Catherine Schaff-Stump has a great post: she’s got a copy of Mists of Avalon, and would like to see people donate to RAINN because of the recent revelations about Marion Zimmer Bradley’s abuse of her children.
Here’s her post.
Note: topic is child sexual assault.
Another piece of Walter Breen/Marion Zimmer Bradley history came via snail mail today.
The events recounted weren’t given a time, but checking against the Breendoggle suggests that it’s of the same era as the Breendoggle (1964). I can’t tell if it’s before or after the Breendoggle was published, but very close in time.
I’m paraphrasing here, but the parents of one kid went to the Alameda County DA (which is the county Berkeley is in) and tried to press charges, but the specific case, penetration had not occurred, and thus the DA wasn’t able to prosecute the case. The parents of that same kid tried to get the Contra Costa DA involved, who was eager to take the case, but wanted other parents to also testify.
Because there were no rape shield laws at the time, the parents of other victims were rightly concerned that this would follow their children around in perpetuity and they thus refused to press charges.
This was 1964. I saw at least one note that Walter was arrested in 1964, perhaps this was what that was concerning.
There are also apparently earlier dox. More news when and if they become available.
I’m just very glad that rape shield laws started becoming the law in the 70s. Sadly, this was before laws protected rape victims, especially the children.
C.A. Starfire has an interview with Mark Greyland, the son of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen.
I thought everyone knew and that I was such a bad person no one would speak to me.
And, later, addressing the inheritance issue:
I was disinherited by language that sounded so unlike my mother that I knew she never wrote it, as was my sister and my half-brother who is now deceased.
The money went to the opera and to her lover.
In addition to the links C.A. Starfire provided, Mark previously permitted me to share two of his Zazzle links: Stringbreaker and Geofractal.
I bought the Space Kitten! t-shirt (partly from the proceeds of Scalzi t-shirts, so thank you for your support).
It doesn’t make up for the hurt I inadvertently caused Mark, but I really do love that piece.
In other news, given a significant number of my website hits are about Marion Zimmer Bradley and are likely to continue to be, I’ve added that as a category. Previously, it was just a tag. So I’m going back and re-categorizing older posts on this matter.
I’ve had a blog for 10 years, but I’ve been irregular for periods about posting to it before WordPress had a good spam solution. These days, an average day for me is between 100 and 250 page views and between 70 and 150 unique visitors. Obviously, this excludes people who turn off tracking.
For reasons related to upcoming projects, I’d moved deirdre.net to WP Engine. I’m so glad I did, because they were able to handle the massive sudden spike.
At the peak, in a 24-hour period from June 10-11, I had 28,000 page views, almost entirely unique visitors.
If you need a really great hosting platform for your self-hosted WordPress blog, I’ve been really impressed with WP Engine.
There have been some super-interesting conversations about Marion Zimmer Bradley’s work in the context of larger discussions on the artist vs. their art. I think we all know that all artists are flawed, but clearly some flaws are larger than others.
For those of you who don’t yet know, I broke the news about Marion Zimmer Bradley‘s child abuse of her daughter Moira last month.
I haven’t heard the artist vs. art argument said quite this succinctly, so I’m quoting Broomstick from The Straight Dope boards:
When evaluating a novel it doesn’t get better if the author is a saint, and it doesn’t get worse if the author is a sinner, it’s the same book either way.
Every art contains, to some extent, the artist’s worldview. How could it not? And yet it is a thing distinct and unto itself, though with a context. The meaning you read into it depends on the context you bring into it, too.
And the context you miss depends upon your own life context, too.
When I was 11, Jane Fonda’s movie Klute came out, and my parents took me with them. I can cheerfully say that most of the movie went “whoosh” right over my head. If I saw it today, I’d see a completely different film.
It’s that old Heraclitus quote:
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.
And that may be one reason not to re-read a previously-loved book, like a Darkover book or Mists of Avalon, after finding out Marion Zimmer Bradley’s failings.
Because the context is different for you even though the book hasn’t changed.
And then there’s the other killer comment, from ShipperX on LJ:
With MZB it’s the sexual nature of her work combined with the sexual nature of her atrocities that has me backing away. ::shudder::
Alison Flood of The Guardian wrote this piece about Moira’s revelations about her mother Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Damien Walter has another piece, “How far can culture heroes’ work stand apart from their lives?”
