Tor.com Yanks MZB Birthday Tribute

Tor.com’s post “Marion Zimmer Bradley Gave Us New Perspectives” disappeared from the website after attracting negative comments for neglecting to mention her husband Walter Breen’s conviction for child molestation, and Bradley’s awareness that was going on (evident from her depositions).

Leah Schnelbach’s post was intended as a salute to the late author on her birthday. All it had to say about Breen was —

She was married to Robert Alden Bradley from 1949 until 1964, and had one son. She married Walter Breen in 1964, and the couple had a son and a daughter.

Apparently it wasn’t online long enough to be captured by the Wayback Machine, but Google’s cached copy is still available (for how long, I don’t know.)

Before the post was yanked it drew a blistering response by Deirdre Saoirse Moen, “Marion Zimmer Bradley gave us new perspectives all right”, who said, “I feel that what’s important to remember about MZB is what she enabled that was unconscionable.” Moen adds support from the depositions, available at Stephen Goldin’s website.

82 thoughts on “Tor.com Yanks MZB Birthday Tribute

  1. Reading the dispositions perhaps the worst thing that can be said about her was that she was trusting to a naive degree, perhaps undersexed herself and perhaps willfully unknowing because of that. Whether that constiutes faciliting Walter Breen’s practicises, I don’t know. A shame perhaps that she shouldn’t be remembered for the positive things in her life and writing but only that she found her self in an unfortunate relationship with a detestable man.

  2. I’m sorry but the whole “somebody did something wrong so we’re not allowed to celebrate the things that they did right” attitude really annoys me. While covering up for Walter Breen’s molestation of children was clearly wrong, Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s dismissal of MZB’s work as unimportant and meaningless compared to her lapse in judgement regarding her husband’s unsavory activities just plain strikes me as unfair and its sad that here post led to the tribute article getting taken down.

  3. I’m still waiting for some righteous minded person who will want to ban the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard for their lopsided racial views. Trying to do the right things is not without value, but where do you stop?

  4. Editors have battled about allegations in the Wikipedia article about Marion Zimmer Bradley for years. Just last month revisions were proposed by Moiragreyland, who identifies herself as the daughter of MZB and Walter Breen — “I have filled in details about my mother’s religion, my father’s crimes, and my own career, and also refuting the accusation that I am ‘human wreckage.'”)

    Note: This is an add-on, not a response to any earlier comment.

  5. Is this a little like because Winston Churchill didn’t give an order to bomb the gates of Auschwitz, we must refuse to acknowledge his role in winning the Second World War?

  6. Mike, I am actually not of the “somebody did something wrong so we’re not allowed to celebrate the things that they did right” camp. I’m of the “let’s make clear that we know this” camp. I don’t believe that child abuse should be swept under the rug.

    While I won’t buy new OSC books, I have a signed OSC book on my shelf, and Speaker for the Dead remains one of my favorite books (in fact, we were just discussing it a few minutes ago in the living room).

    Rather, like the entire position of Speaker for the Dead, I believe we should look at the good AND the bad and accept the person with all their complexity. Tor.com’s piece erased Breen’s victims and MZB’s complicity in their abuse. I was simply responding to that.

    I’m also not in favor of banning problematic works or works by problematic people. I think everyone should make their own choices about what they wish to read, though, and who they wish to support. And how. For some problematic artists (Beck), I’ll buy used copies of their work, but not new.

  7. AND a fuggheaded Wikipedia “editor” has already removed what Moiragreyland added.

  8. It’s disturbing to see that not only has Tor.com removed their tribute to MZB rather than allow someone to provide context about other aspects of her life, but also that the PC crowd in the comments here, seem to think that it’s Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s fault that Tor has done so. How dare a fan mention the faults of a writer!

  9. Vaughn: The way I read the comment where Moen was discussed by name, the person was disagreeing with her approach to the topic on her own blog, not blaming her for Tor.com’s decision.

    And I bet the first several commenters will be very surprised to discover they’re part of the PC crowd.

  10. Ms. Greyland’s wish to share information at Wikipedia collided with the way talk pages are structured. There’s just no way that an interlinear rebuttal to talk posts many years old “works” with the site’s format, however important the information might be (and I believe Ms. Greyland’s information to be important, and honor her for sharing details from what must have been a horrendous time in her life).

