Silence is Complicity

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

June 16, 2014

Here be trigger warnings. And horror. I’ll talk about both–because this is one that the community cannot look away from.

And by that, I mean they can’t look away from it anymore.

First, some history, It was widely known–in some circles–that Marion Zimmer Bradley was complicit in the sexual abuse of children by her husband, Walter Breen.

Deirdre Saoirse Moen on Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley:

There’s also been discussion at MetaFilter and File 770 and

So, basically, Walter Breen wasn’t just a missing stair. He was an entire missing flight of stairs.

And, as is clear from the Breendoggle documents, everyone in their vicinity knew what was going on. What is even more clear, because of the years involved was that many people knew for a long time. And, for a long, long time–the time it takes to ruin a generation of lives–the community still did nothing to stop him.

Let me repeat that. EVERYONE KNEW IT.

Adults. Knew.

And did nothing. Nothing. To stop it.

Let us take a small but important detour and in order to review the geek social fallacies:

  1. Ostracizers are evil
  2. Friends accept me as I am
  3. Friendship before all
  4. Friendship is transitive
  5. Friends do everything together

When translated to the community of child abuse and serial harassers, these fallacies are poison. Every single one is a missing stair. Enough missing stairs and the house falls down.

Friends, we have a problem in the science fiction & fantasy community. A big problem.

We have a culture of silence around our missing stairs. We expect the whisper network to warn newcomers about them–except the whisper network only works when people are connected. And a newcomer is, almost by definition, not connected.

And children–especially children–have no choice but to rely on adults to protect and warn them. Instead, there were children abused in front of adults and it was only stopped because it wasn’t “aesthetically appealing” or it was allowed to continue because no one liked the child very much. I don’t care if it was Berkeley in the 1960’s, that is unequivocally wrong. I have seen, first hand, the damage that is done when children are abused and to look the other way because you think the child is a “little bastard” is morally bankrupt.

We have serial harassers and abusers who come to our conventions and get away with their predatory behavior because we don’t believe victims who step forward. Because the predators are canny enough to do their predation in subtle and plausibly deniable ways. Because they choose victims they believe or know to be weak or not-connected. Because predators have made themselves valuable to our organizations and made us believe they can’t be replaced.

Fandom is not the only community in which predators have entrenched themselves. There is a long history of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. There are hints that there is a similar history within various Protestant organizations. And then there’s Penn State.

The idea that it’s worse to kick a predator out of a community or limit their participation than to protect vulnerable people is geek social fallacy number one.  Number two is the idea that we must accept everyone as they are and three is that if you call a friend out on shitty or predatory or abusive behavior that you’re not actually a friend.  Four and five are encompassed by the fiction that at conventions everyone likes each other and that everyone is friends–this is not true.

These social fallacies and the ability of predators to exploit them is what enables the Walter Breens and Ed Kramers and Jim Frenkels and René Wallings to get away with it for years and decades.  It is what allows for unreasonable demands of proof from survivors.

I believe the survivors.

Being a part of this community? Is not a God-given right and certainly not something covered by the Constitution here in the US. If you deliberately prey on vulnerable members of our community and continue to do so after you’ve been caught, I believe that you forfeit the right to be a part of our community.

Apart from the horrifying descriptions of child abuse and flippant tone of the entire document, the heart of the Breendoggle document is this:

And they swung between two points of view. “We must protect T—-” and “We’re all kooks. Walter is just a little kookier than the rest of us. Where will it all end if we start rejecting people because they’re kooky?” So they swung from on the one hand proposing that if Walter wasn’t to be expelled, then the banning from individual homes should be extended so that club meetings were only held in such homes, and on the otherhand calling the whole series of discussions “McCarthite” and “Star Chamber”. “I don’t want Walter around T—-, but if we do such a horrible thing as expelling him, I’ll quit fandom.”

This is prioritizing comfort over safety, over the truth. This is prioritizing the status quo over generations to come. Fuck that.

We must confront this history and bring it to light.

I don’t know how we can make this right to the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have been injured by our complicity in these horrors. And yes, I am including myself in this because I have been part of fandom for more than a decade now and I have not spoken loudly enough, if there is even one person still standing who thinks this is okay. Our community must become an unwelcome place for predators.

Susannah Paul on this issue in her community:

We are kicking at darkness, and daylight is breaking through. Abusive patterns and oppressive systems, once hidden in plain sight, are being named and dragged into the light, and this is a big deal! There is so much work yet to do, but what happened this week is no small thing, and we should celebrate that victory.

Silence is complicity.

We have to try.

What will you do?


Some organizations that help survivors–these orgs are often also underfunded. This list is by no means comprehensive. Please feel free to add additional orgs in the comments.

You may also like…

Changing Things Up

Changing Things Up

Regaining a small bit of confidence in my own competence through a website redesign.

Three Years and Counting

Three Years and Counting

Falling asleep is incredibly difficult for me these days. Once I get to sleep, I'm fine, but getting there--oof. There...

Saltiness and Other Topics

Saltiness and Other Topics

Things about which I am salty, an unordered list: WordPress. They did something with one of the recent updates that...


  1. delagar

    Jesus, that’s sickening. I couldn’t even finish reading the Breen document.

    Apparently people *knew* about it at the time, and did nothing? Jesus.

  2. Tasha Turner

    Kids seducing an adult so it’s not rape & not going to harm them. Steam coming out of ears. So very, very wrong.

    We still s*ck at harassment enforcement. It fills me with rage. It has to change.

  3. Ann Somerville

    Natalie, good post on a very painful subject. I hope Moira is getting some comfort from the widespread support and good wishes being sent her way.

    @Bluegreen Circles:

    “SFWA Grand Master Chip Delany supporting a pedophile-rights group”

    I’m curious that you bring this up, since it’s hardly new news or a secret. The link you gave is two years old.

    I’m also curious that you don’t mention that Delany also says “I would have been so much happier as an adolescent if NAMBLA had been around when I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.”

    There’s no suggestion anywhere that Delany is/was a child molester, and in the relevant quote, is speaking as himself as a child, not as an adult man attracted to children. Since he’s gay, it’s likely he’s talking about his attractions to men/males when he was young, when he was likely to be trying to make sense of this socially ‘unacceptable’ desire.

    So why do you choose to elide Delany with MZB? NAMBLA is abhorrent and I question Delany’s judgement in supporting their views (if he’s been accurately quoted), but to suggest he has assaulted or molested children is really quite horrible.

    I can’t find a direct source for this infamous quote either. Or Delany discussing it or being asked about it. But curiously, Delany and NAMBLA was very recently referenced in a screed by a quite disturbed and frankly worrying individual with a definite hate on for Delany, Natalie and a host of other individuals allegedly ‘killing’ SF. You wouldn’t be aware of that person, I don’t suppose?

  4. Quatermain

    @AnnSomerville “I’m curious that you bring this up, since it’s hardly new news or a secret. The link you gave is two years old.”

    The behavior of Breen and Bradley isn’t new news, nor is it apparently a secret and yet we’re discussing that. I would think that given the subject of the post we’re all commenting on, the inclusion of Delaney’s support of NAMBLA would, at the very least, be germane. As for the link provided, as long as it works and points to the information described, does it really matter how old it is? Hell, Plutarch and Thucydides are thousands of years old and people still use them for reference.

