Darkovans Invade Boskone!

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Title: Darkovans Invade Boskone! has the subtitle: "Letter to... And From... MZB"
Creator: Catherine Filipowicz
Date(s): circa March 1978
Medium: print
Fandom: Darkover
Topic:
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Darkovans Invade Boskone! is a con report for Boskone 15 by Catherine Filipowicz. It is also a commentary on Darkover fandom and directly addressed Marion Zimmer Bradley, who then directly replies to some of the points in a lengthy letter.

The con report was published in Darkover Newsletter #11 in roughly March 1978.

Boskone 15 was held February 17–19, 1978.[1]

This con report/letter/essay is fascinating for several reasons. First, it is a charming con report, even more so because it describes a female space at a bigger, very male event.

Second, it is an intriguingly transparent, yet not, interchange between fans, and the creator of their fandom.

And third, and most importantly, this is the first time that fans, and Bradley, have had a public discussion regarding Bradley's close relationship with her fans, and the possible problems this might entail. It is, in fact, a DIRECT foreshadowing of the Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy, which came to a head fourteen years later.

Some Topics Discussed

  • Boskone itself
  • Starstone, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen's Darkover fanworks zine (over two years in the planning and creation), had been published about three months earlier
  • activities of Darkover fans, room parties with the traditional bathtub of ice cubes, filking
  • criticism by fans of Darkover fandom, and how devout fans felt about this
  • fears and concerns about Bradley's direct involvement in her fandom
  • the "Lady Clairol" story, Adjustment, by Jacqueline Lichtenberg
  • the power of fans doing outreach, and unpaid advertising work, for things they love
  • an interloper, perhaps a journalist, who caused a bit of trouble
  • fandom developing too many splinter groups and old-time general sf fans rapidly becoming a minority group
  • fans questioning their "use" by TPTB, and vice versa
  • fans and genuine concern regarding the well-being of their benefactors
  • fan eagerness to to belong, to have status, and to be a "good soldier"
  • Star Trek fans got a lot of pushback at traditional science fiction cons, in part, due to the television/media-nature of that fandom, as well as its larger (relatively speaking) creative, female contingent, and the "feral" newbie elements it introduced. Unlike Star Trek (television) fans, the Darkover (books) fans at Boskone received pushback purely for their female-centric fandom, their source material writer's gender, and the different social culture of their fannishness.

The Letter to Marion

Dear Marion,

Judy Kopman and I thought you would enjoy receiving a report on the activities of the Friends of Darkover at Boskone 15, so we have prepared this. A bunch of us got together and decided to throw a FoD party, as a reunion for registered Friends and as a way to introduce new fans to the group. There turned out to be only ten of the former, but dozens of the latter. The "official" Friends represented seven councils. We had four Keepers! Lynne Holdom, Judy Kopman, Patty Floss of Arilinn, and Andrew Sigel of Corolandolis, and representatives from three other councils: Keeper's Tower, Tenerezu, and Council of the Shadowlands.

Our activities began Friday night, when four Arilinn people wore Darkovan outfits to the Costume Party. (See photos.) It was a great feeling when we lined up to have pictures taken for ourselves, and found a whole bunch of other cameras facing us. AND when people came up to Patty Floss and hesitantly asked, "Are you a Keeper?"

When we arrived back at Lynne and Judy's room, we found a pre-party party going on there. Judy and Andy Sigel have kindred minds. They tossed Darkover trivia questions at each other in a contest that left the rest of us gasping in admiration. Then there was the, um... Lady Clairol discussion. Somebody said they had once suggested that the only way to get Regis's hair red for PS ["The Planet Savers"] would be for someone to invent hair dye, or for Lady Clairol to invade Darkover. Well, Judy had Starstone, and everybody read Jacqueline's story. The debate on the Ultimate Meaning of that story was long, often hilarious, and unresolved.

