Marion Zimmer Bradley

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Name: Marion Zimmer Bradley
Also Known As: MZB, Marion Astra Zimmer, Miriam Gardner, Lee Chapman, Morgan Ives, John Dexter, Marion Breen, Astra Zimmer, Valerie Graves, Elfrida Rivers, Elfrieda Rivers, Ms. Bee, M'ZeeBee
Occupation: author, editor
Medium: Novels and short stories
Works: Too many to list; series include Darkover and the Mists of Avalon
Official Website(s): http://mzbworks.com/ (Was at http://mzbworks.home.att.net/ from ? - 2010) & primary works by format
Fan Website(s):
a portrait of MZB from a flyer for an autograph session at the iconic Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore in Minneapolis, Minnesota, year unknown
On Fanlore: Related pages

Contents

Marion Zimmer Bradley (1930-1999) wrote the Darkover and Mists of Avalon series, which inspired a great deal of fanfiction. Her conflict with a fanfiction author became a legend, supposedly making it impossible for her to publish one of her own novels. This controversy is commonly cited by authors who cite copyright issues and object to fanfiction and by others both inside and outside of fandom.

Main article see Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy

Writing

from Darkover Newsletter #5, artist: Diana Paxson, from an invitation sent out inviting various local fans/writers etc. to celebrate Marion's Silver Jubilee as writer in 1977.

In her pro-writing, MZB wrote or collaborated on at least seven series, 25 additional standalone novels, and countless short stories. [1]

Darkover Series

A fantasy science-fiction alternate universe in which inhabitants of a single planet, Darkover, could use magic for good or evil.

She edited early zines of this universe, Mezrab and "her earlier fanzine, Astra's Tower."[2] Later on, she edited and gave her name to published anthologies of stories by other authors in the Darkover universe.

See Darkover for more information on that series.

Mists of Avalon Series

A fantasy series set in the Arthurian tradition, but with a feminist slant, in the point of view of Morgaine and Guinevere. The first book of that name was quite successful both in and out of the SFF genre. Later novels in the series were co-written with other authors, who have continued the series after MZB's death.

Early Pulp Fiction

Wikipedia lists pseudonyms that she used early in her career -- Morgan Ives, Miriam Gardner, John Dexter, and Lee Chapman, among others, that she used to write gay and lesbian pulp fiction novels. For example, I Am a Lesbian was published in 1962. Though relatively tame by today's standards, they were considered pornographic when published, and were a rare source of gay lit of the time.[3][4]

Activities as a Fan

Writing in Star Trek and Tolkien Fanzines: MZB wrote Star Trek and Tolkien stories for fanzines, as well as for Darkover:

Writing in Darkover Fanzines: Marion contributed directly and indirectly to a number or fanzines about Darkover. A complete list is here: Darkover.

Other Fan Activities:

Some Comments on Star Trek Fandom:

In 1980, MZB wrote of Star Trek fandom in the The Keeper's Price's forward:
Not until women saw Star Trek did they start identifying themselves, just as young children did, with the heroes and heroines of that universe. They were too old to put on Vulcan ears and Enterprise T-shirts and play at being Spock, Kirk, Uhura, and their friends, so they wrote stories about them instead. And, in a wave of amateur fiction, completely unlike any phenomenon in science fiction history, these stories somehow got published in amateur magazines. There were hundreds of them; or let me amend that; there were thousands, though I have only read a few hundred. And when they were sated with Star Trek, many of them turned to Darkover. I don’t agree with Jacqueline Lichtenberg that ‘Darkover is just an advanced version of Star Trek for grownups.’ I was never that much of a Star Trek fan, and not till after I knew Jacqueline did I ever learn much about the phenomenon of Star Trek fandom. Jacqueline, driven like myself, one of those who created her own fantasy world in her teens and transmuted it into a professional series as an adult, used Star Trek fandom, calculatedly (as I used the fanzines built around the old pulp fiction) as a way of learning her craft and getting her early writings in print... [6]

