Marion Zimmer Bradley
June 3, 1930 - September 25, 1999
"Here do we first touch the new worlds. Let us never again fear to face the unknown, trusting that the Mind of All Knowledge still has many surprises in store for all the living."
--From The Colors of Space
"Marion told me many times that she would prefer it if her letters and first draughts and all the details of her life could be disposed of, because the stories were what counted, and nothing beyond what was contained in the story itself was relevent. She also said that every story she ever wrote was because she had read Henry Kuttner's novel Fury. Like Kuttner, it is doubtful anyone will ever produce an accurate list of everything she ever wrote, but that's ok; there were some things she wanted to be forgotten."
Here is a List of Some Things by Marion You Can Order Right Now.
Marion, like her brother, Paul Edwin Zimmer, enjoyed writing backwards. That is to say, she liked to write the finale of a saga and then go back and write the earlier stories, filling in the stuff she considered interesting. If you have not yet read The Mists of Avalon, you may therefore wish to start the story at the beginning rather than at the end, and have the enjoyment of an epic tale building to an incredible conclusion. The First Book is really...
...and you can order the paperback, which is all that is in print at the moment, just by clicking on the image above. Doing so will take you to Amazon.com, where you can purchase it. The rest of the images we will present here will provide the same avenue. It is, by the by, the story that she set out to tell in the first novel she ever wrote: in high school. It was inspired by her love of Bellini's opera Norma.
If you are of a mind to listen instead of read, you can also get The Forest House in an unabridged audio edition, just by clicking on the underlined name of the book in this sentence.
The Second Book is Lady of Avalon, but Fair Warning! There is one more Avalon book to come; and it takes place part way through Lady of Avalon. The Working Title is Priestess of Avalon, but it won't be out for a while, so you had might as well read this one now. If you click on the image below you will get the hardback edition:
If you want the paperback edition, then click here..
The great finale of the saga is of course also Marion's most famous and celebrated book, The Mists of Avalon.. There is very little to be said about her classic revisioning of the tale of King Arthur from the point of view of the women in his life, except that as of the construction of this page it is available only in the paperback edition: which you can purchase by clicking on the image below.
The book of Marion's which the immediate family has always considered her best and most perfect novel is neither her epic Arthurian opus nor any of her classic science fantasy tales of the planet Darkover. Rather, it is the book which proved to be her very first Best Seller; her first large scale novel. It is a story of Circus Life set in the 1940s, and many have hailed it as the best Gay love story ever written. It is a story of family, of self-discovery, and lasting loyalty. It is tightly written and both painful and joyous. It will have you checking the phone book for trapeze lessons. --But what is most astonishing about this book is that the original date of completion was 1948; a time when such stories simply could not be told. The original title was The Flyers, but the publisher thought that made it sound like an airport novel: so it became known as The Catch Trap.
The quote which appears at the top of this page, under Marion's picture, is from her novel The Colors of Space. I believe that she meant that book to be like one of Heinlein's 'juveniles,' that is, a book which young people could enjoy but one not 'written down' to them as if they were somehow inferior. (It has been noted that most of the people involved with the exploration of space grew up reading Heinleion's 'juveniles.')
Unfortunately, The Colors of Space is out of print. Amazon lists two editions. On the first, I have been unable to make a link. On the second, I have been able to make a link, but for some reason Amazon lists Hank Stein with Marion. (Amazon also lists Marion with Ray Bradbury in the authorship line on Bradbury's wonderful novel Dandelion Wine. Go figure!)
Amazon will, however, do a search for out of print books. Frequently those books sell for less than new books; so, if you would like to read this really delightful 'middle' novel (1983) by Marion, click on the underlined name of the book below and give Amazon's search service a try. I really liked this book, and I think you will too.
One cannot discuss Marion's work without coming to terms with Darkover: which is not just a planet, but a long term and ongoing examination of ideas and issues that concerned Marion over the whole course of her life.
