Ashes of Avalon Revisited


Undated photo of the late author Marion Zimmer Bradley, found at Wikipedia

I’ve been considering science fiction awards named after flawed human beings lately.

Of course, on my blog, this all started with Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award Acceptance Speech and Here We Go Again, and then continued into The Sins of John W. Campbell Revisited, Tiptree Award Name May Change (Here We Go Again), and here, and here, and so on.

Then, I saw today that someone has read an article I’d written last January called Out of the Ashes of Avalon. I had been exploring the serious allegations of child neglect and abuse leveled at beloved feminist fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley, as well as the fact that her husband was sentenced to prison for sexually abusing her daughter (and some say Bradley actively participated in that abuse).

What surprised me most wasn’t that Bradley was possibly (likely) capable of both failing to protect her minor age daughter and possibly sexually abusing her own child, but that there seemed to be some sort of debate between more conservative and more liberal participants and fans in SciFi as to whether this constituted any sort of “problem” with Bradley.

True, many liberal voices in science fiction condemned Bradley, but not all. Admittedly, her defenders are (or should be) few and far between. Protecting a child from sexual abuse is something that (should) transcends political and social barriers. It is (should be) a standard that all morally upright human beings (should) possess.

Just for giggles, I Googled “Marion Zimmer Bradley award.” I was momentarily shocked when this page showed up. Then I saw that it was a list of the awards Bradley’s works had accumulated, not an award named after her.

In light of all of the other drama and trauma about “fallen angels” in the history of science fiction in particular, and literature in general, if Bradley’s name had been attached to an award, in terms of her history, would it have been removed?

I hope so. In her case, the reasoning would be abundantly, breathtakingly clear. There are few (if any) crimes more grievously heinous than sexually (or otherwise) abusing your own child. After all, parents are presumed to be protectors of their children. I know that if any one had hurt any of my children, or now, any of my grandchildren, my response would be swift and decisive. That’s what you do when you love your family.

So to fail in that duty, makes you not only a betrayer of trust and a criminal, but consigns you to a special circle of Hell for, not the merely flawed, but the shamefully damned. My opinion anyway.

I did discover according to this comment, that while no one actively supported Bradley’s abuse of her daughter, there were some who dismissed it, stating that her daughter, not being “social justice” supporting, somehow deserved it, at least retroactively now that she’s an adult.

On twitter, former SFWA President Cat Rambo stated:


Screen capture from twitter

First of all, as I stated here, for some folks on the left, why is anyone right of center (or right of extreme far left progressiveness) always considered “alt-right?” Secondly, referring to Rambo’s comment, does Bradley’s (alleged) sexual abuse of her own daughter somehow pale in comparison to the vast body of rude comments and actions by President Trump? I mean, by Trump’s behavior being horrible, does that mean Bradley’s behavior, because she was an “artist,” was “okay?”

Of course, there were a few who stood up to Rambo and called child abuse what it is.


Screen capture from twitter

I have no idea who the “proven pedophile running for Congress” was supposed to be,  but let’s focus on Donald Trump. What, if any, are his sex crimes against children? I had to look it up, and according to Snopes (yes, I know, I know),

In late April 2016, rumors began to circulate online holding that Republican presidential Donald Trump had either been sued over, or arrested for, raping a teenaged girl. One of the earliest versions of the rumor was published on 2 May 2016 by the Winning Democrats web site, which reported that woman using the name Katie Johnson had named Trump and billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in a $100 million lawsuit, accusing them of having solicited sex acts from her at sex parties held at the Manhattan homes of Epstein and Trump back in 1994 (when Johnson was just 13 years old) [Quoted directly from the website, all grammatical errors belong to Snopes]

Now, it’s important to be clear, the allegations against Bradley are largely the result of her now adult daughter’s allegations against her mother. We believe them because we believe the victim. We also believe them because Bradley’s husband was convicted in a court of law of the crime and sentenced to prison, which at least makes Bradley guilty of failure to protect.

The allegations against Trump and Epstein, in this particular instance, are based on the accusations of the now adult accuser who was 13 years old at the time of the event(s). Is Trump as guilty, more guilty, or less guilty than Bradley? It remains to be seen if Donald Trump is a proven pedophile.

The GQ article When Does America Reckon with the Gravity of Donald Trump’s Alleged Rapes? concludes:

There are too many red flags to ignore. Trump has proven himself to be a danger to women in his personal orbit, and his leadership is a danger to women and girls across the world. Now that his powerful friend is being held accountable for heinous sex crimes, the allegations against the president warrant much further scrutiny.