MZB as a Mentor to Other Fan Writers

There were many instances of Bradley's encouragement to other fiction writers who wrote both original fantasy fiction, as well as fan fiction, and many people remember her kind words and assistance:
"I wrote a letter of appreciation to one of my favorite authors, Marion Zimmer Bradley. To my surprise, she wrote back, three pages of single-spaced typewriting. At that time, the Friends of Darkover held periodic writing contests and published its own fanzine. I sent her a couple of stories and received encouraging comments (and, as I remember, an award for one of the stories and fanzine publication of the other). When Marion began editing the first Sword & Sorceress, she suggested I send her a story for consideration. I was as elated by the invitation as if it had been an actual acceptance, and threw myself into writing the best story I could. It was a modest little story, a respectable first sale. Marion showed me that I could take my writing seriously, even if I didn’t yet know how to do it at a professional level.[7]"

Bradley, however, could also be a harsh critic, as well as meracurial in her assesmemnt and evaluation. As with any writing and publishing business, Marion did not mentor writers she felt did not meet her standards. One young writer remembers painfully how Marion’s rejection letter caused her to stop writing for years. [8] Another remembers being told that her story was “objectionable” because it reversed traditional gender tropes, leaving the hero to suffer a fate worse than death (aka sexual assault). [9] These reactions to Marion’s rejection letters may have been exacerbated, in part, because of her reputation for encouraging and promoting new writers.

Her Attitudes Regarding Writing Fan Fiction Based on Her Canon

MZB had said that she didn't so much create Darkover as she discovered it, and she encouraged fan fiction writers to write in, what she called, her "back yard." She herself edited fiction fanzines, the DAW anthologies, and the long-running publication Darkover Newsletter in which there was much discussion regarding fannish creations.

She was actively aware of and participated in the fandom arising from her Darkover stories and novels. After recieving a fan story, Darkover Summer Snow by Eileen Ledbetter, Bradley was inspired to create her own fanzine, Starstone which was first published in 1978. [10]

Bradley also gave specific approval to several zines, including Moon Phases, and implicit acceptance to others. In 1982, she edited the Darkover fanzine Bitter Honeymoon and Other Stories: The Amorous Adventures of Dyan Ardais.