  5. Natalie Luhrs

    I’m pretty sure saying something positive about NAMBLA from one’s own experience as a gay (former) adolescent is different from “training up” a toddler to strip naked for you and then molesting them while other adults watch.

    Not saying that I’m thrilled with the Delany quote; would like to see the source material and full context.

    I’m going to be watching comments very carefully on this post and moderating as needed.

  6. Bluegreen Circles


    I personally was first alerted to Delany’s support of the group from Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s twitter, so unless that’s who you’re talking about, no. Then I did some googling and found the link I provided above.

    It doesn’t matter that it’s two years old–after all, the Breendoggle documents are far older, and yet they’re clearly relevant. What Delany’s comments show is that yet another big name in the SFF community is, if not himself a pedophile, willing to stand with and support pedophiles. As such, yes, I believe it’s fully relevant to the current problems.

  7. Ann Somerville

    “The behavior of Breen and Bradley isn’t new news, nor is it apparently a secret and yet we’re discussing that”

    Because of new revelations about MZB’s abuse of her daughter.

    “the inclusion of Delaney’s support of NAMBLA would, at the very least, be germane”

    Well it might be. But I’m suspicious of you and Bluegreen Circles bringing this up here because it’s been raised in the last couple of days on Vox Day’s blog, and by the aforesaid disturbed individual in his rant about SF, wherein he tried to link me to a NAMBLA supporter (unnamed but presumably Delany) because I write gay romance.

    I’m also raising an eyebrow because Vox Day linked MZB with Delany as part of ‘Pink SF’ and then linked them to Jim Hines, Mary Kowal, Rachel Swirsky, Marko Kloos, John Scalzi, Sheri Tepper, and Mercedes Lackey, in a very clear attempt to smear these upstanding and entirely non-criminal individuals by association. So I am going to need very clear evidence of Delany being any kind of abuser, rather than interested in what NAMBLA has to say because of his childhood experiences, and his interest in societal norms.

    Another relevant quote is here:

    In extended interviews about his novel Hogg in 2004 he stated he supported a group like NAMBLA because “abuse is fostered by the secrecy itself and lack of social policing”. He expounded that “for thousands of years, relations we assume are abusive by definition (child marriages, slavery, child labor, etc.) were the social and legal norm, institutional and ubiquitous [..] behavior that we [today] find wholly unacceptable—flogging slaves, wife beating, and child beating (in the family, in the school, and at the factory)—was recommended by experts and clergymen as the most efficient and least disruptive way to maintain [social] order. All of these institutions changed, nevertheless, only when they were no longer economically feasible or beneficial to the greater society.

    Which seems to me that Delany is more interested in changing views of sexuality, abuse, and how moral standards change. The NAMBLA connection is disturbing, but I know from personal experience that curiousity and research can take you down all kinds of rabbit holes.

    In any event the quote you and your chums are so excited about is unsourced, and undated except at NAMBLA’s own site. I can’t find any link to the original discussion, and no context has been provided. Also no one has offered any evidence, anecdotes, or even rumours about Delany doing anything to kids – which with MZB and Breen, was abundant, even if ignored and excused. All you’re doing is casting suspicion, using a quote which is well known and even infamous.

    “Hell, Plutarch and Thucydides are thousands of years old and people still use them for reference. ”

    Yes but no one is accusing them of criminal behaviour, are they? Or using them to smear other writers in the genre? And as a historian in a former existence, I’m *very* big on primary sources. Context matters.

    So, provide more information if you want anyone to put Delany remotely on the same level as MZB. Otherwise, I suggest you scuttle back to your friend Vox’s blog and continue talking crap about completely innocent people over there.

  8. Veronica Schanoes

    It’s one thing to fantasize about having had an older lover for yourself when you were young; the reality of an adult taking sexual advantage of and abusing a child is another thing entirely, and I’m deeply disappointed and appalled to see that Delany quotation suggests that he isn’t mindful of the difference. NAMBLA is not an acceptable organization to say anything positive about, and speaking as somebody who was taken advantage of by an older man when she was still young, if technically legal, the reality has nothing to do with the fantasy.

  9. Bluegreen Circles


    And at the beginning of all this, we didn’t know that MZB was a pedophile either, but we knew she enabled them, and that was (and should be) enough to make us balk at supporting and praising her. If you look at the links posted in the body of the post, this is the sequence of events:

    * Tor posts a tribute to Bradley
    * Deirdre posts “New Perspective, All Right,” in which she points out that Bradley enabled Breen to rape children
    * Other sites posted entries condemning Bradley, and Tor’s decision to give her a tribute
    * Tor removed the tribute
    * Deirdre posted “It’s Worse Than I Knew,” in which she shared an email written by Moira stating that Bradley had raped her (Moira). To the best of my knowledge, this was the first time that Bradley herself was shown to be a pedophile herself in this discussion, instead of ‘just’ an enabler.

    Bradley’s actions in supporting Breen, in and of themselves, were worthy of scorn, and received it after Deirdre’s first article. Delany’s words in supporting a pedophile rights group are similarly worthy of scorn.

    Is Delany himself a pedophile? I don’t think so, and I certainly hope not. But he still supports an organization of pedophiles, lending them his clout and cover. That is wrong, whatever his rationale.

  10. delagar

    Vox Day and his fellow travelers are, of course, doing the faux outrage over Delany and MZB as a red herring for their own horrible behavior.

    They are hoping people will forget that they argue in favor of marital rape and stripping women of their rights, not to mention straight up racism, if they just yelp righteously about how much they hate child abuse enough.

    As if they give a shit about the rights of anyone but themselves.

    Not fooling anyone, fellas.

  11. Dorothy K

    I find it disturbing that you are so blithe to place the burden of proof entirely on the accused. You seem to assume that only the guilty are accused of harassment or abuse.

    Is this a standard you would like applied to you? For example, what if you were systematically and unjustly accused of harassment at SF Cons? Would you accept the burden of proof is yours? Or is this a standard only to be applied to people in the SF community you don’t like?

    In most communities, everybody knows a lot of things about everybody else – most often things that aren’t true, or have become grossly distorted as they get passed up and down the gossip and rumors chain.

    ‘Hang ’em all and let god sort ’em out’ is emotionally satisfying to say, but it’s not a system of justice anyone would want applied to themselves. You are irresponsible to be calling for it here.

  12. Heavenscalyx

    @Dorothy K: Are you really conflating some nebulous harasser situation (all the high-profile ones I know of have multiple individual accounts and witnesses) with a CONVICTED CHILD MOLESTER?

  13. Polenth

    Dorothy, there were multiple accounts from multiple witnesses and he went to prison for it (after a trial, so it’s not like someone said something and it was believed without an investigation). If that’s not enough to get someone seen as a predator who is dangerous to the community… that’s a really bad sign for the community.

    It’s expected that harassment and assault cases will be investigated. But false reports are rare, so most of the time it’s going to come out that the person did it. This is what we’d expect from the statistics. And they should be treated accordingly, depending on the case. In this case, that raping children shouldn’t be an immediately lifelong ban is boggling to me. It can’t in any way be described as a minor incident and it should have been reported to the police much sooner.

  14. mikes75

    @Dorothy K: “Is this a standard you would like applied to you? For example, what if you were systematically and unjustly accused of harassment at SF Cons? Would you accept the burden of proof is yours?”

