Marion Zimmer Bradley, feted author of feminist science fiction and fantasy, was a child molester. As far back as 1999 there were accusations Bradley had enabled the crimes committed by her husband, convicted paedophile Walter Breen; the charge was led by Stephen Goldin, whose stepson was one of Breen’s victims. But it was not until 2014 that the full extent of Bradley’s complicity was made public. This happened when Deirdre Saoirse Moen contacted Bradley and Breen’s children and received a first-hand testimony from their daughter Moira Greyland stating that Bradley was not merely an enabler, she was an active molester herself.
Elisabeth Waters, Bradley’s longtime associate, had previously condemned the material on Goldin’s website as “lies” and “disgusting”, and made a series of suspect attempts to discredit him. Goldin’s response to Waters’ attacks can be read here; this is how Goldin characterises Waters:
I feel Lisa Waters is a disgusting excuse for a human being, a woman who leeched off of Marion for decades and will take the most outrageous, pointless and petty actions to try to preserve the value of the Bradley estate so she can continue to leech off it even after Marion’s death.
Knowing how petty and spiteful Lisa Waters is, I wouldn’t be surprised if she tried to sue me. Be my guest, Lisa; I can back up everything I say.
Goldin also posted Waters’ deposition. Here, Waters claimed that Moira Greyland had described being abused at a ritual in which two people, an adult and a baby, were murdered:
[Moira] said that some men in white robes tied her up and hung her on the wall and poured hot coffee on her and spilled, I think, spilled hot wax on her skin and killed a baby in front of her and killed a grown-up in front of her and gave her something to eat and told her — something to eat — some funny meat and told her it was her baby brother, and she has never had a baby brother. She said a lot of stuff, and none of it made sense.
However, Moira Greyland does not mention ritual murder in any of her public statements about the abuse committed by her parents. So where did this detail come from?
A likely answer is that Waters fabricated the detail about satanic sacrifice in an attempt to discredit Moira Greyland. This was an argument made by Comic Book Resources poster “Schwarzschild Radius” during a discussion about the scandal:
The problem with that testimony is it is from a hostile witness, Elisabeth Waters, who was MZB’s secretary and lover and who is now the major beneficiary of MZB’s royalties and book profits.
Ms. Waters is giving hearsay about MZB’s daughter in the course of telling the questioner about her own activities. Elsewhere in the testimony Ms. Waters relates that Moira told her that MZB groped the child sexually in the shower and Ms. Waters did nothing about it. She also relates that Moira told her that MZB and her husband had both sexually assaulted their own children and she did nothing about that either.
Moira is not the person speaking here. The person speaking is a person who was in a position of authority, was told about the abuse, and kept silent about it.
The Satanic ritual story is an odd one, but it does not come from Moira.
I would go so far as to say it comes from a person with a vested interest in discrediting Moira.
Moira’s actual accounts of her sexual abuse at her mother’s hands fit with the pattern established in the household of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Walter Breen, and fit in exactly with undeniably witnessed activities sworn to under oath.
As we can see, there are – at the very least- reasonable grounds to suspect Elisabeth Waters of attempting to cover up the abuse committed by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
But what about the wider SF community? Are any other authors or prominent fans trying to hide Bradley’s crimes?
As far as I can tell, the simple answer is no.
Let us have a quick roll-call of responses to the Marion Zimmer Bradley abuse scandal in 2014. On Twitter, John Scalzi referred to the revelation as “horrible”:
Here is how his Twitter followers responded:
Next, here are Jim C. Hines’ thoughts on the affair:
I believe the Sword & Sorceress series was important, and I’m grateful to Bradley for creating it. I believe her magazine helped a lot of new writers, and her books helped countless readers. All of which makes the revelations about Marion Zimmer Bradley protecting a known child rapist and molesting her own daughter and others even more tragic…
There’s more out there, including people defending MZB, as well as people insisting we must “separate the art from the artist” and not let MZB’s “alleged” crimes detract from the good she’s done. And there’s the argument that since MZB died fifteen years ago, there’s no point to bringing up all of this ugliness and smearing the name of a celebrated author.