The FoD party was scheduled for the next night, so we spent a good deal of time Saturday placing signs, collecting $, spending $, filling the bathtub with ice cubes, and preparing for the onslaught. The first person meandered in before 6:00, and the last ones were chased around 3:30 so the party lasted with various lulls for nearly 10 hours. A few visitors spent a good part of that with us.

Judy and I devoted the first few hours to going hoarse explaining Darkover and FoD to people. I decided to function as a Keeper's Tower adjunct and recorded names and addresses, passed out flyers, provided information, and tried to match people with councils and other individuals. (I've sent Jacqueline my report.) Judy took the new people who hadn't read Darkover yet. She says if one more person asks her, "Which book should I read first?" she'll scream. She generally suggested BS ["Bloody Sun"] or, SS ["Spell Sword"] but stressed that any order is fine. I also kept sending over to her people interested in joining a R.R., after explaining R.R.s. She found one girl who had never heard of the FoD or the concordance and who was in the middle of constructing her own family trees, timeline, and chronology.

Meanwhile, people sat around in groups and talked. With the roar in that room, it wasn't easy. The place was packed; I distinctly remember walking on the beds, as that was the only way to move around. Laran and the Free Amazons were two of the topics I know of. Eileen Ledbetter [2] sat oblivious in a corner, soaking up her story and the rest of Starstone. But, for me, the best moments came sometime after midnight during a lull. (I think there were only 10 people around at the time.) We had two LASFS people with us, Lee and Barry Gold. After a prolonged giggle session, Barry brought his guitar, and sang for us some of your compositions for Tolkien's songs. "Lament for Boromir" [3] was absolutely stunning.

Sunday at noon many of us attended a Darkover discussion in the con suite, which was part of the con's fan programming. It was one of the first groups to be filled to the limit, and we overwhelmed the moderator. We shared information on forthcoming novels, discussed laran, generally enjoyed being in a large room conducive to Darkovan thinking, and had to be forcibly evicted when our time was up. It was fun.

It would be great if FoD could organize this sort of thing for other big regionals. For instance, I see Anne McCaffrey is GoH for Balticon, so there will be a lot of Darkover fans there. So many people seem to need that little helping hand to get moving to join anything. Hopefully, there are more organization-minded people around willing to play Keeper's Tower at con parties. (And willing to swamp Jacqueline with multi-page reports. Chuckle.) Judy suggests that we should have real FoD flyers, rather than the multi-purpose ones I was using. (I, on the other hand, thought pushing AZ was fine.) We could have sold a minimum of 15 copies of Starstone and 30 of DNL, if we'd only had them. Is there some way arrangements could be made for this sort of thing? It would also be good if councils who are doing things could write in to the DNL about them. I found people asking me what they could do as a council different from what they were doing now (this was a group deeply into SCA).

Now for a little more serious stuff. Two people came by Saturday night who were concerned about the growth of splinter groups in fandom, the FoD being one of these splinters. We spent a good deal of time talking seriously with them, and thought you and Jacqueline should hear about this. Their points of view are so different from ours.

One was a woman who, as far as we know, never gave her name. She claimed to know you, and in fact called you Marion Zimmer. She said she was writing an article on fan groups, and asked questions about how and why we got involved in FoD, what we got out of it, etc. She wanted to study us, and in fact showed up at the "official" discussion on Sunday. At the party, when Judy went into her little talk, this woman said Darkover fandom was "constrictive and restrictive". After Judy picked her jaw up off the floor, she asked the woman to elaborate. She wouldn't. Judy then said something to the effect, "But how can it be?" You can join as many councils as you can get to admit you. There is no race, age, sexual, etc. limitation in joining FoD. That your council could do what it wants, e.g. some councils basically overlap with SCA, others with Simes/Gens, others with Amber, etc, and no one says boo. Your council can be by mail, local, or telephone. And that as far as she knew there wasn't one rule about joining FoD. After Judy told her all this, the woman still insisted that we were too constrictive and wouldn't give reasons why. Judy says she got the feeling that this woman didn't think it proper that you, Marion, take a part in FoD. (Note this is that woman's opinion, NOT ours.)

