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27. July 2015 · Comments Off on Burying Books · Categories: Random Book and Media Musings, Uncategorized

For a long time, especially after that tour in Greenland – thirty miles north of the Arctic Circle, among the rocks and glaciers, the ravens and the little furry arctic foxes whose pelts turned from brownish to pure white in winter – I rather liked Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover novels. Likely this is because I could relate very well, to being stuck in an isolated, cold and dim place, at the far end of the supply chain, far and away from sunshine, family and the accustomed amusements. I sympathized deeply with the Terrans who got assigned to that cold, forested planet with one dim red sun and four moons: seriously, Greenland didn’t seem very far removed or alien from all that. I bought several of the Darkover series from the Stars and Stripes bookstore in Athens, ordered most of the rest from the publisher later on, even essayed a couple of short stories myself, after reading some of the fan-fic anthology collections and thinking to myself, “Oh, heck – I can do much better than that!” I went as far as submitting a story for a new anthology, only alas, by the time I got to it, MZB had stopped doing them altogether, and the submission was returned, with the usual curt rejection letter also adorned with a stern warning regarding violating MZB’s copyright by committing fan-fic set in “her” world. Spending so much of those years overseas, I was barely aware that there were such things as science fiction conventions anyway. Only when I got to Salt Lake City, and discovered that the various local science fiction, fantasy and Society for Creative Anachronism enthusiasts held one downtown annually, did I find out about cons, or how much fun they were.

No, I never met any famous, near-famous, or even up and coming authors. Basically, the Salt Lake City con was more a chance for local fans to dress in costume, and maybe collect an autograph from an actor or two who played a character in one of the Star Trek iterations. Somewhere I have one from Armin Shimerman … who is a real hoot as a raconteur, and totally at home with playing a slippery character. Because, of course – as he said modestly, “They paid me lots of money.”

But long after I left the military, I still had a soft spot for Darkover, and ventured into The Mists of Avalon – being an enthusiast for things Arthurian from way back. I even bought some of the other non-Darkover books, including one which the Daughter Unit insists indignantly that I should not have ever let her read. This was The Firebrand – a retelling of the Trojan War from the point of view of the prophetess Cassandra. Part of the fall of Troy involves the incidental rape of a young girl, which horrified my daughter – even more so, to read this year of matters relating to MZB’s personal life and the ongoing abuse that her daughter was subjected to … by both parents, it seems. The matter of MZB’s husband being a notorious pedophile – and this being common knowledge among con-goers in the 70s and 80s came up in several discussion threads earlier this year in regards to the Great Hugo Sad Puppies Flap, to the astonished dismay of certain of us who had not been die-hard con-attendees or writers trying to break into any kind of mainstream – science fiction or otherwise – for more than the last decade or so. (The full horrifying testament by MZB’s daughter is linked here.)

MZB Book BoxThe term “horrified” just doesn’t begin to describe my initial reaction … look, it’s no news to me that there have been writers with rackety and disreputable lives, sometimes even involving courtrooms and prison sentences of varying terms, whether justified or not. But this is far, far beyond my toleration – perpetuating and turning a blind eye to sex abuse of a child … really, how much of that episode in The Firebrand drew on real life and first-hand experience, tell me? Looking back now — her books all seem to me to be tainted with a particularly ugly miasma. Certain passages, incidents and characters … I would have to close the book and walk away, now, for now they feel like something drawn on more than imagination alone.

No, I’m not going to rush out and burn those books of hers that I have, or dump them on Goodwill – but I can’t have them on my shelves now, even remembering what enjoyment I once took from them, or even some of the lessons in world-construction and story-telling that I gained. So, into a box they go, and buried out in the garage someplace far back in a corner. There are quite a few of them, I am rather astonished to see – the box is more than filled, and likely I will have to find a larger one, once we find that copy of Mists of Avalon. Yep, that goes, too.

 

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