To begin with, while Bradley and Breen are both gone from this world, their victims survive. The damage they inflicted lives on. Are you going to tell victims of rape/abuse that nobody’s allowed to acknowledge what was done to them? That the need to protect the reputation of the dead is more important than allowing victims their voice? To hell with that.
Accusations of a cover-up
But yet, certain parties insist that left-wing SF fandom is trying to cover up the child abuse committed by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
To trace the origins of this accusation, we must start with a 2015 essay by Moira Greyland. Here, she begins by once again describing the abuse that she received, before going on to blame the gay culture to which Bradley and Breen belonged. “It IS the homosexuality that is the problem,” she says, before condemning those without “the willingness to accept the possibility that homosexuality might actually have the result of destroying children and even destroying the adults who insist on remaining in its thrall.”
In 2016, Vox Day’s Rabid Puppies campaign included Greyland’s essay on its slate, and successfully got the article nominated for Best Related Work at the Hugo Awards; the other four nominees in the category were also from the Rabid slate. The Hugo voters decided against presenting an award in that category by voting “No Award” above the finalists.
Here is how Sad Puppies founder Larry Correia described the turn of events:
Moira Greyland exposed to the culture of rape and pedophilia in old fandom, and not the made up “rape culture” the modern feminists accuse anybody who disagrees with them of. It was a gut wrenching expose in a category normally won by fluff. But they wanted that swept under the rug. No Award.
Russell Newquist, founder of indie publisher Silver Empire, spoke along similar lines. Here is a blog post he made when the nominees were first announced:
There is a critical message this year that far exceeds anything else to do with the Hugos. It boils down to two specific works, both of which have been nominated in the “Best Related Work” category:
The first is “Safe Space as Rape Room: Science Fiction Culture and Childhood’s End.” Written by Daniel Eness for the Castalia House blog. The second is “The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland.
These two works are not just the most important published works of the science fiction community of 2015. They are the most important works of this millennium.Both essays are painful. If you are a normal human being, they will make you cringe and possibly cry. If you love science fiction and fantasy as much as I do, they will burn even deeper.But they must be read. And we must get the word out, even more. These essays must get every bit of attention that they can.
Daniel Eness’ “Safe Space as Rape Room”, incidentally, is a series of articles derived in large part from Deirdre Moen and Will Shetterly’s writings on the subject of paedophilia in SF. Eness added some points of his own, generally made to smear people personally disliked by Vox Day (whose publishing company, Castalia House, ran the essays). For example, Eness repeatedly states that John Scalzi is a self-identified rapist – an entirely false claim that is based on a deliberate misreading of this satirical blog post.
After the awards were presented, Newquist ran a follow-up post:
The perverted SJWs who make up the majority of the convention are covering for sexual predators, molestation, and child rape. There are some who still seem to think there is something redeemable about this collection of perverts.
Not one but two child rape exposes received Hugo Award nominations this year. “Safe Space as Rape Room” by Jeffro [sic] and “The Story of Moira Greyland” by Moira Greyland. Lest you feel this somehow excuses them, please note that these two exposes only made the ballots due to extraordinary efforts of outside forces. This is conclusively demonstrated by the sad news out of WorldCon this weekend. Not only did neither of these tales win the award – that would be OK, if disappointing. More to the point, bothof them were voted well underneath “No Award.” For those unfamiliar with Hugo Award voting, that means that the majority (in this case the vast majority) of the perverts who attend WorldCon believed that exposing this very serious issue not only wasn’t the best “related work” this year, but that these articles weren’t even worthy of the nomination in the first place.
In other words, these sickos believe that exposing actual, documented child rape is an unworthy cause.
Why? There is only one plausible explanation. This kind of sick perversion continues to this day and these people are covering for it.