    If Ms. Greyland (or someone who feels comfortable posting on her behalf) wants to reformat her comments as a single talk-page post, perhaps with the heading “Rebuttal and New Information,” I cannot imagine anyone would revert it.

  11. re: the emails from Moira: Wow.

    My wife and I visited Marion four or five times during the 1980’s, including one overnight stay. I never saw any indications of the type of actions Moira states, or felt any “vibes” for such an environment. (I can usually notice when people are into kinky or promiscuous sex, or using drugs.)

    Marion actually seemed so heavily focused on her writing that she came across, at least to me, as pretty sexless. Interested in sexuality and attendant issues, yes; interested in sex itself, not so much. When she wasn’t writing or talking about writing, her main topics seemed to be women’s issues and complaining about repairs and upkeep for her house.

    (A few times, she’d allude to having been more sexually active in her younger years. She once mentioned having had a one-time fling at an early 1960’s convention with The Last Person In The World You Would Expect.)

    My input, for what it’s worth.

  12. I agree with Julia: the problem wasn’t the content, but the manner in which it was posted. The reversion even asks for a resubmit: “please add these again but without disrupting the original discussions.”

  13. Did someone here just equate denouncing child rape with political correctness?

    Did someone just imply that it’s possible to tell whether someone is a child rapist in one day, a day when everyone is on their best behaviour, by some magic “vibes” BULLSHIT?

    You have GOT to be kidding me. Now I really don’t want to live on this planet any more.

  14. Charlene, let me rephrase a portion of what I wrote: “(I can USUALLY notice when people are into kinky or promiscuous sex, or using drugs.)” A tiny mite clearer?

    I’ve been wrong in the past about people. I may be wrong in this instance. But Moira’s claims are shocking and extraordinary. And I saw and heard nothing, NOTHING, during our visits to indicate such things were happening or had happened in Marion’s home. I don’t want to accept those extraordinary claims without extraordinary proof. I want to believe that my impressions of Marion were correct. It would be very painful to be wrong.

    If you still want to call that “BULLSHIT”, fine.

  15. No, Bruce, they are neither shocking nor extraordinary. Given the wealth of evidence already out there prior to this incident, including court documents and eyewitness accounts and Ms. Greyland’s comments — I’ve seen her comments over the years on both Wikipedia and Amazon, and they come up in Google searches quite easily — it’s absolutely unconscionable that you would attempt to dismiss this with “well, I never saw MZB molest anyone, and also I totally can tell things because of vibes.”

    It would be “painful” if you were wrong about your few benign memories of MZB? Hey, just a totally wild and random thought here, Bruce, but have you ever considered how painful it is for someone to publicly state that they were raped or molested as a child and have someone like you immediately dismiss it, for no good reason? Because that might be painful. That might even be adding more pain to what they’ve already experienced.

    It will never cease to amaze me how people can trust some thirty-year-old “vibe” more than actual evidence, documentation and testimony. But that seems to be par for the course in SF/F fandom.

  16. her daughter has already confirmed that MZB first raped her at the age of three and stopped at 12 when she left.

    Anyone who is willing to read the works of that diseased vermin is no better than the crap at the bottom of my shoe and probably should not be allowed among human society.

  17. My parents and others never got the vibes that the old man next door was anything but a sexless old widower. I know several grown women whose attackers and molesters were believed over them: the victims.

    I believe Moira. I am shocked and saddened. I knew nothing of any of this when I sat down with her and chatted many years ago either.

    I’m not going to give it a pass and I am personally outraged that some people are calling it “political correctness gone amok” to name a child rapist WHAT IT IS.

    BY HER OWN ADMISSION she knew what was going on with Breen’s victimization of a child 10 to 11 years old (though she claims he was in his late teens.) BY HER OWN WORDS.

    That, people, is CHILD RAPE. And I believe Moira. Why? I was not believed; it is as simple as that. I could tell you numbers of women and a few men were not believed. It’s easier to call the victims liars or say they’re making “extraordinary claims” than to admit you didn’t have a clue.

    Myself, I’m sick. And I refuse to give Marion a pass because I liked her. You people will make up your own minds. I know mine.

  18. Bruce Arthurs, you have got to be kidding me. You are prioritizing your warm and fuzzy feelings about someone who was your friend over the pain that she knowingly caused other human beings, including her daughter?

