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 16:02 on 19-06-2014, Arthur B
Actually no - the way she confronts it is to turn it completely on its head, to where Ygraine despises her husband and is quite enthusiastic about sleeping with Uther, and his magical disguise is to fool her husband's servants and guards, not Ygraine herself.

Eh, I think that's kind of the same thing I was looking at though. On the one hand, it's nice to give Ygraine an actual motivation and have her do stuff rather than being entirely passive. On the other hand, taking an incident which is generally recognised as being a rape and turning it around and going "Nope, no rape here" seems to erase the difficult and troubling elements of the original myth as opposed to actually engaging with them, which feels like kind of a cheat when you are setting yourself the task of writing an examination of an existing body of myth rather than an entirely original story.

I realise this is me saying "Hm, I'd have been happier with this fantasy novel if there had been more rape in it", but the thing which often bugs me about rape in fantasy is how often people fail to acknowledge that rape is rape, and by erasing it here Bradley is kind of sidling close to doing that.
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at 15:30 on 19-06-2014, Robinson L
Arthur: Wait, so the way Bradley confronts Uther's rape-by-deception of Ygraine in Malory, which you'd expect to be a lightning rod for any feminist treatment of the myth, is to flim-flam about in order to make it Not Really Rape?

Actually no - the way she confronts it is to turn it completely on its head, to where Ygraine despises her husband and is quite enthusiastic about sleeping with Uther, and his magical disguise is to fool her husband's servants and guards, not Ygraine herself.

@Daniel F: Yeah, I have a lot of issues with Establishment Christianity, but I did find the utopian paganism versus dystopian Roman-Christianity angle simplistic and preachy.
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at 14:09 on 19-06-2014, Arthur B
I mean, the prologue promised me Morgan La Fey being AWESOME, and what I GOT was Morgan's mom being a desperate housewife who feels trapped in her privileged noble estate, and who is told out of nowhere by a druid that she is destined to bonk some random guy and she's like, "Ok."

Wait, so the way Bradley confronts Uther's rape-by-deception of Ygraine in Malory, which you'd expect to be a lightning rod for any feminist treatment of the myth, is to flim-flam about in order to make it Not Really Rape? That seems both ew and the most boring possible way to approach it.
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at 13:41 on 19-06-2014, Daniel F
I must confess that I never tried to read it, and this was in large part due to my impatience with Robert Graves, the White Goddess, and the Goddess hypothesis in general. I'm glad that lots of twentieth century women were able to explore spirituality in ways that speak to their femininity, but that's no excuse for pseudohistory. I just never liked the 'utopian ancient pagan matriarchy versus dystopian Romano-Christian patriarchy' story, and what I came across suggested to me that The Mists of Avalon was going to be... well, that.

Though I guess it's also possible that I'm very particular in how I like my Arthurian mythology. *shrug* I find that happens when you get invested in something.
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at 13:29 on 19-06-2014, Axiomatic
I tried reading Mists of Avalon and only found the prologue interesting. The rest of the book, not so much.

I mean, the prologue promised me Morgan La Fey being AWESOME, and what I GOT was Morgan's mom being a desperate housewife who feels trapped in her privileged noble estate, and who is told out of nowhere by a druid that she is destined to bonk some random guy and she's like, "Ok."
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at 10:57 on 19-06-2014, Arthur B
I tried reading The Mists of Avalon, but embarrassingly gave up during the prologue because I found the narrative voice annoying.

(It doesn't help that I find it very, very hard to take seriously depictions of historical paganism which draw on Gardnerian Wicca, of all things; I know just a little too much about the history of both to be able to overlook the anachronism. Which is silly of me, because every telling of the Arthurian stories from Malory to my Pendragon campaign is stuffed to the gills with anachronisms, but there you go.)
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at 03:30 on 19-06-2014, Robinson L
Re: Marion Zimmer Bradley's child abuse

... Once again late to the party because I had a busy weekend and have taken a while to get my thoughts in order.

I listened to "Mists of Avalon" on audio several years ago and while I liked it well enough, had no particular interest in rereading it. I also listened to a story called "The Colors of Space," a science fiction story that feels very 60s - I really liked the concept, was invested in the characters, and found the conclusion surprising in a pleasant way ... I've recommended the story once already, but I'll be a lot more careful to recommend it to anyone again in future. I also realized the other day that I had a book of hers checked out from the library to read at some later point - I returned it on Monday, because as much as I was positively disposed to her writing before, it's far from a must-read for me; there are too many books in the world and not enough time as it is, I don't need the extra cognitive dissonance involved in knowing that the stuff I'm reading is the product of a child molester.

I don't think I'll miss Marion Zimmer Bradley's works all that much, but I also remembered a couple of days after Michal's initial post that my mother and grandmother were pretty big fans of "Mists of Avalon." My grandmother, sadly, is no longer with us, so this is all moot where she is concerned, but I'm wondering whether I should break the news to my mother and tarnish what I suspect are some cherished memories, or leave her in blissful ignorance.

