Authors: Marion Zimmer Bradley

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

The Door Through Space, 1961

“The Planet Savers” and “The Sword of Aldones,” 1962

The Bloody Sun, 1964

Star of Danger, 1965

The Winds of Darkover, 1970

The World Wreckers, 1971

Darkover Landfall, 1972

Hunters of the Red Moon, 1973 (with Paul Edwin Zimmer)

The Spell Sword, 1974

The Heritage of Hastur, 1975

The Shattered Chain, 1976

The Forbidden Tower, 1977

The House Between the Worlds, 1980

Two to Conquer, 1980

Sharra’s Exile, 1981

Web of Light, 1983

The Mists of Avalon, 1983

Thendara House, 1983

The Firebrand, 1987

Witch Hill, 1990

Renunciates of Darkover, 1991

The Forest House, 1993 (also known as The Forests of Avalon)

Rediscovery: A Novel of Darkover, 1993

Towers of Darkover, 1993

Witchlight, 1996

Glenraven, 1996 (with Holly Lisle)

Gravelight, 1997

Lady of Avalon, 1997

The Shadow Matrix: A Novel of Darkover, 1997

Heartlight, 1998

In the Rift, 1998 (with Lisle)

Traitor’s Sun: A Novel of Darkover, 1998

Priestess of Avalon, 2000

The Fall of Neskaya, 2001 (with Deborah J. Ross)

Short Fiction:

The Dark Intruder, and Other Stories, 1964

“A Sword of Chaos,” 1981

“The Lesson of the Inn,” 1981

The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley, 1985

Lythande, 1986


“Responsibilities and Temptations of Women Science Fiction Writers,” 1985

Edited Texts:

Sword and Sorceress: An Anthology of Heroic Fantasy, 1985-1999 (series; 19 volumes as of 2002)

Snows of Darkover, 1994

Children’s/Young Adult Literature:

The Brass Dragon, 1970


Recognized as a major science-fiction and fantasy writer since 1975, Marion Zimmer was born in East Greenbush, New York, a community near Albany. She grew up doing chores on the family farm. Her elementary school entrance was delayed a year; however, once in school, she skipped two grades. As a teenager, she contracted rheumatic fever, which probably helped steer her in the direction of intellectual, rather than athletic, pursuits. Her early reading included Arthurian legend, and while still in high school, she began a novel set in ancient Britain that influenced the later The Mists of Avalon. Following some study at New York State College for Teachers, she married Robert A. Bradley, after which she lived in various small towns in Texas. They had one son, David Robert.{$I[AN]9810001976}{$I[A]Bradley, Marion Zimmer}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Bradley, Marion Zimmer}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Bradley, Marion Zimmer}{$I[tim]1930;Bradley, Marion Zimmer}

Divorced in 1963, Marion Zimmer Bradley entered Hardin-Simmons University, graduating in 1963 with a triple major. Bradley’s first published science-fiction stories, “Women Only” and “Keyhole,” appeared in Vortex in 1953. Her first science-fiction novel, The Door Through Space, set on the planet Wolf, was followed by the first Darkover novel, The Sword of Aldones, which was nominated for the Hugo Award.

Like William Faulkner, who created the mythical Yoknapatawpha County as the world of a number of novels, Bradley conceived a dim red star, Darkover, as the realm of the Darkover novels. She established a chronology that includes an Age of Chaos and the Age of the Hundred Kingdoms. Another group of space inhabitants, the Terrans, plays an important role in the novels. After many conflicts, the Darkoverans and the Terrans begin to exchange knowledge. The usual plot of a Darkover novel follows the relationships between a tradition-bound society on Darkover and a technologically obsessed Terran Empire. A Terran boy is generally a misfit who, after many risks and trials, finds his place on Darkover. The Darkoverans accept outsiders only on their own terms, so the price is high, but the reward is great. Satisfying long-term relationships are important, as is kinship. The planet provides an alternative to rootlessness, and communication flourishes. The idea that nothing worthwhile is gained without risk is an underlying thesis in the Darkover novels.

In 1964, the year of her marriage to Walter Breen, the central Darkover novel, The Bloody Sun, was published. It contains the seed for later events as well as the results of what had gone on before. Other 1960’s works include the Darkover novel Star of Danger and three gothic novels. In 1967, Bradley and her family moved to Staten Island, New York. Bradley had a son, Patrick, and a daughter, Moira, with Breen.