    I have a suspicion that there is NO proof that will ever be enough for you. Your comments are fatuous victim blaming BULLSHIT. If you think it’s painful for your memories of your friend to be tarnished, imagine how painful it must be to make the kind of statement Moira Greyland did and then not be believed. Because the your feelings and the reputation of a dead person are more important than a survivor’s.

    Again: fatuous victim blaming BULLSHIT.

  19. I shouldn’t have continued to the comments. I know better.

    It’s not PC to acknowledge that people were harmed by an individual who is a celebrity; it’s presenting the entire picture. We’re okay talking about Sylvia Plath’s mental illness and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s drug addiction, but the minute it involves children being harmed, we pretend it’s all about being “politically correct” instead of acknowledging that an author who wrote a book we love was a fallible human who did things wrong.

    What is most upsetting to me, however, is the assertion that you can “tell” an abuser simply by the “vibe” they put off. If that was the case, children would never be abused, because parents would know who to not trust, right? The conflation of kink with pedophilia and child abuse is reprehensible, and smacks of minimizing the crimes committed against these children, as well as elevating kink to the level of crime. What happens between two consenting adults is nowhere NEAR the same thing as abuse of a child, and anyone who suggests they are the same, to be honest, scares the living hell out of me.

  20. Earlier I asked, “Where does it say that anybody is trying to ban, or dismiss, MZB’s work?”

    Now I ask, Where did anyone deny that the abuse happened?

  21. Dear Bruce,
    If the CONVICTIONS for child molestation of MZB’s husband are not enough evidence for you, then YOU are an enabler. Hell, my ex brother in law was abusing my wife’s sister for fu–ing YEARS and I had no idea until she finally left him and then told my wife. Do not believe behaviors don’t change when people are on public display. And your ‘feelings’ seem to need work, perhaps some time at Teen Challenge ministering to damaged teenagers would hone them a little.

  22. @ Cyndy Aleo

    It’s true that kink is not the same as child molestation. The question, though, is whether or not kink predicts child molestation and I suspect that it does. In other words, if you want a predictive model for finding child molesters one factor that is like to contribute to that model is the sort of kink involved in their adult relationships.

  23. “… I saw and heard nothing, NOTHING, during our visits …”

    Not a fan of Hogan’s Heroes, eh?

  24. Though I’ve only received one comment of this type, I feel it’s a good idea to say I won’t post comments that contain graphic descriptions of particular acts, even if they come from the depositions.

  25. @Asher and you base this one what? Your “vibes” as well? This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life, and I thought I’d heard it all.

    Have you ever met an adult who does kink? Know anything about it other than what you hear from 4chan and 50 Shades? There are plenty of people who do things like age play and Daddy kink who would vomit at the idea of touching a child. Just the same as there are plenty of people happy to have vanilla sex in missionary position for 30+ years with their wife who think nothing of doing all sorts of horrible things to children.

    This idea that pedophiles are somehow “other” and easily predictable flies in the face of what most children who’ve been abused know very well: The monsters are among us, and because of attitudes like yours, and like Bruces, and yes, like the people involved in the case, they CONTINUE to walk among us because everyone has this idea that they wear a uniform so we can spot them.

  26. I read through the depositions to see what allegedly happened between Marion and her children that is in the public record. My personal reaction to reading the episodes described was to come to believe that Marion had likely failed miserably to fulfill her duties as a mother on multiple occasions.

  27. As someone who got pretty badly abused by a well-known pro when I was a kid, I know that if I speak up all these years later and give details, including letters written to me by this married man when I was a teenager, all I’ll hear about from this pro’s fans and his wife’s supporters is how they never saw anything, and what a liar I am. Mostly because a lot of them were into convention swinging themselves.

    There are plenty of people in SF/Fantasy/Comics circles who will give a kid a lecture about how they think that young teens are sexual beings and it’s wrong to deny this. And hey, come up to my hotel room and explore!

    Don’t pretend you don’t know this goes on in fandom.

  28. @ Cyndy Aleo

    “This idea that pedophiles are somehow “other” and easily predictable flies in the face of what most children who’ve been abused know very well:”

    Every single human behavioral pattern I’ve ever studied has associative factors. If pedophilia is different then it is the sole outlier among all other human behaviors. It’s got nothing to do with vibes and is just an educated guess from what I know, generally, about human behavior.

    There’s a word for what those individual children know: anecdote.

  29. @ Cyndy Aleo

    I would also point out that you imputed the term “easily” into my comment, a word that is nowhere implied. If your position were so strong you wouldn’t need to engage in intellectually dishonest sorts of tactics.