    If I were accused of harassment at a Con I attended I would expect the Con to ask me to leave, and possibly express I was not welcome to return. I’d have every right to go to the organizers and argue it was unfair, but the way a safe space remains safe is by asking participants who are or may be running afoul of the Con policies to leave.

    If I were accused of harassment at multiple Cons, I would seriously reassess my behavior in relation to the community standards I was trying to participate in. One time is possibly a misunderstanding or other communication breakdown, MULTIPLE accusations, at differing locations, surrounded by different groups of people, is a willful refusal on my part to accept my behavior is unacceptable.

    Whether that’s because I genuinely don’t get it or have more sinister motives is immaterial. If there’s a clear policy and I’m accused of violating it, I should be asked to leave that space. If I have a pattern of doing that ‘systematically…at [multiple] SF Cons” I’ve gone well beyond innocent misunderstanding into willful, predatory behavior.

  15. Dorothy K

    @Heavenscalyx: No. The operant word is ‘convicted’. Natalie is taking this case to push the case for a witch hunt throughout the SF community for people suspected of being abusers and harrassers . She is on a very, very slippery slope here.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      @Dorothy K: I’m saying we have to get our house in order. Our house has been out of order for decades. If we don’t talk about the abuse that we have allowed to be perpetrated on the most vulnerable members of our community, how will we make it clear that this is not acceptable behavior within our community?

  16. Dorothy K

    @mikes75: So accusation is conviction.

  17. Heavenscalyx

    @Dorothy K: So the only thing you’ll accept is a conviction? When everyone (who reads anything) knows that convictions in cases of rape and harassment are few and far between? When everyone (who reads anything) knows that pursuing conviction is more likely to retraumatize the victims multiple times than to have an actual guilty verdict? When women/POCs/queers in fandom spaces are constantly talking about how MUCH harassment they receive? When any women/POCs/queers in fandom who raise their voices receive rape and death threats, including from nonanonymous harassers within fandom?

    I suggest you reread the classic American case of the “witch hunt” before you use the term in this case. That was, as I recall from my very recent trip to Salem, MA, a case where a bunch of wealthy white male property owners took advantage of mass hysteria to convict people found strange, odd, or unpleasantly empowered in the community to set up a court, stack the witnesses and evidence, and *economically benefit from the convictions and executions of the accused by seizing their property*. IT ONLY STOPPED because the wife of one of those wealthy white male property owners was accused.

    I see absolutely no parallel between *that actual witch hunt* and trying to create safer spaces in fandom by banning people accused by multiple people of harassment and/or rape.

  18. jewelandarlin

    @Dorothy K:

    She is doing nothing of the sort. She is saying that a particular community has a documented history of seeing sexual abuse of children happen openly in front of it and doing nothing to stop it. She is saying that abuse will happen in any community unless it’s prevented. If you don’t recognise the historical truth of this, you’ve been living in a cave and I truly envy your prelapsarian innocence.

    The only people that can prevent abuse are the people it happens among, and that’s all of us. What’s stopping us?

  19. Dorothy K

    @Heavenscalyx: There was a time when “POC/queers” were routinely accused of rape and sex with minors by people who hated them. There was a time when having said nice things about communists could get you black-listed from the entertainment industry.

    You seem to feel that ‘everybody knows’ or ‘somebody said’ should be proof enough to get people black-listed from the SF community. Or that saying something positive about a group that ends up being awful should get you black-listed.

    What will you do when the rumor/gossip mill goes to town on you?

    • Tasha Turner

      @Dorothy_K many cons have specific policies on harassment and abuse. A process is supposed to be followed when someone makes a complaint. Both sides are heard and if there are witnesses they are also questioned. A few policies require multiple complaints before suspending/banning someone. Unfortunately several situations have come to light where the conventions have not followed their policy. Not only have they allowed the harasser back but have let them volunteer in areas that should be rooms for people to go to when they need quiet space.

      If you had been following the situation for the last couple of years you would know about the various steps being taken in the SFF community. If you were paying attention to these issues in the larger US society you’d know that less than 8% of rape complaints turn out to be false and that less than 80% of people file complaints (I’d guess the rate of sexual harassment and racism and other *-ism not filing is much higher as those are even harder to prove so people just don’t bother until it’s really bad or they feel they have enough witnesses to support them).

      Allowing the “poor white male” or the “misunderstood white woman” whose behavior has time and time again shown that they target women, POC, children, etc. harms everyone. You hurt your cons reputation, you take a chance on litigation, you take a chance on things escalating to violence, and you do no favors to harassers/abusers by enabling them.

  20. Veronica Schanoes

    @Dorothy K: “Natalie is taking this case to push the case for a witch hunt throughout the SF community for people suspected of being abusers and harrassers .”

    Nonsense. Condemning and ostracizing people who have been identified as abusers and harassers by multiple people in the community is hardly a witch-hunt. “Suspicion” is not the issue.

    On a different topic, I think giving cover to NAMBLA is a terrible thing to do. Just terrible. I did know MZB was a molester herself because I read all the depositions on-line, but even if she hadn’t been, the fact that she used her writing skills to aid Breen’s writing for NAMBLA (the very same organization, remember) and her clout in the community to aid, abet, and protect him would have been loathesome enough. There are numerous ways to be interested in how social norms change without praising NAMBLA (and I don’t think Delany is giving the whole picture anyway–there is never any one cultural consensus about a practice, be it wife-beating, slavery, or child abuse–otherwise change would be impossible; similarly, he’s looking at the world through rose-colored glasses if he thinks we as a society condemn wife- or child-beating wholesale; he’s smart enough that I would assume he knows both those things). What I do find interesting is that the quotation is unsourced, and if that quotation is all there is, I’d like to see a citation before I go to the bank on it.

  21. mikes75

    @Dorothy K: Wait, we’re talking courts and prisons? I’m pretty sure you and I both mentioned Conventions, which are social spaces organized by groups. If the intention is for those to be safe spaces all participants can share equally, the people who organize those spaces have a responsibility to maintain that safety. If there’s an accusation someone is harassing or – even worse – endangering other attendees, that should be addressed definitively. Definitive action often means asking the person to leave, which may suck if they were wrongfully accused, but is far better than someone being injured or abused.

    As I went on to say, if the person in question is being “systematically” accused of harassing behavior at “SF Cons” (plural), we’re talking a pattern of behavior now. That individual has decided they’re going to make no effort to abide the rules of the convention or respect other attendees. Whether they’re doing this out of spite for the rules or greater malicious intent doesn’t matter.

    If I invite someone into my home, and they embarrass another guest, I’m probably going to ask them to leave. They’re welcome to explain, and I might allow them back into my home for a future party. If they do the same thing again, I’m never inviting them back in my home. Why should a privately organized convention, which often in these cases might be subject to actual liability, not follow the same standard? Why should the rights of the hundreds or thousands of other attendees be secondary to one person’s bad (and possibly criminal) behavior?

  22. Dorothy K

    @jewelandarlin: And who determines who is in that ‘particular community’ and how is it determined? Is there a standard of proof, or is it just a matter of pointing a fingers and saying ‘I accuse you!’ . If putting the house in order means conviction by innuendo and the howling of the mob, then I don’t want you anywhere near the house.