From William H. Patterson’s book Robert A. Heinlein, Vol 2: In Dialogue with His Century Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better, p. 263.
At just that moment, in fact, science-fiction fandom was tearing itself apart over the preemptive cancellation of the membership of a suspected pedophile by PacifiCon, the most recent world science-fiction convention, in September 1964. This conflict might have passed the Heinleins by, except that the suspected pedophile was the husband of one of Heinlein’s more intimate correspondents, Marion Zimmer Bradley. Heinlein never commented on the “Breen Boondoggle” publicly, but to Bradley Heinlein wrote:
The fan nuisance we were subjected to was nothing like as nasty as the horrible things that were done to you two but it was bad enough that we could get nothing else done during the weeks it went on and utterly spoiled what should have been a pleasant, happy winter. But it resulted in a decision which has made our life much pleasanter already and which I expect to have increasingly good effects throughout all the years ahead. We have cut off all contact with organized fandom….I regret that we will miss meeting some worthwhile people in the future as a result of this decision. But the percentage of poisonous jerks in the ranks of fans makes the price too high; we’ll find our friends elsewhere.
Fortunately, not all their fan contacts were so unpleasant.
You know, I’ve never been a Heinlein fan either, but this takes my non-fandom to new depths. Guess they never cared how pleasant the winter of the kids would be. Patterson’s a piece of work, too.
For context, Mark D. Eddy adds:
For context, though, Heinlein had already had a series of negative experiences with fans and conventions (including a fan who was harassing friends and family to try to write an unauthorized biography for a publisher Heinlein wouldn’t write for), and was already distancing himself from the “poisonous jerks” — so all he apparently knew about the situation was filtered through MZB, who was hardly an uninterested party.
Which is a fair point. While it’s always good to get as much of both sides of the story as possible, there’s a real human failing believing the predator’s side of the story. (See also: STK’s comment on the deirdre.net version of this entry.)
Hat tip: RPG.net commenter The Scribbler.
Note: I’m also tagging all of the posts with the breendoggle tag to make it easier to find in the future.
Also: When asked, Can this be true? The MZB click thrus are upsetting., Deborah J. Ross, author of many books set in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover universe, replied, Only half the story is being told. Please be careful about believing sensationalist rumors online.
Note: I’ve edited out a couple of paragraphs from the original post as Deborah has apologized for her ill-considered tweet.
In light of that apology, I’ve deleted my unnecessarily harsh snark but am leaving the context above intact.
Trigger Warning: child rape
Just when I thought I was done with this….
One thing that’s come out of shining light into dark corners is that the original “Breendoggle” from 1963 has now been posted online. If it was online before, Google couldn’t find it, only documented references to it.
Bill Donaho wrote the original piece in 1963.
What this gives is contemporary accounts, some second- and third-hand, of recent events as of that time.
You know, the year before Marion Zimmer Bradley married Walter Breen.
So I really want you to think that she married him the year after this report about what happened between Breen and a three-year-old in public view of others.
The second cause was Walter’s sex play with 3-year old P———– —————-. He had her trained up to the point where she would take off her clothes the minute she saw him. He would then “rub her down” and all that. I recall one occasion — a fairly large gathering at the Nelsons — in which he also used a pencil, rubbing the eraser back and forth in the general area of the vagina, not quite masturbating her. (Walter is incredible.) Many people were somewhat displeased by this — most particularly her parents. No one thought he was actually psychologically damaging P——— (she being so young) — obviously —– and —- would have interfered if they thought he had been — but the spectacle was not thought to be aesthetically pleasing. Years later Walter found out about the reaction and said, “But why didn’t somebody say something! I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing it if I’d thought someone objected.”
I seriously wonder what I’d say to proposal of marriage from someone who’d been thusly accused, because “Are you fucking kidding me?” fails the adequacy test.
I do want to say that there are some changes in understanding about psychological harm that have come since then. The survivor stories weren’t being widely told back then.
Also, given what’s in the Breendoggle, if that’s true, I think 150 is probably a low victim count for Breen.
Related link: The Adverse Child Experiences Study
Dr. Vincent Felitti is talking about people who defied his predictions about how people became obese:
The turning point in Felitti’s quest came by accident. The physician was running through yet another series of questions with yet another obesity program patient: How much did you weigh when you were born? How much did you weigh when you started first grade? How much did you weigh when you entered high school? How old were you when you became sexually active? How old were you when you married?