    Is there one factor that we can use to easily predict pedophilia? Almost certainly not. Is there a mosaic of factors we can use to provide a predictive model for the behavior? Probably. See, the reason why a predictive model is so anathema to feminists is that it demonstrates that pedophilia is a disorder of the individual, probably heavily influenced by genetics, and has nothing to do with “patriarchy” (whatever the hell that even means).

  30. @ Cyndy Aleo

    “The monsters are among us, and because of attitudes like yours, and like Bruces, and yes, like the people involved in the case, they CONTINUE to walk among us because everyone has this idea that they wear a uniform so we can spot them.”

    It’s entirely possible that spotting a pedophile is a skill, say, like playing basketball, one where a few people are really good at it, others not so much. Within the past couple years some groundbreaking research seems to indicate that human beings have a much better than random ability to spot criminals simply by looking at their faces. The researcher who first found this phenomenon has a website where you can test this for yourself.

    Now, what’s interesting is that the ability to predict criminality from facial profile only failed in one area: women spotting rapists. In fact, women were more likely to consider a non-rapist as a rapist than in a random draw.

    It would not surprise me, at all, if the same held for pedophilia. You wanna know who the pedophile is? Ask the men.

  31. Thank you, Asher Troll, for mansplaining to my dumb female brain. Now I understand! It’s all men’s fault that children get abused, because instead of going out there and pointing out all the pedophiles by their facial features and interest in kink, they’re posting anonymously on message boards to slap down those uppity feminists.

    MY HERO!

  32. Did I write the words “I could be wrong” in invisible lettering? Because a lot of people seem to have not seen them.

    Some people seem to believe my not wanting to believe Marion was an active molester also means that I don’t think Walter was a molester. Jesus fucking Christ, that’s just so goddam stupid I don’t know how to respond to it.

    And there’s the question, if I don’t want to think Marion molested her daughter, what am I saying about Moira’s claims? FTR, that’s an extremely uncomfortable issue for me, too.

    But….

    A long, long time ago, a woman close to me decided, for reasons I still don’t understand, that it was okay to tell me lies about her boyfriend. Those lies nearly got him killed. That is neither a joke or an exaggeration. I wanted to get a gun, I wanted to find him, I wanted to put a bullet in his head. I came close — VERY close — to going through with it.

    It was only long afterwards that I found out what she had told me had been a complete and utter lie.

    Because of my absolute and unquestioning acceptance of her story, I almost murdered an innocent man.

    I was that stupid. I was that foolish. I was that weak. I was that dangerous.

    Let’s be blunt: I was that crazy.

    That’s why I will always, ALWAYS, try to retain an element of doubt in matters like this. Because that doubt is what keeps me sane. That doubt is what keeps me from ever again wanting to shoot innocent people in the head.

    When I wanted to kill that man, I was letting myself turn into a one-man lynch mob.

    What are YOU people letting yourselves turn into?

    There’s more than one type of monster. And I’m seeing a lot of monsters here.

    Screw it. I’m done here. Have fun lynching your dead woman. DON’T send me a photo of your smiling faces when you pose around the dangling corpse.

  33. @ Cyndy

    Yes, the best protection that women and children can have is men. Sorry, but that’s just how things work. Men *tend to* be better than women at protection in the same way that women *tend to* be better than men at breastfeeding.

    The world operates on this little thing called cause and effect, meaning that there are observable patterns if one looks hard enough for them. Yes, I understand that there is a sizeable portion of the feminist community who thinks that the concept of cause and effect is a plot for male domination – seriously, within the past week I have had a feminist tell me that human beings fall outside the realm of cause and effect.

    But, no, pedophiles aren’t randomly distributed in the population and, yes, they are an “other”, i.e. have distinguishing characteristics *on aveage* hat makes them different from most of the population. That’s how all human behaviors, from every corner of he behavioral spectrum, operate. Every single variation in every single behavioral trait has markers that can be used to predict and model them.

    Finally, I do not consider feminism stupid. I consider it vile, evil, disgusting and anti-human. As for “mansplaining” … stop babbling.

  34. @ Bruce Athers

    “A long, long time ago, a woman close to me decided, for reasons I still don’t understand, that it was okay to tell me lies about her boyfriend. Those lies nearly got him killed. That is neither a joke or an exaggeration. I wanted to get a gun, I wanted to find him, I wanted to put a bullet in his head. I came close — VERY close — to going through with it.”

