Bradley, Marion Zimmer 1930–1999

views updated

Bradley, Marion Zimmer 1930–1999

(Lee Chapman, John Dexter, Miriam Gardner, Valerie Graves, Morgan Ives, Elfrida Rivers)

PERSONAL: Born June 3, 1930, in Albany, NY; died following a heart attack September 25, 1999, in Berkeley, CA; daughter of Leslie Raymond (a carpenter) and Evelyn (a historian; maiden name, Conklin) Zimmer; married Robert Alden Bradley, October 26, 1949 (divorced, 1963); married Walter Henry Breen (a numismatist), February 14, 1964 (divorced May, 1990); children: (first marriage) David Robert; (second marriage) Patrick Russell, Moira Evelyn Dorothy. Education: Attended New York State College for Teachers (now State University of New York at Albany), 1946–48; Hardin-Simmons College, B.A., 1964; additional study at University of California, Berkeley, 1965–67.

CAREER: Writer and musician; editor, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine.

MEMBER: Authors Guild, Science Fiction Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers of America, Gay Academic Union, Alpha Chi.

AWARDS, HONORS: Invisible Little Man Award, 1977; Leigh Brackett Memorial Sense of Wonder Award, 1978, for The Forbidden Tower; Locus Award for best fantasy novel, 1984, for The Mists of Avalon.



The Door through Space (bound with Rendezvous on Lost Planet by A. Bertram Chandler), Ace (New York, NY), 1961.

Seven from the Stars (bound with Worlds of the Imperium by Keith Laumer), Ace (New York, NY), 1962.

Falcons of Narabedla and The Dark Intruder and Other Stories, Ace (New York, NY), 1964.

The Brass Dragon (bound with Ipomoea by John Rackham), Ace (New York, NY), 1969.

Hunters of the Red Moon, DAW (New York, NY), 1973.

The Parting of Arwen (short story), T-K Graphics, 1974.

The Endless Voyage, Ace (New York, NY), 1975, expanded edition published as Endless Universe, 1979.

The Ruins of Isis, Donning (Norfolk, VA), 1978.

(With brother, Paul Edwin Zimmer) The Survivors, DAW (New York, NY), 1979.

The House between the Worlds, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1980, revised edition, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1981.

Survey Ship, Ace (New York, NY), 1980.

Web of Light (also see below), Donning (Norfolk, VA), 1982.

The Mists of Avalon, Knopf (New York, NY), 1983.

(Editor and contributor) Greyhaven: An Anthology of Fantasy, DAW (New York, NY), 1983.

Web of Darkness (also see below), Donning (Norfolk, VA), 1983.

The Inheritor, Tor (New York, NY), 1984, 1997.

(Editor) Sword and Sorceress (annual anthology), nineteen volumes, DAW (New York, NY), 1984–2002.

Night's Daughter, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1985.

(With Vonda McIntyre) Lythande (anthology), DAW (New York, NY), 1986.

The Fall of Atlantis (contains Web of Light and Web of Darkness), Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1987.

The Firebrand, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1987.

Warrior Woman, DAW (New York, NY), 1988.

City of Sorcery, DAW (New York, NY), 1988.

The Colors of Space (Reissue), Donning (Norfolk, VA), 1988.

Witch Hill, Tor (New York, NY), 1990.

The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mapes Monde Editore, 1991.

Black Trillium, Bantam (New York, NY), 1991.

Jamie and Other Stories: The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley, Academy Chicago (Chicago, IL), 1993.

The Forest House, Viking (New York, NY), 1994.

Lady of the Trillium, Bantam (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey) Tiger, Burning Bright, Morrow (New York, NY), 1995.

Ghostlight, Tor (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Holly Lisle) Glenraven, Baen Books (Riverdale, NY), 1996.

Witchlight, Tor (New York, NY), 1996.

The Gratitude of Kings, ROC (New York, NY), 1997.

Gravelight, Tor (New York, NY), 1997.

Lady of Avalon, Viking (New York, NY), 1997.

In the Rift (sequel to Glenraven) Baen Books (River-dale, NY), 1998.

(With Diana L. Paxson) Priestess of Avalon, Viking (New York, NY), 2001.


The Sword of Aldones and The Planet Savers, Ace (New York, NY), 1962.

The Bloody Sun, Ace (New York, NY), 1964, revised edition, 1979.

Star of Danger, Ace (New York, NY), 1965.

The Winds of Darkover (bound with The Anything Tree by Rackham), Ace (New York, NY), 1970.

The World Wreckers, Ace (New York, NY), 1971.

