Rape, Abuse, and Marion Zimmer Bradley
My very first rejection letter was from Marion Zimmer Bradley. It was both harsh and helpful. So I was thrilled when, years later, I made one of my first professional sales to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. I was even happier when I sold a story to her anthology Sword & Sorceress XXI.
I’m proud of those stories. I believe the Sword & Sorceress series was important, and I’m grateful to Bradley for creating it. I believe her magazine helped a lot of new writers, and her books helped countless readers. All of which makes the revelations about Marion Zimmer Bradley protecting a known child rapist and molesting her own daughter and others even more tragic.
Here are some of the relevant links.
- Marion Zimmer Bradley’s testimony in defense of her husband, Walter Breen, a convicted pedophile.
- A blog post from Deirdre Saoirse Moen, in which Moira Greyland, daughter of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen, states that Bradley molested her starting when she was three years old and continuing until Greyland was twelve and able to walk away. Greyland also describes Breen as “a serial rapist with many, many victims,” but says Marion “was far, far worse.”
- The “Breendoggle” Wiki. Much of fandom seemed to know about the allegations against Breen. The documentation includes eyewitness accounts of Breen molesting children and discussion that even if Breen was indeed an active pedophile, that doesn’t mean he should be expelled from fandom.
- Silence is Complicity. Natalie Luhrs talks about Breen, MZB, and the damage done by prioritizing silence over safety, complicity over acting to protect the vulnerable members of our community.
- On Doing a Thing I Needed to Do. Janni Lee Simner talks about having written for some of MZB’s projects, and her choice to donate her income from those sales to RAINN.
There’s more out there, including people defending MZB, as well as people insisting we must “separate the art from the artist” and not let MZB’s “alleged” crimes detract from the good she’s done. And there’s the argument that since MZB died fifteen years ago, there’s no point to bringing up all of this ugliness and smearing the name of a celebrated author.
To begin with, while Bradley and Breen are both gone from this world, their victims survive. The damage they inflicted lives on. Are you going to tell victims of rape/abuse that nobody’s allowed to acknowledge what was done to them? That the need to protect the reputation of the dead is more important than allowing victims their voice? To hell with that.
Second, as Luhrs and others have pointed out, many of the same behaviors that allowed this abuse to continue for so long are still present in fandom and elsewhere today. We excuse sexual harassment as social awkwardness. We ignore ongoing harassment and assault for years or decades because someone happens to be a big name author or editor. Half of fandom shirks from the mere thought of excluding known predators, because for some, sexual harassment and assault are lesser crimes than shunning a predator from a convention.
I’m not going to say that people should or shouldn’t throw all of MZB’s books away. There are authors whose careers might not have happened without MZB’s help, and our genre is better for many of them. But it’s also important to acknowledge that predators exist. They may be in positions of power and influence. Sometimes, they’re people who have done good work for a community. They often have very smooth, well-practiced tactics for defending or excusing their actions.
When we ignore ongoing harassment and abuse, when we belittle efforts to create harassment policies, when we respond to people speaking out about their own abuse and harassment by accusing them of starting “lynch mobs” and “witch hunts,” we’re teaching predators that fandom is a safe hunting ground. We’re teaching them that they will be protected, and their victims will be sacrificed so we can cling to an illusion of inclusiveness.
We need to work on teaching a different lesson.
June 23, 2014 @ 9:37 am
And posts like this is why you remain one of my favorite writers (it’s not just your goblins and your princesses and your librarians).
June 23, 2014 @ 9:42 am
Excellent post. I discovered about the Breen/MZB abuse story this week, and I thought it was terrible. I’m not one to separate art from the artist– the work that MZB created in her lifetime may be praiseworthy. I admit I’ve not been much of a fan. My problem is that along with the art… There’s … This. I can’t read her work any more without being a little sick inside.
June 23, 2014 @ 9:45 am
I am reeling with shock. It is important to tell such stories because a lot of people (like me) don’t/didn’t know.
It does not matter if i throw the remaining books from her away as i won’t be able to read and enjoy them ever again.
June 23, 2014 @ 10:01 am
Thank you so much for writing this. I’m so sick of hearing people say that, for example, since there’s no way to know the intimate details of everyone you give money to, you shouldn’t withhold your money when you *do* know about something like this. And while I get why people talk about separating the artist from the art, that doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t have a really serious discussion about how the artist’s behavior affects the people around them and how that should be responded to. For me, it’s just impossible to separate out on an emotional level. This sort of thing is so repellent to me that I wouldn’t be *able* to set it aside while reading her work. And I’m not sure I’d want to be the person who could easily set it aside.
June 23, 2014 @ 10:11 am
I discovered Darkover when I was in highschool and Mists of Avalon when I was about 15. I was saddened and disgusted to hear of MZB’s abuse of others, protecting a predator and the rest of fandom protecting known predators because they had glowy halos (because FAMOUS AUTHORS).
I think the best lesson all of fandom can take from this is that the truth will out in the end, as with your post.
We need to constantly remind people they don’t have the right to claim confidentiality or copyright over their emails and social media posts to hide their written abuse, slander and libel. We need to remind people that they will be held accountable for their behaviour, whether it’s a grope in a con, cruel (illegal) words in an office or running in a pack to destroy someone.
Some perpetrators might win in life but be warned: like MZB, your reputation isn’t safe after you die.
Readers should enjoy MZB’s work if you can; I won’t be reading it again. There are too many good things in life to waste on something with such tragic associations. Life’s too short to drink bad coffee.
June 23, 2014 @ 10:30 am
Well spoken, Jim. Silence is never the answer. I wonder how many people who think MZB’s past should be hushed up viewed the similar situation with Woody Allen differently, not because the wife was not complicit, but because she was famous
June 23, 2014 @ 10:39 am
Has Russell Galen ever made a public statement regarding this issue? He is, or was, MZB’s agent, and on his agency’s website and in interviews he often mentions her as an early success. I generally admire his work, and It seems like he’s doing himself and his agency a disservice by not addressing this issue directly.
June 23, 2014 @ 10:39 am
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have not been a fan of MZB’s books, but I just cannot wrap my head around treating authors like gods. I cannot fathom wanting a known child molester at a convention, nor doing nothing when a kid is molested right before your eyes.
Do. Not. Get.
I’m only now getting involved in organised fandom, and I hope enabling attitudes such as described are on their way out. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because look at the Joe Paterno thing — this tends to happen in areas with pervasive social hierarchies, in which those at the top are often treated as idols — but I’m pretty sure I’ve never loved any book enough to try to excuse something like this.
Michael F. Harris (@mfhy2k)
June 23, 2014 @ 10:55 am
I never heard any of these things growing up. The fandom did a good job covering it up.
June 23, 2014 @ 11:18 am
Well said, Mr. Hines.
June 23, 2014 @ 11:20 am
Every, every, every time someone says something like ‘we need to separate the artist from the art’, they’ve meant one thing: they don’t give a damn about anything beyond their own entertainment. I’ve seen it in the comics and (video) gaming fandoms, -everyone- has seen it in the form of football players getting away with rape and their victims being treated as worse than vermin. It’s abhorrent, especially in the context of a fandom that likes to carry the conceit that it’s ‘progressive’ and ‘inclusive’, despite a virulence toward non-white, non-male fans and authors that erupts with disheartening frequency.
I think what upsets me the most is that I caught myself trying to do the same thing. It’s a lot easier to suggest to oneself that an accuser might just have an opportunity and an axe to grind, than it is to consider just how much effort it takes for a victim to work past their emotional scars and tell someone about what was done to them.
Jim C. Hines
June 23, 2014 @ 11:34 am
I’m not aware of anything Galen has said on the matter. Though I’m not sure what the legal and professional line would be for an agent to speak out like this about one of their clients.
Jim C. Hines
June 23, 2014 @ 11:41 am
The internet, and social media in particular, has made it much more difficult to bury stuff like this. Which I think is a very good thing.
