Now that Marion Z. Bradley's child raping has come out, does it change your desire to reread her?

Ok–apparently for years I was apparently the only SF/F fan in the world who didn’t know that Marion Zimmer Bradley was an enabler for her husband Walter Breen’s child rape activities.* I only found out recently when I was reading some of Jo Walton’s wonderful book reviews on Tor.Com (This review is only so-so. I highly recommend reading more or that new book collecting some of her best ones). Walton commented how interesting it was that Bradley was able to make a three dimensional character out of a kiddie-rapist (as opposed to a cardboard villain) and someone in the comments says “Yeah, well it’s not too surprising, given that she helped her real-life husband cover up his own child-raping for 20-30 years.” (paraphrased). Note-this isn’t speculation, the guy was convicted multiple times for pedophilia and eventually died in prison for it. (Yay. The system sometimes does work albeit slowly.)

Anyway, even MZB’s own testimony point-blank admits that she didn’t think it was any big deal because (direct, verbatim quote) “…my opinion at the moment was that 13-year-old young people were quite old enough to decide what they wanted to do.” Cite, excerpts of her own testimony. She also admits to lying about it regularly and defending him and covering for him. In addition she’s simply appalled that anyone would be gauche enough to expect her to…y’know…protect kids from her rapist-husband

(Note–victim X is 10 when this starts)
Q. Did you ever do anything to protect [Victim X] from any type of sexual contact with Walter Breen during the three years that he was a guest in your home following your marriage?
MZB. Oh, please. The idea of me protecting little [Victim X], good heavens.
Q. Did you ever do anything to protect [Victim X] from sexual contact with your husband during the three years following your marriage that you knew [Victim X] was around your home?
MZB. It never occurred to.

That’s bad enough…but apparently MZB’s daughter just came out earlier this month and said that while MZB was covering for Walter raping little boys, MZB was raping her from the time she was 3 to about 13

There’s always talk about separating the art from the artist, but in this case? I don’t think I can. This isn’t a huge deal for me–I read the Darkover stuff once in the mid-80s when it was starting to get really weird and (from my memories from 30-ish years ago) really anti-male and didn’t look back. But Mists of Avalon was a decent read and I really liked Hunters of the Red Moon.

I don’t think I can go back and reread them.

This woman finds a few creepy subtexts in MZB’s work in light of this new knowledge and this guy pretty much sums up my feelings

For me, it does, especially when it informs the work. If MZB was a kiddie rapist who (say) was a wonderful flute player, I’d probably be able to put aside what she did since I’m not going to be looking for defenses of her crimes in flute music. But in a novel? Especially hers, which are largely romance/adventure novels? I doubt that I can read them again without scrutinizing every word and wondering “Is she promoting this? Defending this?”
I know this thread is gonna go way off course (and I’m fine with that) but I’d appreciate it if you’d also state your feelings on whether MZB’s (or, really, any artist’s) actions affect your view of their work.

*The kids were in the 3-14 range, so let’s not degenerate into one of those nitpicky argumements so common here about “ephebophile” ( or “pedophile” or what-the-fuck-ever silly term is in vogue.

Well, it’s changed any desire I may have to read her in the first place.

Holy shit, I didn’t know that about her. Never read much of her stuff, but that’s horrible.

I had no idea. Some of her books have been on my ‘might read one day’ list. Not now.

Her stuff never interested me in the least, and now it never will.

Eww. I almost picked up The Forest House at the library.

So, so sad. Those poor children.

Similar thread in Great Debates, FYI.

It kills me, because I absolutely loved Mists of Avalon way back when. Now? No. I can’t even imagine being able to. The realities behind her life are too pathological to go there. It never occurred to her to maybe protect children from the husband that she KNEW was kiddie-diddling? Just…never came up? No. No. No.

(I just found out about this a few weeks ago, so you’re not the last, Fenris.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever read any of her books (probably I started one or two, when I was little, but definitely she never became one of my authors).