The other person was Linda Bushyager, who came by twice, and discussed two different but related subjects. Unlike the first woman, Linda didn't attack. She's seriously concerned, and our conversations with her were more a matter of trying to understand each other. Linda is quite worried about fandom developing too many splinter groups. The old-time general sf fans are rapidly becoming a minority group. Cons are having a great deal of fringe-type programming and less general fannish activities. (Boskone doesn't have this problem.) Linda sees the potential for groups like FoD to grow wildly like the ST movement, bringing in too many new fans suddenly, who are more interested in this one group than in sf and fandom as a whole. When a writer and editor/publisher promote the particular fan group, this adds to the growth of the problem.

Although the thought IS troubling, we disagreed. The fact that a group of FoD sat discussing general fandom for a couple hours must show something! We pointed out that most Darkover fans we contact are already sf readers. They may find Darkover fandom through the DAW "ads", but they branch out into general fandom, too. They're not exclusive. (Although I will admit that most of the group spent most of that heavily programmed con thinking about Darkover.) The first inkling of the existence of fandom that many people get is through those "ads". We also said that fandom has grown large, that newcomers need a close group to join first, to give themselves a sort of home base from which they can explore fandom.

Linda also 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 understands copyright law, and because we consider this a potentially sensitive subject. So we settled on discussing feelings, as well as legalities. This is another troubling topic.

Linda has a copy of AZ #6 and saw Judy's copy of Starstone, and noted the copyright of both. She wondered why you as pros encourage fans to write Darkovan or Sime 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 work 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 publiclity manages to help win a Hugo for you, well, your influence on the sf field can only be good—either you or JL. This is hardly a pernicious thing to work for.)

Linda answered (1) fans who are good enough can get published with their own universes—this is partly in reference to Jean Lorrah— and (2) professionals can and should come up with their own ideas. OK, we said, (1) this allows fan writers who AREN'T good enough to learn some of their craft by working with characters and a universe already made up for them and (2) we fans LIKE to try to influence you. I also mentioned the idea (in STL) that ST was as good as it was because it was the product of many minds and talents working harmoniously together.

Linda is particularly concerned that fan writers might get hurt feelings if one of you takes one of our ideas and uses it professionally. 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 think she still 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. (The trouble is that "use" has a bad connotation, and shouldn't.)

Linda also worries about the possiblity 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, again, we have to trust each other. But we can see the possiblility for hurt feelings in either situation here. In any case, this fan fiction phenomenon contributes greatly to the problem of the splintering of fandom—if one sees this as a problem.

Our group and Linda had trouble communicating, because we had such different points of view, but I think we may have succeeded in enlightening each other to some extent. We had never encountered this opposition before, and after discussions on the subject with two people, we're left wondering just how common this concern is in fandom in general. Hopefully there aren't too many people we have to convince!

Now THIS is what I call a con report. We all enjoyed ourselves so thoroughly, living and thinking Darkover for a weekend, that I think this is going to become an annual thing at the Boskones. Everybody was so nice. But the nicest thing of all is that you, Marion, take such an interest in us and all this. There is nothing, but nothing, like the warm feeling of BELONGING that we all get. Eileen Ledbetter was just telling me how Diana Paxson sent her the original of an illo that went with her story...little things like that. It was unfortunate we had to take up 2 pages of report with our "problem" discussions. But, then again, it shows we all LEARNED something, as well as had a good time, and that is very, very important too.

Take care. Catherine

Bradley's Letter in Response

Marion Zimmer Bradley's response to this letter is also printed in Darkover Newsletter #11.

WE ASKED MZB TO ANSWER THIS ONE FOR US, AND HER REPLY FOLLOWS:

About the nameless attacker, I wouldn't be concerned. Anyone who does not have the courage to state her name, rank and credentials can safely be ignored. Actually, from the picture you sent, I have a fair notion who she might be, but since she calls me "Marion Zimmer" it's a cinch she doesn't know me very well and knows nothing whatever about it. I suggest that next time she turns up, and starts in on you, you remind her that the door is open, that you are all there voluntarily, and that if she wishes to lead an exodus, she is free to do so...and close the door after her, please. If she thinks you fans are being exploited, by me, well, I'd like to know about it. ([handwritten]: from you, not from her.)