Novelist Declan Finn admitted that he had never heard of Moira Greyland until after the nominations were announced, but nonetheless became quickly convinced that a cover-up was taking place. He took particular exception to a blog post by George R. R. Martin, describing the 2016 Best Related Work category as a “toxic swamp”:
Sooo….. George Rape Rape Martin, do you have a problem with The Story of Moira Greyland because she’s taking one of the sacred cows of your “Fandom” and making a stake out of her? Is that your problem? Because frankly, making a rape victim a punching bag because she kicked over the rock that you and people like you hid MZB, her husband, and creatures like them…?
Dear George RR Martin, the only reason to hate this story is because you didn’t want to hear the truth about a rapist in the midst of your depraved, vile gathering of corrupt, contemptible people who would let rape happen, turn a blind eye to rape because of politics. Screw you.
Stronger language is probably illegal. Because trust me, I want to throw rocks.
A blogger named Political Hat also commented:
One of the nominees was “The Story of Moira Greyland” by the daughter of Marion Zimmer Bradley, outlining the molestation she was a victim of by her mother, and of her child molester father, who died in prison after being convicted of molesting an eleven year old boy.
During the awards ceremony, between announcing the title and author, and the announcing of the publisher which was in this case the website “askthebigot.com”, the toastmaster, Pat Cadigan, slipped in the aside “she would know”.
That moment validated the complaint that the “inner fandom” protects their own, particularly if they were into “alternate sexualities”. The Hugo Awards have indeed become insular an incestuous in nature.
This post requires some context. The video of the Hugo Award presentation can be seen here, with Best Related Work being handled at 52:10 in. The Greyland article is listed on the ballot as “The Story of Moira Greyland, by Moira Greyland”; as should be thunderingly obvious, Pat Cadigan’s “she would know” comment was simply a reference to this awkward phrasing. Trying to paint it as an attempt to support paedophilia is absurd.
(In fairness, PoliticalHat did update the post with a reference to the this alternate reading after being contacted by Pat Cadigan).
Another commentator was novelist Brian Niemeier:
Two nominees in the Best Related Work category this year were “Safe Space as Rape Room” and “The Story of Moira Greyland”. Both are chilling accounts of the very real child abuse allegations in the same old guard SF community that still controls Worldcon…
Worldcon reacted to these scathing exposes by first banning them from the voter packet and then voting their entire category below No Award.
The clique that runs Worldcon has revealed itself as not just politically biased, but as so desperate to cover up allegations of child abuse that it burned its own house down in a clumsy attempt to hide the evidence.
Take it from a lifelong Catholic, Worldcon members. When your leadership tries to cover up evidence of child abuse, it never ends well.
Were the two articles truly “banned from the voter packet”, as Niemeier claims?
Well, “Safe Space as Rape Room” was indeed excluded from the free pack of etexts that was supplied to voters; a document containing a link to the online version was supplied instead. The reason given was that the series quoted fictional descriptions of child sexual abuse that may be illegal in certain jurisdictions, which seems an entirely valid concern.
But Moira Greyland’s essay, in direct contradiction to the false claim made by Brian Niemeier, was included in the voters’ packet. I can personally verify this, as I still have a copy of the PDF file. Either Niemeier was too incompetent to check the facts before mounting a serious accusation, or he simply resorted to telling a flat-out lie in order to sustain the narrative.
Niemeier also posted this on Twitter:
“Spacefaringkitten” had, months beforehand, devoted an entire blog post to “The Story of Moira Greyland”. Here is the opening paragraph:
It’s reprehensible. Moira Greyland, the daughter of fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley and science fiction fandom figure Walter Breen, was abused by her parents. Now, she is abused by Theodore “Vox Day” Beale who exploits her tragic story in his effort “destroy the Hugo awards”.
So, far from covering up Bradley’s crimes, Spacefaringkitten is openly acknowledging them in the second line of the article. How can that possibly be described as a cover-up?