    The ends don’t justify the means. The ends are the means.

  23. Veronica Schanoes

    @Dorothy K: “There was a time when “POC/queers” were routinely accused of rape and sex with minors by people who hated them. There was a time when having said nice things about communists could get you black-listed from the entertainment industry. ”

    And if we were recommending interrogating people about their political affiliations, that last bit would be relevant; as it is, it’s garbage. An accusation of rape or sexual abuse is a serious thing, and should be taken as seriously as possible. Given that every single study documents the extraordinary rarity of false accusations, I’m going to prioritize that possibility well below the importance of supporting survivors of such abuse. I call that playing the odds, or living in reality. You, of course, may do as you like.

    “You seem to feel that ‘everybody knows’ or ‘somebody said’ should be proof enough to get people black-listed from the SF community. Or that saying something positive about a group that ends up being awful should get you black-listed.”

    Do you have evidence for these assertions? Natalie is talking about cases that have been investigated, in which there are numerous witnesses, in which the offenders have a pattern of behavior. Where are you getting this “everybody knows, somebody said” crap from? Or this “saying something positive about a group” thing from? Besides your fevered fantasies? Has anybody here suggested blacklisting Delany (you can imagine the power I have, clearly), or has there been an expression of unhappiness, a desire for context, and a request for citation?

    “What will you do when the rumor/gossip mill goes to town on you?”

    Depends on what it’s saying. But let’s make a deal: you don’t have to worry about me, and in return, you stick to what’s actually under discussion.

  24. Dorothy K

    @mikes75: The analogy doesn’t hold. the assumption is that the person you invited embarrassed another guest. What if the other guest didn’t like the politics or sexual orientation of the person you invited and accused them of bad behavior when they were out of your sight in order to get rid of them? You assume all actors will act in good faith and without agenda, or that honest misunderstandings don’t occur.

  25. kate

    DorothyK: I’m really confused. Do you live in a society that has no rules? It seems unusual.

  26. Veronica Schanoes

    @Dorothy K: ” Is there a standard of proof, or is it just a matter of pointing a fingers and saying ‘I accuse you!’ .”

    I have a feeling you’ve missed several years of discussion. Why don’t you run along and catch up–look into harassment policies and how they’re implemented, the way investigations at cons are conducted, decide where you want err–and come back when you’re ready to talk with the grown-ups instead of pretending you’re the lone sane character in “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.” The social, legal, and cultural climate for those who abuse women and children is hardly the equivalent of HUAC.

  27. Veronica Schanoes

    @Dorothy K: “You assume all actors will act in good faith and without agenda, or that honest misunderstandings don’t occur. ”

    No. You assume that people speaking up about abuse are more likely to be acting in bad faith than to have been abused. A quick glance at history should assuage this fear of yours. There are numerous barriers to speaking up about abuse, and nobody is operating on any one person’s say-so.

  28. Abi Sutherland

    The interesting thing to do, if this is a concern, would be to look at the population of people with whatever belief you think is being targeted. Unless that belief is that adults should have sex with children, the distribution of accusations of abuse would be the most useful way to determine if they were political or not.

    When you look at the people who have been accused of harassment, you don’t actually see that pattern emerging. The only common factor among the various high-profile cases that we’ve seen lately is a feeling that they’re entitled to women’s attentions whether said women agree or not.

    And that belief, alas, seems to appear in many cultural contexts and communities.

  29. mikes75

    @Dorothy K: First off, the Particular Community Natalie’s referring to is the SF community, which members self-select into. THAT’S the community she says has a problem, well documented across multiple links above to show a trend of turning a blind eye to criminal, abusive behavior. @jewelandarlin was clearly referencing that, so I’m not sure what assumption you’re drawing about her use of that phrase.

    Second, the entire thrust here is, SFFandom seems to be embracing the fallacy “Ostracizers are evil” in a way that has allowed people like Breen to thrive. They’ve tended to remain silent when abusers like Breen were actively engaging in criminal, abusive behavior,and they still continue to do that. Natalie is saying we should stop remaining silent. She’s not saying we should drag people from their homes, but maybe it’d be a bad idea to have a man accused of harassment manning the sign-in table at next year’s Con? Perhaps along with asking someone be removed for groping a kid, we consider calling the police as well? Those are completely reasonable minimums, extending this to the presumption this is a call for a SF “witch hunt” to “blacklist” or “convict” the accused without trial is one hell of a bad faith argument.

  30. Heavenscalyx

    @Dorothy K: You are using classic derailment techniques, complete with nebulous threats. Congratulations, you will, no doubt, graduate with honors from the Derailment for Dummies internet workshop. If you actually live in so much fear that you might be falsely accused of harassment when you don’t actually mean to harass anyone, I feel very sorry for you.

  31. hapax

    This post is bookmarked for re-reading, and hard thinking.

    The comment thread, which seems to have derailed into the standard “But won’t someone think about the poor victimized FalselyAccusedRapists?” … not so much.

  32. Natalie Luhrs

    So. Any future comments which prioritize the safety of harassers/abusers/rapists over those of their victims will be removed and the person making the comment banned.

    Let’s get back on track. If that’s even possible at this point.

  33. Paul W.

    @Dorothy K: I’m honestly curious why it’s so important to you that false accusations (or the “angry mob” as you call it) must be suppressed at any cost- up to and including the silencing of real accusations and the covering up of real misconduct.

  34. mikes75

    @Dorothy K:”What if the other guest didn’t like the politics or sexual orientation of the person you invited and accused them of bad behavior when they were out of your sight in order to get rid of them?”
    That’s why I would talk with the involved parties, and other guests, after I’ve asked the person to leave. That’s why I take their phone call the next day when they want to explain.
    “You assume all actors will act in good faith and without agenda, or that honest misunderstandings don’t occur.”
    Yes, that’s why I would talk with the parties involved after the fact to better understand the situation.
    This isn’t remotely unfair. In the event of an immediate threat to the safe space I’ve attempted to create, remove the threat. Sort the details and, if on further examination it’s clear the removed threat was wronged, make amends. If however the removed threat was rightfully accused and I have every reason to suspect they’ll repeat their behavior, don’t allow them back.

  35. Josh Jasper

    So presumably Dorothy K thinks that, until he was actually convicted by a court of law Breen was targeted by an angry mob, and the right thing to do would have been to allow him access to conventions where he could easily “seduce” children as young as 4 years old *just as long as there was no actual complaint or evidence*

    Folks, this is simple and pure apologia for an environment in which the *only* defense against predators is to convict them in court. It’s child rape apology by default.

    I don’t know who “Dorothy K” is. The people arguing the opposite seem to all be wearing our public faces for the most part. Given the amount of sockpuppet trolls from places like 4Chan and above mentioned hate-sites, I would not be surprised if this was one of them.

  36. jewelandarlin

    @Dorothy K:

    Here’s a simple question for you: what should a group of people (fan community, sports community, faith community, educational community – take your pick) do to stop sexual abuse of children?

    To put it in concrete terms: if you don’t agree with how the people surrounding Breen and watching what he did behaved, how would you have preferred them to act?

  37. Natalie Luhrs

    Everyone: Dorothy K won’t be able to answer any of your excellent questions as I’m not allowing them to comment on this post any further. So it would probably be best to stop provoking them.

