Marion Zimmer Bradley 1930–
American novelist, short story writer, editor, and critic.
Bradley is a prolific science fiction and fantasy writer who is best known for her series of novels tracing the evolution of the planet Darkover. While the Darkover novels comprise a diversity of plots and time periods, they share a common setting and similar thematic concerns. Although all Darkovans are descendants of explorers from Earth, two different cultures have evolved. The Terrans rely on communal support and advanced technology, while the Darkovans are self-reliant and antitechnological. Bradley does not openly favor either one; her work often explores the conflicts that arise from opposing forces, and the Darkover novels, like her other works, usually end in reconciliation. Lester del Rey calls Darkover "one of the most fully realized of the worlds of science fiction," and critics in general praise Bradley's literate writing, intricate characterizations, and logical plots.
Among the serious issues addressed in the Darkover novels are the importance and the problems of communication between individuals. The first Darkover novel, The Sword of Aldones (1962), centers on Lew Alton and his acute sense of isolation which stems from both his physical deformities and his dual heritage—Darkovan and Terran. In The Forbidden Tower (1977), however, Bradley employs the Darkovans' telepathic powers in order to explore the extreme emotional and physical closeness of the four protagonists.
An undercurrent of feminism runs throughout the Darkover series. Bradley frequently examines sex roles and the limitations they place on the individual. One of the most notable examples of this idea occurs in The Shattered Chain (1976). Revolving around the struggles of three women for independence and self-realization, this novel explores both the necessity of choice and the inevitable pain and hardship that result from the freedom to choose. Critics have praised Bradley's ability to incorporate feminist and utopian ideals into the harsh realism of Darkover without diminishing the credibility of the characters or their society.
Bradley's feminist interests are also evident in her recent non-Darkover novel, The Mists of Avalon (1982). This novel, which retells the Arthurian legend from the viewpoint of the women involved, has received considerable critical attention. Critics on the whole are impressed with Bradley's accurate and detailed evocation of the times and consider The Mists of Avalon an important addition to the chronicles of Arthur. Aside from these novels, Bradley has also written numerous other works ranging from science fiction to science fantasy. Although most of her works are favorably received by critics, it is largely Bradley's Darkover series which gave rise to her popular appeal.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 57-60; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 7; and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 8.)