The Witch and the Chameleon "Darkover Landfall" Letter by Marion Zimmer Bradley (April 1975)

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Title: The Witch and the Chameleon "Darkover Landfall" Letter by Marion Zimmer Bradley (April 1975)
Creator: Marion Zimmer Bradley
Date(s): April 1975
Medium: print
Fandom: Darkover, feminism, science fiction
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The Witch and the Chameleon "Darkover Landfall" Letter by Marion Zimmer Bradley (April 1975) was printed in The Witch and the Chameleon #3.

It is one of the many responses to Vonda McIntyre's review of Marion Zimmer Bradley's book, Darkover Landfall. See the excerpts of this review, as well as many other responses at Darkover Landfall reviewed by Vonda N. McIntyre.

See excerpts from some of the longer letter responses to the review at The Main Letters.

Letter Addendum by Bankier

Amanda Bankier, the zine's editor, added a quote by Marion Zimmer Bradley to the end of the letter: "... My latest book, Darkover Landfall, Is supposed to be my attack on a world which equates civilization with energy consumption (with a few scathing snarls at Women's Lib.)." - Marian Zimmer Bradley, Garden Library #4 quoted in The Alien Critic #7." [1]


[ [Marion Zimmer Bradley], issue #3]: I have been writing and selling science fiction for twenty years and have, in that time, received a great many unfavorable reviews (far more than good reviews) all of which I make a policy of accepting with seemly patience. Since I cannot please everyone, I long ago decided to please myself, the editor who sighs the check, and the readers who regularly buy my books, roughly In that order. Since I am still solvent and selling, that policy must suit most of the people whore opinions I value.

I have violated this policy for the first time for Vonda McIntyre's review of Darkover Landfall . It Is not the fact that Mclntyre does not like my book which distresses me. My opinion of the writings of Miss Mclntyre (or Mrs. —I don't know her personally) is such that I would be astonished beyond words, and probably dismayed, if she had praised the book.

She admits herself that she cannot be an objective reader. Personally, if I found it impossible to be objective about a book, I suspect I should disqualify myself from reviewing it. What rankles to me as both unkind and unfair is her flat statement that I am deliberately writing anti-feminist propaganda — a statement which is also untrue. I suspect that something about my books, or my personality, or both, has simply touched Mclntyre In the raw, and she has attempted to retaliate.

I can say flatly, without a moment's hesitation, that for me, the lines of conflict in the book were drawn between human values versus technology. The book was inspired by speech by Lester del Rey, in which he made the statement (perhaps no more seriously than he once put forth the theory that Gollum was the hero of the Tolkien books,) that it did not matter if 98% of the human race died, provided enough of our technology survived to take us to the stars. My own deep convictions cannot live comfortably with a theory which indicates that humankind is of less eventual worth than his technostructures, and Darkover Landfall was written as an attempt to state my objections to that point of view... Insofar as the story held any emotional convictions at all, they were those of human values as against a worship of technology.

Any feminism or antifeminism In the book was subservient to my basic theme, and belonged to the characters rather than to me. I would not be overstating the case, but simply describing the way my mind works. If I were to say that once the lines of conflict are clearly outlined in my mind. I turn the book over to the character's, end let them argue it out.


As for bad extrapolation and bad SF -- well, McIntyre is entitled to her opinion. My sources for the extrapolation were those I considered valid, but I long ago accepted and came to terms with the fact that I am a hasty writer, with a poor eye and ear for details, who relies heavily on atmosphere and feel to hold my surprisingly faithful audience. The accusation that I write propaganda, or that I would stoop to choose feminism as a target, rankles, because I do nothing of the kind. If what McIntyre calls "cruel and crippling myths'" happen to be what I consider harsh and necessary facts, I must respectfully point out that even reputable scientists are still in dispute of some of these facts, and that when a matter is still moot, and artist may, and to seme degree must choose the side of the dispute whose logic appears to him more unassailable. I personally would have considered it bad art, despite my great sympathy for the character involved (Camilla in this case) to rearrange the harsh facts of the case because they proved inconvenient or emotionally unacceptable to a few of the people involved. To me, that would represent intellectual dishonesty. Like all of those who grew up in the Depression of the Thirties, I long ago accepted that harsh facts are no respecter of persons, and that natural laws do not repeal themselves because some of the people who are gravely injured by their operatim are likable and sympathetic people. I am, perforce, a worshipper of that harsh God known to the Greeks as Necessity and Force.


If the book has offended anyone, I an both bewildered and regretful, but there is no one alive who has never given offense, except, perhaps, the village idiot. The accusation of anti-feminism surprises me the more because a group of science fiction lovers in some Canadian university (I can't supply precise details because I turn over most of my good reviews to my mother, who loves to brag about them, although they tend to embarrass me) featured all of my work, and Darkover Landfall In particular, for their issue in celebration of International Women's Day, pointing out that my handling of women in science fiction, treating them as individuals rather than sexual objects, was a shining example of the new attitude to women which was permeating the climate of the day. I was surprised by this too — I am as far from perpetrating pro-feminist propaganda as I am from writing anti-feminist tracts — but I felt pleased, because I too have been revolted by the attitude in science fiction where women are simply there for the men to enjoy after all the important things have been done. But if one feminist group exalts my work as a shining example, and another attacks me as a vicious perpetrator of anti-feminist propaganda, I can only assume that maybe these things will cancel one another out. I trust my other books will offfend you less, but I cannot really say I will worry too much about it, or attempt to alter my opinions or my expression of them. My private opinions about feminism, and women in science fiction, have been so well stated by Dorothy L. Sayers In her brief essay Are Women Human? that I refuse to paraphrase them.


  1. ^ The Alien Critic (about the zine series); The Alien Critic (contents of that issue)