I don’t know if it’s still the case, but during the 80s and early 90s, there were a fairly large number of authors featuring sex between teens (e.g. 13-16) and adults. Piers Anthony and Mercedes Lackey both come to mind. And I’d agree with the first review you posted (by Alyssa Rosenberg) that they didn’t come off as creepy or unreasonable. But of course the difference is that the types of teens you get in a fantasy book are the type who are leading their own lives, fighting dragons, and pondering the greater mysteries of life. Real teens don’t have the advantage of having their thoughts written out by an adult, well-read author. So if you read the book, everything seems fine since the question is about that character, not about teens in general.

For all I know, all of Breen’s victims were wise beyond their years and happy in their relationship with him - though doubtful, given that they kept taking him to court - but I don’t think even Marion could argue that any 3 year older is wise enough to have her own sex life (…let alone, with her own mom…). That’s sad when the random BS you came up with to justify your actions can’t even be stretched to justify your actions.

Everyone: thanks for the thoughtful responses. I’m really suprised by this. I’d never heard of Breen, and the only thing I’d heard about MZB that was negative is that in the last, say, 10-15 years of her life she’d become a “man-hater”…and really…that’s not enough to go on, given that it can mean anything from literally someone who honestly hates all men (what’s the female version of a mysogynist?) to someone who’s a lesbian (as described by a troglodyte).

Jayjay–heh–it’s good to know that I’m not the last person to know about this. It seems like ever since I read that Jo Walton review on either Thurs or Friday (and it’s from like 2010!) I’ve been stumbling across constant mentions of this.

Hunters of the Red Moon is a good book that doesn’t feel anything like an MZB–I suspect her brother wrote it and she slapped her name on it to help it sell. It really has a different tone/flavor from anything else she wrote.

I’m almost tempted to go back and read either Stormqueen or Hawkmistress (probably the latter) just to see if I A) can read it without thinking about what she did and B) to see if there were any…I dunno…clues. Those two (and The Bloody Sun–the original version, not the rewrite) were the three that stood out as her best.

We’re about to enter serious thread drift here, but it’s MY THREAD, DAMMIT! :wink: and I’m fine with that.

With Lackey, I completely agree–the one or two instances of non-consentual stuff were always and immediately squished and there was never much of an age difference between the protagonists (except Vanyel and the reincarnation of his boyfriend as a teen–which was just gross on a whole different level–not the age difference as much as the “geez–back off and let the reincarnated kid become his own person” level)

With Anthony however, while teens boink and I have no problem with that (Dor and Irene, for example) there’s also the recurring theme of Adult (who’s being naughty) tries to rape a kid. Kid objects, terrified. Kid either stays silent or tells adults who’s reaction is “Ho! Ho! Ho! How Jolly!”. Crombie’s kid in Ogre! Ogre. The 5 year old kid (granted in the body of a like 14 year old boy) who’s being threaten by a demon around book 14 or so. The real life little girl* who has the omnescient, 3d-person narrator literally drooling over how sweet and innocent little girls are in their innocent pink panties–this was not a character, not first person. It was the third-person authorial narrator making Homer-Simpson MMMMM-Donuts–slobber comments about a real-life girl who’d stripped down.
*Some real-life kid got hit by a drunk driver and ended up in a coma. When her mom said the Xanth books were her favorite books, Anthony wrote her in so it could be read aloud to her. Nice thing to do, right? Read on, above.

I’ve never read her books, and now I have no desire to even look at her stuff in the store or library.

My lack of opinion hasn’t changed.


(A misanthrope hates humans, that is, men and women both)

I had no idea until I saw this thread. I blame living in the antipodes.

As I noted elsewhere, I read MZB before knowing any of her defense of Breen, only finding out about the first bits and pieces of the story a little after her death. By then I had already kinda lost my taste for her stuff, so it never really came up. But it’s odd, but perhaps revealing that this story as I have heard it has just slowly gotten worse over the years. Without going through all the stages of the tales I’ve heard ( then read about ) MZB has gone from odd duck that was losing it her last few years, to kinda hinky, to kinda fucked up, to full on fucked up. Sad, sad story.

If she were alive I don’t know that I would re-read any of her material even if I were interested and I don’t think I’d buy any of it now since nothing apparently goes to her kids ( her ex-SO gets a big chunk and for all I know she was another enabler ). But if I ever started digging through my attic boxes and came across one her less crappy books, I might re-read it with a more critical eye. Why it would make a difference with her being dead now, I dunno. But psychologically it just does seem different somehow.

