, celebrated science fiction and fantasy author, recipient of the, cofounder of the Society for Creative Anachronism, posthumous recipient of the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement, has just been revealed by her own daughter Moira Greyland as a repeat child molester, who not only countenanced her sometime husband Walter Breen‘s relationship with an underage boy, but also violated her own daughter,  and other children, of both sexes, repeatedly, over many years.

I apologize to anyone this offends, but this is already public information and I am simply repeating it. Walter Breen’s convictions are a matter of public record, and reinforced by Bradley’s own public statements on the subject. This goes far beyond any notion of Fifties homophobia. And also, I apologize to Moira Greyland if sharing this upsets her further, but her statement is already being shared elsewhere, and I’m just adding a little more exposure on top of what’s already going on – with some good purpose, I hope. And I apologize if this article title for one moment appears to call into question what she said, but I’m adding it in case TeleRead needs a fallback position and I’ve been wrong all along. But so far it looks like anything but.

Here’s what Moira Greyland actually says about what her mother did:

The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was twelve, and able to walk away. I put Walter in jail for molesting one boy. I had tried to intervene when I was 13 by telling Mother and Lisa, and they just moved him into his own apartment. I had been living partially on couches since I was ten years old because of the out of control drugs, orgies, and constant flow of people in and out of our family ‘home.’ None of this should be news. Walter was a serial rapist with many, many, many victims (I named 22 to the cops) but Marion was far, far worse. She was cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually. I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls.

I hope no one thinks that Moira Greyland is making this all up. All the evidence, including actual legal evidence in Breen’s case, points against it. The context for this was a blog post by Deirdre Saoirse Moen in response to a birthday piece on Tor.com about Bradley. Tor later took the piece down, and Moira Greyland responded to Deirdre with her email. There is no substantiation at present beyond the links and quotes I’ve included here, but these come from solid sources, and more and more validating comments are coming up on Facebook and elsewhere almost by the minute.

And is there any point beyond pure prurience in repeating all this stuff? One at least, I hope. I can cite the case of British artist and typographer Eric Gill, who according to his own diaries had incestuous relationships with two of his daughters, and used them as models for some of his nudes. I may be wrong in this, but I remember accounts of his life involving defenders of his actions, including one Roman Catholic priest, who excused and mitigated them on the grounds of his spiritual and artistic gifts. “Gill is too good an artist, too ferocious and intrepid a controversialist, to be protected and glossed over. We need to see him whole,” argues Gill’s biographer Fiona MacCarthy.

Is anyone out there who knows an Eric Gill or Marion Zimmer Bradley-type creative figure making the same excuses for them right now? Well actually, they are, and they didn’t waste time any about it. You can already read very lengthy (and anonymous) defenses of Bradley in the comments section of Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s blog post, saying how Bradley shouldn’t be blamed because her acts took place in the context of  “multiple personal, biological and otherwise ‘material’, as well as legal and political forces,” and because her work was “TREMENDOUS”. So there you are. The apologetics, mitigations, and excuses have already started. Hell really does lie in the comments section.

So should the SCA and the World Fantasy Awards disavow Bradley? Will you have a problem reading a single word she wrote again? I know I will. How do you all feel about it?


  1. Some time ago I purchased Mists of Avalon digitally with the plan of rereading a favorite book. I came across the above info about Bradley when I researching backstory info on the book. I deleted the files within seconds of knowing.

    I refuse to use any font that I know Gill had anything to do with but I don’t remember when I first heard about him.

    All my paper books by William Mayne ended up in the trash bin. It seemed very wasteful but I couldn’t bring myself to donate them.

  2. I don’t see why the choice presented here is to either let a person’s work excuse their wrongdoings or write off both the person and the work. Unless the work itself excuses or perpetuates abuse then I think the art should be separated from the artist. It’s possible to both think that what Marion Zimmer Bradley did was awful and think that her work was significant. It’s even possible to still enjoy her work. Obviously, a person’s work should not be used to exempt them from punishment, however.

  3. “It’s possible to both think that what Marion Zimmer Bradley did was awful and think that her work was significant.”

    I concur. I can’t bring myself to read her any more (but I never was that much of a fan). That said, I don’t think the art stands separately from the artist.

    Here’s my dilemma: if we erase the works because we want to erase the artist, then we’re still erasing the victims, just like being silent about abuse we know about. I honestly don’t know the right answer, but I don’t think conspiracy of silence is it.

    And I’ll be looking for something that appeals to me to replace Gill Sans. Fortunately, I’ve bought a lot of fonts recently.

  4. I think it’s naive to think that art can be separated from its creator. Creative work is in significant part a product of the creator’s ethos. If that ethos allows them to countenance and perpetrate sexual abuse, then i would find it extremely surprising if the ethos had no impact on their creative work.

  5. This seems to be an exceedingly complex case–


    –and I’m not sure that any of us have the specialized skill or inside knowledge to disentangle it. Regardless, I agree that it’s difficult to wholly separate an artist and her work. What I find odd is the idea that this principle should only apply to artists who have committed crimes.

    How many of us authors here can declare ourselves to be entirely upright? How many of us have lost our tempers and screamed at our partners, or have hurt our loving parents, or have broken a promise to a good friend? Surely our own misdeeds have made their way into our writings, whether or not we realize it.

    If we’re lucky, our Muses will reshape our misdeeds into writings that bring good to the world. One thing I do remember (because I was reading this very passage when this news hit): one of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s most famous characters is an abuser of youths who confesses to his past atrocities, and who does his best to amend for what he has done.

  6. I found this, read the daughter’s words, then read the court testimony of her husband’s case last night. The problem with this sort of situation is that anyone who says they don’t fully believe the daughter looks like an asshole, but honestly, I’m not sure. This is NOT to say I think MZB is blameless or not abusive, or that I think the daughter is lying. MZB fucked up so bad so many times that it would be easy to see why her kids might hate her–she turned a blind eye to her husband’s shenanigans for YEARS.

    But at the same time…her daughter, where are her thoughts at? Through what filter is she seeing the events of her childhood, and is it a true one?

    For instance, paganism can involve going skyclad in ritual, sexual rites, and often draws followers looking for a more open and honest sexuality (including sexually aggressive women, who are often demonized in mainstream culture). Being skyclad in ritual or witnessing a sexual rite as a child is considered molestation by law. And yes, any child growing up in a household like that would feel threatened if denuded or watching sex, even if they were never touched (and this is not to trivialize her feelings because I well recall how horrifying it feels). But on the flip side, an average therapist or other mainstream professional, upon hearing about pagan rites, would see them as abusive, even in a healthy household (which this was not).

    The fact her mother simply let her walk away at twelve also begs questions, since pedophiles tend not to take no for an answer, and abusers punish defiance harshly.

    And there is the question of how much she HATES her mother, the woman who failed to protect her and the other kids? Because the single word “pedophile” will tear down a reputation faster than anything.

    Again, her mother FUCKED UP. I do not doubt FOR AN INSTANT she was neglectful, willfully blind, and possibly abusive. Nor do I doubt that her daughter is telling the truth as she sees it. But I am also uncomfortable with how much her daughter’s letter sounds like the testimony of “abusees” at the height of the Satanist scare in the eighties. And having been through therapy, I know for a damned fact how most normal (especially budget rate, like we had to go to) therapists would react to a pagan household. They wouldn’t be able to separate religion or different lifestyle from truly threatening behaviors, and would see them all as abuse. And most people listen closely to professionals.