I, too, have been targeted by these accusations:
The blog post in question is one where I call out Phil Sandifer (a left-wing SF blogger and opponent of the Puppies) for supporting Sarah Nyberg (an individual with a history of exhibiting paedophilic tendencies). Somehow, Lett Guo has taken this to mean that I myself am a paedophile defender. Exactly what warped logic went into this line of reasoning is beyond me.
(As an aside, the Nyberg affair is what I would expect a fandom cover-up to look like. I was following a chunk of her support base on Twitter when the controversy hit, and personally witnessed them spinning lies to make it look as though the evidence against her was entirely forged by Gamergate. I have seen nothing, nothing, of the like occur in the case of Bradley.)
It is worth noting that, out of the above-quoted posts by Correia, Newquist, Finn, Niemeier and Political Hat, none directly mention the anti-gay aspect of Moira Greyland’s article. Political Hat makes a brief, indirect acknowledgement with a comment about “alternative sexualities”, but beyond that, each of these bloggers has decided to portray the essay purely as an exposé of the abuse committed by Bradley and Breen, and to ignore its controversial statements about gay culture.
Compare this to Vox Day’s summary of Greyland’s article, published the day after it went live:
Moira Greyland obliterates the rainbow
Given what she’s survived at the hands of the gay community already, I don’t think they’re going to intimidate her one little bit. The daughter of feminist icon Marion Zimmer Bradley and convicted child molester Walter Breen shines sunlight on the dark underbelly of homosexual culture and its obsession with molesting children.
The difference in focus is quite remarkable. Day himself clearly found Greyland’s criticism of the LGBT movement to be the most noteworthy aspect of the article, and had no qualms about presenting it as an anti-gay piece. But after the Hugos, this reading became inconvenient: few people would be shocked by an anti-LGBT essay being snubbed for an award. And so, Day’s allies changed tack and began ignoring Greyland’s comments about homosexuality altogether, so that her essay could be presented as purely anti-paedophile. An anti-paedophile article being snubbed by the Hugos, now that would be juicy.
Why didn’t the Puppies nominate Moira Greyland in 2015?
As I mentioned at the start of this post, Moira Greyland had exposed the abuse committed by Bradley back in 2014, with the help of Deirdre Saoirse Moen. This was a year before Greyland published her controversial anti-gay article.
Vox Day could have included the Moen/Greyland exposé of Bradley on the 2015 Rabid Puppies slate (which, to put things in perspective, contained a joke book) but he specifically decided against it:
I don’t regard the Hugo Awards as being the place to recognize investigative journalism, otherwise I would have nominated Saorse Moen’s stunning revelations about Marion Zimmer Bradley as a Best Related Work.
To recap: Moira Greyland’s testimony of the abuse she suffered at the hands of Bradley was, thanks to Moen, available in 2014, had been discussed extensively within fandom, and could have been included on one or both of the Puppy lists.
But it was only after Greyland spoke out against gay culture in 2015 that the Rabid Puppies began championing her writing as Hugo-worthy.
It is also worth mentioning that, while Moira Greyland’s article about gay culture made it onto the 2016 Rabid Puppies slate, it is nowhere to be found on the 2016 Sad Puppies list. If we look at the list’s recommendation thread, we can see that not one person found it worth their while to nominate the Greyland piece. So much for “most important work of the millennium”.
What the Puppies’ detractors actually said
As we have seen, the opponents of the Puppies were tarred as “depraved”, “vile”, “perverted SJWs”, “sickos” and “desperate to cover up allegations of child abuse” for their response to Moira Greyland’s essay.
So, what exactly did they say about the article in question…?
Let us start with this post by Camestros Felapton:
This is an emotional confronting true story of her experience of abuse at the hands of her parents, Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Bradley, of course, was a notable science fiction/fantasy author and Walter Breen was a prominent figure in US SFF fandom.
