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Fan Fiction Policies >> Bradley, Marion Zimmer
Marion Zimmer Bradley!

Pardon the mess.  This page has over twelve sources all dealing with different stories, different time period policies.  Organizing the comments will eventually be done along with more refinement as to what the story is.  Till than, please wade through the comments.  The quotes are probably the most helpful.

According to the Ask Misty, Mercedes Lackey FAQ and Fan Fiction  there is no fan fiction TOLERATED in fandoms based on Marion Zimmer Bradley's books.  This stems from an incident a bunch of years back where a fan fiction author (who had apparently had a similar idea to the one the book was about) threatened to sue Marion Zimmer Bradley if the author was not given equal collaborative and monetary credit for a book Marion Zimmer Bradley was writing.  After this incident, Marion Zimmer Bradley's agent advised against allowing fan fiction.  She created a similar policy to that of Mercedes Lackey: fans are allowed to write fan fiction only after getting a release that says the characters being used belong to Marion Zimmer Bradley and the story becomes the property of Marion Zimmer Bradley.

This information is substantiated in a post by Margaret Carter to SIMEGEN-L Discussion List dated July 3, 1998.  In it, she says: "MZB had to stop producing Darkover anthologies because of one nutty fan who caused legal problems for her."  In another post to this mailing list in late December of 1998, John Cowan elludes to this incident.  He said the following:

The fan accused MZB of plagiarizing her work, and demanded co-author credit.  It was the *publisher* (DAW, I assume) who declined to print MZB's novel, to avoid a painful-if-unfounded lawsuit.  The results:  1) there is a Darkover novel extant that
none of us will ever see; 2) MZB shut down the Darkover anthologies and cracked down on fanfic generally.
Cheryl Wolverton, on that same mailing list, in late December of 1998, disputed John Cowan's version when she said:
Actually, I heard the person wrote a book for anthologies for the Darkover universe, MZB refused the person just changed certain 'words' in it....and sold it herslf to someone a book.  So the universe was all
like Darkover but they only substituted different symbols etc[for lack of a better word]. 

The most detailed information on this incident can be found at Darkover Non-Guidelines.  According to reliable sources, this is the official story put out by Marion Zimmer Bradley and while reliable and pretty accurate, lacks some information though their is no dispute about the book mentioned which is in contradiction with several sources mentioned above.  The following is the extract detailing the information about the incident:

In the summer of 1992, Mrs. Bradley was forced to stop reading unsolicited Darkover stories. At that time she also stopped giving permission for her fans to "play in her yard." One of her fans wrote a story, using MZB's world and characters, which overlapped the setting she was using for CONTRABAND, the Darkover novel she was working on at the time. Since the fan had sent MZB a copy of the story and she had read it, the publisher refused to publish CONTRABAND. This meant that Mrs. Bradley was out several years' work, as well as the cost and inconvenience of having her lawyer deal with a fan who was convinced that she should have a shared byline on a Darkover novel.
This incident is confirmed yet again in the newsgroup FAQ found at

jms confirmed this story in a Genie post in August of 1994.  He said:

Message 465       Sat Aug 27, 1994
STRACZYNSKI [Joe]            at 01:17 EDT

     Fanzines (specifically published fan fiction) is a problem for many writers; Marion Zimmer Bradley had a book torpedoed by the publishing company - - killing a year's work -- because the story was too similar to a fanzine story, and they were concerned the person might sue.

jms added a tad more information and confirmation to the Marion Zimmer Bradley incident in several Compuserve posts during October of 1994.  He said:
DATE: TUES OCT 4, 1994 3:03:01 PM #844240

     Incorrect; now that she has been legally burned by it, MZB *is* openly discouraging fans from "playing in her fiction," as you put it.


DATE: TUES OCT 4, 1994 12:17:17 AM #843849

     A fan wrote an extended piece of fan fiction set in Zimmer's universe, which ended up being very close to what Marion was working on.  The publisher, aware of both, spiked Marion's novel for fear of being sued.  A year or two of work down the drain.