    I am also wary of the “22 rapes” she cites, because most pedophiles can’t get away with that many, not and hope to keep doing what they’re doing. Ed Kramer of DragonCon only had six, and even Michael Jackson with all his money and power and fame topped out at 17. Part of molestation is “grooming,” that time it takes to build that power-tripping-relationship with the child to the point they won’t run tell. This takes contact and time.

    Breen seems to have had four to six known, and yes, possibly more unknown (all the mentioned men probably did). But 22? Unless he was throwing slumber parties and was a master mental manipulator, chances are he couldn’t have gotten to and adeptly controlled that many boys. And since the cops, despite being told of 22 incidents, only prosecuted for one, it makes me wonder if many of the other incidents didn’t pan out to be what she had initially thought they were (this is taking into account that some probably were abuse and the boys or their families wouldn’t talk).

    The testimony I read had MZB doing some serious backpedaling and butt covering, showed a skewed set of social morals and a WOEFUL lack of knowledge of what sexual abuse really was. But, from my own experiences, a lot of her testimony rang very true. At one point she stated she trusted her husband around a young man because she believed him to be impotent–my family went through this. My mother couldn’t figure out why her husband couldn’t get it up for her, well, it was because he’d found “another woman.” She didn’t want to believe it was her kid. I also recognize the covering for bad behavior (my mom did it), the turning a blind eye (my mom did it), not thinking too hard about her abusers actions (we all did it, it was the only way to survive), and multiple other behaviors that were revealed by MZB in her testimony. And the thing is, my mother was as abused as we were, so looking at how MZB mirrors her behaviors in the same situation makes me…it makes me wonder where the author lies on the spectrum, abuser, abusee, or both?

    Again, I have no doubt the daughter was abused. I have NO DOUBT she believes everything she said. And I have no doubt MZB did so much wrong that she was up to her neck in her own shit. But I am cautious about this “revelation” because it feel there might be more going on here.

    I’ll tar and feather the authoress any day for her part in all this, but I’d like to be sure when I do cry pedophile, I’m dead certain I’m right. Because I have seen abused women get painted with the brush of their abusers far too often–yes, even by their own children–and when someone finally backpedaled and said “no wait, things weren’t quite like that” (and back that with proof, obviously) it was too late. The genie was out of the bottle and a life, or a reputation, or a legacy, was soiled forever, facts be damned.

    But, you can call me a pedophile apologist or someone just trying to protect a favorite author (though actually, I wasn’t fond of most of her writing) if it makes you feel better. I expect someone will. So many abusees are unfairly disbelieved (and don’t even get me started on rape victims) that it’s taboo to have doubts these days. It’s just the way it is.

  7. Ichi –

    I’m curious as to why you say “most” pedophiles have fewer than 22 victims. In “Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics” by Howard N. Snyder, Ph.D., it was found that male pedophiles who prefer male victims have an average of 150 victims. Do you have a different citation?

    Don’t forget that Breen was first caught and sentenced in 1954. Assuming he managed to get caught with his very first victim, 22 victims means one victim every 1.63 years. Or maybe Greyland meant 22 victims she had firsthand knowledge of. Start the clock at 1970 (Greyland said she was first raped by Breen at age 5), and that’s a smidge over one victim a year. Either way you count, that’s plenty of time to groom. Assuming that was, in fact, his pattern. And it might not be. Molesting a child does not actually require an extensive amount of grooming or a ton of time. It can, but that’s not the only pattern.

    Furthermore, the abuse described cannot be explained by benign neo-pagan rituals that were taken out of context. In the court documents you read (assuming you read what was on Stephen Goldin’s site), Elisabeth Waters said that Bradley tied Moira Greyland up and threatened to rip her teeth out with pliers. I am unfamiliar with that neopagan ritual. Waters also said that Greyland told her Bradley had followed her into the shower and groped her breast. She said that Bradley brushed it off by saying “Kids don’t have erogenous zones.” Outside of the court documents, Greyland describes Bradley trying to drown her in a bathtub. Those incidents bear no resemblance to a well-meaning but naive therapist misunderstanding what it means to be skyclad.

  8. It is interesting that no one has brought up the case of Anne Perry, prolific writer of mysteries. Her birth name was Juliet Hulme and she was convicted as a teenager of helping her best friend to bludgeon to death the friend’s mother. The trial took place in New Zealand in 1954. When released from prison, Juliet Hulme changed her name to Anne Perry. If you google Parker Hulme murder case, there is a lot of source material available from New Zealand.

  9. I have read the comments with interest, and just want to say I will never, ever purchase anything by Marion Zimmer Bradley again, and I will stop my children from doing so. I have spent the last 10 years of my life as an investigator with a Sheriff’s Office as a Sex Crimes against Children investigator. I have sent dozens of predators to prison, and I sleep well at night for that. If MZB and her perverted husband had been in my county, I would have worked the case against them with joy. Sexual offenses against children, are in some ways worse than murder. A murder victim dies once, a sexually abused child dies every day for the rest of their lives. Think about that before you start all the apologizing for the pathetic perverts who take sick and sadistic delight in destroying the lives of children. We say that for every victim we know about there are 5-10 we do not know about. The worst I ever had was one victim, and it later came out this sick degenerate had molested over 300 children. My Sgt had one that later confessed to 5,800 victims over his career. And yes, they do keep count, and they keep trophies of their victims.

  10. That’s 10 books gone from my TBR pile, and several more from my wishlist.

    I’m astonished to find that her complicity in her husband’s abuse of children was public knowledge for so long. I wish I had known this ten years ago, before buying any of her ebooks.

  11. Thanks, Paul and Deidre, for writing about this horrible mess. People who abuse children and who enable child abusers need to be called out.

    How many people knew this stuff about MZB and covered it up? The silence regarding her actions is absolutely shocking.

  12. “Grooming” (seducing) a too-young person is often only necessary for the first assailant. A repeatedly sexualized young person will see their sexuality as a power they have. A power to get attention and affection as well as other things they need, like food and shelter if that’s not always there for them. Our welfare state is still quite imperfect, so you don’t need much imagination to think about how big the holes were 20, 30 40, 50 and 60 years ago.

    Don’t imagine for a moment that this is a one-time thing for most, it’s not. In a household like MBZs, sexual access to a child or children is an every-day thing for many many years.

    I have spent time with foster parents who specialized in, or were handed, sexualized pre-teens. It is very very weird to receive a come-on from a cute 9-year old; especially the first time, when you don’t fully appreciate what’s happening. Having now seen it dozens of times, I have no difficulty believing Moria Greyland’s “22” number. It was probably much lower then the ones for which she knew she didn’t have legally sufficient proof.