“I misspoke,” he recalls, probably out of discomfort in asking about when she became sexually active – although physicians are given plenty of training in examining body parts without hesitation, they’re given little support in talking about what patients do with some of those body parts. “Instead of asking, “How old were you when you were first sexually active,” I asked, “How much did you weigh when you were first sexually active?’ The patient, a woman, answered, ‘Forty pounds.’”
He didn’t understand what he was hearing. He misspoke the question again. She gave the same answer, burst into tears and added, “It was when I was four years old, with my father.”
He suddenly realized what he had asked.
“I remembered thinking, ‘This is only the second incest case I’ve had in 23 years of practice’,” Felitti recalls. “I didn’t know what to do with the information. About 10 days later, I ran into the same thing. It was very disturbing. Every other person was providing information about childhood sexual abuse. I thought, ‘This can’t be true. People would know if that were true. Someone would have told me in medical school.’ ”
Of the 286 people whom Felitti and his colleagues interviewed, most had been sexually abused as children. As startling as this was, it turned out to be less significant than another piece of the puzzle that dropped into place during an interview with a woman who had been raped when she was 23 years old. In the year after the attack, she told Felitti that she’d gained 105 pounds.
“As she was thanking me for asking the question,” says Felitti, “she looks down at the carpet, and mutters, ‘Overweight is overlooked, and that’s the way I need to be.’”
The other way it helped was that, for many people, just being obese solved a problem. In the case of the woman who’d been raped, she felt as if she were invisible to men. In the case of a man who’d been beaten up when he was a skinny kid, being fat kept him safe, because when he gained a lot of weight, nobody bothered him.
That last? I very much relate to. I stopped being harassed on the street when I gained weight.
Next time you see someone morbidly obese, consider what the hell kind of problem is that big. Then look at the obesity problem in a new way and prepare to be stunned.
Side note: The MZB Literary Works Trust, in its bio of Ms. Bradley, has expunged Walter Breen.
Side note: Corey Feldman video: Pedophilia is Hollywood’s biggest problem. Hat tip: Matt Wallace.
I’ll promote a paragraph from one of my comments into this post:
Many of us have been through some really dark times, and we have the pieces that spoke to our hearts that got us through those times. It genuinely gives me no joy to know that, for those whom MZB’s works were those pieces, I’ve dislodged that for them.
And I’ll add:
In addition to the lives she harmed, MZB’s works saved the lives of other people by speaking to them when other works and other people would not and/or did not.
Rachel E. Holmen, who worked as an editor for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine said about Marion:
When she visited cons, ten or twenty young women an hour would stop by with stories along the lines of “Your books saved my life.”
There are other writers being published now who may speak to those same hearts, but if MZB is still the author that would help them, then I think it’s important that her work be available to do so. This doesn’t diminish her very real (and very severe) failings.
Rachel’s quote points out why we need diverse books by diverse writers that speak to diverse audiences.
Additionally, MZB gave a start to a lot of women writers—a higher percentage than anyone else in the genre at the time. Those writers helped pave the way for even more female voices in the genre.
“A Sword Called Rhonda” was in fact a parody of Mercedes Lackey’s works (specifically, Rhonda was a parody of Need), and Lackey was first published by MZB.
I think the Carl Sagan quote about books is a great way to end this.
See also: Paul St John Mackintosh’s article, “More on Marion Zimmer Bradley and the ethics of artists”, which takes a more intellectual approach.
Janni Lee Simner discusses what she and her husband did with the royalties they’d earned from sales to Marion’s anthologies. Thoughtful.
Moira Greyland (Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen’s daughter) has agreed to let me share her email.
This is really hard stuff to read, and I’ve just thrown up my lunch. I knew about none of this part of things until a few minutes ago.
It is a lot worse than that.
The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was twelve, and able to walk away.
I put Walter in jail for molesting one boy. I had tried to intervene when I was 13 by telling Mother and Lisa, and they just moved him into his own apartment.
I had been living partially on couches since I was ten years old because of the out of control drugs, orgies, and constant flow of people in and out of our family “home.”