Bradley also actively encouraged fan writers to write Darkover and other fan fiction in her universes. In early 1978, she wrote:
Mostly I let other people write about Darkover because it is so much fun to read a new Darkover story without having to sit down and slog through the writing of it! I don't need to borrow ideas. After all, I KNOW what really happened... and yes, it's egoboo, but it's not just an ego trip. I'm just sharing, I think. I don't have as much time to write Darkover stories as I'd like to. I have to do other books that pay me more. So I like to think somebody's keeping it warm for me when I'm not there. [11]
In an undated Darkover Newsletter (issued between January and May of 1978), a fan writes a con report about Boskone and describes how a fan approached her, and several others, and instigated a lengthy discussion about the inherent problems regarding Marion Zimmer Bradley's heavy involvement in Darkover fandom. While the account below was written for publication in the newsletter, it is specifically addressed to MZB and to Jacqueline Lichtenberg. It provides much foreshadowing to the events that would occur fourteen years later:
[Name redacted]... wondered about the problems involved when pro writers allow (and even encourage) fans to write fiction in their universes. We all floundered around in this discussion because none of us understand copyright law, and because we consider this a potentially sensitive subject... [Name redacted] wondered why you as pros encourage fans to write Darkover and Sims fiction. We said (1) to make us happy and allow us the egoboo of getting published (2) to collect ideas on what interests us, for possible future work, thus allowing us to contribute to your work. We said you did much of the fanzine [referring to Starstone] yourselves, because fans were going to write fan fiction anyway, and this way they can do it officially and legally. You aren't just out for egoboo or professional or personal self-aggrandizement. (And, what the heck, if this publicity manages to help win a Hugo for you, well, your influence on the sf field can only be good.)... [Name redacted] is particularly concerned that fan writers might get hurt feelings if one of you takes one of our ideas and uses it professional. We said, 'No, we'd be pleased,' and besides we trust you. Hopefully, we all manage to trust each other, and we fans get to feel part of a living universe. But I still thinks she feels that this would be unfair to us, that you would be using us, albeit with our very willing consent. I said certainly, you're 'using' us, and we 'use' the opportunities you provide, and everybody's happy... [Name redacted] also worried about the possibility of YOU getting hurt, at least in reputation, if some encouraged fan writes a story or zine in your universe and proceeds to get it copyrighted themselves, perhaps leading to legal hassles. All we could say is, we have to trust each other. [12]
Marion Zimmer Bradley responded in the same newsletter:
... While I can't speak for Jacqueline, I participate in Darkover fandom because it is FUN. I would be writing non-publishable peripheral Darkover stories for my own amusement, and publishing fanzines about something or other... where does it say I have to be professional all the time. I am a fan. I think [name redacted] argument stems from a fear that Jacqueline and I will exploit young writers using their ideas in our professional work, ideas which they, themselves, might later make use of in their own private world... I have encouraged young writers to speak in their own voice -- one of the first things I ever wrote to Jacqueline was that she would never do anything worth doing, professionally, until she got out of Roddenberry's Star Trek universe and started creating her own. And of course, this ties in with the fannish question I get very tired of hearing... 'Where do you get your ideas? As if ideas were a precious commodity, so scarce that I would be reduced to stealing them... I can get a couple of thousand story ideas between breakfast and dinner, and very few of them will I ever have time to write... So why should I snitch any of the fannish ideas about what happens in the Starstone world (which I, frankly, regard as a 'parallel world' to Darkover, not MY Darkover, not quite.) Now, I suppose if I were sick, or exhausted, or overworked, or had writer's block, and happened to come across a fannish story with the gem of a good idea it in, I might write the kid and say, 'Hey, I like that idea, and you probably don't have the skill to make a novel out of it. I'll give you (say) twenty bucks for the idea.' And if the kid should say, 'Hey, wow, I'm flattered, use it for nothing,' I would still say, 'No, I want you to sell it to me, so that you kick if I do something completely different than you want to, or so you won't later think I ripped you off, when you get older.' On the contrary, if the kid says, 'I want to use it in my own private world some day for a story of my own,' then I would just have to start with that idea and work on it till its own author would never know I began there... Mostly I let other people write about Darkover because it is so much fun to read a new Darkover story without having to sit down and slog through the writing of it! I don't need to borrow ideas. After all, I KNOW what really happened... and yes, it's egoboo, but it's not just an ego trip. I'm just sharing, I think. I don't have as much time to write Darkover stories as I'd like to. I have to do other books that pay me more. So I like to think somebody's keeping it warm for me when I'm not there. [13]
After Darkover became popular both from Bradley's published books and among fanwriters, Bradley began to accept submissions from fan and professional authors for a series of Darkover anthologies published by DAW, beginning with The Keeper's Price (1980). It was in the author's foreward for "The Keeper's Price" that Bradley stated her own disapproval with authors who sought to suppress fan fiction set in the worlds they had created, as well as why she enjoyed writing alongside fans in Darkover:
…by reading the Darkover short stories written by my young fans, and sometimes criticizing them and trying to explain just what is wrong with them, I have somehow learned to write short stories myself and been encouraged to try my hand at this best and subtlest of fictional forms. The four stories in this volume are, I think, among the best of my short stories, and they were written because, after seeing the kind of mistakes I could recognize in other people’s stories, I could learn to avoid them in my own writing. So that I have learned as much from my fans as I hope they have learned from me about the art of writing.

Some critics have been disturbed about the possibility that I might exploit my young fans, or steal their ideas, or use their work in future novels. No, except that everything I read finds its way into my subconscious, there to undergo a sea-change which alters raw ideas into fiction. But this is just as likely to happen with a story by roger Zelanzy – or Daphne du Maurier – or Agatha Christie – or Pearl S. Buck.