  13. Ichi: there are enough incidents in Greyland’s accusation that even if it’s possible to raise questions about a few of them, the rest would be plenty to damn a perpetrator, regardless of their talent. Bradley is not merely someone who covered up her husband’s crimes; her own are pretty significant. She was convicted of child pornography back in the fifties (before she met Breen, AFAIK). She admitted explicitly to tying up her daughter Moira and threatening to pull all her teeth our with a pliers. Moira’s claims aren’t merely of being nude around nude grownups; she makes specific allegations of specific types of touch, including groping her breasts when she was 9 (yes, some 9-year-olds do have them) and more. Bradley didn’t deny that one either. I think you’re putting up a credible defense against the accusations that *might* have been made against her, but not against the ones which *were* made.

  14. Sandra, amen to that. And as I outlined in my follow-up article, I have a huge beef with those who enable or cover up for child abusers (or criminals and abusers of many other stripes) merely on the grounds that they are creative people and therefore somehow entitled to special privileges, tolerance or protection. That’s one type of enablement I really wanted to nail to the wall here.

  15. Ichi, thank you for the frank and personal take on this. I am not going to question any of that, nor your theories about therapist overreactions to paganism, but I am curious about the statement “I am also wary of the “22 rapes” she cites, because most pedophiles can’t get away with that many, not and hope to keep doing what they’re doing.”


    The number of people reporting abuse by him now stands at over 500…

  16. Theoretically, art *can* be separated from its creator, I believe; sometimes the creator is just a vehicle (IMO) for something greater than they are. In my belief system, that “greater” thing is the Divine.

    On a somewhat more practical note, I think art should be evaluated and judged both within the context of its creator’s personal life, and sans that context; it should be evaluated both ways. I think that’s a job for professional art critics.

    On a personal note, I was never a big MZB fan; I enjoyed “Mists” but think people got way too caught up in the fantasy. And I will not be able to enjoy anything by her ever again, because I am not a professional art critic, and I cannot read her words without thinking of this appalling, disgusting, and inexcusable acts.

  17. I am not as eloquent as some previous posters to this situation, so I will keep it simple. Even though MZB apparently was never openly Pagan/Wiccan herself, at keast I believe that to be the case. She is going to get lumped right into our community, and yet here is another pervert we have attached to the overall energy body of our faith. I just don’t get it how is it we attract these pervs into our ranks depending once again how encompassing you view our ranks to be. And why do some people want to go to the defense of these sick fucks? My feelings is that if you try and defend that which has no defense then (I) think maybe just maybe you have some serious skeleton’s in your own closet-just sayin.

  18. It’s absurd to say that literary contributions are so important that it mitigates criminal activity.

    A writer is no more important to the world than an architect, bus driver, janitor, farmer or fisherman.

    There are plenty of authors out there who DON’T rape children. THEY can keep literature alive. More stories go untold than told. Hundreds of thousands of authors are rejected every year, and not because their books are no good; merely because there are only so many authors that publishers can publish.

    Literature won’t vanish if we incarcerate and eternally despise pedophile authors.

  19. This is a bizarre conversation to me.

    Did MZB write some good books? Yes. Did she have “Pagan” beliefs? Everyone’s entitled to believe something.

    Did she tolerate pedophilia and touch and abuse underage children? It would appear so.

    Then she’s a scumbag. A scumbag who writes good books, but a scumbag none-the-less.

    How is this even a debate?

  20. Not to enter the debate over separating art from artist, but to give a personal recollection: I submitted a short story to her magazine about 20 years ago. Ironically, it was rejected because of its 17-year-old protagonist. Her rejection letter said something to the effect that “children do not make good protagonists because they are more likely to be acted upon than to act.” I didn’t think anything about those words then, but now I find them absolutely chilling.

  21. There are truly hideous reptilians out there masquerading as people.

    And their “art” should be considered a product of hell. There is enough creativity in the world not to allow that scribblings from monsters should stand apart from their vile, malignantly narcissist makers.

    Their informed remaining fans become complicit. Satan loves a liar and molester of innocence; it loves a storyteller.

  22. What is interesting about all this is that she was the first SF writer to repeatedly mention rape and the treatment abusive treatment of wives and girls. the drytowner culture especially is horrifyingly reminiscent of what has been reported of Islamist culture. Also do you notice in the friends of dark over collections there were very many contributors that repeatedly submitted stories of breaking away from abuse and demands of accepting the abuse as been ‘normal’.

    All that is enough to make one wonder if MZB also was a victim of abuse and as a result thought nothing of dealing such out herself. Whatever she did I would say she was the SF author that had the earliest most sympathetic portrayal of homosexual relations. The Christifos who did not tolerate homosexuality and the Comyem who did .

    The ” unbelievable’ ness of MZB abuse is because reading the Darkover novels would lead the reader never the suspect that the writer was an abuser of children let alone tolerating any man that raped. She really will be more argued over than Lewis Caroll.
    in some ways it is a shame as many girls probably found in Darkover a reason to rebel – to not tolerate sexual abuse and to be tolerant of homosexuality. Today’s .cultural relativity that is so politically correct tries to make normal/acceptable the abuse Islam deals to females and boys (note the pearly boys Muslim men enjoy in Islamic heaven.)

    Personally any who finds MZB books so offensive that they dump them should also dump every volume of Islamic books they find as Islam is extremely tolerant of what westerners call child abuse.

  23. I was in a group of people who debated whether we should use the science of the Nazi concentration camps. As an example, to further research into small arms, they picked people out of the line up, and shot them, and then measured how long it took for the people to die/lose conciousness.

    No, we didn’t use it. Any scientist that would do that, you can’t trust the integrity of their work. If one had any morals at all one would falsify the work to reduce the number of people that would be murdered.

    No, their books should be forgotten, and may the world forget them, but remember the victims with sorrow and shame that we did not save them.

    Obama’s natural father, Frank Marshall Davis was a convicted pornographer and child molester. Obama’s grandparents gave Stanley Anne over to him, and pinned fatherhood onto Obama Sr. Later, they let ‘Frank’ mentor Barack, which probably meant he was molested too. If you want to know why Obama hates the US, that is reason enough right there.

  24. Is there any work of art or literature that humanity could not exist without? Is there any work of art or literature that if it didn’t exist would cheapen everyone’s life? If the work of an artist doesn’t meet those standards, then there is no excuse, no free pass for any artist who commits a heinous crime…. and frankly I can’t think of any work of art or literature that I couldn’t get along without just fine. If someone thinks differently, then they are willing to sell suffering and misery, to get their artistic jollies which in my opinion makes them more monstrous than the perpetrators.

  25. Pat, note that I’m not saying that MZB books should be banned – if anyone wants to dump them, it’s their choice. I am saying that what she said publicly on sexual issues, and wrote about in her works, can’t be divorced from what she did. If you take a stance on an issue in writing, you deserve to have that stance tested against your actions.

    Also, finger-pointing to try to distract attention from MZB’s own faults is not helping – so she wasn’t Genghis Khan, so what? And I have to say that your remarks are close in tone and approach to the defences of MZB that appeared on Deirdre’s original post soon after it went up. And you can blame Islam, the KKK, the Catholic church, everyone else who wasn’t MZB for all their views and crimes: the point is still what MZB herself did.

  26. TBlakely, I’m going to disagree with you.

    First, I’m guessing that you were not raped or tortured as a child, but I’d argue that part of the reason that MZB speaks to those who were is, perhaps, related to the very reason she’s problematic.