Naturally this is a disturbing and deep piece of writing that will affect readers in many ways. I’m not sure it is possible to adequately review a personal testimony such as this…
If we must consider context then we can hardly ignore that the essay is on the ballot for the express purpose of furthering Vox Day and the Alt-Right’s multiple (and confused) agendas. But their message is not Greyland’s message. Is there not value in voting for this essay if only to highlight that message that Greyland focuses on in the early part of the essay LISTEN AND BELIEVE what survivors of abuse are saying?
However judged on this basis Greyland’s piece also fails. Her attempt to conflate the issue of child-safety with opposition to same-sex marriage clearly does far more harm than good. Abuse occurs in all kinds of families and attempting to outlaw one kind of family does nothing positive towards child safety.
In addition as a message to fandom it is of limited affect. More worrisome is that through no fault of her own, Greyland’s essay is part of an attempt by the alt-right to push fandom backwards.
The above can scarcely be described as an attempt to cover up the abuse committed by Bradley, as it openly acknowledges that this abuse took place. Camestros Felapton’s objections are instead based on the essay’s conclusions about homosexuality, and its exploitation by Vox Day and the alt-right.
Next, here is a comment on Felapton’s post, made by “JJ”:
The fact that Greyland’s parents were an author and someone who was quite active in fandom are peripheral to what the work actually is: a story of abuse, fighting it and the disbelief to which she was subjected, the willingness of some people to make excuses or look the other way, and — hopefully — healing. The story is worth reading (despite its attempt to erroneously conflate gay people with pedophiles), and I hope that people will read it. It’s relevant to everyone, not just fans. But it’s not a Related Work, and it will be going below “No Award” on my ballot.
Again, this is not a cover-up. While questioning the essay’s appropriateness for the category in which it was nominated, JJ actively encourages people to read it, and acknowledges that it offers a valuable account of the abuse committed by Bradley.
Next, here is a post by “Katster” of Conceptual Neighbourhood:
In her essay, Greyland cites a study that agrees with her point of view. This survey is considered controversial. The journal in which the study was published commissioned an audit and found that the paper was severely flawed. The children identified in the study may have had a gay or lesbian parent; however only two subjects had lived with a same sex couple their whole lives. The others were generally products of divorce. Indeed, the study can be read to suggest that gay marriage ought to be legal as the conclusion readily shows stability is one of the more important measures of well-adjusted kids.
I sincerely hope Ms. Greyland is finding such help and support as is appropriate at this time, and my heart goes out to her and her courage in telling such a horrific story. I want her to know, even if I disagree with her opinion, I am glad she is still here and fighting to become more than her parents told her she was. What I see is a brave and wonderful woman who has done two difficult things — spoke of her burdens out loud, and committed to fighting the demons of her past. I hope the truth she has shared allows her to become a better artist.
I also hope Ms. Greyland’s story causes us to think and examine the behavior of the people and communities we encounter. It should serve as a warning to be cautious of those who have managed to build a cult of personality around themselves, whether that person is L. Ron Hubbard, Marion Zimmer Bradley, or Theodore Beale.
As for the essay itself, I admire Ms. Greyland’s attempt to tell a horrible truth. However, if this had been an essay about anyone other than a famous science fiction author, it never would have been considered for Best Related Work. As is, it hangs tenuously on that border because of who Marion Zimmer Bradley was. Unfortunately, I have to give this item no rank on my ballot. It is not because I did not appreciate the work, nor was it a lack of empathy toward Ms. Greyland that determines this choice. Instead I am appalled at the apparent desire of the Rabids to wield this matter as a club in a blatant attempt to co-opt the name recognition and scandal for their own agenda while ignoring the individual behind the work.
Once again, no honest person could describe the above as an attempt to defend Marion Zimmer Bradley or to obscure Moira Greyland’s testimony of the abuse that she suffered.
