I haven’t been reading much lately, time and tiredness mostly, but yesterday I picked up a book I hoped would draw me back into a regular reading habit. With great enthusiasm I read the first few pages of The Forests of Avalon before bed. I’ve read and re-read The Mists of Avalon a few times and I looked forward to immersing myself in that same fantasy world again. I struggle to find books that really inspire me but finding this series was like coming home. I might even have gone as far as saying that Marion Zimmer Bradley had become my favourite author. But that was yesterday.
Today I sat down for a quick read before my youngest came in from school but I didn’t even get as far as opening the book before making a horrifying discovery that completely threw me off course. Before I settled into reading I decided to post a quick photograph of the book on Twitter with a couple of relevant hashtags on the off chance it might lead to a conversation with other fans I could share my enthusiasm with. Sometimes I publish a tweet and go straight back to what I was doing but this time I decided to click on one of those hashtags to see what other people had to say about the author’s work. Initially it was just more fans praising Zimmer Bradley’s work and so on but then something odd caught my eye. There was a whole account dedicated to ‘the truth’ about Marion Zimmer Bradley. On investigation (and believe me I googled the shit out of this because I really didn’t want to believe it!) I found that Marion Zimmer Bradley author of the Mists of Avalon and Darkover books had been accused of sexual abuse by her own daughter and although she died in 1999 it is apparently on record that she admitted to knowing her husband was a paedophile and rapist and that she did nothing about it allowing the abuse of their daughter and others to continue.
My initial reaction to the information as it was appearing before me was one of disbelief but as I read through the facts I had to face the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I deleted my tweet, horrified by the idea that I was promoting someone capable of such things. For a moment I considered if it was at all possible to somehow separate all this from the books as I read them but I know there is no way I could ever pick up one of her books again. Feeling heavy and sick I pulled all the books I owned off the shelf and threw them out for recycling. I’m not sure what I’m feeling right now. There is grief for the victims of the abuse of course but there is something else harder to define. It’s more than anger, disappointment and disgust, I think maybe it is another kind of grief , a grieving for the fantasy world I can no longer access. The portal to that other world has closed forever and I will never recommend it to anyone ever again.
So what do I fill this void with? I’ve been thinking of giving some Pratchett a go or re-reading The Lord of the Rings but neither contain the Goddess spirituality that was so intricately woven into The Mists of Avalon series. Oh what a gaping hole. I feel like my world just got a lot smaller!