June 23, 2014 @ 12:15 pm
“Separating the artist from the work” shouldn’t mean demeaning or ignoring the victims because if you are insisting on treating both sides, the artist and the work, independently then you treat each independently and on its own merits. Everyone knows nice, genuinely good people who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, let alone perform athletic feats, or have zero musical ability, or couldn’t write their way out of a paper bag, and most people would have no trouble saying that–perhaps not to their faces, but they’d have no trouble holding the two thoughts of “Nice person, no talent” in their heads at once.
If someone, on the other hand, has trouble with “Terrible person, real talent” as a concept, then as much as they might spout off about it, they aren’t really able to consider the two separately. It’s easier to make things black and white: the enemies we fight in a war are subhuman monsters, the politicians we disagree with are all idiots or people out to undermine the country, the terrible person who does terrible things can’t have any redeeming or admirable qualities at all. Somehow, we think it lessens us to admit that there might be something about the terrible person we actually like, and the only way to admit we like it is to lessen what a terrible person they were.
MZB, from what is finally coming out of the shadows, was a terrible, horrible, disgusting person who deserved punishment for what she did and excused, who aided and caused others to be abused, and who also happened to be a good writer and provided inspiration for a lot of other people through that writing. It should be possible to keep those two thoughts in the head at the same time. If someone is a fan of her work but can’t acknowledge that she was also apparently a poor excuse for a human being in her non-writing life, the problem isn’t with the people bringing it up, the problem is with themselves.
June 23, 2014 @ 1:33 pm
Mr. Hines, I have a few questions for you. To preface this, I am not attempting to “show you up”, prove anything about “people like you”, or get you to say something that may turn off your fans. I merely wish to better understand the mindset and introspection of yourself and people with a similar view point. If you feel answering these questions may negatively impact you then feel free to ignore this post.
1. Do you believe the actions of MZB and Breen are anywhere close as bad as the actions of Vox Day and Larry Correia?
2. Would you say VD and Larry Correia are a greater blemish to the SCI FI community then MZB and Breen?
3. Have you seen a more vocal condemnation of Vox Day and Larry Correia or of MZB and Breen?
June 23, 2014 @ 1:44 pm
I think this is the real takeaway. The victims survive, the victimizers are decades dead, but we can take the lesson for next time, to try and minimize the number of next times.
June 23, 2014 @ 1:46 pm
For those of us in the SCA, this has been very disturbing, because MZB was one of the founders, so she was always held up as someone special.
This really knocks it down.
In answer to Rico, How can you possibly compare two people who have strong opinions on specific topics with people who raped and abused little kids?
Whole different world.
Jim C. Hines
June 23, 2014 @ 2:28 pm
I’ll take you at your word that your comment isn’t intended as a setup, but I’ll also say that it very much reads that way.
My general response is that it’s comparing apples and zebras, and I see it as an utterly unproductive comparison to try to get into. I’ve seen vocal condemnations of both. I’ve also seen fandom expend tremendous time and energy condemning lens flares in the Star Trek remake. That doesn’t mean lens flares are the most important topic, that other things are somehow less important, or anything like that.
For myself, I write about things I feel are important, things I care about, things I enjoy, etc.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:02 pm
“The documentation includes eyewitness accounts of Breen molesting children and discussion that even if Breen was indeed an active pedophile, that doesn’t mean he should be expelled from fandom.”
That the discussion was resoundingly answered with “yes,” and he was barred from the Worldcon and shunned by most of fandom seems to be deemed unworthy of mention in many accounts. This is peculiar. It’s not as if this was a quiet affair; this was the biggest fight in the sf community since 1939, famously so.
It’s not a glass half-full, either. Fandom decisively barred Breen from the Worldcon and he became persona non grata in almost all of fandom. Yet by some accounts, you’d never know.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:07 pm
“We need to constantly remind people they don’t have the right to claim confidentiality or copyright over their emails and social media posts to hide their written abuse, slander and libel.”
Er, people do have that legal right, at least in the United States. Not over social media, of course, but very much over their emails. You can be successfully sued for violating copyright on someone’s emails to you. It would be a costly court fight, but the law is clear that it’s a violation of copyright without permission.
I know a fair amount about U.S. law, but far less about British law, and much less than that about Australian law. But copyright protection on letters appears to be the same in Britain and Australia: http://www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,,-2260,00.html
I am not a lawyer, and this does not constitute legal advice. But I definitely would not assure people something isn’t against the law without being sure of my legal knowledge.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:16 pm
I’ve been thinking about this today too. I don’t think I can enjoy her work now, and I certainly won’t be recommending it.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:17 pm
I knew none of this before now. I feel sick.
Yes, I will be throwing her books out.
No, “Art” does not guarantee one protection for criminal acts. I suppose one could judge the art separately from the artist, but I can’t. Even touching the pages or seeing the spines will remind me.
Perhaps her victims could get some sort of restitution from a civil suit against the estate. That’s the only “worth” I see in her art now.
Jim C. Hines
June 23, 2014 @ 3:30 pm
I did see that he was banned from the 1964 Pacificon/Worldcon. I also see that there was backlash against the conchair for that decision.
I’m not seeing evidence for the resounding yes you’re talking about here. Doesn’t the fact that you say this was “the biggest fight in the SF Community since 1939” suggest it wasn’t actually a resounding or decisive yes, and that there were a lot of people arguing against Breen’s exclusion?
If there’s other information and documentation you’d like to add to the conversation, I’m more than willing to take a look.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:35 pm
No, but on the subject of Breen being ostracized in all of SF&F fandom it’s not clear he was. From rec.arts.sf.fandom back in 1996:
Let’s at least present the facts so that those who sincerely want an answer can have a basis to decide. Walter Breen was “excluded” from the 1964 Worldcon by a majority vote of the Worldcon committee (a dozen people?) and blackballed from the FAPA waiting list (a minimum of 13 anonymous votes was required).
The only other people to be excluded from a Worldcon, to my knowledge, were Donald A. Wollheim, John B. Michel and their “contingent” at the 1939 Worldcon because they were communists. You only have to read a little fanhistory to realize that this was NOT a popular action–many fans who did NOT subscribe to even a socialist worldview viewed this with distaste.
You might not want to go so far as to say that the exclusion of Walter was an UNpopular act, but the fact is that at least as many prominent fans protested his exclusion by boycotting the Worldcon as cast votes against him on the committee. The exclusion _was_ a one-time-only event; Walter attended subsequent Worldcons and, perhaps only as a coincidence, within a bit more than a year, the Worldcon Chairman who had sought Walter’s exclusion, Bill Donaho, gafiated for a quarter of a century.
The FAPA blackball, however, had only been used previously to remove George Wetzel and several of his pen names from the waiting list. But I think an important point here is that it took 33 of FAPA’s 65 members [or actually 33 out of the remaining 52 who had not cast blackballs], acting openly (i.e., signing their names) to override the blackball and reinstate Walter–but they did manage to do that, nonetheless.
Now to be totally honest, it is perfectly true that Walter died in prison accused of being a child molester–the same charge the Worldcon committee used to “justify” his exclusion. But that is something which happened outside of fandom and more than a quarter of a century later as well.
Given the above facts–and any you might are to add, if you think I’ve presented just one side–it’s still possible to pose this question and expect an answer: Was Walter Breen universally ostracized by fandom-as-a-whole or even by a simple majority of fandom? If you think there is even the _slightest_ chance that the answer to this is “yes,” I’m afraid I’ll need either a detailed explanation or, at the very least, certification that you can count without taking off your shoes.
–rich brown a.k.a. DrGafia
June 23, 2014 @ 3:46 pm
“I’m not seeing evidence for the resounding yes you’re talking about here.”
There weren’t any polls; I don’t know how to submit the overwhelming body of fannish opinion in the late sixties as evidence. Yes, there absolutely was a continuing minority of opinion, including very much by some prominent and loud voices in the sf community, of whom it’s likely fair to say Ted White was one, continued to support Walter, and a handful of survivors of Walter’s side are still around, such as Arnie Katz.
