I was lying in bed after the what passed for the Island’s biggest party in a hundred years, sleep evading me, thought passing each other like ships in the night with flashed lantern-signal passed between them. Yes, my mind is very like a dark ocean, with very few thought-ships in it. Our Scottish Country Dancing Teacher, Lady Mary Mactier, had had her hundredth birthday, and yes, she did dance, and for once she didn’t yell at me… I’m quite relaxed at being yelled at, I was inoculated against listening to it early in life, by an elder sister. It was still a stressful evening as I had been entrusted to the haggis. (An Island Haggis – one of the dwarf kind (the North going variety), which had been shot earlier that week and was well hung, and had been dangled by its feet too, until the body dropped off… at least that’s the way it smelled to me (or maybe that was the neeps). As there were no less than four pipers and a snare drummer, and two wee fellows filling in for Pussy Nancy (the cook in a mob cap who delivers the haggis, the tatties and the neeps), as we had a lady to address the haggis (do think the PC-police will be down on my neck for that? I’ll hand them over to the lady in question if they’re that foolish. It is to be hoped…) it was a grave responsibility.
Anyway, these drifting thoughts came back to one of the various speeches made, and the mention made of how this iron Lady (and she is that, it is also her title, and you could make my day by telling me it is an insult) of the effect that she’d had on so many people, shaping them and their direction in life.
Which had its parallels in the latest kerfuffle in Sf/fantasy circles – how Marion Zimmer Bradley, who was a feminist role model, a lesbian role model, and a child molester, who committed incest, who at the very least looked the other way if not abetted her husband, and certainly knew of his actions and tastes, editing his book on homosexual pedophilia (‘Greek Love’ – shudder) while her ‘husband’ also sexually abused his own child and a large number of other victims – his daughter told the cops of 22. It’s unlikely she would have known of all of them. The woman has been dead, as has her husband, for some years. The matter was brought into the open in fandom (though apparently at least her husband had long been suspected) in 1999, through testimony by one of the victim’s father. One. Out of however many were ‘shaped’ by this.
What brought it up again was a sycophantic praise paean for shaping and role modelling provided by Marion Zimmer Bradley published on Tor.com. Oddly the author – and whoever edited and allowed the piece to be put up omitted the parts about the husband and the sexual abuse. That took Dierdre Saoirse Moen reporting on e-mails from MZB’s daughter – quoting this “The first time she molested me, I was three. The last time, I was 12, and able to walk away … She was cruel and violent, as well as completely out of her mind sexually. I am not her only victim, nor were her only victims girls.” and of MZB’s partner, Walter Breen – “I put Walter in jail for molesting one boy … Walter was a serial rapist with many, many, many victims (I named 22 to the cops) but Marion was far, far worse.”
The silence from those who usually rush to frantically leap on sf and fantasy’s bandwagons to protest racism or sexism or homophobia or misogyny … crusades so often led by the likes of Jim Hines and John Scalzi, was deafening. The hush-up and belittling and usual chorus of disqualifying attacks were there from that team. Fortunately, a few other people were not so silent. It must be said, most of these were on the center/right of the political spectrum, but neither the original whistle-blower, nor the entirety of the left were thus silenced.
Eventually, damage control kicked in, and now even the mouthpieces of the left wing are finally admitting it was a bad thing, spinning as much as possible, carefully omitting why the story is fresh again, or the bits about drugs and orgies. Some of course, such as her agent Russell Galen, are still trotting out statements like this “Marion is deceased and we are not able to ask her about her side of the story, nor do we have any personal knowledge of the events that are being described…”
And inevitably, proof that at least one village in England is missing one, Daimian Walter, with a sort ponderous inevitably attempts to make it the right wing’s fault that MZB’s daughter might be afraid of her mother’s fans… I daresay both wings and the center can attach some kind of godlike status to an author, but this author would have have had few fans on that side of the spectrum. The fans the daughter was afraid of… were feminists and homophiles.
Influential people – and authors are that, if they’re any good, and people who can further a writer’s career are huge shaping influences. I think MZB and Breen took full advantage of this, and the permissive side of the political spectrum they represented to so many. This number of victims they amassed takes almost constant grooming, constant search for fresh victims. It wasn’t Libertarians or Republicans who were the grateful literary proteges or the frequent attendees of the parties, with the drugs and orgies, the ones who turned a blind eye.
It’s these people who were part of the shaped, as were the children who were abused. I’d say those supporters and enablers at very least need to seriously evaluate both the writings that influenced them and the shape they have become. There has to be a taint there.
And of course, for the victims we must give our support and help, at least in dealing with that. It does seem to have long lasting damage, and come under unforgivable crime against them in my book.
As writers – and this is a writer’s site – we will be shapers, often merely by our inherent philosophies and attitudes. It’s been a balm to my soul this week to be reading Peter Grant’s War To The Knife (Laredo War Trilogy Book 1)
(which I highly recommend, reminiscent of L’Amour if he’d written Mil Sf, with clear-cut values and a similar level of honor) and dealing with an irascible old dance-teacher’s far sweeter legacy. The good ones just let you grow, give our minds food, give solid foundations, but that’s it. The ones who serve themselves in the guise of something else… they constrain and distort.
And all I want to do is tell stories of decent folk, and leave people feeling a little better about the world than when they started the book.