  38. Rachael Acks

    @Dorothy K: Go read the “Breendoggle” thing. I almost added the caveat “if you have a strong stomach” but frankly, you need to just go read it. And consider that hand wringing about witch hunts was one of the very effective excuses that allowed a predator to have continued access to children.

    The entire point of this post was that countless people saw what Breen did and said nothing for years. People see harassment at cons and say nothing. People are pressured to ignore hints and accusations of wrongdoing, to question their own sense of what is right or wrong thanks to the geek social fallacies. That again and again we are encouraged to give absolutely no weight to accusation *or even evidence* of wrongdoing because it rocks the boat, and that’s *not okay*. Where did you get “hang em all and let god sort them out” from that?

    It’s a straw man, and a gross, disingenuous one at that. Knock it off.

  39. Tasha Turner

    The 1st time I read summaries of the depositions on Breen and MZB I was triggered and stayed up for 48 hours without sleeping. I didn’t dare read the full depositions. I’d like to believe that this would no longer be acceptable at cons – that we’ve come farther in understanding child abuse and we’d at least protect kids under 16 but I’m not sure I feel confident about that. I have little hope that we’d protect kids that are “almost adults” which angers me greatly.

    I know when it comes to women and POC we have a long way to go. We must do better. We must require cons to have good policies and to enforce those policies. It’s horrifying to me to read account after account year after year.

    I have friends that runs cons, some do a better job on these issues than other. Some days talking to them can be frustrating as many have been at it so long I get the “change takes time” and “we are better than we used to be”. Others have stood up and insisted their con stand by their policies and made waves and it was exhausting but they did it because it was the right thing to do.

  40. Josh Jasper

    Natalie – sorry, had I seen your comment at 10:35 I’d have refrained from commenting that way.

    Anyhow, as I’ve said on twitter, there are still *lots* of people who defended not only MZB, but Breen, and friends of MZB who’re notably silent from all of this debate. Many of them are Big Name Fen, many of them writers.

    The initial reason there *was* a “Breendoggle” was that a large portion of fandom decided that Breen was being railroaded and, as he’d never been convicted, could not be tried by the court of public opinion because what if someone came for them next?

    I’ve heard this sort of BS from con com members railing against harassment policies as not being nice enough to someone who might make an “innocent mistake” with no real concern for actual victims. It’s not an attitude that’s gone away with time, thought it should have. What it proves to me is that the anti-Breen side of the Breendoggle didn’t go far enough, and that the people on Breen’s side still don’t feel ashamed of themselves.

    We have people involved in the top levels running fandom who defended a child abuser. They don’t think they did anything wrong. They’re still around.

  41. UrsulaV

    I was on a panel not long ago with a woman who was gushing about being mentored by MZB and working with her on the Darkover books and whatnot.

    I did not, at the time, know much about the situation–this was all so long before my time. She died before I ever attended my first convention, and while I knew that her husband had been a bad dude, I had no idea the extent to which MZB had been complicit, certainly not that she herself had been a child molester. Our much-vaunted institutional memory, which gets trotted out over and over again in certain contexts, certainly hadn’t worked for me.

    And if I had known, I have no idea what I would have done. Probably I would have opened my mouth and something incoherent and awful would have fallen out, because this experience is so far outside my normal context that I have no scripts for it.

    I think–bear with me, here, I’m trying to feel my way through this–it’s really hard for some of us to speak out, even about stuff we know terribly well. I have to nerve myself up sometimes and run my script through my head four or five times. And this is just…so outside of what I’ve got scripts to deal with…that I’m scared I’ll make it all so much worse and say something horrible and clumsy and oh god, what if somebody in the audience in a trauma survivor and they were there for a nice day at the con and I end up triggering them because I’m an idiot?

    And we have to get over that, because what if somebody in the audience is a trauma survivor and they go away feeling isolated because nobody speaks up?

    But what do we SAY?

    There was a super helpful post awhile ago, related to the Readercon incident, where the poster walked through her experience reporting harassment. And it was so helpful to me, and I had to use it like two weeks later. I was so grateful she’d written it. I guess I’d like someone to do that for situations like this. Tell me what to say so I do it right and don’t hurt people by accident! This is too important to be left to me stumbling and stammering my way through!

    (That got long. Sorry.)

  42. Madame Hardy

    The thing that boggles me about reading the original Breendoggle document is that there were witnesses. It wasn’t hearsay. There were people sitting in the goddamned room while Breen was doing unmistakably sexual things to a three-year-old. The original Donaho letter says “No one thought he was actually psychologically damaging P——— (she being so young) — obviously —– and —- would have interfered if they thought he had been — but the spectacle was not thought to be aesthetically pleasing. “. No doubt this is intended as irony, but whether or not the child was too young to be damaged — the dominant psychological view at the time — Breen’s behavior was obviously, and grossly, inappropriate.

    It was never hearsay. Fandom rose up in horror and division because it was suggested that somebody who had been observed behaving inappropriately be excluded from conventions.

    * yes, that was inappropriate for the period, parents exerted considerable effort to keep toddlers of that age’s hands off their own genitals.

  43. mikes75

    I missed saying so earlier, but thanks for writing this post, Natalie.

    Something I was thinking about in terms of the “ostracizers are evil” fallacy is that there’s an element of truth to it. Specifically, people like Frenkels and Breen are themselves ostracizers. They willfully engage in behavior that makes the communities they occupied dangerous, forcing those who’d like to participate to do so at risk to their own safety, which naturally drives people away. Then, when people eventually did come forward to speak about this behavior, they sought to shut out their accusers by defining them as blacklisters or witch-hunters. And I have no doubt they encouraged the “who’s next” fear of those bogeymen to keep people defending them, furthering a sense of danger that kept others from joining or remaining in the community.

    So, when these individuals are identified, I don’t believe we should think in terms of ostracizing them, as they’re not being barred from entry. They’re already in the community, manning the gates in their own vile way. When they’re identified, speaking up is a means of excising them, much the same way a tumor is removed, hopefully before it can metastasize.

    Excision can be hard. Plenty of people put it off because an immediate fear is sometimes more powerful that a potential danger. It wounds, so it can be difficult to gear up for. But as worrying as it can be to consider the discomfort of addressing aperson like Frenkels or Breen, the damage they can do when left unchecked to the larger community is so much more severe, it can’t be ignored any longer.

  44. S K J

    The culture of silence extends toward fandom’s unconscious (I think) disinclination toward following up on things that seem a little suspect. I can’t count how many times over the years I’ve seen SF/F fen read a book (or blog post or news article or whatever) with something a little iffy in it — a racist dogwhistle, perhaps, or an unsavory implication about an author — and never say anything. Then when someone finally DOES say something, everyone gasps in astonishment. It’s part of the culture, and so many people seem to be actively refusing to believe there is a link between studied disinterest for the sake of personal comfort, and the ability of predators to continue to attend cons even after they’ve been sanctioned.

    I’m very glad of this post and for you drawing such a clear, unmistakeable association here. You do a lot of the heavy lifting in these situations, and I always appreciate it.