Darkover Landfall, DAW (New York, NY), 1972.

The Spell Sword, DAW (New York, NY), 1974.

The Heritage of Hastur (also see below), DAW (New York, NY), 1975.

The Shattered Chain (also see below), DAW (New York, NY), 1976.

The Forbidden Tower, DAW (New York, NY), 1977.

Stormqueen! (also see below), DAW (New York, NY), 1978.

(Editor and contributor) Legends of Hastur and Cassilda, Thendara House, 1979.

(Editor and contributor) Tales of the Free Amazons, Thendara House, 1980.

Two to Conquer, DAW (New York, NY), 1980.

(Editor and contributor) The Keeper's Price and Other Stories, DAW (New York, NY), 1980.

Sharra's Exile (also see below), DAW (New York, NY), 1981.

(Editor and contributor) Sword of Chaos (short stories), DAW (New York, NY), 1981.

Children of Hastur (includes The Heritage of Hastur and Sharra's Exile), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1981, published as Heritage and Exile, DAW (New York, NY), 2002.

Hawkmistress! (also see below), DAW (New York, NY), 1982.

Thendara House (also see below), DAW (New York, NY), 1983.

Oath of the Renunciates (includes The Shattered Chain and Thendara House), Doubleday (New York, NY), 1983.

City of Sorcery (also see below), DAW (New York, NY), 1984.

(Editor and contributor) Free Amazons of Darkover (short stories), DAW (New York, NY), 1985.

(With others) Red Sun of Darkover (short stories), DAW (New York, NY), 1987.

(With others) The Other Side of the Mirror and Other Darkover Stories, DAW (New York, NY), 1987.

(Editor and contributor) Four Moons of Darkover (short stories), DAW (New York, NY), 1988.

(Editor) Domains of Darkover (short stories), DAW (New York, NY), 1990.

The Heirs of Hammerfell, DAW (New York, NY), 1990.

(Editor and contributor) Renunciates of Darkover (short stories), DAW (New York, NY), 1991.

(Editor and contributor) Leroni of Darkover (short stories), DAW (New York, NY), 1991.

(With Mercedes Lackey) Rediscovery: A Novel of Dark-over, DAW (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor) Towers of Darkover (short stories), DAW (New York, NY), 1993.

(Editor) Snows of Darkover (short stories), DAW (New York, NY), 1994.

Exile's Song: A Novel of Darkover, DAW (New York, NY), 1996.

The Shadow Matrix, DAW (New York, NY), 1997.

Heartlight (sequel to The Shadow Matrix), Tor (New York, NY), 1998.

Traitor's Sun: A Novel of Darkover, DAW (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Deborah J. Ross) The Fall of Neskaya: Book One of the Clingfire Trilogy, DAW (New York, NY), 2001.

The Ages of Chaos (includes Stormqueen! and Hawk-mistress!), DAW (New York, NY), 2002.

The Saga of the Renunciates (includes The Shattered Chain, Thendara House, and City of Sorcery), DAW (New York, NY), 2002.


Songs from Rivendell, privately printed, 1959.

(With Gene Damon) A Complete, Cumulative Checklist of Lesbian, Variant, and Homosexual Fiction, privately printed, 1960.

Castle Terror (novel), Lancer (New York, NY), 1965.

Souvenir of Monique (novel), Ace (New York, NY), 1967.

Bluebeard's Daughter (novel), Lancer (New York, NY), 1968.

(Translator) Lope de Vega, El Villano en su Rincon, privately printed, 1971.

Dark Satanic (novel), Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1972.

In the Steps of the Master (teleplay novelization), Tempo Books, 1973.

Men, Halflings, and Hero Worship (criticism), T-K Graphics, 1973.

The Necessity for Beauty: Robert W. Chamber and the Romantic Tradition (criticism), T-K Graphics, 1974.

The Jewel of Arwen (criticism), T-K Graphics, 1974.

A Gay Bibliography, Arno Press, 1975.

Can Ellen Be Saved? (teleplay novelization), Tempo Books, 1975.

(With Alfred Bester and Norman Spinrad) Experiment Perilous: Three Essays in Science Fiction, Algol Press (New York, NY), 1976.

Drums of Darkness (novel), Ballantine (New York, NY), 1976.

The Catch Trap, Ballantine (New York, NY), 1979.

(Editor, with Rachel E. Holmen) Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Worlds, M.Z. Bradley Literary Works Trust (Berkeley, CA), 1998.