She started out writing 'the Severner Stories,' which were pretty much fantasy; but in the marketplace of the time there was absolutely no place for fantasy; so she reworked her intitial material into what is technically called 'science fantasy,' that is, material of the sort which is usually dealt with in fantasy, but given such explanation as to make it plausable in a universe viewed through scientific spectacles. (The past master of the form was Henry Kuttner.)
At first Darkover was sort of tropical. People tended to wear diaphonous clothing and there were houses with token walls, or only curtains. There were swamps! Should you possess some of the early editions, you will find in them a Darkover remarkably unfamiliar from the later stories.
Then a remarkable thing happened. Marion read "The Left Hand of Darkness" by Ursula K. LeGuin, and the temperature of Darkover began to drop. I still remember the excitement in her voice as she called us long distance to tell us how wonderful LeGuin's new book was. And I remember how cold it was in that Old Lovecraftian Farmhouse where she grew up! I suppose that she was finally taking that advice about 'writing what you know.'
There are two schools of thought about reading the Darkover novels. One is that you should read them in the order in which she wrote them, so that you can appreciate her growing depth as a writer and thinker. The other is that you should read them in the order in which the stories 'happen,' so that you can follow the history of the planet. Marion was in many ways the ultimate Gemini, so it is appropriate that there should be two, opposing views of how to read the books.
I prefer the latter way, because Marion said so many times that the story was the only thing that counted: so I like to read them as story, not as an examination of the writer's changing style or growth as a person.
Although she frequently told people that the Darkover stories were Not a Series, and became irate when they expected her to remember details and fashion consistency throughout, she did take the trouble to go back to those early books and make the planetary ecology more consistant with what she later came to picture that world as being like. And along the way she decided that readers very well might like to see what the actual arrival of humanity on Darkover had been like: as opposed to the mythic suppositions of the characters who lived there many years later.
The resulting book got her in a lot of trouble at the time of its publication. She went way over the boundaries of what science fiction writers were supposed to write about; though by today's standards it doesn't seem nearly so shocking. I have always liked the book, and if you have never visited Darkover, it will help you understand what happens over the next few thousand years. In the paperback editions it's called:
It is also available in a Hardcover Edition, in large, easy to read type, simply titled:
The second novel deals with the dangers and problems of eugenics; and believe me, dangers and problems are not the same thing! Whatever talents may be bred into people, their feelings are likely to be a different thing entirely. Here Marion begins to deal seriously with the issues surrounding the possession of 'laran,' and what it means to be truly powerful. This is one of her 'mature' novels, and the characters are heartbreakingly well drawn. It should not have to be said that so is the plot.
Amazon lists two editions. On the first they do not quote a price! But they say they can get it. Here are both editions, in case you have a preference.
First the hard-to-get edition:
Next, the easier to acquire one.
By the next book we are firmly into the Ages of Chaos , where people's lives (particularly women's lives) become mere tokens in the out of control eugenics program.
Curiously, although Amazon lists two editions, the newer edition is out of print: so to save space here, I will only list the one which you can purchase. I note in reading the reader reviews on Amazon that several people listed this next one as their favorite Darkover novel. It is called:
We now come to a book with both the listed editions out of print. That may be ok, however. If you read the reader review on the first one, the author notes how you can find a used edition with some ease.
In Two To Conquer Marion examines some problems of duplication, and the implications to physics, psychology, withcraft, and a lot of other areas. It is typical of her writing that just when you thought you knew what she would be writing about, she wrote about something else. Her late husband considered this one of her darkest novels, and he shuddered when he spoke of it.
The Hiers of Hammerfell is, for Marion, a curiously gentle book. This tale of twins seperated almost reminds one how much she loved Gilbert and Sullivan; but of course it is not humor, for on alternate thursdays she dissaproved of humor, while actually having quite a talent for it.
There are two editions listed, but one of them is out of print. If you are a collector you may want to try the auction facility, but otherwise, you can read it in the available edition, which I shall list first.