    And yes, I too feel like I didn’t say enough or do enough, and I’m part of fandom’s failure. But it’s pretty difficult for me to deal with the constant triggers (like others here, I didn’t sleep much when I first read the MZB depositions a few years ago, and haven’t been sleeping well the last few days either). Also hard is dealing with the attacks from people when I criticize fandom (not telling you anything you don’t already know, I’m sure). I’ve been in online fandom long enough to know how “never ostracize anyone” fandom loves to ostracize the “troublemakers” who speak their minds. This is a struggle for the strongest people in fandom, I’m afraid, and that’s part of the culture of silence, too.

  45. Desiree Arceneaux

    @Natalie Luhrs: Saying ANYTHING positive about NAMBLA, in ANY context whatsoever, makes you a fundamentally horrible person. I mean seriously, they’re on the KKK level of utterly indefensible organizations.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      @Desiree: I know they are utterly indefensible as an organization–I never meant to imply that there was any defense for their existence. People are complicated and sexuality is really complicated and since it is NAMBLA I can’t exactly do my due diligence until I get home from work this evening. So give me a break, okay?

  46. The G

    I knew nothing about the MBZ/Breen situation prior to reading Deirdre Saoirse Moen’s blog posts on the subject a few days ago. Then I read the depositions from Breen’s trial. I am now so thoroughly sickened that whatever love I had for The Mists of Avalon (and I had plenty) is now destroyed forever.

    At best she knowingly accepted and tacitly encouraged her husband’s sexual predation of children; at worst she did that and engaged in it herself. How someone can be aware of such things and: a) remain silent; and b) value issues of fandom over the rights and welfare of the victims of sexual predation; is beyond me.

  47. Fred Davis

    @Desiree Arceneaux: Well their logo involves a capital M basically humping a lowercase b – there’s evil, and then there’s cartoonishly evil with a LOGO for to emphasise it.

    Though the DeLaney quote is a bit of an odd bird – I saw it on wikiquotes about a year ago, and it’s not brilliant thing for him to be associated with as it runs as follows:

    “I read The NAMBLA Bulletin fairly regularly and I think it is one of the most intelligent discussions of sexuality I’ve ever found. … Before you start judging what NAMBLA is about, expose yourself to it and see what it is really about, the issues they are really talking about; and deal with what’s really there rather than this demonized notion of guys running about trying to screw little boys. I would have been so much happier as an adolescent if NAMBLA had been around when I was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13.”

    — Samuel Delany, science fiction writer (Queer Desires Forum, New York City, June 25, 1994).

    Which is actually NOT something that makes Delaney look good, nor is it really defensible when Breen himself AND MZB both wrote similar things in Breen’s stupid little 2 issue pseudo-academic “International Journal of Greek Love”.

    Of course the slight trouble with that quote is that I have no idea what the “queer desires forum” was, the wikiquote is unsourced, the googles give me nothing about the event, where it happened exactly and who ran it, who else spoke at it etc… and indeed the only places other than Wikiquotes that has that quote is the Nambla website itself and a homophobic christian site using it as an example of how all gays are child fuckers.

    Given that DeLaney sometimes loves to be edgy for the sake of being Edgy (see that recent book of his with all the nose picking in it – and some coprofilia, of course) I wouldn’t be surprised if he was just being pro-NAMBLA for the sake of being a *shocking* asshole, at the same time he could genuinely believe the sentiment expressed in that statement in which case, fucking 13 year olds? Fuck off mate, there ain’t nobody who should be defending that shit if they’ve given it more than 10 seconds of thought.

    Or it never happened. Which is an actual possibility, though WHY NAMBLA or whoever decided to go with DeLaney of all people other than they wanted a black friend to wave around puzzles me.

  48. Cecily Kane

    @S K J:


    If I may add something to Natalie’s analysis, I think this (and other scenarios like this, including not just harassment but racism and other kinds of bad behavior) is a case of combining geek fallacy #1, Ostracizers are Evil, and #4, Friendship is Transitory. In other words, in a social conflict in a geeky space, someone will often be ostracized — but it’s usually the one who kicks up a fuss.

    And the reason for this? Social capital, IMO, and the differing levels thereof. Natalie brings up the Catholic Church and the Paterno/Sandusky case. What those social spheres have in common with geekdom is that despite their varying levels of formality, there’s a strong social hierarchy. Whether it’s an editor or author with a lot of clout in SF/F (or someone with a significant relationship to someone fitting that description) or the DM in a group of 10 tabletop RPG buddies, someone (or several someones) is serving (or is capable of serving) as gatekeeper. Someone is untouchable; someone is ostracism-proof, or nearly.

    And as you point out, it doesn’t have to be something as horrid as child molestation. Or even racism. It can be as simple as a bad breakup with someone with power in a geeky space. And in any of these scenarios, not just shunning but closing ranks and attacking the victim is not uncommon, either.

    Hence I think that the MZB issue is the symptom and not the disease. The problem is systemic. Pervasive social hierarchies attract all sorts of bad behaviors, up to but not exclusive to predation.


  49. Deirdre Saoirse Moen


    Given the con, I’m guessing it was Deborah J. Ross, who makes her writing income from writing books in Marion’s Darkover universe.

    When asked recently, “Can this be true? The MZB click thrus are upsetting” her response was “Only half the story is being told. Please be careful about believing sensationalist rumors online.”

    Sensationalist. Rumors.

    When I called her on it, she unfollowed me on Twitter.

    Tweets for your reference:

    (And why would anyone even ASK someone who had a financial interest in keeping MZB’s name pure?)

  50. HelenS

    Re Delany defending NAMBLA: see , which includes him saying this:

    “It may seem paradoxical from my statement that generally
    speaking I think sexual relations between children and adults are
    likely to go wrong and that most of them are likely to be, start off
    as, or quickly become, abusive, that I also support a group like
    NAMBLA? which I do. But that’s because I feel one of the largest
    factors in the abuse is fostered by the secrecy itself and lack of
    social policing of the relationships.”

    I think this is at best an extraordinarily naive thing to say, but he does at least argue that yes, we SHOULD be policing ourselves so as not to damage children.

  51. silviam

    In his book of essays “Shorter Views” (Wesleyan University Press) Delaney refers to “much harassed groups like NAMBLA,” so it seems he does think they are wrongly attacked or perceived in a simplistic manner.

    The other quote seems to be from an interview with Terry Enright (“It may seem paradoxical from my statement that generally speaking I think sexual relations between children and adults are likely to go wrong and that most of them are likely to be, start off
    as, or quickly become, abusive, that I also support a group like NAMBLA? which I do. But that’s because I feel one of the largest factors in the abuse is fostered by the secrecy itself and lack of social policing of the relationships. “) Full text of that lives here:

    I think the Enright interview appeared in “Conversations with Samuel R. Delany” but I don’t want to say for sure. Either way, “Conversations with Samuel R. Delany” also contains a reference to NAMBLA (I can find out if it’s the Enright interview in that book tonight).

  52. Veronica Schanoes

    Well, he does mention them with some sympathy in Shorter Views on a list with feminists and gay activists.

    The interview with him about Hogg in Conversations with Samuel R. Delany suggests to me that he and I have fundamentally different understandings of childhood, children’s vulnerability vis-a-vis adults, and adult power over them, and I reject his.

    The only date I’ve been able to find for the first quotation is 1994, which is suggestive of context, as that was when NAMBLA was expelled from the International Lesbian and Gay Association. But I don’t know how reliable that date for the quotation is.

  53. Deirdre Saoirse Moen

    Cecily, I think you have it exactly right, and I never saw it that way before.