Also author of novels under undisclosed pseudonyms. Contributor, sometimes under Elfrida Rivers and other pseudonyms, to anthologies and periodicals, including Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, and Venture. Contributor to Essays Lovecraftian, edited by Darrell Schweitzer, T-K Graphics, 1976. Author (as Lee Chapman) of I Am a Lesbian; (as Morgan Ives) Spare Her Heaven and Knives of Desire, (as Miriam Gardner) Twilight Lovers and My Sister, My Love; and (as John Dexter) No Adam for Eve.

ADAPTATIONS: The Mists of Avalon was adapted for a TNT television miniseries, 2001. Bradley's "Clingfire" trilogy was completed by Deborah J. Ross.

SIDELIGHTS: Marion Zimmer Bradley was born to an impoverished family in upstate New York at the beginning of the Great Depression. At an early age she fell in love with both books and opera. Before she had learned to write, Bradley was already dictating stories her mother transcribed for her. Her first long work of fiction was written in high school, based on a libretto of the opera Norma, and it served as the basis for a novel she would publish nearly fifty year later, titled The Forest House. Before Bradley had finished high school she discovered the worlds of science fiction and science-fiction fandom, both of which she would remain close to for the rest of her life.

Bradley's first published stories appeared in the pulp science-fiction magazines of the 1950s. Her novel Planet Savers began the popular "Darkover" series, which has since become one of the best-loved series in science fiction and fantasy. Bradley's "Darkover" novels have not only inspired their own fan magazines, or "fanzines," but also a number of story collections in which other authors set their tales in Bradley's universe. A lost space colony rediscovered after centuries of neglect by Earth's Terran Empire, Darkover has developed its own society and technology, both of which produce internal and external conflicts. Darkover fascinates readers because it is a world of many contradictions; not only do the psychic abilities of the natives contrast with the traditional technologies of the empire, but a basically repressive patriarchal society coexists (however uneasily) with groups such as an order of female Renunciates known as the Free Amazons. Consisting of over twenty books and spanning many years of the world's history, "the Darkover novels test various attitudes about the importance of technology and, more important, they study the very nature of human intimacy," claimed Rosemarie Arbur in Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers. The critic explained that "by postulating a Terran Empire the main features of which are advanced technology and bureaucracy, and a Darkover that seems technologically backward and is fiercely individualistic, Bradley sets up a conflict to which there is no 'correct' resolution." The permutations of this basic conflict have provided Bradley with numerous opportunities to explore several themes in various ways.

Reviewer Susan M. Shwartz observed in The Feminine Eye: Science Fiction and the Women Who Write It that one theme in particular provides a foundation for the "Darkover" novels: "For every gain, there is a risk; choice involves a testing of will and courage." Unlike some fantasy worlds where struggles are easily decided, "on Darkover any attempt at change or progress carries with it the need for pain-filled choice," Shwartz commented. While Bradley provided her characters with ample avenues of action, Scwartz observed that "in the Darkover books, alternatives are predicated upon two things, sincere choice and a willingness to pay the price choice demands." The Shattered Chain, for example, "in terms of its structure, plot, characterization, and context within the series, is about the choices of all women on Darkover and, through them, of all people, male and female, Darkovan and Terran."

The Shattered Chain is one of Bradley's most renowned "Darkover" novels. As Arbur described it in her study Marion Zimmer Bradley, the book "is one of the most thorough and sensitive science-fiction explorations of the variety of options available to a self-actualizing woman; not only does it present us with four strong and different feminine characters who make crucial deci-sions about their lives but its depth of characterizations permits us to examine in detail the consequences of these decisions." The novel begins as a traditional quest when Lady Rohana, a noblewoman of the ruling class, enlists the aid of a tribe of Free Amazons to rescue a kidnapped kinswoman from a settlement where women are chained, to show that they are possessions. But while the rescue is eventually successful, it is only the beginning of a series of conflicts; Rohana's experiences force her to re-evaluate her life, and both the daughter of the woman she rescued and a Terran agent who studies the Amazons find themselves examining the limits of their own situations. "As we see in The Shattered Chain," Shwartz concluded, "the payment for taking an oath is the payment for all such choices: pain, with a potential for achievement. In Bradley's other books, too, the price of choice is of great importance."