But anyone familiar with the fanhistory and the zines, even if they weren’t around until later (I didn’t get into fandom and start reading fanhistory until circa 1971-73), can vouch for the fact that after 1964, Walter largely vanished — not 100%, but close, from fandom, and the majority opinion was vast relief. I don’t know how to “prove” this was the case, but it was. Is there some sort of evidence that you’d regard as dispositive one way or another? Aside from asking most people around at the time or with close knowledge from the aftermath?
That a thread of defense of Walter by his friends continued after 1964, I agree absolutely. But I can’t see that it was much more than ~15% of fandom by 1966, or more than 5%-10% at most by 1971.
We’re only talking about a few hundred people in total, mind.
I realize it’s difficult for people who haven’t read the vast majority of fanzines of the time to find evidence one or or another for any of the events of fandom of the Sixties or Seventies.
I can point to the absence of any consistent evidence of Walter having been honored or walking through fandom controversy-free subsequent to 1964 and I can simply urge anyone interested to go read as many of the zines of the 1960s and decide for themselves. Walter gafiated after 1964 and was never honored thereafter, and largely was never seen in general fandom again; certainly not in any prominent way.
That’s just what happened.
As I said, I really have the impression a lot of people are getting a different impression entirely of what happened, and it’s concerning me somewhat. The Breendogle was a horrible thing, but that’s why it’s remembered as the most horrible fight in the sf community of all time. It’s hardly as if it was swept under the rug; it couldn’t have been a noisier event; it was the nuclear explosion of fandom of 20th century.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:48 pm
I think this comment left on Jim’s last Larry Correia rant expresses what Rico is getting at quite well:
Jun 18, 2014 @ 17:20:14
I’m a survivor.
I’m trying to think of a way to say this that isn’t going to either sound like I’m an MRA or that I’m trying to invalidate the good work you do with other survivors. But I really think the way this issue has become political and how I see you contributing to that is really… uh… not okay.
I think you’re probably a good dude. I can’t imagine you not being a good dude given the amount of work you do with survivors and the depressing toll I know that work takes. BUT (I know you were probably sensing a but, and I’m sorry to have to do this in a thread where you’re already taking a pummeling) I’m going to step on your toes a bit here.
I’m doing it because I think you’ll listen and because it needs to be said.
Okay, here goes:
Why are you focusing on Larry Correia?
I just don’t get this.
Why are you responding to a piece by a guy who thinks rape is wrong and just disagrees with you on the exact nature of the problem and the solution? I’m not saying those aren’t large gaps. I’m not saying I don’t think he’s wrong about rape culture. I’m not saying I don’t think he’s wrong about education (another survivor I know actually works in those groups with those people and says its effective and I trust him, although to be honest even giving offenders that much help makes my stomach turn).
But why is Larry Correia a target?
I don’t agree with a lot of what Larry has to say, but I’ll be honest and say I still like him. He reminds me of a couple of uncles I have and some friends I used to argue with at a couple construction jobs I had. He’s really loud and says some shit I don’t agree with but you also see him actually trying to help other writers and doing stuff for charity all the time.
So, I get that you guys have serious disagreements. I get that he’s called you names. You feel attacked and that makes sense that you’d want to focus on him.
BUT (and this is what’s bugging the shit out of me): The community just found out that Marion Zimmer Bradley was a child rapist. As in, she raped children. She put her hands on kids. I’ve just found out that the community knew she was a procurer and turned a blind eye to child-rape for decades on top of all of that. And no one talks about it.
No one in the community who usually talks about this stuff is talking about this.
I was five when I was victimized. That story hit me right in the guts. I figured I’d see everyone talking about it, trying to do some agony origami and figure out what to say about it that might bring some kind of useful awareness to the community. The silence has been deafening.
I get that Larry is loud and he says things that people don’t like. But maybe fandom needs a voice like that? Before you disagree, Larry’s website is the only place I’ve heard anything even WHISPERED about Samuel R. Delany. I can’t quite seem to figure out why that is.
Samuel R. Delany was just honored at the Nebulas and quoted in NK Jemisin’s speech (I agree with a lot of what she has to say, but I just don’t get how this isn’t at least being pointed out) and Samuel R. Delany outright without any kind of doubt or apology speaks up for NAMBLA.
NAMBLA is a group that advocates grown men raping young boys.
That’s so fucked up I don’t even have words for it.
Look at his Wikipedia page. If you can stand to do it, go to NAMBLA’s website. They quote him right goddamn there.
I’m not going to say that being a male survivor is harder than being a female survivor. But I will say that when you’re a male survivor not nearly many people are willing to talk about it. Giving a pass to a guy who supports NAMBLA is not okay. It’s not okay. Focusing on Larry Correia when that shit is not being talked about is not okay.
It is not okay.
I’m hoping you didn’t know. I’m hoping NK Jemisin and K Tempest Bradford and Mary Robinette Kowal don’t know. I saw everyone tweeting happily when he won his award. Because if you guys all know and aren’t saying anything about it and maybe even turning a blind eye because it’s really hard…
Well, I’d even kind of get that.
People talk a big game until that stuff is at their doorstep and then it becomes really easy to look away. We’re all human. No one’s invincible or infallible.
This is about the ugliest thing you can look at as a person.
But it’s still not okay.
I know none of you are under any obligation to condemn Samuel R Delany or Marion Zimmber Bradley. But when you’re going to start attacking people and you choose Larry Correia….
I just don’t get this.
Jim has partly anwered by this post a MZB, but nothing on Delany. The point is that Vox Day makes racist comments and he and all his works must be shunned so if you so much as say you like one of his novellas and it deserves an award, you too are clearly a racist. Meanwhile Delany advocates for pedophiles and he is not only considered to be perfectly acceptable, he’ll be given an award. The point isn’t apples and zebras, it’s the glaring double standard.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:49 pm
“From rec.arts.sf.fandom back in 1996:”
Oh, absolutely rich brown was certainly in the top three surviving pro-Breen voices. He’s been dead a good number of years now, but absolutely he was still writing up history as pro-Walter. I can link to a zine from this year by Arnie Katz doing the same.
The point is I can give the names of pretty much every surviving pro-Walter voice. Although the only two prominent ones left I can think of are Ted and Arnie and a smattering of their circle, few of whom were around at the time.
June 23, 2014 @ 3:55 pm
I should point out that what rich brown acknowledge to be “fandom” was a group not larger than ~500 in total, period.
If you weren’t active in written, physically printed, fanzines, you weren’t a fan in rich’s emphatic and constantly-stated view.
It’s crucial that when you read rich’s account of who was a minority and majority in “fandom” that you keep in mind that to rich brown, only a couple of hundred people attending a Worldcon were “real” fans. Everyone else didn’t count; their opinions weren’t the opinions of “sf fans,” but merely people who were active in sf conventions and sf clubs, or later, on the internet. That was never, in rich’s view, “real” fandom.
I’m not defending; I am reporting. Ask anyone who knew rich.
Jim C. Hines
June 23, 2014 @ 4:00 pm
There’s some intense conversation going on here about MZB and Breen, and the pain and anger that come from these revelations. I allowed folks a lot of commenting leeway in my response to LC. I have zero interest in letting the conversation here get derailed.
D. D. Webb
June 23, 2014 @ 4:04 pm
June 23, 2014 @ 4:07 pm
Point taken, Gary. I think for those who were involved in the controversy back in 1964 or were fairly well-connected in fandom that Breen’s reputation was known. But a lot of fans like me who date from the latter 1970s never knew about him, which I suppose in a way is evidence of his diminished involvement.
June 23, 2014 @ 4:14 pm
[I was serious when I said I have no interest in seeing the conversation here get further derailed. -Jim]
June 23, 2014 @ 4:35 pm
Reflecting on what Gary Farber has said, it’s not that Breen and the knowledge about him was buried as much as SF fandom, which was highly regional, didn’t circulate that knowledge. You started to see some chatter about it back in the days of Ye Olde Usenet, but even that was limited to a relatively small number of fans who had internet connections. Things have changed since then, obviously.
