Playpen

Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 08:15 on 13-06-2014, Adrienne
Arthur B: it's not exactly news, but the little bit from Ms. Waters in the depositions lends itself to multiple interpretations (is she misremembering what the daughter told her, etc. -- remember that the depositions happened a longish time after the events.) To the best of my fairly certain knowledge (I have followed disclosures about this particular rat's nest for awhile) this is the first time Ms. Greyland has ever spoken about this publicly, or as an adult, about this.
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at 01:30 on 13-06-2014, James D
Lackey's books are also full of abused children.

Yes, that's the kind of thing I was wondering about. It's quite possible that certain parts of MZB's books, which may have seemed totally innocuous before, will have acquired all sorts of unpleasant implications in light of these revelations.
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at 00:56 on 13-06-2014, Chris A
I agree that the self-absorbedness (self-absorption? no, that sounds dangerous and painful) of reacting to this kind of news by pondering whether and how much one has to adjust one's literary opinions is probably worth registering. That said, I also tend to agree that it's a natural and obvious reaction, at least in the absence of any personal connection to the situation.

The only book of MZB's I've ever read was The Mists of Avalon, and I didn't have any feelings about it one way or the other.

But to walk even a bit further down the primrose path, Mercedes Lackey was very close to Bradley - spoke of owing her career to MZB, may have ghostwritten books for her after her stroke - and I passionately loved Lackey's books as a kid, and read them over and over again (psychic sparkle ponies and angsty gay wizards: her novels were pretty much all I sought in a book as a twelve-year-old).

Lackey's books are also full of abused children. Strange, and sad, to think about her connection to Bradley in light of Goldin's account of years of court cases and determined obliviousness by those close to Bradley and her ex-husband.
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at 21:36 on 12-06-2014, Arthur B
It is worth noting that this is not actually news, sadly.

Stephen Goldin has had the information out there - including depositions from Bradley and from Elizabeth Waters from a civil court case - for over a decade. (Huge trigger warning for that site, obviously, since the depositions involve fairly frank discussions of abuse.) Goldin's stuff mostly focuses on Bradley's ex-husband's well-documented abusive behaviour, but Waters' deposition has her directly saying that Greyland had confided in her that Bradley had abused her, and that Waters accepted a strange brush-off from Bradley as the end of the matter without looking any deeper. (Waters, incidentally, is the former lover who manages the Bradley estate, and put out a version of the facts in response to Goldin's website which, as Goldin points out, doesn't really line up with what Waters herself said in court.)

It's been well over a decade since this information was made available, so I fully expect a hard core of Bradley defenders to keep trying to brush over this for a good long time to come.
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at 20:50 on 12-06-2014, Alice
As regards her literary reputation... on the one hand I see the temptation to say, as Deirdre did in the linked comments, that this shouldn't affect what you think of Bradley's fiction. On the other hand, if this shouldn't affect it, just what should?

I think this is one of those cases where it can be very difficult to separate the art from the artist, especially because the events are comparatively recent. While Bradley is dead (and therefore buying her books doesn't directly benefit a child molester), her (and her husband's) victims are still living and (in some cases) bearing witness to the abuse.

Personally, I find it quite difficult to separate artists and their work when I find the artist morally reprehensible, though I find my level of concern depends a lot on whether the artist and their victims (if any) are are alive. So I can't bring myself to watch Roman Polanski or Woody Allen films, but I don't look too closely at historical authors/artists/etc.

I haven't actually read any Bradley (her books never appealed to me enough to give them a try), and if I did now, I know that my reading experience would be coloured by what I know of the author. So I doubt I ever will read them, but if I did, I certainly wouldn't buy them (for the reason James gives).
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at 17:55 on 12-06-2014, Daniel F
Well, what other kind of reaction can we have in this case?


Well, that's just it. I don't think there's much that can be said. On the personal level, all I can do is hope that the pain of the evils she committed is overcome, and resolve not to buy anything that would support her estate. For people involved in the industry, it's a sober reminder of the possibility of abuse, and to guard against it.

As regards her literary reputation... on the one hand I see the temptation to say, as Deirdre did in the linked comments, that this shouldn't affect what you think of Bradley's fiction. On the other hand, if this shouldn't affect it, just what should?
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at 17:19 on 12-06-2014, James D
I guess you can also take it as a sad reminder that espousing feminism and an interest in social justice is in no way a guarantee that someone isn't an abuser.

Yes, that's certainly true. It's a very human need to want to view people we agree with or like as saints, and vice versa, but of course people are more complex like that. Someone else's comment on that blog post Adrienne linked is a good example:

I used to work with a woman who was a babysitter for Marian’s kids. She later married Terry Carr. She told me, 27 years ago, that she was in denial about the stuff that was going on and was very idealistic and didn’t want to believe that talented hippies would get high and neglect and abuse children.

