During my high school years, Marion Zimmer Bradley was the single most famous female author in the genre. Her work, THE MISTS OF AVALON, was considered a seminal work of feminist fantasy as well as a major turning point in the interpretation of Arthurian lore. She was certainly a major influence on my writing. Bradley was also a pedophile as well as the assistant to her husband, who was also a sexual predator. These facts were officially "revealed" by Moira in 2014 but had been known by the science fiction and fantasy community for some time. Her husband had been sent to prison for such by Moira's testimony and Bradley, herself, confessed to knowing as well as abetting long before.
Walter Breen, Moira's father, openly admitted to his preferences and cried homophobia (which appropriately outraged less famous gay authors who heard about it) as well as bigotry to anyone who actually attempted to shield children away from him. It took a staggering number of years to ban the man from conventions even as his wife continued to be respected as a literary giant until her death.
Moira Greyland, not for the first time but now the most definitively, shares her story of surviving abuse at the hands of her parents as well as the bizarre world she lived in under their control. Both Bradley and Breen were both academic geniuses as well as sexual predators, choosing to raise their children in an environment that can sometimes read as a horrific Alice in Wonderland. In-between the horrific stories of abuse, we get Moira's frequent tidbits about her parents' theories on gender, sexuality, religion, feminism, and reality.
In a perverse way, you can almost see why Bradley and her husband got so much slack because they seem to have been fascinating people. But there's a dark undercurrent to all of their charming qualities and it becomes clear the more we read Moira's story that virtually everything they believed was built around justifying their behavior. They used a combination of pop psychology, a doctrine of free love, and a mixture of talking points about tolerance to defend themselves against accusations of evil. They played on their fame in fantasy circles to give themselves a fresh crop of victims. This is not an easy book to read nor is it a fun one. Walter Breen and Marion Zimmer Bradley (largely) got away with their crimes and were so open about their activities, its almost insane to believe the tales of their actions. Unfortunately, they've all been verified by multiple sources as being true.
Even the parts of her childhood where Ms. Greyland wasn't abused directly show her and her brother living in a thoroughly bizarre household where everything "mainstream" from gender identity to religion was treated with the utmost contempt. Bradley and Breen read like a Chick Track parody of atheist limousine liberal academics but were worse than anything right wing propaganda could dream up.
Some should note Moira has some beliefs which they may find distressing and are the result of her experiences. I refer to the fact she is against gay marriage and doesn't believe homosexuality is a choice. Thankfully, she doesn't equate homosexuality with pedophilia and notes her parents hid behind the defense the way other famous actors [read: Kevin Spacey] are presently doing. It would be grossly unfair to let this overshadow any of the deeply personal and courageous narrative she's sharing.
Speaking as a science fiction/fantasy author, gay rights activist, and feminist, I have to say this book took me awhile to get through. Every page is appalling, saddening, and infuriating. Things I strongly believed in were twisted as a shield for the family to hide behind. One of my closest and dearest was a sexual assault survivor and she loathed the fact Bradley, a survivor of sexual abuse herself, chose to pass it on. A fact which Moira Greyland herself struggles with understanding given she, certainly, would never have done such a thing.
It is also heartening in a very-very minor way because Moira Greyland, like several of my real life loved ones, is a survivor of sexual abuse and someone who emerged from it intact. She is an amazingly tough woman and I'm glad she chose to share her story with the world. I'm not a big fan of the man who she chose to be her editor, Vox Day and I disagreeing about virtually everything, but we agree this is a story which need to be told and he has my respect for that. This is a book which should be read but be aware it is a terrible, horrible, true story of many-many crimes.