Holes in My Yard

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Open Letter
Title: Holes in My Yard
From: Marion Zimmer Bradley
Addressed To:
Date(s): September 1992
Medium: print
Fandom: Darkover
Topic:
External Links:
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Holes in My Yard is an 1992 open letter by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It was printed in Darkover Newsletter.

The letter formally ended Bradley's personal involvement with fanfiction and other fanworks. The circumstances surrounding "Holes in My Yard" are frequently cited by authors who object to fanfiction to one degree or another, or as evidence that professional authors should avoid reading fanfic based on their published works, to a degree that approaches "urban legend" status.

For more on this complex and much-cited topic, see Marion Zimmer Bradley Fanfiction Controversy.

The Letter

I've finished 'Rediscovery' (which should be out in hard cover next April) and 'Return to Darkover,' the sequel to 'Heritage of Hastur' and 'Sharra's Exile." 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, 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 Id 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. Since I got her letter just as I was leaving for Westercon, I asked my secretary Lisa to call and see if she could clarify the situation. Lisa did her best, pointing out that 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 Betsy Wollheim, my editor at DAW Books, 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. Betsy 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. (Send a SASE for guidelines and the release form before submitting to any Darkover anthology.) 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 Dr. Howard B. Gotlieb, Special Collections, Mugar Library, 771 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA, 02215. 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).

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✪ This article was previously featured on the Fanlore main page in 2018