June 23, 2014 @ 4:41 pm
Except that’s not true, Gary. Walter Breen continued to be welcome at conventions; he chased Mary Mason’s son all over Westercon in 1985, and she and her husband were told by multiple major fandom figures that it was perfectly safe. Even after his arrest for raping Mary’s son, Moira Greyland had to call the police to get him out of a Baycon, because the organizers let him attend.
That Worldcon was the _only_ convention he was barred from, and even Donaho apparently caved and decided the ban shouldn’t have happened. There was a grand collective lie promulgated that he just had an arrest years ago and it was probably all homophobia anyway, rather than the fact that he publicly assaulted children in front of other fans and that his regular rape of a 10 year old was dismissed with a fandom joke about bicycles.
June 23, 2014 @ 5:22 pm
I was shocked and saddened when I learned the news late last week. MZB’s work was an important part of my discovering science fiction and fandom well I discovered it as a young teen. Now I’m just horrified.
I’m even more horrified to learn to read it with an open secret among so many people in fandom and the SCA and I never knew. I don’t know if I can ever bring myself to read any of them again.
But I disagree with those who say that we shouldn’t talk about it because it’s in the past. We need to talk about it. We need to support the victims and validate their feelings. And we need to work to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. Because I don’t care who you are, or what you know, or how long you’ve been around
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 23, 2014 @ 6:05 pm
That may be your recollection, and it may well be true of some fandom subgroups, but it’s not actually representative of what happened in fandom as a whole.
Here’s a photo from the 1967 Westercon that clearly shows Marion Zimmer Bradley and Breen right next to each other.
This photo was also taken at a con, but it’s mislabeled LA Con I in 1972, which was in Anaheim. That pool is at the Doubletree San Jose (formerly a Red Lion). I’m not sure exactly when this was, but it sure appears to be much later than 5 years after the Westercon pic. It’s possibly Westercon 1983, which happened at this hotel. Or later.
Exercise for the reader.
1. Ponder the face on the kid to the right of Breen.
2. WHERE IS BREEN’S OTHER HAND?
(Or later because someone dug up a video of Breen from 1986 and he looks older than he did ther.)
My point being: these were both taken by fans at cons and are considered part of fandom, thus refuting your statement that he was almost universally shunned.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 23, 2014 @ 6:10 pm
Thanks for context to your comments, which modifies what I wrote above (I hadn’t scrolled down this far when I wrote it).
June 23, 2014 @ 6:14 pm
While keeping those two thoughts in your head at the same time may be valid for you, it is not for most posting here. If you cannot understand that, fine. But understand that like not wanting to see Russel Crowe movies anymore because the guy is a raging douche does not make me intellectually incompetent, it just means I don’t want to support someone I think so little of.
June 23, 2014 @ 6:24 pm
I am not a lawyer either, but there is a crucial difference between confidentiality and copyright. You can’t copyright facts, only the way you describe those facts: that can be a written text, a speech, a movie, a photograph, any number of formats. I don’t have the right to reproduce the famous photo of the South Vietnamese police officer shooting a suspected member of the Viet Cong in the head. But I do have the right to describe what happened in my own words.
The other crucial difference is that copyright used to be something that a creator could claim by following a procedure available to anyone; it’s now automatic when a work is created. Confidentiality applies to specific information and kinds of information. I own the copyright on this post, automatically. But even if it was a private email instead, you would have the legal right to tell people “Vicki sent me an email talking about the difference between copyright and confidentiality, and mentioning a Pulitzer-winning photo from the Vietnam war, and I don’t know what she thinks she’s trying to prove by it.”
Unless there are things like nondisclosure agreements or certain government contracts, “I am telling you this in confidence” is a request, not binding on the person you’re talking to.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 23, 2014 @ 6:39 pm
Re: the SCA, consider that Marion Zimmer Bradley was a cofounder, and her attitudes helped form that culture.
Now read the SCA’s recent (June 11) notice of a settlement over their complicity in an ongoing child sexual assault case:
“Several years ago, a former SCA member named Ben Schragger was convicted of the sexual abuse of multiple children that he allegedly met through the SCA. He was sentenced and is currently serving a 62-year prison sentence. The Board, of course, permanently revoked his SCA membership.”
June 23, 2014 @ 7:16 pm
I was a fan during the 1980’s and, while not a pro myself, was married to one. I do not recall hearing this about either MZB or Breen during that time. It was easy for a lot of us to just not see what was in front of our faces.
For what I didn’t see and didn’t do, I apologize.
June 23, 2014 @ 7:47 pm
I was around at the time of the Boondoggle (1964). I agree with Gary Farber that Breen was gone from fandom within a couple of years after 1964. Active fighting went on from 1964 to 1968 in FAPA, the Cult, TAFF, and just about everyplace else. TAFF the Trans Atlantic Fan Fund had one year with Walter Breen, Bill Donaho, and Terry Carr as candidates. It was quite reasonable that Terry Carr won. From my viewpoint, the fighting had ended by the 1968 worldcon in Berkeley. I felt like sighing with relief that the long war was over. I think most people no longer cared what happened as long as the conflict ended. There was no effort to cover things up. We just never felt like mentioning it again.
I will try to summarize the sides in the conflict. Remember it was 50 years ago, and people didn’t think the way they do today about certain issues.
Many people thought the worldcon actions in 1964 were wrong. Some pointed out the woldcon committee is not a judicial body and not suited to prosecuting crime. Some thought the matter should have been taken to the police. Some pointed out that Walter’s guilt had not been proven.
Bill Donaho was widely known to be gay. That was still illegal in those days, and he didn’t want any contact with law enforcement. Fandom at the time was tolerant of homosexuality, promiscuity, and drug use. There were other people who wouldn’t have welcomed police scrutiny. Some people didn’t think Donaho was in a very strong position to be giving moral lectures.
Some people believed Walter was innocent. Walter and Marion had friends in fandom, and you don’t want to believe your friends have done wrong. When Walter was convicted I accepted that the matter was finally resolved beyond doubt. I never officially took a position on the matter. I thought there were more than enough people willing to fight about the matter.
June 23, 2014 @ 8:04 pm
I think you’re right, Keith, in that it is perfectly possible for someone being a terrible person and being very good at what they do. I think it is also possible to view the art separately from the artist, though it helps when more time has passed and the bad acts they committed aren’t causing ongoing pain in the world. The third component, whether to support the artist or her estate, or to continue to consume their artistic product, seems to me to be yet another separate issue. In other words, we might both agree that she’s a horrible person, and that she was talented in her chosen profession, and we might both come to entirely different conclusions as to whether or not that distinction is enough to make us stop reading her work.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 23, 2014 @ 8:21 pm
Laura, I think there’s a definitional issue here. Gary’s talking about the senior ranks of Worldcon fandom, including fanzine fandom, rather than conventions and convention goers generally.
June 23, 2014 @ 8:44 pm
Thank you for responding.
June 23, 2014 @ 9:03 pm
To Milt Stevens,
The point is – at the end of the day, MZB’s and Breen’s crimes are horrifying and inexcusable. It is always important to support victims of child sexual assault. It is always important to take a stand.
June 23, 2014 @ 9:14 pm
Heather, I agree. I don’t want to be the kind of person who could put this easily from their minds. I’m never, ever going to read Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books. I believe Moira Greyland, and I admire her strength and courage in reporting the sexual abuse she had suffered.
June 23, 2014 @ 9:25 pm
Jayle’s honesty should be appreciated, in that she admits she found herself tempted to turn the same blind eye. We all have a great deal of genetically programmed social behaviors, and we all tend to identify with/side with authority figures/celebrities. Doing the right thing is hard work, and takes a lot of honest self-examination. Which is why it’s so rare.
I never heard any of this before this week. In 1964 I was 13 and had never heard of fandom. I joined in 1976. It’s easy to say the scandal had passed into history by then but. . . MZB was still a big name. I saw her books on all the dealers tables. Nobody ever said to me, “Didn’t you hear about the scandal?” Apparently nobody stopped buying her books in distaste. So, yeah, I would say that fandom did ‘cover’ for her. I’m sorry about that.
