Deborah J. Ross

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Name: Deborah J. Ross
Also Known As: Deborah Wheeler
Occupation: author
Medium: print novels
Works: Darkover novels (with Marion Zimmer Bradley), other science fiction
Official Website(s): at
Fan Website(s):
On Fanlore: Related pages

Deborah J. Ross is a science fiction writer.

Ross has continued the "Darkover" series created by the late Marion Zimmer Bradley under the eye of Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust and Elisabeth Waters.

Ross and Bradley

From an undated post in Ross' blog:

I am frequently asked how I came to work with Marion Zimmer Bradley and to continue her Darkover series after her death. Senior author-junior author dual-bylines are not unusual these days, but each partnership has its own story. In this case, the answer centers around our long-established professional relationship.

To begin with, I met Marion by writing her a letter. This was back in 1980 and I had no idea fandom existed, but I felt so moved by her work that I wanted to let her know. Marion wrote back, three pages of single-spaced typewriting. We began a correspondence, and I must confess to a certain giddiness that my favorite author had taken the care to write to me.

Marion had read a little of my Darkover fiction for the fanzine she edited for Friends of Darkover, so when she began work on the first Sword and Sorceress, she invited me to send her a story for consideration. She bought that story and many others over the years, although she occasionally sent back stories with requests for revision.

Toward the end of her life, Marion suffered a series of strokes, which made it difficult for her to concentrate on novel-length stories. I was one of the writers Marion considered because she had watched me develop from a novice to an established professional.

We began work together as we had begun our relationship, first in correspondence, then in person. We’d settled on a time period and general story arc when I visited her for the last time. When I arrived at her home, she had been resting, on oxygen, but insisted on sitting up to talk. I knew she had been very ill, but seeing her made her condition so much more vivid for me. One of my best memories of her was watching her “come alive” as we discussed character and hatched plot points. Her eyes “glowed as if lit from within,” to use one of her favorite descriptions, and energy suffused her whole being. I asked question after question and then sat back as she spun out answers. It was as if she had opened a window into her imagination and invited me to peek inside. We never got a second visit. She died a month later. [1]

Ross, in roughly the fall of 2014, wrote:

I began working with Marion in the final year of her life, thinking we would collaborate on one or more novels. Although we had worked out a general plot arc for three books when she died, I went on to write them myself under the supervision of her Literary Trustee. Those three books, The Fall of Neskaya, Zandru’s Forge, and A Flame in Hali, were followed by three more. At first, I worked to maintain Bradley’s literary voice and creative vision. By the end of the sixth book (The Children of Kings), I realized how much of my own imagination colored the story and its landscape. I found myself drawn away from the characters and situations that Marion had envisioned, and toward those I had invented. I believe it’s a healthy thing, to simultaneously allow for the introduction of new characters, themes, and resonances, at the same time staying true to the spirit of the world, a wondrous place of telepaths and swordsmen, nonhumans and ancient mysteries, the clash of cultures between a star-faring, technologically advanced civilization and one that has pursued psychic gifts and has turned away from weapons of mass destruction. It’s an engraved invitation to gritty, romantic, action-adventure, gender-bending, inclusive, poignant, uplifting stories!

How the collaboration came about: Immensely generous with "her special world" of Darkover, Marion Zimmer Bradley loved encouraging new writers. We were already friends when she began editing the Darkover and Sword & Sorceress Anthologies. The match between my natural literary "voice" and what she was looking for was extraordinary. She loved to read what I loved to write, and she often cited "The Death of Brendan Ensolare" (Four Moons of Darkover, DAW, 1988) as one of her favorites.

As Marion's health declined, I was invited to work with her on one or more Darkover novels. We decided that rather than extend the story of "modern" Darkover, we would return to the Ages of Chaos. Marion envisioned a trilogy beginning with the Hastur Rebellion and the fall of Neskaya, the enduring friendship between Varzil the Good and Carolin Hastur, and extending to the fire-bombing of Hali and the signing of the Compact. While I scribbled notes as fast as I could, she would sit back, eyes alight, and begin a story with, "Now, the Hasturs tried to control the worst excesses of laran weapons, but there were always others under development . . ." or "Of course, Varzil and Carolin had been brought up on tales of star-crossed lovers who perished in the destruction of Neskaya . . ."

Marion passed away in September 1999, and I was privileged to participate in her funeral. In completing this project and continuing the series beyond it, I hope to honor her memory and the enduring vision she has left to us all. [2]

Further Reading: By Ross

Further Reading: By Others


  1. Frequently Asked Questions; WebCite (This is the same post she made in 2013 but missing the sentence: "Her secretary told me that she talked for days afterwards about the visit and how excited she was about the project.")
  2. Darkover; archive link, undated blog post (sometime after Fall 2014) by Deborah Ross