Rediscovery, written with Mercedes Lackey, is one of those books that people describe as 'long-awaited.' It is the crucial (to the saga) story of how Earth (Terra) rediscovers the long-lost (and mostly forgotten) Darkover Colony. If it does not have the incredible impact which we expected it to have when we all longed for it to be written, well... It may be that Marion was getting her feet under her as a collaborater (it is certainly not a flaw in Mercedes Lackey's abiliity as a writer) or it may be that her interest had shifted so far toward character as a central element that she backed off on her usual narrative drive. It's a good book, mind you, and it succeeds in setting up the conflict between Terrans and Darkovans that is central to the rest of the saga; but one wonders what it might have been like if she had written in ten years earlier, when Darkover was still her chief passion.
The Shattered Chain is a major Feminist novel and one of those books which has spawned a cultural millieu in its wake. When Heinlein wrote stories that caused people to change their lifestyle he was always a little perplexed. When Marion did it she was downright pleased (at least, on alternate thursdays).
But with this book time (in the context of the Darkover Cycle) starts to come a little unhinged. Two of the most important of the Darkover Novels take place in the middle of this book. So, if you want the experience of the chronological order of things, you need to read Part One of The Shattered Chain, then The Spell Sword, then The Forbidden Tower, then Parts Two and Three of The Shattered Chain.
Which is okay, because The Spell Sword and The Forbidden Tower are among the best of the Darkover books. But... I thought you ought to know.
And, just to make it difficult, both editions of The Spell Sword are out of print, so you will have to try a search!
But at least The Forbidden Tower: Against The Terrans: The First Age still is in print, which is good, because many people consider it the best of all the Darkover novels. Marion said she was thinking of our family when she wrote it, but I leave it to you as to whether that was a compliment or just an observation. The real puzzle is why the publisher added all that other stuff after the perfectly serviceable title that she gave the book and which, as I recall, was the title of first publication. If you need some reviews, there are some on Amazon which are perhaps less partisan than my own would be, though no less favorable I am sure.
Now, just to make things even more complicated (and Darkover is nothing if nothing complicated!) The Shattered Chain forms the first part of a trilogy! The characters continue in Thendara House, and the whole concerns of the Free Amazons remain at center stage through City of Sorcery. So, you have three books which are interrupted (chronology wise) in the middle of the first by two extra novels. I hasten to add that this does not make it a pentalogy, however.
The only other example I can remember of this kind of literary gymnastics is the way Mervyn Peake stops the action of the Gormenghast trilogy to tell about the love story between the schoolmaster and the doctor's sister.
If you are a particular fan of the Free Amazons, this trilogy (and maybe the extra two books) is a must.
At this point we come to one of the foundation books of the Darkover Saga, Star of Danger. It is an early novel in terms of Marion's output, but it remains one of the most important, perhaps because she cared so much about the characters and the particular story which she had to tell about them. This novel comes up from the very roots of Marion's consciousness as a storyteller, and I would place it very high on the 'must' list if you only intend to sample a little bit of Darkover. It is available in various editions, but we shall supply two only, as more than one hardback and one paperback might be a bit much for anyone but a hard core collector.
Winds of Darkover, in which the Sharra Matrix plays a role, is available only in an edition which combines it with The Planet Savers, plus a story called The Waterfall. In the time period in which Marion wrote these books 60,000 words was considered a novel, and you could get away with 45,000 if your publisher was binding you in a paperback double novel. (The double novel was a great way for a publisher to introduce new writers while minimizing his or her economic risk; they were usually bound back to back, and often upside down. I think the idea was original with Donald A. Wollheim, Marion's great mentor, but I won't swear to it.) I suspect the constraints placed upon Marion with regard to length made a major contribution to the tightness of her writing and her ability to express complex ideas with a minimum of verbiage.
For the record, 80,000 words is the minimum publishers have been expecting of late; but it is amazing how many writers can't figure out how to pack more into that word length than Marion got into 45,000.
When Paul and I first moved to California, back in '66 (I think it was '66) we lived with Marion and Walter, first in an early Maybeck house on Arch Street, then in a big gray house on Regent (both in Berkeley). Sometime during that epoch The Bloody Sun was published, though frankly I don't remember whether it was before Paul and I came to California or after. One thing I do remember clearly is the cover of the book, which featured a dark mauve kind of sky, in the center of which was a dark red, very bloody sun.