I guess we're lucky that now there's enough evidence that people can't really deny it anymore. Makes you wonder how much abuse goes similarly unreported because the abusers don't fit people's preconceptions of what an abuser is like.
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at 13:54 on 12-06-2014, Adrienne
FYI, Ms. Greyland (the daughter in question) has turned up in the comments section at Deirdre's other blog post (the LJ is a crosspost) to answer some questions.
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at 09:20 on 12-06-2014, Arthur B
Well, what other kind of reaction can we have in this case?

I guess you can also take it as a sad reminder that espousing feminism and an interest in social justice is in no way a guarantee that someone isn't an abuser.

But yeah, I don't think it's entirely unfair to think about how this affects your response to her books since that's the only way 99% will ever directly interact with MZB's estate and legacy.
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at 05:47 on 12-06-2014, James D
I suppose it further disinclines me to purchase any of her works, but I can't help but think that when we hear about molestation and abuse, our first thought probably shouldn't be "But what about the books!"

Well, what other kind of reaction can we have in this case? The perpetrator has been dead for 15 years and the victim(s) don't seem comfortable talking publicly about it, so after acknowledging it happened and agreeing that it was shitty, the only thing left for us to do that I can see is try to suss out how this information relates to MZB's legacy, if at all. From what I can tell, MZB's estate is managed by a former lover, who has viciously attacked people who have made this kind of allegation in the past. For my part, I would certainly be uncomfortable buying books that this person would profit from.
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at 05:18 on 12-06-2014, Daniel F
She's certainly been an influential author, though not always in a very positive way. Not that I think the merits (or lack thereof) of her writing have great bearing on the crimes themselves.

I suppose it further disinclines me to purchase any of her works, but I can't help but think that when we hear about molestation and abuse, our first thought probably shouldn't be "But what about the books!"
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at 04:36 on 12-06-2014, James D
Well that's shitty. I haven't read anything of hers myself, but as far as I know she's pretty highly regarded, alongside other pioneering women writers like Leigh Brackett, Ursula K Le Guin, Andre Norton, etc.
I wonder what impact, if any, this is going to have on her legacy. This info about MZB herself being a child molester seems new, but it's been public record for years that she looked the other way or even defended her husband when he was molesting children, and hasn't made too much of an impact.

Does anything skeezy make it into her fiction?
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at 01:41 on 12-06-2014, Michal
In today's "terrible news from the sff world", it's been revealed that Marion Zimmer Bradley was a child molester.

I am now so very glad my story was rejected from the latest Sword and Sorceress.
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at 22:32 on 10-06-2014, Arthur B
For those who like gaming industry horror stories (or are wondering what happened to the long-awaited World of Darkness MMO), this is a fascinating read which also points out troubling trends in the state of the games industry as a whole.
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at 00:12 on 10-06-2014, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Welp, in another installment of Great Moments of Personal Hypocrisy, I decided to buy Wolfenstein: The New Order. After the launch trailer it looked like to be another Homefront situation, but I changed my mind about that after the reviews started coming out surprisingly positive. Everything I've read says that it's ludicrous, but they're coming at it from a different direction that the earlier games, and I'm curious to see it they pull it off.

'Course, once I fired it up I only got 3-4 frames per second, and I'm stil screwing with my four-year-old computer to make it work. (Ironically, I also bought W:TNO since my machine is aging out of the market and I wanted a final fancy-ass title for it.)

In other gaming news, I'm quite interested in Tangiers, a stealth-assassination game that takes its cues from the Surrealists, the Dadaists, and there's probably some Existentialists in there too. It should be out in August with any luck. Here's a trailer.
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at 04:04 on 07-06-2014, Melanie
So trying to pretend that something can be apolitical might just be a hand wave to avoid the issues.


Or a way of saying, "my view on [issue] is the unbiased, neutral, default, correct one, untainted by such pettiness, and people with other views just hold them for political reasons (i.e. not real reasons)".
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at 11:01 on 06-06-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Also, considering that politics is just a name for a very wide range of issues and not really a separate entity that can somehow be always recognized and removed from things, it can be argued that a work absolutely devoid of Serious Issues could very well be a work devoid of anything interesting or meaningful in general.

Or consider TV shows for very small children which try to be as nonthreatening as possible. They are either completely absurd or very tedious for an adult(well, in a majority of cases). Like Teletubbies. And it's still possible to see politics in that.