In coming to this conclusion about the price of choice, Bradley emphasized two other themes, as Laura Murphy stated in the Dictionary of Literary Biography: "The first is the reconciliation of conflicting or opposing forces—whether such forces are represented by different cultures or by different facets of a single personality. The second," the critic continued, "closely related to the first, is alienation or exile from a dominant group." While these ideas are featured in Bradley's "Darkover" series, they also appear in the author's first big mainstream best seller, The Mists of Avalon. "Colorfully detailed as a medieval tapestry, The Mists of Avalon … is probably the most ambitious retelling of the Arthurian legend in the twentieth century," Charlotte Spivack maintained in Merlin's Daughters: Contemporary Women Writers of Fantasy. Spivack added that this novel "is much more than a retelling…. It is a profound revisioning. Imaginatively conceived, intricately structured, and richly peopled, it offers a brilliant reinterpretation of the traditional material from the point of view of the major female characters," such as Arthur's mother Igraine, the Lady of the Lake, Viviane, Arthur's half-sister, the enchantress Morgaine, and Arthur's wife, Gwenhwyfar.

In addition, Bradley presents the eventual downfall of Arthur's reign as the result of broken promises to the religious leaders of Avalon; while Arthur gains his crown with the aid of Viviane and the Goddess she represents, the influence of Christian priests and Gwenhwyfar lead him to forsake his oath. Thus, not only does Bradley present Arthur's story from a different viewpoint, she roots it "in the religious struggle between matriarchal worship of the goddess and the patriarchal institution of Christianity, between what the author calls 'the cauldron and the cross,'" described Spivack. In presenting this conflict, Bradley "memorably depicts the inevitable passing of times and religions by her use of the imagery of different simultaneous worlds, which move out of consciousness as their day ebbs," remarked Maude McDaniel in the Washington Post. Bradley also "compares head-on the pre-Christian Druidism of Britain and the Christianity that supplants it, a refreshing change from some modern writers who tend to take refuge at awkward moments in cryptic metaphysics," McDaniel stated.

Bradley used similar themes and approaches in reworking another classic tale: The Firebrand, the story of the fall of Troy and of Kassandra, royal daughter of Troy and onetime priestess and Amazon. As the author remarked in an interview with Publishers Weekly reviewer Lisa See, in the story of Troy she saw another instance of male culture overtaking and obscuring female contributions: "During the Dorian invasion, when iron won out over bronze, the female cult died," Bradley explained. "The Minoan and Mycenaean cultures were dead overnight. But you could also look at that period of history and say, here were two cultures that should have been ruled by female twins—Helen and Klytemnestra. And what do you know? When they married Menelaus and Agamemnon, the men took over their cities. I just want to look at what history was really like before the women-haters got hold of it. I want to look at these people like any other people, as though no one had ever written about them before."

Despite this emphasis on female viewpoints in The Firebrand and her other fiction, Bradley was not a "feminist" writer. "Though her interest in women's rights is strong," elaborated Murphy, "her works do not reduce to mere polemic." Rosemarie Arbur related in Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers that "Bradley's writing openly with increasing sureness of the human psyche and the human being rendered whole prompted Theodore Sturgeon to call the former science-fiction fan 'one of the Big ones' … writing science-fiction." Arbur concluded that "Sturgeon's phrase applies … to the science-fiction writer Marion Zimmer Bradley …, for she has transcended categories." Arbur similarly stated that the author "refuses to allow her works to wander into politics unless true concerns of realistic characters bring them there. Her emphasis is on character, not political themes."

While Bradley passed away in 1999, unfinished manuscripts begun by her but completed by other authors continued to appear. Priestess of Avalon, completed by Diana L. Paxson, serves as a prequel to The Mists of Avalon. The story opens in the year 296 when a British princess, Helena, travels to the Isle of Avalon to study "the path of the goddess." Helena falls in love with Flavius Constantius Chlorus, a man destined to become Roman emperor. Helena's Aunt Ganeda, opposed to the union of the two lovers, exiles Helena from Avalon. Yet Helena is already pregnant with Flavius's child. She later joins Flavius, advising him in his political strategies in dealing with the Roman Empire, and eventually makes her own pilgrimage to the Holy Land. A contributor in Publishers Weekly praised Paxson's "skill at bringing historical characters and places to vivid life," and also observed that fans of Bradley's The Mists of Avalon will embrace the book's "message that all religions call on the same high power."

Another posthumously completed title, The Fall of Neskaya, coauthored by Deborah J. Ross and billed as Book One of the "Clingfire" trilogy, continues Bradley's "Darkover" series. In the scheme of Darkover history, the tale is set in the Ages of Chaos when laran telepathic power ruled the planet. Young Coryn Leynier is discovered to possess such power and rises to the position of Keeper of Neskaya Tower. Unknown to Coryn, those who seek the downfall of Darkover have planted a powerful weapon of destruction in his mind. A Publishers Weekly reviewer praised The Fall of Neskaya as "a competent, fast-paced narrative congruent with … [Bradley's] familiar 1960s theme: 'make various kinds of love, but not nuclear war.'" Paula Luedtke, reviewing the novel for Booklist, commented that Ross, who planned to complete the trilogy on her own, "succeeds in keeping it true to Bradley's style."

