(1930-1999) US sf and fantasy writer who initially established her reputation with the Darkover series of novels, primarily sf, though later novels in the series are more in the realm of Planetary Romance. She achieved bestseller status with her long Celtic Fantasy The Mists of Avalon (1982), which retold the legend of Arthur through the eyes of Morgan Le Fay, emphasizing the mystical aspects as well as the conflict between Christianity and the older Religions.
MZB made her first professional sale in 1953 with "Women Only" for Vortex Science Fiction #2. Although her early work was almost all sf, there was ever a flavour of the fantastic, inspired by her own delight in the works of C L Moore and Henry Kuttner, whose novel The Dark World (1946 Startling Stories) MZB pastiched in her first novel Falcons of Narabedla (1957 Other Worlds; 1964 dos), which presaged the Darkover series.
Darkover proper began with "The Planet Savers" (1958 Amazing Stories; 1962 dos). The series – which explores the fate of the descendants of human colonists on the planet Darkover, where the culture functions by psychic rather than technological power – shifted towards fantasy with The Spell Sword (1974); later Darkover novels, including the successor anthologies, are closer to Heroic Fantasy than to sf, and since the mid-1970s almost all of her work has been marketed as fantasy.
Her fantasies fall into three categories. She is most prolific in the field of basic Sword and Sorcery, starting with the J R R Tolkien-inspired stories The Jewel of Arwen (1974 chap) and The Parting of Arwen (1974 chap), set in Middle-Earth, and continuing through the Atlantis Chronicles – Web of Light (1982) and Web of Darkness (1984), assembled as Web of Darkness (omni 1985 UK; vt The Fall of Atlantis 1987 US) – to reach a nadir with Warrior Woman (1985), an intended feminist rebuttal of John Norman's Gor series which failed to rise above even Norman's level. Her Low-Fantasy work also includes the continuing story series Lythande, about a female Minstrel magician, which developed from the Thieves' World Shared World but now has a life of its own. Early tales in the series are collected as Lythande (coll 1986), which has one story by Vonda N McIntyre (1948-2019). Since 1982 MZB has also encouraged new writers into the field, firstly by letting them share her Darkover world and then by inviting them to contribute to a series of Anthologies that began with Greyhaven (anth 1983) and extended into an annual series, Sword and Sorceress, plus the singleton Spells of Wonder (anth 1989). In 1988 she began to publish Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine, which furthers much of the same, though with a wider remit in terms of fantasy styles. This magazine has spawned its own Anthology, The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine (anth 1994).
At the next level, MZB has published works of fantasy that explore more challenging concepts. These began with The House Between the Worlds (1980; rev 1981), a fairly routine novel of a Portal between two worlds, though it has a compelling development of character and motive. Others in this mode include Night's Daughter (1985) – based on Emanuel Schikaneder's libretto for Mozart's Opera The Magic Flute (1791) – and Ghostlight (1995). MZB also contributed to the Science-Fantasy Trillium series, writing Black Trillium (1990) with Andre Norton and Julian May and then writing solo the fourth volume, Lady of the Trillium (1995). This series has shallower characterization, but the imagery of the Trillium world is intense.
Thirdly there are MZB's more literary works, stories crafted, in the wake of The Mists of Avalon, to appeal to a wider readership than that for straightforward Genre Fantasy. These books focus on strong lead characters in mytho-historic settings, and have only a fine thread of the fantastic. The Firebrand (1987) explores the character and fate of Cassandra during and after the siege of Troy. The Forest House (1993 UK) relates to the Matter of Britain at the time of the Roman settlement, and probes the clash between the two cultures. These works display MZB's talent for plot, character, vision and fine storytelling. [MA]
The Darkover sequence: The Sword of Aldones (1962 dos) and The Planet Savers (1962 dos; plus "The Waterfall" coll 1976) – these two assembled as The Planet Savers/The Sword of Aldones (omni 1980) – The Bloody Sun (1964; rev plus "To Keep the Oath" coll 1979); Star of Danger (1965), The Winds of Darkover (1970); The World Wreckers (1971); Darkover Landfall (1972); The Spell Sword (1974); The Heritage of Hastur (1975); The Shattered Chain (1976); The Forbidden Tower (1976); Stormqueen! (1978); Two to Conquer (1980); Sharra's Exile (fixup 1981) – which considerably revises and expands The Sword of Aldones – Hawkmistress! (1982); Thendara House (1983); City of Sorcery (1984); The Heirs of Hammerfell (1989); Rediscovery (1993) – with Mercedes Lackey – and Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover (coll 1993); plus the Darkover anthologies ed MZB listed below.
The Survivors sequence: Hunters of the Red Moon (1973) and The Survivors (1979), both with Paul Edwin Zimmer (though was uncredited for the first).
Other sf/fantasy/Gothic: The Door Through Space (1961); Seven from the Stars (1962); The Colors of Space (1963; text restored 1983); The Dark Intruder and Other Stories (coll 1964); Castle Terror (1965); Souvenir of Monique (1967); Bluebeard's Daughter (1968); The Brass Dragon (1969); Dark Satanic (1972) and its sequels The Inheritor (1984) and Witch Hill (1990); In the Steps of the Master * (1973), tie to The Sixth Sense tv series; Can Ellen be Saved? (1975); Endless Voyage (1975; exp vt Endless Universe 1979); Drums of Darkness (1976); The Ruins of Isis (1978); The Måenåds (1978 chap), poem based on the Greek legend; Survey Ship (1980); The Best of Marion Zimmer Bradley (coll 1985; rev 1988; exp with new story "Jamie", vt Jamie and Other Stories 1993) ed Martin H Greenberg; Tiger Burning Bright (1995) with Andre Norton and Mercedes Lackey.
Nonfiction: Men, Halflings and Hero-Worship (1973 chap); The Necessity for Beauty: Robert W. Chambers and the Romantic Tradition (1974 chap) (see Robert W Chambers).
as editor (all in the Darkover series): The Keeper's Price (anth 1980); Sword of Chaos (anth 1982); Free Amazons of Darkover (anth 1985); The Other Side of the Mirror (anth 1987); Red Sun of Darkover (anth 1987); Four Moons of Darkover (anth 1988); Domains of Darkover (anth 1990); Renunciates of Darkover (anth 1991); Leroni of Darkover (anth 1991); Towers of Darkover (anth 1993); Snows of Darkover (anth 1994).
further reading: Marion Zimmer Bradley (1985) by Rosemarie Arbur; Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mistress of Magic: A Working Bibliography (1991 chap) by Gordon Benson Jr and Phil Stephensen-Payne; "Marion Zimmer Bradley" by Wendy Bradley, Interzone #42 (1990).
Marion Zimmer Bradley