Mercedes Lackey

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Name: Mercedes Lackey
Also Known As: Misty Lackey
Occupation: writer
Medium: books,filk
Works: Valdemar series, Elemental Masters series, more
Official Website(s): Worlds of Mercedes Lackey
Fan Website(s):
On Fanlore: Related pages

Mercedes Lackey is the author of numerous fantasy novels in several series, most notably the Valdemar series and a group of interlocking series featuring elves and other magical beings in (mostly) modern urban settings.

She has also written many short stories and edited several anthologies, some of those with Marion Zimmer Bradley.

Lackey the Fanficcer

Prior to becoming a professional author, Lackey was a writer of fanfiction. [1].

She wrote fanfic in the Darkover universe as well as and stories inspired by a role-playing game titled Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic.[2] Diana Tregarde, later one of Lackey's series protagonists, makes her first appearance in one of the latter stories. [3] Both Bradley and C. J. Cherryh served as mentors to Lackey as she transitioned from fanfiction to professional publication.

Lackey was also a very frequent contributor to the primarily Star Wars zine Shadowstar.

In 2006, Lackey revealed that "I....shuffle mumble shuffle....still write fanfic. Of all darn things, fanfic set in a superhero MMORPG, City of Heroes".[4] She is also one of several writers who has created a story arc or arcs at the request of the game's sponsors.[5]

Lackey the Filker

Lackey is the author of a sizeable number of filk song lyrics. Her earliest work includes filk inspired by the novels of C.J. Cherryh, but following the publication of Arrows of the Queen, most of her subsequent work has been inspired by her own Valdemar novels.

Since she has very rarely created music to accompany her lyrics, most of the tunes for Lackey's songs have been written by other hands. Her best-known musical collaborator is probably Leslie Fish, but other composers have included Heather Alexander, Cecilia Eng, Michael Longcor, and members of the folk groups Tempest and Golden Bough. Many of Lackey's songs have been recorded and released on albums published by Off Centaur Publications and/or Firebird Arts & Music. A few of the earliest live convention albums feature performances by Lackey herself, and she performed the part of Selenay on the album Heralds, Harpers and Havoc.[6].

She was also a Darkover filker: see The Horse-Tamer's Daughter (album) and Xenofilkia.

Lackey the Believer/Non-Believer

From alt.books.m-lackey FAQ:

4. Does she really believe in all that stuff she writes about?

Maybe. She might be a member of an alternative religion; she hasn't said for sure. However, she sums it up best in the Author's Note at the back of Sacred Ground (1994 edition):

"I am not a guru, shaman, Grand High Pooh-Bah, Guardian, Mistress of the Martian Arts, or any incarnation of the same. I have no lock on Immortal Wisdom, and in my experience, anyone who claims to, has his eye on your money (granted, I do too, but only insofar as entertaining you enough to buy my next book). To confuse me with what I write is as fallacious as confusing a truck driver with his Peterbilt." [7]

Lackey's Attitudes Toward Fanfiction Set in Her Own Universes

Mercedes Lackey's position regarding fanfic set in her original literary universes has varied considerably over time.