Of course I get ideas from my young fans, just as I give them ideas. But as for stealing their ideas – I have quite enough ideas of my own. If their ideas find lodgment in my head, it is in the same way that I “got the idea” for my novel Planet Savers by reading a classic study of a multiple personality, as an assignment in my psychology class; or that I might get an idea from National Geographic or Scientific American, which are magazines in which I browse when temporarily short of inspiration…

This is why I don’t mind other writers writing about Darkover, and at the same time, I have no wish and no need to exploit their ideas. If I ever do make use of a fan’s writing, it will be so altered and transmuted by its trip through my own personal dream-space that even the inventor would never recognize her idea, so alien it would be when I got through with it!

Nor do I feel threatened by stories not consistent with my own personal view of Darkover. To me all Darkover stories written by anyone else are presumed to be in a parallel world to “my” Darkover; or one of the parallel universes, which can be very close to my Darkover, or very different, just as the young writer wishes.

Because, in a very real sense, I regard myself not as the “inventor” of Darkover, but its discoverer. I others wish to play in my fantasy world, who am I to slam its gates and in churlish voice demand that they build their own? If they are capable of it, they will do someday. Meanwhile, if they wish to write of Darkover, they will. All the selfish exclusiveness of the Conan Doyle estate (which went so far as to demand that the late Ellery Queen anthology, ‘The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes’, a very fine volume of Holmes pastiches, be withdrawn from sale and never reprinted, thus denying Holmes lovers a wonderful reading experience) as not stopped lovers of Sherlock from writing their own stories and secretly sharing them. Why should I deny myself the pleasure of seeing these young writers learning to their thing by , for a little while, doing my things with me?

Or, look at it this way. When I was a little kid, I was a great lover of ‘pretend’ games, but after I was nine or ten, I could never get anyone to play them with me. And now I have a lot fo fans, and friends, who will come into my magic garden and play the old ‘pretend games’ with me. [14]

Her Attitudes Regarding Role-Playing Games Based on Her Canon

In 1986, MZB had this response to a fan regarding one of her characters in respect to a game he was making with friends:

I do not like or approve of fantasy role-playing games, but if people must play them, they should make up their own characters and not muddle with mine...I finally managed to persuade myself that the idiots who used my character in the fantasy role-playing game were only playing with their idea of the character, not mine, and wrote a couple of other stories about her; but I still think if people don't have enough imagination to invent their own characters, they should play tiddlywinks or chess instead of borrowing someone else's work. I don't mind others writing about my characters -- people who can write, and people who read, are my kind of people and can have anything I have. About people who play fantasy role-playing games, I'm not so sure. Why aren't they home reading a good book? Or writing one? [15]

MZB's Letter to the Darkover Newsletter Which Ends Her Involvement with Fan Fiction

"Holes in My Yard," was an open letter by MZB that was in Darkover Newsletter #58, published in Septemer 1992:

I've finished 'Rediscovery' and 'Return to Darkover'... My next project was going to be 'Contraband,' the novel about Dyan Ardais I mentioned in the introduction to Elisabeth Water's story 'A Proper Escort' in 'Renunciates of Darkover.' Unfortunately, my decades of encouraging young writers and allowing fans to 'play in my yard' just caught up to me. Somebody had written a fan novel covering the same time period ["Masks" in Moon Phases #12], and I had read it. It used my characters, sometimes in ways I wouldn't have, but it also contained a few ideas I liked, so I offered the author a reasonable sum of money (about one sixth of what she would have received as the advance of a first novel) and an acknowledgment in the dedication for incorporating those ideas (not her writing) into my book. I offered this even though ideas cannot be copyrighted, because I have never believed in taking advantage of my fans. She wrote back saying that, while she could live with the monetary compensation I'd offered, what she wanted was a shared byline. It might be that she thought I was asking to collaborate with her, although I cannot imagine what in my letter could have possibly given her that impression... This was essentially the same deal I made with Jacqueline Lichtenberg on 'Thendara House.' but unfortunately this person still did not seem willing to accept the deal. I talked to... my editor at DAW, who says the only person she would agree to have me share a byline on a Darkover novel with is Mercedes Lackey, who has collaborated with me on my last two Darkover novels, and is the writer to whom I am leaving the series when I am no longer able to write it. [My editor] also says that, under the circumstances, DAW cannot publish 'Contraband.' She was kind enough to refrain from pointing out that I had been an idiot to read fan fiction set in my world without a legal release form. I have, however, agreed to refrain from such behavior in the future. From now on, the only Darkover material I will read is anthology submissions accompanied by the proper release form. If you publish a Darkover fanzine, run an APA etc., do NOT send me copies. They will be returned unread by my office staff. (Instead, send any courtesy copies you would have previously sent to me directly to [address for the Mugar Library in Boston]. This is the depository for the 'Marion Zimmer Bradley Collection, and your work will contribute to making the collection more complete.) I'm sorry that things have come to this. I never wanted to have to keep a 'professional distance' from my fans, and for more than twenty years I didn't need to. But I guess even the longest streak of good luck runs out eventually, and sometimes one bad apple does spoil the whole barrel. I regret having to give up a novel that I had already started work on, and I apologize to all of you who wanted to read it. --Signed, Marion Zimmer Bradley.

