By in Books

Sad and Disgusted over Allegations Against a Once Favorite Author

Two of the threads of reading I did when I was in my late teens and early 20s were Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover books, about a lost colony from earth who’d intermarried with a native population on Darkover; and anything having to do with Arthurian legends. I read Mary Stewart’s Merlin series, T.H. White’s Once and Future King , and John Steinbeck The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I read Le Morte d’Arthur in the original syntax. It was all that was available. I can still chuckle over the thought of all those spears “all-to shivering.” The three Grail knight, Galahad, Perceval and Bors were even more amusing as they were all “clean maidens,” except Bors, who was a “clean maiden but once.”

There is a lot of casual brutality in Le Morte d’Arthur and a lot of, well, bed hopping. Ladies cheated on their husbands who then took revenge. Sons took a dim view of their mothers (regardless of their mother’s marital status) keeping company with gentleman friends. I was not too surprised to find out later that the guy who supposed to have collected the various tales, Thomas Mallory, did so while in prison, held on various charges of theft and rape (which didn’t quite have the same meaning it does today. The woman’s consent was secondary.)

Given my love of all things Arthur and all things Marion Zimmer Bradley, I was eagerly looking forward to the latter’s The Mists of Avalon when it came out in 1983. I read every review I could get my grubby paws in those far distant pre-internet days. And what I read disappointed me. Lancelot sleeping with both Guinevere and Arthur? It wasn’t the bisexuality that bothered me so much but oh, brother, what a soap opera! I still haven’t read the book, which has since been followed by a series and is considered Bradley’s single most popular book.

It is only within the past day or two that I’ve read of the conviction and imprisonment of her husband, Walter Breen, on child molestation, and of the allegations made by her own children, Moira and Mark Greyland, of the physical and sexual abuse they suffered at Bradley’s own hands. Bradley died in 1999, Breen in prison in 1993. Moira mentions that she was afraid to speak up, even after her mother’s death and her father’s conviction, for fear of the backlash from her mother’s fans. Happily, that hasn’t happened.

Hard to express the disgust I feel for anyone treating their children like this, much less someone who purported to be a feminist and pro-woman. Why was nothing done while their parents were alive and the children could have been protected? I think in part because the world was different then. In part because no one wants to hear these sorts of things, and in part because their parents’ friends were convinced that the “new” religion they practiced was better than anything that had gone before and the enlightened adherents couldn’t possibly do anything so destructive, could they?

The question of separating the art from the artist comes up. Some people have said they will throw out all MZB’s books they have in the house and not buy any more. For myself it’s a non-issue. I haven’t bought any of her books in a long, long time. I may or may not have any left, but I think I gave them away in the times that I have moved since the Darkover books were so important to me. (And they were good books!)

But I wish there was something more that could be done for her children. They’re in middle age now, of course, and a lot of water had passed under the bridge for them. But how horrible it must have been to live in a shadow like that when so many strangers saw your mother as a loving person and you knew her a crazy, violent person. Just… sad.

Source: Wikipedia on Walter Breen :

Wikipedia on Marion Zimmer Bradley :

An interview with Mark Greyland :

Moira Greyland’s email :



©2015 Denise Longrie

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MegL wrote on May 2, 2015, 8:32 AM

That's terrible! I used to love MZB's Darkover novels. She is not the first novelist to be accused of creating fantasy novels that people love to the detriment of her own children but I had not heard about this.

Last Edited: May 2, 2015, 8:33 AM

AliCanary wrote on May 2, 2015, 8:36 AM

I'm more of an Anne McCaffrey girl myself (yay, dragons), but I did see the Mists f Avalon miniseries on television. The allegations are very distressing to hear, and like you, I wish something could be done to ease the pain. Maybe talking about it, at least, will raise awareness more and possibly help current and future victims. As an aside, I believe the queen's name was Guinevere, not Genevieve (you may have been the victim of Autocorrect, here!)

msiduri wrote on May 2, 2015, 9:14 AM

I guess the Moira spoke up in 2014 against her mother, but was quite vocal years before that against her father. He was convicted at least in part on her testimony. What I found deeply disturbing in reading through everything was that MZB apparently knew of his inclinations probably before she married him still had children with him, still had him around even after they separated. It's just chilly from beginning to end.

MelissaE wrote on May 2, 2015, 9:14 AM

This is very interesting. I have not heard of these authors or books before.

msiduri wrote on May 2, 2015, 9:18 AM

I liked Anne McCaffrey as well. I didn't know there was a "Mists of Avalon" mini series. You're right about Guinevere. $#*& (# auto correct.

msiduri wrote on May 2, 2015, 9:23 AM

Well, I can't say run out and read MZB now. emoticon :smile: If I knew her kids were benefiting, I might. But back in the day, they were standard among fantasy readers. Anne McCaffrey the AliCanary mentioned was another one (I don't think she's around any more). And the Arthurian stuff—I still like it.