    If the work offers some healing to those people, as it apparently did to my commenter S, then I think the work should survive regardless of what I think of the work or the artist. (And I’d very much prefer that people not pile onto commenter S for their views given the family history involved.)

    Not everyone who can be a stepping stone for the healing of others is capable of stepping out of the flood zone themselves.

  27. Paul StJohn Mackintosh, I have only read this column about MZB so it is all new to me.
    I immediately wrote what I did because what she wrote in the Darkover series gave me a moral indignation to steadfastly refuse to accept the abuse I got as a child. Nothing sexual except in terms of been male or female – just continuous putdowns and lack of support for been female instead of male like my brothers. The abuse was difficult to counter or be aware of as a child as of course no one tells a 9 year old child your mother is nuts when my mother has society’s respect as she not only was a medical doctor but was a specialist ( if alive she would be almost 100- few women were doctors let alone university graduates back then). Another put down of me by my mother was my appearance. I took after my father’s family (my East Indian grandfather) while my brothers favoured my mother (mainly European, Mum could pass for Queen Elizabeth’s sister if she had blue eyes). Who in their right minds would think a woman who knew where babies come from would penalize her child for resembling the man she chose to marry and never divorce. The ways of abusing children to the point of scaring them are VERY many. Any parent with any wit must surely note whereas one child could be beaten and yet not change behavior, another could just be verbally threatened with physical punishment to change behavior. It could also be that one child has little “love” and lots of self centeredness but the other loves and wishes to please the parent. Abuse is very hard to quantify.
    As for dumping books I am referring to other peoples comments made here.
    You can see from my above statement of my particular childhood misery why I find the Koran’s statement that women are made inferior to men very abusive.
    If anyone regards MZB a Horror then those people should also find Islam an even worse horror. Unlike her books that do not delight in her personal actions, Islam declares the eternal truth of the Koran and the perfection of Mohammad’s example for mankind. So I do feel those who feel sullied by MZB writings should feel even more sullied by the existence of Islamic theology.
    Talking about been sullied by women who tolerate and profit ( on top of that delight in one’s cleverness) from men who rape and sexually abuse , take a look at this which is suprising in a democrat leaning site like the Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/20/exclusive-hillary-clinton-took-me-through-hell-rape-victim-says.html
    Monica was old enough to be responsible for her behavior but likely too immature to realize how foolishly vulnerable she would be if the relationship was ever discovered by the press and Hilary Clinton. The vilification was all on her; the more mature Clintons made millions and will still make millions. Even Chelsea is making a mint with her $600,000 a year salary based on her family connections- sure that would ease HER child into having no problem with a sexual predator grand daddy. As Monica’s boss and a man old enough to be her father Bill Clinton is clearly womanizer who cannot be trusted to be honest. With presidents like Clinton (and another big liar with Obama- Affordable Act, Stimulus, etc. what Orwellian terms!) Americans have more bad examples of abuse than MZB. (17 trillion and counting debt for American children yet to be born could be regarded as abusive)

  28. June 20, 2014 at 5:21 am Deirdre Saoirse Moen says:
    “If the work offers some healing to those people, as it apparently did to my commenter S, then I think the work should survive regardless of what I think of the work or the artist.
    …Not everyone who can be a stepping stone for the healing of others is capable of stepping out of the flood zone themselves.”

    I agree.
    If the abuse reported is true (bitterness can tempt embellishment if not outright lying) there is going to be more people fascinated by MZB just because of the abuse the daughter recounts. Bigger deal than the drugs and sexuality of Coleridge, Shelly and Bryon’s time!!!
    Maybe it is their generation.
    Towards the end Heinlein was pretty weird; one could even say possibly encouraging sexual abuse of “children”. Ok to have sex with sexually precious people.
    Or maybe not.
    Look at early Piers Anderson or for more up to date, John Ringo.
    Maybe some people are “oversexed”. In some it shows up in their writing rather than in their personal behavior. (That you know of. I was clueless of JKF’s procession of women the Secret Service facilitated till Clintons affair with Monica brought it up to the world’s attention.)

    All that behavior only goes to show what fine people some writers are. Ones like Andre Norton. Numerous good people like James Schmitz, Cordwainer Smith, Murray Linster, etc…

  29. My break with MZB came twenty or more years ago. (I never met the woman personally.) I was in a writer’s group, and one of us sent a submission to a short story collection MZB was putting together. She not only rejected it, she rejected it with a letter filled with venom and bile — obviously meant to hurt. The author had read the story at our group. It was NOT that bad.

    Haven’t read anything of hers since.

  30. I agree wholeheartedly with RKae. Just because some people think an author’s, or other artists, work is good does not excuse criminal activity. This woman was despicable.

    Frankly, I am not surprised by these accusations. I am an avid sci-fi and fantasy fan. When I was younger many friends told me how great her books were and so I read a few of them. They ‘creeped me out’ more than a little even then. Not surprised at all to hear that in her personal life she committed such vile acts upon children.

  31. Don: Please, can we keep Obama out of this? We’re having enough trouble agreeing on how to treat the work of a deceased author who did something horrible. We don’t need to get into discussions about whether (let alone why) the president “hates the US.” Let’s just say we don’t all agree on that subject and leave it at that, please.

  32. People are missing that the MZB industry and empire is very much alive today.

    The corporation has fallen silent in the face of this radical news of its founder and spiritual inspiration. The Trustee updated their corporate site as recently as a week ago…they sent out the Trust newsletter five days ago…but has not responded to this explosive story in any way.

  33. Whoa, Chris, you are speaking from total ignorance. MZB’s record is well documented throughout her life as early as the 1940s (when she first drafted a novel that looked favorably on the sexual relationship between an adult and a 14-year old boy), and is in her own words. In her own words, she tied her daughter to a chair and threatened to pull her teeth from her mouth while brandishing pliers. In her own words, she claimed under oath that 13 year olds should be considered viable sexual partners.

    I strongly suggest you simply read the available depositions (a third one is not yet been made public) and the arrest reports if you can access them.

    In other words, her death can’t be used as evidence for her innocence. Additionally, there are living pedophiles who have recently been honored in major science fiction circles. This is a significant problem for the genre, and one that won’t be helped by ostriches diving for the sand.

  34. Chris, imho MZB should be damned just for what she admitted to in the depositions and what her partner Lisa testified to in her own deposition.

    Please go read the depositions three times, like I have. After one commenter posted on my blog, I read it last thing at night and first thing the next morning.


    Also, Bradley was still alive when this account about Breen’s rare book thievery was posted.


    (note: even more child rape mentioned there, with other perps)

  35. I’m so sad. I’m sad for MZB’s kids, and sad that so many people who were touched by her books ended up with such a devious, evil woman as their inspiration. And I will admit I’m sad for myself. As a teenager her fantasy books were a wonderful escape. I really liked her style of writing. But now it feels so empty. At first I wanted to separate the woman from her work, but you can’t. Anyone who creates knows that there is always a piece of yourself in your work, since it comes from somewhere deep inside. Only people who haven’t created think there can be a separation. Of course all creators have less than perfect lives, because we’re all human, but most have done minor or insignificant things; the rape and abuse of children is far from minor or insignificant. The rape and abuse of one’s own children is the lowest of the low, and as such, what MZB did cannot and should not be ignored. What she did and what her children went cannot be minimized just so someone can feel better about knowing the truth and still liking her books. If you still like her work, be honest with yourself that child rape and abuse don’t really matter to you more than some pretty words.

