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Bradley, Marion Zimmer

Entry updated 11 March 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1930-1999) US author, initially of adventure sf with an emphasis on swashbuckling routines, often verging on Sword and Sorcery, though always with a recognizably sf rationale; and of other fairly unremarkable work, some of it (not usually fantastic) under names like Lee Chapman, John Dexter, Miriam Gardner, Valerie Graves and Morgan Ives. She began publishing short stories professionally in 1953 with "Women Only" and "Keyhole", both for Vortex Science Fiction #2; some of this early work appears in The Dark Intruder and Other Stories (coll 1964 dos). Her first novel, The Door Through Space (May 1957 Venture as "Bird of Prey"; exp 1961 dos), is Space Opera, as is Seven From the Stars (March 1960 Amazing; exp 1962 dos; original text 2017 dos), an intriguingly told adventure involving seven interstellar castaways on Earth. But only with the increasing substance of her Darkover series of Planetary Romances, which she began in 1958, and the great success of her Arthurian fantasy, The Mists of Avalon (1982), did she become a major figure in sf and more importantly fantasy. The latter dominated her later career, during which she also edited Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine (50 issues, 1988-2000).

The Darkover sequence, which was developed for almost half a century, is a complex sequence of novels and stories, perhaps the most significant Planetary-Romance sequence in modern sf; up to the early 1990s, Bradley seems to have been solely responsible for new titles in the series; but see below for the picture after about 1995. The sequence is set on the fringes of an Earth-dominated Galactic Empire, an sf arena which became decreasingly important over the years as the series intensified its sometimes romanticized focus on the families and groups and dynasties occupying the planet Darkover over its long history. In volumes written early, Darkover's inhabitants – partially bred from human colonists who had settled on Darkover long before – successfully resist the Empire's various attempts to integrate them into a political and economic union; in volumes written later, this plotline fades into the background as the fantasy implications of the sequence – through an increasing emphasis on Psi Powers – begin to dominate. Darkovans enjoy a complex though loosely described anti-technological culture in which a loose-slung feudal hierarchy contends with, and counter-balances, various sects of telepaths who are conjoined in potent "matrices" (see Psionics) around which much of the action of the series is focused. Increasingly, questions of sexual politics took the foreground (as did female protagonists), where they cast an ambivalent light upon the gender distortions forced primarily upon heterosexual women and homosexuals of both sexes (and the androgyny required by all aspirants to a higher state) through the strange exigencies of Darkovan life (see Sex).

It may be that some of the distortions imposed upon protagonists and families are inherent in the tendency – in a series of this longevity – for internal inconsistencies and stresses to increase with time; certainly several early Space Opera volumes are extremely difficult to fit into the later family romances, and have been excluded from some later versions of the internal chronology of Darkover, or rewritten to fit better. It is also the case that Bradley suffered a series of strokes in the years before her death, and that there is no clear evidence as to the extent of her participation in her signed work after circa 1995, beyond the generation of plot ideas and the bestowing of her sanction. Much of her late work is explicitly in collaboration, but the absence of a signed co-author during these years does not necessarily designate sole authorship by Bradley. Since about 1995 (or earlier), a "Marion Zimmer Bradley" novel may well be best described as a tale set in the world of Marion Zimmer Bradley.

In order to follow the sense that has been made (by her and others) of a most complex situation, the individual volumes of the series are here listed according to the "official" internal chronology first established in the 1980s and subsequently modified more than once, and to which all Darkover contributors, it is presumed, must adhere. The Darkover books are listed in order of publication in the Checklist below. The internal sequence begins with Darkover Landfall (1972), which describes the initial landing of Terran colonists. The sequence then jumps an eon into the feudal turmoil of Stormqueen! (1978), followed immediately by the retrofitted posthumous Clingfire trilogy – comprising The Fall of Neskaya (2001), Zandru's Forge (2003) and A Flame in Hali (2004), all "with" Deborah J Ross (whom see) – and then Hawkmistress! (1982). Balkanization and the growth of order are the subject of Two to Conquer (1980), The Heirs of Hammerfell (1989) and Rediscovery (1993) with Mercedes Lackey, these concerns gradually evolving – while at the same time The Shattered Chain (1976) and Thendara House (1983), both assembled as Oath of the Renunciates (omni 1984), and City of Sorcery (1984) focus on a dubiously feminist Amazon sisterhood – into a sophisticated conflict with the returning Terrans in The Spell Sword (1974), The Forbidden Tower (1977), Star of Danger (1965), Winds of Darkover (1970), The Bloody Sun (1964; exp as coll 1979); The Heritage of Hastur (1975), The Planet Savers (November 1958 Amazing; 1962 dos; exp 1976), Sharra's Exile (1981), The World Wreckers (1971); and Exile's Song (1996), Shadow Matrix (1998) and Traitor's Sun (1999), all (variously) "with" or "by" Adrienne Martine-Barnes. There are various group anthologies; their contents fit into various periods of the overall sequence. [For compilation volumes, see Checklist below.] Shadowy, complex, confused, the world of Darkover is increasingly a house of many mansions; and few (either writers or readers) seem to feel unwelcome.

