From Fanlore
Jump to: navigation, search
Title: DARKOVER SPINOFF. Or maybe that should read CONTRARY MOTION—VERY.
Creator: Ted Bryan
Date(s): September 1977
Medium: print
Fandom: Darkover
External Links:
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

DARKOVER SPINOFF. Or maybe that should read CONTRARY MOTION—VERY. is a 1977 essay by Ted Bryan, the editor of Marion Zimmer Bradley's early issues of Darkover Newsletter.

It was published in Darkover Newsletter #7.

The essay addresses criticism of Bradley's book "Darkover Landfall," both in terms of a controversy that erupted after a negative review appeared in the feminist Canadian zine, The Witch and the Chameleon. This led to Bradley's August 1977 article in An Evolution of Consciousness: Twenty-Five Years of Writing about Women in Science Fiction, and subsequently, a novel by Joanna Russ called We Who Are About to... (which was written as a response to "Darkover Landfall").

The Essay


A couple of years back, in Amanda Bankier's Canadian fanzine WITCH AND THE CHAMELEON and a few other places, an enormous controversy erupted about DL. Its basis: a certain proportion of feminist readers felt DL was immoral because (1) Camilla, a major character, became pregnant, changed her mind and asked for an abortion, but it was denied for reasons going very deep in what was to become the Darkovan psyche; and (2) the Terran colonists, having landed not on their intended planet for colonization, but on another already inhabited, should not have reproduced their kind at all — survival under such circumstances being unethical! MZB finally got tired of the controversy (her side is spelled out in the article An Evolution of Consciousness in Richard E. Geis's SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW), and said irritablythat she had written DL as she saw it, and if people wanted to argue that the colonists should all have committed race suicide, it was a free country, and why didn't they write their OWN books setting forth this ethical choice and stop second-guessing how she ought to have written hers?

That (she thought) would end the matter—it's a lot easier to make critical noises about someone else's book than to write your own! But now it's happened. Joanna Russ (author of THE FEMALE MAN) has written a novel called WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE [sic], and MZB, coining home from an autographing party at Berkeley's new SF bookstore THE OTHER CHANGE OF HOBBIT, described the plot (as she'd heard it) like this:

"A group of colonists makes landfall on an uninhabited planet, and most of them wish to reproduce and carry on their race. But one determined character stands out against this distinction and murders all the rest so that they cannot."

Now I haven't read the book, and a mere male probably isn't qualified to review it anyhow — Ms. Russ seems to have anticipated all the criticisms which can be made of any of her writings by anyone EXCEPT hardcore feminists, and discounted them, as if no other position were worth discussing. (A position which seems at least debatable, and for that reason I, at least, will not attempt to review the book. Will someone out there review it for the Friends? Maybe one pre-judged feminist review, and one from some other viewpoint, so that readers can take their pick?)

But there is at least one thing to be said for it. At least Ms. Russ has had the guts and decency to put her energy where her mouth was, and to write her own book instead of trashing MZB's. For that, at least, she is to be highly complimented.