M Lackey Fan Fiction Release Form
  • 1988(?) - Establishes guidelines allowing members of Queen's Own[8] (an authorized fan organization devoted to her Valdemar series) to create personae and write fanfic set in Valdemar -- specifically, in an AU branching from an alternate ending to Arrow's Fall).[9]
  • 198? - Develops and circulates a legal release form[10] which prospective fan writers are asked to sign and return prior to circulating fanfic based on her published works.
  • 198?-199? - Hosts and moderates an online community, Modems of the Queen, on GEnie[11]. Participants who have submitted release forms create fanfic set both in Valdemar and in Lackey's "urban elves" universe.
  • 1992 Publishes a long statement in Queen's Own. Queen's Own Newsletter. See 1992 Statement Regarding Fanworks.
  • 199?-200? - Citing advice from her agent, Russell Galen, withdraws support for most fanfiction based on her published works. Stories circulate indicating that she and/or Galen and/or her legal counsel aggressively discourage fanfiction brought to her attention during this period.
  • 2002 - Releases a commentary via her Web site discussing the evolution of fanfiction from printzines to the online era.[12] See Copyright, fair use, and complications far beyond the ken of mortal man.....
  • 2002 - Answers a question about fanfic based on Valdemar:
    [A fan asked]: ... would you allow other authors to publish *books* in Velgarth? I've noticed that the release form says "manuscript for a short story or novel." Reading the release carefully, I find it does not prevent an author from reaching an agreement with you on the subject. It does cover what would happen if you accepted a short story into an anthology - could a similar arrangement be made for a novel? ... [Lackey replied]: A: It's been so long that I read the thing that I'd forgotten about that. Publishing a Valdemar novel would be a Bad Idea. I'm afraid my agent is inclined to go ballistic on the idea of someone publishing a Valdemar novel other than me or Larry. You don't want my agent to go ballistic. He's a very polite shark, but he's still a shark. The release form was copied wholesale from Marion Zimmer Bradley's fanfiction release form and covers the occasion when she used someone's idea(with their permission and signature) in one of her Darkover novels. It also covers the novels that another author finished after her death. It probably shouldn't be in there, considering how our agent feels about fanfic in general and fanfic novels in particular, but if someone ever does take me to court that's one more item to get the case dismissed before it gets into high legal fees. I really hate having to do things this way, but given the grief that Marion went through, and the fact that I've already had hysterical letters accusing gme of "stealing" someone's fanfiction, I'm just not willing to take the chance anymore. [13]
  • 2006 - Reveals on Making Light that she still writes fanfic[4], and that she approves of not-for-profit fanfic[14].
  • 2008 - "No public posting of stories/fanfiction is allowed on the Internet. (This includes talking in character in chatrooms or sending stories via e-mail.) You can submit fanfiction to and read it in the various approved Mercedes Lackey fanzines." [15]
  • 2009 - Releases a statement via her Web site formally granting fanfic writers permission to create derivative works based on her stories, under a specified Creative Commons license.[16]
  • 2010 - Mercedes Lackey's pep talk for NaNoWriMo advises: "try writing fanfiction. [...] It's fun, it's going to give you a giant kick-start, and you would be surprised at how many professionals started out that way (and still do it!)." See Mercedes Lackey's pep talk. [17]
  • 2011 - Lifts the ban of fan fiction, points to her agent as the source of the ban, and reminds fans that if they're writing anything other than PG-13, they need to take 'proper precautions.' She points to fan fiction as derivative work and states it will be licensed under the Creative Commons license. Selling hard copies of fan fiction is still forbidden:
    As you folks already know, my agent, Russel Galen, has in the past been opposed to fanfiction. However, he is also Cory Doctorow's agent now, and Cory is a persuasive little gnome. As a result of this, I am happy to announce that we are officially permitting fanfiction to be licensed as derivative fiction under the Creative Commons umbrella. What this means is: NO, you cannot make money on it. NO, you cannot self-publish a fanfiction novel of Valdemar (or any of my other stuff) and try and sell it on Amazon. And NO, I still am not going to read it, because I am already so far behind on my research reading I barely have time to read that. But YES, you may write and post away, folks, so long as you license it as derivative and under Creative Commons. If it is anything other than PG-13, please take all the proper precautions to stick it somewhere that innocent souls won't be corrupted. Do not scare the children or the horses. Have fun! [18]

1992 Statement Regarding Fanworks (Fiction and Role-Playing Games)

Fanfic and permissions were heavy on many fans' and professional writers mind in late 1992 and early 1993. Something that had just blown up and was certainly relevant to this post by Misty was the 1992 Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy .

Excerpted from Queen's Own Newsletter; WebCite.

"First of all, you may not be aware of it, but I am rare in permitting people to write fanfic based on my work. Many authors and agents feel it confuses copyrights enough that they do not permit it at all. [&]...

"Having established that I am a Good Guy for letting you play in my sandbox, following the footsteps of my mentor Marion Zimmer Bradley, let me continue. Some folks have been horribly incensed because I asked, politely, that you not post Valdemar fanfic over in Prodigy, because that service lists itself as a PUBLISHING SERVICE and not an information service, and it is a FOR PROFIT entity. This was to protect YOU. If my agent or publisher decided that this fanfic was in violation of my copyrights, they could very easily sue YOU, your parents if you are a minor, your school if you were using a school machine ... at the very least you would be required, after paying several thousand dollars in legal costs, to pay several more thousand dollars in apology-ads in major booksellers publications, just like that fanzine publisher. I doubt that many of you have that kind of money to throw away; I certainly don't. And I'm afraid that there would be nothing I could do to call off my agent; in areas where my rights---and HIS future income---are concerned, HE has every right to vigorously protect those rights. Be warned, this Has already happened TO ONE FAN WRITER AND PUBLISHER.

"It becomes more confused because Prodigy is an electronic service and this laps over into the area of "electronic rights" about which there is a great deal of confusion. Because of the confusion, my agent prefers to err in the direction of being conservative and protectionist. This also goes for "MUCKS" or "MUSH's. He is flatly NOT PERMITTING any electronic role-playing of any kind, whether it is on a not-for-profit service or for-profit service. So there it is--NO VALDEMAR MUCKS ... If he finds out, and he will eventually, you will get first a "cease and desist" letter from the agency's legal department--and so will the net you are on. The Sysops will not be happy with you about this. If you continue, you will probably be slapped with a lawsuit. If you are a minor, you will probably see your college fund go down the drain. If you are not, paying the out-of-court legal costs alone will set you back several thousand dollars. This is something I have no power over; we are not only talking about MY income, we are talking about my AGENT's income, and he is not going to tolerate anyone cutting into it. With the advent of Electronic Arts books, we now have a real possibility of commercial computer games ... My agent cannot afford to let one person get in the way of that.