I know I’m going off on a bit of a tangent, but since Rambo brought it up, I have to at least address the issue. We tend to think that “If there’s smoke, there’s fire,” and if so, then not only Trump, but the Clintons and a good many other political and other public figures are guilty of whatever they’re accused of in social and news media, a legal court finding notwithstanding.

There was a court finding against Bradley’s husband, so we have that. As far as Rambo’s allegations, do we have anything? Look, I’m not saying Trump isn’t guilty, but with a lack of concrete evidence, let alone a conviction, how am I supposed to respond?

My point is that, in such a contentious environment, if we condemn John W. Campbell Jr. for his “fascism” and strip an award of his name, and if we condemn James Tiptree Jr. (Alice Sheldon) for entering into a murder/suicide pact with her chronically ill husband, then we must, repeat must unreservedly condemn Bradley for her part in damaging if not destroying the life of her own child.

Of course (to the best of my knowledge), there’s no award bearing Bradley’s name, so I suppose the point is moot. We just need to be clear that if we apply a standard to some people based on their crimes and their sins, it must apply to all. Politics and social affiliations must matter not.

EDIT: I posted links to this blog post in various social media venues including MeWe. Someone responded with Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress 33. This is an anthology of fantasy short stories by various authors, and the “blurb” at Amazon states:

For over two decades, the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, best-selling and beloved author, discovered and nurtured a new generation of authors. The roster of contributors over the years includes Mercedes Lackey, Laurell K. Hamilton, Charles de Lint, Diana L. Paxson, Emma Bull, Jennifer Roberson, and countless others.

It was published in 2018, so it’s not like Bradley’s past was unknown.

Okay, so it’s not an award, but it is an honor to have an anthology named after you. I know I’d be honored. But given everything we know about Bradley, how are we supposed to respond to this? As far as I know, no one in science fiction/fantasy fandom (yes, that fandom) has ever mentioned it, let alone led the righteous crusade of outrage against it. Methinks something may be up.

s and s 34

Cover image for the Marion Zimmer Bradley anthology “Sword and sorceress 34, available October 2019.

After a brief search, I found that this series goes back to at least volume 28 published in 2013, so it’s been around maybe five years or so.

I was going to say, should there be a volume 34 in 2019, but then I discovered there already is, and it’s available for pre-order, coming out on October 29th.

But I guess because it’s not an award, it doesn’t matter. Oy.

I wonder when an author whose story is selected for publication in Bradley’s “Sword and Sorceress” will publicly go on record as refusing because they can’t be seen to associate with the name of a child abuser? Anyone? Anyone at all?


22 thoughts on “Ashes of Avalon Revisited

  1. Typo alert! The phrase you wanted was “pale in comparison”, not “pail in comparison”. Also worthy of note is that allegations are not facts, hence one need not acknowledge any of them or dignify them with any hint of credence that only adds to the amount of slander and falsehood occupying the social media. One may justifiably wonder also when folks like the current sci-fi generation’s Jeannette Ng may come under fire for their own shortcomings, because, as we all know, “nobody’s perfect”.


      • Ah, yes … I was not thinking so much about Bradley, for whom there seems to be evidence such as you have referenced. I was thinking about other slanders, such as the longstanding examples of Trump Derangement Syndrome whereby a few boorish remarks have been inflated into excuses for utterly unjustifiable hatreds and presumptions.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Of course, nevermind” the Clinton derangement syndrome. And, while we’re at it, I hate the excuse that nobody’s perfect. Especially when it comes to things like this.

        I agree, James, that naming an anthology after her is an honor and that if she was involved or complicit or anything like that, then it’s too much of an honor.

        (Incidentally, I haven’t gone back to read any of the commentary over again, but my guess is someone was referring to Dennis Hastert, prior Speaker.)


      • There are many ways and examples (from decades as well as days of late) with which I could respond to your possible lack of awareness on the fervor aimed at the Clintons over the decades (or your possible feigning of naivete). We can start here:
        Trump retweets conspiracy theory about Bill Clinton after Jeffrey Epstein’s death by [apparent] suicide

        The president retweeted a post by comedian and Trump backer Terrence Williams who said Epstein “had information on Bill Clinton” and was now dead. …….

        Trump Continues To Push Clinton Epstein Conspiracy

        There is no goose and no gander with Republicans… but plenty of gaslighting.