None of this should be news. Walter was a serial rapist with many, many, many victims (I named 22 to the cops) but Marion was far, far worse. She was cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually. I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls.
I wish I had better news.
Followed up with:
It should also be noted that Walter was convicted on 13 counts of PC 288 A, B, C, and D.
Oral sex was the least of anyone’s worries.
I’ve updated this post to add two pieces by Moira Greyland with her permission. This is the first.
Reprinted with permission.
© 2000 Moira Stern (Moira Greyland) in “honor” of my mother, Marion Zimmer Bradley
I lost my mother late last year
Her epitaph I’m writing here
Of all the things I should hold dear
Remember Mother’s hands
Hands to strangle, hands to crush
Hands to make her children blush
Hands to batter, hands to choke
Make me scared of other folk
But ashes for me, and dust to dust
If I can’t even trust
They sent me sprawling across a room
The bathtub nearly spelled my doom
Explaining my persistent gloom
Remember Mother’s hands.
And hands that touched me way down there
I still pretend that I don’t care
Hands that ripped my soul apart
My healing goes in stop and start
Never a mark did she leave on me
No concrete proof of cruelty
But a cross-shaped scar I can barely see
The knife in Mother’s hands.
So Mother’s day it comes and goes
No Hallmark pretense, deep red rose
Except blood-red with her actions goes
It drips off Mother’s hands.
The worst of all my mother did
Was evil to a little kid
The mother cat she stoned to death
She told to me with even breath
And no remorse was ever seen
Reality was in between
Her books, her world, that was her life
The rest of us a source of strife.
She told me that I was not real
So how could she think I would feel
But how could she look in my eyes
And not feel anguish at my cries?
And so I give you Mother’s hands
Two evil, base, corrupted hands
And lest her memory forget
I’m still afraid of getting wet.
The bathtub scene makes me see red
With water closing over my head
No little girl should fear to die
Her mother’s fury in her eye!
But both her hands were choking me
And underwater again I’d be
I think she liked her little game
But I will never be the same
I’m still the girl who quakes within
And tries to rip off all her skin
I’m scared of water, scared of the dark
My mother’s vicious, brutal mark.
In self-admiring tones she told
Of self restraint in a story old.
For twice near death she’d beaten me,
And now she wants my sympathy.
I’ve gone along for quite awhile,
Never meant to make you smile
But here and now I make my stand
I really hate my mother’s hands.
By Moira Greyland
The cry of our day is to smile as we say
Something pat that sounds like understanding
And those of us left who still cry when bereft
Risk guilt trips upon our heads landing
Something pat that sounds like understanding
So the ones of us left Who still cry when bereft
Risk guilt trips upon our heads landing
For the party line now Is to claim that somehow
Everybody somehow did their best
So the ones who did wrong Goes the new New Age song
Aren’t to blame, we should lay this to rest.
But it’s lies, there are villains who are still out there killing
Or else for our courts there’s no need
Our jails are not filled With innocents willed
By a system corrupted with greed.
My mother did her best, yes she really did her best
To drown me for not being her willing lover
My daddy did his best, oh he really did his best
And forced his preteen boyfriends to bend over.
Some people are sick, like to make people suffer
Some people just turn a blind eye
But pretending a monster is ribbons and lace
May condemn a small child to die.
My husband was a cop and much child abuse had stopped
Like the mom who put her baby on the stove
She threw him out of sight but the smell she couldn’t hide
And she didn’t come out smelling like a rose.
Did that mommy do her best? Would you tell that little one
“Forgive her dear, she must have been insane”
Would you tell that to those burns, To that lie will you return
And hurt those shining eyes so full of pain?
A victim does his best, a victim does her best
To love and live and give up grief and malice
But when we had no love, but what came down from Above
It’s surprising we have not become more callous.
And how to learn to cope And not give up all my hope
Is painful far enough without your lies
But if you had seen me then With blood pouring off my skin
Would you have turned a deaf ear to my cries??
And told me “Mommy did her best, yes, she really did her best
So stop crying and stop bleeding and forgive her
To cut you she’s the right, and to throw you out of sight
And not love you till you sexually deliver!!
Thanks to Mike Glyer at File 770 for the heads up.
Before the post was yanked it drew a blistering response by Deirdre Saoirse Moen[…].
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 my mirror of 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.]