    Yes, people lie about abuse. A lot. I was married to a woman with borderline personality disorder so I happen to have seen it up close and personal. It i the false claims of abuse that make the very real claims so much harder to examine.

    My wife never accused me of abuse but she did accuse a former boyfriend of it (before we ever met). I later met several people, of both sexes, who had been around them and who assured me she was simply making things up. This, coupled with my personal experiences with her borderline personality insanity makes me 99 percent certain she just made everything up for sympathy.

  35. Cluster B personality disorders are approximately 9 percent of the population – they are so different from non-B’s that they are psychologically almost a different species. A lot of what we’re talking about, here, probably involves people with cluster B personality disorders.

    Yeah, they really are *different* from the rest of us.

  36. Folks, there is enough information that has been acknowledged by the parties themselves in open court to get the picture here. As a mother, Marion was incompetent, at times emotionally unstable, and to some degree violent. Her daughter was traumatized. In the era that Marion grew up and had a family, laws governing sex with young teens were much looser and laws punishing homosexuality much harsher. The counterculture was more open to challenging social norms in many ways, including some ways that have now been firmly rejected as abhorrent even by former ’60s radicals. Like other respected literary giants, such as Allen Ginsburg and Samuel R. Delany, Marion believed in the value of respecting the consensual sexual desires of younger teens, even if they are expressed with an older partner. Marion also seems to have believed (as others have believed, to varying degrees, in different times and places) that because the bodies of pre-pubescent children are not sexualized, it was not harmful or sexual for a mother to touch the body of her very young child.

    Did Marion believe that it was fine to traumatize and hurt children? It is clear from her written work, as well as from her reporting her husband to the police, that the answer is no. Was she a troubled, flawed person, who caused trauma to her daughter, or perhaps even to other children in her life? Clearly, yes. Was she a rapist, as a commentator asserted above? That is not clear at all.

    Should we now choose to throw away her books, and delete them from our computers? I can’t be the judge of others who make such a personal decision. Though if we do so, we probably ought to consider carefully what that tells us about what it means to engage in the activity we call “reading a work of literature.”

  37. “In the era that Marion grew up and had a family, laws governing sex with young teens were much looser and laws punishing homosexuality much harsher.”

    And yet, Walter Breen was first convicted in 1954.

    This isn’t something that happened only much later.

    Here’s most of a comment I posted on the TeleRead article:

    “It’s possible to both think that what Marion Zimmer Bradley did was awful and think that her work was significant.”

    I concur. I can’t bring myself to read her any more (but I never was that much of a fan). That said, I don’t think the art stands separately from the artist.

    Here’s my dilemma: if we erase the works because we want to erase the artist, then we’re still erasing the victims, just like being silent about abuse we know about. I honestly don’t know the right answer, but I don’t think conspiracy of silence is it.

  38. “Here’s my dilemma: if we erase the works because we want to erase the artist, then we’re still erasing the victims, just like being silent about abuse we know about. I honestly don’t know the right answer, but I don’t think conspiracy of silence is it.”

    I tend to like this sentiment. That said, given the cutthroat political environment we have, today, I’m not sure this is very realistic. But, hey, when the personal is political then the political becomes personal, and I don’t see that changing.

    Welcome to the politics of personal destruction.

  39. Deirdre, thank you for raising those important points. I wish I knew the answers.

    On your comment re. the context of the 1950s, did Walter’s conviction for “lewd behavior” in Atlantic City in 1954 involve a child being exposed to it? If there is more detail in the court records I am interested to know.

  40. I am not advocating that we throw out her books, any more than I advocate we throw out the works of Jack London or Rudyard Kipling for being racists (not that MZB was in their league), or ignore the contributions of Washington and Jefferson because they were slaveowners.

    I am saying, don’t whitewash it. Don’t write hagiographies of them and ignore the quite serious failings. And don’t excuse it or minimize it.

  41. xdpaul: Feel free to comment on what you think “this” is about. However, you are not helping by, in effect, telling Bruce to shut up when he is making a substantive response to the many criticisms levied against his comment here (and elsewhere, including Twitter.)

  42. Asher wrote: “Finally, I do not consider feminism stupid. I consider it vile, evil, disgusting and anti-human.”

    Ah. Well, that is certainly a, um, clarifying remark.

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