AliCanary wrote on May 2, 2015, 10:48 AM

Yeah, it was on one of the cable channels, like TBS or FXX, some years ago. You might be able to find it on Hulu or Netflix or summat.

LeaPea2417 wrote on May 2, 2015, 11:11 AM

That is sad. Molesting of kids within the home should always be reported.

msiduri wrote on May 2, 2015, 12:31 PM

It so seldom it. And apparently they were beaten as well.

Soonerdad3 wrote on May 2, 2015, 3:11 PM

It is understandable why she would be apprehensive of speaking up, fans can be very unpredictable to say the least.

msiduri wrote on May 2, 2015, 6:28 PM

From what I've seen, fans can be both incredibly ugly and incredibly beautiful. Most of the reactions that I saw to her revelation were that the fans were saddened and shocked. That Bradley's husband was a convicted child molester with allegations of abuse going back to the 1950s—before he and Bradley were married—seems well known and accepted now. This may have tempered the fan reaction. I'm glad of that. If even half of what she's saying is true (I have no reason to doubt her), the woman has suffered enough.

Gossamer wrote on May 2, 2015, 6:58 PM

It raises the question of what to do when you find out shocking facts, such as this, about someone whose work/s you have in your collection. I have CDs of Rolf Harris and Gary Glitter, for instance, purchased long before allegations of child sexual abuse emerged against them. As yet, I haven't felt the need to throw the CDs in the bin. Nor have I played those CDs. What do you think? I have a lot of books, a lot of CDs and a lot of DVDs. Would I have to go through my entire collection and weed out all items having any association whatsoever with accused or convicted paedophiles, lest I be viewed as condoning their evil acts? It would be another matter if, after reading your article, I suddenly run out and buy all the MZB I can find (I haven't read any of her works btw), or if I buy all the Rolf Harris paintings I can find.

msiduri wrote on May 2, 2015, 7:19 PM

The point of absurdity is reached quickly. I'm unfamiliar with the names Gary Glitter and Rolf Harris, though I have feeling I've run across their work. I mean, does it stop at pedophilia or any child abuse? What about domestic violence in general? Should we as readers/consumers pitch stuff in our libraries because someone was arrested after a nasty argument with his wife? This was the reason I included Malory in the post: His c.v., if he were living and publishing today, would get him on TMZ (a celebrity scandal show, you may be privileged not to get down under). Yet who's going to pitch Le Morte d'Arthur? I mention this not to minimize the suffering of Bradley's son and daughter: but does the punishment fit the crime?

Gossamer wrote on May 3, 2015, 9:56 AM

Domestic violence is another thing. There would be a great many famous people (the vast majority men, of course) guilty of that particular crime. One of the most prominent of them today earned an obscene amount of money for trading officially-sanctioned biffs with another man. He has enough money to BUY a jail, so he's unlikely to ever see much of the inside of one.

There are very few "heroes" or "geniuses" that are not in some way indelibly flawed. Even Gandhi, Franklin, Edison, Mandela, Schweitzer, Einstein and Leonardo had their foibles or made errors of judgment that they definitely wouldn't want to be remembered for. It does come as a shock to us, nevertheless, when we hear about them.

msiduri wrote on May 3, 2015, 10:29 AM

Too bad I never took up boxing. emoticon :smile: but seriously, I think what made MZB so egregious to a lot of people, myself included, is that she put herself forward as a feminist. Many fans—I don't count myself in this number—claimed to have found empowerment and personal healing in her various works. The thought of her going home and then beating/molesting/terrorizing her own children would have seemed like such hypocrisy that no wonder they'd want nothing to do with her or her works. But where do you draw the line? I won't buy any more of her works, but I wasn't going to do so anyway.

alexdg1 wrote on May 26, 2015, 8:13 AM

A most disturbing case, to be sure. I have heard of MZB as a fantasy writer but have not been interested in reading her books. (Tolkien and Stephen King are about as far as I'll go with fantasy. Yes, King can be considered a fantasy writer since he has written The Eyes of the Dragon and The Dark Tower series.) I had not heard about this horrible and distasteful aspect of MZB as a person, though.

msiduri wrote on May 26, 2015, 8:25 AM

In addition to writing, she edited a magazine that encouraged emerging authors, so a lot of young (and many female) writers looked up to her. I never quite got the courage to submit anything to the magazine. Although my stuff wasn't exactly mainstream, it didn't quite fit her format either. The allegations about her are apparently quite recent. The stuff with her husband is quite well known (just not by me).