In the 1950s Bradley published several lesbian novels under a variety of pseudonyms, and later, under her own name, two bibliographies of gay and lesbian literature and a gay mainstream novel titled The Catch Trap. Writing a remembrance of Bradley in the Lambda Book Report, Lawrence Shimmel observed: "While she is best known for her science-fiction and fantasy novels, lesbian and gay readers also know her for her innumerable contributions to gay literature." Essayist Jeanette Smith, writing in Gay and Lesbian Literature, took a more detailed look at this aspect of Bradley's career. Although Bradley always avoided the label "feminist" and insisted that literature should entertain rather than serve as propaganda, according to Smith the author's "enthusiasm for women's rights and gay rights is apparent in her works." Smith credited Bradley with being "one of the first science-fiction writers to feature independent female characters" and went on to note that "Bradley peoples her worlds with characters representing many types of gender roles and relationships." The Mists of Avalon, though it dwells primarily on heterosexual relationships, includes love scenes between priestesses Morgraine and Raven. The cultures of Darkover, in contrast to Terran cultures, encompass a wide variety of sexual identities—gay, lesbian, bisexual, virginal, celibate—without prejudice. In the Heritage of Hastur, a novel in the "Darkover" series, Lord Regis Hastur acknowledges both his homosexuality and his love for a fellow male schoolmate. On a darker note, some of the "Darkover" books portray the sexual enslavement of women by men and vice versa, as well as necrophilia and child prostitution. Yet on the whole, Smith stated, such negative elements are outweighed by positive ones, and "Bradley's storytelling is a message of acceptance and respect for oneself and for others, an affirmation of human rights and human dignity."



Alpers, H. J., editor, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover, Corian, 1983.

Arbur, Rosemarie, Leigh Brackett, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1982.

Arbur, Rosemarie, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Starmont House (Mercer Island, WA), 1985.

Darkover Cookbook, Friends of Darkover, 1977, revised edition, 1979.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 8: Twentieth Century American Science-Fiction Writers, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1981.

Malinowski, Sharon, editor, Gay & Lesbian Literature, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.

Paxson, Diana, Costume and Clothing as a Cultural Index on Darkover, Friends of Darkover, 1977, revised edition, 1981.

Roberson, Jennifer, editor, Return to Avalon: A Celebration of Marion Zimmer Bradley, DAW (New York, NY), 1996.

Staicar, Tom, editor, The Feminine Eye: Science-Fiction and the Women Who Write It, Ungar (New York, NY), 1982.

Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1986.

Wise, S., The Darkover Dilemma: Problems of the Darkover Series, T-K Graphics, 1976.


Algol, winter 1977–1978.

Booklist, February 15, 1993; January 15, 1994; July 2001, review of The Fall of Neskaya, Paula Luedtke, p. 1991.

English Journal, January, 1989.

Entertainment Weekly, May 20, 1994, p. 57.

Fantasy Review of Fantasy and Science-Fiction, April, 1984.

Library Journal, August, 1988; May 15, 1993; June 15, 1993; March 15, 1994; June 15, 1994.

Locus, November, 1999.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 3, 1983.

Mythlore, spring, 1984.

New York Times Book Review, January 30, 1983; November 29, 1987.

Publishers Weekly, September 11, 1987; October 30, 1987; March 15, 1993; February 28, 1994; June 18, 2001, review of The Fall of Neskaya, p. 64; July 30, 2001, Daisy Maryles, "Rising from the Mists," p. 18; April 30, 2002, review of Priestess of Avalon, p. 62.

San Francisco Examiner, February 27, 1983.

School Library Journal, October, 1994, p. 158.

Science Fiction Review, summer 1983.

Washington Post, January 28, 1983.

West Coast Review of Books, number 5, 1986.

Writer's Digest, June, 1988.



Lambda Book Report, December, 1999, Lawrence Shimmel, "Lawrence Shimmel Remembers the Mistress of Avalon," p. 30.

Los Angeles Times, September 30, 1999, p. A24.

New York Times, September 29, 1999, p. A25.

Washington Post, October 3, 1999, p. C6.


MZB Ltd News Online, (September 30, 1999), Rachel E. Holman, "Marion Zimmer Bradley: June 3, 1930–Sept. 25, 1999."

About this article

Bradley, Marion Zimmer 1930–1999

Updated About content Print Article