Katster received a reply from “Lirazel” which makes a similar point to the original post:
If fandom wants to do something to honor the terrible things the Greyland children have been through, or to put safeguards in place in some way, I think that would be a fine thing. Being pawn in someone else’s political game is just more abuse.
Returning to the Spacefaringkitten post which I quoted earlier, here is a comment it received from “Lurkertype”:
[P]redators can always spot survivors and know their weak points. That’s what [Vox Day] is doing. Re-victimizing a survivor, taking advantage of her. He’s trying to break her, not help her.
And yes, I have met her, a number of times over many years. She needs kindness and help dealing with her anger, not evil people encouraging it beyond reason.I fear taking up with this group is going to make her worse and injure her hard-fought-for healing.
She WAS (past tense) broken. She got free and healed. Now someone’s trying to break her again for their own profit. “Vile” is too kind a word.
Between them, the posts by Spacefaringkitten, Camestros Felapton, Katster, JJ, Lirazel and Lurkertype make a set of basic points:
- Greyland’s article is a document of child abuse carried out by public figures, and so should be read and learned from;
- Greyland draws questionable conclusions regarding homosexuality;
- The article, and by extension the abuse suffered by Greyland, are being exploited by Vox Day and his alt-right hangers-on for their own purposes;
- The article is of dubious suitability for the Best Related Work category (bear in mind that Vox Day himself made this point about Greyland’s post at Deirdre Moen’s blog).
None of these points – none of them – can sensibly be described as showing support for Marion Zimmer Bradley. And yet, it is essentially from these opinions that the myth of a fandom-wide cover-up has been extrapolated.
The matter of Milo Yiannopoulos
Around a year ago, when the Moira Greyland and Daniel Eness articles were slated onto the Hugo ballot, the Rabid Puppies mounted a Twitter campaign using the hashtags #Pedophandom and #Pedofandom (they apparently did not decide on an exact spelling). The above conspiracy theory about an alleged Marion Zimmer Bradley cover-up was a key part of this campaign.
Now, in 2017, it is clear that the campaign never really caught on, and never will catch on. In addition to the overall flimsiness of its arguments, which I have outlined above, we also have the awkward matter of the recent scandal involving Milo Yiannopoulos, who appeared in a podcast interview saying that it is sometimes morally acceptable for adults to have sex with 13-year-olds.
Yiannopoulos has long been an ally to the Puppies; earlier this year he lent his name to the Puppy-affiliated Forbidden Thoughts anthology. And so, when the scandal hit, a large chunk of the Puppy movement defended him to the hilt. See Camestros Felapton’s posts on the “Milomeltdown” here, here and here for examples.
This turn of events really does underline the rank opportunism and hypocrisy of the #Pedophandom push.
“By spinning a pedophilia advocacy narrative against a victim of child sex abuse, the media establishment showed just how frightened they are”, says Brian Niemeier. John C. Wright, one of the most prominent members of the Puppy community, condemns Yiannopoulos’ detractors for “savaging a victim of sexual child abuse at the one spot in his psychology where he is no doubt most vulnerable, accusing him of being a supporter of the very abuse he suffered and fights”. Both men have conveniently forgotten how the #Pedophandom narrative targeted Samuel R. Delany – who is also a victim of child sexual abuse. One rule for friends and another for enemies in Puppyland, evidently.
It is worth noting that each of these two posts brought up the potential commercial value of the scandal. Wright expressed pride that the controversy had given Forbidden Thoughts a sales boost, while Niemeier framed the attacks as coming from the corrupt mainstream media – and then went on to promote his self-published books as a morally sound alternative.
I am simply not seeing moral consistency here. All I am seeing is a consistent opportunism: the usage of any scandal or controversy as an excuse to paint “us” as good and “them” as bad.
In conclusion, I have found only one person – Elisabeth Waters – who could fairly be accused of trying to cover up the abuse committed by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
But people trying to exploit that abuse? They, on the other hand, are all too plentiful.