    Your comments are related to what several people have referred to as “Deirdre’s Law”: Bad managers outlast good employees.

    I first said this when I was recommended for a position by a geek with high status, who then got into an argument with his POS boss, and wound up getting fired over it. After I was hired on, I got the boss fired by being careful about how I did it. Sadly, the next boss was worse; in a conflict with him, I got fired. Fortunately, I was fired illegally, so I wound up with a better severance package.

    Managers (read: also including people who have a lot of social capital in fandom) are imbued with more trust. Complaints erode that trust, but since others “know” what that person is doing for that company/fandom, the complaints actually work to erode the social capital of the complainer.

    I guess it’s a good thing I don’t really give a spit what my social capital is.

  54. silviam

    I don’t think that means Bradley is anything like Delaney, but I was surprised to see that quote online with his name and NAMBLA in the same sentence. Just the name of that organization makes me go NOOO. There were several things I didn’t want to know about writers in the same week (MZB, Delaney, etc) but by that I don’t mean they were in the same category at all. Just stuff you wished you’d never heard.

    Switching gears: I had no idea Asimov was a famous ass pincher. Someone was telling me they apparently had an ass pinching contest. And back then it seems the way to solve the problem was simply by informing others about that so you could keep your ass safe.

    So, yeah, there has long been a tradition of simply informing your friends who the ass pincher (or in really horrible cases, child abuser) is and steering clear from him/her. Which doesn’t really work very well. Because people then go “Well, X is a well-known ass-pincher, didn’t you know not to stand in front of him in the elevator?” and you are like “How was I supposed to know? I rarely go to these things!”

  55. UrsulaV

    Deidre: I suspect you’re right, although I’ll be honest–my memory for names is so awful that I had forgotten hers halfway through the panel, so the only way I could be 100% certain is to go back through the programming calendar.

    And if the panel was next month instead of last month, I’d probably still walk in and get blindsided because I just never gave it any thought and wouldn’t even know to ask not to be on a panel with someone with a vested financial interest in a child molester’s estate, because it would just never occur to me that would happen.

  56. --E

    Why don’t people like the National Association of Marlon Brando Look-Alikes?

    (There you go, obligatory South Park reference.)


    An important thing to consider is that people are complex. The same person can be both capable of assaulting a child and writing a nuanced, intelligent work of fiction. Sometimes the nuance of the fiction changes meaning when framed with the knowledge that the writer [did X horrible thing], but sometimes it doesn’t.

    I’m a strong advocate of not judging a writer by their fiction—imagine what we would think of Stephen King or Thomas Harris if we did that. But it also works the other way: we can’t assume a person who writes wonderful fiction that enlightens or consoles us, that speaks out against one form of injustice, is necessarily an all-around good person.

    We tend to conflate author with narrator with story, because they all seem to come out of the same place: a particular person’s brain. But that’s not how brains work. SOME writers put on the page things that we strongly suspect are reflective of their own fantasies. This is particularly true if nothing in the text suggests that the author is cognizant of the ick factor (e.g. Piers Anthony’s fascination with panties; Heinlein’s incest tropes).

    The realization that certain ideas are horrible takes time to permeate a culture, and there will always be people who profit, either personally or financially, from clinging to the horrid ideas. (The existence of slavery being an obvious example, but also all the ideas in rape culture. The idea of children being sexual objects is in the same sort of thought process.)

    The problem with writers is that we often conflate their books with them, and think we know a person when we don’t. Even other writers do this, because we know that yes, we spin our stories out of our guts. But we forget sometimes that we don’t spin all our guts out, and we mash them up with other stuff. We pick and choose. We edit. And I imagine that folks with ideas they know will get them shunned and spat upon (figuratively) by people whose opinions they care about, are smart enough not to promulgate those ideas openly and approvingly in their fiction.

    The writers who do promulgate such things don’t care about the opinions of others, and/or know they have a huge support network for their ideas. Thus misogyny has historically been no impediment to a writing career (or a company creating video games). But most people do draw the line at favorably depicting child rape.

    Which brings me, long-windedly, back around to both MZB and Delaney. It’s pretty clear that MZB knew damn well that her and her husband’s activities, while insufficiently condemned in real life, probably would draw too much attention if depicted favorably in her fiction. She wrote her fiction to address other issues that she probably felt strongly about and which were certainly more palatable to her audience.

    Delaney’s career is built specifically on pushing boundaries, so it’s a little harder to judge his motives. It’s also a question of whether he felt one thing 20 years ago and feels differently now. And whether his intellectual position translates into action, vs just thinking and discussing. His position as demonstrated in those old quotes suggests nuances in his thinking, but even without nuance, I wouldn’t shun someone for thoughts.

    MZB and Breen, however, were witnessed in their actions. What they actually thought is irrelevant. Plenty of criminals—particularly those who commit crimes of a social/sexual nature—rail against those crimes. From endless anti-gay preachers who are caught in the company of rentboys, to Eliot Spitzer who made his career prosecuting the clients of high-end call girls before being caught out as one of those clients, our culture is full of people whose words and actions are entirely different.

    It works both ways. Delaney has spoken favorably of icky things, but until someone comes out with reasonably credible testimony (“reasonably credible” = time and place and opportunity existed) that he did something to them when they were an adolescent, then it’s just thoughts. MZB and Breen have a long stack of credible accounts of things they actually did.

  57. Natalie Luhrs

    Turning off comments for a while. I need a break.

  58. JuliaSouthwick


    But MZB DIDN’T keep it out of her writing; she may not have gone on and on about it, but her predilections are portrayed in one of her most famous books–it’s right there in Mists of Avalon!

    I’m, admittedly, not part of the fandom community (mostly due to intense social phobia), and until last night, I knew nothing of any of this scandal. I only knew of that series of books and the nasty impact a scene in one had on me. That’s why I never forgot her name.

    Then I saw a post in my Facebook feed linking to one of Dierdre’s posts on this subject and I freaked. I freaked because people were actually surprised. People who are familiar with her body of work. People who had read MoA and…adored it.

    How on earth could people not, at least after her daughter stepped forward to say that she was even worse than her husband, recall that she romanticizes child rape in a scene in MoA?! How could no lightbulbs go on even after the fact (as in “OMG! That scene with the little girl’s rape that disturbed me so much! No wonder! She’s a freaking pedophile!”).

    I’m completely dumfounded. I get that she was a talented writer, but how, in the midst of discussing this, is no one pointing out that huge neon red flag in MoA that something was terribly wrong with her, even in hindsight?

    I read MoA right around the millennium, and had to stop reading and do some serious chain smoking when I read the scene where, during some fertility festival, MZB describes several people having sex…I had to stop because one of those descriptions is of an old man RAPING a little girl! She even wrote that, unless I’m mistaken, the little girl struggled for a minute then gave in. *Shudder*

    Seriously?!?! How the crap can her depravations surprise anyone who has ever read that book?! I have never been able to scrub that scene from my brain. Never. And I keep reading and reading on this scandal with her husband and herself, and no one, as far as I’ve seen, has pointed out that she describes the rape of a child in ROMANTICIZED language in MoA.

    I have literally spent the whole night (sun is up now), since around 10 pm, nonstop hunting for even one person to point out the horrific scene…written to be beautiful, not horrific (which only makes it more frightening to me).