Further information can be also be found at which details Marion Zimmer Bradley's relationships with several fanzines and her feelings about fan fiction PRIOR to the incident in 1992.  The following is an extract from that page (It's a quote attributed to MZB):

[...]I don't mind other writers writing about Darkover [...]. Nor do I feel threatened by stories not consistent with my personal vision of Darkover. To me, all Darkover stories written by anyone else are presumed to be in a parallel world to "my" Darkover; [...]. Because, in a very real sense, I regard myself not as the "inventor" of Darkover, but its discoverer. If others wish to play in my fantasy world, who am I to slam its gates and in churlish voice demand that they build their own? If they are capable of it, they will do so someday. Meanwhile, if they wish to write of Darkover, they will. [...] Why should I deny myself the pleasure of seeing these young writers learning to do their thing by, for a little while, doing my thing with me? Unfortunately (??), this is not the case anymore (see the end of the page). 
This case is again substantied in a post by "Owlie" to  Ths subject of the e-mail is Re: MIST: Copyrights (was Re: Fan Fiction?) and dated January 23, 1998.  It says:
It was for the exact reason that Cennydd described with MZB that stopped Misty from allowing fan fiction in general. It was the coincidence of Marion writing one of her Darkover books and running into this person who had written something similar in a piece of fan fiction. 

She actually tried to negotiate with this person, and when it got nasty, a lot of the writing community learned a lesson from it.

This information is supported once again in a post to  by James Wallis dated November 11, 1997 with a subject of "[wfrp] INFERNO story? (WAS: copywrite nonsense)".  He said:
And with legal precedents like the "Darkover" case (a piece of fan-fiction means that Marion Zimmer Bradley can no longer use a part of the background she created for her own novels)
This information is supported yet again  when in January of 1998, Kenneth Allen Hyde or Cennydd (the mailing list digests are confusing as to whom the author of the post actually is) said on the following:
MZB once had a fan who threatened to sue her for copyright infringement of a piece of fanfic--which she didn't even know existed.  He wanted some large amount of money to give her the rights to publish her story. 
This information is verified again by Dennis L. McKiernan.  On his web page found at, he says:
[...]fanfic has caused any number of writers various problems: for example, Marion
Zimmer Bradley had a problems caused by a writer writing in her Darkover universe, where Marion couldn't use a particular fan's idea because the writer of the fanfic wanted to share the copyright, hence jeopardizing Marion's own rights to her universe. 
This information, that MZB once allowed fan fiction is confirmed yet again at "Marion Zimmer Bradley and the World of Darkover" where it says:
At one time, there was a large amount of Darkover fanfic. Unfortunately, due to a disagreement over a fanfic, MZB withdrew
all permission for writing fiction in her universe after 1992.
John Scott in a post to dated March 19, 1999 with a subject of "Re: Campaign Copyright" spins a slightly different version of the Marion Zimmer Bradley incident than the one that recieves the most circulation.  Before posting the text of this version, it should be noted that this story fails to mention that the case never made it to court which is the major difference.  Earlier in the post, John Scott does reaffirm the fact that at one point Marion Zimmer Bradley encouraged her fans to write fan fiction.  Pertinent excerpt below:
One of her fans wrote fan-fiction about a particular timeperiod in Darkover history that Ms. Zimmer Bradley had not covered.  When Mz. Zimmer Bradley later wanted to write about events in that time period, a legal scuffle ensued (I have no idea who started it) and, one court battle later, Ms Zimmer Bradley finds herself legally unable to write about that period of the world she created without permission of the fan in question.
claguire in a post to misc.writing dated December 10, 1995 with a subject of "re: Copyright Question" states that Marion Zimmer Bradley allows fan fiction with some limitations.  Though closely related date wise to the Darkover incident, this view is some what different than other "rules" about writing Marion Zimmer Bradley fan fiction at the time.