"To add to the confusion, the "Bookman" is looking more and more likely all the time ... Now here is where it cuts REAL near the bone for me. If one of you, in all innocence, messed up my electronic rights, I could completely be shut out of the books-on-disc market for all current series. And, ten, twenty, or thirty years down the road, when all books are coming out on disc, you will have not only ruined my income, you will have prevented others from experiencing the same pleasure you had in discovering my work. Now, I can write anything; I could turn around and write romances if I had to. But it would be a lot of hardship on me--and it would mean NO MORE VALDEMAR BOOKS. Ever. [&]...

"So I am going to require a release from those of you who wish to participate in the electronic fiction CATs, and I am not sure yet what to do about paper fanfic. [QO reported later that: "The decision has been made that you MUST sign a release form for any work created in Misty's Worlds that you intend to share with others ... You need a release form for EVERY story set in Misty's universe that you write..."]. [&]....

"I don't have to let you in my world. I could be like Yarbo, and forbid it entirely. I don't want to deprive you of the kind of pleasure I got from writing Darkover and other fanfic. I like having you in my sandbox. All I am asking for is a little courtesy and consideration.

This piece may be downloaded <or photocopied> and posted to any other systems you choose, with my permission." -- Mercedes Lackey.

A further note from Misty and Larry: " . . . Well, rather than chuck out 20-page Author's Notes full of claims of how much we like fans & like to do right by 'em, we practice it and don't crow about it much. The whole fanfic situation is an example of that; we know how much happiness it brings fans, and we like to nurture that joy.

"The legalities of it all are just business---and I would VERY much like to thank you ALL for being so kind and understanding about it.

"It speaks well of you, and reassures us that we're doing the right thing by devoting some of our (arrgh! too little!) time to pursuing a few good solutions. Thank you!

"Just bear with us until we get an Official Policy thingie nailed down on it. Hugs!"--Misty & Larry

Lackey's Attitudes Toward Role-Playing Games Set in Her Own Universe

See Mercedes Lackey's Attitudes Toward Role-Playing Games Set in Her Own Universe.

Lackey and the Lost MZB Novel

Mercedes Lackey's involvement with Marion Zimmer Bradley is extensive.

Her early short fiction includes work set in Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover universe. [19].

Lackey is also the keeper of the skeleton of "Contraband," the MZB novel that was supposedly scuttled due to complicated involvement with fans.

In March 1993, Bradley wrote, "I'm afraid that Contraband, the novel involved in this unfortunate affair, is dead—at least, for my lifetime. The fan tried to get Mercedes Lackey to read it [the novel] but she refused, so it's possible that Misty could write it after my death. I'm leaving her the notes I made on it before I read the fan's story." [20]

For more on this novel, and Mercedes Lackey's involvement, see The Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy.

Mailing Lists and Fan Clubs


  1. Ebon Tower: Mercedes Lackey Interview Accessed March 15, 2010.
  2. Wikipedia: Mercedes Lackey (Diane Tregarde) Accessed March 15, 2010.
  3. fail_fandomanon: FFA DW Post # 388 - Re: Why didn't anyone TELL me?, Archived version (March 10, 2016)
  4. 4.0 4.1 April 26, 2006 comment by Mercedes Lackey on Making Light. Accessed October 1, 2008.
  5. City of Heroes: News Archive Accessed March 15, 2010.
  6. Worlds of Mercedes Lackey (Ask Misty: Music) Accessed March 15, 2010.
  7. alt.books.m-lackey FAQ; WebCite, 1994, updated in 1998
  8. Queen's Own FAQ Accessed March 15, 2010.
  9. "Queen's Own Fan Fiction Guidelines (accessed 14 Mar 2010)
  10. Release Form for Mercedes Lackey Accessed March 15, 2010.
  11. Queen's Own Newsletter--April 1992 Accessed March 15, 2010. This appears to be the first reference to MotQ as a chapter of Queen's Own, but the GEnie community had been active for some time prior to the newsletter's cover date.
  12. Worlds of Mercedes Lackey: Ask Misty Accessed March 15, 2010.
  13. Writing; archive link, posted in 2002, accessed September 26, 2016
  14. April 26, 2006 comment by Mercedes Lackey on Making Light. Accessed October 1, 2008.
  15. Queen's Own, updated statement, July 22, 2008
  16. Worlds of Mercedes Lackey - News (bottom of page) Accessed March 14, 2010.
  17. Mercedes Lackey's pep talk
  18. Mercedes Lackey: The Official Website, accessed May 1, 2011.
  19. Wikipedia: Free Amazons of Darkover Accessed March 15, 2010.
  20. Darkover Newsletter no. 60