On This Day: Marion Zimmer Bradley Gave Us New Perspectives

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Title: On This Day: Marion Zimmer Bradley Gave Us New Perspectives
Commentator: Leah Schnelbach for Tor.com
Date(s): June 3, 2014
Medium: online
Fandom: Marion Zimmer Bradley
External Links: now offline, archive.is; WebCite
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

On This Day: Marion Zimmer Bradley Gave Us New Perspectives is an essay by Leah Schnelbach.

It was posted on June 3, 2014 to celebrate Bradley's 84th birthday. It was also meant to be a routine promotional blurb for Tor.com, an editorially independent sister Web site to Tor Books, which was one of Marion Zimmer Bradley's publishers. Instead, the essay became a flashpoint symbol for allegations of physical and sexual abuse by MZB of children under her care.

The post was quickly removed from the Tor.com website, but it is referred to many times in subsequent posts and commentary.


For someone who considered herself more of an editor than a writer, Marion Zimmer Bradley managed to write an absurd number of books, and create a whole world that fellow writers have returned to for the last forty years.

Born in 1930, Bradley grew up in rural New York during the Great Depression, and became an enthusiastic member of SFF fandom that exploded just after World War II, beginning by writing letters to Amazing Stories and Thrilling Wonder Stories, and then writing, editing, and publishing fanzines, including Astra's Tower, Day*Star and Anything Box.

She was married to Robert Alden Bradley from 1949 until 1964, and had one son. She married Walter Breen in 1964, and the couple had a son and a daughter. She earned a B.A. from Hardin-Simmons University in Texas the following year, and then took graduate courses at UC Berkeley from 1965 until 1967. Throughout this time she continued her work in fandom, and also became involved in a groundbreaking lesbian-rights group, the Daughters of Bilitis.

Bradley’s early professional work came in two areas. In 1958 her novel The Planet Savers was published, introducing audiences to the world of Darkover. Darkover proved to have a life of its own: she continued writing stories set in that world until her death, and her fans have kept it alive ever since; the most recent fan novel was published in 2013, and the Friends of Darkover still hold conventions each year.

Bradley also began writing lesbian erotica for pulp publishers in the 1950s, including the novels I Am a Lesbian and My Sister, My Love, under various pseudonyms. However, despite her involvement in the Daughters of Bilitis (and the scholarly work published under her own name, “Feminine Equivalents of Greek Love in Modern Fiction”) she didn’t acknowledge these books during her later career.

[information about Mists of Avalon snipped]

[information about Darkover snipped]

Bradley used her fantasy to deal with gender roles and sexuality. One book, The Winds of Darkover, is explicitly about the aftermath of rapes, one physical, one psychic. With the extremely popular Renunciates, she created women who opted out of Darkover’s gender roles to instead form female guilds. Even within the guild Bradley plays with traditional roles, showing some members who are tough mercenaries and some who are healers. These characters inspired people in both the literary world (Free Amazons of Darkover is an anthology of all-Renunciate stories, written mostly by women and edited by Bradley) and in the more prosaic world, where women tried living in communes and occasionally changed their names to emulate those of the Renunciates, who go by a first, given name, and then use their mother’s given name as a surname, to remove themselves from a patriarchal line while honoring their mothers. Bradley started the Sword and Sorceress series of anthologies to encourage people to write more active heroines. Beginning in 1984, the 28th volume was released last year. And obviously her stories in Mists of Avalon and Firebrand rewrite popular Western mythology from the points of view of the women who are often sidelined in the traditional tellings.

For much of her career she was dedicated to promoting new writers, encouraging people to write in the Darkover world, and editing anthologies, particularly for female authors, to help new writers gain an introduction to the SFF world. One of her protégés, Mercedes Lackey, published early work in Sword and Sorceress, and co-wrote Tiger Burning Bright and Rediscovery with her [1].

[information about Society for Creative Anachronism snipped]

So she didn’t just give us books. She didn’t just give us a world that encouraged other writers to play. She gave us a literal kingdom. Or perhaps it would be better, in light of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s work in promoting equality in science fiction and fantasy, to call it a queendom? [2]

Fan Comments

There were many comments about this essay, mainly about the allegations of Bradley and the sexual abuse of children. See Further Reading. Some direct comments:

Another Birthday Celebration: 1977

The Darkover Newsletter #5 (June 1977) offered up a similar essay and celebration, one which speculated on the future. See Darkover Newsletter.


  1. ^ Actually, according to Elisabeth Waters, MZB was a consultant, but did not write those books. See Elisabeth Waters Interview (March 2008)
  2. ^ On This Day: Marion Zimmer Bradley Gave Us New Perspectives, Google Cache of article, accessed June 11, 2014 or before