Many other singletons and some series surround this central sequence; but The Mists of Avalon (1982) far outstripped any other title in its success in the marketplace and significance as a convincing revision of the Arthurian cycle. In this book (originally written as a singleton) the Matter of Britain revolves around a conflict between the sane but dying paganism of Morgan le Fay and the patriarchal ascetics of ascendant Christianity, whose victory in the war ensures aeons of repression for women and the vital principles they espouse. It is a rousing assault, and less governed by genre demands than Darkover. There is, perhaps, something vulgar in Bradley's edgy progress into an eccentric Feminism, a charge not softened by the insertion of the Great Goddess into first-century CE Britain into the first volume of what became mostly a posthumous series, The Forest House (1993; vt The Forests of Avalon 1998) with Diana L Paxson (1943-    ). [For further volumes in the Avalon sequence, see Checklist below]. The Firebrand (1987) is set in the Trojan Wars as seen through the eyes of Cassandra (here Kassandra), emphasizing her Amazonian ancestry, which allows Bradley to introduce arguments about the Earth Mother and the patriarchy about to replace her. Although it is very difficult to treat seriously any work of Bradley's later years, the fug of routine sequels that were issued during this period should only temporarily obscure her real achievements: two or three fine adventure sf novels; the earlier instalments of Darkover; one remarkable addition to the vast bulk of Arthurian literature. Her work has had an electrifying effect on a very large readership; and at her best she spoke with the rare transparency of the true storyteller. In 2000 she received, posthumously, the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. In recent years, her reputation has been posthumously darkened by continued revelations about the behaviour of her husband Walter Breen (1928-1993), whom she married in 1964, separated from in 1979, and divorced in 1990. Breen's conviction for sex offences against children dated from 1954; Bradley has been accused of, at the very least, subsequent complicity. [JC]

see also: Amazing Stories; Atlantis; Colonization of Other Worlds; DAW Books; ESP; Fantasy; Magic; Open Universe; Science Fantasy; Shared Worlds; Women SF Writers.

Marion Eleanor Zimmer Bradley

born Albany, New York: 3 June 1930

died Berkeley, California: 25 September 1999




See also below under works as editor: series: Darkover.

Darkover: Clingfire

Darkover: omnibuses

For convenience, these are listed below in order, as well as under titles above.

Claire Moffat

  • Dark Satanic (New York: Berkley Books, 1972) [Claire Moffat: pb/]
  • The Inheritor (New York: Tor, 1984) [Claire Moffat: pb/uncredited]
  • Witch Hill (San Diego, California: Greenleaf Classics, 1972) as by Valerie Graves [Claire Moffat: pb/]
    • Witch Hill (New York: Ballantine/Del Rey, 1984) [Claire Moffat: pb/]



  • The Jewel of Arwen (Baltimore, Maryland: T-K Graphic, 1974) [story: chap: Arwen: pb/Jean Brill]
  • The Parting of Arwen (Baltimore, Maryland: T-K Graphic, 1974) [story: chap: Arwen: pb/uncredited]

Atlantis Chronicles

  • Web of Light (Norfolk, Virginia: The Donning Company/Starblaze, 1982) [Atlantis Chronicles: pb/C Lea Healy]
  • Web of Darkness (Norfolk, Virginia: The Donning Company/Starblaze, 1984) [Atlantis Chronicles: pb/V M Wyman]
    • Web of Darkness (Glasgow, Scotland: Richard Drew, 1985) [omni of the above two: Atlantis Chronicles: hb/Alan Craddock]


Trillium (for convenience all titles are listed)

Shadow's Gate

  • Ghostlight (New York: Tor, 1995) "with" Rosemary Edghill (see Eluki bes shahar anonymously) [Shadow's Gate: hb/Mark Hess]
  • Witchlight (New York: Tor, 1996) "with" Rosemary Edghill (see Eluki bes shahar anonymously) [Shadow's Gate: hb/Mark Hess]
  • Gravelight (New York: Tor, 1997) "with" Rosemary Edghill (see Eluki bes shahar anonymously) [Shadow's Gate: hb/Mark Hess]
  • Heartlight (New York: Tor, 1998) "with" Rosemary Edghill (see Eluki bes shahar anonymously) [Shadow's Gate: hb/photograph by FPG]


  • Glenraven (New York: Baen Books, 1997) "with" Holly Lisle [Glenraven: hb/Clyde Caldwell]
  • In the Rift (New York: Baen Books, 1998) "with" Holly Lisle [Glenraven: hb/Clyde Caldwell]

individual titles

collections and stories


works as editor



Sword and Sorceress

The 20 titles listed below were followed by Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress XXII edited by Diana L Paxson (note title change) and further volumes edited by Elisabeth Waters (whom see).

Best of Fantasy Magazine

individual titles as editor

about the author


previous versions of this entry

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