Sword and Sorceress Critical Essays


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Marion Zimmer Bradley has stated that wom-en’s liberation rather than space exploration is the major event of the twentieth century, although she denies being a feminist and despises literature that stoops to propaganda. Bradley was one of the first popular science-fiction writers to feature independent female characters and one of the first women to achieve popularity in the formerly male-dominated field of science fiction. Early in her career, desperate to make a living, she wrote “soft porn,” lesbian romances, and gothic novels under such pseudonyms as Lee Chapman, John Dexter, Miriam Gardner, Morgan Ives, and Elfrida Rivers. From the 1970’s on, however, especially after publisher Don Wollheim of DAW books “discovered” her in 1975, she focused more steadily on quality science fiction and fantasy as her artistry increased. Most of her notable fiction emphasizes self-respect, spirituality, freedom of choice, and respect for the rights and values of others. The stories chosen for the Sword and Sorceress volumes reflect those emphases.

Rather than taking traditional wizard and warrior fantasy and simply plugging in female protagonists, Bradley has worked to develop a new sort of literature that speaks of individuality, partnership, self-knowledge, spiritual depth, and respect for diversity. The stories in the Sword and Sorceress volumes define gender roles less rigidly than does conventional fiction or even the majority of science fiction. To avoid making her anthologies mere platforms for feminist ideology, however, Bradley has included both male and female authors and has chosen dozens of stories with protagonists who relate well to men without being subservient to them. She has consciously eschewed...

(The entire section is 705 words.)