June 23, 2014 @ 10:08 pm
Two things I was thinking about:
1. Stephen Goldin has been telling everyone about MZB and what she did for 14 years. I don’t understand what took everyone so damn long to get outraged over this.
2. There was comment here earlier asking Jim if he thought MZB was worse that Larry Correia (and Vox). Obviously, Jim was wise enough to not open that can of worms but…
Come on guy, what do you think?
Larry Correia may not be to everyones liking (politically or otherwise) but he’s NOT A FRIGGING CHILD MOLESTER! I know nothing about Vox Day, so I can’t really comment on him, but I’ve never heard him being accused of raping his own damn kid.
The Bradley issue is (and should be) bigger than the current left/right feud.
Jim C. Hines
June 23, 2014 @ 10:12 pm
To the best of my knowledge, Moira Greyland hadn’t spoken out about the abuse perpetrated by her mother until this month, which is a significant part of where the outrage is coming from and why it’s coming out now.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 23, 2014 @ 10:15 pm
Well, what opened this can of worms now was the Tor.com piece on MZB’s birthday, which I responded to, and it’s gone on for almost three weeks at this point. Moira had never spoken publicly about this before, and I broke that on June 10th.
In looking back at the context of why I missed this in 1999: I contracted for five different companies that year (moving to the bay area between #2 and #3), spoke at some big conferences like O’Reilly’s Open Source Conference, was co-author of a bug smasher computer book AND was in grad school for my MS in CS.
So that’s why I missed it; I was just too busy and not highly focused on MZB generally. I read the depositions in 2011 when Goldin wanted to speak at Westercon and I looked at his site.
June 23, 2014 @ 10:21 pm
I guess I didn’t find it all that shocking to discover that a person who lied for and defended her child molesting husband’s actions was involved herself. But really, I think the fact that she stood by and let stuff like happen already made her a pretty terrible person in my eyes.
It also sickens me to think that other people in the sci-fi community were aware of what was happening and just ignored it.
June 23, 2014 @ 10:24 pm
Also, good for Moira Greyland for speaking up. I imagine it can’t be easy to admit that anyone molested you, let alone to publicly admit that your own mother, who happens to be a beloved author, did.
Pardon the phrase, but that’s showing some balls right there.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 23, 2014 @ 10:29 pm
I think Deborah J. Ross’s post reflects what people thought at the time.
Combine that with some of the attitudes in the Breendoggle issue was well as the statements from long-time fans here in the comments about where the state of mind was as far as central fandom went — and you can put together that they thought nothing was awry.
When that was very, very far from the truth.
June 23, 2014 @ 11:12 pm
Except that Rich Brown, who Gary himself says had if anything an even narrower view of fandom, just fanzines and Worldcon, says this, in *1996*:
“Given the above facts–and any you might are to add, if you think I’ve presented just one side–it’s still possible to pose this question and expect an answer: Was Walter Breen universally ostracized by fandom-as-a-whole or even by a simple majority of fandom? If you think there is even the _slightest_ chance that the answer to this is “yes,” I’m afraid I’ll need either a detailed explanation or, at the very least, certification that you can count without taking off your shoes.”
In other words, one of the most senior fans of that group says that he was not ostracized. And we have another clue; FAPA, perhaps the most prestigious fanzine. 13 members voted to ban Breen; *33* voted to override that. So that suggests that less than 2/3ds of “senior fandom” thought Breen was a problem.
June 23, 2014 @ 11:17 pm
If you read the court depositions from the 1990s lawsuit filed by one of Breen’s victims, it’s clearly stated in the Elisabeth Waters Q&A that Moira Greyland, as a young child, made specific statements to Waters about being physically and sexually abused by her parents. It is equally clear that nothing was done about these statements. I don’t know any of the people involved and don’t know what happened; but I believe those circumstances–(1) legal testimony from (2) an MZB ally revealing that MZB’s daughter, (3) when she was a young child, stated to an adult she knew that she was being physically and sexually abused, and (4) no one did anything about this–undeniably lend weight and credibility to what Moira Greyland and her brother Mark Greyland have recently stated as adults about being abused as children.
And considering Breen’s history (3 criminal convictions for child molestation over a period of 36 years, the Breendoggle scandal, the civil suit, etc.), and considering MZB’s own shocking words about herself, in statement after statement, in her deposition in the civil suit… The notion that a child in that household fabricated her allegations or misunderstood innocent parental behavior strikes me as the least credible of the possible explanations for what the girl confided to Waters all those years ago.
As for “separating the artist from the art…” That’s too abstract a question for me. I know that I can’t sit through a Mel Gibson movie, because all I can see onscreen now is a drunk spewing anti-Semitic vitriol. it’s not a conscious decisions, it’s just what I see. So I don’t watch Gibson movies. Nor will I ever again attempt an MZB novel, since I will always hereafter “hear” the voice of the person in that appalling court deposition, regardless of what story her novel is telling. But these are organic reactions. I don’t have a philosophy about it.
June 23, 2014 @ 11:31 pm
When Roman Polanski received an Oscar nomination for the Pianist, there were heated arguments in film fan circles about whether he should be allowed into the US for the ceremony, but the issue didn’t get much traction in the media — when they did report it, they made it sound like he was being kept out for some long forgotten misdemeanor. Five years later the US tried to extradite him from Switzerland, Whoopi Goldberg made her infamous “rape rape” comment and suddenly people paid attention to what he’d done. Nothing had changed, but the story came at the right point in the news cycle for it to find traction, and Goldberg’s comment gave sites like Gawker something to dig into.
The same thing’s happening here. The links to Goldin’s site have been circulating for years, but it took the Tor post (and its removal) to get enough people to read the depositions for there to be discussion.
June 24, 2014 @ 12:43 am
As I said when you went on my facebook wall to make this post to me (then claiming I did not reply to your concerns):
It is unlikely that my comments may be interpreted to mean “go, make money by stealing other people’s writing” because, in that context, it’s about exposing illegal conduct.
You facebooked me raising concerns about what I said on Jim C. Hines’s post. In Australia we have legislation about Whistleblowing and legislation making it an offense to harass people via the internet. It is LEGAL to expose people’s mail to the appropriate authorities – police, lawyers, court, appropriate agents AND EVEN CONVENTION ORGANISERS TO MAKE A FORMAL COMPLAINT. Thus confidentiality and copyright do not protect perpetrators.
In conclusion: I am NOT advocating theft of people’s work for selfish publication. I SPECIFICALLY STATED that perpetrators have no right to expect claims of copyright or confidentiality to protect them from their abuse coming to light. These are two very different statements.
June 24, 2014 @ 1:46 am
Absolutely. I was never one of her fans: read a few pages of Avalon back in the 80s, bounced off it because it wasn’t my thing, and never picked up any of her other work. I can also understand not wanting to read anything of hers because the thought of who wrote it triggers unpleasant emotions. And choosing not to read it for any other reason, including no reason at all.
June 24, 2014 @ 1:58 am
I actively avoid Card, so I do the same thing. As I said below, I have no problem for people not choosing to read a given author for any reason. I can understand why. But it’s not a symmetrical thing. What I see happening is one group saying “This person was a monster, and as a result I choose not to support their work”, while you have some other people who have spent a long time saying “The work and other stuff they did was important, they were friends of mine, therefore how dare you say they were a monster?” It’s the second group that has the problem, not the first. The first are taking a moral stance. The second are just plain denying reality.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 24, 2014 @ 2:26 am
On the off chance that anyone does want to go back to re-read MZB to see if these issues are in her work, I do have an open question based on my own one-novel read and several others’ descriptions of her books.
My standing question: which of her works pass the Bechdel test, and which do not? I know Mists of Avalon is frequently cited as a book that passes.
Janni Lee Simner wrote about earlier Darkover books not passing here: http://simner.com/blog/?p=5047 (but wasn’t specific).