  36. I’m sure the lowest levels of hell are reserved for those who abuse and despoil the innocent and the helpless. With Divine intervention, perhaps MZB is having that experience right now. One may hope…

    Statistics at the time of my choice to begin healing indicated perhaps one in every three women has been sexually abused. (I don’t know the figures for boys.) Add in violence, assault, and terror to the woes of the innocent and the numbers are even greater. The figures show these acts are more than an individual problem; the numbers mean it’s a human problem.

    At this point what difference does it make that people won’t buy MZB novels? It makes no difference to her; she’s dead and human justice simply can’t touch her.

    Had her cruelty and victimization been known while she was alive then justice for her acts could have made a great deal of difference. There are apparently bonus points for making a case against famous evil over ordinary evil. Ask Roman Polanski. His sexual assault on a 13 year old will never be forgotten and his career failed because of it. In my view, that’s not nearly enough but it is something at least.

    MZB’s daughter spoke of so many people in and out of her childhood home. Did NONE of them notice anything wrong? Were all of the people present at that time oblivious to the pain of the children? Were they cowards or sycophants… or participants? Was there no one MZB’s daughter could turn to for help?

    Humanity has a duty to nurture, protect, and care for the young, the innocent, and the helpless. If we fail at that, we fail at being human. MZB and Walter both failed… spectacularly.

  37. There are two issues here:
    i. should we bury/disavow/deny/pretend-it-never-happened/burn celebrated works because authors behaved reprehensibly in real life,
    ii. is Bradey a criminal so reprehensible that her works should be discredited and burned or buried or otherwise denied the light of day, even though the works aren’t profiting from criminal behaviour?

    Rather than circlejerk the issue or argue pointlessly for days with only the evidence of this article and its links to guide discussion, how about: this is a tragic story that is done better justice without the editorial indignation and poor presentation of evidence. I hope it isn’t as bad as all that, but my sympathy and support still goes to Moira Greyland and the other victims.

  38. Is that the best you can come up with? Pathetic.

    You have given no proof of child molestation on her part and indeed there can never be any since she is no longer alive to defend herself.

    Innocent until proven guilty, which in this case means innocent forever, but I guess basic principles like that mean nothing to you.

  39. Chris: Innocent until proven guilty is a standard required by the criminal courts. Not only is it idiotic to think it is required by private citizens, it isn’t even required by ALL courts — civil cases are decided mostly by “a preponderance of the evidence,” which means if it’s 51% likely, then you decide that way. Whether or not to buy someone’s books is an individual decision, and people are entitled to do with their own money anything they wish, including choose whether or not to spend it on the work of a particular person based on their own private moral assessment of that person.

    In making such assessments, everyone has their own personal standard of what constitutes enough evidence *for them personally* to decide they prefer to spend their money elsewhere. For me, the depositions given by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Lisa Waters, in which they state in their own words the details of their coverup efforts for Walter’s child abuse and briefly discuss Bradley’s abuse of Moira, are more than enough. If they aren’t enough for you, that is your business, but you do not have a legitimate right to demand that other people adopt your standard — or the criminal code’s standard — in deciding what to do with their own money.

  40. Followup to Chris: according to your “logic,” one can also never make any statement about the nature of historical figures. Henry VII, for example, must not be accused of beheading two of his wives, because he’s DEAD, and that means we can NEVER EVER prove it!! I’m not quite sure how you get this idea that it’s impossible to prove anything about someone who is dead, but the chance to defend oneself against accusations is not a requirement for being able to prove that something happened. You prove it precisely the same way you prove anything else: witnesses, physical evidence, and statements by the person taken when they were alive.

  41. Dawn wrote:

    “At this point what difference does it make that people won’t buy MZB novels? It makes no difference to her; she’s dead and human justice simply can’t touch her.”

    Just because the artist is dead doesn’t mean where the money goes isn’t important.

    You can read Lisa Waters’s deposition and see if she’s the kind of person you’d like the money to go to.

    My personal vote would be no.

    (I believe the comment’s already been made that MZB’s kids do not get any of the money.)

  42. So the author’s question is this: is it immoral to read the works of authors who do things we find immoral?

    What do you think will happen? Do you think you will become a child molester if you read stories written by a child molester that have NOTHING TO DO with child molestation? Do you think people will suddenly think child molestation is OK just because a child molester happens to be an excellent writer of science fiction, so therefore we must pretend the child molester is NOT an excellent writer of scienc fiction?

    Does your whole idea that child molesting is evil seem to crumble when you consider that an awesome artist happens to have molested children? If so then I have ti ask: how the HELL do you come up with your personal beliefs about good and evil? Do you just believe whatever people tell you to believe?

    Are you afraid that the fact that a smart and creative persbn happens to molest children means that sonehow this smart and creative person will persuade OTHER PEOPLE to molest children, just by existing?

    Lastly, is it just kind of an extra punishment for being a child molester, that we have to pretend she isn’t an incredibly talented artist? As though we have to remake the world so that only people who arn’t perverted are talented, otherwise … what, p
    talented perverts will think it os OK to be perverted, because, hey, they’re talented!

    None of thses arguments make any sense obviously. And yet, as a whole, this article seems.to take itself very seriously. As though it is actually asking rational questions. My question is, is the author even capable of thinking rationally? Or does the author simply write about whatever comes into his/her head without ever even attempting to apply rational analysis to the ideas to see if they.actually make sense?

    Because basically, this article seema to say “If we pretend talented people don’t do immoral things, maybe it will be like talented people actually don’t do immoral things.” That is basically the thesis of this whole article.

  43. Simply the fact that the author’s kids *don’t* get any money from her estate would be enough to make me seriously pissed off at the author. Yeah, she’s allowed to leave her money where she wants, but I don’t have to think it’s very nice of her. And Ms. Waters’ own words paint her as a pretty vile piece of work. I do not believe it’s unethical for anyone else to choose to put their money into the MZB financial structure — that’s for the individual to choose. But I don’t particularly want to spend my money there either, and that’s aside from the fact that most of Bradley’s books have undercurrents of pedophilia, child abuse, rape, DV, etc., which I mostly didn’t notice when I was reading them as a teenager (at the time, the stuff about teenagers having sex with people in their 20s didn’t sound too different from what some of my friends were doing — now I know how screwed up the lives of those friends were), but would make me queasy if I reread them today.

    Your mileage, of course, may vary, and that is fine. Not my business. This is simply a statement of my personal preferences.

  44. Aaron, clearly you were reading a different article than I was.

    Nobody is suggesting that we pretend talented people don’t do immoral things. Individual people have mentioned in comments that they personally choose not to read Bradley anymore, based on this information (either because they don’t like the themes in the books now that they know where those ideas came from, or because they don’t want to give Lisa Waters money), but pretty much everyone who’s said that they don’t intend to buy those books has also said that they do NOT mean it’s immoral for other people to buy or read them — this is simply their own personal choice. Nobody has suggested that any of Bradley’s crimes means she is less of a talented writer (some people have said they never thought she was an especially talented writer to begin with, but that’s a different matter).