Eek. :eek:

I read all of the Darkover books several times and loved them. I tried some of the Friends of Darkover books because I loved that world, but they never had the ring of authenticity.

I wanted to love The Mists of Avalon and started it a few times but could never get into it. It just seemed ponderous and dead to me. Even though I love the Arthurian legend and have read many books on it (and can sing the entire score of *Camelot *from beginning to end).

This really creeps me out. Big time.

I’ve never read anything by Bradley that I recall (which is rather odd in that I’ve read a lot of SF and Arthurian stuff).

After reading the Guardian article and Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s blog posts I certainly won’t be reading any of Bradley’s works.

So am I missing out on much?

I read (and loved) The Mists of Avalon for the first time at a fairly young age and reread it a number of times over the years, but I’m pretty sure my most recent reread was in anticipation of the miniseries so that would have been 2001. As a teenager I read two or three other books that Bradley had written or co-authored and I didn’t really enjoy any of them. I couldn’t even finish the first Mists sequel, The Forest House. I don’t specifically remember what I disliked about it, only that I thought it was tedious and stupid.

I didn’t know anything about Walter Breen or Bradley’s role in covering up his abuse of children until after 2001 (IIRC I first heard of it here on the SDMB just a few years ago), and that may have contributed to my not rereading Mists recently. On the other hand, I might not have reread it anyway. There are plenty of books by other authors that I also loved as a teenager but haven’t reread in years. I think my personal associations with Mists and memories of having read it previously are strong enough that I probably could reread it even now without constantly thinking “This book is the work of a woman who raped children and defended a man who did the same”, but I’m not in a hurry to put that to the test. There is rape and incest in Arthurian legend and this plays an important enough role in the plot that it couldn’t really be left out of a retelling like Mists. It’s my recollection that this is not handled in a lascivious manner by Bradley, but even if I’m wrong on that point I think I’m happier remembering the book that way than rereading it and potentially picking up on things I didn’t notice before. If I had never read the book, I don’t think I would choose to read it now.

I just wrote, then deleted, a fairly long paragraph about another author of a beloved retelling of the Arthurian legend. I’m hesitating because I don’t want to ruin another book for anyone, but since it’s relevant I’ll give the short version here. I recently learned that T.H. White was attracted to young boys. That’s not speculation either, he wrote in his diary about how he was in love with a 10 year old and wanted to have sex with him. He does say that he intends to restrain himself, but only because he knows society would disapprove and he doesn’t want the boy to feel ashamed.

On preview, I see that Piers Anthony has come up. I liked the Xanth books as a kid, but eventually it dawned on me that 1) they weren’t very good and 2) he spent an awful lot of time justifying sex between adults and adolescents. I stopped reading his books and have never gone back to them. That said, I’ve never heard that Anthony was ever accused of molesting anyone. I’m happy to separate the art from the artist there and say that, while AFAIK Anthony’s personal behavior has been blameless, I have no desire to reread any of his books.

I don’t even have that excuse. Though I’ve never read any of her books, just those Sword and Sorceress general short story collections. Maybe now I can quit confusing her with Mercedes Lackey, at least.

You are missing out on some, but that’s OK. Reading MZB is not essential to having a good life.

I think people who are now saying “oh, I’d never re-read her books now that I know about all this stuff from her personal life” are a bit… puzzling to me. You were OK with all the raping of boys, immature pre-adolescent girls being married off to old men, using men and women as breeding stock for living weapons, literal women in chains, marriage by abduction, neutering of people to act as power generators and relay stations UNTIL you found out about Breen and MZB’s personal life?

I don’t see where her personal failures (even crimes) change anything about her novels. It’s particularly bizarre when you consider that in those novels the marriage of what we would consider underage girls, the raping of Danilo Syrtis, and all the rest are negatively portrayed, as bad things. I could see some basis for the argument if the books portrayed all that as a positive but they don’t.

Do these revelations change my desire to re-read her books? No, not at all. They certainly change my view of MZV as a person, but that’s about it.