It’s just one of the things I wonder, if anyone is so inclined.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 24, 2014 @ 2:31 am
One of the things I find the most curious about the whole MZB and Lisa Waters relationship is how much Lisa downplays the fact that she was Marion’s SO. (After all, it would even be more weird for a “secretary” to inherit half the estate and the kids be disinherited, but it makes somewhat more sense if the secretary’s the SO.)
MZB’s official bio on the mzbworks.com site doesn’t list Breen at all nor any personal relationship with Lisa.
June 24, 2014 @ 2:44 am
Well, having lately read her legal deposition, some of her statements since then, and some of her more recent blog posts, there’s a lot I find extremely strange. But not her apparent preference to remain private about a private relationship.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 24, 2014 @ 2:58 am
That’s a valid point. And I’ve been so inundated with it that the bad stuff has seemed too horrible to be strange, so my mind sticks on other aspects.
All the revelations have caused me to question so much over the last three weeks. So many conversations. So many heartbreaking details. So many survivors of childhood sexual assault sharing their stories on my blog.
June 24, 2014 @ 3:06 am
About 25 years ago, when I was much easier to please as a reader than I am now, I tried THE MISTS OF AVALON. I disliked the writing so much that I quit after a few chapters and never tried her work again. Recently reading her deposition has ensured that I will never try it in future, either.
June 24, 2014 @ 3:24 am
Keeping Breen out of the bio–or deleting him?–strikes me as pretty commonplace. In politics, people (try to) delete hideous things from their personal history every damn day, after all.
June 24, 2014 @ 4:01 am
I remember hearing something about MZBs ex husband being a child molester years ago (around the time of her death), but I assumed it was something few people knew about at the time, and it was one of those things where the spouse buried her head in the sand. Reprehensible, but hardly unusual. Learning the whole story just makes me sick, and it breaks my heart to learn that much of the SFF fantasy community has been no better than Hollywood and pro sports in this regard.
I think there are arguments that can be made for separating artists as people from their work, but not when they molest kids. I read a few of her books when I was younger. They weren’t among my favorites, but even if they had been, I couldn’t stomach re-reading anything by her now. I hope her and Walter Breen’s victims have been able to find the support and healing they need to live good, healthy lives.
June 24, 2014 @ 6:52 am
I haven’t checked, because I rather dislike the strong gender essentialism in that book, but I think it’s likely that “Mists of Avalon” passes the test.
What haunts me, however, is that there is a depiction of child rape in “The Mists of Avalon”. The setting of the scene is a fertility rite. Morgaine, the protagonist we are meant to sympathize with, is specifically mentioned as hearing the child scream and doing nothing. The rape itself is explained by the narrator’s voice (subjective third-person view with limited knowledge) as being caused by a divine force that has overcome both the victim and the offender. This description should be taken with a grain of salt, insofar as I only ever read “The Mists of Avalon” in German, and haven’t compared the translation with the original text. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t amount to much difference between texts. In any case, I couldn’t find any kind of condemnation of the act expressed in the narrative.
For me, this makes it rather difficult to ‘seperate the art from the artist’. You cannot read, for example, “The Horror at Red Hook” and not know that Lovecraft was a racist. Now I feel that you can’t read “The Mists of Avalon” and not know that MZB was an apologist of child rape even in her fiction.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 24, 2014 @ 7:38 am
This is where I feel like my having read Arthurian stuff early (pre-Mists publication) works to my detriment, because I’m not an Arthurian scholar. There was some really squicksome stuff in Arthurian lore, and I don’t know if this is the author or the underlying legends.
So I don’t feel I can judge that as harshly as you feel you can, but I would not be reading a book where I knew there was a scene like that.
June 24, 2014 @ 8:19 am
I’m really just an amateur when it comes to Arthurian lore (big fan of “The Once and Future King” though), but I’m sure the rape element isn’t from the source matter. Both characters, the victim and the offender, are nameless and specifically made up for the scene in which the rape occurs.
However, there is an element from the legends* in the same scene: the incest between Arthur and his half-sister, which in “The Mists of Avalon” occurs right after the rape.
I wouldn’t have mentioned it if I weren’t sure that the rape element is MZB’s invention. Always better to be careful when it comes to attributing characters’ or narrators’ feelings and opinions to the author! But in this case I think it’s pretty clear: The rape (taking place during a fertility rate) is presented as something that is expected to happen when people celebrate their ‘divine’ sexuality, and as entirely justified in this context. It specifically isn’t condoned, while the incest taking place in the same scene is condoned later.
* You are definitely right about the squicksome stuff, not only in Arthurian lore, but in all kinds of other mythic and legendary stuff as well. I’m a Bible scholar, and I readily admit the Bible is not really an exception here.
June 24, 2014 @ 9:04 am
I’m a practicing artist, and I have a hard time with people saying to separate the artist from the art.
In my observation, the artist always leaves an imprint on the art.
Marion Zimmer Bradley’s books are riddled with rape, pedophilia, and pedophilia apologism. As a young person I was very uncomfortable with them and drifted away from them, no matter how vehemently they were recommended, towards authors without creepster elements.
No amount of appealing artistic elements, to my mind, can provide enough sugar coating to sweeten a work by a child rapist and enabler.
Marion Zimmer Bradley is accused of raping children. By her own admission she abused her own children and knew children were being raped in her house and did not care, made excuses for it even. Her art makes excuses for raping children. The fannish community around her knew of the last parts, even if they were blind to the first.
For all intents and purposes, local fandom rallied around MZB and Breen, one side supporting them and the other not talking about it. (Robert A. Heinlein left fandom after the Breendoggle for the opposite of a moral reason, because he was incensed at *critics* of Breen.) The result was a mutually agreed-upon conspiracy of silence, one which provided comfort, security, and an agreeable social position for child rapists.
It seems to me that is is a long-smothered issue which desperately needs airing.
June 24, 2014 @ 9:12 am
First- I want to be clear, I am not an official spokesperson for the SCA in any capacity.
But I do think I am okay to ring in on a correction to this comment about the ‘Ben the Steward’/Ben Schragger case:
The “recent” document you linked to? Is from 28 months ago – February 2012.
When the SCA settled an ongoing lawsuit from 2009 with a $1.3mil settlement, and included a statement of ‘no fault’.
To a general member like me reading about the case and the aftermath, this was a convoluted mess. And was not the first time the group tried to go after the SCA and members for damages. As you can read about in the document you linked to, as well as the comprehensive FAQ docment also provided by the Board of Directors.
SCA Complicity? No.
Case Complicated? Yes
MZB may have been one of the founders of the SCA. But IMO she is/was several degrees removed from the case you quoted here.
The SCA has also made a lot of policy and practice changes in recent years, especially around protecting the under 18 membership, as well as to more clearly define what is or is not an ‘official’ SCA activity, and ‘official’ lines of communication.
(SCA general member/populace,
Not an official anything for the SCA)
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 24, 2014 @ 9:18 am
Huh, the document file is dated June 11, 2014 if you download it.
You’re right — it does refer to future events that will happen in 2012.
I’m glad to hear the SCA is doing a better job than in the founding days.
June 24, 2014 @ 9:27 am
Thank you for writing this, Jim. I was a fan during that time, and had no idea. I work with charities and lobbies to protect children from predators, and SF fans managed to hide this better than the Vatican with a rapist priest.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 24, 2014 @ 9:29 am
Thank you for that followup. I remembered the brother/half-sister one. So, no, MZB shouldn’t get a pass on this.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 24, 2014 @ 9:54 am
As Moira said in her letter to me, “None of this should be news.”
Sadly, it was.
June 24, 2014 @ 9:55 am
Er … that was supposed to be “fertility rite” instead of “rate”, of course, and “condemned” instead of “condoned”.
Sorry! Should know better than not checking twice when I write something in English.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 24, 2014 @ 9:56 am
I’d done those mental substitutions without noticing — which is proof why I should never edit my own work.
June 24, 2014 @ 10:21 am
Thank for writing this…I am utterly sickened. I had one book by MZB in my home, I just threw it away. Those who knew and were silent, you are as guilty as the twisted freaks that commit the offenses. Shame on you.
