Monday, September 22, 2014

Fallen Heroes

You'll have to forgive me for the late start, but I only got four hours o sleep and am moving pretty sloooow today. I was up till 4:30am (my time) re-watching the Seahawks-Denver game which, in case you missed it, was pretty darn good (admittedly, my perception of "good" is colored by the fact they won; a triumph of orky toughness over human ingenuity in Blood Bowl terms). I had been forced to skip most of the 4th quarter due to drawing superheroes for my child's school project (don't ask...but it turned out pretty cool), so I wanted to see what happened that lead to collapse after three quarters of domination. The answer: some great play from the Denver defense (leading to nine points), and an impressive 55 second, 80 yard scoring drive from future Hall of Famer (and ex-High Elf) Peyton Manning. A pretty entertaining affair.

But there are many football fans feeling a lot worse than Denver folks this week. People in Baltimore and Minnesota have been coming to grips with their star players being terrible human beings (even as NFL fans in general have been treated to a bellyful of disgust with the way the NFL mucky-mucks conduct their business, allowing winning/profit to trump basic humanity). This isn't a blog post about that: people can read all about it on ESPN or other news sources. I just wanted to say I understand and empathize a bit with how people in those towns feel.

People outside of Baltimore and the Twin Cities may not really grok how devastating it is to find out "the face of your franchise" is a person capable of such domestic brutality or child abuse. Ray Rice has been the celebrity face of the Ravens for years, and Adrian Peterson has been the only good thing about the Vikings for nearly a decade. These people are more than just touchdown scoring athletes; they are heroes to their communities and role-models to children that have grown up enjoying their teams' sports. Americans have a bit of cynicism when it comes to politics and Big Business (like the NFL), but individuals...heroic individuals that you passionately cheer for on a weekly basis...those are the ones you hope to be "good" and not mired in the same sordidness you've come to expect elsewhere.

I said I empathize with what these communities may be feeling, but I'm not referring to my local football team. Longtime readers of this blog have seen me write on more than one occasion of Marion Zimmer Bradley, one of my favorite fantasy authors, and a tremendous inspiration for many young writers (especially female writers). MZB has inspired my game design on more than one occasion, with both her ideas and storytelling, but that's nothing compared to what she's done for real writers, even helping many to get their professional starts. To many, MZB has been a hero and tremendous role-model to emulate.

Ms. Bradley died in 1999. Her last years were marred with some scandal due to her ex-husband (with whom she remained friends and occasional business partners) being accused and eventually convicted of child molestation, dying in prison in 1993. Bradley's own writing in the 1990s was affected by her declining health and most of her publications were collaborations with other writers. Her books and stories have continued to be published since her death, and new books based on her fantasy worlds (specifically the Avalon books and Darkover novels) have continued to appear in print.

In June of this year, nearly fifteen years after her death, Ms. Bradley's adult daughter revealed that she had been subject to years of abuse...physical, mental, and the hands of her mother throughout her childhood. When contacted regarding this, Ms. Bradley's younger (adult) son corroborated her daughter's statement and discussed (briefly) his own abuse at his mother's hands, and how it still affects him to this day.

Neither of Ms. Bradley's children appear to have been seeking publicity: they were contacted for statements and gave accounts because they felt it was safe to do so, at this time, fifteen years after the late author's death. Both had long since distanced themselves from their mother, changing their names, helping to put her ex-husband in jail. Neither appear to receive any money from their mother's estate (the son says he was disinherited and receives no money from his mother's estate). There's nothing they seek to "gain" by their stories: their accuser lies dead and buried, and they agree many people have found their mother's work to be a great help...they were, frankly, afraid to say anything earlier for fear of how her fans would react.

It's extremely difficult to find words to express how terrible this is...the idea of how awful it must be to first live through years of abuse at the hands of your own mother, and then to live in fear of publicly revealing that abuse even years after the abuser's death. It's just hideous.

And to those of us who held this person up as a personal source of inspiration or a hero...well, I've written before that anything is forgivable (it is), and that good can still come from people who do evil and despicable deeds (it can)...but still, it is so disappointing, so saddening, so terribly frustrating to see your heroes are...not just "people with human foibles"...but people with a history of doing terrible,  monstrous things to their fellow humans. Especially those who are vulnerable and powerless to stop them. Your feel for the victims, but there is personal sadness, too, to have your hero knocked down from the pedestal on which you placed 'em.

I first discovered this information about Marion Zimmer Bradley in August. Found out about it while idly surfing the internet during an airport layover, researching something else. Knowing how much I've written in praise of the author over the years (on this blog), I've been meaning to write something about this ever since...not just to explain why you probably won't be reading any glowing reviews of her work in the foreseeable future but to acknowledge I am aware of this news. I don't know why it's taken me so long to get to it, but reading the recent Rice and Petersen news stories and contemplating how their fans must feel just reminded me I should probably get something posted.

Just FYI: since this news has come to light, I have read that all income from e-book sales of Bradley's digital backlist will be donated to Save the Children.

Okay...I'll get back to the saving throw "chops" now...probably starting tomorrow. Sorry (for more than one reason) for the interruption.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Gibberish English in my last comment. Well said about the whole hero worship thing - an important post !

  3. @ Mason:

    Thanks for the kind words. For the record, I don't think your original comment was all that "gibbery."
    : )

  4. I am by no means a fan of MZB; I've only read a little of her work and didn't much care for it. That said...

    I always find these kind of revelations about long-dead people (who can't defend themselves) to be a bit ghoulish and unsavory. The fact that her children have nothing to "gain" from these statements doesn't make them true. People lie all the time for no reason at all. And the fact that they were cut out of her will would seem to make them more, not less, likely to spin yarns about her. I'm not saying they're lying, but I wouldn't take anything they say at face value either.

    Just be clear: I'm not defending MZB, I'm not calling her children liars, I think child abusers deserve severe punishment, and I would like to see pedophiles like her ex-husband get a bolt to the back of the skull. These kind of "Mommie Dearest" deals just rub me the wrong way.

    Still, assuming their story is true, her children certainly have my sympathy - as do MZB's fans, who discovered their idol had feet of clay... or perhaps some worse substance.

    1. @ Shadow:

      I grok you, man. I'm not sure I'd call it "ghoulish" but I think that for some victims, it's important that they have a chance to express themselves as part of their healing/closure process.

      I'm not one to spread slanderous gossip (I prefer to do my own slandering) but unfortunately this story has the ring of truth to it.

  5. Somehow I had missed this story. Staggering.

    I'm glad her children were able to come forward. Fear and pain are what usually cause people to sit on this kind of horror.