On the other hand, apropos to the discussion of Lackey, in that second Deidre Moen article, Ms. Greyland responds to one A. E. Roberts who - in offering sympathy - also mentions that their first story sale was to Marion Zimmer Bradley, saying she's glad about the sale, and that for her mother "to have benefited writers takes some of the curse off the rest."

In her responses on the blog, Ms. Greyland comes across as a strong, warm, and generous person who has survived horribly traumatic experiences and managed to thrive despite the lingering effects of that trauma. While I think it's entirely reasonable to consider all the implications of this revelation upon Marion Zimmer Bradley's literary legacy, I also think it's important to point out that there does appear to be a more hopeful side to this story as well. (And shifting from the abstract level to the personal, I'm happy for Ms. Greyland and her loved ones that she seems to be doing well with her life.)
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at 21:33 on 18-06-2014, Tamara
the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality

Really? I've a tendency to romanticize the power of a good book myself, but really?
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at 21:07 on 18-06-2014, Daniel F
Diaz is very much acting like a twit, I would say, but the basic point about canon is not wrong. I'm also pretty darn keen on Zelda, but the series has never really had a continuity. Its 'canon' is not about facts or histories, but about themes, images, and motifs.

The desire to alter Link as a protagonist does strike me as a trifle misguided, but that's just a personal preference. I like having that bit of continuity in the series; I like that the Hero/Princess/Evil King trinity is gendered. It's not a canon fact or anything, but it is the way I like Zelda to be. Far better, to think, to just say "This is the way I like the series" than to waste time making disingenuous arguments about canon.
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at 15:22 on 18-06-2014, Fin
Yeah, speaking as somebody who spent an embarrassingly large part of their life debating Zelda canon on the internet (I'm not proud of it!), that is bullshit. The games have always violated major pieces of canon if it didn't suit the current story.
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at 13:57 on 18-06-2014, Arthur B
I don't usually have much time for Aaron "Dresden Codak" Diaz but he's laying down a lot of truth on Twitter lately (STFU Moffatt has a summary here which I find more tolerable than actual Twitter).
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at 14:27 on 17-06-2014, Alice
See, I actually don't mind not having heard of all the "if you liked X" books, because they give you a "Z elements that X and Y have in common" bit to explain why "you'll love Y". And that's enough for me to go on, at least to make a "shall I look this one up online to see if it sounds like something I'd want to put on my library loan list?" decision.

Plus, they're going to be recommending a book a day all summer, so odds are they'll mention at least one or two Xes I've heard of in that time. ;)
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at 10:37 on 17-06-2014, Axiomatic
The only problem with the "if you liked X, you'll love Y" model is that, well, I find it helps me if you list X's that I've actually heard of. That entire list is basically stuff I've never heard of, plus Harry Potter...whic I didn't like.
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at 23:48 on 16-06-2014, Alice
I thought this might be of interest to Ferretbrain readers:

We Need Diverse Books is "a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. We Need Diverse Books is committed to the ideal that embracing diversity will lead to acceptance, empathy, and ultimately equality. We recognize many kinds of diversity, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, those impacted by their gender, those with disabilities, ethnic/cultural/religious minorities, etc. Our mission is to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process."

I'm particularly enjoying their summer reading series, which recommends diverse books based on the "if you liked that, try this" principle (e.g. "if you liked Harry Potter, try Akata Witch").
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at 19:40 on 16-06-2014, Adrienne
Dan H. -- You aren't the same guy who posts as Dan H at Charles Stross' blog, are you?
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at 18:01 on 14-06-2014, Sunnyskywalker
I knew about her brushing off her husband's actions because (she said) they were big strong boys who could have said no if they really wanted and she was in love with the guy, which is horrible enough. I'm not sure why it still surprises me that there's more horrible parts to the story. Desperate hope that it's so bad that at least it can't get worse, I guess?

I never read much of her work, but one I did read in high school was Stormqueen! Which, as I fuzzily recall, involved an 11-year-old girl who every guy agreed totally looked older and really hot and they kept trying to rape her, so she blasted them with lightning. And at the end she "has to" be kept forever in a drugged coma because she's "too dangerous" and so it's for the best, honest. In retrospect, it's hard for me not to see real life influence in this story... Especially given that her daughter says she was finally "able to walk away" and end the molestation at age 12. Now I'm looking at dates and wondering just how much real life influenced fiction. I can't find the daughter's birthdate, but MZB married Walter in 1964, and Stormqueen! was published in 1978. Did she write the book just as her daughter started trying to stop it? No words.

Also, her 1965 scholarly article Feminine equivalents of Greek love in modern fiction" looks a whole lot less like academic interest in an under-examined element in fiction now.

Yeah, very difficult to separate the art from the artist in this kind of case. Some things can't be un-known.
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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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