Linda's remarks are more worthy of comment, since, although I do not know Linda well, I tend to respect her opinions even when I differ. Basically, though, while I can't speak for Jacqueline, I participate in Darkovan 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 the only reason I never did it before was because it never occurred to me that anyone except myself and my sisters, brothers and the rest of my family would be interested. (When I was a little kid, I used to bribe other kids to listen to the stories I told them by giving them candy. I need an audience.) So this isn't professional. Okay, where does it say I have to be professional all the time? I am a fan.

I think possibly Linda's argument stems from a fear that Jacqueline and I will exploit young writers by using their ideas in our professional work, ideas which they, themselves, might later make use of in their own private worlds. Anyone who knows me, knows that 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 could be reduced to stealing them. Well, maybe, to people who never have ideas of their own, the idea of people actually putting ideas out where other people could swipe them, is a big, frightening, wondersome thing. But for heaven's sake, 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, even if I lived as long as Agatha Christie and wrote ten books a year like Bob Silverberg at his most fecund. Non-writers think of the writer as sitting around trying to get ideas. Writers know that what happens, one of the reasons you became a writer, is that you have more ideas in any month than you could use in a lifetime, and the trouble is to stop having ideas long enough to write down some of them into stories.

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 was sick, or exhausted, or overworked, or had a writer's block, and happened to come across a fannish story with the gem of a good idea in it, 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 flatterd, use it for nothing," I would still say, "No, I want you to sell it to me, so you can't kick if I do something with it 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. (My novel COLORS OF SPACE began as a rebuttal with the basic idea of Leigh Brackett's STARMEN OF LLYRDIS —a political situation where only one race could travel in space, due to physical problems. Leigh never recognized it till I told her.)

But mostly I let other people write about Darkover because it is so much fun to read a new Darkover story without having had to sit down and slog through the writing of it! I don't need to borrow ideas. After all, I KNOW what really happened between, say, Lew Alton and Regis Hastur when they were boys. Eileen Ledbetter's version is charming, and I enjoyed her conjecture, but it only hardened my awareness that it didn't happen that way in MY world.[4] Although, co-incidentally, the round-up of the horses occurred in both episodes, probably because it is natural for anyone brought up on a ranch, I understand, to regard that as the high point of the year, and that emotions would run high.

And also, how can I put it? It's egoboo, yes, 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. If Linda thinks it's unethical, I'm sorry. I started it for a very few of my personal friends. I never intended to advertise it anywhere. Back in 1972 or 1973, I had held two or three informal seminars on Darkover, and some fans asked me if I would do another one. I said, rather diffidently, that I thought everybody was kind of tired of it by now, didn't care about hearing me sound off about Darkover any more. But she insisted "Oh, we all like to get together every year," so I shrugged and said, okay, I didn't mind spending an hour or so with them, even if only two or three old friends showed up. The fewest we have ever had at a small regional con was, I think, eight or nine. At MidAmericon we had wall-to-wall people.

I'll see you all at Iguanacon. Maybe I'll collect fifty cents or so from everybody and we'll throw a party. And anyone who wonders why we bother doing it will be —politely— reminded of the open door, and if he, or she, continues bitching, we will turn the Free Amazons loose on her.

Fan Comments

1978

There is a letter in Darkover Newsletter #15/16 (December 1978) by Juanita Coulson that addresses some points of "Darkovans Invade Boskone!":

I much appreciate and admire the steady stream of Darkover publications, even though I'm never going to be a commenter. It is delightful to see Marion finally getting the following she has always deserved. I'm one of the younger writers . . . young er figuratively, in terms of career length . . . she pushed and shoved and made me take the plunge. Far from any fear of stealing ideas, she encourages her "competition" (though we're not in competition; we're all in this together—the business of pouring out the stories that constantly fill our brains). It takes a while, though, for some would-be writers to realize a thing called independent invention (or imagination), and that another writer isn't necessarily "stealing" one's idea; in nearly all cases it's a situation where similar ideas occur to two people simultaneously, and frequently those two have never met. It doesn't mean one stole the other's brain child. If we move through the same environment and share a culture, thanks to our burgeoning population numbers we will inevitably duplicate inspirations now and then. It's not limited to Darkover or to the writings of fiction, either. Note Darwin.

