Oh The Irony

Well now there’s an odd thing. I think about Marion Zimmer Bradley for the first time in ages and re-post my musings on Rediscovery and not two days later I heard about the accusations made against one of my adolescence heroes by her daughter. Yes, I know, I’m about a month behind everyone else again, as Moira Greyland revealed Zimmer Bradley’s abuse at the end of June. I now feel what some British friends of mine must have felt when Rolf Harris was accused. I don’t know what to believe but I see no reason to doubt Greyland. Zimmer Bradley reveals strange ideas about sexuality in her novels – strange perhaps because they are set in different worlds but, in the light of the revelations sinister as well as strange.

Alyssa Rosenberg wrote an article for the Washington Post which I very much agree with and which could be extended to the Darkover novels. The idea of women being wedded and bedded without as much as a by-your-leave is horrible and, thank God!, governments have pledged themselves to end forced marriage. Yet on Darkover the idea is condoned even by apparently strong women for ideas of duty. Almost ironically, on Darkover rape is also seen as the ultimate crime – but only when committed against a Keeper, a female ‘sorceress’ (for want of a better term) who, it is believed, must be chaste to fulfill her duties. I have always thought that Zimmer Bradley’s ideas on sexuality were slightly strange yet other ideas, as I mentioned in my previous post, are great. Rape and abuse are a constant theme in the Darkover novels, yet they also deal with the psychological consequences of the crime. Yet this woman is also an author who writes with apparent understanding of the pain and the shame of being a victim of sexual abuse – only think about the Renunciate Guild, a guild where, it is said, all women have a story and no story is happy. Camilla n’ha Doria, one of the protagonists in the Renunciates Saga, had herself neutered because of sexual abuse. Having been raped she had no desire to feel feminine and desirable for men, yet her love for Magda helps her overcome the shame and the painful memory. The contradictions are evident which make the revelations even more ironic.

There is no doubt about her importance as an author, a female author in the sci-fi and fantasy genre. I can only echo the words of Jim Hines, who wrote ‘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’. Tragic is a good word. I love her stories, I love Darkover but child-abuse is an offense so horrific that I am rendered speechless. From an academic’s point of view this revelation gives me a new insight into her novels and ideas. As a young woman who read Zimmer Bradley’s work at an impressionable age I feel betrayed and ashamed – and can only say to Moira Greyland that my thoughts are with her because I cannot begin to imagine what she went through and is still going through. She emailed the Guardian saying she thought fans would be ‘angry’. I am angry that Zimmer Bradley wasn’t reported sooner, that Greyland had to go through this and that she should feel obligated to her mother’s memory. Yet the memories of other friends and collaborators reveal Zimmer Bradley to have been a friendly and loving person. I feel that a discussion of such a thing as ‘the dark side’ of a human being is too philosophical for this post, so I will leave it there. I am glad Greyland has found support after her revelations and I hope that it helps in the healing process.

Links to the articles I mentioned and to the Guardian’s report:

The original email from Moira Greyland is posted here on Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s blog: http://deirdre.net/marion-zimmer-bradley-its-worse-than-i-knew/

Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/act-four/wp/2014/06/27/re-reading-feminist-author-marion-zimmer-bradley-in-the-wake-of-sexual-assault-allegations/

Jim C Hines: http://www.jimchines.com/2014/06/rape-abuse-and-mzb/

Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/27/sff-community-marion-zimmer-bradley-daughter-accuses-abuse

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Shan Sa, Empress

I started Empress a while ago and from the first it gripped me. It was not gripping in the style of a thriller (which I usually find too gripping) or a sensation novel or a fantasy novel. Rather, it was captivating in its descriptions, the imagery the novel presented and the flow of the language. The language was precisely what made the book so powerful.

The story itself is fairly simple; the novel presents a fictionalised biography of Empress Wu, China’s first and only ruling empress (as far as my information goes anyway). Even though rulers like the Empress Ci Xi, the last empress of China, were supreme rulers, it appears that only Empress Wu became Empress in her own right. The novel begins before the birth of the empress; the narrator’s story begins in the womb which is a powerful passage of writing. It chronicles the empress’s life as a child, her destitution after her father’s death and her entry into the Forbidden City as a potential concubine to the Emperor. But her life does not really begin until the emperor’s heir falls in love with her. After the emperor’s death this son eventually takes Wu as his concubine and later sets aside his first wife to marry her. Wu has become empress and from now on her life is one of intrigue, power play and poetry. After her husband’s death she becomes the Supreme Empress, officially ruling for her son but, after a short time, ruling in her own authority. Just before her death, as her mind loses its astonishing presence, the empress is forced to abdicate. The regression and the descent into hallucination is just as powerfully written as the first scene in the womb.

Sometimes the novel becomes convoluted with names, names which are often transcribed or transliterated from the Chinese. I often found it hard to keep Purity, Moon, Wisdom, this general, that general and the King of something apart. However, most of the time it does not matter that much because the centre of the narrative is the empress and her impressions paint a vivid picture of imperial China. I do not know if it’s a historically correct picture but it was definitely a fascinating read.

Mainly a disclaimer

I used to blog at bookworm.blogsport.de For various reasons, none of which are currently important, I am now changing to this site. However, I will repost some of my older ramblings in a potentially edited form.

Other than that, I hope that somebody might actually read this and pick up a few ideas of what to read next. More than that I can’t really ask for.

And now, everybody, SMILE! There is a whole wide world of books out there, just waiting to be explored.