    What the author has said, and so have some of the rest of us, is that the crimes of the author are additional information which add to our composite image of her, as a person and a creator, and therefore influence our opinions of her work. Not “become the sole relevant factor in our opinions of her work.” Not “completely and utterly overturn our opinions of her work.” Simply add more information; more information which has an effect on the overall image we have of the artist.

    You say mockingly that if we don’t pretend talented perverts aren’t really talented (a complete strawman which nobody was ever suggesting), talented perverts might think that it’s OK to be perverted, because, hey; they’re talented!! But the facts of this case appears to show that Breen and Bradley both already did think that it was OK to be perverted because they were talented. There’s a strong undercurrent in the Waters and Bradley depositions of the view, on both Breen’s part and Bradley’s part, that because they were geniuses, the normal rules of society or even law should not apply to them. It didn’t help that the people around them kept behaving in ways which communicated blanket admiration no matter what they did.

    So there is plenty of reason to make sure that talented people are treated first as people, with all the responsibilities of human beings, and not given a pass on decent behavior just because they are talented. This is not the same thing as pretending they are not talented. This is just telling them that being talented doesn’t absolve them of the responsibility to obey the law and the rules of honorable behavior.

    If you can find anywhere in the article which says that “if we pretend talented people don’t do immoral things, maybe it will be like talented people actually don’t do immoral things,” or anything which implies it, please cite it. Otherwise back off and quit trolling.

  45. Ichi –
    I have NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER believing Moira’s claim of 22 victims. My mother, who molested me until I was 13, also pimped me out to some of the local male pedophiles when I was a child, supposedly to condition me to be homophobic; at least, that was her excuse to ME, later in life. MOST of them had FAR MORE than 22 victims, and none of them were attached to a famous author! I know we’d all like to think that these sorts of monsters don’t really exist, or if they do, they get caught LONG before their number of victims gets overly large, but the reality is MUCH darker, ESPECIALLY when many of the victims are male, since we boys are conditioned not to talk about these things when they happen to us. Or even worse, when those who prey on us are FEMALE, we’re supposed to be PROUD of it, like it’s a CONQUEST, instead of us being raped. This, of course, doesn’t apply in Breen’s case, but it IS a related statistic. Suffice to say, I’ll stopped reading MZB’s material a LONG time ago. I found it saddening, how many people in the SCA blindly defend Bradly and Breen, simply because they were Founding Members of the Society, like that qualified them for Sainthood, or because of their Neo-Pagan ties, like that made it impossible for them to be sexual predators of children. Sadly, this is not the case. My mother was a pagan and an SCA member, and she was one of the worst monsters I have encountered in a life that has been FULL of various monsters.

  46. I started to read one of her books, I don’t remember the name. Within a few pages I came to a section that made me very uncomfortable with it’s sexual implications about a young female character. Having been a victim of incest myself I suspected Bradley of some sort of nastiness, closed the book and never tried to read her again. No excuses.

  47. I don’t see how art can be separated from the artist. Look at all the famous artworks of the past. Michelangelo’s David. VanGogh’s Starry Night. DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. Any of Beethoven’s music. Bach’s music. This list is endless. And works of art are intrinsically linked to the creator. Given that, I honestly cannot fathom how it would be possible to separate the two. That’s the whole point as far as I understand it. An artwork is created by a person, it is always attributed to that person. Just because a given artwork is considered exceptional shouldn’t allow any criminal action or behavior by the artist to be overlooked, silenced or allowed to continue. They should be held accountable for their actions regardless of what they have contributed to society. Everyone else would be.

  48. Personally, I like MZB’s books, and these revelations of her personal life mean less than nothing to me as regards keeping my books and completing my collections of her works. I believe she is a brilliant, talented author who lived more in her fantasy worlds than in the real’ world, however. I doubt she was capable of living entirely in the ‘real’ world, actually. This is not an ‘excuse’ for abuse, by any means, but can be one explanation of it. Many artists are emotionally volatile and abusive – we simply don’t hear about it normally. I wholeheartedly condemn child abuse, and offer my condolences to the victims, as they will never ‘forget’ and will never see life as those not abused do. I do think it is pointless to avoid books and art which are created by people who offend society’s norms and standards,however, especially if they are deceased. It doesn’t hurt them one little bit, but if it makes you feel morally superior, then by all means do so. When she was first writing, she was a voice crying in the wilderness for tolerance and gender equality, and this should also be remembered about her.

  49. Phoenix Rising: Nope; avoiding buying her books doesn’t hurt her now. Does hurt her former lover, whom MZB’s daughter refers to as a worse monster than her mother was… but since “personally, you like MZB’z books,” I’m sure that means less than nothing to you, nor will the fact that Bradley left her estate in such a way that her children, whom she treated so terribly in life, get nothing from it whatever. Enjoy your collection — it’s certainly morally neutral to read books you already have as much as you like — and buy new books as you choose, but don’t fool yourself into thinking there is no moral cost to it. You’re free to decide you wish to pay the moral cost, and that’s your business; everyone has different standards. But you’re lying to yourself in order to justify your own choices, in claiming that the only reason other people choose not to buy her books is to feel morally superior. We do it because we don’t want Lisa Waters, a monster who participated just as much in the household of abuse as Bradley or Breen did, to have our money; and we do it because we don’t think it’s fair that that money goes to her instead of to the children. If you don’t think those reasons are enough to keep you from completing your collection, that’s fine, but be honest with yourself about what our reasons *are*.

    And yes, Bradley did a fair bit of good for many people with her writing. That’s not negated by the fact that she was also a hideous parent and human being, and in fact Moira has said that she’s glad it’s true — that any small bit of good which may come out of her mother’s life through her writing, to anyone, is worthwhile to her because it means there’s *something* good which came out of that life. It clearly wasn’t anything in the way she treated other live people.

    So yes, acknowledge the good that Bradley’s writing has done for people, but acknowledge the chilling stuff in it, too: the relationships she paints, if you look at them closely, aren’t much healthier than the ones she lived. If you don’t believe me, you probably haven’t read The Catch Trap. Take a look, when you get that far in completing your collection… you’ll see what I mean.

    And acknowledge the fact that, if you buy her books, your money will be going to the last of the trio of abusers who made up that house of horrors. Your choice. But tell the truth about it.

