Trigger warning: child rape.
Leah Schnelbach wrote a piece on Tor.com for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s birthday. I’m not going to link to it.
In this case, I feel that what’s most important about Marion Zimmer Bradley isn’t that she wrote a bunch of stuff.
I feel that what’s important to remember about MZB is what she enabled that was unconscionable.
Let’s pull some tidbits of MZB in her own words out of her sworn testimony at two of her three depositions on the matter. Docs are up at Stephen Goldin’s site.
Q. And to your knowledge, how old was [Victim X] when your husband was having a sexual relationship with him?
A. I think he was about 14 or possibly 15. I’m not certain.
Q. Were you aware that your husband had a sexual relationship with [Victim X] when he was below the age of 18?
A. Yes, I was.
Q. Can you tell me why you would publicly state that Walter was not a pedophile when you knew that he had been having sex with a minor child?
A. Because, as I said, [Victim X] did not impress me as a minor child. He was late in his teens, and I considered him — I think he would have been old enough to be married in this state legally, so I figured what he did sexually was his own business.
[Editor’s note: In point of fact, the boy was 10 and 11 at the time in question.]
And about Elisabeth Waters, two quotes from her own diary:
Q. Elisabeth Waters in her 10-8-89 diary, which was given to the police, indicates the following: Quote, “And I feel like a total idiot for not having said anything back when I thought Walter was molesting [Johnnt Doe 3] ten years ago. I guess it was just another case of,” quote, “‘Don’t trust your own perceptions when the adults are telling you you’re wrong.’
Q. I’m going to read to you from the 10-9-89 entry of Elisabeth Waters.
“Marion always said she’d divorce Walter if he did this again. She seems to think that he molested both [Victim X] and [Johnny Doe 4], but she was rather startled when I told her about the letter to Dr. Morin about [Johnny Doe 3]. She said that she thought Walter thought of [Johnny Doe 3] as a son.”
For me, the following is the real kicker.
Q. Where did you have this discussion with David where he thought he was too old for Walter?
A. When he was 15 or so.
Q. So at the time that David was 15, David informed you that he believed that your then husband was not propositioning him because at that point David was too old for Walter’s tastes?
A. I think that’s what he said. To the best of my memory, that’s what he said.
Q. So you were curious enough to ask your own son whether your husband had made a sexual proposition to him?
A. I wouldn’t say I was concerned enough. I would simply say the matter came up in conversation.
Now, I have to say that I didn’t know about this until three years ago, because people don’t talk about it. Stephen Goldin asked to be a panelist at Westercon, and I looked at his site.
(edited to add the following 2 paragraphs before the end)
I have pretty strong feelings about this in part because I had a roommate (and a friend) who had molested his own child in the past and who had been on the relative straight and narrow after a good deal of therapy. But part of why he’d come around is that no one was enabling him and he felt that he needed to change. I don’t know that he never relapsed, but I know how much of a struggle he had with it.
So he had the perspective of someone who knew what he was doing was wrong. I don’t see that MZB had that attitude. At. All.
Why do we give MZB more of a pass than we gave Ed Kramer? She defended her husband when he was (rightfully) thrown out of a con for being a child sexual predator. [Note: I conflated two events significantly far apart in time in this sentence. As many people have read it, I’m keeping it as written and adding a note. See this comment. At the time of the Breendoggle, most people did not know of Breen’s 1954 conviction, and thus many felt it was libel.]