Alaina <>  confirms in a post to alt.books.marion-zimmer-bradley on November 29, 1999 that Marion Zimmer Bradley once TOLERATED fan fiction derived from Darkover and encouraged fan fiction derived from Darkover when she says:

With respect to fan fiction stories, Marion extended an invitation in the mid-eighties for others to "come play" in her Darkover garden. 
Judge Elmo, in a post to rec.arts.comics.misc dated June 19, 1995 with a subject of "re: Ssandman Crreative Group",  adds some new tid bits to this case with:
Both Marion Zimmer Bradley and Chelsea Quinn Yarbro have incurred substantial legal fees in the course of combatting fanfic; as a further consequence, Bradley can no longer write material occuring during a specific period of Darkover history, which cuts into her creative income in rather more direct fashion.
Mercedes Lackey's views on fan fiction are often mentioned in connection with Marion Zimmer Bradley's experinces with fan fiction.  Nillo, in a post to alt.books.poppy-z-brite dated June 25, 2001 with a subject of "Re: PZB Fan Fiction " explains why when she says:
Lackey, a protoge of Bradley, followed her mentor in *allowing* fanfics and even actively *reading* them at one point in her career. which explains the release form Lackey has sometimes used to allow other authors to use her characters states "The release form was copied wholesale from Marion Zimmer Bradley's fanfiction release form and covers the occasion when she used someone's idea (with their permission and signature) in one of her Darkover novels."

An excerpt from a letter to the editor of "Writer's Digest", March, 1993. The letter was written by Marion Zimmer Bradley:
". . .While in the past I have allowed fans to 'play in my yard,' I was forced to stop that practice last summer when one of the fans wrote a story, using my world and my characters, that overlapped the setting I was using for my next _Darkover_ novel. Since she had sent me a copy of her fanzine, and I had read it, my publisher will not publish my novel set during that time period, and I am now out several years' work, as well as the cost of inconvenience of having a lawyer deal with this matter.

"Because this occurred just as I was starting to read for this year's _Darkover_ anthology, that project was held up for more than a month while the lawyer drafted a release to accompany any submissions and a new contract, incorporating the release. I do not know at present if I shall be doing any more _Darkover_ anthologies.

"Let this be a warning to other authors who might be tempted to be similarly generous with their universes, I know now why Arthur Conan Doyle refused to allow anyone to write about Sherlock Holmes. I wanted to be more accomodating, but I don't like where it has gotten me. It's enough to make anyone into a misanthrope." said in a post with the Subject "Re: Marion Zimmer Bradley" to the newsgroup rec.arts.sf.written dated 1993-02-05 said:
This has been discussed on this group before; let me give just a bare precis. The fan had submitted a fan-story with an interesting minor idea involving some of the characters. Marion wrote back, "Hey, that's interesting, mind if I use it in one of my stories? I'll give you credit...."

The fan wrote back and said, "If you use my idea I want half the proceeds on the book and my name on it as co-author."

And her husband hired a lawyer to try and make this stick.

Marion now has a novel sitting in limbo somewhere, which she can't publish, because even though she struck out the fan's interesting idea, the book is set in the same time period and the fan's husband's lawyer is just waiting for it to come out so he can start picking it apart.

|... Couldn't she just work out
|a deal with the fan so that the fan would sign }
|an agreement not to sue, or
|something, so that the book could be published?

But the fan wasn't willing to agree not to sue or something. The fan, and her husband, and her lawyer, were swimming around in circles waiting for the feeding frenzy to begin, and so far as I know, they still are.

That same post goes into more detail regarding Marion Zimmer Bradley's fan fiction stance when it says:

Once *Bradley* asked for and received the permission to use that idea, the fan requested a /share/ of the copyright of that story.  Bradley balked rather than share the copyright, in spite of the fact that it was clearly and admittedly an idea derivative of the fan's concepts.
Which is a slightly different twist on the story that often gets told.

And an added hmmm.  The staff of WU (which doesn't exactly match the staff listings.) has some contacts which have heard things similar to that of the Anne Rice Accusations.  Those rumors are apparently that MZB was some what guilty of actually plagiarizing from that idea/story.  We're looking for verification of information on the Internet and in print sources so that people can see hard copy of it but outside of the source and the feeling gleaned from a few e-mails...

The Darkover Copyright is now owned by Mercedes Lackey.  All requests to write fan fiction derived off Darkover should be sent to Mercedes Lackey so you can get a copy of her release.

Have you got more information to add to what is already here? Do you have history on the origins of this policy? Send all Questions, Comments, Suggestions to Fan Fiction Policy Support.

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