      • By “Republicans,” I don’t only mean people who are thus registered to vote or paying dues. Ordinary or unaffiliated people, in addition to the leaders in office and/or running the party and other institutions and entities promoting Republicans… regular people, too, who make excuses for Trump or others like him or pretend not to notice, and level accusations about unjustifiable craze and presumption are what I indicate. Their lack of consistency is astonishing. The lack of seeing what is right there to see is so inexplicable as to look like deliberate blowing of smoke.

        Bill Clinton and Donald Trump are both implicated by association with Epstein. Or neither of them are. But, somehow, it is undertaken by Trump, like his followers and apologists, to point away.

        Meanwhile, it is Trump who is in office and overseeing the administration… so why is (pedophile) Epstein dead? Is Clinton overseeing the prisons and Justice Department? No.


      • {I don’t like Bill Clinton, I never voted for Bill Clinton, I voted for opponents of Bill Clinton. But that doesn’t stop me from seeing straight and following that up with honesty on the matter.}


      • My guess is, most are unaware. The rest are evenly split between being outraged that Breen/Bradley did this to their children and those that are willing to look the other way because MZB was a *right thinker*.

        It’s an interesting bit of hypocrisy that they have eviscerated people like Laura Ingalls Wilder and John W. Campbell for expressing what was mainstream thought during their time.

        But pedophiles that actually harmed children? They are off limits according to these folks.

        Hopefully, as the truth gets out, more people will see what is going on and react accordingly. We are already seeing this in the decline of membership in certain organizations. The reduced number of voters in their awards and in the decline in income for the books, movies and other content they produce.


      • I’m considering flagging Cora and “camestrosfelapton” on twitter with a link to this blog post and asking for their opinion. I don’t dare stick my nose into the comments section of File 770 again, lest I receive another hazing by their more hostile commenters.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, the wise man remains far away from the House of 770 Vile Aromas. ;P

        As for the other two, if they show up here and comment, I will refrain from responding to either.

        But I suspect they will come up with quite the logic pretzel to defend why Campbell must be excommunicated whilst MZB must be canonized.


      • I’ve been pretty busy today so haven’t had a chance to address this. Every other Sunday, after taking my Mom to church, I visit a friend of mine who suffers from ALS. Afterward, my sons and grandkids came over for dinner. My slave day job keeps me plenty busy during the week, plus I’ve scored some freelance technical writing work, so I’m not sure when I’ll be able to circle back to this. Maybe in a few days. So far the two people I’ve mentioned have been civil to me, and I don’t mind disagreeing with people as long as we can have a discussion free of drama and trauma.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I was on MeWe this morning and found a link to An Author Interview with Moira Greyland Peat by Tamara Wilhite. Greyland is Zimmer’s daughter and the author of a book chronicling her abuse at the hands of Zimmer’s husband called The Last Closet. I thought it might provide some additional context, plus lend itself as a tool of redirection. This blog post is about how to understand and respond to a SF/F luminary who clearly had serious issues and harmed children, yet who, inexplicably, remains revered decades after her death while many others who are guilty of less have fallen from grace in “fandom.”


    • I will check it out. But, as to what things are about, I find myself wondering if you hope people will agree with you on this or if your larger goal is that people realize “your heros will never be perfect.” It’s difficult to make sense of things when you’ve used a fan article writer appealing to conservatives seeing Milo Yiannopoulos as normal. And then you apparently don’t remember doing so. I know you weren’t interested when I pointed it out… repeatedly. After several blog topics where the same thing happened, you eventually (not in any acknowledging response) made a passing remark that you’re not a particular fan of Milo. But what of all the feeling sorry for (so-called) conservatives business?


  3. I think this is an example that should encourage people to lay off the haranguing of others to shut up (even when put in fancier or more pretentious words).

    Moira: ….

    I was expected to not only be a willing participant, but to keep the family secrets. As I discussed at some length in my book, I was vilified for wanting to stop my father from molesting boys, and threatened into silence, as well as being regarded as a pariah and a loose cannon once it was known that I was neither willing, nor especially silent. I did not dare to tell anyone other than my friends and counselors until both my parents had been dead for many years.


    • I appreciate that inclusion and want to quote this, near the end:
      One rule for friends and another for enemies in Puppyland, evidently.

      It is worth noting that each of these two posts brought up the potential commercial value of the scandal. Wright expressed pride that the controversy had given Forbidden Thoughts a sales boost, while Niemeier framed the attacks as coming from the corrupt mainstream media – and then went on to promote his self-published books as a morally sound alternative.

      I am simply not seeing moral consistency here. All I am seeing is a consistent opportunism: …



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