    Sorry to rant, but that freakes me right the hell out. And it freaks me out that, considering her husband’s notoriety, that scene hasn’t caused any fuss that I can find in the various discussions concerning their deprivations.

    This was probably rather incoherant, but indignation plus zero sleep makes for poor writing, so my apologies for somewhat flipping out on here.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      @JuliaSouthwick: I know some folks have been talking about it; I can’t remember where, though. Maybe on Jim Hines’s post on the subject? Or maybe James Nicoll’s LJ? (multiple posts over at his place, FYI.)

      I know I have for sure definitely seen people talking about that scene–I haven’t read the book since 1988 (when I was 14), so I honestly don’t remember it and that’s the only MZB novel I’ve read.

  59. Lynn

    I really enjoyed her early Darkover stories and still do. The anthologies were good. The Mists of Avalon was too obvious a push for feminist lesbian sex fantasy so was not interested, so I never read that.. MZB was a good editor . However I got the idea that she created a writers commune at her home and that it had lesbian tinge and probably was pretty wild, yet with MZB controlling the younger writers. So the revelation of Breen and MZB abuse does not surprise. That environment is not a good one for children. The nothing is wrong in sexuality is pretty prevalent in fantasy circles and so I can see why they did not see anything wrong.

    I do not idolize my favorite authors. So I know they are human with human flaws. So I do not have a problem with their product if I like it . I do separate it from their personal lives.

    Was MZB a horrible mother and self centered. Did she think her sexual life more important than her children? YES!!! It has been obvious that the liberal left in California has been pushing to accept any alternative sexual lifestyle for a long time. I did not know Breen was founder of NAMBLA. I am not surprised either NAMBLA has been pushing for acceptance of Man and boy sex for a long time.

    What is surprising is this shock among writers and the abhorrence of the child abuse and sex. It has been obvious in Hollywood and California that it was promoted and accepted in SF circles for a while.

    It is nice to see that there are limits what SF &F fans and writers will accept.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      I’m letting this through although I really dislike your characterization of the “liberal left”. Same-sex relationships and other types of relationships you call “alternative sexual lifestyle” are not the problem here. The problem here is the predation on children. As long as all parties can consent to the activity, I have no issue with said activity.

  60. Veronica Schanoes

    Aside from every other thing wrong with what you said, Lynn, there is hardly any lesbianism in Mists of Avalon at all. I think middle-aged Morgaine has a few companionable encounters with another middle-aged lady, and it’s a very minor plot point. All the super-hot stuff in Mists of Avalon, and the sexual relationships that drive the plot and motivate the characters, are heterosexual.

    But given that your understanding of reality is completely skewed, I’m not sure why I would expect anything else from your reading comprehension.

  61. Lynn

    Never read MOA I will stand corrected. That does not change the fact that MZB cover up and enabled Breen to molest teens and children for years. Also that the Sf &F fan community ignored this aspect of MZB

  62. Anon

    I”ve had a bizarre and unsettling time with this author’s work over the course of my life. I first came across Darkover Landfall when I was about 12, and I remember being creeped out in a fascinated way by how WRONG the book felt, yet how compelling it was. It was, incidentally, right around the time I was being sexually bullied by another girl at school. I attempted to read Mists Of Avalon in college, as it was my mother’s favorite book. I couldn’t even finish it. Just as awful as the little girl rape scene, was the almost prurient delight MZB seemed to take in the pain of her female characters, especially related to birth. Almost like the author raped her characters with pregnancy, and enjoyed it. Two years after attempting to read MOA, awareness of the terrible psychological abuse I suffered at the hands of my own mother began to gel. I’m not saying people who like MOA are abusers. But knowing it was my mother’s favorite book doesn’t surprise me anymore. As a pagan, I’m offended to the point of considering it sacrilege, how MZB portrayed the religion. It’s one thing to have compassion for the barbarous superstitions and brutality that may have existed in the past. It’s another to attempt to bring it sympathetically into the present, and pass it off as something to admire and tolerate.

  63. kaathe

    @Dorothy K:

    Just read this. If you dont believe her after the ex-lover of mzb told of the allegations against breen AND mzb, what will you believe then?
    Obvioudly she told this, that breen raped her, that mzb molested her before a civil court MORE THAN SIXTEEN YEARS AGO.

    Well i threw up a bit



  1. Silence is complicity | Artemis Flight Books - […] Silence is complicity […]
  2. Your Happening World (June 17th through June 18th) | Wis[s]e Words - […] Silence is Complicity — The Radish. – I don’t know how we can make this right to the hundreds,…
  3. When Heroes Fall | Wonk-o-Mance - […] about this extensively in the past few weeks, including Deirdre Saoirse Moen on her blog and Natalie Luhrs at Radish Reviews, triggered…
  4. To Linkspam And Beyond! (20 June 2014) | Geek Feminism Blog - […] Silence is Complicity | Natalie Luhrs at The Radish. (Jun 16): [Warning for discussion of harassment and sexual abuse of…
  5. The Reading List, 6/22/2014 » Almost Diamonds - […] Silence is Complicity–”First, some history, It was widely known–in some circles–that Marion Zimmer Bradley was complicit in the sexual…
  6. Rape, Abuse, and Marion Zimmer Bradley - […] Silence is Complicity. Natalie Luhrs talks about Breen, MZB, and the damage done by prioritizing silence over safety, complicity…
  7. When your idol has feet of clay – and worse. | I open my mouth and the words come out - […] […]
  8. Associated Geekery » Associated Geekery Episode #54 - […] subject, (some listeners may want to skip ahead from the intro to about 9m:00) the story of author Marion…
  9. Marion Zimmer Bradley: Because This Sort of Thing Can’t Be Talked About Enough | SL Huang - […] Natalie Luhrs and Jim Hines with good discussion and more links […]
  10. PMP: Marion Zimmer Bradley, sex abuse, separate the art from the artist | Pagan-Musings Podcast Channel - […] Natalie Luhrs wrote on The Radish about the fallacies communities will create or embrace to explain away, ignore, or…
  11. Marion Zimmer Bradley and fandom’s failing | Amy Keeley - […] Silence is complicity – Natalie Luhrs […]
  12. New Anti-Incest Campaign Employs Disney Princesses - […] story of incest demonstrates that not only are non-abusing parents complicit in incest, but entire communities may protect abusers and…
  13. Power, abuse, fandom | No Award - […] Marion Zimmer Bradley enabled her husband to sexually abuse children, and molested her daughter.  Though the business with her…
  14. 13 fay stories that I recommend | Brewing Tea & Books - […] books I have by her because I will not be rereading them. If you want to read more about…
  15. 100 of the Best Fantasy Authors from the Past Century? | Brewing Tea & Books - […] I am no longer happy that Marion Zimmer Bradley is on the list, after knowing what she has done (child rape…
  16. The MZB scandals (adult content, trigger warnings) | Blue night. Black iron. Golden rope. - […] has a thread on it here. The Radish Report story begins here. Teleread has a couple of very thoughtful…
  17. I read Jekyll. Now I learn about Hyde | Fraser Sherman's Blog - […] works (I’ll see what I think when I reread them some day). All that being said, radishreviews points out…


Words of Wisdom

"It's chaos, be kind."
Michelle McNamara