June 24, 2014 @ 10:40 am
Thank you for writing this, it is the first I have heard of this and it is so sad and infuriating. I feel so sorry for their victims and so pissed that it sounds like yet another instance of fandom falling down on its ass (though not completely based on what folks have said, but still, mostly). And as another who found the Sword & Sorceress series and books written by MZB at a young age, I’m sad that they were written by someone who did such horrible things. I can sometimes separate art from artist, but I don’t think I will be able to in this case.
It is very easy to put people up on pedestals instead of remembering they are humans too, but this is well beyond that. MZB & Walter Breen were predators and we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to not protect predators in sci-fi/fantasy/geek fandom!
June 24, 2014 @ 11:00 am
This is all new to me as a reader of sff. I have read a good bit of MZB’S work. Some of it I really enjoyed, but there was a very dark element to a lot of her work that I found very disturbing. As far as the Sword & Sorceress anthologies, most of the works were by other authors. I will not condemn those books as I saw one poster comment.
I think the Internet is playing a large part in the publicizing of these incidents at this time. It should be noted that I was not even born or reading during the dates being mentioned.
I am curious whether her children benefit from sales of her work financially. I certainly think they deserve to, but there was a mention of them having been disinherited.
Jim C. Hines
June 24, 2014 @ 11:06 am
“I am curious whether her children benefit from sales of her work financially.”
They do not.
And I apologize, because I know there’s a link about this specific issue (inheritance and the MZB estate), and I can’t find it right now.
Deirdre Saoirse Moen
June 24, 2014 @ 11:11 am
Her children were indeed disinherited.
Moira’s got her music and Mark’s got his art.
June 24, 2014 @ 11:19 am
Since this question has come up, I don’t want to speak with authority since many of you are far more informed than me, but isn’t it true that the current beneficiary of sales from MZB’s work is Elizabeth Waters?
If so and if where money from sales of these books goes to matters to anyone, Waters does come across as a major enabler of these crimes in the testimonies if I recall.
June 24, 2014 @ 11:29 am
When this recently erupted, I had questioned why “not supporting” Bradley’s work was a viable argument, since she was long dead and certainly not benefiting. At the time, I hadn’t known what her estate was doing with the revenue, but now that I know where it’s going, or at least half of it, my feelings on that particular issue are rather different.
June 24, 2014 @ 11:42 am
I see an awful lot of bad binary reasoning in this thread, with no acknowledgement whatsoever of the Aristotelian fallacy, a.k.a. the false dilemma or law of the excluded middle. And it’s warping the entire conversation and making communication and learning impossible.
In this thread, it is the rhetorical and illusory line between “evil and must be shunned and made an Unperson” and “a shining example to be emulated for generations to come.” If I may, I’m going to use a less-emotional example from politics to illustrate the danger of that kind of thinking.(note 1) Richard Nixon did incredible, perhaps irreparable damage to the institution of the presidency and to partisanship; virtually everything that we see wrong with the Tea Party movement (or, I suppose, depending on one’s perspective, everything that is right about the Tea Party movement) can be traced rather directly — in concept, in methods, even in personnel — to the Nixon White House between 1970 and 1974. Indeed, Nixon had been a supporter of evil long before then, when he was one of the biggest movers in the Army-McCarthy hearings… on the wrong side of ethics and history. But Nixon also gave us the Clean Water Act; he funded enforcement of the Voting Rights Act; he reopened China to communication (for good or for ill, but failure to communicate would probably have been worse); he was actually the most-liberal President of the last half of the 20th century, if measured by his actual accomplishments. (Not very liberal, but it’s shocking how ill-founded Carter’s and Clinton’s programs were… and the less said about Kennedy and Johnson as “liberals” the better.)
All of that said, I can’t forgive Nixon for his undoubted attraction to evil and power as a man. Neither, however, can I entirely neglect the policy-level good he did, nor the power of his intellect on foreign-to-the-US affairs (Kissinger was not, contrary to later rewriting of history, the brains of the operation).
So what does this have to do with the above? Two things:
(1) We can despise child-rapists and their supporters. It can color our perception of their artistic works; anyone who denies that there’s some influence on their artistic works isn’t paying attention. But it doesn’t entitle us to dismiss their artistic works FOR EVERYONE ELSE or UNIVERSALLY. If it did, there go Picasso, and Dali, and Pound… and H.P. Lovecraft…
I may choose never again to read MZB’s work. (Well, professionally I can’t, but you know what I mean.) I cannot and will not censor it. I can take a middle ground and advocate that others shouldn’t, either… but there are perfectly legitimate reasons for doing so regardless. And if “giving money” seems to much, use the bloody library.
(2) There’s also a middle ground on treatment of individuals. For sufficient safety reasons, excluding a convicted pedophile who has shown neither an inclination nor an ability to refrain from that conduct (like Mr Breen) from conventions is a good idea. But extending that to a mandatory lifetime convention ban for every miscreant after an incident of sexual harassment is too far the other direction… if only because that discourages people who’ve made mistakes — or who have mistakes at the core of their very being — from changing for the better. There’s substantial evidence that excessively harsh punishment regimes — especially those focused on vengeance as the primary rationale — lead to worse behavior; if a warped individual is going to get a ban for sexual harassment, and that’s the maximum punishment available, some of those warped individuals aren’t going to limit themselves to harassment.(note 2)
* * *
There’s one further dangerous line being implicated by this conversation; fortunately, I haven’t seen it crossed… yet. Do not, DO NOT make the mistake of condemning someone for their choice of reading matter or art. It’s fine to advocate “People shouldn’t read Author’s work for Reasons-of-Squickiness.” It’s fine to publicly state “I told a local bookstore owner, and she agreed and removed Author’s work from her shelves.” It’s not acceptable to advocate “People who read Author must be condemned because they inherently support Squickiness.” Down that road lie Natalia Gorbanevskaya, and Arthur Koestler, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. And anyone who thinks comparing sexual misconduct to political dissidents is entirely inapposite should take a look at both the actual charges on which those three individuals were brought up… and the legislative history of the Comstock Acts.
(note 1) Besides, if we really want to go overboard with this, all we have to do is look at the misguided decision to implement the Forrest J. Ackerman Big Heart Award… in the face of essentially irrefutable evidence of fraud that was public knowledge at the time that naming was proposed, which has only gotten more despicable and better documented (for some value of “documented,” which was part of the fraud) with time.
(note 2) I have personal experience, during my time as a commanding officer, with having to deal with the aftermath of this kind of thinking… more than once as the commander of the perpetrator, and more than once as the commander of the victim.
June 24, 2014 @ 11:45 am
Without pretending to know the entire circumstances, and without disclosing anything I’ve learned that needs to remain confidential, it’s a lot more complicated than that. There were some… failures of estate planning, I think, is the most-neutral way I can put it… that resulted in significant Shifting of Things.
June 24, 2014 @ 11:51 am
I am sick to death of people who can’t tell the difference between social awkwardness and the horrors of *real* sexual harassment and abuse. There are very, very few people would would protect or defend sexual harassment and abuse in fandom today. Exposure of MZB’s repulsive activities is a shock for a reason: it is NOT the norm, despite the hand-wringing of people who cry out for “harassment policies” and other such measures.
June 24, 2014 @ 11:52 am
I think there are matters of degree in these issues. I don’t think there is a black or white answer that works for all cases of separating art from artist. Instead, you can look at various factors, such as:
1. The nature of the problem with the artist;
2. The content of the art itself; and
3. The amount of time the has passed to bring perspective to the artist and work.
With respect to #1, I think there is a rather large difference between something like MZB, which I believe is just indicative of a terrible person – something that extends so far across the various aspects of humanity that define a person that there’s just no way out from under it. On the other hand, you have something like the controversy over Larry Correia, with whom I may disagree politically, but of whom I can say nothing about his overall humanity. He may well be a perfectly good guy, and I know from experience that certain political opinions don’t preclude that.