There is a note included after this letter:

The fate of the Darkover fanzines, and of stories Marion Zimmer Bradley does not buy for the anthologies, is still being researched by Mrs. Bradley's lawyer. The person who started this problem has received a cease-and-desist order from Mrs. Bradley's lawyer. If she continues to distribute her Darkover material or writes any further Darkover material, there will be serious legal consequences, both for her and any fanzine or APA editors who may publish her material. We will keep readers abreast of further developments. -- Signed, Ann Sharp (editor of the newsletter).

For more on this, see Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy.

Optioned For TV Series

Bradley's Mists of Avalon books were turned into a cable TV mins-series in 2001.

On February 13 2012, Ilene Kahn Power and Elizabeth Stanley, two television producers announced they had optioned the rights to turn the Darkover series into a television series. Significant funding still remains to be secured and as of 2012 the project is still in the early planning stages.

Her Connection to Walter Breen

Walter Breen, Bradley's husband from 1964 to 1990 (though they separated in 1979) was heavily involved in her fandom where he edited and wrote for a number of Darkover fanzines. He also caused controversy due to his behavior with young boys at SF conventions, in particular, the 1964 "Boondoggle" or "Breendoggle". In 1991 he pleaded guilty to child molestation and died in prison in 1994.[16]

References

  1. here Marion Zimmer Bradley: A Bibliography, by Dawn Bovasso
  2. Zimmer, Paul Edwin. "Appreciation", in: Return to Avalon, edited by Jennifer Roberson. New York, NY: Daw Books, 1996. p. 303.
  3. MZB's wikipedia page
  4. Obituary: Marion Zimmer Bradley The Independent (UK), September 30, 1999.
  5. MZB's wikipedia page
  6. from the foreward of The Keeper's Price, published in 1980
  7. An Apprenticeship With Marion by Deborah J. Ross dated January 12, 2012. Deborah would later be selected to co-write several of Marion's books after she became ill and continues to publish Darkover books after Marion's death in 1999.
  8. Vampires Saved my Soul... after Marion Zimmer Bradley tried to kill it by Dianne Sylvan, posted October 15, 2008, accessed February 21, 2012
  9. Arlenecharris's comment in Vampires Saved my Soul... after Marion Zimmer Bradley tried to kill it by Dianne Sylvan, posted October 15, 2008, accessed February 21, 2012
  10. "It is interesting to note that "Darkover Summer Snow" was the first amateur story about Darkover. When Marion Zimmer Bradley received it, she was so impressed that she decided to establish Starstone, the first Darkover fanzine." "Beyond Bounds: Intergenerational Relationships in Science Fiction and Fantasy" by Linda Frankel, 2007
  11. from Darkover Newsletter #11
  12. from Darkover Newsletter #11
  13. from Darkover Newsletter #11
  14. Bradley, "The Keeper's Price 7" New York, DAW books, 1980, page 14
  15. from Darkover Newsletter #31, January 1986
  16. Rare Coins Expert Charged With Child Molestation and Wikipedia page on Walter Breen
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