I’ve blogged about my love for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover lately, and even started a Facebook page dedicated to the cristoforos of Darkover— a Catholic derived sect on the imaginary planet. And if both hadn’t been utterly ignored so far, I’m sure I would have been asked for my response to the scandalous accusations about Marion Zimmer Bradley.
The scandal is this: Mrs. Bradley’s husband, Walter Breen, was convicted of the sexual abuse of children and imprisoned. Now, 15 years after MZB’s death, an accusation was made that not only was MZB complicit in her husband’s sex crimes against children, but that she committed such crimes on her own. The Guardian: SFF Community Reeling after MZB’s Daughter Accuses Her of Abuse
Some of the responses in the blogosphere are so extreme that they not only demand that no further reading of MZB’s books should happen, there is the suggestion that the books should be burned. (Imagine what these book-burners would have said if conservatives offended by the homosexual characters in some of the Darkover books had held a book-burning because of that.)
I don’t believe that’s the appropriate response. As a Christian I believe that we are all sinners. We have all violated God’s moral law. And any violation of God’s law— from a simple bit of cruel gossip to serial killing— is bad enough to cut us off from God. So therefore we must respond to any accusation— or conviction of a person with the knowledge we ourselves are also guilty sinners. Only the death of Jesus Christ on the cross made it possible for any of us to be forgiven.
I read the Psalms of David in the Bible. This is what David once did: he spied on a woman bathing from his rooftop, and instead of turning his eyes away he sent for that woman and seduced her. And when the woman became pregnant, David sent her soldier-husband out with sealed orders that the man be sent on a suicide mission. This happened, and the man died, murdered by the king he served.
Can any decent person read the writings of a man so vile as to commit such a wicked crime? I know, David said he was sorry— after God sent a prophet to admonish him for his secret crimes. But we all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God, and so we keep the Psalms of David in our Bible— not even Martin Luther, who wanted to expel James and Revelation from the Bible, suggested that— we read the Psalms of David, and we use those Psalms, along with Psalms by other authors, as the basis for Christian prayer and worship— in the Mass and in Protestant services, in the Divine Office prayed by priests and religious, and in Psalm-based hymns.
Christianity not only points out our sins— even the sins we didn’t think were so bad— it provides a cure. And it is even possible that Marion Zimmer Bradley experienced that cure. I started reading her because, as a Neopagan at the time, I’d heard MZB was some kind of Neopagan or Wiccan. But I heard that later in her life, MZB attended an Episcopal church. So there is the possibility that MZB repented her sins— whatever those were— before her death, and received God’s forgiveness. And if God can forgive child abusers and serial killers, maybe we should be more forgiving as well?
MZB’s fictional world of Darkover is flawed, as all such worlds are, but it has brought intense happiness to Darkover fans. I intend to keep reading and to buy the new Darkover books being written by Deborah J. Ross, even though they don’t compare to the MZB-written earlier books.
Question: what would YOU do if your favorite writer did something very wicked, or was accused of it? Writers: what if YOU someday commit a notorious crime— is it fair if your books are tarnished because of it?