Read The Sword of Aldones Online

Authors: Marion Zimmer Bradley

Tags: #Fantasy, #Classics, #Science Fiction

The Sword of Aldones

The Sword of Aldones

The Darkover Series Book 02


With a New Introduction by RICHARD A. LUPOFF




Text copyright c 1962 by Ace Books, Jnc. Reprinted by arrangement with Ace Books. Introduction copyright c 1977 by G. K. Hall & Co.

Frontispiece illustration by Ricnarci Pow.

Printed on permanent durable acid-free paper and bound in the United States of America.

Republished in 1977 by Gregg Press, A Division of G. K. Hall & Co., 70 Lincoln Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02111.

First Printing, June

Endleaf map by Diana Paxson

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Bradley, Marion Zimmer. The sword of Aldones.

(The Gregg Press science fiction series)

Reprint of the ed. published by Ace Books, New York.

I. Title. PZ4.B79968Sw5 [PS3552.R228] 813’.5‘4 77-ISBN 0-8398-2367-


DESPITE A QUARTER CENTURY of producing science fiction, Marion Zimmer Bradley has only recently been recognized by any organized branch of the science fiction community. This community has become widespread, encompassing such diverse forms as publishing, television, motion pictures and recording. However, for present purposes the community may be regarded as comprising three major groups: the professionals (primarily authors, but also editors, illustrators, publishers, and critics); the fans (who may be denned as those readers whose enthusiasm leads them to participate in organized activities such as conventions and clubs); and the academics who have in recent years so enthusiastically albeit belatedly chosen to embrace science fiction as literature.

Bradley has never won a Science Fiction Achievement Award, or “Hugo,” the major token of recognition given by the fans since 1953 at their annual World Science Fiction Conventions. She was a finalist among the nominees only once, and that was for The Sword of Aldones (1962). She has never been designated Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention nor has she received a Nebula Award, the annual presentation of the Science Fiction Writers of America for literary achievement.

She has been the recipient of two of the less widely publicized and prestigious trophies of science fiction. One is the “Invisible Little Man,” a presentation of the Elves, Gnomes and Little Men’s Science Fiction, Chowder and Marching Society. This organization, less formally known as the Little Men, draws its name from the classic comic strip Barnaby by the late Crockett Johnson. The organization has a long-standing informal tie with the University of California at Berkeley. The “Invisible Little Man” is reserved specifically for persons who have been inexplicably overlooked in the presentation of other science fiction-related honors.

Coincidentally, Bradley received both the “Invisible Little Man” and the “Forry”

in 1976. The latter award, named for pioneer science fiction enthusiast Forrest J. Ackerman, is presented by the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, also as recognition of those otherwise overlooked.

Finally, in a period when academic dissertations, critical monographs, full-length studies and cooperative symposia have been devoted to many science fiction authors, Bradley has been virtually ignored.

Yet on a popular level—and despite the failure of the fan community to do her honor on other than a local and rather low-keyed basis—Bradley is an author of consistent and growing acceptance. Her books invariably sell well and are avidly collected. They generally get a favorable reception in the fan press, though professional reviews have been limited by Bradley’s own preference for paperback publication. This preference is based on a desire to gain rapid access to a mass audience, as well as on a long-standing loyalty to one editor, Donald A.

Wollheim, who has been associated with paperback publishing since the beginning of Bradley’s career as an author.

In past years the ephemeral quality of paperback publishing has caused most of Bradley’s books to go out of print, creating a premium market for them among used book dealers. More recently, however, almost all of Bradley’s books have been reissued, to the relief of her younger fans. It is a not uncommon sight at science fiction conventions and at signing parties sponsored by booksellers to see fans approach with stacks of books seeking Bradley’s signature on their often tattered title pages.

Although this disparity between the lack of official recognition and Bradley’s great popularity with readers is puzzling at first observation, there are several reasons for it.

First there is the nature of Bradley’s works themselves. Virtually every science fiction novel she has written (and Bradley is primarily a novelist, although she has produced several dozen short stories in the course of her career) is basically an action-adventure story. They concentrate on plot and physical action rather than on the examination of character or society. There is also an emphasis on the color and “wonder” of the setting.

Although there is nothing illegitimate or disrespectable about using the action-adventure format for a novel, especially a science fiction novel, it is not the type of story which attracts heavy academic or critical attention or literary honors. More often than not, these rewards are reserved for works that place their primary emphasis on character development, social analysis and commentary, moral and philosophical questions, or on ethics and problems of political and social policy.

In fact, the strong adventure-story orientation of Bradley’s novels and her failure to employ overt sexual descriptions or use strong language in dialogue or internalization has led to the categorization of these books, by such critics as have taken note of them at all, as quasi-juvenile fiction.

This criticism—if criticism it be—is not wholly without merit. One observer has described the typical Bradley fan as “a fat 13-year-old wearing a cape.” If this is an apt description, it certainly does not in itself make Bradley’s works unworthy of attention; rather, it behooves the observer to ask why Bradley’s books are so popular, and why they attract the audience they do. For starters, the books offer images of adventure, excitement, and romance which would appeal naturally to readers encountering the pains and dislocations of early adolescence. A similar audience has been attracted from time immemorial by certain books, and whether these books were overt juvenile fiction like Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island or Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, or allegedly adult fiction like J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the literary merit of these works is surely not diminished by their appeal to young readers.

A second reason for the lack of critical attention to Bradley’s books has been her choice of publishers. Bradley’s long-proven commercial appeal suggests that many publishers, including those who publish hardcovers, would be pleased to issue her future works. Nonetheless, only one of her science fiction novels has been issued by a house other than Ace or DAW. This was The Colors of Space (1963), published by the now-defunct Monarch Books. The reason for this break, Bradley explained in a recent interview, was that she had done a number of non-science fiction books for Monarch, and that publisher asked her for some science fiction as well. Her regular science fiction publisher at the time was Ace Books, and she felt that she had been providing material to Ace as fast as it could be used— thus, the one book for Monarch.