  50. Interestingly, I am just in the middle of re-reading “The Alton Gift”, (which addresses forced mind rape), (co-written with Deborah J. Ross). I have read all of the Darkover series, but I like the newer ones much more, and just returned to reading those latter few. Themes of wrongs being “righted”, “repentance”, healthier behaviours abound, but these as I said were written recently, most co-authored, and even posthumously penned.
    MZB has, in the front dedication, said that her “hero, Lew Alton, is the first character she ever created as a teen,(she identifies with him the most of any character she’s written) ..and it is difficult for her to detach her own viewpoint from Lew’s’.
    In this book, “The Alton Gift”, we see him with one hand, scarred horribly, and horribly wracked with guilt he can’t live with. He makes peace with his daughter, whom he’s been at best a cold and distant father; how terrible that MZB couldn’t have done the same with her children. Since this book is written by Deborah J. Ross, I wonder if she is trying to infuse some sort of resolve for MZB’s own life. Does anyone know the character of Ross??? I would really like to know. She HAD/HAS to have been aware of all of these atrocities perpetrated upon children associated with this household.
    As a child I also was mentally and severely physically abused, including molestation and eventual rape. As an avid sci-fi/fanstasy fan, disinherited by my own mother, who did try to kill me a couple of times, beat me for hours every day, then let her boyfriend take a turn for years, who STILL insists that it’s my fault we lost our housing because I finally told on my molester who held the room we rented over my head as leverage, I can relate to a lot of the posts on here, and MZB’s daughter. Somewhat fortunately, I have lived long enough for my mother, (though I’m not “back in the will”, lol) to tell me in a few phonecalls that she is daily tormented by what she did, and can’t find peace, though I have told her twice in the last ten years I forgive her. She can’t enjoy life at all and her deeds haunt her, and for that I am VERY sorry, because I wish her well. Thank goodness, I found God, or He me, long ago and no rancor is in me that she should suffer so. I hope my mother, unlike MZB, will find it in her to apologize to me, as I don’t need it-but she does, I think, to find peace.
    Long story long, I relate on MANY levels to this article, and MZB’s life, though I had no idea she was a monster.
    I fully believe she was. My own daughters were molested years ago, they told me immediately, and I had that person arrested, and following through ensured he would never have contact with my children, or any others, again. It has been 25 years, and he still ends up in prison occasionally, and we write letters to judges to keep him there as long as possible. (Nor have I ever struck a child of mine in anger, nor punished unfairly). So I did stop the cycle, it is possible.
    Thus it’s confirmed to me that a person, especially an adult who “looks the other way” on crimes like this- SOULstealing!, is just as culpable, as it involves those innocents who should be protected by adults, especially those who have them in their care as parents.
    As to the discussion about art works v.s. the “artist”, I agree with the idea of not purchasing these books so as not to give money to people who’ve benefited from evil.
    Rubbish to those who think there are no morals, no ethos,no good or evil, if you’ve been an abused child, you’ve met evil.
    Addressing knowledge of the artist tainting one’s perception of their art; it’s human nature. I think generally speaking, knowing ill, especially evil, of a musician, author, or artist colors what we think of what they produce. As a reader especially, you look through the eyes of the protagonist, oneself, and the author’s. How can I NOT see Lew Alton as a monster trying to avoid suicide so as not to injure his family, who now see him “redeemed”, knowing what I do about MZB? Did she have any of these sentiments? Did she know how sick she was? Did she feel any sorrow for the countless lives she bent, broke, and warped?
    THAT canvas will always bear an ugly STAIN.

  51. undoubtedly MZB would have been subject to abuse herself as a child, her outlet her writing. if you are so outraged then do something about the abuse that goes on now rather than trashing her books. if you are all so concerned what are you doing to protect children and young people now? what are you doing to affect public policy on the matter? what services do you support that works to guide people to healing from these issues. what have you done to heal your own issues? why on earth was she glorified and elevated to guru anyway? when did you give your power away? what good is burning her books going to do? do you think she really gives a flying rats about it? grow up and clean up your own back yards and dirty secrets before hoeing into someone else’s life who isn’t even alive to comment about it. Interesting her daughter waited until after her death almost as courageous as her mother not disclosing the abuse in the first place!

  52. “If you have 10 writers in a room you may as well put your head in a sack full of snakes.”
    –Anthony Bourdain “Parts Unknown – S3 Ep 6 – Mississippi”

    At least I think that’s the quote. It’s from right after the visit to the William Faulkner’s home.-and-museum.

    I’m not suggesting that anybody excuse anybody for anything. Only saying that artists and writers are a breed apart. Their brains probably missfire a bit more than those of “normal” folks (whatever that is) but they are sane enough to interpret those missfires in ways that entertain the rest of us. The boundary between entertain / annoy / institutionalize / incarcerate – is sometimes razor thin.

  53. @Scotch7 I AM a writer, and I can tell you that I am *NOT* a breed apart. Nor is any other artist or creative individual that I know, and virtually every other writer I know who isn’t terminally up their own ego would agree. There is no difference and there is no excuse. That is the whole point of this article. So if you’re not going to hear it from the horse’s mouth, who are you going to hear it from?

  54. Mandy-

    “if you are all so concerned what are you doing to protect children and young people now?”

    Thank you for asking! I’m a lawyer at a DV shelter. Among other things, I keep abusers from having custody of children. I also volunteer at a rape crisis center.

    “clean up your own back yards and dirty secrets before hoeing into someone else’s life”

    It’s time to confess to my darkest secret – in college I pirated music. Now that that’s off my soul, can I again be uncomfortable financially supporting child rapists?

  55. “Writers, as I know from looking in my own dark heart, are generally terrible people. Put 10 of them together and it’s like putting your head in a bag of snakes. If you put just five writers in a room, it’s still an ugly hell-broth of envy, hatred, and jealousy. ”
    – Anthony Bourdain #PartsUnknown [CNN]

    Again offered for context. Prior quote was done (badly) from memory, this is a transcript. – Scotch7

  56. Crimes against children, even minor ones are deplorable. There should be no excuses and victims should be encouraged to talk about it so that they can begin to heal. Crimes against anyone who is unable to defend themselves are deplorable. Spouse bashing and other bully crimes. Hate crimes are just as unacceptable, race, religion, sexuality. But we still enjoy music written by drug addled people. I take on the view that art and artist have to be separated or art world be very limited. MZB was a bad person. But she wrote a good book. She should be stripped of awards and proceeds given to victims services. But she still wrote good books. If the money goes to helping people then we don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying it.

  57. Eric Gill’s daughter broke her silence recently. It seems that Gill was much better at grooming than MZB, and that the daughters were adolescent, rather than children, when he seduced them. She says that she does not feel abused and has nothing against her father. Now this is probably delusional – like the people who say they were beaten as children and it did them no harm at all, when you can see every day of their lives how fucked up they are – but one can at least say that it lacks two of the worst taints of MZB’s astonishing record: the intense violence, and the assault upon small children. Gill did not start on his daughters when they were three. Gill was a monster – before he ever had children, he had started out with his own sister, and he had somehow managed to convince his sister and his wife to live together and be pretty much his harem – and I never cared either for his flat and stylized art or for his weird blend of obvious sexiness, with frequent designs of naked young women, with ceremonial Catholicism. I simply don’t think he is an important enough artist to wonder whether his art was worth his record of incest and grooming. But if anyone wants to argue that MZB’s life is not relevant to her art, I disagree. Her life is the most appalling demonstration of the essential mendacity of her feminist pseudery. Women are the well of life, the essence of existence, all that is good – so I rape female children and cooperate with my boy-abusing husband. I hated MZB from the moment I could understand what she was about, and I am not in the least surprised to find that her house was the Hell-hole it was.