My first trip to Los Angeles was to attend a convention at which Marion was to be the Guest of Honor. It was pretty exciting because in those days she was not nearly so famous, and being a Guest of Honor at a convention was a pretty big deal, both for her and for us. We were really, really excited about her finally being recognized.
Imagine our excitement when we arrived in Los Angeles and discovered that the City of Angels had been so impressed by her work that the City Fathers had arranged for the sky to be decked out just for her. Looking up as we drove in, there it was: a dark mauve sky, in the center of which hovered a tiny, dark red, very bloody sun!
This is another of those books which many people feel to be the 'best' of the Darkover novels. Marion always felt hereself to be an outsider (as do I) and one of her Great Subjects was the relationship of the Outsider to Society. In this book the hero, Jeff Kerwin, discovers just why he has always felt like an outsider. By this point in the saga the conflict between the values of Terran Society and that of Darkover have come fully to center stage.
Again, if you only plan to dip into Darkover, this is one of the books to read.
In researching this book at Amazom I discovered a couple of things I had not known. First, that Marion did a rewrite of it, making a number of changes. I have not read the rewritten edition, so I don't know what they may be. There was also an edition bearing the addtional title: "and 'to Keep the Oath'." Maybe the Darkover scholars at the Magazine website can help if you are curious. In any case, there is only one edition curently available, so if you want to read it, that will have to be the one.
I suddenly find myself with tears running down my cheeks as I write this part, because I am remembering how much fun we all had, and because, months after her death, instead of the sense of loss going away, it seems to be getting deeper. I miss her so much, even though we had not seen each other much for the last few years. --Mind you, the person I am missing is not the great and famous author of Mists of Avalon. At the point at which she finished Mists our lives were beginning to diverge. Rather, it is the intense, passionate, hard working and dedicated young woman who was busy laying out a world and an ethical base that our whole generation needed desperately. The writer who put books in our hands that said, clearly and plainly: "It is ok to be an Outsider! Maybe it's even better! The things you are feeling are not abhorrent, nor are they symptoms of insanity. There are others like you! You are not alone!" --And Great Gods! How we needed to hear that.
At one point Marion and Brad, her first husband, were moving. There were lots of things to move, and Marion was never one to hang on to useless physical objects; but she had a tendency to neatness in some things (she overcame it in most others) and she would frequently wrap bundles of papers to keep them in order. During the move she decided to throw away some 'garbage.' I don't know what the garbage might have been; my guess is some old fanzines or school research papers: whatever.
She carefully threw away one package and saved another, treasuring it. But at the end of the move she discovered that what she had saved was the 'garbage' and that what she had thrown away was the manuscript for the novel which she considered her best acomplishment: The Dark Flower.
For years she wrote 'around' The Dark Flower. When you have put your heart into something and then thrown it away by accident there is a trauma which cannot be understood by anyone but a person in the arts. As far as the heart goes, it is like discovering that you have, literarry, thrown away the baby with the bathwater.
Everybody tried to persuade her to have another go at it and, eventually, she overcame the hurt and wrote the novel again. Which is awfully good for the rest of us, because that novel is now known as Heritage of Hastur, and she said in later years that it was her favorite of all the Darkover stories. --As well it might be because, if I am not mistaken on this, it was also the first.
It also contains her favorite character, Lew Alton, and what is argueably her most romantic achievement, the love story that underlies the Sharra War.
Dear MZB Reader: Help!
It has been a rough year, and I have not had time to put in the work on this page that I wanted to. I came back to it to install one of Marion's favorite pieces of music; and discovered, to my horror, that everything below this had turned into gibberish. --And I have no backup! If you by any chance downloaded this page, I would sure appreciate your e-mailing me a copy so that I won't have to go back and try to reconstruct what I wrote. I really want to finishe it, but I am working at the moment on some books of mine own. Your help would sure be appreciated!
Note: I left the gibberish here, in case any body out there can decode and restore it.
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