Again, in fiction and creating ideas, it's a matter of who has the energy (and some times who's lucky enough to hit the right editor at just the right time) to communicate the idea first. When Marion finds out another writer has touched on an idea she herself is considering, she doesn't rush to steal it. She leans on the other writer and insists they get busy and do something with it, and steps back herself, generously, and takes up one of her other rich ideas.

The amateur writer graduates to professional in a number of ways. But one of them is the realization that ideas are everywhere, and sometimes they're duplicated, and it doesn't mean your chances are ruined if someone else uses your brain child. It gives you an opportunity to develop it in your own unique style—if you have one. Part of growing up, I believe it might be called. Onward.

1979

From a fan who commented on the letters:

(In answer to) Linda's comments in DNL 11: While it is not unheard of for an idea to be "borrowed," if a writer were to do so with any regularity, it would become known and his/her source would probably dry up. As an amateur (very!) writer, I can heartily concur with Marion's sentiments that the usual problem isn't where to get an idea but how to get all of them down before you forget important details.

But most importantly, I am rather amused at Linda's fears about ideas being stolen. After all, who is stealing from whom? The fan writer is given the benefit of an already constructed universe and all he must do is fit his idea in. If they are so worried about their ideas, they should create their own universe and write their story to fit it. Or even better, write the story for their own benefit and never show it to anyone.

One has a particular affection for the universe that they have created; no one else can ever know exactly how an event occurred. (I would be very interested to know what really happened between Lew Alton and Regis, especially since Lew is my favorite character, although Damon Ridenow and Andrew Carr are hard on his heels.)

Basically, I think fanzines do a great service for your writers. OK, they don't get paid, but they can get the thrill of seeing their material in print and usually can get good pointers on how to improve their style. Fans are usually the severest critics but they can be very helpful. And having people such as those who put out the Starsto.ne look at one's work, can be terrifically beneficial even if the story, poem, etc., doesn't make it in.

Ego trip--I suppose there must be some boost to know people like your world well enough to copy and borrow it, but I'll bet there is a lot of "We-ell, it didn't quite happen that way" or "That really coulnd't happen because. . ." or even "Oh, no, I don't like that" but it isn't technically correct.[5]

1980

In response, a fan, Linda Frankel, did a little white knighting and wrote about Darkover fiction outside of Starstone, declaring it a violation of copyright:
Twice I have been asked about fan publication of Darkover fiction outside of STARSTONE. My reply in both cases is that this is a violation of copyright law. The reason why Trek zines have proliferated is because Paramount has chosen not to prosecute and alienate the fans. Darkover stories must be submitted to MZB alone and she will dispose of them in whatever way she considers best (with due respect for the fan writer). I think that this is an important point that you ought to bring to the attention of DNL's readers in connection with the plagiarism issue. Writing in the Darkover universe is a privilege. I hope that no one will abuse it.[6]

References

  1. ^ Boskone 15 - Fancyclopedia 3, Archived version
  2. ^ Eileen Ledbetter was the fan author of the longest fic in the first issue of Starstone #1.
  3. ^ "Lament for Boromir" was recorded on the 2001 CD, The Starlit Jewel.
  4. ^ This is not what Bradley said six months previously (September 1977) in an blurb for this story, Darkover Summer Snow. From Darkover Newsletter #7: "A long and poignant story of the first meeting between Lew Alton and Regis Hastur, of which MZB says "I'm sure that's the way it really happened."
  5. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #19/20 (October 1979)
  6. ^ from Darkover Newsletter #21 (March 1980)