So trying to pretend that something can be apolitical might just be a hand wave to avoid the issues. Of course in some cases people can turn their senses off, and that should be okay on occasion, but that has to be a very subjective matter. And for an author to try and aim for that must be a finely tuned skill and by necessity be defined by the target audience, which makes it political again.

Beyond trying to remove the more controversial issues in the service of making a romp, I guess an option would be to just try and make the whole thing so abstract that any political issues would be tangential.
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at 09:38 on 06-06-2014, Tamara
Is that even really possible - the hypothetical work truly devoid of Serious Issues - though? You have to hit quite, quite carefully considered notes in terms of history, representation, etc, to actually BE fun. You have to smooth out everything that might make a reader go "fuck this noise," and that actually requires a fairly finely tuned political sensibility (lining up with your audience, that is), to my mind.

I may just have an odd way of seeing these things, but I remember glomping hard onto the politics of Sleepy Hollow as the most interesting thing about it, for example. Erasing politics out of a work is a very, very political act, and sometimes fascinatingly illuminating. Jemisin, I think, isn't really saying that the problem with the book is that it isn't serious - it's that she can see the seams, see where the seriousness had to be taken out to get to 'a-political fun time adventure romp.'
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at 11:04 on 04-06-2014, Shimmin
The thing is, I don't think it is an expression of contempt, except perhaps a very minor subconscious kind. Quite often I'm not interested in engaging with complexities - I don't want every book I read to be about Serious Issues and spend all its time unpacking social injustices or portraying complex and gray-morality situations. Obviously many fall in the middle ground, but sometimes I want something that ignores complex issues entirely in favour of simple fun. I think acknowledging that point is worthwhile, although I do agree that the phrasing is unfortunate.
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at 10:23 on 04-06-2014, Chris A
"More than enough for just about everyone" reads as pretty straightforward sarcasm if we take the immediately preceding verdict of "fine, for readers who aren't especially interested in engaging with these complexities" as an expression of contempt. Which seems fairly inescapable.

Nice to see the Sunday Book Review giving an SFF author space to review SFF works, though. Thank you Robinson L for sharing the link!
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at 09:30 on 04-06-2014, Janne Kirjasniemi
Well, from the point of view of rhetoric, if the reader needs to second guess his meaning, or interpret it too much, the author has failed to convey his intended message. The part in question does have too many options of how to read it and it seems that if the intention of the "just about everyone" is intended to exclude the author and those who care about intersectionality, it has to be assumed by the reader from context. Which is fine, as it goes, but it's hard to see why the author would want to insert that sort of confusion there on purpose. There are no purposes which that contradiction would serve really. So it's justified to be pedantic about it. But I guess it is a bit pedantic.

@Tamara
It is ponderous and silly! And it seems to be coasting along at the moment plot and pacing wise, but I've found it entertaining enough. Eva Green is good.
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at 00:00 on 04-06-2014, Robinson L
I guess to me, "just about everyone" implies a dismissive attitude towards the people who are not included - as if the exceptions are negligible in both number and outlook. But yeah, you're probably right about Jemisin's intention.

I'm sure most of the general reading population probably isn't bothered by poor handling of intersectionality, and I probably subconsciously overestimate the minority which is because just about everyone I talk about fiction with is to a lesser or greater extent. However, I don't think the minority is so small that when you subtract it from the general reading population, "just about everyone" would be left over.

I guess it's possible that I'm putting too much thought into all this though, and getting overly hung up over choice of wording.
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at 23:52 on 03-06-2014, Shimmin
I can't really decide how to read that, to be honest. Like Robinson, I tend to associate that phrase with a sense that reservations about a work are minor and an overall warm endorsement, which clashes with the long critical paragraph and its phrases like "it’s all surprisingly unengaging" and "trivialize the struggles and complexities that made the era fascinating in real life".

The combination does somehow come across with an unfortunate tone for me, but I'd tend to say patronising rather than presumptuous, and I don't think it's intentional. In context I'm sure the author's genuinely saying "if you're not bothered by that stuff, good on yer, enjoy it". It's just that it provokes the thought that it obviously isn't quite good enough for the author, so what does that say about you?

Anyway, too late to dig out my pragmatics textbooks, so night all. Hope that was relatively lucid, I'm tired.
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at 23:07 on 03-06-2014, Alice
See, I read it as "just about everyone" = "most of the general population (not including the reviewer)", who are "people who aren't bothered by poor handling of intersectionality". If that makes sense.

I tend to assume that (poorly handled) intersectionality issues in fiction aren't a sticking point for most people, actually. For most of the people whose discussions of fiction I encounter/engage with? Sure. But not necessarily for the general (reading) population.
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