Bradley’s editor at Ace was Donald A. Wollheim. She felt an intense loyalty to Wollheim, and when he left Ace to found DAW Books—the name of the company is an acronym of his initials—she was quick to follow. Unfortunately for Bradley’s critical recognition, neither Ace nor DAW is widely regarded by critics and readers as a prestigious or even as a “serious” publisher.

Yet both of these houses—especially Ace Books during the late 1950s and early 1960s—provided early exposure, encouragement, and financial support for many beginning novelists. Some of these, of course, fell by the wayside while others achieved a minimal level of competence that they have maintained ever since.

Only a few outgrew their humble origins to achieve significant success and recognition, and in the course of doing so, they moved on to more prestigious, “serious” publishers. These few “alumni” include Robert Silverberg, Harlan Ellison, Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, R. A. Lafferty, and Thomas M.


It is instructive to trace the path followed by one of these “Wollheim alumni,”

Ursula K. Le Guin. Le Guin’s first appearance as a novelist was as the author of half of an Ace Double. (These are a line of books invented by Wollheim, in which two novels or collections are printed and bound back-to-back and upside-down, so that the reader sees the “front cover” any way he holds the book.) From the Ace Double, Le Guin graduated to a single Ace novel, still under Wollheim’s editorship. From this she progressed to an Ace Special, a premium paperback line edited by Terry Carr that placed a greater emphasis on literary values and less of the flavor of the old pulp magazines (Wollheim’s origin) than the standard Ace product (note that the publisher chose to segregate “serious” books under a separate rubric). Finally, Le Guin outgrew Ace altogether. Her recent juveniles have appeared under the imprints of Atheneum (in hardcover) and Bantam Books (in paperback). Her adult books have been issued by Harper & Row and by Berkley Putnam (hardcover) and by Avon and Berkley Medallion (paperback). Le Guin’s progress to increasingly prestigious publishers has paralleled (or has been paralleled by) increasing commercial and critical success.

Marion Zimmer Bradley, by contrast, has placed all of her science fiction books with Ace or DAW with the exception of her one placement with Monarch—and all because of Bradley’s strong sense of personal loyalty to Donald A. Wollheim.

For many years the editor-in-chief at Ace Books, Wollheim gave Bradley her initial encouragement and exposure as a novelist in the United States.

Consequently, she remained loyal to him (except for one temporary estrangement, which will be addressed) throughout his association with that publisher. When Wollheim left Ace Books in 1971 to found DAW Books, one Bradley manuscript (The Endless Voyage) was already “in the mill” at Ace, and was issued by Ace after Wollheim’s departure. All of Bradley’s science fiction written since The Endless Voyage has been issued by Wollheim’s DAW Books. Had Bradley moved on to more seriously regarded publishers upon leaving Ace, she might herself have become more seriously regarded as a novelist, despite her preference for action-adventure stories.

A final possible reason for Bradley’s failure to attain due recognition—in the science fiction community at least—lies in her own roots. Within a few years of the founding of Amazing (1926) and a series of similar periodicals, “science fiction fan-dom” as a self-aware and relatively cohesive institution had come into being. It was as a member of that fandom in the 1940s that Marion Zimmer Bradley first became visible in the science fiction community. She participated in local fan clubs, published “fanzines,” attended science fiction conventions, was a member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association and other fan organizations. (One of these organizations was a juvenile club called Young Fandom. In addition to Bradley, its members included Rick Sneary and Lin Carter, later well known as an author and editor of fantasies.) Many recent and present science fiction writers have emerged from within the ranks of fandom, as have a smaller number of editors, illustrators, agents, booksellers and even publishers. On the face of the matter, one would assume that a member of the fan community, making good as a science fiction writer, would be regarded as a celebrity, even as a hero or heroine, by the mass of fandom. In fact, however, the response tends to be less one of “home town boy (or girl) makes good,” than of the famous verse from Matthew, “A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.”

In his autobiographical essay, “Sounding Brass, Tinkling Cymbal,“1 Robert Silverberg makes precisely this complaint—i.e., that it took him many years of professional authorship before the fans would take him seriously as a writer because he was just one of them. He was not regarded as a “real” pro. Similarly, Marion Bradley mentions that it has taken her many years to be regarded as a “real” professional writer, rather than “just a fan who got lucky.”

While the “fan-turned-pro” procedure is thus seen to have in it perils to recognition, it is not wholly negative in its impact on the writer. Of course, it is entirely possible for an outsider to come to science fiction bringing a fresh perspective, and to write science fiction of commercial and/or critical worth. Examples in recent years include Michael Crichton, Kingsley Amis, Howard Fast, and (Bradley’s own favorite example) the author and critic Joanna Russ.

However, in contrast, the fan-turned-pro is a “second generation science fiction writer,” while the newly arrived author is “first generation.”

The second generation writer is one who grew up reading science fiction and participating in fandom; in the case of Bradley and other writers of her (chronological) generation, this meant reading the science fiction of the pulp magazines. Some or all of the formative cultural influences of Bradley’s generation of SF writers were science fictional in nature, and when they began to write it was not with the idea of creating or discovering a new thing of some sort, but with the feeling of carrying on a tradition—and these differences in attitude and influence show in the writing. What will be introduced with ruffles and flourishes, and what will be taken for granted; what will be placed at center stage, spotlighted, exclaimed over and explicated in full detail; and what will be regarded as merely part of the stage setting?—these factors will be treated differently by a Crichton and a Silverberg, by a Russ and a Bradley.

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