  58. Have a look again at the works of MZB – I’m going to have a dip into The Mists of Avalon. I was one of the girls groomed by William Mayne. at the time I thought the stories were excellent but as a concerned and informed parent I go back and see they are grooming tools – reflections of William Mayne’s pedophilia mind envisioning the naked skin of girls together. His books encouraged me to revel in separating from my parents, in seeing the, as my antagonists rather than my advocates and subtlety and subliminally groomed me for an invitation to his house in Thornton Rust. Whether he planned this or the books simply innately reflected his pedophilia I can’t say but by making his pedophilia psyche seem “normal” In his plots (children hiding their actions from their parents, communal nakedness) it made it easier for him to groom me. Now it’s easy to say I can separate The Mists of Avalon from what I now know of MBZ …..but I strongly suspect that on reading it I will see elements that reflect the innate beliefs of a pedophile. Anyone who has read it more recently, is there any evidence of this in the plot or the characterisation? Sometimes divorcing the art from the pedophile is the naivity of the observer or worse, the wilful denial of the existence of grooming aspects in the art because the observer is just a “bystander”. In this instance the bystander (not a victim) condones the behaviour of the pedophile writer by not honouring the pain of the victims and saying “I don’t see your pain in the pedophile’s book or art, it’s nothing to do with me so I am ignoring the fact that the creator was your abuser and permitting Marion Zimmer Bradley or William Mayne to continue to be praised as writers” rather like going to an exhibition of Hitler’s paintings out of love for his art (which was very average)- rather insulting to his millions of victims. Now I have a conflict. How do I get a copy of Mists of Avalon without inadvertently condoning MZB?

  59. AnneLouise, thanks and my profound respect for sharing. With your permission I’d like to requote this comment in an article regarding how messages and indoctrination can be hidden by writers in cases like this.

  60. AnneLouise: Just off the top of my head, thinking about predatory elements in TMoA, it’s easy to see grooming behavior in Viviane’s treatment of Morgaine: bringing her up as a daughter, setting her apart as special from the others and the only one to receive her personal attention, telling her to guard her chastity until told what to do with it (thereby taking her sexual agency for Viviane’s own, and setting a presumption that Morgaine will be ordered to have sex someday and have to obey), and then when she does give that order — IIRC Morgaine’s all of sixteen at the time — she lies and manipulates Morgaine into incest in the process. I can see a lot of the pedophile’s viewpoint in all of that.

    Now, the incest itself isn’t Bradley’s fault; it’s part of the original Arthurian story. But the fact that it’s not Morgaine’s choice, but forced on her, is a departure from the original, and very much draws from the concepts Bradley lived: that young people’s developing sexuality did not belong to themselves, but was owned by the adults, who had the right to manipulate it as they chose. Yes, Bradley paints Morgaine as feeling angry and betrayed, but 1) only for lying her into an incestuous situation, not for taking control of whom she had sex with and when in the first place, and 2) the author paints Viviane as basically being a good person doing what she had to do, and later Morgaine more or less grudgingly comes to accept that as truth. Did Bradley think of herself as being a good person doing what she had to do, and hope Moira would eventually come around to thinking of her that way? No way to tell, but it would be consistent with the way she drew the mother figure in her novel.

  61. While I cannot condone or excuse sexual treatment of children, I can separate the author and the work easily. I recommend Mists of Avalon to all interested parties–not to strict Christians, however–most of whom would not read fantasy anyhow.

  62. If you read Moira Greyland’s poems, she implies that Marion Zimmer Bradley started to drown her in a bathtub in a fit of rage because Moira was disinclined to have sex with her.

    This is well beyond any question of pedophilia. Walter Breen seems to have been a pedophile. Breen espoused claims that it was OK for adults to have sex with children, and seems to have wanted to believe that all the children he had sex with were willing, in the typical pattern of self-delusion of someone with actual pedophiliac tendencies. Marion Zimmer Bradley seems to have been something much worse than that — “cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually”, in the words of Ms. Greyland.

    Ms. Greyland actually wrote in a comment:
    “…but I assure you, the villain in our lives is our mother. Not Walter. He committed horrible crimes, yes, but he loved us. He loved us. I do not think she loved anything or anyone.”

    MZB was apparently extraordinarily violent to her children. I really haven’t read anything this stomach-churning in a long time. Attempting to drown her daughter. Tying her daughter to a chair and threatening to pull her teeth out with pliers. This is stuff I expect to read about when I read about sadistic guards in CIA gulags torturing prisoners.

    Regarding MZB’s writing.

    I have to say, I always got an incredibly disconcerting vibe out of MZB’s writing, and so I never really liked it, and kept dropping her stories halfway through, although they were heavily recommended to me. I couldn’t put my finger on it at the time, but now I’d say that what disconcerted me was love of abuse of power; the sort of thing you see in typical cult leaders. Not merely love of power, but love of power because of its potential for abuse of the powerless. Power-drunk sadism. Every time this sort of power-drunk sadism shows up, MZB just seems to love writing about it, and when it isn’t there, the writing becomes dry… when I first read her books it was squicking me out and I wasn’t able to articulate why.

    We can probably separate Carravagio’s art from his extremely violent life because it really doesn’t seem to relate to it. (Except insofar as he may have had lead poisoning from the paint he used, which may have caused the violence.)

    Mondrain’s Neo-Plasticist work is so abstract that I cannot imagine anything about his life, of any sort, which would change my opinion of it.

    Similarly, it seems easy enough to use Eric Gill’s typeface without any associations with Gill’s personal life — it’s a typeface, it has no connotations. If we avoid it, it would be to avoid giving money to the man, but he is dead.

    Gil’s artwork, on the other hand, which is full of sexual imagery, is significantly more disturbing when you know about his deranged life of sexual abuse of anything that moved.

    Many of Woody Allen’s movies are loaded with pedophiliac and voyeuristic imagery, which always seemed odd, but comes across much worse since his daughter’s allegations.

    And it is similar for the work of a writer like Bradley, whose writing is full of violence and who turns out to have been violent herself.

    The more representational a work is, the more its context matters. This is true in the sciences as well as the arts. Pure mathematics lives (or dies) by its inherent quality, and the creator is practically irrelevant (and an extraordinarily large number of great mathematicians were seriously deranged). But in sociology, an untrustworthy researcher with a known bias will create untrustworthy research with the same bias.

  63. I am extremely late in this conversation, but I still felt compelled to comment. I have a BA in English with a minor in Comparative Literature, and in most of my literature-based classes we learned about the author before (or during) reading the work. It was standard procedure to use our insight into the author’s life to help us understand what they had written. Expanding on what Nathanael said, it IS possible to separate the creator / researcher from the product, but only when the product doesn’t require extra insight to fully understand it. That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy or learn from the product if the creator was morally dubious or even completely vile, but it should be taken into account in the process. In other words, I don’t believe that you can totally separate the art from the artist, but you CAN enjoy art *despite* the artist.

  64. I try to remain neutral on this subject.
    I’m not denying it happened nor am I going to say it happened.
    Marion died 1999 and this controversy surfaced 14 years later..?
    Doesn’t anyone find that strange..?
    But with any argument there are always two sides, unfortunately Marion can’t speak for herself, and it seems increasing in this day and age to accuse dead people of heinous crimes, when they can’t defend themselves. So did it happen? I don’t know, I want to hear both side of the story. Simply put a one sided story is no story at all.

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