So in the one case you have something that, in my view, gets to the core of an individual, and in the other case you do not. Orson Scott Card may be somewhere in the middle, but far closer to the Correia side, because of the extent to which he funds political activity with his money. In the case of MZB, I simply don’t want to read her work anymore. In the case of OSC, I don’t want to find his political activity. The controversy around Correia isn’t going to affect my purchases one way or another.
Moving to #2, the nature of the work. My view is that the work should rise or fall on its own merits. That’s not the same question as to whether I’m going to financially support the work by purchasing it, but simply a question of how to view the work. If the work overtly includes those things that are problematic about the authors, that’s going to cause more of a problem for a work than if it does not (and I don’t agree with the idea that it inherently has to include these things. Someone in another forum mentioned that Mists of Avalon has a child rape scene in it. Well…that certainly moves into a new light in view of recent events, and I think it is correct that it should. Should Card’s Ender’s Game be judged based on political views he holds that don’t make their way into the book. I don’t think so. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go out and buy it (I said, above, I don’t want to support his work), but I have a functioning mind and can view the work of literature on its own, without having to drag extraneous information into it.
Finally, #3…time. This seems self-evident, I suppose. It works in a couple of ways: 1) it puts the author in context of time and place. For example, The Merchant of Venice has racism and anti-semitism that was common to Elizabethan worldview (and I find the argument that Shakespeare didn’t share some of these beliefs strained). But it has been a bit over 400 years, and I can read Shakespeare and enjoy it without concerning myself over whether he had views I share or that I find repugnant. Moving ahead much further in time, I can read Lovecraft even though he had racist views and I find racism to be repugnant. OSC is still alive and funding politics I don’t agree with, and so I’m not going to buy his works. MZB may be dead, but the revelations are fresh, and her victims are still alive. I don’t think enough time can possibly pass in our lifetimes to say it’s OK to forget about what she did and just read her work. On the other hand, if her work is still around in 200 years, I suspect it will be much easier for people of that future time to read her books and distance themselves from what a nasty person she was.
So, for me personally, MZB’s acts go so centrally to the core of what makes a person, that I don’t have a problem at all saying I won’t read her works or in any way support them. Others may come to a different conclusion, and I’m not going to condemn them for doing so – I can only speak for myself.
Jim C. Hines
June 24, 2014 @ 11:59 am
“I am sick to death of people who can’t tell the difference between social awkwardness and the horrors of *real* sexual harassment and abuse.”
And did you just take a conversation about how fandom failed to adequately confront an active pedophile in its midst and transition into an argument that we don’t need harassment policies and other measures to deal with sexual harassment? Wow. That’s … that’s something.
June 24, 2014 @ 12:11 pm
I was specifically replying to your second to last paragraph (the one that begins “When we ignore…”).
But I regret doing so, and I would delete my comment if I could. The notion that any unwanted (or even mildly annoying) social interaction is the same thing as rape and child-molestation has become the zeitgeist, and anyone who points out that there is a broad spectrum of human behaviour between those extremes risks being branded an “apologist”, “enabler”, or worse.
June 24, 2014 @ 12:18 pm
Reading the testimonies, it seems she did tell Elisabeth Waters.
And got no help or support or any reaction at all.
I can imagine it didn’t gave her much hope of being believed or helped, and explain why it took her so long to go public with the abuse !
June 24, 2014 @ 12:29 pm
Jim, this post was eloquent. I attended a few Darkovers but was never a huge fan of MZB although I did like Mists of Avalon well enough when I first read it. I certainly never heard anything about the pedophilia until this past month. I am appalled that so many people were/are such apologists for her. That saddens me deeply. I truly do not understand it. I hope her children find peace.
June 24, 2014 @ 12:41 pm
As a vendor at conventions, I will speak out on this. I also vend at Ren festivals. I cannot tell you how delighted I was the day certain ren festivals started charging us vendors to run background checks on ourselves and employees of the festival. These conventions and festivals are attended by many, many young people who are entering through the gates in expectation of a safe, family-friendly event. To have these young folks violated in such an environment is horrifying and deludes the reputation of not only that event, but other similar events…thus reducing attendance at such festivals or events. There is no real method of remove all of these type individuals from events…but forcing them to pay full price admission will, perhaps, deter their presence when they are so used to prima dona status.
Frankly, the invited guests should be held to a higher standard…not a lower one…than the paying patrons to the event. After all…if the invited guest is being paid to be there…or is getting tipped for being there…or other benefits for being there (increase book sales comes to mind) then they are putting themselves out there as an example for these young folks to follow…and should be “worthy” of that leadership role. With their fame comes the responsibility to continue to earn the respect of readership…not entitlement to abuse of same.
We, as a society need to find the balance between the silence and the mania that leads to credible outcries and prosecution of actual offenders. Right now, the balance is tipped on the child that cries wolf because they are pissed off and know how to terrorize the person they’re pissed off at. Then, when there are celebrities being accused, there’s the “me-too” crowd. There are victims…and they need a voice…and they need to be heard. The predators need to be removed from guest lists to protect the reputation of the convention, festival, etc…not to mention the liability from law suits if a venue knowingly has a predator as a guest (an “I don’t believe it” is not a defense in such a law suit.)
Anyway…my .02 on it.
June 24, 2014 @ 12:44 pm
Laura’s point is well taken. We speak of separating the art from the artists, but these decisions are not made on the rational level. Few people make a conscious choice to avoid an artist that they previously admired when they discover unpleasant truths about them. Usually they are–or are not–sufficiently disturbed that they are left with a permanent emotional aversion. Like not being able to eat tomatoes again after that time they made you so sick. Sometimes, of course, the unpleasant truth is less hideous than incestuous pedophilia, and dismissing the flaws of the artist for the sake of the work is easier and more understandable. But in cases this extreme, the persons who make that argument–presumably those that present themselves as having chosen the art–are usually those that are actually choosing the artist. (There are, after all, lots of books out there. MZB was popular but not a game changer.) They have an emotional commitment that persuades them to override, or deny, the unpleasant truth.
June 24, 2014 @ 12:47 pm
Moira herself has confirmed that she and her brother do not benefit from the Trust that controls the works, and that Lisa Waters does. Unless you are going to put up details, I am going to go with that; she may be unaware of complex details due to not being a benefitee, but I think she’s probably pretty clear on whether she and Mark get any money.
June 24, 2014 @ 12:47 pm
I read to MZB novels. Or rather 1 1/2. I read a Darkover. I forget which one. It was okay. I didn’t hate it. Neither was I inspired to read another. I tried to read Mists of Avalon. I found the writing pulpy, but the reason I put it down was that, as a serious student of Arthurian legend, I was just appalled–and offended–at what she had done to the canon.
June 24, 2014 @ 12:53 pm
She admitted in depositions that she KNEW what was going on with what her husband was doing to those boys, and apparently didn’t do anything to make it stop. It’s not as though she was ignorant of what was going on. She even suggested in those depositions that a 12 or 14 year old boy was old enough to make his own decisions about having sex.
This just makes me sick.
June 24, 2014 @ 1:46 pm
For anyone who thinks they’ve just got to read MZB because they heard her stories were good, even after reading this, there are two options for you. You can check her books out of the library, or you can buy them used. Authors don’t get any money from used book sales unless they’re selling the books themselves. Obviously, since MZB’s dead, she can’t do that, so no fear of her profiting.
Anyone considering selling her books used could also consider taking the profits they earn and donating them to RAINN or some other abuse/molestation survivor group. It’s not like MZB will have any chance anymore to even begin trying to right her wrongs. And would that even be possible? You can’t take back something like that. You can’t even try.
June 24, 2014 @ 1:54 pm
Time makes a difference, too. Whether this is rational or just rationalizing, learning that an artist whose work I like abandoned spouse and children in the 17th century probably wouldn’t affect my enjoyment of the artist’s work, whereas it very likely would if the artist were working (and abandoning the family) in my own lifetime. Time would probably make the first instance seem too remote to change my view of the art and too immediate in the second instance NOT to change it. I don’t know where the exact dividing line on that would be (1758? 1985?) because, again, it’s an organic reaction rather than a philosophical or intellectual position.