The 1970’s was a prolific decade for Bradley. The Brass Dragon was a juvenile science-fiction story. Hunters of the Red Moon was a major science-fiction novel on which Bradley’s brother, Paul Edwin Zimmer, collaborated, as he did on some scenes in The Spell Sword, a Darkover novel. In 1972 the family moved to Berkeley, California, expecting the move to be a permanent one. That same year, Bradley’s Darkover Landfall created some controversy among feminist (and other) readers because one of the characters had to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. The 1975 novel The Heritage of Hastur was thought by many to be the best Darkover novel to date. A major character is Regis Hastur, a promising political leader who had appeared in several other Darkover novels. The Shattered Chain focuses on the “Free Amazons” and Darkoveran womanhood in general. The next year, The Forbidden Tower was nominated for the Nebula Award and received the Hamilton-Brackett Memorial Award.

During this period, Bradley was certified to practice psychological counseling. This and other preparation resulted in her ordination as a priest in the Pre-Nicene Catholic Church; she subsequently established the Centre for Nontraditional Religion. The 1980’s Darkover fiction included Two to Conquer, Sharra’s Exile, Web of Light, and four other novels. The decade was especially important, however, in terms of non-Darkover work. The Mists of Avalon, which had been started years earlier as “Mistress of Magic,” was published and was a best-seller. Unlike the subject matter of her other novels, this one is a retelling of the King Arthur legend, unique in that it is told from the perspective of the women in the legend. Declared by many to be Bradley’s masterpiece, the book is solidly grounded in historical and literary research and is clearly the work of a highly creative imagination.

Beginning in the late 1980’s, Bradley started her own magazine and her series of anthologies, Sword and Sorceress: An Anthology of Heroic Fantasy. Despite ill health, she dedicated much of her time to encouraging new writers, particularly women. She also continued to write novels in the Darkover series and added new novels to the Avalon saga. In Firebrand, she took The Mists of Avalon concept and applied it to the Trojan War, viewing the events through the eyes of the tragic character Cassandra.

Bradley divorced Breen in 1990 but continued her literary pursuits. She died following a heart attack in Berkeley on September 25, 1999.

BibliographyArbur, Rosemarie. Leigh Brackett, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Anne McCaffrey: A Primary and Secondary Bibliography. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982. A comprehensive bibliography through the early 1980’s in the Masters of Science Fiction and Fantasy series. Includes indexes.Arbur, Rosemarie. Marion Zimmer Bradley. Mercer Island, Wash.: Starmont House, 1985. Provides a great overall look at Bradley’s work, with biographical and chronological overviews as well as analyses of the fiction, divided into types such as Darkover, non-Darkover science fiction, and fantasy.Browne, Pat, ed. Heroines of Popular Culture. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987. Contains an essay discussing Bradley’s debt to the Beguinal societies in the use of sisterhood in her Darkover novels.Hildebrand, Kristina. The Female Reader at the Round Table: Religion and Women in Three Contemporary Arthurian Texts. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University Library, 2001. Places Bradley’s work within the context of the history of the Arthurian legends and women’s literature in general.Kaler, Anne K. “Bradley and the Beguines: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Debt to the Beguinal Societies in Her Use of Sisterhood in Her Darkover Novels.” In Heroines of Popular Culture, edited by Pat Browne. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1987. Discusses Bradley’s use of elements from real medieval societies of women in creating her Darkover novels.King, Betty. Women of the Future: The Female Main Character in Science Fiction. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1984. Provides background on how women characters have been portrayed in science fiction, placing Bradley’s work in historical perspective.Paxson, Diana L. “Marion Zimmer Bradley and The Mists of Avalon.” Arthuriana 9, no. 1 (Spring, 1999): 110-126. The author who has continued the series of Avalon books examines the biographical roots of Bradley’s female spirituality in The Mists of Avalon.Riggs, Don. “The Survival of the Goddess in Marie de France and Marion Zimmer Bradley.” Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 9, no. 1 (1998): 15-23. Compares the depictions of the goddess in twelfth century writer Marie de France’s Lanval and in Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon.Roberson, Jennifer, ed. Return to Avalon: A Celebration of Marion Zimmer Bradley. New York: DAW Books, 1996. Collection of appreciative essays–written primarily by other female luminaries writing in the science-fiction and fantasy genres–provides information about Bradley’s fiction.Russ, Joanna. “Recent Feminist Utopias.” In Future Females: A Critical Anthology, edited by Marleen S. Barr. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1981. Draws comparisons among many different feminist utopias created in works of fiction, including Bradley’s The Shattered Chain.Schwartz, Susan M. “Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Ethic of Freedom.” In The Feminine Eye, edited by Tom Staicar. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1982. Discusses the portrayal of women in the Darkover novels, particularly The Shattered Chain. Examines Bradley’s themes of choice and the price of choice and also emphasizes the importance of risk taking and choices involving tests of will and courage in the Darkover novels.Tober, Lee Ann. “Why Change the Arthur Story? Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon.” Extrapolation 34, no. 2 (Summer, 1993): 147-157. Argues the feminist significance of Bradley’s novel as an inversion of the male-centered Arthur legend.
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